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Archive for the ‘Ought’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TIM DARCY-Tiny Desk Concert #620 (May 15, 2017).

I really like Darcy’s band Ought, but I don’t really like this solo concert.  In Ought, I find his voice contrasts nicely with the punky music (and his arch delivery of the kind-of-spoken-words if entertaining to me).  But here he’s singing some pretty straightforward songs and I find his affected delivery to be kind of annoying.  The blurb name checks Roy Orbison and I’ve never liked Orbison’s voice either.  So I guess that makes sense

Darcy plays four songs–he’s on guitar for three of them.

“Still Waking Up” is first. He says that “Joan Pt. 1, 2” is more of a rocker on the record but he’s taking it down–wonder if I’d like it more as a rocker?  Musically I like the way it switches gears for Part 2 and I like his voice a lot more for this second part.  “Sledgehammer And The Rose” is a new one.  I like the slinky guitar lines at the end of each verse. For the final song, “What’d You Release?” Toronto songwriter Charlotte Cornfield plays piano (with no guitar).  His voice is a bit deeper on this one and it works pretty well with the slowness of the piano.

But I gather I’d prefer him with his band.

[READ: March 22 2017] “Herman Melville, Volume 1”

The previous Lodato story that I read concerned a young meth addict.  This one concerns a twenty year old homeless girl.

She remains unnamed throughout the story and we learn snippets of her past.  Her father apparently committed suicide recently and she has nobody else.  Her only thought about him is that she hopes someone is watering the grapefruit tree in his backyard.

She had been experimenting with running away–she gathered a lot of her stuff and some money and would head to the Greyhound station.  She would hang out there for a while and then ultimately go home. Then one day Evan was there.  He smiled at her and commented on her skateboard and banjo.  She began to cry and he held her and they have been togetehr for the past seven months.  He has even proposed to her (although nether one has mentioned in since, so who knows if it meant anything).

(more…)

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class3 SOUNDTRACK: OUGHT-Sun Coming Down [CST115] (2015).

oughtsunSun Coming Down changes but also enhances the sound that Ought worked with on their debut. This album is faster overall–with fewer slow and mellow sections.  It is jittery and sometimes hostile but very much alive.

And yet as with the debut you can hear inspirations from The Fall and trippier Sonic Youth throughout the album.  And there’s more than a hint of No Wave sprinkled throughout.

Notice that Tim Beeler is now known as Tim Darcy.  But the band is the same and Matt May’s fuzzed-out keys often sound like a second guitar.  And drummer Tim Keen and bassist Ben Stidworthy keep the pace perfectly.

 

“Men for Miles” has a very Mark E. Smith feel–especially in the chorus–a kind of spoken/shouted style.  But that’s not the only way that Ben “sings.” There are actual sung parts like the “tear to your eye” section.   The music is kind of like Protomarytr–aggressively, slightly angular but mostly fast and propulsive.  I love the guitar riff which is surprising and yet catchy at the same time.  And amid a quieter moment, he asks, “Excuse me, did you say there’s a chance of bringing this whole fucker down?”

“Passionate Turn” is a but less intense, but it has a nicely sung verse and a cool, unusual chanted chorus.  There’s also a nifty guitar riff right after the chorus.  The steady rhythm of the bass really keeps the song moving along.

“The Combo” has aggressive guitars and a lumbering bass and drum line combined with some noisy guitars and more of that Mark E Smith chanting vocal.    The middle section grows almost pummeling with the noisy guitars and jackhammer drums as he chants “it’s a little bit strange” in a voice that sounds like he’s almost mocking punk singers.  It’s a surprise about 2/3 of the way in when the vocals grow almost positive: “Jubilation coming.”  It’s one of two songs on the disc that are just over 3 minutes but which still pack a lot of music in.

“Sun’s Coming Down” opens with a ringing feedbacking guitar and some noisy soloing.  “I am talking out of my ass because my heart is not open.”  About half way through, he starts saying “just like that, it changes” and the music follows suit–it changes to a slower thumping drum with some vocals “oooh oohhoohhoooh.”  The song reaches its end with a guitar that sounds like a police siren before returning to that calming “oooooh.”

