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Archive for the ‘Sigur Rós’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAMBINAI-Différance (2012).

I am fairly stunned that I never posted about Jambinai at the Olympics in Korea in 2018.  Their performance of “Time of Extinction” blew me away and before the song was even over I was looking them up to find out more about them.

Jambinai blend traditional Korean instruments with rock instruments.  But not in a “we rock and want to bring in a flute” way.   The three main members met at Korea’s National University of Arts while studying traditioanl Korean music.  They wanted to play traditional music in an innovative way but in a way  that was very different from K-pop.  So their band consists of
Kim Bo-mi– haegeum;
Lee Il-woo – electric guitar, piri, taepyeongso, vocals
Sim Eun-yong – geomungo.

I had to look up what some of these instruments were, and here’s what I’ve got:

Geomungo (also spelled komungo or kŏmun’go) or hyeongeum (literally “black zither”) is a traditional Korean stringed musical instrument of the zither family of instruments with both bridges and frets.   It is generally played while seated on the floor. The strings are plucked with a short bamboo stick called suldae, which is held between the index and middle fingers of the right hand, while the left-hand presses on the strings. The most typical tuning of the open strings for the traditional Korean music is D#/Eb, G#/Ab, C, A#/Bb, A#/Bb, and A#/Bb an octave lower than the central tone.

In the video from the Olympics, the band is surrounded by dozens of geomungo players.

Haegeum (Hangul: 해금) is a traditional Korean string instrument, resembling a fiddle. It has a rodlike neck, a hollow wooden soundbox, and two silk strings, and is held vertically on the knee of the performer and played with a bow. It is one of the most widely used instruments in Korean music. Its range of expression is various despite having only two strings, with sounds ranging from sorrowful and sad to humorous.

Taepyeongso (lit. “big peace wind instrument”; also called hojokhojeok 호적 號笛/胡笛, nallari, or saenap, 嗩吶) is a Korean double reed wind instrument in the shawm or oboe family, probably descended from the Persian zurna and closely related to the Chinese suona. It has a conical wooden body with a metal mouthpiece and cup-shaped metal bell. It originated during the Goryeo period (918 – 1392).   The loud and piercing sound it produces has kept it confined mostly to Korean folk music (especially “farmer’s band music”) and to marching bands, the latter performed for royalty in the genre known as daechwita. It is, however, also used sparingly in other genres, including Confucian, Buddhist and Shamanist ritual musics and neo-traditional/fusion music.

Piri is a Korean double reed instrument, used in both the folk and classical (court) music of Korea. It is made of bamboo. Its large reed and cylindrical bore gives it a sound mellower than that of many other types of oboe.

Jambinai released this album in 2012 but reissued it in 2016 when they released their second album a Hermitage.

This nine-song (mostly) instrumental post-rock album is just astounding with the sounds they produce.

1. Time Of Extinction (2:56) opens with some quick riffage on the Geomungo.  After 20 second the roaring guitars and drums crash in.  Before a minute is up, the guitar falls back and a wondrous haegeum solo takes over amid the background rumbling.  It’s followed by some staccato thumps and full-on blasts of noise.  The taepyeongso mixes with feedback to create a wall of discord before it all crashes to a close.

