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Archive for the ‘Sex’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE KLEZMER CONSERVATORY BAND-Oy Chanukah! (1987).

For the first day of Hanukkah, it’s time for a Chanukah album.

This is a collection of traditional Chanukah songs interspersed with brief stories and a history of the holiday.

It works as a musical collection, although the dialogue does obviously stop the flow every couple of minutes.

Klezmer music is fun (provided you like the clarinet), but it really can’t be dissociated from the stories behind it.

The first narrator talks about the Maccabees and the Festival of Lights.  There’s the tales of Judith and Hannah and memories of klezmorim coming to the shtetl.  There’s even a recipe for latkes and the story of the dreydl.

Some of the songs have words (sung in Yiddish) but just as many are instrumentalist.  The majority of the songs are traditional, of course, but my favorite is “Klezzified,” which is written by one of the band.

This disc is a good introduction to Chanukah music.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Souterrain”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This story was really powerful and it revealed all of the details and connections in a slow and excruciating way–once you realized what was happening.

There are several characters in the story which takes place primarily in France.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Christmas on Mars (2008).

Title aside, and despite the Lips’ love of Christmas, there is nothing Christmassey about this recording.

It’s a soundtrack to their film and it is composed of 12 instrumental pieces.  The disc (which is short) sounds like interstitial Flaming Lips pieces–songs that might appear at the end of or in between songs.

The tracks run the gamut from spooky outerspacey dirges to pretty choral numbers.  But the overall tone of the soundtrack is dark and foreboding (the movie isn’t very happy after all).

Some of the tracks (3 and 4 in particular) are prettier than other–with pretty harps and tubular bells.  But do not put this in your Christmas music rotation unless you really dislike Christmas music.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Adios, Cowboy

Hot on the heels of the depressing Sorry to Disrupt the Peace come this depressing story by Olja Savičević Ivančević (her full name according to Goodreads) translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth.  In Peace, the narrator’s brother killed himself and the narrator wants to find out why.  In Adios, Cowboy, the narrator’s brother kills himself and she want to find out why.

The difference is that this book is set in Croatia, has multiple characters, multiple stories and a huge amount of confusion.

Dada (the narrator) lives in Zagreb, but she is called home to Old Settlement by her sister to help with their aging mother.  She is intrigued at the thought of going home  again after so many years.  But when she gets there, her mother has been taking all kinds of pills, her sister has pretty much given up as evidenced by her chain-smoking, their long-dead father’s shoes still lined up on the steps, and their dead younger brother’s cowboy posters of are still on the walls.  (The dead brother’s name is Daniel.  The fact that one of the characters in the previous book also about the suicide was also named Daniel really didn’t help this much). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IMAGENE PEISE-Atlas Eets Christmas (2014).

This is a terrific lost album created by Iraqi jazz piano prodigy Image Peise.  The record states that most of what is known [about Peise] is shrouded in clouds of legend and smoke of myth.”  She is “rumored to have committed suicide in 1978.”

She is playing mostly traditional Christmas songs, with a couple of originals added on to the mix.  She is accompanied by:

Imagene Peise – Piano
Ominog Bangh – Laughing/Crying Glider Synthesizer
Shineyu Bhupal – Drones, Sitar, and Baritone Tambura

The album has a consistent feel throughout.  Lots of jazzy piano and then some interesting Middle Eastern and/or psychedelic sounds that are sprinkled on top (primarily from the sitar and the glider synth).  Whether she is messing with the beauty or just manipulating it is up to the listener.

“Winter Wonderland” opens with a crackling record sound and some interesting Middle Eastern instruments and drones.  And then the lovely traditional jazzy piano version of the classic.  The trippy synth thing comes back up from time to time.

“Silver Bells” opens with a middle eastern synth that sounds nothing like the song.  But once again when the piano comes in it’s really lovely and traditional with hints of psychedelia.

