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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF-“Funeral for My Children” (Field Recordings, November 4, 2013).

I remember exploring this Field Recording back in 2013 when it came out.  There is something otherworldly and magical about the pipe organ, even if it is played in a rather fast and clearly secular way like in this song.

One of my [Bob Boilen’s] most surprising discoveries of 2013 is an artfully poppy pipe-organ record called Ceremony, by Swedish singer Anna von Hausswolff. Though she doesn’t consider herself an accomplished pipe organist, von Hausswolff quickly learned the instrument’s power, as well as some of its subtleties.

I talked about this song back in 2013 and felt that the percussion was more interesting than the music.  I don’t feel that way now, although perhaps this live version is different.

When we learned that von Hausswolff was coming to New York City this summer, we started scouting for a church with a pipe organ that could accommodate a small video crew and some secular music. We found Christ Church, a United Methodist church on Park Avenue with a gracious staff who helped us make this work. [Anna Von Hausswolff Finds A Pipe Organ In New York City].

The recording opens with church bells and chimes, which Anna is playing gently on the organ (you can see the switches she presses to get sounds–how high tech!).  Then the drum comes in.  It is a simple beat on a floor tom–click click boom–a martial rhythm to offset the lofty pipe organ.

Once we were set for a location, we lit some candles and moved the pipe organ (not the pipes) into a position that allowed us get the best view of von Hausswolff while keeping percussionist Michael Stasiak distant enough so as not to bury the sound of her voice. In the process, we captured a beautiful rendition of “Funeral For My Future Children,” a song on Ceremony originally recorded at another church — this one in Gothenburg.

It almost comes as a surprise when Anna starts singing as you don;t often hear vocals with a pipe organ.  But her voice has the power and inflection to match this illustrious organ and that thumping drum.  I love when the sound of the organ changes about 4 and a half minutes in–the solo just adds a whole new depth to the piece.  And when she hits a high not just before that, it’s amazing.

[READ: January 18, 2018] “Jack”

This is an excerpt from Robinson’s novel Home.  It’s set in Gilead which is the title of a previous book of hers, so I assume it is some kind of continuation of the town, if not the family.  I’ve never read anything else by her.

Since this is an excerpt rather than a short story it take a long time for much to happen.  But her writing is pretty great and everything that she writes is rather compelling.

The story opens with Glory, the youngest of six children arriving at her childhood home.  She is greeted by her father who is shockingly frail and thin and… old.  She is moving back home to take care of him now that he is by himself.

The story quickly flashes back to her childhood growing up in the house.  A house that seemed somehow too large, too ungainly for the neighborhood it was in.  How had it changed so much since she left? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD BELLE-“Love Like This” (Field Recordings, June 26, 2013).

This Field Recording [Wild Belle: Reggae-Tinged Romance Amid The Big Bikes] is set in the El Segundo-based South Bay Customs motorcycle shop.

It doesn’t seem totally appropriate for the keyboard driven pop of Wild Belle, but there’s something about singer Natalie Bergman’s voice–a little gravelly, a hushed kind of whisper that seems apt.

Wild Belle singer Natalie Bergman seemed a bit confused upon the band’s arrival. … But once we walked past the front doors, we quickly realized that this wasn’t your everyday L.A. bike shop. South Bay’s walls are lined with eccentric oddities, and the facility also houses an art gallery and a performance space for local musicians.

So it was fitting that in a coincidental twist, she told us that she’d be embarking on a motorcycle ride across the Midwest with a close friend in the next month.

“Love Like This” certainly has a reggae-tinged vibe.  I especially like the interesting echoing guitar sounds.  It’s got a catchy chorus, but the whole song seems to have such a relaxed vibe that it makes me laugh to here her nonchalantly sing

My heart’s on fire
You light me up, and I can’t cool down
Your love is wild
You’re dangerous

The song picks up and is certainly catchy.  And while I do actually like her voice, I can’t imagine more than one song from them.

[READ: February 6, 2018] “A New Paradise, or a New Hell”

This is an excerpt from the novel Death with Interruptions. It was translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa.

It is a fascinating story with existential implications. Although I cannot imagine how this could be stretched into a novel.

On the first day of the new year, no one died.  In the whole country, not a single person died the whole day.  It was unprecedented.  There were many accidents, several life-threatening, bit no one actually died.  It was especially noticeable because the venerable queen mother who was known to be on the verge of her last breathe also did not die. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMARILYN MANSON-“This is Halloween” (2006).

Thirteen years after The Nightmare Before Christmas, Marilyn Manson covered this song for the Nightmare Revisited project.

He’s the obvious choice to cover this song.  Manson is a cartoon character himself and he was, at one time, feared, perhaps, by some.

Manson has proven himself over and over to be a chameleon with looks and voices, and that attribute makes his version work pretty well.

