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Archive for the ‘Set at School’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS-Live at Massey Hall (July 8, 2014).

I don’t know all that much about the Great Lake Swimmers.  I have heard of them (for years), but never actually heard them, I guess.

They are a five piece who play thoughtful folk songs.  Their tempo is varied with some upbeat songs and a few slower ones.

The lead singer is Tony Dekker and when he is joined by violinist Miranda Mulholland on vocals their harmonies are quite lovely.

“Think That You Might Be Wrong” is a slower song with a kind of sad violin and great harmonies.

“Put There By the Land” has a kind of fun build up with everybody “warming up” making strange sounds especially the guitar and drums, before the song kicks in properly.  The addition of the pizzicato violin really elevates the song.  I love the way in ended kind of noisily with some thundering drums as it segues into “Pulling on a Line.”

“Your Rocky Spine” opens with a banjo (Erik Arnesen) and changes the tone of the music–Dekker’s voice seems a bit higher too.

“Everything is Moving So Fast” opens with a cool mini drum solo (Joshua Van Tassel)–not a show off solo just a cool rhythmic exploration that leads to the quiet thoughtful lyrics.   There’s some wonderful harmony vocals from Miranda at the end as well as a little upright bass solo (Bret Higgins).

They brought in a string quartet to play with them, although I can’t tell if it make much of a difference since they already have a violin.

They end with “I am Part of a Large Family” which opens with another “warming up intro” which is fun.  It’s builds to a wild and fun climax with a ripping violin solo.  An excellent show ender.

These guys should certainly be in heavier rotation on folk shows.

[READ: March 20, 2018] Evil Librarian

Sarah was reading the sequel to this book (Revenge of the Evil Librarian) and I thought it sounded pretty funny.  So she encouraged me to read the first one.

I really enjoyed the combination of teen romance and demonic villianry.  There’s an obvious antecedent in Buffy, but this goes in very different directions.

I also enjoyed the way the story was paced.  The book felt very long–which I know is a contradiction–and could have been a lot shorter.  But I think the stuff that fleshed it out was what made it so much fun, so I’m glad it wasn’t shorter

It opens on our heroine Cynthia.  She is crushing hard on Ryan.  Ryan is like TV sitcom architect/kindergarten teacher–jobs that people have that work well in sitcoms but that no one really has in real life).  He is a jock who loves musical theater.  He hangs out with all of his jock friends.  But he has an amazing voice and is the lead in the school’s upcoming production of Sweeney Todd.

And he’s single! (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: COLD SPECKS-Live at Massey Hall (May 23, 2014).

After enjoying the Rheostatics Live at Massey Hall video, I thought it would be interesting to check out some of the other artists in the series.

The very first artist to play was Cold Specks.  I had never heard of Cold Specks and I was blown away by their set.

So who is Cold Specks:

Cold Specks is the stage name of Canadian singer-songwriter Ladan Hussein, who was previously known as Al Spx. Her music has been described as doom-soul. The name Cold Specks is taken from a line in James Joyce’s Ulysses (“Born all in the dark wormy earth, cold specks of fire, evil, lights shining in the darkness.”).

As the set opens, Al Spx (for that is what she was known as at the time) speaks about Massey Hall, learning about it from Charles Mingus and Neil Young albums.

And then the band comes out and they play “A Broken Promise.”  There’s such a great moodiness to the melody and the sound of the guitar (and bass pedals).  There’s interesting keyboard effects throughout as well as a spare but powerful unconventional drum rhythm.  And then there’s her voice powerful and a little menacing–arresting and gripping.  There’s a Nick Cave vibe to what she does, but with a very different texture because of her voice.

“Bodies at Bay” is a bit more uptempo and rocking with a wonderfully dramatic slow down for the powerful chorus.  I hear a bit of Marianne Faithfull and some of the more out there vocals of Tina Turner in her voice.  But the contrast between her voice and the music is very engaging.  “Living Signs” is a bit more spare–really focusing on her voice.

She describes “Hector” as “an old one” (which means it came from her other album).  Al Spx plays guitar and I love the way her guitar adds a new layer of music.  The melody in the bridge/chorus is fantastic.

“Let Loose the Dogs” starts a capella.  She sings it off mic (I wonder who could hear her) and then the band comes in with a quieter synth sound.  It’s a much less dynamic song, but a nice mellow moment.

