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Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OPEN MIKE EAGLE-Tiny Desk Concert #685 (January 3, 2018).

I had seen Iron Mike Eagle’s album on a lot of Year End Best of lists, but I hadn’t heard of him before.  Well, I absolutely loved his Tiny Desk Concert and I’m ready to get his album as well.

I love that the “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” starts with a live trumpet and the rest of the band is there playing live, too–two synths, a live bass and Mike on some kind of techie gadget.  But the great thing about this Concert is Mike’s delivery.

He sings/raps and he’s got an uplifting style of rapping combined with the spare but cool/weird music that fit with the lyrics.

And it’s really the lyrics that won me over.

Everybody’s secrets inspire all of my scenes
I write in all of my fantasies and I die in all of my dreams
My superpowers I maintain
I take control of my scene

and the hook:

I done told
Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem
I spun around in circles on the globe
So who the hell could ever feel at home

I could tell that  the lyrics were pretty interesting, but I was surprised to read:

Open Mike Eagle may have released one of the most political albums of 2017, but Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is also among the most personal. It comes across best in his live performances. For only the second time during his recent tour cycle, the LA-based artist played a set aided by the live instrumentation of musicians Jordan Katz (trumpet, keys, sampler), Josh Lopez (keys, sampler) and Brandon Owens (bass) for his Tiny Desk debut.

He performed two songs from the stellar Brick.  The title comes from:

It’s been a decade since the last brick fell from the Robert Taylor Homes, the old Chicago Housing Authority project personified on the record. Yet, when it comes to excavating the politics of place, and all the racial implications inherent in cultural erasure, there is no project released in recent years that comes close.

“Daydreaming in the Projects” is, like the other songs, political but warm:

(This goes out to)
Ghetto children, making codewords
In the projects around the world
Ghetto children, fighting dragons
In the projects around the world

and then this seemingly nonsensical rhyme that speaks volumes

Everything is better when you don’t know nothing
I’m grown so I’m always disgusted
All these discussions online is mayonnaise versus mustard
Mayonnaise people think French can’t be trusted
Mustard people think eggs is all busted
But fuck it
We in it for the pattern interruptions

I love that it is accompanied by a simple but pretty trumpet melody while Jordan is also playing keys.

The set ender “Very Much Money,” from his 2014 album Dark Comedy, is tremendous.

What a great verse:

My friends are superheros
None of us have very much money though
They can fly, run fast, read Portuguese
None of us have very much money though
They know judo and yoga, photography, politics
Some of them leap over buildings
Writers, magicians, comedians, astronauts
None of it mattered when niggas was hungry

All to a catchy, cool beat that is in the spirit of bands like De La Soul, but far more modern and powerful.  Great stuff.  And if “Very Much Money” is representative, I need to check out his old stuff too.  And maybe even the other three (!) bands he’s with: he is a member of the hip hop collective Project Blowed. He is also a member of Thirsty Fish and Swim Team.

 

[READ: October 20, 2017] If Found

Tabitha had this book and I thought it looked really cute so I grabbed it not really knowing what it was.

Basically, it is the blank notebook of Montreal artist Elise Gravel.  She says:

At night, when my daughters are asleep, I draw in my blank notebook.  I draw complete nonsense   Whatever comes to my mind.  When I draw in my black notebook, it feels good–it’s as if I let out all the ideas that are bouncing around in my head.  I never critique the drawings in my black notebook. I give myself the right to fail.  To mess up, to create ugly drawings.  I’m kind to myself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CELTIC FROST-Vanity/Nemesis (1990).

I used to like Celtic Frost’s early brand of noise and mayhem.  I had given up by the release of this disc, but I feel like either my friend Al or my old radio station gifted me this CD which I didn’t listen to much.

The recent passing of Martin Ain made me pull this out to see if it was any good.  And it’s an interesting mix of early Frost noise and some progressive tendencies that ultimately lost them earlier fans.

