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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAMBINAI-Différance (2012).

I am fairly stunned that I never posted about Jambinai at the Olympics in Korea in 2018.  Their performance of “Time of Extinction” blew me away and before the song was even over I was looking them up to find out more about them.

Jambinai blend traditional Korean instruments with rock instruments.  But not in a “we rock and want to bring in a flute” way.   The three main members met at Korea’s National University of Arts while studying traditioanl Korean music.  They wanted to play traditional music in an innovative way but in a way  that was very different from K-pop.  So their band consists of
Kim Bo-mi– haegeum;
Lee Il-woo – electric guitar, piri, taepyeongso, vocals
Sim Eun-yong – geomungo.

I had to look up what some of these instruments were, and here’s what I’ve got:

Geomungo (also spelled komungo or kŏmun’go) or hyeongeum (literally “black zither”) is a traditional Korean stringed musical instrument of the zither family of instruments with both bridges and frets.   It is generally played while seated on the floor. The strings are plucked with a short bamboo stick called suldae, which is held between the index and middle fingers of the right hand, while the left-hand presses on the strings. The most typical tuning of the open strings for the traditional Korean music is D#/Eb, G#/Ab, C, A#/Bb, A#/Bb, and A#/Bb an octave lower than the central tone.

In the video from the Olympics, the band is surrounded by dozens of geomungo players.

Haegeum (Hangul: 해금) is a traditional Korean string instrument, resembling a fiddle. It has a rodlike neck, a hollow wooden soundbox, and two silk strings, and is held vertically on the knee of the performer and played with a bow. It is one of the most widely used instruments in Korean music. Its range of expression is various despite having only two strings, with sounds ranging from sorrowful and sad to humorous.

Taepyeongso (lit. “big peace wind instrument”; also called hojokhojeok 호적 號笛/胡笛, nallari, or saenap, 嗩吶) is a Korean double reed wind instrument in the shawm or oboe family, probably descended from the Persian zurna and closely related to the Chinese suona. It has a conical wooden body with a metal mouthpiece and cup-shaped metal bell. It originated during the Goryeo period (918 – 1392).   The loud and piercing sound it produces has kept it confined mostly to Korean folk music (especially “farmer’s band music”) and to marching bands, the latter performed for royalty in the genre known as daechwita. It is, however, also used sparingly in other genres, including Confucian, Buddhist and Shamanist ritual musics and neo-traditional/fusion music.

Piri is a Korean double reed instrument, used in both the folk and classical (court) music of Korea. It is made of bamboo. Its large reed and cylindrical bore gives it a sound mellower than that of many other types of oboe.

Jambinai released this album in 2012 but reissued it in 2016 when they released their second album a Hermitage.

This nine-song (mostly) instrumental post-rock album is just astounding with the sounds they produce.

1. Time Of Extinction (2:56) opens with some quick riffage on the Geomungo.  After 20 second the roaring guitars and drums crash in.  Before a minute is up, the guitar falls back and a wondrous haegeum solo takes over amid the background rumbling.  It’s followed by some staccato thumps and full-on blasts of noise.  The taepyeongso mixes with feedback to create a wall of discord before it all crashes to a close.

