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Archive for the ‘Mogwai’ Category

[POSTPONED: April 6, 2020] Caspian / Pianos Become the Teeth / Maserati

indexMy friends Liz and Eleanor have told me that Caspian was one of the best shows that they had seen.  I have been planning to see them ever since.  Because of the trip scheduled for this weekend, I’m not sure I would have been up for going, but I would have loved to.

I thought I knew who Pianos Become the Teeth were, but I was thinking of Roomful of Teeth an apparently very different band.  Given Pianos become the teeth’s comparisons to Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, I think I’d like them.

Maserati has been around since 2000 and also get compared to EITS and Mogwai.  I’ll be I would have loved this whole night.  I hope the show gets rescheduled as is on a night I can go.

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SOUNDTRACK: ALLEN STONE-“Sleep” (Field Recordings, November 1, 2012).

I read this performer’s name as Alien Stone and was kind of excited.  Far more than when I realized his name was just Allen Stone.

This [Allen Stone: A Rollicking Moment, Performed On The Wind] is the final Field Recording set backstage at the Sasquatch Festival.

It amused me as the song started that they start singing “Danger Zone”  And the opening moment where:

“I feel like Zeus,” Allen Stone announces with a laugh as gusts of wind whip his long hair in dramatic fashion. With a mountainous vista behind him, he’s found himself in the kind of majestic rock ‘n’ roll moment that requires a callout to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”

I was thinking that Stone sounded a bit like Stevie Wonder as he sang (which the blurb agrees with), but I also sensed a bit of Jamiroquai.

I thought the song was kind of dull, but maybe that’s because it is normally much bigger.

Usually, Stone performs his bluesy soul with the aid of a crack band, but here, we got the 25-year-old belter to perform his single “Sleep” — usually a big, rollicking rave-up — with just a guitarist (Trevor Larkin, performing unplugged) to supplement Stone’s voice. Channeling Stevie Wonder in all but appearance, Stone demonstrates here that his sound can withstand just about anything, even as it’s stripped down to its skeleton and performed on the wind.

I’ve not heard of him since this, so I don’t know what happened to him, but I’m not really that curious to find out.

[READ: January 11, 2017] “The Hanging of the Schoolmarm”

This is a short, simple story in which the title pretty much tells the whole thing.

But Coover has some fun as it gets there.

The story opens with the schoolmarm playing poker in the town saloon.  At stake is the saloon itself.  The men are awed by her refined and lofty character–they cuss a lot, but never around her. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_03_13Hall.inddSOUNDTRACK: DEAFHEAVEN-“Dream House” (2013).

deafheavenNPR’s Lars Gotrich always picks songs that I like–even if I would never have found them any other way.

His favorite album of the year so far is by this band Deafheaven whom I have never heard of.  The song is 9 minutes long and it combines big loud guitars, super fast crashing drums, and cookie monster vocals (mixed so low in the mix that they almost sound just like noise–a neat trick).  The waves and layers of sound give it a kind of My Bloody Valentine feel.

For the first half of the song, the drums are absolutely speed metal fast–pounding and pounding with wild cymbals.  But they too are mixed low in the mix–setting a beat but not dominating the song.  For really this song seems to be all about the guitar–which is not exactly playing along with them.  Sure, there are fast  moments, and the guitar is largely distorted and noisy.  But the tone of the guitar is very bright–especially when he starts playing some simple but pretty riffs (amid the noise).

And then about half way through, the noise drops away and the music become quiet and pretty.  Two guitars interweave slow melodies.  Until the music crashes back in, but with a different tempo and a feeling like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai.

I know many will be turned off by the vocals (I think I might even like it more if it were purely instrumental), but the way they are mixed, shows that the music is the dominant sound, and I can get behind that.

[READ: June 12, 2013] “Company Man”

I always enjoying reading a David Sedaris Personal History (interestingly I haven’t read all of his books—I seem to stick to the articles instead).  This one is about having a  guest room.  He considers it a true sign of aging gracefully that his new house has a guest room (with its own bathroom).

Their previous house in Normandy had nothing of the sort and he gives typically humorous anecdotes about being embarrassed for the guests who don’t have any privacy in the bathroom (“we’ll be going out for about twenty minutes if you need anything.”)  But now they have this new space.

Which means of course that they have guests.  I enjoyed the part when Hugh’s friends come to visit–based on his father’s behaviors, David is allowed to leave in the middle of a conversation because he is not the one entertaining the guests).  But the bulk of the second half concerns David’s family.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Music for a Forgotten Future (The Singing Mountain) (2011).