“Christmas Laughing Waltz (Jingle Bells)” has some laughing-like sounds from the voice/synth thing.  Midway through the song, which has been mostly trippy, it resolves itself into “Jingle Bells” on piano with some cool sounds added.

“Silent Night” opens in a not at all peaceful way with some crazy sounds.  It’s a little disconcerting if you know what song it is supposed to be.  But the piano eventually finds the melody and plays it straight and nice.

The first original peace is the delightful if mournful, “Atlas Eets Christmas.”  It’s a series of washes and piano chords until finally a solitary piano melody plays  its mournful melody.  There’ s vocal line where you hear the pronunciation “At last it’s Christmas.”  The voice is pretty far in the background making it kind of hard to hear.  It fits in with the record but stands out because of the voice.  But the sentiment is quite nice.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” is the first really dissonant sounds on the disc.  They come in the form of echoed piano chords.  It feels sinister and kind of kills the mood of the song. The vocal melody is played on that glider thing with dissonant piano behind it.  It feels kind of wobbly and unsettled.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” returns to the more traditional style and once again, it’s very pretty.

“White Christmas” has a real feel of longing to it.  After a bout 2 minute it kind of builds with drums and upright bass but it never really gets into a more traditional feel.  It sort of hints at the song until the very end where the melody is more pronounced.

“Frosteeeee”is of course, “Frosty the Snowman.”  It opens with melody played on the piano.  But then it switches off melody lines with that voice/synth thing.  It’s sort of a duet between the two instruments.

“Christmas Kindness Song” is the other original.  It sounds like the other in spirit but this one has highly processed vocals.  Presumably they are by Steven Drodz, but I’m not sure if he sis supposed to sound like an Iraqi woman (how far is the ‘joke’ gong?), but he clearly doesn’t.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the jazzy traditional song with some sprinkling so psychedelia on top.

Depending on your tolerance for oddity, this is either a great, fun addition to a Christmas collection (it will make people prick up their ears to hear whats going on), or it’s just too disruptive to the holiday spirit.

And yes, in the “Christmas Kindness Song” I mentioned Stephen Drodz because this is an album by The Flaming Lips.  I gather that the music was created by Steven Drodz and the mythology of Imagene was created by Wayne Coyne.

Oh and the disc ends with some 30 minutes of what sounds like an album clicking at the end of locked groove.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

This is one of a new(ish) batch of McSweeney’s books.  I was intrigued by the title and the cover  and some snippets of reviews sounded promising.

There were things I liked about he story but overall I was mixed on it.

The story is about Helen Moran.  She is a 32-year-old Korean woman.  She was adopted by white parents when she was a baby. As was her adoptive brother (who is also Korean but is not related to her).  Throughout the story she refers to her parents as “my adoptive parents” and her brother as “my adoptive brother” easily 100 times each.  I realize that that is a true statement and description, and it is important to her to keep this distinction, but it makes for irritating reading.  It makes your main character seem really ungrateful.

And maybe that’s it.  Helen is a pretty unlikable character.  She works with at risk youth but does some pretty risky things with them.  She’s even currently under investigation at her work for doing suspicious things.  She says she is called Sister Reliability but its unclear to me if they are doing it to mock her, if they are not doing it at all or if they are actually doing it because she is reliable (which I doubt).  She has also written a pamphlet called How to Survive in New York City on Little to Nothing which she handed out to people.  She wears garbage and discarded clothes and eats whatever–and that’s her advice to the poor.

But that’s not what the story is about.  The story is about what happens after she hears from her uncle that her adoptive brother is dead.  For reasons we never find out her adoptive parents do not make the call, it is done by her uncle.  Weird. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-Tiny Desk Concert #675 (November 27, 2017).

Phoebe Bridgers has an incredibly delicate voice.  And yet despite its delicacy it is also really powerful (as evidenced by the note she holds at the end of “Motion Sickness”).