2. Grace Kelly (3:20) opens with some fast acoustic sounding guitars before the whole song barrels forth with crashing noises and a taepyeongso solo.  That’s all in the first minute.  After which a quiet guitar and a vocal melody takes over.  I love that the vocal is buried under some effects so you can’t even really tell what language she’s singing in.  After a minute or so of this “rest,” the song just takes off again–forcing its way to the end with vocals moans that sound a bit like Robert Plant.  The ending crashing chords are pretty spectacular.
3. Glow Upon Closed Eyes (6:26) A quieter song, it starts with fading in and out noises and what may be reversed guitar sounds.  After a minute or so the geomungo comes in with some big notes that give the noises some context.  It stays relatively quiet for 5 minutes and then the end of the song bursts firth with martial drums and big guitars.
4. Paramita Pt. 1 (4:15)  The first part opens with rumbling noises and a slow riff on the geomungo.  Nearly the whole song works at this sort of tension building exercise with a brief moment of splashing cymbals and faster notes that slow once again.
5. Paramita Pt. 2 (4:21)  Part 2 slows things down a lot–just a geomungo thump and some sporadic notes on the haegeum.  It feels menacing and suspenseful–punctuated by deep bass notes that resound and linger.   The song unexpectedly explodes about two minutes in with a wall of noise punctuated by cymbals.
6. Hand Of Redemption (4:34) is a sonic blast of hardcore.  Screamed vocals are buried amid a wall of fast thumping drums and guitars.  After two minutes the taepyeongso and piri start adding noise and the thumping grows more mechanical.  The final minute takes away the industriaial sound but leaves all the high squealing notes punctuated by walls of bass and drums.   The end of the song thumps and feedback in to the next track.
7. Empty Pupil Pt. 1 (5:10) Continues with that feedback.  The feedback goes through several iterations as quiet chords are played and then allowed to feedback some more.  The rest of the song is full of other mechanical sounds–who even knows what–that fill in to a kind of noise drone.  The song ends with quiet guitar lines (I wonder if the song endings deliberate segue or if they were just stopped at the wrong time)
8. Empty Pupil Pt. 2 (4:39)  Part 2 further explores the quiet guitar with some cool creaking sounds from the geomungo before it starts playing a riff that ends with a big crash each time.   It picks up the tempo as the haegeum is introduced along with some acoustic guitar strumming but there is no climax to this song it just ends and fades.
9. Connection (9:37)  The final song is the one epic track on the disc.  It opens with a haegeum playing a quiet two note melody before some deep slow bass notes accompany it.  There’s also I think a vocal line (it’s hard to tell).  About four minutes in the haegeum starts playing a riff that is reminiscent of Sigur Rós.  It builds in beauty an intensity until the final notes fade out.
It’s a great way to end a great album.

Stream it on their bandcamp site.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “Stonehenge”

The June 10th issue of the New Yorker features five essays by authors whom I have enjoyed.  They were gathered under the headline “Another Country.”

I enjoyed Min jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires quite a lot.  I had no idea that she was not born in America.  She came to New York from Seoul when she was seven, and her essay is fascinating for a couple of reasons.

First, she says that every day in the 1970s and 1980s it took her two hours to get from her home in Queens to the Bronx High School of Science.  She spent most of that commuter time reading Sinclair Lewis novels about America: Main Street, Babbitt, Dodsworth, Arrowsmith.

On weekends she worked with her family in their father’s store in Manhattan’ Koreatown.  The store was burgled several times and everyone in their family had been mugged at some point.

She notes that Sinclair Lewis wrote about white Midwesterners who struggled against materialism, corporate greed, fascism and narrow thinking.  She found it calming to read about these big ideas since her family life was so hectic.   The books also made her feel like she’d traveled even though she never did. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK PUMAS-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

A couple of years ago I had a pass to NonComm, but ultimately I decided not to go.  I had never been to World Cafe Live and, while it sounded like a fun time, it was just so many mid-week nights and lots of leaving early, that it sounded more exhausting than fun.

I have now been to World Cafe Live and I can imagine that the (less divaish) bands are hanging around talking to people (and radio personalities) which is probably pretty cool.

I love the idea of these sorta personal concerts, too.  But I have since come to see that they are 20-45 minutes tops.  Hardly worth driving 90 minutes (one-way) for.

But since the shows are streaming you can watch them live.  Or you can listen to the recorded version online.

Black Pumas was the opening band on the opening night.  They play and exciting and fun psychedelic soul.

It is hard not to be moved by Eric Burton’s powerful voice. Joining Burton onstage was production partner and guitarist Adrian Quesada, as well as a bassist, keyboardist, and two backing vocalists. The whole band moved as a unit, but each member added their own unique talents, making Black Pumas’ sound undeniably theirs.

The set mostly comprised of songs from the band’s upcoming self titled debut, due June 21st.