I love the way “Beautiful Blue Sky” opens.  The guitar riff sounds very familiar in tone, and when the other guitars and noises come in it has  very Sonic Youth feel, with a pretty guitar riff. And then some spoken words enter over some abrasive scratchy guitar “warplanes, condo” that morph into a series of clichéd phrases: “beautiful weather today, how’s the family, how’s your health been, fancy seeing you here.”  The middle section slows things down with “I am now longer afraid to die because that is all I have left.  Yes.  I am now longer afraid to dance tonight because that is all I have left.”  And the ecstatic way he says “Yes” is surprisingly powerful as it sounds so different–almost ecstatic– from the rest of his delivery

“Celebration” is a much shorter piece with a sort of angrily chanted “Celebration.”  There’s buzzy guitars and a feedback-seeming drone behind the music.  It all leads up to a slow down where he chants, “All right, I’ll take it!” in a rather louche voice.

“On the Line” begins with the vocals sung quietly over a buzzing drone.  Slowly a synth line comes in.  The song sounds like nothing else on the disc until  the drums and guitars come bursting forth and the song blisters along.  And then it settles back to the quieter section with spoken word recitation.   The changes are abrupt and switch between a mellow poetry and garage rock.

“Never Better” opens with an aggressive riff and keening vocals.   It has a quieter chorus but the song never flags in intensity.

Even though it is obviously the same band, their three discs really explore many different facets of their sound.  I’m really looking forward to what the come out with next.

PERSONNEL
Matt May: Keys, Vocals
Ben Stidworthy: Bass
Tim Keen: Drums, Violin
Tim Darcy: Vocals, Guitar

[READ: September 24, 2016] Assassination Classroom 3

I looked up this series online and saw that there are currently 21 volumes in it!  (11 are translated into English so far).  I can’t imagine how he can keep this story going (and at a pretty fast pace until the Earth will be destroyed) for so many more books!

This book begins with the students still on vacation in Kyoto.  Two of the girls have been captured by other students.  It’s a disturbing chapter with the implication that these boys have done things to girls before.  But Koro Sensei’s book about field trips actually covers the event of a kidnapping!  So the rest of the class is on it.  It even suggest where they might find the culprits (how did he know?).  It’s also a really big book and can be used as a weapon.  And our class comes out unharmed.

In the next chapter a new assassin named Red Eye is sent to take out Koro Sensei.  Red Eye is a sniper but he is baffled by Koro Sensei–who is able to stop a bullet with a dumpling.  Koro Sensei proves to be such a good teacher that even the Red Eye can learn something from him.

After a light episode in which the kids try to learn about Koro Sensei (and Irina’s) past girlfriends/boyfriends, a new student is added to the class.  But this student is a computer named Autonomous Intelligence Fixed Artillery.   It is a fast learning computer (with a pretty girl as its avatar).  And it is designed to learn from its mistakes.  It estimates that bu the end of the day it will have a .03% chance of killing Koro Sensei but by the end of the month it will be 90%.  So it begins class by opening fire on Koro Sensei (despite the fact that it breaks the class rules and disrupts class).  And then the kids have to clean up the mess of BBs.  In fact the kids are so annoyed that they tape the machine up so it’s guns can’t come out.  Eventually Koro Sensei teaches it that it needs to respect the fellow students or it will never blend in.  Koro upgrades the machine who actually seems to enjoy learning.  This is pretty fun sequence of chapters.

In the next section, Koro Sensei is affected by humidity–his head swells to a crazy size.  But that proves to be a diversion compared to the real plot that follows–revenge on a cheating girlfriend and her jerky boyfriend.  It’s very funny and quite elaborate.

The final chapter of the book is all about Irina.  She is trying to teach them to speak without an accent but the kids can’t seem to get their Ls and Rs correct.  She says that if they can’t get them straight, she will have to French kiss them (totes inappropes–although the previous chapter revealed that she was 20, which is much better than the mid 30s I assumed she was).  But we soon see that Irina’s “handler,” the guy who sent gave her the assignment, determines that she is no longer the right assassin for the job.  She is pissed but her services are no longer useful.

The book end with Koro Sensei proposing a test between Irina and her handler to see which one is the better assassin!

This manga is written in the traditional style of right to left, which is fun.  It is translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki with an English adaptation (whatever that means) by Bryant Turnage.

