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Archive for the ‘Sci-fi’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DAKHABRAKHA-“Kolyskova” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 21, 2017).

I loved DakhaBrakha’s Tiny Desk Concert.  It was mesmerizing and beautiful.  And so the performers came to SXSW and did a lullaby.  And as the blurb says, they brought their “cello, keyboard, accordion – and tall, wool hats! — to the balcony of the Hilton Austin hotel.”

This lullaby of “Kolyskova” quiets things down a bit.  The song opens with simple keyboard notes.  One of the women sings, and when they reach the end of the verse, the male accordionist sings a falsetto that matches the women’s tone.  The woman on drums makes a strange sound–like a baby crying or animal yelping.

Then he winds up singing lead on the second verse in that falsetto with the women singing backing vocals.  Then the cello and drums kick in to build the sound.   The third verse is sung by the cellist as the keys play a pretty melody.

The song is upbeat with lots of bouncy vocals, even though the lyrics seem rather dark.  ‘The band only ever calls it “Lullaby.” It’s a quiet, contemplative song that the band says is a “connecting of several lullabies” with “philosophical lyrics that [say] we have time for everything — time to laugh and cry, time to live and die.’

I love at the very end as the song slows down to just the keyboardist singing because the drummer adds a very cool breathing as a kind of percussion accompaniment.  And then as the camera pulls back the two attack the keyboard making a cacophony of fun notes.  I bet they’re a lot of fun live.

[READ: June 2 2016] Explorer: The Hidden Doors

This is the third (and I assume final) in a series of graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of Amulet.

I really enjoyed the first one a lot and was pretty excited to read the rest. As with the other two I was delighted by the authors involved and the quality of these stories.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This book revolves around the theme of “hidden doors.”  I like the way each author takes a concept that seems like it would be pretty standard and turns their stories into things that are very different indeed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  NINA DIAZ & Y LA BAMBA’s LUZ ELENA MENDOZA-“January 9th” & “Living Room” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 20, 2017).

I was intrigued by this pairing because Luz Elena Mendoza has a shirt buttoned up to her neck and, from the angle of the first song, it appears that she has her long sleeves down, while Nina Diaz (originally from Girlfriend in a Coma) is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt with tattoos showing up and down her arms.  They seem somewhat mismatched.  Until they sing.  (And also during the second song when it becomes obvious that Luz Elena’s arms are covered in tattoos as well).

The two have never played together, but after NPR Music paired them in the courtyard of St. David’s Episcopal Church for a late evening performance, we’re beginning to wonder why not. They’ve both played the Tiny Desk (Diaz twice, once with Girl In A Coma) and both navigate complex emotions and notions of identity in their music. Also, they just sing beautifully together, Mendoza’s yodel swirling in Diaz’s gritty croon.

Luz Elena’s song “Living Room” is first.  She plays guitar and sings. It’s a short song with Nina’s nice high harmonies over Luz Elena’s deeper voice.  The blurb also notes: Mendoza shares a brand-new song here, “Living Room.” When the two harmonize its confession — “I feel like I’ve been undressing all my thoughts in front of you” — it is, in tandem, starkly intimate and separate.

Nina Diaz’ song “January 9th” is a bit more fun (partially because I know it from her Tiny Desk Concert, but also because it’s a bit more upbeat).  I like Diaz’ singing quite a bit.  Mendoza’s backing vocals add nicely to the “bad one/sad one” part of the chorus.  The blurb adds: “It’s a bluesy ballad with a through line of ’60s pop, a tribute to her late grandmother, cooed and howled into a warm Austin evening.”

Future collaborations should be called for.

[READ: June 27, 2016] Explorer: The Lost Islands

This is the second in series of graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of Amulet.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This first one is all about “lost islands.”  What was neat about this book was that since the premise of an island is so broad, the stories were all very different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: L.A. SALAMI-“Day To Day (For 6 Days A Week)” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 17, 2017).

L.A. Salami’s full name is Lookman Adekunle Salami.  I really enjoyed Salami’s song “Going Mad As The Street Bins.”  His delivery is great and there were some rather unexpected chords.

For this performance of “Day to Day,” he is standing on the balcony of the Hilton Austin hotel overlooking the downtown skyline.

I usually try to pair kid-friendly songs with books, but there’s some curses in this song).