“Next 2U” had some great keyboards and Burton’s impassioned vocals.  “Colors” showcased their ability to slow things down a bit and to lean into improvisation.  There was a grooving guitar solo and a cool keyboard solo.  There was even more grooving on “Black Moon Rising.”  I enjoyed Burton giving us the occasional falsetto “AH!” at the end of the verses.

I really couldn’t believe how young these guys turned out to be because their sound is really old-school, but with enough of a modern twist to keep it from being retro.

“Fire” opened with a cool guitar riff before backing away from the rock a bit to allow the big harmony vocals to really soar.

The final song “Etta James” was surprising because it was more like a Rock n’ Roll shuffle–a fast bass line running through the quick verses.   It’s when the soulful chorus comes in that Etta James surfaces both in the lyrics and in the soul of the song.   Although the scorching guitar solo brings the song back around to its rocking sensibility.

Black Pumas sound like a great live band that would be even more fun to see than to hear.

[READ: May 2, 2019] “Tax Niʔ Pik̓ak (A Long Time Ago)”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

This story was written by Troy Sebastian / Nupqu ʔa·kǂ am̓, a Ktunaxa writer living in Lekwungen territory based in Victoria.  It’s not often that I read a story with a glossary, but it was very helpful, because this story uses a number of Ktunaxa words.

  • tax niʔ pik̓ak—a long time ago
  • Ka titi—grandmother
  • suyupi—white people
  • ka·pi—coffee
  • Kupi—owl
  • Ktunaxa ʔamak̓is—Ktunaxa lands

The story starts fairly simply, a long time ago.  Uncle Pat says that the suyupi have built a statue of David Thompson.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OHMME-Tiny Desk Concert #848 (May 9, 2019).

It’s not very often that I have seen a band before I have seen their Tiny Desk Concert (most of the time it’s the Tiny Desk Concert that makes me want to see the band). But I saw OHMME open for Jeff Tweedy last year and they were amazing.

This Tiny Desk captures most of that amazingness with some difference. Like in our show, Sima Cunningham (white guitar) and Macie Stewart (blue guitar) sang and played guitar (intensely fuzzed out guitar).  But at our show, one of them played violin for a few songs, which is not used here, and here they have a drummer, Matt Carroll.

When Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart fired up their angular guitar sounds during soundcheck at the Tiny Desk, I was thrilled. The shrieking, rhythmic noise these two classically trained musicians make as Ohmme is what made their debut album, Parts, a musical highlight for me in 2018. But hearing them in the office, trading vocals with such ping-pong precision, sent me into euphoria. This is now one of my all-time favorite Tiny Desk concerts.

Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, along with drummer Matt Carroll, steer clear of rock music clichés that plague so much of the music I hear these days. Their adventurous spirit is sometimes challenging. But it opens a window on what the voice can be. It also redefines what the guitar can do — at one moment it’s a stuttering percussive instrument, the next it’s a bed of noise with a harsh tone that somehow morphs its way into the melody.

This show has four songs (!)  Yay!  Sixteen minutes of songs from an artist I like.

“Water” is the song that blew my mind when I saw them live.  That amazing buzzy guitar sound, the way the guitars morph and change, the way the bridge is harsh and alienating, the noise-filled “solo” and then of course, the hocketing.  I am frankly shocked that the blurb doesn’t talk about the hocketing:

the rhythmic linear technique using the alternation of notes, pitches, or chords. In medieval practice of hocket, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests.

Both Sima and Macie alternate notes in a beautiful yet disorienting melody.  And the wonderfully noise-filled guitar solo that Macie plays is such a wonderful contrast to the catchy melody of the song.  It’s a stunning song.

“Icon” is a simpler song–on the surface.  The verses are a simple up and down melody–soothing and familiar.  But the chorus just takes off with high notes and an unexpected emphasis on the words “I want a new icon.”

“Parts” has Macie playing a looping guitar line while Sima plays a low bass-ish part.  They sing in harmony with Sima taking some occasional low notes.   This song has some very cool dramatic slow downs and build ups combined with wonderful lyrics.