I know the original of “Motion Sickness” which has a big raw guitar and a powerful chorus.  Her entire sound is stripped down here, with just pianist Ethan Gruska and violinist Rob Moose accompanying her on her quiet guitar.

Together, they celebrated the occasion with languid renditions of three of the album’s best songs: the sad and seductive “Demi Moore,” a drastically muted “Motion Sickness” and a piano-driven take on Bridgers’ first-ever single, “Killer.”

“Demi Moore” has some interesting synthy sounds accompanying Phoebe’s gentle guitar.  I really like the way the violin is playing somewhat unsettling notes rather than gentle accompaniment.  I cannot figure out what this has to do with Demi Moore, though.

As noted, “Motion Sickness” is very different.  It’s a little less catchy somehow (I really like the contrast of the guitars and her voice on the original).  But the song sounds really pretty this way (and I am charmed at the way she seems to be smiling throughout the song).

She describes “Killer” as being about murder.  It includes an unsettling conversations about Jeffrey Dahmer and Bridgers singing without her guitar.  It’s a stark piano song that really lets you hear how pretty her voice is.

I’m very curious to know what she typically sounds like live.

[READ: May 13, 2017] My Brilliant Friend

In what I thought was the final issue of The Believer (it went on hiatus for a couple of years), Nick Hornby says he really enjoyed My Brilliant Friend.  So I decided to check it out (since it’s part of a series and was compared tangentially to My Struggle, I decided to keep a running tally of pages just in case I decided to read all four of these books).

I haven’t read a ton of Italian writers, I gather.  And while that doesn’t really impact the quality of the story (or the translation by Ann Goldstein) the book does talk about locations that I’m pretty unfamiliar with.

Evidently there is intrigue about the identity of Elena Ferrante (the name is a pseudonym).  I didn’t know that until after I read the book and looked up to see how many more books there were.  Ferrante (I’ll go with she, because why not) has written four books in this series and three other books with out her identity being discovered.  I suppose the reason her identity is interesting is because this book seems to be autobiographical.  Of course what do you call an autobiography by a pseudonym? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-“Martian Monster” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

“Martian Monster” is the final song in the Phish Halloween set.  It’s a funky clavinet-fueled rocker and the longest track at 14 plus minutes.  Page is having a lot of fun on this song, both playing the riffs and sampling portions of the narration.

The song is meant to be a trip to Mars.  Because of the speed of your rocket, your trip is short.  It as described as

a filthy, original Phish groove mixed with spoken word quotes, sound effects and vocal warbles as actors performed zombie-fied dances in the space surrounding the haunted house. McConnell’s funky clavinet leads were at the forefront of the deliciously weird “Martian Monster.”

There are dozens of samples of “your trip is short.”  By the middle of the song, Trey starts reciting “your trip is short” which is getting manipulated crazily.  They are processed and robotic as we hear the Martian chewing and chewing (chewing you, obviously).

The song builds and builds and builds to a big blast off climax and then it returns to the funky keys and lots of “your trip is short.”

It’s a great ending to this surprising original set.

[READ: October 25, 2017] “Shadetree”

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

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  Lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no “order” to these books, so I’m reading them in what I think was the order they were boxed (or at least the order I last put them back in the box).

This is the final book in the box and it’s a doozy.

There was a lot of this story that made me really angry and I’m trying to decide if it’s a misogynist story or just a powerful story where a woman is the victim (subtle distinction, I know).

The story is about a girl named Colly Sue and a boy named Shadetree.  They enjoyed listening to the stories that Shadetree’s great-uncle would tell.  They were spooky supernatural stories about ghosts, witches and haunts.  He had a dry whispery voice and it made the stories seem very real. Colly Sue was frightened but never stopped coming to hear.  Shadetree enjoyed spooking Colly Sue.  He would grab her during the story or claim that he was a spook or a haunt.  One day he told Colly Sue that he was a swapchild–a small haunt that was exchanged for a human being.  And Colly Sue didn’t doubt it.  Shadetree asserted, “I’d never hurt you, Colly Sue.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHABAZZ PALACES-Tiny Desk Concert#661 (October 23, 2017).

