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Archive for the ‘Sandro Perri’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HELADO NEGRO-Tiny Desk Concert #632 (June 30, 2017).

It’s unfair that I have recently really enjoyed songs by Chicano Batman because Helado Negro sounds so much like Chicano Batman that I would certainly have guessed that’s who this was (although Chicano Batman is a bit more catchy and groovy).

Helado Negro is a band: [Roberto Lange (vocals, guitar); Nathaniel Morgan (sax); Angela Morris (sax, violin); Ben Lanz (bass guitar); Weston Minissali (synthesizer); Jason Nazary (drums)] and this is what Felix has to say about them

The artist Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) made a very big impression on me when I first experienced him almost eight years ago. It was a sound I had never quite heard, and I was immediately drawn in; there were layers of synths, percussion that percolated rather than pulsed, vocals that epitomized the world ethereal and lyrics in Spanish and English that floated amidst the music like wisps of smoke.

But that’s not what you’re getting here — instead of tinsel, we get Roberto standing behind Bob Boilen’s desk in a t-shirt that says “Young, Latin and Proud,” the title of his most recent single. That’s the essence of the songs he chose to play (and really, his entire catalog), music about being a young American with Ecuadorian parents, singing about life in here in the U.S.

Our little concert here also shows off an acoustic treatment of Helado Negro’s vision, and it’s just as compelling without the electronics. In fact, it’s as if the songs reveal a different aspect of themselves, the lyrics intimate and laid bare. Personally, I loved the sound of the alto and tenor saxophones playing harmonies in place of a bank of keyboards. As you’ll see, the entire band perfected that delicate balance of intensity and low volume, letting the music and ideas breathe.

They play four songs.  They are all mellow

“Transmission Listen” opens with Lange singing and playing guitar and then the full horns kick it, and that’s when it sounds like Chicano Batman (in a good way).

“Young, Latin and Proud” is very catchy.  This song reminds me of Sandro Perri–mellow and gentle with his smooth voice rising above it all.  I like at the end that he mentions his audience: “Felix is young Latin & proud, mi abuela is young Latin & proud.”

For “Run Around” he doesn’t play guitar.  There’s a nice use of violins instead of strings in the beginning and some cool synth sounds.  I liked the squeaky violin noises at the end.

“It’s My Brown Skin” is a happy song–indeed I love that he loves who he is and where he comes from: “My skin glows in the dark / shines in the light / its the color that holds me tight.”  The ending melody is really pretty (played on sax and violin) “I love you and I can’t miss anything about you / you’re stuck on me and all this time I’m inside you  / And its your brown skin… it’ll keep you safe.”

[READ: April 4, 2017] “Necessary Driving Skills”

This story was, wait for it, all over the map (ha) in some ways.  It is all about driving, (see, ha).  But it is about much more than driving.  It is about relationships, friendship, business and of course, driving.

It even starts: “This is the story.”

It continues: “Kim Le Bouedec and I run the Finchley Mint.  And I’ve just kissed his wife.”

The narrator, Neil, and Kim were friends in college.  And it follows that thought with this: “You see, this is the paradoxical thing about my age group (and yours–if it hasn’t happened yet, it will.) The more we settle, the more opportunities there are for disruption.”

Neil details: Simon and Maxine are married with a ten month old daughter.  Luke is married to Helen (who worked with the Neil’s wife Jill), there’s Kim and his wife Sasha.  “My circle of friends, turning square.”

Neil and Kim work at this Mint. It’s a business in which they sell “die cast model cards by mail order. Don’t laugh.” (more…)

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secret-2SOUNDTRACK: SANDRO PERRI-Spaced Out EP [CST101] (2013).

cst101cover_258x242Sandro Perri, plays jazzy music and sings in a gentle falsetto. I really enjoyed his album Impossible Spaces a lot.  This 10″ EP is composed  of 3 remixes from that album.  I happen to really dislike remixes that basically take one aspect of a song, add drums to it and repeat for 5 minutes.  Most dance remixes are pretty inane.  These are a step above that.