My bloody Mary had arrived and so I bent into the pain
He can’t believe all the distortions I put my body in
Like an acrobat and banshee decided to inhabit
The same fleshy husk and it’s my job to stand it
A fly with a vengeance kept landing like a dancer
He must have had a grudge for some dead ancestor
I smashed last summer in a fit of rage
I don’t like little things touching my face

Sima also takes very pretty guitar solo on this one.

The final song “Grandmother” goes out to their grandmothers whom they love very much.  After a quiet opening (featuring Sima’s wonderful vocals), the song takes off in a three note rocking motif (with Sima scratching up and down her guitar for interesting sound effects).  Then Macie takes off with a noise-fueled guitar solo that would make any 90s band proud.

They are wonderful live and I can’t wait to see them again.

[READ: May 13, 2019] “Brawler”

I enjoyed Groff’s book of short stories recently, so I was intrigued to read this one as well.  And it features Groff’s unique peculiarities of subject and outlook.

Sara was on the diving team.  As the story opens, Sara is late for the match (but has not missed it).  She was in detention for getting in a fight–her knuckles were bloody and raw.  But she snuck out of detention when the moderator fell asleep.  Her coach called her “Brawler.”

Sara had originally been on the swimming team, but she was caught “brushing the boys’ junk in their Speedos with her hand as they swam by in the next lane.”  Diving suited her more, anyway.

Her dive was a success, even if she had to cover her minor foul with her bloodied knuckles (apparently the back of her head had grazed the board). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Siboney Club, Toronto, ON (November 17, 1988).

I thought I had listened to every show on Rheostatics Live and then I saw today that Daron had posted this new (very old) show.  This show is from before they released their second album Melville.  Most of these songs would appear on Melville, but a couple wouldn’t be released until their third album Whale Music.

This is a live cassette recording of Rheostatics at The Siboney club in Toronto November 17 1988 provided by Tom Parry. It is the earliest live versions I’ve heard so far of Christopher, RBC, The Royal Albert, Greensprouts, Horses, Chanson, What’s Going On, Queer and a one off song which I’m not even sure what it is called. Something about Space? The sound quality is rough but it is an interesting document due to the early nature of these songs – Queer in particular.

This show starts off with a TV show (I guess) about the history of hockey with a story that Bobby Hull has signed a contract with the new World Hockey Association and then a clip of Canada v Russia.  I can’t tell if the reaction to the Canadian goal is from the TV or the people in the room.  It goes for about three minutes and then the ripping guitars come in to start “Christopher.”  The first part of the guitar solo is very different from the sound that Martin would eventually get–although the second half of it is pretty raging.

“RBC” is quick and to the point.  Someone (Dave?) starts the intro to “Dope Fiends” but Tim slaps some bass as Dave says they’re going to play “The Royal Albert (Joey 2)” which I didn’t think was written for a few years.

“Dope Fiends” feels faster than usual.  In fact the whole show feels kind of fast.  Is the tape sped up or did they just play faster back then?

Martin starts playing the Green Sprouts Theme Dong with a crazy hopped up vibrato which actually sounds like munchkins.

Dave: Welcome folks!  Hot dogs only $1.75 Dijon mustard is an extra 30 cents.  It’s hand carved by Dave’s Irish grandmother.

I don’t love the song “Ditch Pigs” (from Greatest Hits) but I always like when they play it because by now it’s such a novelty.   There’s a jamming end section in which someone (Bidini?) is singing about the good food “I want an egg salads sandwich and a box of popcorn”.

DB: It’s poetry time from Clark.  Will it be a winsome poem or a lonesome poem.
Clark: It’s not necessarily a poem.  This is more of a lyric than a poem.  I wrote for a friend and it about if you’ve ever worked for somebody who is kinda dumb and they’re mean to you because they feel threatened by you when you just want to be their friend.

It begins: Don’t call me pal or buddy when your not really my friend…

“Horses” is remarkably slow with a thumping bass.  The chorus is almost painfully slow.  But the ending is really intense.  Martin does some great soloing as Dave screams the end, but there’s very little in the way of horse sounds.