2. Grace Kelly (3:20) opens with some fast acoustic sounding guitars before the whole song barrels forth with crashing noises and a taepyeongso solo.  That’s all in the first minute.  After which a quiet guitar and a vocal melody takes over.  I love that the vocal is buried under some effects so you can’t even really tell what language she’s singing in.  After a minute or so of this “rest,” the song just takes off again–forcing its way to the end with vocals moans that sound a bit like Robert Plant.  The ending crashing chords are pretty spectacular.
3. Glow Upon Closed Eyes (6:26) A quieter song, it starts with fading in and out noises and what may be reversed guitar sounds.  After a minute or so the geomungo comes in with some big notes that give the noises some context.  It stays relatively quiet for 5 minutes and then the end of the song bursts firth with martial drums and big guitars.
4. Paramita Pt. 1 (4:15)  The first part opens with rumbling noises and a slow riff on the geomungo.  Nearly the whole song works at this sort of tension building exercise with a brief moment of splashing cymbals and faster notes that slow once again.
5. Paramita Pt. 2 (4:21)  Part 2 slows things down a lot–just a geomungo thump and some sporadic notes on the haegeum.  It feels menacing and suspenseful–punctuated by deep bass notes that resound and linger.   The song unexpectedly explodes about two minutes in with a wall of noise punctuated by cymbals.
6. Hand Of Redemption (4:34) is a sonic blast of hardcore.  Screamed vocals are buried amid a wall of fast thumping drums and guitars.  After two minutes the taepyeongso and piri start adding noise and the thumping grows more mechanical.  The final minute takes away the industriaial sound but leaves all the high squealing notes punctuated by walls of bass and drums.   The end of the song thumps and feedback in to the next track.
7. Empty Pupil Pt. 1 (5:10) Continues with that feedback.  The feedback goes through several iterations as quiet chords are played and then allowed to feedback some more.  The rest of the song is full of other mechanical sounds–who even knows what–that fill in to a kind of noise drone.  The song ends with quiet guitar lines (I wonder if the song endings deliberate segue or if they were just stopped at the wrong time)
8. Empty Pupil Pt. 2 (4:39)  Part 2 further explores the quiet guitar with some cool creaking sounds from the geomungo before it starts playing a riff that ends with a big crash each time.   It picks up the tempo as the haegeum is introduced along with some acoustic guitar strumming but there is no climax to this song it just ends and fades.
9. Connection (9:37)  The final song is the one epic track on the disc.  It opens with a haegeum playing a quiet two note melody before some deep slow bass notes accompany it.  There’s also I think a vocal line (it’s hard to tell).  About four minutes in the haegeum starts playing a riff that is reminiscent of Sigur Rós.  It builds in beauty an intensity until the final notes fade out.
It’s a great way to end a great album.

Stream it on their bandcamp site.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “Stonehenge”

The June 10th issue of the New Yorker features five essays by authors whom I have enjoyed.  They were gathered under the headline “Another Country.”

I enjoyed Min jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires quite a lot.  I had no idea that she was not born in America.  She came to New York from Seoul when she was seven, and her essay is fascinating for a couple of reasons.

First, she says that every day in the 1970s and 1980s it took her two hours to get from her home in Queens to the Bronx High School of Science.  She spent most of that commuter time reading Sinclair Lewis novels about America: Main Street, Babbitt, Dodsworth, Arrowsmith.

On weekends she worked with her family in their father’s store in Manhattan’ Koreatown.  The store was burgled several times and everyone in their family had been mugged at some point.

She notes that Sinclair Lewis wrote about white Midwesterners who struggled against materialism, corporate greed, fascism and narrow thinking.  She found it calming to read about these big ideas since her family life was so hectic.   The books also made her feel like she’d traveled even though she never did. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THEODORE-Tiny Desk Concert #842 (April 17, 2019).

I recall NPR’s SXSW coverage last year in which they raved about Theodore (and then ran into him walking the street while they were recording their nightly dispatch) and his beguiling music.

Theodore is a Greek composer/performer who is fairly difficult to search for online.  I was really surprised but quite intrigued to see that he now had a Tiny Desk Concert.  And what a Concert!

He plays three songs that last nearly 19 minutes and they are full of twists and turns with great instrumental passages and incredible sounds from all of the instruments.  Whether it is thanks to Theodore’s own set up or the Tiny Desk crew, the sound quality is amazing.

He began with “Disorientation” which

explores the complete loss of inner direction as Theodore examines his inner dualities in search of clarity and, perhaps, new ways to look at the world.

“Disorientation” begins with a terrific throbbing bass from Nikolas Papachronopoulos and occasional guitar notes from Emmanouil Kourkoulis or Ioannis Lefas (not sure who is who).  Theodore starts singing in his husky voice.  After a verse he adds some keys and then just as suddenly the whole band kicks in–drums and soaring guitars which all drop away just as suddenly.

A minor shift occurs at around 1:20 and then at 1:45 the whole song slows down into gentle washes and piano trills with (again) some gorgeous bass notes (the bass sound is phenomenal).  The song feels like it’s going to end but it sound jumps back with the dramatic entry of a pick slid along guitar strings and then back it’s to the delicate moments.  Bob Boilen says the songs have the “spare elegance you can hear in Sigur Rós or Pink Floyd,” and you can clearly hear echoes of mid 70s Pink Floyd with splashes of Sigur Rós for drama.  At 3:45 it jumps again, with some great drumming and more cool basswork.  Then at 4:46 Theodore starts “oohing” in the microphone, his voice is processed and echoing and the whole thing feels like it is drifting off into space

It is spectacular.