The three tracks are Love & Light (Larry Gus – Panamix), Wolfman (Le Révélateur – Sky Mix), and How Will I? (Imugem Orihasam – Outlook Mix).

The original of Love and Life is a pretty, jazzy number with some great sounding drums and synth notes.

The remix opens with some really fast clicking and some cool wild bass synth.  Then Perri’s voice is manipulated into a kind of repeating note.  Once the song starts properly there’s a cool drums beat and repeats of Perri singing “hey” along with his voice played low in the mix.  And that’s Brett much it.  It’s simple but insanely catchy/dancey.  The song pauses in the middle and then resumes with new vocal snippets The Constellation site says the remix “employs over 500 samples extracted from the song’s stems. The result is an intricate, dense, exuberantly satisfying groove-based track that chops and channels the woozy rhythmic complexity and mellifluous vocal of the original.”

“Wolfman” is a ten minute track that I love–it has so many components and different styles. But this remix strips away pretty much all of it.  It is basically 5 and a half minutes of drums with some wavering synth lines.  About 3 minutes in some ooh oohs from the original track come in, but it’s so removed from the track that I almost wonder why bother.  Well, Constellation is there to tell us: Roger Tellier-Craig (Fly Pan Am, Pas Chic Chic), reworks “Wolfman” as a beautifully building swarm of layered loops and long delays – an homage of sorts to Perri’s own Polmo Polpo sound palette.”  And if that’s what you are expecting, he does it well.

I also love the original of “How Will I.”  This version is very strange.  The music is stripped almost all away with just some occasional sprinkling of piano and rumblings of low notes in the background.  There are additions of synths and percussion but otherwise it is largely a stripped down song.  What I loved about the original was the music—the flutes and everything–and it’s all gone.  I do love at 7 minutes when the bass rumbles through the song, but otherwise its pretty samey.  Constellation tells us: “Japanese producer Imugem Orihasam (Fragil) extrapolates a sweet and loose abstract-House vibe from the original, bringing the highly detailed swing of the song’s live drum tracks to the fore, allowing Perri’s vocal to unfurl against a minimal, skittering, plunderphonic arrangement.”

So, this is not a release I would play very much.

[READ: October 3, 2016] Secret Coders: Paths and Portals

Secret Coders ended with a  pretty big cliffhanger.

Hopper and Eni are on to something big at their school, Stately Academy.  They have just discovered a robot which (through their own programming) has opened up a portal to a secret underground lab. But it is the lab of Mr Bee.  Oh, and that bully Josh has decided he wants to help them.  Hopper says no way, but Josh doesn’t give up.  However, he’s kind of a coward and a little dumb and Hopper is really quite mean to him back.

Eventually they all start working together–Josh has mad typing skills.  And the beginning of the book shows the trio learning to write a program for the Robot Turtle to run. Coding isn’t a terribly exciting thing to watch, but Yang and Holmes do it in a cool way that makes it rather enjoyable.  Even (or maybe especially) when the kids screw up.

But they do succeed.  Which leads to an even more secret room with dozens of robot turtles off all sizes  And that’s when Mr Bee reveals a bit about himself and Stately Academy. (more…)

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walrus huneSOUNDTRACK: Rheostatics Tribute Show (AGO, September 3, 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.  The night before their first show, Thursday the 3rd, there was a tribute show.

As the Rheostatics live site explains:

Thursday night was sponsored by First Thursdays at the AGO. The theme was Music Inspired by Rheostatics and featured a band of musicians comprised of Paul Linklater (Guitar), Thom Gill (Guitar), Phil Millotson (Drums), Charles James (Bass), and a series of guest vocalists including Laura Barrett (The Hidden Cameras), Terra Lightfoot, Casey Mecija (Ohbijou), Mike O’Brien (Zeus), Chris Cummings, Sandro Perri, plus a special performance by Canadian folk legend Mary Margaret O’Hara.

The site has the show available for download with the caveat: “Sound for both shows is a bit crackly in places and lots of crowd noise.”