She explains that she doesn’t play Toronto very much and yet this is her fourth time at Massey Hall. “I’ve informed my booking agent that shows in Toronto will be strictly limited to Massey Hall.

“Old Knives” is slow and moody but builds really nicely–a great song overall.  The big, crashing middle section is intense.  As the song ends, they let the music ring out as the guys leave.  As they are walking off, she says, “they fucked off before I could introduce them.”  So they are: drums: Loel Cambpell; guitar: Tim D’eon; the magic corner over here, including Marxophone: Jim Anderson.

While they are gone she says she’ll play “a song or two on my own here.”  She plays guitar and sings “Blank Maps.”  It has the same moodiness just unplugged–the guitar melody is simple, but very cool.  I’m glad I watched this, it has made me a fan.

You can watch the footage here.

[READ: March 19, 2018] To Kick a Corpse

At the end of the previous book, the Qwikpick Adventure Society was in trouble.  Lyle (whose parents work at the Qwikpick and the kid who has access to all of the Qwikpick goodies) was seen as bad influence on the other two.  His best friend Dave had been grounded, but that has finally been lifted.  But Marilla, the girl on whom Lyle is massively crushing (and the funnest girl ever), has been banned from ever seeing him (or the Qwikpick) again.  It was so bad that her parents even told the school principal that she was not to be seen talking to or eating lunch with Lyle (somehow Dave was not deemed so guilty).

It’s a pretty sucky couple of months.

One day the local historical group came by with fliers looking to Save Greenhill Plantation, a local farmhouse that belongs to Colonel Shergood.  Dave and Lyle were joking about the terrible speech when they were tapped on the shoulder and given in-school suspension.

But then Marilla, who is a rule follower to the letter and never wants to upset her parents, broke the rules and shouted “Good” when she heard the plantation was being turned into a Kmart. This guaranteed her an in-school suspension as well.  When they asked her why she would do that, she explained that she hates Colonel Shergood and she wants to “go kick his dead *&%!”

Marilla has never said a bad word in her life, and the boys are shocked.

Why is Marilla so upset? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2017 Tour Box (2017).

The (so far) final Tour Box (although the band is still touring in 2018) is notable for having what might be the definitive collection of live “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” recordings–Parts I to IV (and more) from different eras.

But that’s disc two.  Disc one continues with the sampling of the band’s career.

Disc 1 opens with “Wind.”  Although each “Wind” extract seems a tad different.  This one is all talking, no wind.”   (extract)  talking no wind.

Next comes an a capella first verse of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”  It’s just Greg Lake singing really loud before seguing into the rest of the song, this time from 2015.  It’s a great version.

Continuing like the other boxes, there’s an instrumental edit of “In The Wake Of Poseidon,” which is quite lovely.

This disc has a number of Mel Collins flute improvs taken from various Lark’s Tongue recordings in 2016.  Each one is wonderful and I could listen to his flute all day.

Another recording of “Peace,” this time with in a rehearsal that ends with Jakko cracking up because of something that Gavin has done (with lots of bad words bleeped out).

It’s followed by a stellar recording of “Cirkus” from 2016.  This is the first time played since 1972 and it sounds much more intense and complex than the version on the previous box.

It’s followed by an abridged instrumental recording of “Islands” and a 2015 live recording of “Easy Money” (complete with sound effects–I loved hearing this live the first time.

“Suitable Grounds For The Blues” is a 2015 rehearsals that ends when someone calmly says “It was Harrison, sir.  He made me laugh, sir.  He did the drum fill out of Hawaii 5-0 twice.

“The Great Deceiver” from 1974 sounds tremendous and I hope this means they might be busting it out for the 2018/19 tour.

“Asbury Park” is a live recording. It’s a fast and rollicking instrumental edited down to fit nicely with a terrific 2016 recording of “One More Red Nightmare.”

There’s a 2015 rehearsal of “Meltdown” and then a jump to an alternate (instrumental) mix of  “Thela Hun Ginjeet.”  I normally love these instrumental mixes, but i find that this song really uses the words wonderfully and I miss them.

The only other track from this era is a 1982 recording of “Heartbeat” which is insanely catchy and I can;t believe wasn’t a hit.  The disc ends with a 2008 performance of 1984’s “Sleepless” which sounds really 80s (the bass in particular) even though it was recorded in 2008.  I’ve often thought that Adrian Belew makes King Crimson sound like The Talking Heads, and that seems to be true with this song.