His version uses crunchy metal guitars instead of Elfman’s synths.  But I think the synths and strings are scarier.

There is also something far more sinister about the voices in the original.  Manson may be able to “do” voices, but they are for all intents and purposes, him. The wonderful range of voices on display in the original are entirely more creepy.

Having said all that if the original wasn’t as good, this version would be pretty cool too.

[READ: October 20, 2018] “The Watcher”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KRISTIAN BELL-3 Songs (Field Recordings, March 27, 2014).

This is one more Field Recording that was done at SXSW 2014 [One Wytch, Unplugged In A Sunny Backyard].

I am unfamiliar with The Wytches.  In fact, when I first clicked play on this, I assumed that the singer was a woman (the name Kristian is a little unspecific).  The blurb says

The Wytches’ furious, hair-flinging psych-rock isn’t the stuff of back-porch acoustic sessions: Both live and on the English band’s singles, the energy is so intense, it can barely be contained. But when NPR Music arranged a Wytches session during SXSW — held in the charming backyard setting of Friends & Neighbors in east Austin — singer-guitarist Kristian Bell stood in for the whole band, with just his voice and an acoustic guitar.

In these three songs from Annabel Dream Reader — due out this summer — Bell splits the difference between The Wytches’ wiry raggedness and the gentler side dictated by both the setting and his instrument. Surrounded by a small throng of locals and their kids, Bell proved worthy of the most bucolic setting he’s likely to play this year.

He plays three songs and you can certainly hear the heaviness implied in his guitar strumming.  His voice also strains as he sings-perhaps more notable in this quieter version?

“Wide At Midnight”  There’s some pretty picking on this song and his voice sounds a but like Billy Corgan’s but far less annoying.

It’s a pretty weird audience for him, no doubt.  Minimal clapping and lots of kids on laps.

“Crying Clown” features these lyrics

In his car she finally
Tampers with her sexuality
Scratching at each other’s minds till their in the nude
As for me, my loyalty
Is only sold illegally
To the pantomime crying clown
Cry for me whilst upside down
Salivating, bloody mouth
Or passionately bloody mouth
And graveyard girl, swinging a bag like a pendulum

which is very funny to see him singing in front of a bunch of moms sitting in a semicircle around him.

“All Of My Skin” has a lovely melody and some excellent guitar playing.  There’s some clever lyrics as well.

The amazing thing to me is that Kristian looks to be about 15 years old.  I wonder how old he actually is, because he handles himself like a pro.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Is That You, Sister Marguerite?”

This excerpt is quite dark and rather disturbing.

A woman in a convent is asking Sister Marguerite about her newborn baby.

Sister Marguerite tells her that the baby died.

The woman asks if she can hold her dead baby for one minute.  Sister Marguerite is shocked by this and says it’s impossible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YUJA WANG-“Toccata in D minor, Op. 11” (Field Recordings, February 19, 2014).

I have never given much thought to the physical creation of a piano.  This Field Recording [On A Chilly Factory Floor, Yuja Wang’s Piano Sizzles] is set on the factory floor of Steinway & Sons.  As it opens you can see the craftsmen putting some touches on a piano, which really makes you think about how these machines are created.

This episode also introduced me to Chinese-born pianist Yuja Wang.

She is a [at the time] “27-year-old ultra-glam artist” who came to the factory in

one of her trademark dresses, significant stiletto booties and a Gucci fur stole, as well as some wrist warmers as a concession to the temperature.

The piece she played was also one I was unfamiliar with, played a piece that would chop shrinking violets to mulch: Prokofiev’s “Toccata in D minor, Op. 11.”

The blurb calls the piece “blisteringly difficult” and I totally agree.  It is nonstop notes for nearly five minutes.  Wang is up and down the keyboard, banging out notes in a nearly atonal piece (how she even remembered it much less played it is amazing).  And to see her pressing pedals in stilettos is pretty amusing too.

On a third listen, it’s not so much atonal as just very busy.  The melody is in there, it is just surrounded by so much else.  And watching the blurs that are Wang’s hands is jaw-dropping.

[READ: January 6, 2017] “Cold Little Bird”

I feel like Ben Marcus stories resist me, somewhat.  But this one was fantastic.

Martin and Rachel have two boys: a ten-year old-and a six-year-old.  As the story opens, Jonah, the ten-year-old says he doesn’t want to big hugged anymore. That he doesn’t like it.  He hopes that they will respect his decision about this.  He tells them that they can always cuddle with Lester, the six-year-old.

The parents shrug this off and think it is a phase.  Even when Jonah flatly says “I don’t love you.”

His parents tried to respect his wishes even as it went on for several weeks.  Martin was getting more and more exasperated, but Rachel seemed to be okay with it–telling him to back off and give the boy some space.

