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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 25, 2017).

Second of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals. First Time played live for the new songs Rear View (Tim), Here Come The Wolves (Dave B), AC/DC On My Radio (Dave B/Dave C).
Lineup is:
Dave Bidini / Dave Clark / Hugh Marsh / Ford Pier / Martin Tielli / Tim Vesely

The show starts with a kind of quiet, hushed version of “Stolen Car” with cheers for Hugh’s violin solo at the end of the song. And then Martin introduces “Ford Kristofferson on the keyboards” (Man I wish I could see what Ford looks like).

Someone shouts “Rheos rule” and Clark comments, “if we did, there’d be world peace.”

They play a wonderful combination of “King Of The Past” (Clark: King of the Pasta) and “Northern Wish.”

The crowd whoops and Dave says that that is the appropriate sound for the new song.  Clark: “It’s called “Confused Wolf.”  The song is really called “Here Come The Wolves” and it’s a powerful song with great toms and violins.

This one [“P.I.N.”] is called “Snakes on a Plane.”

Clark says “Big thanks to Dani Nash and her rocking band.  She also drums for the Samantha Martin Band.  She is a wicked drummer and a knockout visual artist, too.

[We’re skipping a song on the setlist, shhh–they were going to play “Bridge Comes Tumbling Down”].  They “bridge” to “Music Is The Message” and as Tim says, “we played a bunch of new songs last night and playing them again tonight and they’re completely different.  It’s awesome.”

Dave B: We’ll try to play this next song (Dave’s “Mountains And The Sea”) well for once.

Clark says “That is the first chord of Dust in the Wind, right?  It was a hit for them, why not us?”

There was a lengthy solo from Hugh including a funny bit where he holds off on playing notes busting all the anticipation.

Martin comments: “I’ll call you David from now on.”
DB: “Are you mad at me?”
MT: “No it’s jut you insist on that….  Don’t Davids bug you?  Or Mikes who insist on being called Michael.”
DB: “I’d like to send that out to Michael Philip Wojewoda who is here tonight.”
MT: “I’ve always hated that about Michael Phillip.”
Tim: The only thing worse that David is “Daveed”
Clark: “And yet David Durango is one of the nicest guys going.” (I can’t figure out who they are talking about).
MT: He’s the only guy who almost drummed for Nick Buzz.  A Band with a “no drummer” policy.”
DS: “No drummer policy? Where do I sign up?”

Tim will surprise us with an instrument change…
Someone in the audience: “Polka the shit out of us, Tim!”
DB: “There’s heavy male patter presence, which must be offset at some time.”

Tim is on “the gentleman’s instrument” for “What’s Going On Around Here?”  It sounds great to hear again, although Tim says, “that accordion was exhaling musty basement smell in my face. It’s been down there a long time.”

Up next is a duet with Hugh and Tim (on acoustic) doing “Bad Time To Be Poor” it’s very cool to hear it this way.

Dave announced the last new song of the night.  “I know you want to hear new songs but you get worried, I hope they play the one I like.  But you’re such an elastic forgiving crowd, you’ll let us do anything.”
Tim: ” Wednesday’s crowd were a bunch of assholes.”
(Someone in audience: “I’m never coming back.”)
Tim: “This is the best crowd ever.”
Martin: “Maybe the penultimate.  There was one other that was better.  They were so good.  I loved them.  I dream about them.”

Tim tells a story about opening for The Hip and getting ambivalent and odd crowds.  We expected that.  There was no abuse.

But Dave B says they played in Quebec in purple and orange jackets and people laughed… they got it!  We should be bigger in Quebec.

Martin says in New Brunswick somebody threw something at us.  Martin says he picked it up and whipped it right back at them.
But Dave says at another show, something hit Martin and he got pissed, but it was a T-shirt that said “We love you Rheostatics.”

Tim: “The moral of the story… Fucking Rheostatics fans.”

They play a wonderful “The Albatross” which is really gelling live and then a solid “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” (with an introduction to Tim Mech).  Dave shouted that he end, the Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr line and Tim shouted “can’t you ever get over that?” During “Self Serve Gas Station” Martin sings “What went wrong with Ford?”

After some banter they’re on to “Shaved Head” which sounds great even though Martin misses a lyric.  It doesn’t throw him, although he does apologize later.

The pretty ending gets cut off but only by a little I’d guess. And they go for an encore.

After the break Dave Clark comes out to sing an a capella version of “Johnny’s Got A Problem” by D.I.   The crowd is really into it and sings along.

