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Archive for the ‘Tricky’ Category

raslSOUNDTRACK: METHOD OF THE W.O.R.M.-Cicatrix (2015).

motwormMETHOD OF THE W.O.R.M. is the project of one guy–known as Grimm.  Cicatrix is a collection of songs that spans decades (“begun long before the present digital day”) and recently remastered and released.

The blurb on CdBaby (where you can download the disc–it’s also on iTunes) notes that Method of the W.O.R.M. is “an industrial hard rock with a trip hop edge, intelligent grown up lyrics delving into the microcosm and macrocosm of our world. Influences run the gamut of NIN, Massive Attack, Cop Shoot Cop, Swans, Coil, Tricky, Skinny Puppy, Tom Waits and many others.”

There’s quite a diversity in that list even if the bands are similar, and you can hear the melding of influences.  And you can hear most of them in the songs. But what sets MotWORM apart from these bands is a keen sense of melody in the vocals.  Most industrial music tends to bury the vocals with distortion or just under the music.  But Grimm’s got a good (even pleasant) singing voice which elevates the songs above the din of lesser industrial bands.

While it’s not like pre-digital technology was all tape manipulation, it also wasn’t as easy as it is now.  And the complexity in these songs shows a lot of skill and attention to detail.

“No Flesh” opens the collection.  After some interesting noisy samples (steel drums?), a slow bassline enters (which also sounds sampled—it’s got a very 70’s sound).  The song slowly builds with more and more layers of sound until the vocals come in–a gentle singing that also builds.  There’s a Skinny Puppy feel in the music, but the vocals are very different from Puppy’s style.  “Purge” is the first of many songs with sampled dialogue, but it’s the sounds around the dialogue that are so interesting–squeaks and buzzes, radio tuners? who knows where they come from.  Once the verses start, the main music in this track is more synthy–a compelling riff that wends through the mix.  When the distorted guitars kick in, it takes the song to an entirely new level.

“Burned” showcases the vocals up front in the mix over a simple layered melody.  But there are actually a lot of vocals in this song, including a fascinating sample that opens and closes the track.  Grimm adds layers of vocals–harmonies (or not exactly)–distorted vocals and clean vocals.  I particularly like when the higher voice sings a new (very cool) melody in the middle of the song (the sampled voice melds nicely if creepily with this too).  This song is a real highlight.

“Tragic Rabbit” has some more interesting samples and a pulsing synth line with cool swirling sounds over the top of the vocals.  “As If a Dream” is a slow trippy number with an excellent processed sample.

“A Viral Method” introduces live drums (which sound great and were provided by Swans’ Phil Puleo).  It also has a great live guitar sound playing a fast riff and harmonics.  There’s more great harmony vocals. And a wild riff for the bridge (do I dare say a bit prog rock?).  Although I love the cool samples and layers in the earlier songs, this live instrumentation adds an excellent urgency to the music.  The only problem with this song is that it’s so short.

“Absolution” starts off quietly but after the distorted guitars, the chorus is super catchy–the way it seems like it’s going to end but rebuilds itself.  It’s really well crafted.  “A Moment of Silence” opens with a retro-sounding synth bass.  It’s a fairly minimal song with the vocals really taking over as that synth line drifts to the background and new sounds bubble up.  “Wasted” opens with distorted guitars kind of like a Ministry song, but the vocals are much cleaner, which brings an unexpected quality to what could have been a typical heavy song.  Especially the chorus which is musically bright (even if it’s lyrically dark).

“Freak-O” (what a great title) opens with some loud jackhammer type drums.  The song creeps along menacingly (with a great sample of someone shouting “You are one ugly son of a bitch!”).  I like the simple melody that simmers up from the noise by the end of the song.  “Miscreant” opens with quieter acoustic guitars before the drums kicks in and a menacing synth line takes over.  The vocals are quietly sung with an interesting effect placed on them.  The middle of the song has some wild sounds–I’m not entirely sure what’s happening with them, but it makes for an unsettling ambiance.

“I Love You Goodbye” is my favorite song on the disc.  It starts out simply with big guitars but quickly retreats into a much quieter verse.   There’s a great riff that throws in a slightly dissonant harmonic note that is just great.  But as the song builds into a unexpected bridge with horns, the song adds an dark carnivalesque atmosphere (and that harmonic note returns in a more prominent role).  It’s such an unusual riff and really bodes well for the interesting direction MotWORM might be heading (if they ever release anything else).

This is a real fun disc full of interesting sounds and samples.  If you like industrial music this is a disc totally worth checking out.

[READ: July 31, 2015] RASL

Jeff Smith is creator of Bone, one of my favorite comics ever.  As far as I can tell he hasn’t done a lot since Bone, but he sure did his research for this book.