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assclass2 ought-once-moreSOUNDTRACK: OUGHT-Once More With Feeling… [CST108] (2014).

This EP came hot on the heels of their debut record.  It reworks a couple of older songs and has a largely improvised jam as well. It sounds pretty different from the previous record.

From the Constellation website: Discussion of a tour-only release that would grab a couple of the band’s self-recorded early tunes and commit them to vinyl shifted by the end of spring towards a realization that Ought might update this material to reflect how the songs have evolved on stage and in concert. … This yielded new recordings of two early pieces, “Pill” and “New Calm Pt. 2” (the self-recorded 2012 versions of which remain available on Ought’s Bandcamp) along with the brand new, more experimental and largely instrumental “New Calm Pt. 3.”. The non-album track “Waiting” from the More Than Any Other Day sessions (and the first tune to be given out via Constellation when we announced the Ought signing) rounds out this 24-minute EP….  In light of this new/freshly recorded material, it seemed unfair to restrict the Once More With Feeling… EP to tour-only status.

“Pill” sounds unlike anything else they’ve done.  It is mellow with Beeler Darcy’s (note the name change) singing as opposed to chanting/speaking voice.  I like that it is a fairly conventional sounding song and the way it builds slowly.  There’s a great bass line that enters after a bout 2 minutes.  The song feels meandering but it never wanders much from its mellow path (with some louder chords in between verses).  By around 4 minutes the song begins to build with a noisy solo and smashing drums that bring out the punkiness of the band. (That solo!).  But they never lose the basic momentum of the song—and the bass keeps things constant with that riff at the end of each segment.  This song also appears on their New Calm EP from 2012 which you can hear here).

“New Calm Pt 2” is a super catchy rocking song.   It starts with him saying “Oh I love this one.”  This is basically a song that encourages the audience to participate.  He tells us, “Hear  me now I am dead inside.  That’s the refrain.”  It’s a fun catchy bouncy riff repeated through pretty much the whole song.  The lyrics are pretty strange and seem arbitrary but are a lot of fun.  “Who invited Paul Simon?  I didn’t invite him.”  “I think everybody’s here now.  Everybody put your arms in the air.  That’s the generally accepted sign for not having a care.”  The song “ends” for about two minutes of him encouraging everyone to sing along to the “Da da da dah da da” section.  “It’s the part where we all sing together.”  “I have the microphone but you can sing it as well….”  And about ten times he says, “last time” then sings it again.

Interestingly, the original version of this song (on their bandcamp site) is much slower but has all of the same words

“New Calm Pt 3,” is the exact opposite of Pt2.  The lyrics are spoken slowly (“That is some good clear water an ocean of air rushes over your head”) while he guitar is a wall of noise and chaos.  The drums are loud in the mix with a lot of crashing cymbals and high hats.  The last three minutes are just some noisy guitar sounds.  And the notes say: “New Calm Pt. 3” ‘was recorded during this EP session, taken from an 20 or so minute long (maybe longer, can’t remember lol) improvised piece.’  And it seems like it.

“Waiting” is a faster, more propulsive song—with a cool bass line and alt 90s guitars.  The song grows in intensity with a wild screeching solo.  This EP is not as compelling overall as the album, but it has some fantastic moments, especially “Part 2.”

PERSONNEL
Matt May: Keys
Ben Stidworthy: Bass
Tim Keen: Drums
Tim Beeler Darcy: Vocals, Guitar

[READ: September 22, 2016] Assassination Classroom 2

Book 2 opens with a handy “the story thus far” which nicely sums up some important details from Book 1:

A mysterious creature showed up in our junior high classroom claiming that he had attacked the moon and promising to destroy the earth next March.  And then…he took over as our teacher.  The leaders of the world had no choice but to rely on the students of Class 3-E to do the job.  For a reward of ten million dollars.  Will the students of the so called End class, filled with loser sand rejects be able to kill their target by graduation?

Tabby was interested in this series–the cover of the big smiling Koro Sensei is pretty appealing.  But it is rated for teens and is all about killing your teacher.  I didn’t think I should let her.  Well, book 2 gets a bit more intense. In part, this is because there is a new professional assassin hired.  Irina Jelavich is a sexy lady with intense cleavage (which the junior high boys are well aware of).  She has killed many many people.  And Koro Sensei–despite not being human–seems to be not immune to her charms.  Shiota notes that his 5th weakness is boobs.