The disc ends with the intermission and photography announcement from 2016 concerts.

Disc 2 is the Lark’s Tongue disc, but it doesn’t start with it.  It opens with 2004’s “Form No. 1” with strings guitars and a Tony Levin groove.  Then there’s a version of “THRAK ” from the Thrak sessions.

The disc has several tracks called “Keep That One Nick” which are some early recordings and dialogue.  Each one is about 4 minutes long of guitars or drums or the whole band recording primarily parts of LTIA.

When the series starts, we’ve got a

2015 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I” followed by a
1974 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II.”

after a Nick recording of percussion (in which the drums sound like child’s toys and like Bruford is hitting everything in the studio, they continue the series with a

1984 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III.”  This is my least favorite Part–I can;t get over how much I’m disliking the 1980s recordings, especially since  Discipline is one of my favorite KC albums.

after a recording jam of Part II (keep that one, Nick) there’s a

1999 recording of “Larks’ IV ConstruKction” where you can see the connection to the LTIA series in this song.  Then comes a

2003 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV” which sounds great once again.

It’s followed by a 2016 recording of “Level Five” which is sort of an unofficial Part 5 to LTIA.

Presumably these are Fripp’s favorite versions of the series. So there.

The disc and set ends with a radio advert for the Larks’ Tongues In Aspic album because who even knew they made radio adverts for albums.  It’s a great piece of history.

I imagine there will be a 2018 box, as the band has taken a few months off and is getting ready to start touring Europe and Japan through the end of the year.  And who knows, one more trip back to the U.S. in 2019?  Yea, I’d be ready to see them once more time by then.

[READ: February 1, 2017] Multiple Choice

I have really enjoyed Zambra’s stories a lot.  As with most of Zambra’s work, this one was translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell and I thought it was terrific.

As it turns out almost half of this book has been previously published: “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1” (New Yorker, July 6 & 13, 2015) and “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 3” (Harper’s, July 2016).  In total, there are three Reading Comprehension texts in the book, as well as a few other types of “test questions.”

The original of this book was called Facsímil, and it uses “the structure and questions of the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test as its organizing principle. Called both a work of parody and poetry, Multiple Choice examines the role of the education system and standardized testing in promoting compliance to authoritarian rule.”

Since this book is set up like test there are 5 parts to work through.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROBIN OLSON-Tiny Desk Concert #724 (April 1, 2018).

Because the blurb is perfect, I am including it in it’s entirety.

“Not all pianists are created in equal temperament,” Robin Olson told a small but enthusiastic audience behind NPR Music’s storied Tiny Desk. The pianist, hailed as an “avant-garde gewandhaus” by Berlin’s Staubzeitung, is as celebrated for his cryptic maxims as he is for his inscrutable music.

Olson’s trademark style — shooting clusters of shimmering chords and solitary, pearlescent pitches into reverberant space — has led him to exalted concert halls and to work with a broad array of stars such as Yuja Wang, Aretha Franklin, Chick Corea and Emanuel Ax.

Drawing from the seminal Plink technique, cultivated among the Schlammstadt School of composers in the 1950s, Olson is regarded as a leading technician of the more expansive Neo-Plink style. “Intervals have coincident partials,” Olson explains. “They create a form of dissonance, called ‘beats,’ by which pitches are set for optimum harmonicity.”

From a bulging briefcase, Olson pulls out any number tools to alter specific pitches, as in his opening piece, “A 440.” He threads ribbons of felt between piano strings to mimic the muted cries of the Asian dung beetle in “The Temperament,” from his 2014 collection Infinite Chasms.

Olson surprised everyone at the Tiny Desk by debuting a new piece, “Tuning the Bass,” wherein his inventive command of the instrument’s lower register highlighted spaces between keening dark octaves.

He may be considered a challenging artist, but Olson, through the essential humanity of his performance, reveals the efforts of almost any other living pianist to be little more than a joke.

Set List

  • “A 440”
  • “The Temperament”
  • “Tuning the Bass”

I only wish I had seen this before the Editor’s Note revealed that it was an (excellent) April Fool’s joke.

[READ: December 27, 2017] Secret Coders: Robots & Repeats

Secret Coders 3 ended with a puzzle.  And I guessed wrong!  How embarrassing.  I see what I did wrong, but I still would have failed. I have a hard time with binary, too.