The title is unfortunate (and is explained satisfactorily in the last few pages, but it’s still awkward and hard to manage).  But the work inside is extraordinary.  The story concerns dimension jumping, art theft and a whole lot of information about Nikolai Tesla.  It’s also more mature than Bone, in that there are a couple of (non-explicit) sex scenes.

In a nutshell, RASL (real name Dr. Robert Johnson) and his partner Miles are scientists.  They grew up together and studied the works of Tesla.  Miles married Maya, a beautiful scientist who has assisted them with their work over the years.  They delved deeply into the research that Tesla undertook (Resonant frequency, remote control, the earthquake machine, wireless communication) and used his ideas to create a machine that is something like a transporter/dimension hopper. They are working for the military but hope to be able to use the device to end wars (idealist scientists as they are).  Their small tests has been successful, but RASL believes that they need more testing to see if there are any effects when you use it on bigger subjects.

So he takes the machine and hops.  It turns out that each hop between dimensions takes its toll on his body and also tends to confuse matters.  (In one dimension, he checks his iPod and sees that Blonde on Blonde was recorded by Robert Zimmerman (I love that detail)).

We learn that RASL (who as the story opens has shaggy hair and cuts and bruises, unlike the composed scientist we see in flashbacks) has been jumping from dimension to dimension to steal precious works of art as a way to make some money.  There is also a really creepy-looking man whose face looks almost amphibian (Smith has some really disturbing characters in this book) chasing after him.  This man kills everyone that RASL knows in different dimensions because he is after something 9and he believes that the people in other dimensions are not real).  It is slowly revealed why RASL has been reduced to this state. (more…)

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birdkingSOUNDTRACK: TRICKY-“Sun Down” (2014).

trickI really liked Tricky’s first few albums.  He came back with a good album last year and now he has a new one called Adrian Thaws.  It is currently streaming on NPR.

I listened to the whole album and I like it quite a lot.  There’s a decent variety of stuff, most of which is really fantastic.  There’s a few tracks I’m not so sure about.  But one of the key things is that Tricky’s claustrophobic and slighty off-kilter style is at the forefront here.  Especially in this song.

It begins with a kind of tribal sounding beat and then some distorted bass notes.  There’s a clock ticking in the background as Tricky’s voice (sometimes doubled) speaks/raps his slow style.  It feels close up and dark.  When guest vocalist Tirzah sings the female parts, she continues that slightly echoed, slightly muffled style that doesn’t really shed any brightness on the song.

Sure, there’s a chorus, but it’s not the reach out and grab you kind.  Rather, it just pushes the song along to its inevitable conclusion.  The keyboards noises that end the song create an uneasy feeling as the beat continues until the song ends with a ticking clock.

It’s great to have Tricky back in form.

[READ: July 1, 2014] The Bird King and other sketches

I’ve been marveling over Shaun Tan’s work this summer, so I was delighted to see this book as well.  The Bird King is, as the subtitle says, a collection of Tan’s sketches. He gives a brief introduction about how he was unsure whether or not to publish them as they are clearly unfinished, but so many of them are so beautiful in their “what might be” stage, that it’s hard to deny their value.

I mean, the very first picture, called “Bee-eater” is magnificent (it’s at the bottom of the page here).  It is part of the first section called Untold Stories.  This includes several of the pages from the comic Flinch that I read back in June.  I said I didn’t love the pieces then (I didn’t realize he did the cover of that book as well).  But I see now that I like the drawings better out of the context of that book, which was more about spooky and unsettling things.  I don’t think of Tan’s work as spooky or unsettling, rather it’s more magical, so seeing this series of titled pencil drawings together was really cool.

The second section is called Book Theatre and Film (I didn’t know that he was a creative consultant for Wall-E), and it includes samples from his books (like Eric and The Red Tree) as well as stills from movies that were made of his books like The Lost Thing as well as earlier books which I don’t know like John Marsen’s The Rabbits and covers of other books (like Tender Morsels). (more…)

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mystrugglSOUNDTRACK: TRICKY-“Christiansands” (1996).

christiansandsThis book is set in Kristiansands, and so naturally this song was ringing through my head the whole while I was reading it.  I’ve known this song for ages, but had no idea that Chirstiansands was an actual place in Norway.

This song is dark and tense.  Over a slinky beat, a spare guitar riff introduces Tricky’s voice as he rasps (his voice is slightly modified to give him a weird echo).  And while he’s reciting his verses, the gorgeous voice of Martina Topley-Bird, repeats what he’s saying in a whispered voice until she sings out the chorus “I met a Christian in Christiansands.”

The verses repeat with Tricky emphasizing, “master your language and in the meantime I create my own.  It means we’ll manage.”