So yes, the sound isn’t great (the AGO isn’t meant for concerts, anyhow), but it’s still a fun listen.  Although as a friend of mine once said about tribute albums–they sure do make you appreciate the original band more.

And that’s definitely the case here.  It’s hard to know if the lack of intensity is from the recording or if the band was simply playing more delicate versions of the songs.  The energy is missing on a lot of the versions–or maybe they just couldn’t do what the band can.

They start with “Who,” an unexpected but delightful choice.  Their version is a little slow, as most of the songs seem to be, and they leave off those last two drum snaps, but it’s still a fun thing to hear.  Then the guest vocalists proceed. Terra Lightfoot, daughter of Gordon, sings over a rather slow and somewhat undramatic version of “Northern Wish.”  In the original, I love when they really rock, but that doesn’t ever seem to happen here.

Casey Mecija sings “Claire.”  There are some interesting vocals and I like the way the song seems to start new wavy at first, but it turns a little smooth jazzy by the end.

“We Went West” is sung by Mike O Brien.  It’s quite similar to the original, although I actually like it a little better somehow–the words are a little clearer, I think.  Chris Cummings plays the unexpected Martin Tielli solo song “From the Reel.”  It is quite lovely and his voice is deeper than Martin’s allowing you to hear the words a little better.

Laura Barrett plays “Stolen Car” with amazingly operatic vocals.  It sounds great in the “I’ll be okay!” line but it seems to take a lot of the intensity out of the song because it doesn’t rise and fall like the original.

Mary Margaret O’ Hara comes out to thunderous applause.  MMOH is pretty crazy in general and she walks out and says.  “You people smell…nice.”  I would love to hear a better recording of this version of “Rock Death America” (and would have loved even more to have seen it).  She seems to be channeling her old spirits as she wails the lyrics.  She slips in a chorus or two of “They dont give a fuck about anybody else.”  Then she starts ranting about “the land of the free and the home of the brave amerikkkkkkkkkkkkah.”  It’s intense and I can only imagine how great it was to see.

Then Constellation guitarist Sandro Perri plays a sweet and slow “Take Me in Your Hand” apparently with MMOH (although I don’t hear her).  They play the melody on a penny whistle at the end, which is fun.

And then MMOH stays out to do a kind of long version of “Bad Time to Be Poor” (she seems to be mostly doing backing vocals and keening).  The version is a little too slow for my tastes, but is otherwise cool.

At the end of the set, someone mentions that the Rheos are going to come out and test out a few songs on everyone.  Lucky bastards.

Since the whole family was with me, I wasn’t going to go to this tribute show, although I have to admit it would have been very cool to see MMOH (who I assume I’ll never see) and to get the surprise Rheos show.

[READ: August 19, 2016] “The Rainbow Festival”

The last few stories that I’ve read in The Walrus have been real downers.  And this story had as a summary blurb: “in which a family waits for the joy that never comes”  What the hell The Walrus?

But with such a dour hint, this story wasn’t as miserable as it could have been.  I do wish that that line hadn’t been there though, because it did spoil the truth (which was not the end, but whatever).

This story is about a little boy who grew up in small town which was sometimes very large.  He lived in Malin a town that hosted the Malin Hering-Gutting Festival every June.  And during that festival their small town was overrun with fishermen and tourists.   His mother turned their house in to a B&B and she seemed really happy when the house was full of people.  (Her husband had died on a fishing boat some time ago and their house was way too big for just her and her son). (more…)

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march2014SOUNDTRACK: SANDRO PERRI-Tiny Mirrors [CST047] (2007).

tinyThis album is mellow and jazzy.   At first listen it sounds almost cheesy.  But Perri is just peculiar enough to make this whole experience fun.  As with his amazing Impossible Spaces (which came out after this) Perri pushes the bounds of mellow music with his delicate voice and wah wah’d guitar.

There’s not a ton of diversity on this record, and of you don’t like the opening minutes there’s nothing that will convert you.  But there are some interesting musical moments here.