“For a While” starts quietly with two notes repeated quietly on the guitar  Theodore adds piano as washes of guitar follow shortly.  The guitar and piano resolve into intertwining pretty melodies.  After the bass and drums come in Theodore starts singing.  He has a very European kind of croon, a bit like latter Morrissey or Guy Garvey from Elbow.  The song builds to a cool moody and then settles down delicately to washes of guitar and single piano notes.

“Naive” ends the set with another great bass sound and intense guitars .  Theodore sings while Ashley Hallinan adds some nifty rim hitting on the snare.  Midway through the song some instrument gets all kinds of processed adding a kind of fat synth sound as the rest of the band builds the song.   Great guitar effects from both guitarists flesh out the moody wild middle section.

This Concert was spectacular and I would love to see him in person.  He only comes to the US for SXSW, so maybe this Tiny Desk will bring him to a wider audience.

[READ: April 15, 2019] “Lobster Night”

Russell Banks is the kind of author I have known about for a long time and am incredibly familiar with the covers of many of his books and whom I’ve considered reading again and again and yet I never seem to.

He is also one of the reasons why I chose to read Esquire fiction in general.  There are many excellent writers who write for Esquire and not all of them write stories about men killing other men.

Well, maybe all the stories don’t have someone or something killed, but this one does.

Stacy is a former potential Olympian.  She used to ski until a bad fall left her with a broken thigh bone.  She can still ski but she has lost her edge so she teaches in the winter.  But during the warmer months she has to waitress or bartend.  She has recently gotten a job at Noonan’s Family Restaurant. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHYE-Live at Massey Hall (March 5, 2018).

Rhye opens with the sweetest story about Massey Hall thus far–“My parents’ first date was at Massey Hall.”  He also says the first show he saw there was Sigur Rós, which must have been amazing.  (They played there 6 times, so I’m not sure which one).

He knew that he had to play there…somehow.  Setting a big goal makes you subconsciously have to do it.

Rhye is a Canadian R&B act created by Mike Milosh.  As such (the R&B, not the Canadian part), I don’t enjoy this show all that much.  Although Milosh has a wonderful high-pitched voice and a  second listen got me to come around to a lot of what he was doing.

Prior to Rhye, Milosh had a band called Milosh and they released two albums.  But these songs are form the two Rhye albums.

His band is made up of organic and electronic instruments.  He’s got horns and strings as well as synths.

The first song is “3 Days” and despite all of the live instruments the entire middle of the songs is overtaken by a weirdly cheesy keyboard solo (performed by Theresa Womack ).  The key board sound they chose is so unpleasant.   But I do like the way the solo ends in utter chaos.  During the solo Milosh plays a small drum kit (there is already a drummer, Zacahary Morillo) which he plays harder during the crescendo.   I really enjoy the crescendos of his songs.

“Waste” is a gentle song with cello from Claire Courchene and Milosh gently singing.  It’s quite a pretty melody and ends with a cool trombone solo (also from Claire Courchene!).

“Please” continues in the same mellow vein.  As with the other songs, the bass (from Itai Shapira) sounds great throughout.  The middle gets loud with a clap-along “give me all of that sugar cane, one more time.”

For “Count to Five” Milosh removes his jacket and gets back on the tiny snare and high hat.  This song is much funkier than the others.   By the middle of the song, the guitars (Patrick Bailey and Paul Pfisterer) kick in full–the keys soaring and the bowed upright bass roars along.  It’s a shame it doesn’t last longer, but it does act for a nice dramatic middle section.

“Song for You” opens with a quiet keyboard melody and gently strummed guitars.  The trombone comes back adding some nice washes of sound.  The gentle trilling of strings works really nicely along with Milosh’s quieter and quieter singing.  For the end of the song he steps away from the mic and up to the front row as he sings along.  This whole denouement goes on for about four minutes of intimacy.

“Taste” gets things moving again with a clap-along into and a funky bass line.  And indeed this turns out to be a dance song “I’m dancing with my eyes closed” and even throws in a disco bass line during the rather wailing guitar solo.  It’s my favorite song of the set.  The song is quite long and the dance part segues into a pretty piano based denouement for the show.

Rhye’s not my thing, but I did enjoy this show.

[READ: April 10, 2019] “Monster”

This story won The 1999 Esquire Fiction Competition.  I have no idea what the criteria were for that competition–previously unpublished? No idea, although she doesn’t seem to have written anything else that I can easily discern.