“Chanson Les Ruelles” is loose and fun–Tim’s “French” is quite good.   Dave rambles about some kind of voodoo that he put on the Baltimore Orioles pitcher.  And it worked!

Then out comes Tim with the accordion for “What’s Going On Around Here.”  It all sounds quite good even though the tape is sounding worse.

The last three songs sounds pretty bad (in quality).  The song that Daron says he doesn’t know sounds like Dave calls it “Space Arm.”  It’s a stomping heavy song with some ripping guitars.  Wonder whatever happened to it.

“Queer” sounds very different in so many ways.  It has a really long introduction and a decidedly honky-tonk/country feel to the verses.  The verses end with a kind of old-timey rock n roll bah-bah-bah-bah.  And there’s no ending part.  I’m so glad they fixed it up.

The final song is cut off.  It’s a slow song that I recognize but can’t place called “Seems Like.”  I see that it was only ever released on a Green Sprouts music compilation.

This is a great find–one of their earliest shows where you can hear what their new sound is going to be like.

[READ: May 8, 2019] So Much Longing in So Little Space

Karl Ove Knausgaard just never stops writing.  And he never stops exploring the world around him–through words or, in this case, art.

This book is divided into three parts, although unlike his massive tomes, this one is only 233 pages (with pictures).  Before the parts, he offers a little introduction about how he sees art and how he has always been moved by an (admittedly) simple painting by Edvard Munch called Cabbage Field.

There is a longing in this painting of the cabbage field, a longing to disappear and become one with the world.  And that longing…fulfilled the painting for him.  That is why the painting is so good, what disappears re-emerges in what comes into being as he finished the painting, it is still represented in the picture, which fills us again and again with its emptiness.

In Part One he gives a brief biography of Munch.  Everyone knows The Scream of course, but that represented only one brief phase of Munch’s life-long career as a painter.  Indeed, he started painting when he was a teenager, making small pictures of potted plants and interiors and he continued painting until he was eighty years old.

The years are divided somewhat into phases.  First was the apprentice years during which he painted his first masterpiece, The Sick Child, when he was twenty-two.  In the second phase he was searching and trying many styles–from realistic harbor scenes to Impressionist street scenes.   Then comes the period for which he is most famous (The Scream and more).  The final phase was less abstract and more painterly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THEODORE-Tiny Desk Concert #842 (April 17, 2019).

I recall NPR’s SXSW coverage last year in which they raved about Theodore (and then ran into him walking the street while they were recording their nightly dispatch) and his beguiling music.

Theodore is a Greek composer/performer who is fairly difficult to search for online.  I was really surprised but quite intrigued to see that he now had a Tiny Desk Concert.  And what a Concert!

He plays three songs that last nearly 19 minutes and they are full of twists and turns with great instrumental passages and incredible sounds from all of the instruments.  Whether it is thanks to Theodore’s own set up or the Tiny Desk crew, the sound quality is amazing.

He began with “Disorientation” which

explores the complete loss of inner direction as Theodore examines his inner dualities in search of clarity and, perhaps, new ways to look at the world.

“Disorientation” begins with a terrific throbbing bass from Nikolas Papachronopoulos and occasional guitar notes from Emmanouil Kourkoulis or Ioannis Lefas (not sure who is who).  Theodore starts singing in his husky voice.  After a verse he adds some keys and then just as suddenly the whole band kicks in–drums and soaring guitars which all drop away just as suddenly.

A minor shift occurs at around 1:20 and then at 1:45 the whole song slows down into gentle washes and piano trills with (again) some gorgeous bass notes (the bass sound is phenomenal).  The song feels like it’s going to end but it sound jumps back with the dramatic entry of a pick slid along guitar strings and then back it’s to the delicate moments.  Bob Boilen says the songs have the “spare elegance you can hear in Sigur Rós or Pink Floyd,” and you can clearly hear echoes of mid 70s Pink Floyd with splashes of Sigur Rós for drama.  At 3:45 it jumps again, with some great drumming and more cool basswork.  Then at 4:46 Theodore starts “oohing” in the microphone, his voice is processed and echoing and the whole thing feels like it is drifting off into space

It is spectacular.