As soon as Martin starts playing the crazy guitar intro to “When Winter Comes” someone in the crowd goes crazy “Oh my God!  Oh my God!”  It sounds great to hear again as well.

They end the night with a song “co-written by Paul Quarrington.  Go to a library and take out one of his books.”  A lovely version of “Claire.”

It seems like maybe there might be more, but that’s where the recording ends.  The new songs have been getting better and better, and the band is having a lot of fun up there.  Dave Clark is even being a bit more silly, but nothing like he was back in the old days.

[READ: May 18, 2018] “Candidate”

This is a story of a man who works for a presidential candidate.

It is told in first person in the present and in flashbacks.

The flashbacks talk about how he and his best friend Spencer were marginal kids in school.  Spencer in particular was a somewhat shunned individual–he could have been in the Trench Coat Mafia.  But while the narrator and Spencer shared the same views and ideas, the narrator passed more easily with the other kids. (more…)

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julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 4, 2015).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see The Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.

Well, it turns out that the first night was really strong.  There are two recordings of the show on the Rheostatics Live site.  Obviously the content is the same, but the sound is different in each one.  (The Eric Mac Innis recording is quite muffled and bass heavy so you can’t really hear any of the spoken stuff).

The main content of the show-the music from the Group of 7 album is pretty consistent through all three nights.  It’s mostly the length that varies on a couple of tracks and some little details that change from night to night.  On this night for instance the opening speech that in which the man says “every Canadian” does not repeat like it does on the other nights.  It also seems like “Six (Cello for a Winter’s Day)” doesn’t get quite as crazy and loud before the “jazzy” section comes in.

Before they get to “Northern Wish,” Dave introduces “Northern Wish,” by talking about how he wrote it: “The amazing thing about Canada is that every time you leave the door an incredible impossible journey is waiting for you not far from your house.”

They didn’t play “Ten (Lightning)” the first night, so it’s fun to hear all of the audience whoops and wolf howls during the set.

Dave Bidini is in great banter mode, which is no surprise really.

He first starts talking after track six.  “Nice to see you again, you’ve all age well.”  After welcoming everyone he jokes “Really tonight’s about hooking up.  Last night as a bit of a meat market.”  This causes Martin to ask, incredulously, “you’re kidding.”

Upon introducing the record properly he says that this was “music commissioned 20 years ago–remember 1995?”  Someone shouts “Don’t forget the vinyl, Dave.”  So he jokes, “We’ve only been inactive for 8 years and in that time vinyl has made a resurgence.”

They only performed this album “four times over the course of their speckled career.”  Interesting that they will do it three more over the next three nights.

So that leaves the bonus tracks.  The first night they played four: “Claire,” “Easy To Be With You,” “Christopher” and “Horses.”

Before starting “Claire” there’s a little down time so Dave introduces Kevin Hearn and asks him what his favorite snack is.  Kevin: “Have you heard of ants on a log?”  Dave says his is a Cadbury Crunchy bar which “lasts a half hour if you nurse it.” MT: “What kind of chocolate bar eater are you?”  Then Dave asks, “Shall we go around the horn?” to much laughter.  He speculates, “Tim’s gonna say …”  But Tim says “home-grown carrots” which elicits an “ewww.”  Dave says, Tim you’ve changed so.”

As they start “Claire,” Martin introduces Hugh Marsh on the violin.  He says that at the first concert he ever went to Hugh was playing with Bruce Cockburn and now they are very very very close friends.”  He then mentions their other band, Nick Buzz (which Hugh plays in) and he says Nick Buzz “only played four gigs on our career.”  “Claire” is played wonderfully.  They talk about it being kind of obvious (“interesting because it’s totally obvious”) that they’d play it.  But “Easy to Be with You” a track from Harmelodia is a pretty surprising choice–a popular song sure, but certainly not a huge one.  Before the song, he sings Happy Birthday to him mom: “Happy birthday to Sheila / Happy birthday to my mom / She’s 75 years old  / and she’s standing right there.”  In the middle of the song Bidini comments that Stephen Harper is not the Prime Minster of Harmelodia (indeed, he is not).

Dave asks is anyone under the age of 7 is there.  Kevin says: “My dad’s here.”  Dave asks, “Is he a leap year baby?”  Then Kevin explains that it is his dad who is reading the “Tall White Pine” poem.  Then they ask Don if he has any family there.  Don says “All of them.” Dave says “Don’s four families are here.”

