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Archive for the ‘KCRW 89.9 FM–Santa Monica, CA’ Category

[LISTENED TO: March 2017] The Organist

organistAfter really enjoying The Organist in 2015, the season ended and I hadn’t heard that there were going to be anymore.  So I stopped looking for them.  And then the other day I got an email reminding me about recent episodes.  Well, sure enough there had been an entire season last year and they were already part way through this year’s season.

So I’m playing some catch up here.  But they are timeless, so it’s okay.

Each cast has a section in brackets–this text comes from the Organist’s own site.  The rest is my own commentary.

The Organist is a free podcast from KCRW & McSweeney’s.  As of this writing, they are up to episode 82. (more…)

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catSOUNDTRACK: LORDE-“Royals” (Live on KCRW, August 2013).

lordeLorde is evidently a huge hit in her native New Zealand.  Not bad for a sixteen year old.  And, indeed, her voice is not bad at all for a sixteen year old–she sounds much older (and perhaps it’s not even worth mentioning her age, but KCRW did, so I will too).  She has a deep and sophisticated voice (in the way that young Fiona Apple blew me away with the intensity of her voice on her debut).

The song itself is quite plain (as are all of the songs on her entire KCRW performance).  There’s primarily percussion (some really interesting choices there), simple keyboard notes or washes and (quite often) multi-layered voices–all prerecorded).  And she sings over the sparseness with her powerful throaty voice.

Interestingly, for being a popular success, her songs aren’t all that poppy.  They are certainly not bubblegum and some of the tracks are quite dark.  (Although lines like, “let’s go down to the tennis court, talk it up like yeah” certainly don’t speak to any depth).  And yet the songs are “topical” according to Lorde herself.

“Royals” might be the least interesting of the tracks during the set, and while I like it, I’m not sure why it became so huge.  But fair play to her.

[READ: August 8, 2013] “Four O’Clock”

This book is a collection of H.P. Lovecraft works and items associated with him.  Like this story from his wife Sonia H. Greene.  In theory Lovecraft did not edit this piece (I venture no opinion) and so it stands as her own story.

It is a very simple story.  Indeed, there is hardly any plot and only one character.

In this story the narrator (never identified as man or woman) says that at about 2 in the morning she knew it was coming.  And it is coming at, yes, four o’clock.  The narrator is terrified of what is coming and for much of the story, we don’t learn a thing about what it is.  We just know through ever escalating fear, that it is coming.

At four o’clock. (more…)

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vormSOUNDTRACK: DEAD CAN DANCE-“Children of the Sun” (Live at KCRW, April 24, 2013).

deadcandanceDead Can Dance are timeless.  Their music sounds ancient and modern at the same time.  And Brendan Perry’s voice has an unearthly majesty to it that never seems to age.

I’ve known the band for decades (during which time they have broken up and reunited and broken up and reunited).  And in all that time, while their sound has changed in subtle ways, the band is instantly recognizable.  I’ve never really thought of them as a live entity–they just seem like such a creation of the studio that it would be impossible to do justice to their wash of music live.  Of course that was truer three decades ago before it was easy to fit an entire orchestra on an iPod.

You can watch this song on NPR.  It’s fun to watch a band with two keyboardists (and Lisa Gerrard on…autoharp?) and see all of them making very different sounds.  The only disappointing thing about watching this is that they have so many cool instruments strewn about which do not get used on this song (you can see the whole show here and watch him bust out that bouzouki).

This song is a new one and it doesn’t have quite the ponderous nature as their older material.  Which is a bit of a shame, as they were so over the top it was fabulous, but maybe they’re just settling into New Old Age.

[READ: April 20, 2013] Trinity

Sarah brought this book home because it was on YALSA Hub Reading Challenge for 2013. I’m unlikely to do the challenge as I have so many other books to read, but I have already read 5 of the required 25.  Not too bad, although since the challenge is from Feb to June and I read a couple last year, I don’t even qualify for some of the ones I DID read.  Anyhow, she told me I’d like this and she was right (as usual).

Trinity is the story of the development of the atomic bomb done as a graphic novel.

It outlines how we came to develop and test the bomb and of course, the aftermath of its use.  What I liked about the story is that leading up to the detonation of the bomb, the quest for its discovery is presented in a fairly neutral way.  Essentially, once it was discovered that we could split the atom, it was deemed inevitable that someone would make a bomb out of it.  It stood to reason that if Hitler or the Japanese figured it out before us they would use it on us (since we were at war with them).  The intention was that America would be decent and not use it with impunity (which is not to say we wouldn’t use it at all).  The book presents that American can do spirit that the forties seem to be all about–a sort of gee whiz, let’s figure this out mentality.

I knew some of the history of the bomb, but there was a lot here that I didn’t know: that thousands of people moved to New Mexico to work on the bomb—housing was put up and families moved in, some 80,000 people in all.  And most of the people had no idea what they were working on.  It’s hard to fathom that there were thousands of people whose work helped to create a nuclear bomb and yet they can feel neither pride nor shame because they had no idea that’s what they were doing.  Weird. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOOKWORM-Jeffrey Eugenidies: The Marriage Plot (December 1, 2011) (2011).

Since “Just Kids” mentions  Eugenides’ book, and since Eugenides happened to appear on Bookworm at around the same time as I read this article, it seemed like a good pairing.

Obviously, from the title of the episode you can tell that this is all about Eugenides’ new book, The Marriage Plot.  Michael Silverblatt raves about this book like no other book I have heard (granted I haven’t listened to all that many episodes of Bookworm, but still).  In fact while listening to this episode, I put The Marriage Plot on hold at the library.  I always planned to read it but figured I’d just get around to it some day.  Now I feel more of a sense of urgency.