The guitar lines that wah wah through “Family Tree” are very cool.  “Double Suicide” is the catchiest thing called “Double Suicide” you’ll ever hear.  The guitars are pretty and Perri’s voice is just soothingly beautiful.

Perhaps the most surprising thing on the disc is the cover of “Everybody’s Talking.”  It loses all sense of the original melody.  It really sounds nothing like it.  It’s very strange but beautiful .

I love the flute on “You’re the One.”  Theres something about that flute that really brings out the pretty in Perri.   I also really like the melody and guitar/horn interplay on “Love is Real.”  The final song is an instrumental which really lets you focus on the music.

So while there is definitely the potential for cheese here, Perri manages to ride just above it, making some really pretty songs.

[READ: May 19, 2014] “The Toast”

Curtis is a holistic nutritionist.  She wrote an essay about that in Harper’s a few months ago.  And the main character in this story is a nutritionist.  But the story is also extremely self referential, teasing the reader about believing that a character is the author, so I’m not willing to ascribe any kind of autobiography to it.

This is the first fiction of hers that I’ve read and I have to say I absolutely loved the first half of it.  I enjoyed the end half as well, but I really loved the first half.

The story is a very simple one about a younger sister (Sonya, the narrator) having a difficult relationship with her older sister Leala.  The older sister is successful, overachieving and just about to get married.  Meanwhile Sonya has switched jobs (unsuccessfully), is in debt and is living in an attic loft with a landlord who barges in on her.

As the story opens, the narrator proves to be a snarky character who I found delightfully off putting.  At first I though that perhaps there was some mocking of holistic folks in general (there’s lots of talk of fluoride), but that would not appear to be the case.  However, when a character says this, I’m hooked:

The wedding, my sister said, would not be fancy.  However, there would be a hair-metal band, a five-course local organic vegan dinner, and a life-size fair-trade chocolate baby elephant. I’m afraid that my sister went on explaining details about the wedding and I stopped listening; this is because I caught Lyme disease five years ago and have neurological damage that makes it difficult for me to listen when people talk, especially when that they’re saying isn’t interesting.

It’s a great paragraph–we learn about the older sister and we learn that the younger sister might just use her disease as an excuse to get out of things.  She is also not afraid to say what she thinks, like when she calls her sister’s fiance a “walking pancake.” (more…)

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walrus maySOUNDTRACK: POLMO POLPO-Like Hearts Swelling [CST026] (2003).

polmo“Swelling” is the operative word for this disc from Sandro Perri (who is the only person in the band).  Perri layers waves of music.
The album is comprised of drones and loops and is largely ambient in nature.   There’s five songs in 46 minutes. Opening track “Romeo Heart” builds from silence to super loud punk noise.   The 11 minute “Requiem For A Fox” introduces a kind of  underwater heartbeat pulse and detuned sounds.  By around 7 minutes the drums kick in bringing the song to a faster beat until it concludes with an acoustic guitar section and a wild slide solo at song’s end.  “Farewell” builds slowly over 5 minutes with interesting drums sounds.

At 13 minutes, “Sky Histoire” adds a tambourine, which brings in an interesting (albeit minor) percussive element that the other songs didn’t have. By the end, the song is totally intense.  It even has bells and chimes.  The final track, “Like Hearts Swelling” feels like real instruments rather than samples and keyboards.  It features Genevieve Heistek from Hangedup looping and weaving her viola.

Regardless of how great this album is (which it is), if you don;t like ambient music this is not for you.  But if you can get absorbed in the sound, it is a great collection of songs.

[READ: May 1, 2014] “Juno Pluvia”

As this story opens, the narrator, whose name is Hero, is protesting about her cousin Nile.  She tells us to forget about him because a dead body has recently washed up on the beach and that is what we should be worried about.  The man (clad in speedos and nothing else) has been dead for five years–the cold water of Lake Michigan preserved him.  And it was Nile who found him.