“For a While” starts quietly with two notes repeated quietly on the guitar  Theodore adds piano as washes of guitar follow shortly.  The guitar and piano resolve into intertwining pretty melodies.  After the bass and drums come in Theodore starts singing.  He has a very European kind of croon, a bit like latter Morrissey or Guy Garvey from Elbow.  The song builds to a cool moody and then settles down delicately to washes of guitar and single piano notes.

“Naive” ends the set with another great bass sound and intense guitars .  Theodore sings while Ashley Hallinan adds some nifty rim hitting on the snare.  Midway through the song some instrument gets all kinds of processed adding a kind of fat synth sound as the rest of the band builds the song.   Great guitar effects from both guitarists flesh out the moody wild middle section.

This Concert was spectacular and I would love to see him in person.  He only comes to the US for SXSW, so maybe this Tiny Desk will bring him to a wider audience.

[READ: April 15, 2019] “Lobster Night”

Russell Banks is the kind of author I have known about for a long time and am incredibly familiar with the covers of many of his books and whom I’ve considered reading again and again and yet I never seem to.

He is also one of the reasons why I chose to read Esquire fiction in general.  There are many excellent writers who write for Esquire and not all of them write stories about men killing other men.

Well, maybe all the stories don’t have someone or something killed, but this one does.

Stacy is a former potential Olympian.  She used to ski until a bad fall left her with a broken thigh bone.  She can still ski but she has lost her edge so she teaches in the winter.  But during the warmer months she has to waitress or bartend.  She has recently gotten a job at Noonan’s Family Restaurant. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Scotiabank Centre Halifax NS (December 07, 1996).

This is the 19th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

The show starts with Dorothy introducing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and then she begins singing the song.  After a verse, the acoustic guitar comes strumming in and Tim announces that “This one’s for Wilf Carter.”  [Wilf Carter, known as Montana Slim in the United States, was a Canadian Country and Western singer, songwriter, guitarist, and yodeller. Widely acknowledged as the father of Canadian country music.  He died on Dec 5].

It sounds great.  the final strains of guitar lead into a beautiful “California Dreamline.”  It’s followed by a “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” that features a middle “dance” section, with Dave chanting: “Tuesday night at the discotheque, I can dance, what the heck.  I’m an Uzbek.  Wer’e all freakin’ Uzbeks.

The ending feedback segues into the introductory noises of “Motorino.”  Martin says it comes from their new album.  “It’s called The Blue Hysteria its about not having much money.  Dave: “That’s the green hysteria, martin.”  Tim:  “Blue hysteria as about playing your stereo too loud and blowing it up.”  That’s a sort of introduction to “Bad Time to be Poor.”

Dave says “It’s great to be in hockey rink, The Moosehead Dome.  We played in the Devonshire Arena last night, a private affair.  It was hockey though, not rock.  We’re all a little sore, a little better off, a little stronger in character.

Up next is “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine,” during which Martin drops out of an entire verse–the music sounds great through.  You hear someone asks “want to do it again?”  but they press on and martin platys the noisy guitars that lead into RICH!

Then comes “two big songs back to back,” a ripping “Feed Yourself”  followed by a full 8 minute “A Mid-Winter Night’s Dream.”  It begins with a pretty, meandering guitar melody that Martin songs along to (in a high falsetto, la la l a)–its  quite lovely.  Then it segues into a roaring version of “Midwinter.”  The band sounds great and the feedbacking noise martin generates before the end is just amazing.

This might be my favorite version of the song.  It’s a show-stopper indeed.

[READ: March 20, 2019] Science Comics: Robots and Drones

I have enjoyed every Science Comic that has come out.  Most of them seem almost too full of information.  But this one was actually one of the less jam-packed books.  And that was kind of nice.