Shabazz Palaces is really nothing like anything else I’ve heard.

“On the ground we have leopard skin carpets Only the exalted come in and rock with us.”

With those words, spoken in the opening moments of Shabazz Palaces‘ Tiny Desk performance, Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael Butler, also of Digable Planets fame) lays the ground rules for all present to enter the group’s metaphysical headspace.

And, man, talk about being transported to the other side. It’s impossible not to envision the Seattle studio, Black Space Labs, where Shabazz’s otherworldly soundscapes emerge to provide the ideal backdrop for shining a light on the fake.

 It’s the perfect proxy for the growing sense of alienation we’re all suffering, to some degree or another, in today’s space and time.

Shabazz Palaces is perhaps the most unusual rap band I’ve heard. There are hardly any beats. The songs are trippy with washes of synths and other sound effects.  There’s no heavy bass, it’s just up to Palaceer Lazaro to keep the flow.

There’s an 80 second intro in which Palaceer Lazaro introduces the band and talks about their sacred study, safe from the “Colluding Oligarchs.”

The first proper song “Colluding Oligarchs”says that “sacred spaces still exist / safe from colluding oligarchs.”  Theirs almost glitchy (but pretty) synth melodies (which I think Palaceer Lazaro triggered before he started rapping).  His partner Tendai Maraire plays a hand drum and congas (as well as some synth triggers).  And all the while he is singing echoed backing vocals.  Meanwhile, Otis Calvin plays an intertwining, slow, almost improved bass line.

For “They Come In Gold” there is no bass.  He says “this one we wrote to our phones.”  There’s a weird repeating melody that sounds like  snippet of vocals. Once again there’s lot of percussion–shakers, cymbals etc.  Half way through, he puts a filter on his voice to slow it down (a cool spacey effect) and then speeds it back up.

“Shine A Light” includes some squeaky synths and Palaceer Lazaro singing into a different mic.  When the music starts formally, the melody is a looped sample from Dee Dee Sharp’s 1965 song “I Really Love You.”  The bass is back playing some simple but groovy lines.  That second mic is connected to a higher-pitched echoed setting when he sings shine a light on the fake.

[READ: March 15, 2017] Punch

I don’t know much about Pablo Boffelli aside from that he is an Argentinian artist–he creates music as well as visual arts.

This book is a collection of line drawings (which remind me a lot of things that I draw when I am doodling).

Since the book is published in Spanish, with no English information anywhere (it’s not even on Goodreads), I couldn’t get a lot of information about it.  So from the publisher’s website I got (in translation):

In the PUNCH world, space is a character that unfolds and unfolds in millions of scenes. Cynicism and the absurd coexist with hints of synthetic humor.

Punch is the book drawn by Feli. His imprudent stroke runs through the pages building a city in which everything can happen. In the Punch world, space becomes a character that unfolds and unfolds in millions of possibilities. The urban landscape eats everything, the exteriors become interior and the fantasies materialize in the most unforeseen forms. The cynicism and the absurd coexist with hints of humor: the joke to discover for that spectator who contemplates in a disinterested way.

Punch is tender and corrosive, is infinite and minimal. It reverses the logic of physics and plays with the scale: stacked things, types or giant landscapes, a springboard that does not point to the pool, soccer balls in a refrigerator, humans without head, debauchery and micro-obsession. Put another way: this book is crazy. We recommend looking with a magnifying glass.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LANDYLADY-Tiny Desk Concert #656 (October 6, 2017).

As I started watching this video I said to myself, Is that Son Lux’s drummer (Ian Chang)?  Look at the way he is drumming, it must be him.  And it is!

I had never heard of Landlady but I was instantly intrigued that Chang was playing with them.