This story opens by telling us that a motorcycle is definitely in the town’s pond.  It has been there as long as anyone can remember.  But no one can remember whose it was.  And no one owns the pond.  So it just sits there.

Seventeen year old Dale Roberts would go almost daily to the pond with his little brother Davey,  Their father said there was no bike down there–it was more likely a monster.  This excited Dave more than the motorcycle.

Dale imagined that motorcycle under him.  He imagined riding fast, riding the hell away from here.  Dale’s father has a motorcycle and Dale is forbidden from touching it.  He said the only place Dale was going “was juvey hall if he didn’t straighten up and fly right.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2019] Talos

When I saw that Talos was opening for Aurora. I looked them up online and heard a couple of songs which I thought sounded cool.  They were ethereal and soaring with lead singer Eoin French’s vocals rising to an incredible falsetto.

Turns out Talos are from Cork, Ireland and the band is largely French’s creation.   As I understand it, he created all of the music on his first album (which was more electronic) and now has this massive five-piece backing him.  Although on stage there were five total, so I’m not sure who was actually at our show.

The band made amazing atmospheric music.  Between the synths that the keyboardist/bassist was playing and the guitar/synths that French played, the songs were just full of textures.  Couple that with French’s voice which was really powerful but could also reach staggering heights, and add in the flair and splash of a drummer and a percussionist and you have an amazing symphonic sound that really rocks.

They had a Sigur Rós vibe, but were definitely doping their own thing. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 27, 2018] Becca Mancari

I hadn’t heard of Becca Mancari before this show.  So when Becca’s pedal steel player came out and sat at the instrument, I wondered if this is what she looked like and what she played.

Well, after a minute or so of pretty, trippy, soaring pedal steel (which Sarah said reminded her of Sigur Ros), Becca came out in a jump suit and goggles and started playing her guitar.  I have no idea if this outfit is typical.

The first song was rather serious, so I was surprised that after the first song, she started chatting with us and was very funny and quite silly.

(more…)

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815SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-New Album (2011).

In 2011, Boris released three albums at roughly the same time.  The three albums are linked because they share tracks (usually very different versions, sometimes radically different).  And, of course, the CD and LP feature different versions of several tracks (but none seem to have a different cover).

New Album shares the songs “Hope,” “Party Boy” and “Spoon” with Attention Please. 
New Album shares the tracks “Jackson Head” and “Tu, La La” with Heavy Rocks.
Heavy Rocks
shares the tracks “Aileron” with Attention Please, although it is radically different.

Sargent House CD (Total length: 50:10).  Interestingly, this American release is longer than the other two.  It is quite poppy with some heavier elements.  There’s a lot of songs that could even be considered dancey (!).

“Flare” 5:04 opens with sirens blaring and a gentle electronic introduction a song bursts forth that feels like total J-pop.  A little heavy (in parts) but this is really dancey.  There’s a great Wata solo in the middle and a rather heavy ending.  The percussion throughout is very mechanical sounding like ea car engine sputtering.  It’s a remarkable sound for Boris.

“Hope” 3:43 is a poppy / shoegazey song sung by Wata. It’s synthy (with trippy synth sound effects  throughout).  It’s slick and catchy.  The version of Attention Please is a more organic, with strings instead of electronics.

“Party Boy” 3:48 opens with a synthy riff and thumping bass drums.  It is the catchiest thing they’re released with a really poppy chorus and interesting swirling synths around the vocals.  There’s even a harp in the middle of the song.  The version on Attention Please is much heavier with a buzzy bass guitar and almost no synths.

“Luna” 8:29 has fast electronic drums and processed Wata backing vocals.  It is super techno sounding.  The middle section is an instrumental with electronics that sound very Eastern (sped up, but that kind of scale).  It’s followed by some heavy guitars and pounding drums.  A ripping staccato guitar solo follows.  There’s even a few moments that sound like Sigur Rós.  Why the song “Black Original” didn’t make this album but is on the Japanese versions is a mystery to me.

“Spoon” 4:29 Opening with single keyboard notes over a pounding drums and distorted guitars, this song sung by Wata is fluid and catchy.  It’s the most shoegazey thing they’ve done so far.  There’s a total Stereolab vibe in this song.  The ending features a series of intense ascending chords.  The version on Attention Please has no synths, just shoegaze guitars.

