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Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HAROLD LÓPEZ-NUSSA-Tiny Desk Concert #812 (December 14, 2018).

This was the final Tiny Desk Concert of the year and it featured a pretty traditional jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) from Cuba.  There have been a number of Cuban musicians on Tiny Desk, but I always defer to the blurb:

Cuba is known as much for their pianists as their percussionists — you’ll see why with this performance.

They play three songs.  The first is “Elegua” which opens

with some help from a recording of famed Afro-Cuban folkloric singer Lázaro Ros. Ros is both a musical and spiritual guide for this performance; the trio dug deep into the ritual music of santeria for inspiration with “Eleguá,” a tribute to one of the Afro-Cuban deities.

After about two minutes, Harold plays a nifty staccato riff on the piano while the bass plays a cool  related melody.  The song runs about six minutes and mid way through Ros returns to recite over the music.

When the song is over, Harold introduces his “brothers.”  His literal brother Ruy on drums and his brother from an other mother and father Gastón on bass.

(Special mention should be made of Harold’s brother, Ruy López-Nussa, on drums, and bassist Gastón Joya, who both fill the spaces between the beats while elegantly leaving breathing room within the performances.)

Joya is a treat to watch as he has a contented smile on his face for much of the set.  But it’s Ruy who is the most fun.  With his suit and bow tie and the unconventional way he holds the sticks he is fascinating to watch.  He looks like he is trying to be funny, the way he is playing.  Maybe he is just having fun but his playing is spectacular.

“Preludio (to José Juan)” is shorter–quiet and pretty.  It opens with a lovely melody on the piano.  There’s brushes on the drums and a quiet, subtle bass solo on the middle.  The song is much shorter and the closing minute is just beautiful.

“Hialeah” has the recognizable piano riffs — called guajeos — that we can recognize as originating with Cuban dance music, but the trio deftly melds that rhythm to a complex jazz exploration, without compromising its dance able pulse.

The melodies are recognizable, and yet he is basically riffing with them.  The piece opens with frenetic finger work on the piano with some complex drumming.  The rhythm is playing a dancey melody with some wild soloing on his right hand.  By around 14 minute into the set, he is an amazing blur pf speed and melody.  After a brief one second pause they come back with a phenomenal little drum display.

[READ: January 11, 2019] “All Rivers”

I have really come to enjoy Amos Oz’s stories–they are never about what I think they will be about.

This one was surprising for the way it was constructed as well.

The narrator, Eliezer is fondly remembering a woman ,Tova, who has a profound impact on his life. He says the name Tova was simple and popular and, he felt, didn’t suit her, a young poetess.  He doesn’t remember the color of her eyes, although he does remember the color of her trousers–dark blue/gray and tattered coarse material.

As he is describing her he interrupts himself.  He explains that he wants to be systematic and do things in order, but that he keeps getting ahead of himself  Every time he thinks about her, everything rushes to be first. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HEATHER LEIGH-“Soft Season” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

Opening with a kind os squealing feedback and heavy bass and drums, it is pretty hard to believe that Heather Leigh is playing the pedal steel guitar but Lars assures us that’s what’s happening

Heather Leigh is among a group of artists who are reshaping the sound of the pedal steel guitar. [Her new] solo album stretches her noise/improv background into songwriting territory. With an elastic sense of time and a beguiling voice, Heather Leigh hears a new world drenched in aqueous echo.

After a brief opening Leigh starts singing–a kind of high operatic voice that works well with the feedbacking style of guitar she’s playing–like she’s almost singing along to the guitar melody, but not exactly.  The middle is quieter, more mellow, a “prettier more conventional sound.”  The song cycles through the original noisy sound, and back to the quieter music before ending on that feedback opening.  That powerful music crescendoes and then the song closes out with an a capella couple of lines.

You can her it and a couple other songs on her bandcamp site.

[READ: January 3, 2019] “Come In, Come In”

This story concerns a woman and her contractor, Louie.  He came highly recommended but he is taking forever.  Every time she assumes he will finish a project in her bathroom, he seems to have messed something up and needs to replace it.

The tiles were askew.  Even the tub was askew. He apologized and fixed it of course, but come on.

And if that weren’t bad enough, he had just sent her a text love letter.  “Lady Joanna, the more I see you the more I want to see you.”

She was annoyed at the absurdity “single woman + contractor = absurd.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMIKE SCHIFLET-“00:00:00:00” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

Mike Schiflet released a 24 hour drone composition this year called Tetracosa.  This is the opening movement from it.  It is fifteen and a half minutes of slightly disconcerting drone composed of “effervescent guitar, blasted noise and electro-acoustic detritus.”

The drone is surprisingly “fast-paced” if that can be said of something without a beat.  The sounds and textures change and undulate at a pretty good clip.  At times it feels soothing, but then it throws in a note that pushes things a little off-kilter.  At times it is soothing but then comes zapping electronics which would certainly make for restless sleep.

I cannot imagine listening to this for 24 hours, although it would be a fascinating day if you did.