But the music on the disc is as confusing and unruly as the title.  Was this originally a single with those two songs?  They’re not connected in any way on the record.  It’s very strange.

And what’s especially odd is the way the album is sequenced–along with the lead guitarists that accompany the songs.

I see that Ain himself was relegated to backing vocals on all tracks and bass on only track one.  Curt Victor Bryant has taken over bass duties as well as lead guitar duties (on some tracks).

The album opens with a classic Tom Gabriel Warrior “ugh!” and heavy guitars. The first two tracks are like Celtic Frost of old. Low rumbly, minor key, heavy menacing dirges with Warrior’s growling vocals.  And that lead guitar sounds like it comes literally out of nowhere on both tracks–it just feels tacked on, a little too loud, just swirls of guitar–there’s no real playing, it’s just a lead guitar “sound.”

The first surprise comes on track 3 when Michelle Amar sings (quiet) lead vocals and some backing vocals on “Wings of Solitude.”  Amar went on to form the cool short-lived band Sulfur.  After the previous two songs, this feels far more complex although it doesn’t quite work with Gabriel’s grunting vocals.  But there’s some real songwriting going on here.  There’s also a proper guitar solo.  Turns out that on some tracks, lead guitars were supplied by additional musician Ron Marks and he’s a real shredder.

More surprises are in store as “The Name of My Bride” (written by Ain) has these lyrics.

Now, like the tempting snake of old
She has seduced my very soul
She took my rib she stole my heart
And hid it in her bosom’s warmth
Oh mother hallowed be thy name

The mother line aside, these is a broken-hearted love song!  No wonder Warrior kicked him out.

It’s followed by an aching ballad “This Island Earth” which is actually a Bryan Ferry song.  Tom sings a serous achiness and there’s some massive guitar shredding going on.

The second “Side” of the record turns away from this more progressive style with a pretty standard heavy metal music with a wailing solo at the end.  It’s followed by the hilariously named “Phallic Tantrum” complete with guitar noises by Bryant.  “A Kiss or A Whisper” is really heavy with big crushing drums and lots of ughs from Warrior.

“Vanity,” the first title track chugs along pretty nicely with more female backing vocals (I assume from Amar), but its “Nemesis” the is the biggest surprise.  A seven minute song that starts out with a pretty (simple) acoustic guitar melody (and spoken echoed words by Amar and Warrior) for  about a minute and 45 seconds.  Then there’s the ugh! and some chugging riffs.  The verses are kind of plodding but the final line around 4 minutes “Will death cleanse me of this nemesis” is pretty catchy even with Warrior’s lack of singing ability.  There’s a wild solo and then last two minutes are pretty cool.

The bonus track is a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”  This may be the most peculiar cover of this song out there.  If not for the lyrics you would have no idea that this is the song.  Musically, it sounds like any other Celtic Frost song.  I can’t even tell is the main riff is meant to mimic the Bowie melody or if it’s just some random Celtic Frost chords.  The end of the song features Amar whispering something in French (why is she recorded so quietly?).  I assume it’s the French lyrics to Heroes.  No one will say it is better than the original,but it certainly interesting.

Celtic Frost broke up after this album (and then reunited etc), but this is a pretty wild collection of songs–all genres represented.  Many ideas all thrown together all within a pretty simple setting of grunting vocals and heavy guitars.

[READ: February 1, 2016] “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1”

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.

It opens with the amusing sentiment:

After so many study guides, so many practice tests and proficiency and achievement tests, it would have been impossible for us not to learn something, but we forgot everything almost right away and, I’m afraid, for good. The thing that we did learn, and to perfection—the thing that we would remember for the rest of our lives—was how to copy on tests.

At his school especially, the teacher gave mostly multiple choice tests ostensibly in preparation for future standardized tests. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-Whippoorwill EP (2016).

This EP is a collection of some B-sides and Outtakes from their fantastic album Birds Say.  There are five songs, included a stunning cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979.”