Despite her aggressive flirting (or maybe because of it) the kids don’t much like her.  Also because they want to win the $10 million themselves–not for her.  And she’s not very nice.  She tells them not to call her Miss Irina–she’s not a teacher after all (even though she is pretending to be one to blend).  So they call her Ms Hella-bitch (wonder how that worked in Japanese?) which gets her super angry.  But Ms Jelavich has it all figured out.  She plans to lure Koro Sensei to the shed where pleasure and pain awaits him. Of course he’s not so easily fooled. And she is made to appear ridiculous (I won’t speculate on what actually happened to her).

But her failure emboldens the students who are no longer impressed by her.  And soon she is made to actually agree to be a languages teacher–being an assassin she has learned how to say key phrases in multiple languages.

A new wrinkle appears in the book, though.  Koro Sensei has been working very hard helping each student succeed in his or her own way–he has even cloned himself (the students are concerned since he seems exhausted).  And when the school gathers for an assembly–rather than 3-E being put in its place and mocked, the students seem to be feeling pretty good about themselves.

And that’s when the principal steps in.  He lets Koro Sensei know in no uncertain terms that 3-E must fail their tests–that’s how the other students succeed–through fear of being like 3-E.  Koro Sensei has other ideas though.  He tells the class that if the 3-E students don’t score to a certain percentage he will flatten the school.  But he doesn’t know how serious the principal is about the status quo.  As Koro is preparing his students, the principal is trying to modify things.  This is upsetting Koro (and don’t forget that the students are still trying to kill him as well).

The last two chapters of the book see the students of a field trip to Kyoto.  And things change mightily when the students are away from school. For one thing, they aren’t under the protection of the school–against strangers or, worse yet, aggressive fellow students who want them in their place.

And as the book ends a new character is introduced, a psychic, Saiki, and he is here for a sweet bun–the very one that Koro Sensei wants to buy as well. The book end with the two of them having a very strange bonding moment.  I don’t know how this story can be stretched out into a number of volumes but clearly he has a lot of twists and turns planned ahead for us.

This book is rated T for teen.  Despite the cute grinning covers, it’s not for kids..

This manga is written in the traditional style of right to left, which is fun.  It is translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki with an English adaptation (whatever that means) by Bryant Turnage.

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assclassSOUNDTRACK: OUGHT-More Than Any Other Day [CST103] (2014).

oughtmoreOught might just be the most straightforward band every released by Constellation Records. They are a rock/punk band with some spoken word singing that sound at times like Mark E. Smith.  However, the music is a bit catchier than The Fall’s with fast moments and really slow almost ambient stretches.

“Pleasant Heart” opens with a raw echoing guitar riff and chords that sound like nothing else on the album.   The song lurches through some great sounds and Beeler’s unusual chanting style of singing.  There’s also a cool bass line rumbling throughout the song built with lots of drum fills and chaos.

About half way through this six-minute song the bass and drums drop out leaving just a squeaky violin and harmonic guitar (this squeaky violin is possibly the only thing that makes this record sound like a Constellation release).  The bass comes back in slowly.  But it’s not until almost two minutes of this instrumental that the song resumes with a crunch and the lurching melody and verses continue until the end.

“Today More Than Any Other Day” was the first Ought song that really grabbed me.  It starts out slowly with some spare drums and meandering bass.  It doesn’t really feel like its going to resolve into anything.  By a minute and a half it’s finally starting to sound like something–a slow meandering song perhaps.  Around 2 minutes Beeler starts whispering “we’re sinking deeper, and sinking deeper.”  And then the song starts building and turning into something else .  We’re now half way through this 5 minutes song when the guitar starts chiming and he states “The name of this song is ‘Today more than any other day Parts 4-43.  So open up your textbooks … or any kind of reading material.”  And as the guitar plays the verses he recites various things that have happened today more than any other day (making a “decision between 2% and whole milk.”  A cool bass line starts playing as else drops away and he starts chanting a rather laconic “dah dah dah dah dah” following the bass.  It reminds me, strangely enough of the Dead Milkmen as its kind of not exactly out of tune but almost as if  not really caring.  But when the song resumes, it’s all right on again.  It’s a weird and wonderful, strangely catchy song.