This track is a 23 minute instrumental that was used for an art installation by Douglas Gordon (who made the film Zidane, for which Mogwai provided the score) and Olaf Nicolai called “Monument for a Forgotten Future”.  The more I learn about  his installation, the more intrigued I am by it.  According to wikimedia, “Monument for a Forgotten Future” is a sculpture by Olaf Nicolai and Douglas Gordon on the so called “Wilde Insel” (wild island) in Gelsenkirchen-Horst, Germany. It is 1:1 replica of a rock formation in Joshua Tree National Park with a sound installation by Mogwai that can be heard from within the “rock.”  Someone has even posted a video of their trip to it.  In the video (which is literally of a rock), as the filmer approached you can hear the music only when he or she gets pretty close to the installation. It’s just barely audible.  Cool.

As for the music itself, it is very mellow an atmospheric, quite perfect for being on a Wild Island and sitting by/staring at a rock.  There are definitely hints of Mogwai’s sound in the music, although there are a lot more keyboards than guitars (which befits their more recent albums).  It’s very peaceful and quite beautiful.  At about 19 minutes it fades out and seems to being another string laden piece into the mix as well, but it more or less fades into static (which would be a lousy time to get to the installation!).

The music comes free with most editions of Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will.

[READ: August 2, 2012] “Without Blood”

After reading Baricco’s Emmaus, I wanted to see what else he had written.  I found this short story (which is also the name of one of his novels, although I’m not sure if this is an excerpt or the inspiration for the novel–Wikipedia says it is a “revised form” of the novel, whatever that means).

I was a little disconcerted by this story when it opened because it has a very violent introduction.  The farmhouse of Manuel Roca is the site of bloodshed.  Three men, Salinas, El Guerra, and Tito pull up in a Mercedes.  Manuel Roca is the man they are looking for.  He has two children a boy and a girl, Nina.  He tells Nina that she must hide when the men come.  Hide in the cellar and be absolutely still, no matter what happens.  And to not be afraid.  The son, slightly older, wants to help, he even has a gun, but Manuel tells him to hide in the woodshed.  And then the house was riddled with bullets.

Manuel survived that first round but when he looked up, Tito (who was described as a boy but was in fact 20) was standing there with a gun pointed at Manuel.  And he shouted to  Salinas “IT’S TITO.  I’VE GOT HIM.”  When the threesome get inside, they see that Tito has shot Roca in the arm because he had a gun.

When the two men come face to face we learn that this fight has to do with the war.  Roca says the war is over, although Salinas, says “Not yours, Not mine, Doctor.”  Salinas was known as the rat because he deciphered Roca’s men’s coded messages.   But despite the war, Salinas has only shot a gun twice.  The first one was at no one, the second was at his brother who was in the hospital when the war ended.  Salinas went to the hospital with the intent of killing Doctor Roca and his men, but they had fled, leaving all of the sick and dying unattended.  When Salinas’ brother asked him to kill him…please, he could only comply.

After this flashback, Roca’s son came into the room with a shotgun.  From here the scene gets really violent with both Roca and his son killed.  The men realize that Nina must be there as well, so they look all over for her.  It is the boy Tito who finds her in the cellar.  They stared at each other, but Tito let her live.  And the men left.  After they set the house on fire.

Three days later a man on horseback found Nina and took her away.

Wow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (2011).

With an album title like that, you expect, well, some pretty loud music, right?

For this Mogwai album that’s not what you’ll get.  You’ll get lots of keyboards, and on the opening track “White Noise” you’ll get one of their prettiest melodies in ages.  Sure, there’s some distorted guitar by the end, but this is quite pretty.  “Mexican Grand Prix” opens with a computerized drums, keyboards, a propulsive bass line and whispered vocals.  This could be a dance hit.  What has Mogwai done with Stuart Braithwaite?  When the processed vocals start singing along (no idea what they’re saying), you can easily imagine a dancefloor packed with people for this track.

“Rano Pano” brings in the buzzy guitars again, both the first intro sounds and the noisier melody guitar, while “Death Rays” returns to the happy keyboard feel for a song that reminds me of Explosions in the Sky.  Once again, the melody is beautiful.  “San Pedro” brings guitars back in, with another killer melody and at 3 and a half minutes, it’s the shortest blast of rock.