The other four songs are the lovely “Whippoorwill” punctuated by scratches from the mandolin and guitar at the end of each line.  Lead vocals seem to be from Auyon, but there’s very rarely one lead vocalist here.  And just when you think the song is a pretty folk song, the end gets bigger, with a cool bass line and louder harmonies.

“Fourth of July” is all about harmonies and a propulsive chorus.  And “Open Door” is almost a capella.  The only music for a time is the scratching of Harris Paseltine’s guitar strings as a rhythm while all four sing beautifully.  This song is faster than many of their others and even features a whistling solo.  There is some minimal violin on this track but it really feels fully a capella.

“Blow the House Down” is an old song (from their debut–when they had a drummer!) reissued here as a foursome.  What’s notable about it is that vocals are supplied almost exclusively by bassist David Senft.  Rather interesting humming bass backing vocals are supplied by everyone else.  It ends with a wailing (for them) noisy solo from Don Mitchell’s electric guitar and Auyon’s violin (it’s even more intense live).

The final song is their terrific cover of “1979.”  I’ve always thought the music for this song was wonderful.  But hearing their version of it I realized how much Corgan’s voice kinda ruins the song.  Hearing these guys harmonize the verse is pretty great.  But hearing them sing full-out on the chorus “I don’t even care” is utterly gorgeous.  Their version is the gold standard for this song now.  It’s a great EP (and three of the guys signed it for me!).

[READ: November 5, 2017] Castle in the Stars

This gorgeous graphic novel was originally published in French and was translated by Anne and Owen Smith.

The title is an intriguing one and while initially confusing, it makes perfect scene when you realize the book is about ballooning: “1868: The Age of Progress, an era of industry… beyond the blue of the sky, where the cold freezes the breath, where the air disappears…the mysetry begins.”

For this story is not just about ballooning, it is about The Secret of Aether.

The story is about young Seraphin. As the book opens, his mother is going into the balloon. His father is yelling at her that she is crazy to go up in the is weather (gorgeous ominous clouds fill the full page). He tries to guilt her into not going.  But her balloon is equipped with a bulb that will light when it gets to the aether, which is her quest.  Then she is up in the air writing in her journal.

She rises to 12,000 meters but… nothing. She’s about to give up when at 12,900 meters the bulb shines brightly and then explodes.  She found it! And she is never seen again. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHNNY CASH-Christmas with JOHNNY CASH (2003).

I am not really a fan of Johnny Cash, but Sarah really likes him.  But we both found this album to be pretty awful.  Someone on Amazon said “This CD was mostly the “droning” Johnny Cash, rather than the compelling Johnny Cash.”  And I have to agree.

The music is pretty spare, almost nonexistent.  And Johnny barely sings at all–it’s either sing-speaking or just narrating.  You will not feel uplifted by this disc in any way.

I will say that the story songs “The Christmas Guest” and “Christmas as I Knew It” are quite moving–but nothing you’d want to hear more than once a season.

The fact that he made so many Christmas discs makes me laugh as well because I can’t help but hear

I love thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
The Christmas Guest
Hark The Herald Angels Sing
The Gifts They Gave
Blue Christmas
Merry Christmas Mary (this song is not meant for Catholics, as Catholics do not forget Mary at all).
O Come All Ye Faithful
Away In A Manger
The Christmas Spirit
Joy To The World
Silent Night
Christmas As I Knew It

[READ: July 21, 2017] Pasmados/Spellbound

Max is an illustrator from Spain (his full name is Max Bardin).

This book collects a number of his prints and places them next to texts from A Map of Astonishment, an unpublished work by Oliver Veek.

It doesn’t really explain that the two items weren’t designed together, so it was a little hard to see how all of the items connected.  The drawings are cool, for sure, and sometimes you can see a connection, but not always.  I also wasn’t sure if the book was sequential in any way (it’s not).