Soon enough, Jonah started playing with Lester–being very chummy and lovely with him.  And yet he did not warm up to his parents. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ST. VINCENT-Masseduction (2018).

St. Vincent’s latest album seemed like a radical departure for Annie Clark.  It seemed to be all synth–a transgression from her guitar prowess.  But in fact it was a continuation of the sound that Clark generates with her guitar.

Her albums have always used synths.  And her albums have always used effects on her guitars to create different sounds.  They have just moved further along on this album.

“Hang on Me” opens the disc with drums and sound effects.  The guitar comes in but it sounds like synths (like most of the album).  Her voice is up front  (It would have been very cool if it sounded like she was whispering in your ears).  The song builds with more and more sounds.  The processed guitar still sounds nothing like a guitar but you can tell from the way it is played that it is a guitar–which is pretty cool.

“Pills” is almost all dance–lots of drums and synth sounds (which may be guitar, who can tell).  It’s the chorus, (the repeated pills pills pills) that really grabs you.  The guitars that come through have a very Prince-like feel (and the sexual connection–pills to fuck) even when the roaring fuzzed out guitar solo comes blasting through it’s not unlike something Prince would have done.  When the second part of the song comes in–absolutely quiet compared to the chaos that came before (S. assumed it was a different song) it has a beautiful melody and really showcases Annie’s voice nicely.  The two parts are so very different and yet both are really catchy in their own way.

“Masseduction” is the most poppy song on the record (and probably of her career).  It starts again with drums and Annie’s whispered vocal (again mixing her right in your ears would have been very intense).  Then comes there’s the big chorus of echoed vocals singing “mass seduction” with roaring guitars underscoring everything (even though this album feels very un-guitar there are noisy guitars galore on it, they’re just buried underneath everything).

Chanted vocals and programmed synth open up the fast-moving “Sugarboy.”  I love that the riff from “Los Ageless” is presented her in much faster and more staccato and mechanical way.  This song has a great, catchy chorus.

“Los Ageless” was the second single off the album and the dancey beat and synth sounds were quite a shock when the song came out.  For this one, her voice is mixed right in the middle of your head, which is very cool.  But it’s the “how can anybody have you” part that is so incredibly catchy and wonderful.  There’s not a lot of guitar on this song until the third verse in which all the synths drop out and you get a nasty guitar playing behind the verse–once again so inorganic but so interesting.

“Happy Birthday Johnny” is a beautiful piano ballad that showcases a great melody and lovely vocal from Annie.

“Savior” features a slinky guitar line with bits of wah-wah on it (slighty porn-y to be sure, especially given the topic of the song).  The bridge picks things up and with each subsequent verse more and more is added (backing vocals, big drums and sound effects).  It’s when the song gets to the third part, the ‘pleeeease” that it totally soars.

“New York” is another piano song, this one with more dance beats in it and the rather graphic “you’re the only motherfucker in the city who can stand me” for a chorus (odd choice for first single).  The bridge “I have lost a hero” just soars out of the piano section in a very cool way–the juxtaposition is outstanding.

After the quite ending of New York the noise and electronica of “Fear the Future” comes as quite a shock.  It’s practically a wall of noise before and abrupt ending

“Young Lover” is quieter and sounds a lot more like early St. Vincent songs.  The music is spare–thumping drums and washes of music.  But that first chorus grows very loud–crashing electronic drums and soaring vocals.  The amazing part comes toward the end as Annie hits some incredibly high notes and then caps it off with a high note that gives me chills every time I hear it.  The fact that she duplicated it live was just staggering.

“Dancing with a Ghost” is 46 seconds of waves of synths (or guitars) that I never quite realized was its own song.  It almost segues into “Slow Disco” which is a quiet song with strings and Annie singing.  When the harmony vocals come in it builds the song nicely.   Then someone (Annie?) sings a recurring motif of “don’t it beat a slow dance to death.”  It’s my least favorite song on the album and the one she has now made two (slower) remixes of.

That feels like it should end the album, but there is one more song, the dramatic “Smoking Section.”  With a husky voice Annie sings of getting stomped out and screaming “let it happen, let it happen, let it happen.”  The strings build dramatically until a loud three note riff introduces the second part of the song.

This album is pretty polarizing, even though it is St. Vincent through and through.

[READ: October 3, 2018] “The Rise and Rise of Annie Clark”

The previous story that I read by John L’Heureux was also about the Catholic church.  That one was the story of Jesuit Priesthood, circa 1954, and a man trying to join.

This one is also based around the Catholic church circa 1950.  The subject is very different, but with the same questioning attitude.

Annie Clark is a middle-aged woman in the 1950’s .  I’m unclear where this is set.  At first I thought France, but that is unlikely. so somewhere in the States, but I have no idea where.

Since the end of WWII, Annie knows that women were the real winners–women are taking charge of their lives.

But Annie is Catholic and must proceed slowly. (more…)

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