The Brooklyn-based band’s songs are the initial creation of leader Adam Schatz, who observes the world with fresh, almost alien eyes.  Landlady is also a band of brilliant musicians who carefully craft their playing to serve the songs. Each player on their own might seem to be making quirky sounds or playing odd rhythms, but together they create head-turning tunes.

The opening track for Landlady’s Tiny Desk performance, “Cadaver,” has its origins in a friend of Schatz’s who went to medical school, and the years she spent examining a single cadaver over and over and even more specifically about a tattoo on that cadaver’s buttocks.

“Cadaver” opens with prepared piano sounds although the song quickly resolves itself into a kind of quirky Steely Dan vibe.  I love that Chang is using big soft bright blue brushes on the drums and that he even plays the desk and everything else around him during the slightly noisy middle section.

After the song, Schatz is very funny.  “Thanks for coming to work today I think a lot of us are actually very impressed by people who actually go to work.  Afterwards we’ll have all sorts of questions.  So know that while you’re looking at us wondering how do they do it.  Know that we’re looking back at you… wondering how do we do it.”

“Solid Brass” opens with some lovely guitars.  This song feels like something Gabriel Kahane might have constructed.  The chorus begins with just the piano and him singing “My voice is lower in the morning” over and over.  And then the whole band joins in on that simple sentiment.  That chorus melody is repeated but with other different simple ideas: “your legs are shorter in the evening.”  After that chorus, the guitarist Will Graefe plays some wildly distorted noises while the piano has stopped and only Ryan Dugre on the bass is there to keep it going.

For their Tiny Desk Concert they came in as a foursome but also recruited the Washington D.C. string quartet, Rogue Collective to flesh-out their sound on the third song, “Electric Abdomen.” That cut, which seems to be about being uncomfortable in your own skin, sounds like it came from a long-lost tape from The Beatles during a session for Abbey Road, full of wonder and, like this Tiny Desk performance, worth digging deep into.

Schatz introduces the quartet: “These are our new friends Rogue Collective.”  [Alexa Cantalupo (violin); Livia Amoruso (violin); Deanna Said (viola); Natalie Spehar (cello)].  One of them jokes: “Not Rouge Collective.”  Schatz quickly replies: “That’s us.”

He tells us:  “They learned all the music.  That was very nice of them.  This is hard.   You get nervous when you’re not used to being nervous.  So I thought I’d say that out loud.  A lot of people come here and they don’t seem nervous.  Top artists of today…  Who are some of the….  Like John Philip Sousa.  Guys like them they act all macho and they think they can just nail it.  But its hard and it puts us in a vulnerable place and I think that’s the point of this.

“So I want to say ‘Thank you, Bob and everyone for putting us in this compromising position.’

“I’d like to dedicate this last song to one of the most important pieces of Public Radio that was ever produced.  A program that changed the world and you can’t imagine the world before it existed.  So I’d like to dedicate this song and the rest of our lives to Car Talk, which basically raised me.  They were like to extra parents.”

“Electric Abdomen” opens with the sound of vibes and prickly guitar.  Then the strings fill in and the guitar sounds great and.  And, yes, it has s decidedly Abbey Road feel to it–the guitar sound especially.

I enjoyed this set immensely and watched it many times.   And I was only saddened to discover that Landlady (and Okkervil River) played a show in Philly the night before I watched this video.  Sigh.  That’s a lovely pairing.

[READ: January 24, 2017] “My Guilty Pleasures”

Many times in short New Yorker pieces, the jokes are topical, which means they don’t always hold up well.  And, sometimes, they get stuck in one thing and don’t really move beyond that.

George Saunders is usually pretty good at getting his topical jokes to move beyond whatever he is spoofing.

But he also likes to really hammer home one idea for a while.  Like this one, in which his guilty pleasure is watching reality shows (all based around The Bachelor). (more…)

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