“Letters to the Metro” opens with a spare piano melody and adds delicate washes throughout.  “George Square Thatcher Death Party” opens with some chanting (no idea what they’re saying) and then some of the loudest bass so far.  It’s another propulsive song, with some buzzy guitars way in the background, but the main force again is the keyboards.  This song sounds very 80s to me, with the processed computerized voice and the keyboard sound they use.  “How to Be a Werewolf” is 6 minutes. It’s a nice song but it doesn’t really grab me like the others.  “Too Raging to Cheers” has more 80s style keyboards (reminding me of Brian Eno or a PBS documentary about space) until about 2 and a half minutes in, when the Mogwai of old come crashes through–lots of cymbals and loud guitars.

“You’re Lionel Richie” is an 8 and a half minute song that opens with some French dialogue.  There’s a complicated guitar melody that plays for a time.  By about 5 minutes, the noise comes in–guitars, keyboards, cymbals, and while it doesn’t crescendo like Mogwai of old, it certainly gives you tastes of them.  This later section of the song brings in a good guitar melody that plays along until the slow fadeout at the end.

I continue to think of Mogwai as a loud, intense band, but their more recent output shows a band changing into something else.  Their melodies are still top notch and they definitely flirt with using noise in some of their songs, but they seems to be making more commercial sounding music (although realistically no band that makes almost exclusively instrumentals can ever be accused of selling out).

[READ: August 10, 2012] “Ghost Town Choir”

I have a read a few things from Ferris.  This story caught me completely by surprise.

The story is from the point of view of a boy who is living with his mom.  She is dating a man named Lawton.  Lawton had moved some of his stuff into their house, including his record collection–his prized possession.  They have a fight; he sings to her from outside their trailer, “What have you got planned tonight, Diana, he sang, though my mom’s name is Sheryl.”  She threw all of her dishes at him until he left.  He came back later that night calling her all kinds of unforgivable names.

Then the story shifts to Lawton’s point of view (both POVs are in first person, although they are quite distinct in style).  The boy goes to Lawton’s trailer even though he is not welcome anymore: “Your momma and me, we’re done.”  Lawton fancies himself a cowboy, and the backing singer in a cowboy band.

Back at home, Sheryl is on a cleaning binge–purging herself of everything.  When she gets to Lawton’s records, she is ready to toss them but the boy asks her not to.  She doesn’t listen and hauls them to the dumpster.  The boy grabs them later on and brings them to his fort in the forest.  That’s where he kept all of the things that the men left in his house after they were gone: “I wonder did they know about he cigarettes they’d never finish?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Burning DVD (2010).

What might one expect from a Mogwai DVD?  Well, what one gets is a high contrast black and white concert with excellent sound (I have since burned the audio on a CD).

The film zooms in on the players–the guitar necks, the cymbals–and occasional two or three person shots (but very rarely faces).

The faces come in the interstitials, where the filmmakers show the band walking around (getting on subways–walking in rain), and where they talk to fans.

The film is gorgeously shot, but I have to admit it’s not the kind of live show that I enjoy watching.  It’s a little dull–not in individual moments because just about every shot is gorgeous, but in five-minute blocks.  Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing how these guys make this wall of music.  I love watching Stuart’s hands on the neck of his guitar, but this is not a very mobile bunch.  Indeed, many of the people in the audience seem to just be closing their eyes and absorbing the music rather than watching them.  And I found myself doing the same thing (in which case, I would just get an audio concert, right?).  This is compounded by the fact that the camera is in so tight, any big movements are missed.

This is not to say that there aren’t moments of brilliance to see.  Watching the band wait and wait and wait as the chords from “Fear Satan” fade out before they blast into the finale is pretty darn awesome.  And there are moments like that–crisp clarity where everything comes together.

Some kind souls have put the entire show on YouTube.  Here’s part 3 (with “Fear Satan”)

And the fan who speaks over the closing credits is trippy but cool.

[READ: July 31, 2012] “The Places You Find Yourself”

I found this story because a reader left a comment that Junot Díaz’ story ”The Cheater’s Guide to Love” was just like this one.

I have to disagree almost entirely with that sentiment because Díaz’ story talks about what it is like after someone has broken up with you and this story is about being stuck in a relationship that you feel compelled to get out of.

Edwards’ story (which won the 2009 Open City Rrofihe Trophy) is about settling.  And it’s a very realistic portrayal of the frustrations of life: relationships, job, commute–it’s a rather cathartic story.  It is especially cathartic because there is no main character, only “you.”  And Edwards keeps this second person narrator throughout the story.

The story is set up as a series of monogamous relationships: “Then one morning you’ll wake up and there will be another one lying next to you, maybe this one a brunette…” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait-An Original Soundtrack by Mogwai (2006).