The music is basically the same for 7 minutes (although it does build by the end), which means you must focus on the lyrics. And they are pretty dark.  It talks about boredom on public transportation as well as gruesome deaths on the news.  There’s talk of mental health, like this section:

Went to work for the NHS –
Mental health, people depressed.
Met Joanne – Scared of living,
Afraid of dying, terrified of being.
Then met Paul, a schizophrenic,
Shaking limbs, paranoid fanatic –
Unwashed 10 days in a row –
So afraid almost paralytic.
I tell them that I do the same –
In certain moods, on certain days…
But despite the sane ways I can think
I could not do much to convince them…

But mostly I enjoy his delivery which has his slightly accented voice and charming mannerisms.  The first time I heard this I wasn’t as drawn to it as I was his other song, but each listen unveils something more to like about it.

[READ: June 1, 2016] Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

This is the first in a series of short graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi the creator of Amulet.

Sarah brought these home for the kids to read and they were sitting around our house for a while so I picked one up.  When I flipped through it and saw all the great authors in it I knew I had to read them.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This first one is all about “mystery boxes.” (more…)

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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #544 (June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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moonmoth SOUNDTRACK: TRAMPLED BY TURTLES-Tiny Desk Concert #387 (September 3, 2014).

trampleI love the name Trampled by Turtles and it conjures up something very specific in my head.  And a bluegrass folk band is not it.

Although their first song on this set, the super fast “Come Back Home” does rather convey what their name does.  Bluegrass can be fast (often is, in fact) but, man, this song scorches and the violin solos that flow through the song are totally intense.

So I was a little bummed that the next two songs are really mellow ballads.  For “Winners” the band’s harmonies are spot on and I do like the sliding bass line.  In fact all of the instrumentation (mandolin, violin, guitars, bass) is really nice.  And I think if this didn’t follow that first song, I might like it more.  Perhaps they should have ended the set with “Come Back Home.”

Before beginning “Lucy,” they ask if they are doing one more.  Bob says yes unless they want to stay longer.  The singer asks if they’ve got beer and Bob says they can work something out.  The band is not ready to head back to New York yet–they came from New York just to play the Tiny Desk (which elicit’ awww’s from the audience).

“Lucy” opens with some cool staccato strumming.  It too is a pretty song that makes great use of all of their instruments9espeicoally the mandolin).

I have recently begun to enjoy bluegrass a lot more and I could see Trampled by Turtles being a gateway into more bluegrass.  But I need more fast songs like the first one.

[READ: May 10, 2016] The Moon Moth

This First Second graphic novel opens with a lengthy essay called “The Genre Artist” by Carlo Rotella.  In this essay Rotella sings the praises of unheralded genre master Jack Vance (whom I’ve never heard of–which is the point of the essay).  Rotella says that Vance has been described by his peers as “the greatest living writer of science fiction and fantasy.”  He has been writing for six decades and has won many awards.  But this success has mostly kept him in the genre ghetto.  Other writers have suggested that if he was born South of the border he’d be up for a Nobel prize [which is a strange thing to say, in my opinion].

The essay talks about how so many other writers love Vance (and the list of writers who contributed to a tribute volume is impressive). So after all of this hagiography, I expected to be blown away by this story.  And I wasn’t.  Although that might have been because of the illustrations.  The illustrations aren’t bad–they’re not my style, but they’re not bad.  However, the story is fairly complex, or shall I say it may not lend itself to visuals because so much of the beginning is about sound.

Although while I was confused by the beginning of the story (and maybe I’d have been confused if I read it too), by the end, Vance totally sold me on what was happening. (more…)

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sleazeSOUNDTRACK: MARKETA IRGLOVA-Tiny Desk Concert #174 (November 10, 2011).

marketaMarketa Irglova came to the world’s attention in the film Once, where she duetted with Glen Hansard.  They formed The Swell Season and made some beautiful music together.  But he has another band and she has done some solo work, like in this Tiny Desk.  Incidentally, watch the video, but listen to the audio.  For some reason the sound in the video is all wonky and weird, but the audio is fine.

This concert is a little surprising because Irglova plays a synth, rather than a piano, and she is accompanied by Iranian singer-percussionist Aida Shahghasemi whom she met in New York.  And Shahghasemi and her drum (called a daf) are actually a bit more interesting than Irglova.