Max has a great cartoon style–big thick lines and oversized/undersized character traits.  The first panel is of a giant, staring goggle eyed at a small skull.  The caption “So it was me who was the weirdo?” doesn’t exactly work, but you could see it connecting–and certainly setting the tone. (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: 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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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID GREILSAMMER-Tiny Desk Concert #674 (November 24, 2017).

It has been quite a while since there has been a classical pianist on Tiny Desk.  I’m unfamiliar with the Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, but his playing is wonderful and his selections are quite fun and diverse.

For this Tiny Desk appearance, Greilsammer begins with his muse Domenico Scarlatti, the 18th-century Italian whose 500-some keyboard sonatas are compelling, colorful snapshots of his decades-long service to Spanish royalty. In the “Sonata in E, K. 380” you can hear a little street band processing along with trumpet fanfares.

Greilsammer describes the piece as sounding very contemporary.  Scarlatti lived 300 years ago and his music sounds ahead of its time.  He says it’s almost jazzy or pop-like harmonies.  He says it feels like he is playing a Beatles song.

Greilsammer follows by jumping ahead 175 years to the eccentric Frenchman Erik Satie, who not only owned seven identical gray velvet suits but, with a freewheeling spaciousness and humor in his music, is often thought of as the precursor to everything from minimalism to new age. His series of mysterious pieces called Gnossiennes strike a particularly sedate mood, capable of neutralizing any source of anxiety.

Greilsammer plays “Gnossienne No. 3” which he describes as full of pop and jazz and colors and harmonies.  He was writing these strange short pieces that at the time people in Paris didn’t understand.  Everybody loves Satie now but just over 100 years ago he was completely misunderstood.

I absolutely love the way the final notes ring out in this room–they are quite haunting

Lastly, Greilsammer takes a left turn to Leoš Janáček, the idiosyncratic Czech composer from the early 20th century, acclaimed for his operas. He set one of them on the moon; another, the dramatically taut and emotionally wrenching Jenůfa, is perhaps the most undervalued opera of a generation. But Janáček also wrote in smaller forms. His piano cycle On An Overgrown Path plays out like a diary of musings, nervous tics, simple pleasures and mysteries. Within the claustrophobic tension that pervades “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away,” you can hear the rustling of wings and the repeated four-note bird call.

Greilsammer says that Janáček lived in the Romantic period and all of his music is enigmatic, with many secretive things.  He wrote things related to dreams and wild scenes with things obsessively haunting him.  In “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away” (from On An Overgrown Path) the theme of the owl comes back many times.  Every time you try to get away from it, it comes back.

For Greilsammer, who recently performed in a working crypt in Harlem, threading these disparate musical fabrics together comes as naturally as, well, playing behind a desk in an office building.

These are some really beautiful and nicely unexpected pieces.

[READ: May 31, 2017] Audubon

I have really enjoyed most of the French graphic novels that come across my desk.  This book, translated by Etienne Gilfillan, is no exception.

It is a biographical sketch of John James Audubon (born Jean-Jacques Audubon in Haiti in 1785).  His story, aside from the whole birding aspect, is quite fascinating in itself. He was an illegitimate child (his father has seduced a servant) who was eventuality adopted by his father (!) and called Forgèére (which means fern).  His father wanted him to escape military conscription, so the boy was sent to Mill Grove in he United States in 1803.  He became a US citizen and there met his wife Lucy Bakewell.

The book actually begins in 1820 with Audubon and two other men sailing on the Mississippi river.  They hit bad weather but all he cares about are his drawings.

Then we jump back to 1812 in Kentucky.  Audubon climbs into a tree to study the swallows who are living in it–some 9,000. He took home more than 100 birds to study them.  And then he tagged some others to study their migratory patterns.

As the end of the book points out, Audubon was one of the world’s greatest naturalists who did a lot for birding. Except he was also responsible for the death of thousands of birds.  There’s a section where he kills two ivory billed woodpeckers.  He is so excited at his luck because they are becoming a rarity. (more…)

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