“Habit” opens with a nice slow bass riff and chiming guitars.  It brings the intensity of the previous song down some.  And the vocals sound a little different, especially in the chorus, where the whole song take on a kind of Talking Heads vibe (the falsetto singing in particular).  It slows down toward the end with some scraping violins. The song is quite pretty in an alt-sorta way.

I love “The Weather Song” from the opening harmonics and intriguing bass line to the way the song suddenly ramps up for the chorus.  In addition to the catchy spoken opening there’s a great chorus of “I …. just wanna revel in your lies.”

“Forgiveness” is a relatively short 4 and a half minutes and opens with almost an organ sound.  A scraping violin sound joins the drones. After 2 minutes he sings in a very slow drawl “forgiveness is a drug that you take with a shrug.”  It has echoes of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” although it never changes tempo or intensity.

“Around Again” has a very 1980s guitar riff and whispered vocals until the whole band kicks in and it grows in intensity.  And then the whispered “go slow” returns the song to the beginning.  After 3 minutes, the song builds and then drops out with a spoken: “It’s coming. Why is it you can’t stand under the sun but you can stick your head into a bucket of water and breathe in deep” and then a whole new sound of dissonant guitar and thudded bass and drums “we have reached the intermission.”  But it’s not an intermission it goes through to the end of the song like this.

“Clarity!” opens with what sound to me like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but with guitar chunks played over the top.  Slow harmonics and whispered vocals move the song forward.  After 2 minutes it rocks out, with a returning ringing high note and interesting sound effects.  And by the end the song comes to a plunging conclusion

“Gemini” opens with some low rumbling notes and then a sprinkling of keyboards.  There’s some scratchy guitars and a rumbling bass.  After 2 and a half minutes, the song’s punky parts take over with jagged guitars and screamed vocals.  The end of the song is mostly just two-note thumping while he screams “you wanted … wanted … wanted … wanted.”

I really like this album a lot.

I noticed that the lead singer changes his name on each release.  So, to help keep it straight:

PERSONNEL
Matt May: Keys
Ben Stidworthy: Bass
Tim Keen: Drums, Violin
Tim Beeler: Vocals, Guitar

[READ: September 20, 2016] Assassination Classroom 1

Assassination Classroom has a very strange and unsettling premise–the students of this classroom are being taught to assassinate their teacher.  Given the current climate of guns in the US, that’s probably not a comfortable position to take.  However, Matsui alters the premise to make it more palatable, and frankly more fun. The students’ teacher is actually an alien (or maybe not, but it is certainly not human).  He (I guess) is a multi-tentacled creature who can move at Mach 20, is exceptionally perceptive and can’t be harmed by most conventional weapons.  But wait, there’s more.  The students are sent to assassinate this particular creature because he blew a huge chunk out of the moon (it’s now a permanent crescent) and is planning to do the same to the earth in a year’s time.  But wait, there’s more.  One of his conditions for not blowing up the Earth sooner is that he be allowed to teach this particular classroom.  Although no one is sure why yet.

The class is 3-E, the lowest of the low, the worst students in the very prestigious Kunugigaoka Junior High.  The 3-E class are misfits–they were smart enough to get into the school, but they have done something wrong and they are treated very poorly because of it.  In fact, 3-E is used as a kind of cautionary tale for the other students–act up and you could wind up like them.  (Why they don’t just leave the school is not addressed).

The kids call the creature Koro Sensi (which is a pun on the Japanese “Koro senai” which means “can’t kill”), and it turns out he is actually a pretty great teacher.  He really seems to care about the kids.  So why would they want to kill him?  Well, aside from the destruction of the planet, there is also a ten billion yen reward (the amount seems to change some in the book, but it’s roughly 100 million dollars).  Of course, as the name implies, this guy is really hard to kill.  And when they try to kill him in a way he finds beneath them (they are training to be great assassins after all), his own revenge will be swift.  At the same time, he heartily encourages them to try their best to kill him–and he applauds their most creative efforts. (more…)

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