Irglova has a nice voice, and I have really enjoyed a lot of her music, but I found these songs to be a little long and a little undramatic.  However, once you accept that she’s not going for drama, these songs are mellow and lovely.

The opening song, “We Are Good,” has an interesting main riff on the keyboard and her voice blends nicely with the music.  The end section has a very nice melody as it builds and builds.  But as I mentioned, it the daf that is so fascinating.  The drum itself looks like an Irish bodhran (or any other hand-held drum, I suppose), except it has a much bigger diameter and is very thin.  It also has a series of dangling items on the inside, which bring about a lot more percussive qualities.

“Dokhtar Goochani” is a traditional Iranian song sung in Farsi.  Shahghasemi sings the song while Irglova plays.  With the keyboard, the song doesn’t really sound very Middle Eastern until Irglova joins in on harmony vocals in the chorus, when it takes on a very cool quality.  And the drum and percussive sounds in the middle are really enticing.

After this song, Shahghasemi talks a bit about her drum and says that it can be much louder than she’s playing it here.  It’s a traditional Kurdish drum with “jangles” which she explains is usually made of goatskin, but this one is synthetic because the humidity doesn’t affect it as much.

The final song, “Let Me Fall In Love” is about the idea of being in love, with lyrics that are a bit didactic, but whatever.  I really like the middle section where the two women harmonize quite beautifully.  But again the song is a little long.

[READ: October 25, 2015] Sleaze Castle

The cover of this book is crazy.  The full title appears to be:

Markosia/Gratuitous Bunny Comix
Sleaze Castle : The Director’s Cut
Part Zero: “Tales from Sleaze Castle”
Reprinting “Takes from Sleaze Castle” #1-#4
Screenplay by Terry Wiley & Dave McKinnon  Art Direction by Terry Wiley

And then a drawing of a woman with what looks like a magic wand and another woman standing by watching her.

And then there’s a whole list of “Starring” (these names are actually characters in the stories)
and then Film Sound Track Album by MWOWM available on Gratuitous Bunny Audio #GBA3

That’s a lot to take in and it made me wonder if the comic would be that busy.  And it is.  This book is a wonder to behold.  Self published in 1992, this book is just chock full of story, with an astonishing amount of detail included in the drawings–nods to other comics, musical appreciation and all kinds of fun things to look at.  It took me a pretty long time to read this because there was just so much to see and read.  It was a lot of fun.  Even if the plot was a little confusing.

This book collects the original books and adds material (which is not at the end of the story necessarily (so art quality varies).

The book opens on a planet far away.  A blonde woman is talking about the trip she will take which will last for ten minutes their time.

Then we jump to the Prologue set in Jo’s house.  Her sister Petra is giving her a hard time.  Jo wants to take her watchman to school (she is a film studies graduate student) but it was Petra’s new present.  So they are fighting of course.  The amazing detail starts here with books on Jo’s shelves and all manner of other things to look at. (more…)

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bpSOUNDTRACK: GRIMES-“Kill v. Maim” (2015).

grimesI don’t know Grimes very well at all.  When I first heard this song I didn’t really know what to think, but after repeated listens, I think it’s great.

It opens with a synth riff (and air horns) and one of Grimes’s many voices (this one is kind of childlike).  But by the end of the second line, she screams “they don’t know me” and that seems to set up the various personas in this song.

It’s the pre-chorus that I find so catchy–sung like the cheerleader chant “B-E-H-A-V-E aggressive.  B-E-H-A-V-E nevermore.”  And then the super fast chorus (with her voice lifted to an incredibly high pitch).

There’s a slower section with what I assume is her natural voice (which is quite lovely).  But it’s soon back to the fun chorus.  I need to hear more from her, but if this is her only good song, that’s okay.  It’s angry and you can dance to it.  Welcome to 2016!

[READ: December 20, 2015] Bitch Planet

This series is a great manifesto for the new year–don’t take shit from anybody.

Kelly Sue DeConnick is a force to be reckoned with.  In addition to presenting Captain Marvel as a woman (in the amazing series of that name) and making some other cool looking series that I intend to read, she has created this feminist masterpiece.  Bitch Planet addresses violence and injustice against women and the whole “prison culture” that is always titillating for men.  It pushes Orange is the New Black to even further extreme that a comic book can.

Designed in a retro style by Valentine De Landro, the book comes complete with ads for “crap” in the back of each issue.   Which you may actually be able to buy. (more…)

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