The Jeff Robson recording has some weird digital feedback and static.  It’s mostly during the chatting parts, but it does impact the songs a little.  There’s some static on “Christopher,” but otherwise it sounds pretty good.

Before “Horses”someone asks “who should we vote for?” Dave says “Never listen to a pop star when it comes to politics.  Tomorrow will be political night.”

And “Horses” is a dynamite version, notable mostly for the fact that Bidini doesn’t do a spoken word section in the middle of the song (keeping it unpolitical).

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   1:47
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:33
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   6:16
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:42
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   4:33
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   6:01
07. Chat   5:40
08. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:35
09. Eight (Snow)   1:18
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs)   6:13
11. Ten (Lightning)   6:30
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   4:50
13. Clarie Intro   1:21
14. Claire   4:47
15. Chat   2:56
16. Easy To Be With You   3:32
17. Chat   3:19
18. Christopher   6:08
19. Horses   8:07

[READ: August 19, 2016] “Never Too Late”

The July/August Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus has a theme of “Love and Lust.”  The theme promised to be a bit more upbeat than the darker stories in the last few issues.

Bev is a man who is long divorced.  He couldn’t provide his wife with children so she left him.  He doesn’t seem very bitter about it and is even still friendly with her as well as her new husband and their children.

Bev owns a farm–he has some horses and cows.  On a cold morning in April, a strange dog appears on his property.  It’s a friendly dog but he wants to get it to its owner so he brings it into town and learns that it belongs to Janice and  “She loses her [dog] at least once a week.”

He goes to Janice’s house and she is very happy that Bev found “Keller.”  He brings the dog upstairs to her place and is surprised to see that she is in an electric wheelchair.  He notices that she is too young to be in it due to age.  And, she’s also very attractive. (more…)

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ktelkSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Lula Lounge, Toronto ,ON (Mar 23 2011).

NickBuzz-23Mar2011-1There is only one Nick Buzz concert at Rheostaticslive (although there are a number of videos online from an earlier show (from Dec 9, 2010) which could be turned into an audio download, I’m sure.

Anyhow, this show occurred nearly two years before the release of the (thus far) final Nick Buzz album.  It’s interesting that there are some songs that will appear on that album performed here (and there is no mention of it, of course).

As with many of the Tielli solo shows, the band plays songs from Nick Buzz, from Tielli’s solo albums, and even two Rheostatics albums.  But this is primarily a Nick Buzz performance (with Tielli, Goldsmith, Marsh and Piltch).  What I find interesting is that I believe that Martin is only singing (maybe a guitar here or there?) with Pitch on guitar, Goldsmith on piano and Marsh on violin and effects.  It’s a very different dynamic (no drummer!) and really changes the nature of some of these songs.

“Just Because” is a beautiful ballad.  It’s sightly more raucous than on the record, but still sounds beautiful.  Tielli’s solo song “I’ll Never Tear You Apart” sounds very different from the record–the awesome guitar line has been simplified and there’s a piano now.  In fact, piano is the main instrument for most of these songs, which is quite different.

The band then plays three of the four songs from the Arnold Schoenberg record (Martin says he should put on gloves as this is forensic music that’s over 100 years old).  They also sound great–I love they way they can recreate the weirdness from that short album.

When he introduces “Eliza” he says the music is by Schubert, although I don’t believe that is the case (unless the intro is).

In explaining “Milchig” he says that it’s about a dwarf-like creature who taught him “the relax.”  “The relax” is how they describe it in Italy (he wishes he had learned more Italian as a kid but he was too obstinate).

“Spilling the Wonderful” is not as dramatic as on the record–it’s a bit smoother but still really good.  And for “That’s What You Get for Having Fun,” a song which he has played in almost every solo concert, they really pare it down–it’s nowhere near as raucous.

The band goes for a cigarette break for 15 minutes and then comes back with “Beauty On” and the funny moment where Martin sings the intro, “I hate you all.”  When he gets to the “Are you with me Cincinnati are you ready to rock?” rather than singing it, he slurs it.  It’s a great effect.

The only song not on another album is “Now That I’m a Railroad Boy” which was done by John Southwith.  It’s a pretty ballad that fits in perfectly with the other songs.  “The House with Laughing Windows” and “Uncle Bumbo’s Christmas’ sound fanatic live.  And then they play the fourth Schoenberg song “Galathea” which Martin says is his favorite.