After an introduction from Sabine Hauert, the co-founder of Robohub.org, we are taken to a prototype robot from 350 BCE (!).  In Tarentum Italy, we see a “mechanical” bird created by Archytas.  It flies (perhaps on a string) and crashes instantly.   The bird snaps out of it and introduces himself –call him Pouli.  Pouli was the first machine to ever fly and he will take us through the past and future of robots and drones.

Pouli tries to break our familiarity with what a robot is by showing a simple robot–the coffeemaker.  It has as simple job.  It’s a modern version of the automaton.  Of course we have more sophisticated R/C cars and roombas now.  Some day soon there will be self-driving cars. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANDREA CRUZ-Tiny Desk Concert #836 (March 27, 2019).

I was really surprised by the music that Andrea Cruz played, especially when I learned she is from Puerto Rico.  It felt very folk-music, in the way she strummed and the trombone (Jomar Santana) was used more as a solo instrument rather than a dance-accompaniment.  That’s certainly reductive, and yet the blurb backs me up:

It’s important to note that the instrumentation of the band that traveled with her (keyboard, two percussionists and trombone) hardly fits what you’d expect music from the island to sound like these days. But Cruz is part of a movement in Puerto Rico that emphasizes largely acoustic instruments and a folk-based approach to interpreting life before and after the hurricane of 2017. It’s a bold creative statement in a land of reggaeton and salsa.

I was very pleased to see that Cruz’s live performance is very much like the stripped-down sound on her album and the handful of singles she’s released. In fact, I would say her music is a perfect soundtrack to a growing, back-to-nature movement in Puerto Rico that encourages local farming and a careful stewardship of the environment.

Cruz sings three songs, all from her first album, 2017’s Tejido de Laurel.

“No Toquemos Tierra,” opens with a lone trombone and Cruz’ guitar.  I love the delicate keyboard accents from Antony Granados. It looks funny that there are two of them playing the tiny percussion kit, but that changes later.  The way Cruz plays her guitar here I almost expected her to bust out into something like Laura Marling a few times.  The coda at the end is really pretty, too.

The emotion of the lyrics of the first song, “No Toquemos Tierra,” is evident in her angelic voice as she makes a declaration of love for the earth as a metaphor for a lover. The beauty of the song is in her poetic lyrics set to a melody that defies language.

“Santas Flores” is a prayer to the flowers.  I love in the middle that everything drops away except for the percussion and her voice.  I’m very curious how that trombone is so quiet.

“Canción de Amargura” begins with a martial beat from Francisco Marrero but when Ángel Rafael Rivera plays the cuatro venezolano, the mood lightens.  Despite the fact that this is an intense song

there was no mistaking the intense feeling behind her song about femicide on the island in the song, “Canción de Amargura.”

Their voices raised in harmony at the end are really powerful and the way her own voice just soars in the last few seconds is really lovely.

“Contigo” is listed as a fourth song but she doesn’t play it, I don’t think.

[READ: March 31, 2019] “The Match”

This is an excerpt from Whitehead’s not-yet-released book The Nickel Boys, which is set around 1964.

This part is about a boxing match at The Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys.  The main competitor is a black boy named Griff.   He is a miserable bully most of the time and the other boys really hate him.  But if he has the chance to defeat a white boy, they are all for him.

The “colored boys” had held the boxing title for fifteen years.  “Old hands on the staff still remembered the last white champion [Terry (Doc) Burns] and talked him up.”

Griff arrived at Nickel just after the last champ turned eighteen and was released back in to the free world.  Griff pulverized his opponents.  At the end of the school year, they would pit the dorm’s best fighters against each other and then in the finale, the best black fighter fought “whatever chump the white guys put up.”

Obviously, racism is inherent in this system.  Indeed, Trevor Nickel who opened the Academy was a member of the Klan.  During one of the brief asides, Turner, brought Elwood to the two trees in the back.  There were rings embedded in the trees, part of the trunk now: “Human bones would break before it came loose.”  This was where the black boys who disobeyed were brought.  The official word was that they escaped, obviously they did not. (more…)

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