[READ: January 4, 2019] “Philosophy of the Foot”

This is the first story of the year and Soomro’s first published story.

It is set in Karachi and there is a boatload of subtext in this story.  As well, of course, as a lot of cultural information that I don’t understand.

Amer is an adult male (the younger boy calls him “uncle”) who stops to talk to the shoe repair boy. The boy has a cart and equipment and he takes great care of the shoes he has.   He is very knowledgeable.

Amer goes into his apartment and talks to his mother asking if they have anything for the shoe boy.  The ayah (a native maid or nursemaid employed by Europeans in India) suggests that Amer’s father had a trunk full of shoes which they could have sold.  Instead, Amer takes an old pair of his father’s shoes to be repaired.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BÉGAYER-“L’image du manque” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

I certainly didn’t know Bégayer before hearing them here.  Bégayer is a trio from the south of France that howls in French and Arabic, bangs on homemade instruments and leaves a path of delirious distortion in its wake.

Lars describes them as a combination of Animal Collective, Malian desert rock and Eugene Chadbourne thrown off a cliff.

This song starts with a kind of unsure-sounding opening foray into a guitar riff (very Malian in style), after twenty seconds, the high-pitched guitar notes resolve into a furious frenzy–an almost amelodious riff that flies around at breakneck speed.   The super fast drums help to propel the chaos along.

After a minute or so the vocals kick in–they are sparse and peculiar–more keening than singing at times and I have no idea what he is singing.  On a few occasions, the guitar seems to almost have a breakdown while he is singing although by the end he starts to sound like Jeff Buckley having a bit of breakdown himself. It’s bizarre and eerily compelling.

The whole album plays around with these sounds for a different experience with each song.

[READ: December 29, 2018] “Feast of the Epiphany”

This surreal story was published in 2016 in Gronzi’s collection Claustrophobias.

It begins with this bizarre, hilarious opening

It must’ve been either my thirty-third or my thirty-ninth birthday, if one is to believe the numerological charts, and there must’ve been some kind of adult arrangement involving children or else I would’ve never agreed to show myself in public in the company of three or four diversely aged creatures whose cumulative understanding of metaphysics was equivalent to the curiosity of a wart on the nose of a Rajasthani kaan-saaf wallah cleaning people’s ears in the streets of Paharganj.

This dinner becomes farcical with the introduction of the waiter:

Unable to appreciate the animated performance of the waiter who insisted on joining his forefingers over his head and doing a little dance every time he mentioned the rabbit in orange and thyme sauce, I finished the rather cheerless ten-year-old Hermitage before I even read the menu.

Before the appetizer is even over, the narrator makes his excuses and heads for the restroom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARK THOUGHTS-“Anything II” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

This has got to be the first time I knew of a band before Lars Gottrich introduced me to them. (although it sounds like he’s known them for quite a while).  I learned of Philadelphia’s Dark Thoughts when I saw them open for Sheer Mag.  They were fantastic.

Gottrich mentions The Ramones as a touchstone, and that’s certainly there.  But I also hear some good old British punk in the vocals (which are not quite as melodic as Joey Ramone’s).

Jim Shomo loves The Ramones, from his bratty punk affectation to the bubblegum punk hooks. But the Philly band also knows that there’s still so much to learn from punk’s tradition, heard in the ridiculously catchy two-minute-or-less songs and a leather-worn physicality of At Work. You feel every power chord and drum kick in your bones.

This two-minute song is one of the longer tracks on the disc.  And its a bit of a departure from the standard two chords punk song because there’s a distorted “ooh oooh ooohs” that sound a bit like a synth (but are just distorted) and which return later in the song).

There’s no solos, no flash, just fast pop-punk.  The songs aren’t happy but nor are they angry, they’re more disaffected.  And the disaffected often make great music.  But as he says in the episode, seeing them live is the real key—they are dynamite.

Check out their bandcamp site.

[READ: December 3, 2018] ”Good Mother”

This is an excerpt from a novel called Now, Now, Louison.  It was translated by Cole Swensen.  In this novel, he writes in the voice of artists Louise Bourgeois who was famous for her enormous sculptures of spiders.

It begins with the idea that sculptures are made out of frustrating–trying to weave connections.

Then there is the warehouse in Brooklyn, gotten for a song where the sculptures grew larger: “Spiders, spiders, you never tired of remaking them bigger and bigger.  More immoderately maternal.”  So why not tell your own story with your sculptures–not the one they’ve told you–you have to be precise or say nothing at all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATE CARR-“The Ladder Is Always There” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

Kate Carr creates Field Recordings.  But she then manipulates them into soundscapes.  This track, “The Ladder Is Always There,” has an incredibly sinister tone–and that title doesn’t help.  The recording was done on or under the water and the sounds I hear include a tuned radio (or something), a vacuum cleaner going back and forth (clearly not), electronic receptors beeping, birds modified (or maybe recorded from underwater), dripping water, breathing, clanging, seagulls and waves crashing.