When she questions Nile about what he was doing when he found him, Nile says he was fishin’, which she doesn’t believe for a second.  And then she allows us to consider Nile after all: “grease incarnate…did he ever wash?”  And all the while, her mother warned her about him…to never ever get into his van.

Hero relates sadly that she was never invited.  He was never to be her first, she was never to be one of his girlfriends, who were all cross-eyed and bucktoothed anyway.

And thus, the remainder of the story focuses on what she told us to ignore–her cousin Nile. (more…)

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harpoctSOUNDTRACK: GLISSANDRO 70-Glissandro 70 [CST037] (2006)

glissThis peculiarly named band comes from the two members of it.  Craig Dunsmuir is in a band called Kanada 70 and Sandro Perri has stuck his name on the end of the word “glissando” which is a musical term for gliding from one pitch to another.

Interestingly the music doesn’t glide so much.  “Something” opens with a simple, pretty repetitive guitar pattern that keeps getting bigger and bigger. And then bird sounds flow over and around.  It’ a very beautiful introduction.  When it starts getting faster and more complex, it’s actually quite a musical feat.   “Analogue Shantytown” follows with an unusual opening.  Someone singing the word “shantytown” into a harmonica. It’s a weird and interesting sound.   When the guitar begins it sounds very 80s King Crimson-like with wild staccato guitar  Then the chords come in, with a simple repetitive rhythm. And then more and more voices start singing different phrases over the top. Like a rocking fugue.

“Bolan Muppets” has another simple, pretty rhythm and simple but lovely guitar line. More layers of voices (who knows what they are saying) propel this song along.  By around 5 minutes (of the 7 minute song) the songs settles down into a simple guitar progression with very nice vocals (in English).  “Portugal Rua Rua” opens with some more nonsense words (unless he’s singing in Portuguese). Then a single guitar plays along with the rhythm. Then some vocals come in English and the song fleshes out a bit more. By the end they start chanting lyrics from Model 500’s “No UFOs”) which gets a little crazy but is quite fun.

The final song is 13 minutes long. It opens with a baritone guitar playing a fast riff. The song starts to add layers of music—drums, percussion, guitar squalls. By 4 minutes it kind of settles into a repeated guitar rhythm with chanting in the background. That stays in a kind of holding pattern for a bit until around 8 minutes when they start messing with the sounds.  It ends with more chanting in a decidedly Talking Heads feel (and indeed they start using a chant from the Talking Heads at the end).

So this proves to be a wild and raucous record.  It has a decidedly dancey sensibility, but is not a dance record.

[READ: April 25, 2014] “Sic Transit”

I really enjoyed this T.C. Boyle story quite a lot.  So much in fact that not only have I been thinking about it all day, but I could easily see him fleshing out the story into a novel.

It’s a simple enough story on the surface.  In a pleasant suburban town, there’s a house that is overgrown and–out of place.  So it’s no surprise to find out that the owner is dead.  But it is disturbing to think that he was dead for eight days before anyone noticed and that they only noticed because of the smell.

That’s when the narrator learns that the mysterious neighbor, the one whose house you couldn’t even see from the street because of the overgrowth of bushes was a singer for a band from the late 70s and early 80s called Metalavoxx.  (I have to say that I feel this band is not quite right for the time they are depicted as having played–I feel like they are about five years ahead of their time with their name and their look).  At any rate, Carey Fortunoff, the singer, is dead.  And the narrator feels strangely compelled to learn more about a man he doesn’t actually care about and never heard of.

Mostly this is because the narrator has just turned fifty and is thinking about mortality.  What must your life be like to die and not be found for eight days? What kind of strange life did this guy live?  So, on a Sunday morning he decides to at least peek in the man’s house.  And when he finds a door unlocked, he decides to go in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SANDRO PERRI-Impossible Spaces [CST085] (2011).

This album has become one of my favorite releases of the year.  I simply can’t stop listening to it.  And the funny thing is that on first listen I thought it was too treacly, too “sweet,” especially for Constellation Records (home to the over-the-top Godspeed You Black Emperor amongst other wonderful bands).  But after a listen or two, I heard all of the genius that is present in this record–so many different layers of music, and so many interesting instrumental choices. Indeed, it does come off as sweet, but there’s really nothing wrong with that.