Anyhow, this book reveals some pretty amazing details about the ongoing story.

After selecting the correct door, the gang finds a floating triangle thing.  We learn that Professor Bee is not actually from this planet (okay now things are getting pretty weird, I must admit).   But he dismisses that (what??) so the kids can code some more using a construct made of “solidified light” which is pretty cool, although perhaps not as cool as an alien. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Summer 2017] Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

I might be one of the few people in America to have never read anything by James Patterson.  Well, Clark really enjoyed this series (and his other books for young readers) so we decided to listen to this on a car ride. (Both kids had seen the film already, although I hadn’t).

I have to say that right off the bat I was turned off by the introduction of this book because there was this hard rocking guitar that they played through about 3 minutes of opening text.  And it was too loud!  It was really hard to hear the narrator.  I kind of tuned out because I feared that the whole book would feature this (it doesn’t).  And while I won’t say I was confused by what I missed, I did wonder if I’d missed some things that were revealed later (also, some of the main character’s motivation).

Rafe Khatchadorian is starting Hills Village Middle School.  It’s a new school (sixth grade).  Rafe seems to have a hard to succeeding in school in general.  There’s also a lot going on at home.  His mom has been dating a jerk named Bear.  Bear is unemployed, and living with them while Rafe’s mom is working two jobs and is hardly ever home.

The only person who seems to help Rafe cope with things is his friend Leo the Silent.  Leo doesn’t talk much, but he is an awesome artist.  And he also encourages Rafe to do things that maybe he shouldn’t.

When Rafe arrives at school, he is given a rule book with over 100 rules that he must follow.  Given the possibility of hanging out, being good and following the rules or having fun and enjoying school, he and Leo make a choice.  And they come up with “Operation R.A.F.E.” (which stands for Rules Aren’t For Everyone).  The operation is set up like a video game.  Rafe is going to try to break every rule in the handbook. Leo will award him points.  But he will also only have three “lives,” which he will lose if he gets caught or otherwise fails in his quest. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAL BLUM-“See Me” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 13, 2018).

I feel like I was pretty lucky to see Mal Blum just days before they went to SXSW and made a Lullaby.

Without the band, Mal sings more quietly which certainly lets you hear the words more clearly–and Mal is a gifted lyricist.  But Mal also writes catchy tunes.

I love that the verses are quiet and muted, but there’s loud strumming in between.

And as the song nears the end, the intensity ratchets up for a line of “why can;t they see me?”  …before the quiet conclusion: “I was right there.”

Mal performs in front of the Future of Secrets art installation.

The Future of Secrets was conceived by Sarah W. Newman in collaboration with Jessica Yurkofsky, Rachel Kalmar and metaLAB at Harvard. The installation, which is part of the SXSW Art Program, asks those attending to anonymously type a secret into a laptop and in exchange someone else’s secret is given to you. Those secrets are then projected on a wall, which is the backdrop for this video.

“‘See Me’ is an unreleased song that will be on our next record (sometime next year),” Blum tells NPR. “It’s about the disparity between how one sees oneself, or the struggle of being seen as we are, versus how others view us, which can result in an unintentional hidden self or a perpetual feeling of invisibility. Being transgender informed the song, but it’s not exclusively about that.”

[READ: September 10, 2017] “An Education”

This is a short piece about two girls in school  I assume it is set in Hungary as it is translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix.

The narrator said she was always a hard-working child filled with self-discipline.  But her parents never understood that she did it all for herself–not for them or to make anyone else happy.  Her father was the school principal and was absolutely proud of her–she was hardworking and punctilious like he was.

Her mother, on the other hand, was clearly more loving to her sister Blanka–when she lost her temper with Blanka “there was something frenzied and indiscriminate about the way she pummeled her.”  Her father tried to push her very hard to make her learn more.  Her father was far more proud of the narrator than Blanka, but “no one was ever as proud of me as Blanka [was].” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RED BARAAT-Shruggy Ji (2013)..

Red Baraat’s second album feels a lot bigger than their debut.  The production is bigger, there’s (even) more diverse sounds.  And there’s a lot more vocals album.

I enjoyed the brrrrrr ah! vocals, but I’m a little less excited by the rapping. Primarily because the lyrics are pretty lame (party type lyrics for the most part). But that doesn’t diminish from the music, which is super throughout.  It feels big and solid–evidently the band was recorded playing all together with only minimal overdubs.