I honestly don’t know what the song is about, and it feels like it never properly ends–that riff, at once menacing and gripping never seems to conclude.  It’s a masterful track and hard to forget once you’ve heard it.

[READ: May 11, 2013] My Struggle Book One

I read an excerpt of Book Two from this series in Harper’s.  And despite the fact that nothing really happened in it, I was drawn in by the writing style.  This first novel is very similar in that not a lot happens but the voice is very captivating.  The translation is by Don Bartlett and it is fantastic–I can only assume the original Norwegian is just as compelling.  So, despite the fact that this autobiographical series contain six books (six!) and totals over 4,000 pages (how could this be if Book one is a mere 400?  Books 4-6 are over 1,000 pages each), I decided to give it a try.  (Incidentally, Book Two has just been translated into English this month).

This series has caused some controversy because it is given the same title as Hitler’s Mein Kampf (Min Kamp in Norwegian), and also because he says some pretty means stuff about people who are still alive (like his ex-wife).  Although there isn’t much of that in Book One.

death in the familyIndeed, Book One basically talks about two things–a New Year’s Eve party when Karl Ove was youngish and, as the bracketed title indicates, the death of his father.  (The title A Death in the Family is the same book as My Struggle Book One–from a different publisher.  It has a totally different cover but is the same translation.  I don’t quite get that).  But indeed, these two events take 430 pages to write about.

How is this possible?  Because Karl Ove writes about every single detail.  (I assume this why the books are considered novels, because there is no way he could remember so much detail about every event).  I’m going to quote a lengthy section from a New Yorker review (by James Wood) because he really captures the feeling of reading the book:

There is a flatness and a prolixity to the prose; the long sentences have about them an almost careless avant-gardism, with their conversational additions and splayed run-ons. The writer seems not to be selecting or shaping anything, or even pausing to draw breath….  There is something ceaselessly compelling about Knausgaard’s book: even when I was bored, I was interested. This striking readability has something to do with the unconventionality of “My Struggle.” It looks, at first sight, familiar enough: one of those highly personal modern or postmodern works, narrated by a writer, usually having the form if not the veracity of memoir and thus plotted somewhat accidentally, concerned with the writing of a book that turns out to be the text we are reading.  But there is also a simplicity, an openness, and an innocence in his relation to life, and thus in his relation to the reader. Where many contemporary writers would reflexively turn to irony, Knausgaard is intense and utterly honest, unafraid to voice universal anxieties, unafraid to appear naïve or awkward. Although his sentences are long and loose, they are not cutely or aimlessly digressive: truth is repeatedly being struck at, not chatted up.

That idea of being bored but interested is really right on–and it may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not.  You can read along thinking that there’s no way he is going to give so much unimportant detail.  But you get this description of drinking a cup of tea: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRICKY-“Kingston Logic” (2010).

I really liked Tricky’s debut album Maxinquaye.  Although I felt he had somewhat diminishing returns after that.  Then he got into acting so I assumed his musical career was over.

Now he’s back with this album (although I see on allmusic that he has actually been releasing for quite some time, and had a “comeback” album in 2008).  This song, which you can hear on NPR, while still kind of angry, is less claustrophobic than his early stuff (which I liked, but it’s nice to see him coming out from under that).

The female vocalist that he employs on the song is fine–she raps more than sings, which is kind of a shame since Tricky usually picks women with great and interesting voices.  But since this “rap” seems more like another instrument than actual singing/lyrics, it works quite well as a sound collage.

The selling point of the song is the infectiously simple guitar line that repeats throughout.  There’s a lot of other things going on that keep the song very busy, including a spoken section by Tricky himself.  The whole song is not even 3 minutes long;  it comes in, does what it intends and then takes off.

The more I listen to the song that more I really like it and I’m going to have to check out the whole disc to see what else he does.  I miss the gorgeous vocals, but I’ll happily take more of this, too.

[READ: October, 20, 2010] “Issues I Dealt with in Therapy”

Matthew Klam is another of the 1999 New Yorker 20 Under 40 authors.  I enjoyed the excerpt of this story in the main issue, but I have to say I was rather surprised at how differently the  story turned out than I expected.

The protagonist of this story and his girlfriend are invited to a wedding on a fancy exclusive island (think Nantucket, although it is never stated).  He is a pretty average guy, but the guest list includes the Al Gore family as well as Madeline Albright and many other VIPs.  The island has been pretty much taken over for this wedding and it is clearly going to be a big deal.

The bulk of the story is a flashback which answers the question, “What was I doing here?”

The narrator and Bob (the soon-to-be husband) were in college together.  They were even roommates for a year.  Their friendship was kind of silly and superficial, but they formed a bond that lasted over the years.  Even though the narrator isn’t a VIP, he was still asked to be an usher (and to give a speech) at the wedding. (more…)

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