“Farmer in the city” has been my least favorite Tielli recording, but this version is fantastic.  It starts on piano and has melodies provided by the violin. Rather than being elliptical and standoffish, this new arrangement really brings you in with some lovely Marsh melodies.  Then the play “Love Streams.”  Martin says that their take on the record was the first time they played it.  It’s gorgeous!  This version is quite different with more violin up front.

“Sane, So Sane” adds a drum machine which is a surprise but a very welcomed one. It really picks up the tempo of the show and creates wonderful new textures.

For their last song Martin says “we’re going to confound you with this one.”  It’s a Jacques Brel song, “If You Go Away.”  It’s not unlike on the future record–slow and pretty.

When they come back out for the encore, Martin says they have played their entire repertoire.  He seems at a loss for what to play so they play a lovely version of “Take Me in Your Hand,” and a shockingly different version of “Shaved Head.”

Check it out here.

The setlist for that 2010 YouTube show is quite similar: Spilling the Wonderful, That’s What You Get For Having Fun, Just Because, Gigerlette, Persian Kitty, Boom, Hymn to the Situation, Milchig, Eliza, L’astronaut [a hilarious explanation of what the song is about], The House with the Laughing Windows, Sane So Sane, Love Streams, Uncle Bumbo [Martin on bass], If You Go Away

[READ: July 12, 2015] Mr Kiss and Tell

I loved Veronica Mars.  The show was great.  We supported the Kickstarter.  And I was pretty psyched when the first post TV show novel came out.  But I never actually read it.  It is still sitting on my shelf (Sarah really liked it).

Well, Sarah got this one from the library and since it was due back soon I decided to push it to the front.  The good news vis a vis the previous book is that they are unrelated.  The better news is that this book follows up the events of the movie!  And it has a new mystery as well.

The new mystery involves a man who has raped a woman and left her for dead. As with any good mystery there are dozens of twists and turns.  And Veronica is not willing to let go.  Unlike the TV show, this mystery lasts for months.  She is fairly certain she has a suspect and even manages to get some DNA but his “confession” reveals a whole new twist to the story that Veronica was not expecting and which really undermines her case. (more…)

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blueblue SOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-A Quiet Evening at Home (2013).

quietIt seemed like Martin Tielli was done making music after his (so far) final solo album in 2009.  He has been focusing on (gorgeous) visual arts since then.  But then in 2013, Tielli along with Jonathan Goldsmith, Hugh Marsh and Rob Piltch recorded another Nick Buzz album (cover painting by Tielli)–possibly their last as well, but who knows.

This album is almost entirely mellow, with beautiful slow pieces and delicate singing and instrumentation–with some exceptions.  The biggest exception is the first song and single (with video) “The Hens Lay Everyday.”  It is unlike anything else on the album.  It is a weird, electronic fast song with pulsing beats and funny lyrics (and a crazy video).  It’s kind of a shame that it’s on this album because I want more music like that.  But the rest of the album is also wonderful in a very different way.  This song just doesn’t fit.

Beginning with the second song, the album is a beautiful album of wonderful ballads.

“This is Not My World” is a delicate guitar song with simple keyboard washes.  Martin’s voice even sounds different on the song–I almost didn’t recognize him until the last few verses.  “Milchig” opens with a buzzy violin (that sounds almost like a fly).  Tielli did this song with The Art of Time Ensemble (it was called “Moglich”).  It has a gentle guitar and Tielli’s keening voice and spoken word–“he had given me ‘the relax.'”  There’s several sections in this song, and I especially like the slowly lurching middle section.

“Sea Monkeys” opens with some delicate chimes and underwatery sounds.  And once again, Tielli’s voice sounds different.  I love this peculiar song about ordering and “growing” sea monkeys.  He says he only wanted plankton or krill but during that evening, the sea monkeys started building their city, and after 4 and a half minutes, the song turns somewhat more sinister with a section about the Crustacean Monkey Queen.  The delicate music grows harsher and more mechanical sounding.  It’s pretty intense.  And it coincidentally relates to the book below.

“If You Go Away” has a vaguely Spanish guitar feel to it.  It’s a very delicate, slow ballad (I should have realized it was an old song written by Jacques Brel) with strummed guitar and gentle percussion.  It has a lounge feel as well (the romantic lyrics aid in that style).  It was recorded live with audience clapping at the end.