They talk at length about the state of marriage in the 21st century.  Not as in its decline but in how it differs so much from classic literature in which women had to get married by 21 or risk spinsterhood.  Eugenides set out to write a book about people getting married without having the trappings of classical literature.

It sounds wonderful.

The reason I mention this interview at all is because in the article below, Hughes talks about contemporaries of DFW using DFW as the basis for a character in their books.  So, in Franzen’s Freedom, there is character who is very much like DFW (I haven’t read Freedom yet so I can’t say). 

And in The Marriage Plot, there is a character who resembles DFW.  When I read the excerpt of this story in The New Yorker, I had to admit he did seem an awful lot like DFW–a tobacco chewing, bandanna wearing philosopher.  Eugenides had been mum about it for a while, but now, under the gentle nudging of Michael Silverblatt, he comes clean. 

He admits that there are some characteristics of DFW in the character.  However, he says that he didn’t know DFW all that well and the character has been kicking around since he went to college (long before he knew DFW).  Tobacco chewing was rampant at Brown in the 80s apparently.  But it’s a nice revelation and it ties in very well with the article.

You can listen to the show at KCRW.

[READ: December 7, 2011] “Just Kids

I have always grouped together certain authors in my head.  When there were a bunch of Jonathans publishing, I kind of lumped them together.  I think of Mark Leyner and Bret Easton Ellis in the same breath.  It’s fairly common, I suppose.  But I never really thought of David Foster Wallace in terms of a group of authors.  He seems so solitary that it’s funny to even think of him as having friends.   But according to Hughes, many of today’s established authors prove to have been a part of a kind of nebulous writer’s circle.  A kind of 1990’s update of Dorothy Parker’s vicious circle.  But more insecure.

The article bookends with Jeffrey Eugenides.  In 1983 he and Rick Moody drove to San Francisco with the intent of being writers.  Five years later with no written works, Eugenides moved to Brooklyn, alone.  In that same summer, Jonathan Franzen was in Queens, also feeling alone (even though he was married–unhappily) and desperate for friends and peers.  And then Franzen got a fan letter from David Foster Wallace (that’s after he had written Broom of the System, but before Girl with Curious Hair) praising The Twenty-Seventh City

Franzen and DFW became friends.  To this friendship was added William T. Vollman, and David Means, also Mary Karr (whom DFW dated) and Mark Costello (who co-wrote Signifying Rappers with DFW).  Later they would connect with Eugenides, Rick Moody and Donald Antrim.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: QUEENSRŸCHE-The Warning (1984).

Queensrÿche fulfilled the promise of their debut EP with this album.  It takes the blueprint of the EP and expands it wonderfully.  They introduce some cool low vocal chants to compliment Tate’s soaring alto (like on “En Force”), they also introduce some wonderful effects and riffs and scales (also on “En Force”).

There’s also some really great, odd “keyboard” bits thrown in as kind of sound effects or jarring moments (“Deliverance”).  “Deliverance” also has great backing vocals, and I love the way the “Deliver Us” part of the song is quite different from the soaring of the rest of the vocals.  The back and forth of “No Sanctuary” also showcases the bands skills very well.

The band even shows signs that they’re not sticking to standard heavy metal.  On “N.M. 156” there’s some sci-fi chanting and the really cool section of the song in which Tate sings “Forgotten…Lost…Memories” and the “Lost” part is a completely unexpected note.   They were taking chances from the beginning.

“The Lady Wore Black” is updated with the stunning “Take Hold of the Flame,” a slightly more progressive version of that first song.  “Before the Storm” was the first song I heard from this album and it has always been my favorite on the record (this is one of those few albums where the better songs aren’t front loaded).  “We watch the sun rise and hope it won’t be our last” (they were always happy guys).

“Child of Fire” opens with a wonderful riff and the compelling, “the souls that are damned by the pain that you bring send you higher.”  The song settles down into a slow part and Tate growls “Damn you and the pain they must feel” and you can tell he means it (whatever else the song is about).

All this time I don’t think I ever realized that “Roads to Madness” was nine minutes long.  It is definitely foreshadowing the kind of epic work they would do later.  And it closes out the album in a cathartic blast.  It’s wonderfully pure metal from the mid-80s.

[READ: October 20, 2011] Celebrations of Curious Characters

I had never heard of Ricky Jay before getting this book, but apparently he is a reasonably well know radio personality (on KCRW), he is also an actor on Deadwood, and he’s a magician.  This book is a collection of his KCRW radio show broadcasts along with accompanying pictures from his vast collection of obscure ephemera.

There are forty-five entries in the book–each one is a page long (it’s an oversized book and they are two columns each).  Each essay is Jay’s take on a particular subject or, as the title says, curious character.  Jay is a collector of esoteric information, especially that related to magic and, for lack of a better word, freakish behavior.   One of the most enjoyable parts of the book are the pictures that accompany each entry.  The pictures come from Jay’s collection and each picture’s provenance is given in the back of the book.  So we get pictures like “The little Count Boruwlaski, engraving by A. van Assed ([London]) Borowlaski [sic], 1788). or Lithograph of Chung Ling Soo (Birmingham: J. Upton, c. 1912) or Frontispiece portrait from George Devol, Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi (Cincinnati: Devol & Haines, 1887).  Some of these photos you can see on his website.  Or you can enjoy this picture of a chicken firing a gun that is not in the book (it comes from his site). (more…)

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