“Hala Bol” opens with a wild melody and some singing “bol bol bol, hala bol–RAISE YOUR VOICE!–baby baby bol hala bol.”  The song is pretty long (as most of these are and the middle features the guys chanting all manner of things in possibly different languages.

“Tenu leke” opens with a celebratory “Brrrrrrrrr ah” and chants of  “hoy hoy hoy.”  There’s a wonderful uplifting sense to the melody especially when the song takes a breath and the notes spring forth once more.

“Shruggy Ji” opens with some slow, ominous horns for about 25 seconds and then the dhol, percussion, and drums kick it up into a furious meld of go-go funk, hip-hop, jazz, and South Asian groove.  The powerful funk makes way for a good-natured rap: “Move your body and shake those hips / just feel the rhythm all under your skin / drip drop the sweat / shruggy ji lets begin.”  Nothing exciting, but fun.  The rap in the second half is less successful although I’ve read that it’s meant to be all in fun, so I guess a line like “I’m gonna ask you some question like I was Biz Markee” is just comical.  About the song band leader Sunny Jain says, “We like to think of ‘Shruggy Ji’ as that shadow lurking next to us, waiting to take over when the night falls and move our body with no inhibitions.”

“Burning Instinct” has the kind of booty shaking vibe that make you wanna move.  The dueling horn solos add to the fun chaos that the percussion is creating.

“Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” has lyrics in Hindi (I assume) which seems to work better because I’m not trying to figure out what he’s singing about.  “Sialkot” opens with some thundering dhol paying and lots of “brrrr ahs!”

“Private Dancer” also features rapping party vocals over some slow rolling funk.  I love that it begins with someone shouting “yo, turn that dhol up!”   “F.I.P.” is full of more fun and dance and lots of call and response. “Apna Punjab Hove” has a bit of an upbeat  reggae feel and a smidge of klezmer for a change of pace.  It’s still dancing, just a different step.  Lots of chanting of “ah -ha” and the like.

“Azad Azad” is an album highlight.  It’s got great percussion and a fun riff from the horns and lots of chanting.  Unlike some of the more partying songs, this one is more political: “no borders, no walls, freedom [sings / dances / rings] through us all.”

“Mast Kalander” is a fun song which proves that the more nonsensical the lyrics, the better the party: “jump in the sauce / throw your hands up and go crazy.”  I love how it gets faster and faster as it progresses.”

“Aarthi”ends the album with a cool, jazzy melody.  The party is over and it’s time to go home so lets chill things down a bit.  I love that the song opens with what sounds like someone blowing into a bass saxophone and making vocals sounds at the same time.  It’s pretty cool.

The lineup remains the same as the first album:
Sunny Jain – dhol ; Rohin Khemani – percussion ; Tomas Fujiwara – drumset ; Arun Luthra – soprano sax ; Mike Bomwell – baritone sax ; Sonny Singh – trumpet ; MiWi La Lupa – bass trumpet ; Smoota – trombone ; John Altieri – sousaphone.

[READ: January 24, 2018] “Maps and Ledgers”

I haven’t really enjoyed the stories by Wideman that much.  So I wasn’t really looking forward to this one.  But it proved to be pretty straightforward and quite compelling.

As the story opens we meet a man who says that in his first year teaching at the university, his father killed a man.  The narrator was barely established in the school–he had no phone in his office–so the call went to the English Department chair’s office.  It was his mother, sobbing and blubbering.  He had told her to call there only in an emergency, which this was, obviously.

The chair was a southern gentlemen and he respectfully left the room once the narrator had been called down.

But the story isn’t just about him.  The narrator’s Aunt C got his father a lawyer.  Aunt C was a pioneer.  She had served as a WAC office in WWII and submitted applications for jobs through the Veterans Administration.  She managed to get a job in the city planners office before they realized she was black.

They did not convict his father–the victim was black after all.  But things got worse for him.

And this is when another one of Wideman’s stories gets confusing.

My father’s son, my youngest brother, convicted of felony murder. And years later my son received a life sentence at sixteen. My brother, my son still doing time. And my father’s imprisoned son’s son a murder victim. And a son of my brother’s dead son just released from prison a week ago. And I’m more than half-ashamed I don’t know if the son, whose name I can’t recall, of my brother’s dead son has fathered son or daughter.

Gets confusing doesn’t it?

Yes it does. (more…)

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