The mood picks up a little with the next song, “The Happy Matador.”  It’s played on acoustic guitar with flamenco-esque runs.  It’s a delightful song even if lyrically it’s a little dark.  “Eliza” is a darkly comic song with a kind of circusy feel.  It opens with accordion, adds a violin and basically makes fun of a woman named Eliza, with the great last line: “The only incredible thing about Eliza is the terrible terrible music she inspires.”

“A Quiet Evening at Home” opens with some strange noises like Circo did, but this is an older, more mellow album and they quickly give way to some pretty, delicate guitar chords.  About two and a half minutes of gentle chords are disrupted by a noisy saxophone and some manipulated spoken words.  This process repeats itself for about six minutes of mellow, slightly weird, but really enjoyable music.

“Uncle Bumbo’s Christmas” continues in that delicate vein, but this time with actual words.  It has gentle echoed guitar and some occasional strings.  It’s not exactly a Christmas song although the lyric “I love everything about Christmas, except Christmas” is decidedly ambiguous.  There’s beautiful overlays of vocals and guitar for the middle two minutes of the song before it resumes with a slightly more uptempo and much more catchy end section.  This song gets better with each listen.

“The House with the Laughing Windows” opens with a tinkling piano melody.  It hovers between ominous and dreamy.  I like the way the song gently, almost imperceptibly, builds over the course of its 4 and a half minutes.  And I love the way the guitars start playing louder as if the song is going to build to something bigger but it never quite does.  John Tielli plays theremin on this track.

“Aluminum Flies” is a slightly louder song which is much more meandering and ends with what I believe is the sound of windshield wipers.  The final song is the lovely “Birds of Lanark County.”  It opens with chickadees chirping and a beautiful delicate acoustic guitar melody from Martin.  Michele Williams sings lovely backing vocals.

It’s amazing how different this album is from Circo–same band members but an entirely different style, and a simply gorgeous collection of songs.

[READ: November 25, 2015] Blue on Blue

I had never heard of Quentin S. Crisp before (he’s not to be confused with Quentin Crisp, the British raconteur who died in 1999).  Except that I knew he contributed lyrics to the most recent Kodagain album.  But I received an advance copy of this book with Brendan Connell’s latest book (its publication date is December 15 (from Snuggly Books)).

This story was fantastic (in both senses of the word).

The story is told in 5 parts.  And what I loved about it was that the central part of the story is a fairly conventional story about love and loss, and yet the other four parts frame the story with an other-worldliness that is almost familiar, but not quite.

The story begins with the statement “I am a citizen of the ASAF, the Alternative State of the American Fifties.”  There’s a footnote attached which explains that the ASAF “ia an artificial history zone ‘reclaimed’ from sunken parallel time.”  This is a potentially worrisome beginning to a book to be sure, and yet the book does not go through any rabbit- or worm- hole, this is simply the set up for the story. (more…)

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zambraSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Arnold Schoenberg and the Berlin Cabaret (2003).

schoenIn 1901, Arnold Schoenberg wrote eight Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs).  The songs were short and fun with naughty (cabaret influenced) lyrics.  Some 100 years later, inspired by the Art of Time Ensemble who commissioned Nick Buzz to play pieces for their Schoenberg show.

So the guys from Nick Buzz got together and recorded four of the eight pieces.  Then Martin Tielli released this disc as number 2 of his Subscription Series.  Some of us were a little disappointed when this came out since it was only 15 minutes of music, but the art is wonderful and I have recently rediscovered this disc and have enjoyed it immensely.

Basically the Buzz guys have interpreted the songs in their own style, but they have remained faithful to the original melodies and lyrics (which were in German but are now in English).

“Gigerlette” explores electronic manipulations (presumably by Hugh Marsh) and offers lots of fun samples (what I assume is some earlier recordings of the song in German).  It opens with sampled female singing and staccato piano as well as other unusual effects. Then Martin’s vocals come in and the effects clear out and the song becomes simple piano ballad for a brief moment.  Then the noises come back in again, playing around with this amusing song.  It’s a song of romance and love with the sweet punchline being that cupid is driving their coach and four.  At over 5 minutes this is the longest song by far, even if the basic song is just over two minutes.

“Der genugsame Liebhaber” (The Modest Lover) opens with what sounds like a distorted harp (presumably the piano) and scratchy records (from Marsh).  This song is about a man going to see his lover, but his over’s pussy loves his bald head so much that she continually climbs atop it.  It is charmingly naughty. There’s some wonderful violin from Hugh Marsh on this song

“Galathea” is the most conventional of the three songs.  A lovely piano ballad to Galatea.

“Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arcadien” (Aria from the Arcadian Mirror) is super fun. The music is weird and goofy with a very drunken feel.  And the chorus is just wonderful “my heart begins to thump and dance just like a hammer’s blow it goes boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom (getting faster and faster).  I’ve listened to the original and it is very much the same, although Nick Buzz’s version is much better.

You can find some of these songs on line from a recording at Lula’s Lounge (Dec 9, 2010)

It’s cool to see how they recreate the album so faithfully in a live setting. It’s only a shame that the video isn’t a little closer so you could see just what they are doing.

Nick Buzz-December 9 2010 Lula’s Lounge

[READ: September 1, 2015] My Documents

I have enjoyed some of Zambra’s stories in other locations, so I was pretty excited that McSweeney’s released this collection (translated by Megan McDowell).  The book is pretty much all short stories, although the first items feels a bit less fictional and more memoirish.

“My Documents”
This is a brief historical account of Alejandro as a child and as a writer.  He talks about when he started working on computers and what happens when the computer dies with the information inside.  He explains that this file is in his My Documents folder and he’s going to publish it “even though it’s not finished.  Even though it’s impossible to finish it.”

“Camilo”
I read this story in the New Yorker.  It concerns the relation of a man and his godfather, whom he has not seen since his father and godfather had a falling out years ago.  See my link for a more complete synopsis.  I enjoyed it just as much the second time.

“Long Distance”
The narrator worked as a phone operator in 1998.  He liked the job–his boss was cool and would let him do anything he wanted so long as he answered the phones quickly. The job was in a travel insurance office and one day he received a call from a man named Juan Emilio. After speaking for a time about various things, the narrator realized it had been 40 minutes since they first started talking.  They were expected to call clients back 14 days later as a follow-up and this time Juan Emilio talked with him foe a while and, upon learning that the narrator studied literature, asked if they could meet and discuss books.   The narrator was already teaching classes at night, and these two situations overlapped somewhat.  I loved the way all of this information is used as backdrop to a romance he has with a student known as Pamela.  And the final line is great.

“True or False”
The titular phrase is uttered by a boy, Lucas,  who declared, based on an inscrutable internal feeling, that things were True or False.  An armchair might be true, while a lamp might be false.  Hid father Daniel had a cat, Pedra, even though pets were forbidden in his building.  Lucas loved the cat.  Then the cat had kittens.  There is a metaphor at work about the fatherless kittens and Daniel’s own behavior toward his son. I really enjoyed this story and the strangeness of the true or false brought a fascinating childlike quality to the story

“Memories of a Personal Computer”
The conceit of this story is great.  A PC remembers what it was like to observe a relationship as it begins and then ebbs–and how the PC was moved around into different rooms as things changed in the relationship.

“National Institute”
At the school where the narrator went, they were called by number.  He was 45.  The main subject of his story was 34, although he doesn’t know the boy’s real name.  34 had failed the grade and was made to repeat it, but rather than being sullen about it, he was popular and fun.  All of the students were worried about failing–the final test was very hard.  But one day 34 approached 45 and told him he had nothing to worry about.  The other students didn’t know what to make of it, but he slowly assessed everyone and told them whether they had anything to worry about.  By the end of the story, when 45 is brought to the inspector of schools, he is told a lesson he will should never forget.

“I Smoked Very Well”
A look back on smoking and how quitting smoking made him a different (though not necessarily better) person.

“Thank You”
She is Argentine, he is Chilean and they are not together (even though they sleep together).  They were in Mexico City when they were kidnapped together.  The incident has unexpected moments. It’s a weird story (with some really unexpected moments) but a really good one.

“The Most Chilean Man in the World”
A Chilean couple has decided to separate once she was accepted to school in Belgium.  After several months he is convinced that she wants him to visit, so he spends a ton of money and heads out to Belgium.  Without telling her.  And it goes very badly.  But he can’t just leave Belgium, now can he?  So he goes to a pub where he meets some new friends who call him the chilliest man in the world.  The story hinges on a joke, but the story itself is not a punchline.

“Family Life”
I read this story in Harper’s.  I thought it was fantastic–it was one of the stories that made me want to read more of his works.  This is story of a man house sitting and the false life that he constructs around him.  It was surprisingly moving.