“Pardon?” 6:00 The song opens with woozy electronic but soon changes to very gentle guitars and an almost jazzy bassline.  The whispered vocals are downright soothing.  There’s a trippy almost delicate guitar solo that runs through until the end.

“Jackson Head” 3:11 This is the most punk song on the record, but it’s electronic punk with very dark synths.  The lyrics are shouted with a repeated chant of “Jackson Head.”  The solo sounds like single, distorted snyth notes under the pulsing of the rhythm.  The version on Heavy Rocks is less synth menace, although it does sprinkle trippy synths throughout the song.

“Les Paul Custom ’86” 4:10 A whispered vocal over a thumping potential dance beat.  When Wata takes over vocals the song changes style, but only slightly.  Distant synths enter the song and try to install a melody on it, but it seems to be fighting everything else.  Wata’s spoken “echo” echos around your heads in a cool swirl (if you wear headphones).

“Tu, La La” 4:15 “Tu La La” has the best riff of any Boris song, It is fast and catchy and really interesting.  This version has strings that kind of overwhelm the greatness of the riff. (I prefer the version on Heavy Rocks)  The end of this version has an intense buildup of staccato strings.

“Looprider” 7:01 is a quiet song with a slow bassline and interesting guitar lines.   The last minute or so is fast synths, building and building with a siren effect that echoes the start of the album.

This is a pretty unexpected release from the band who created Heavy Rocks and Amplifier Worship, but I think it’s a great addition to their catalog.

For comparison sake:

Daymare LP Total length:       45:40

  1. “フレア (Vinyl Version)” (“Flare”; features introduction quoting the end of “Looprider”) 5:02
  2. “希望 -Hope-” 3:40
  3. “Party Boy (Vinyl Version)” 3:43
  4. “Black Original (Vinyl Version)” 4:33
  5. “Pardon?” 5:54
  6. “Spoon” 4:23
  7. “ジャクソンヘッド” (“Jackson Head”) 3:09
  8. “黒っぽいギター (Vinyl Version)” (“Dark Guitar”; English title “Les Paul Custom ’86”) 4:06
  9. “Tu, la la” 4:11
  10. “Looprider (Vinyl Version)” 6:59

Tearbridge CD Total length:       45:39

  1. “Party Boy” 3:49
  2. “希望 -Hope-” 3:43
  3. “フレア” (“Flare”) 4:21
  4. “Black Original” 4:27
  5. “Pardon?” 5:59
  6. “Spoon” 4:28
  7. “ジャクソンヘッド” (“Jackson Head”) 3:12
  8. “黒っぽいギター” (“Dark Guitar”; English title “Les Paul Custom ’86”) 4:09
  9. “Tu, la la” 4:15
  10. “Looprider” 7:13

[READ: February 5, 2016] “Fall River”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.  The subject this time was “Time Travel.”

For this essay McGuane travels back to 1955 to his grandmother’s house in Fall River section of Boston.

He says there is little compassion between the duchies of this town.  The Irish Catholics dominate every neighborhood, with each having its own church.  But eventually Irish Catholic men like his uncles started showing interest in the Italian, French Canadian and Jewish girls–going so far as to marry some of them.

He wants to go back there to 1955 when there were half as many people and each town had its own personality.  The ragman is known as “the sheeny” and he imagines that the sheeny is a soon-to-be-famous sculptor.  He brings up a lot of other single incidents, like the “Portagee” boy who came to exact revenge on the author;s brother for breaking his arm.  Or how Emeril Lagasse comes from “up the Flint.”  There’s Cockney immigrants Down Almy Street who are known as “jicks” (a one-size-fits-all Irish insult). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 31, 2017] Animal Collective

The Mann Center is a gorgeous venue, but it’s a real hassle for us to get to–for a 7PM show it takes about 2 hours.  Which is absurd.  I swore we wouldn’t go back again, and then they announced Sigur Rós back in June and then Fleet Foxes and Belle and Sebastian this week.

So much for not going.

Well, this early show indeed meant that after two hours in the car we still missed at least one song from Animal Collective.

I’ve known about Animal Collective for a long time–they’re pretty legendary.  I’ve never really gotten into them, although they do have a few songs that I like.

They are a headlining band in their own right with their own dedicated fanbase–who were out in force, dancing everywhere during their set.  And checking recent setlists, it sounds like their shows are typically much longer than this one (about 70 minutes). (more…)

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