This album gives me a happy pick me up without being cloying in any way.  That’s a great accomplishment.

“Changes” opens kind of all over the place, with some noisey guitars and really high bass notes.  But once the shk shk of the shakers comes in, the sing settles into a great groove (and there’s a cool bassline that really holds the song together).  After about 3 minutes, it turns into a cool light funk jam, with retro keyboards, buzzed out guitar solos and some funky drums.  It’s unlike anything you’ll hear anywhere else.  “Love & Light” is one of the shorter pieces at just under 4 minutes.  It’s different from the other tracks, in that Perri’s vocals seem to be the dominant motif, rather than the cool music.  I like the song, but it’s probably my least favorite here.  “How Will I?” uses a similar multi-tracked vocal style but it has some wonderful flute moments (yes flute) that make the song bubbly and happy.  The song kind of drifts around the ether in a kind of jazzy world until about 5 minutes in, when the bassier notes anchor the song with great contrasting notes.  And the electronic ending is as cool as it is disconcerting.

“Futureactive Kid (Part 1)” is a shuffling minor key number that’s just over 3 minutes, it features a cool bass clarinet and backwards guitars to propel the song.  The backwards guitar solo segues into the uplifting (literally, the keyboards just go higher and higher into space. “Futureactive Kid (Part 2)” features fretless bass, a flute solo and My Bloody Valentine-esque sound effects (although radically simplified from MBV’s standards).  It fades out only to introduce my favorite song in forever–“Wolfman.”  I can’t get enough of this song.  It’s a simple structure, but at ten minutes long, it deviates in amazingly complex ways.  It has so many cool aspects that I love–I love the chord changes at the end of each verse.  I totally love the guitar solo that goes up and down the scale for an impossibly long run–well over 100 notes by my count.  I also love that the end of each section features a different guitar style playing the simple chord progression–from acoustic to loud solo to full band playing those same notes–so by the end of the ten minutes you ‘re not sure what to expect.   By the time the flute solo comes in at nearly 7 minutes, I’m totally committed to the song and wherever it’s going to take me.  So when it gets a bit of an electronic ending, I’m ready to go there with it.  Oh and lyrically the song is just as curious as the music.

The final song “Impossible Spaces” is a beautiful, quiet guitar song which is actually easy to sing along to.  It quiet a departure from the rest of the record, but it ties things together very nicely.  I have listened to this record so much lately, I just can’t get enough of it.

You can stream the whole thing here.

[READ: May 10, 2012] Conversations with David Foster Wallace

This is a book that collects interviews with David Foster Wallace.  Although DFW was reticent about d0ing interviews (as the introduction states), he did do quite a lot of them–often at the same haunts.  This book contains 22 interviews that span from 1987-2008.

The conversations are in chronological order, which is really a treat because you get to see DFW’s opinion (and his addiction to nicotine) evolve over the years.  You also get to see the topics that he was really focused on at one time and whether or not they stayed with him until the final interview.  DFW was outspoken about certain things, especially entertainment, which is unsurprising.  But he was also a big advocate of truth, honesty, realness.  It’s amazing seeing him when he lets his guard down. Although his honesty is there for all to see in his work, he is better known for his difficulty with language or his humor.  So seeing him without the multiple revision is quite enlightening.

The first pieces, “David Foster Wallace: A Profile” published after his first novel The Broom of the System launched Viking’s paperback imprint actually looks into his classroom a little bit and shows him interacting with a student (I wonder if she knows she is in this book?).  It seems sweet and almost naive compared to what is to come next.  And, for anyone who is familiar with him from later in, it’s a wonderful look behind the scenes.  There’s also a number of pieces from The Wall Street Journal.  Like the second piece in the book, the worryingly named, “A Whiz Kid and His Wacky First Novel.”  It’s not a bad piece at all, but man, headlines can be delicate matters. (more…)

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