“Artist’s Rendition”
I loved the way this story began.  It tells us that Yasna has killed her father.  But we slowly learn that Yasna is character in a detective story that an author is trying to write.  We learn how the author constructs details about this character and the things that she has experienced which make her who she is.  As this story unfolds we see how those first lines proved to be true after all.

This was a great collection fo short works and I really hope to see more from him translated into English.

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eggersSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Circo (1996).

nickbuzzMartin Tielli has been prolific both as a solo artist and with his “side project” Nick Buzz (named after his love of smokes).

Nick Buzz’ first album came out in 1996 (during a time when the Rheos had just wrapped up their album The Blue Hysteria) and was ignored.  It was reissued in 2002 to a bit more fanfare.  I reviewed it once before and while I thought I was more dismissive of it then, it turns out that I wasn’t.  That I enjoyed it and felt mostly the same as I do now.

“Spilling The Wonderful” starting out with a mellow piano intro, the song jars into a noisy/drunken waltz melody and a violin solo before returning to the cabaret/waltz style that opened the song. It is deliriously catchy. The song ends with some tape manipulation before seguing into “That’s What You Get For Having Fun.” This song opens with some slapped and scratchy guitar sounds with a refrain of “there’s a monkey in my underwear.”  There’s a super catchy guitar riff that is sung along to—this song really shines live.

“Just Because” mellows things down a lot, with a jazzy sounding guitar and Martin’s delicate vocals.  The music for his one was written by pianist Jon Goldsmith which might explain the mellowness. It’s a sweet ballad.  Although the segue after this song is some clips from the radio (possibly sung by Tielli?) which are distant and crackling.   There’s a saxophone playing as well.   This merges into an announcer introducing the band for their (live) cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” It’s a beautiful, delicate version with Hugh Marsh’s electric violin solo swirling around.

Some dissonant sax segues into Sane So Sane which is actually a pretty gentle piano song. They play with the recording sound as the drums get muffled and dense and there’s more backing vocals thrown over the top.  But it remains largely conventional.  “Hymn to the Situation” is a creaky somewhat creepy song that Martin described as being about a self-centered jerk. who says things like “I’d suicide for you.” There’s a canned crowd cheering at a particularly funny line and even a cow mooing as the song ends

“Fornica Tango” is a wild weird song.  It is tango (Tielli speaks Italian), but the rhythm is kept by a squeaky sound (which is likely Marsh’s violin).  The song is interrupted throughout by a crying baby or, even stranger, a screeching chimpanzee (fornica translates as ant). The song ends with some crazy sounds from Marsh’s electronic violin.  The highlight of the record is “Love Streams’ a beautiful ballad based largely around a piano melody and Marsh’ keening violin. It’s followed by “Aliens break a heat” which is more tape manipulation and all kinds of weird effects (backward vocals I believe) for 2 minutes. Until it’s replaced by sounds of traffic (European) and horns honking.

The final song is the amusing “The Italian Singer/Just Because I’m Nick The Buzz” It starts slowly with some plucked strings and Tielli’s voice. There’s some spoken sections and lots of staccato music until the gentle ending which resumes the melody from “Just Because.”

It’s a peculiar album but one that gets better with each listen (and hearing him play some of these songs live has really introduced new aspects of them to me.

[READ: October 10, 2015] The Circle

I put this book off for a while but with no real reason for doing so.  And I’m sorry I waited so long because the book is really good–it’s thought-provoking and questions a lot of established ideas but is also really kind of fun and utopian.

What’s most impressive to me about the way the book is written is that the story itself is really quite simple.  It is a gradual building up of intensity.  At the end of which the main character has to make a decision which proves to be very important both for her and everyone else.

The story is about Mae.  Mae had been working at a dull and dispiriting job in civil service at her home town.  The job was dull, the people were dull, there was zero energy in the place and even her boss was depressing.  It sucked.  She had been there for 18 months and when her boss joked about her getting a promotion, she’d about had it.

She contacted her friend Annie.  Annie was her college roommate and boon companion for a few years.  And Annie worked at The Circle, the coolest most awesome place in the country to work at–think google, but better).  Was there any way that Annie could help out Mae?  Indeed there was.  Annie got Mae a job at The Circle, just like that.  Annie was one of the Top 40, the influential crowd at The Circle and Mae was in (her first day is hilarious, because Annie plays a wonderful prank on her). (more…)

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mannersSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-Hugh’s Room Toronto, ON (September 27, 2009).

hughsThis is the final solo show from Martin Tielli on the Rheostaticslive site.  And it’s a great final show.  The sound quality is excellent and the crowd is also really into it.