Gottrich describes whats she does as “not only mapping bodies of water and landscapes in field recordings, but engaging with the environment as an active participant.

It is certainly strange to listen to something that you could (in theory, but not in actuality) go out side and hear for yourself.  Even if you could go outside and hear this, there’s no way it would be curated in this way.  So while this is indeed listening to nature, Carr has sculpted nature into an aural exercise that’s really engaging.

I’ve listened to a few more pieces on this disc and while none are quite as engaging as “the ladder” none are dull either.  I can’t decide when I would most enjoy listening to this.  Sitting a lone in my car at lunch time with my eyes closed or in bed by myself later at night.  Even listening at work is strangely intoxicating.

You can hear the whole disc and more at her bandcamp site.

[READ: December 29, 2018] “Plante’s Ferry”

Apparently, I’ve read a bunch by Jess Walter although I don’t have much recollection of his stories.

This one is set in an unnamed place in the unspecified past.

The narrator explains that Bonin liberated the Scots’ pelts and then the two of them rode the lower trail until they arrived where the Frenchman ran a ferry across the river.

He hopes they were not followed, but they are not going to slow down.  They must get across the river.

The ferry is not cheap and since they are being chased because of Bonin’s action, the narrator wordlessly insists that Bonin pays his fare too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KASVOT VÄXT-“Play By Play” (1981/2018).

Back in 1994, Phish started covering a classic album for its Halloween costume. In 2015 they covered the Disney album: Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House, which pretty much meant all bets were off.  So in 2018, they decided to cover an obscure Scandinavian prog rock band called Kasvot Växt and their sole album, í rokk.  This proved to be a big joke–they were a nonexistent band.  They had so much fun creating this band, that they even enlisted others to expand the joke.  This included impressively thorough reviews from WFMU and from AllMusic.

The joke is even in the name: when translated together Kasvot Växt and í rokk means “Faceplant into rock.”.

Here’s some more details they came up with:

The Scandinavian prog rock band purportedly consists of Jules Haugen of Norway, Cleif Jårvinen of Finland, and Horst and Georg Guomundurson of Iceland.  The album’s label, Elektrisk Tung, supposedly went out of business shortly after the LP’s release and little information about the record appears on the internet. Bassist Mike Gordon made a tape copy of í rokk in the mid-’80s and Phish would play it “over and over in the tour van in the early ’90s.” In the Playbill, guitarist Trey Anastasio insisted, “Every time the Halloween discussion comes up, we talk about Kasvot Växt. We honestly were worried we wouldn’t have the chops to pull it off or do justice to the sound, but when it came down to it, we just couldn’t resist any longer.”

The decision to go with an obscure album few have heard or even heard of appealed to the members of Phish. “We’ve paid tribute to so many legendary bands over the years, it felt right this time to do something that’s iconic to us but that most people won’t have heard of,” Gordon said as per the Phishbill. “And with these translations we’re really performing songs that have never been sung in English before.” Keyboardist Page McConnell added, “I love the mystery surrounding this whole thing. If those guys ever hear we did this I hope they’re excited because we absolutely intend it as a loving tribute.” As for what Phish fans can expect? “A weird, funky Norweigan dance album! Get out there and put your down on it!” exclaimed drummer Jon Fishman.

While the listings for the 10 tracks on the original í rokk were in a Scandinavian language, the titles appear in English in the Playbill. Phish called upon a Nordic linguist to translate the lyrics to English for tonight’s performance.

These songs do not really sound like a Norwegian prog rock band.  They do sound an awful lot like Phish (although with a more synthy vibe overall. The band has this part of their live show streaming on Spotify under the Kasvot Växt name.  And I’m ending the year by talking about each song.

This song is darker and slower with a kind of dirty funky opening.  It even gets more sinister lyrically: “perception is spoonfed.”

There a darker middle section with a badass riff and a repeated chant of “I hope someone notices.” The middle has a slow jam with a cool bass line and then the repeated synth which sounds like its saying “Wow” getting lower and lower and deeper and deeper.  It’s cool and trippy and this section could be jammed out into some very interesting places.

For this particular version (which is nearly nine minutes long and is the longest song of the set) they definitely have fun with but I can see it going much further.

[READ: December 15, 2018] “The Ultimate Warrior”

Kroll-Zaidi’s previous story in Harper’s was a wonderfully written horrific story about a guy who kills a dog.  This story was far less horrific and is more literary

The opening is certainly peculiar “I had finished lunch when I decided to attend the memorial service later that afternoon for Juno Wasserman, who had died the week before, just shy of seventy.”

Juno had been friends with the narrator’s mother at Vassar and Harvard.  The narrator wanted to go the memorial so he could tell her mother something about the proceedings–the women didn’t talk anymore.

The service was in a Buddhist mediation studios near Union square.  He looked around for the types of folks that Juno gathered on her world on trips to Patagonia and Formosa and other romantic place names that never were or no loner are the names of countries but still feel like they should be. (more…)

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