It’s no secret that I love Mogwai.  I like them so much that I even track down soundtracks to obscure films that I’ll never watch.  (Of course, since Mogwai play mostly instrumentals, soundtrack work suits them quite well).

The Zidane of the film is Zinedine Zidane, a French footballer whom many consider to be the greatest ever (don’t yell at me for that, I don’t have an opinion of the man).  I had to look up exactly what the film is about and I have to say I’m intrigued: The film is a documentary focused on Zidane during the Spanish Liga Real Madrid vs. Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and was filmed in real time using 17 synchronized cameras.  I watched a couple minutes on YouTube, and indeed it is a football match.   How on earth did they decide on that game (in which Zidane is ejected for fighting as the match nears its end).

The music is designed primarily for background and pacing, although there are certainly moments of great melody as well.  There are three songs that are more or less played twice (with different variations): “Terrific Speech 2″ and Terrific Speech” “Half Time and “Time and a Half” are similar piano melodies, and the opener and closer “Black Spider” and “Black Spider 2.”  “Black Spider 2” opens with the same melody as 1, but this song is thirty minutes long.  After a few moments of silence, it tuns into 17 minutes of quiet noise.  The remaining five experiment with distant feedback squalls.  Not loud and crazy, but something that creates a lot of tension, which goes with the end of the film.

Despite the titles, “Wake Up and Go Berserk” and “I Do Have Weapons” are a mellow songs.  They’re very pretty tracks.  Indeed, there’s nothing too wild at all here.  Fans of Mogwai’s wilder music will be a little disappointed.   And indeed, the overall feel is almost kind of sleepy, but it really captures another side of Mogwai, and the music is quite good.

[READ: June 20, 2012] “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”

Not bad… Junot Díaz had a story in the New Yorker just a few weeks ago, and now he’s got another one.

The familiar criticism of Díaz is that he writes the same story over and over (well, the other criticism is that he always writes in Spanish and English, but I think that’s a stupid complaint).  So here’s another story about Yunior and how he cheats on women and is basically a shit-heel.

While there is some validity to criticizing an author for retelling the same basic story, it is not unheard of in art.  Monet, for instance painted over 30 paintings of Rouen Cathedral.  And while they are all the same composition, individually they are very different.  Here’s four paintings (not prints a la Andy Warhol):

While I’m not suggesting that Díaz is on par with Monet, I am trying to say that you can work with a similar subject and create very different pieces of art.

So, yes it’s another Yunior story and yes, Yunior has cheated on his girlfriend again.  But this story is constructed differently.  And at this point I’m starting to wonder if maybe there aren’t multiple Yuniors–I’ll even think of them as in alternate realities.  Because Yunior sure has cheated on a lot of women by this time.

It makes him the perfect writer for “The Cheater’s Guide to Love.”

Unlike in the other stories, this one takes place over five years!  In Year 0 you are caught cheating by your girl (the story is set in second person).  She sticks it out with you for a time and then dumps your ass.  I liked how it was revealed just how many women he had cheated in her with over the years that they were together–he really is a shit.

In Year 1, you act like it doesn’t matter, but it does.  And you are crushed.  Your friends try to help out, but how much can they really do?  You think suicidal thoughts and imagine that that will make her forgive you.  It doesn’t.  By year 2, you have met someone.  But you find some bullshit reason (she hasn’t put out yet) and you break it off and go into another spiral.

Year 3 sees you looking after yourself–running and fitness.  In what I think of as a wholly accurate happening, you injure yourself running and are knocked back on your ass for months–momentum and caring are gone.  You look for substitutes but nothing feels as good as running.  So you stop.  And you let yourself go.

What I also liked about this story is that despite this background of the break up, there are other interesting things spiraling around Yunior.   There’s a fascinating look at racism in Boston (perceived or real?); there’s the woman who claims to be the mother of his child, the woman back in the DR who claims to be the mother of his friend Elvis’s son.  Both men act very differently to the news.  Elvis is thrilled to have a son, Yunior is freaked by this woman.  This is probably the first time that I’ve seen Díaz have a woman do behave the way they do in this story.  It’s also interesting to compare Yunior and Elvis by the end of the story.

I also got a kick out of all the women he used to cheat on his girlfriend with star getting married and they all start sending him invitations: “Revenge is living well, without you.”  Year 5 sees a completion of the spiral for all parties.  And a cool resolution to this story.

Much like with the Monet paintings, if  Díaz can keep his Yunior stories interesting (and varied enough), I will keep reading them.

For ease of searching I include: Junot Diaz, Bernabeu

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