Martin says that it is the fourth show ever with this band which includes Martin Tielli – vocals, guitar
Selina Martin – acoustic guitar, vocals, bowed saw
Monica Guenter – piano, synth, viola, vocals
Greg Smith – bass, vocals
Ryan Granville-Martin – drums, vocals, glockenspiel

(That’s a lot of Martins).

They open with a Rheostatics song, “Dead is the Drunkest You Can get,” a mellow song that works really well and has outstanding backing vocals from Selina and Monica.  Then they play two Nick Buzz songs, “That’s What You Get for Having Fun” and “Love Streams.”

“Something Wild” introduces a lot of vocoder–his vocals sound very different from on the Danny Gross record.  “Underbrush” is very slow and dramatic.

There’s something about this band that really brings out the best of these songs.  “Voices from the Wilderness” is lovely and “I’ll Never Tear You Apart” is also lovely, done in a slower tempo.  Although Martin keeps correcting himself when he messes up the words.

When they get to “Hymn to the Situation” (an old Nick Buzz song) he says it was an audience request and he thought it was funny.  He asks that the audience cheer wildly when he says the word “axe” (which is what happens on the record).  His description of the song is very funny, saying that it is about love.  Not sex, which is disgusting and which is all you hear in the media.  He concludes, “Never confuse the savory and the sweet.”  The song is played entirely on the piano.

“Saskatchewan” is great.  Big and loud.  Although Martin plays some amazingly bad chords at the end of the song–presumably intentionally.  The guitar solo is played on a violin, which is also pretty neat.

The set list says that the song “Our Keepers” was supposed to be next, but it is not included.  Indeed, the set ends with “Saskatchewan” making this show only 55 minutes.  Nevertheless, it’s a great recording and a wonderful spanning of Martin’s solo career.

[READ: October 10, 2015] The Importance of Manners

I found this book at work and was intrigued by the blurb: a Dali-esque fable, and that it was “in the vein of Evelyn Waugh and PG Wodehouse.”  I was committed to the book when I saw that the print was huge and that the chapters were really short.  Not the best recommendation for reading a book, but if you’re looking for quick read, those are some good markers.

The story is a travelogue farce that involves religion, sex, more religion, death and the end of the world.

There are several main characters, although I suppose the main protagonist is Burt Darwin.  Darwin is concerned for his afterlife and he cycles through a different religion multiple times during the day to make sure he has all of his bases covered.  He also keeps a journal in which he must tell the truth because this will lead to a successful afterlife (according to some healer or another).

We next meet Lady Chanel Malory.  Chanel was a hand model, is quite pretty and is looking for adventure (sexual if possible).  But she is married to Lord Percy, an old stuck up aristocrat who says all the things you’d expect someone like him to say.  He also believes that Lady Chanel is French and she is happy to play up the charade of being French for most of the story (it cracks briefly).  The final main character is Sister Mary.  She is an exiled nun, but she dresses like Mother Theresa, blesses everything and everyone and considers everything including flossing to be blasphemous.

They are all on a cruise ship traveling to Africa (you can probably see already the kinds of jokes and scenes that are going to appear).  They meet angry Kings (one who calls Lord Percy “Hitler”), they meet a talking (at least to us) snake who is mad to be stepped on, we encounter Vodun gods (and sellers of Authentic African knickknacks (most likely made in China) and a spell that makes Sister Mary forget that she is a nun and remember the past that brought her there.

There’s even a couple of authorial interruptions.

While most of the book is made of comic episodes (and some are indeed very funny) there are also some intriguing subplots.  Like Lady Chanel’s connection to pirates (which is sadly never explored fully), there’s even the exorcism of a demon.

Oh, and there’s someone who is about to set off a nuclear bomb destined to blow up the whole word.  Although none of our cast know that, somehow one of them saves the entire world.

H.G. Watt is also known as Hande Zapsu Watt.  She was born in Istanbul but now lives in Scotland.  According to some information, she has published four more novels and four children’s books which have all been translated into several languages, but I can’t find any of them.

So this book was a little broad, with some fairly easy targets, and yet I enjoyed it quite a bit.  There was a lot that made me laugh including  the acknowledgments in which she thanks her editor “who edited all the way to page 42 before writing in the margin: “umm, isn’t this a bit racist?”  [The book is, but it attacks everyone mercilessly, so no one need feel singled out].

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