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Archive for the ‘Helge Dascher’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: POCHONBO ELECTRONIC ENSEMBLE-“Where Are You, Dear General?”

One thing the book does not mention is this song which is played every morning in Pyongyang at 6AM.

There’s a clip of the song being broadcast in front of Pyongyang Station here.

In this clip, the music is creepy and empty, played through exterior speakers and bouncing off of government buildings.  As one person commented, if this music had a color, it would be grey.

This recorded version, by North Korea’s most popular act, is a little different.  It’s much warmer with soft synth not unlike synthy new age from the 70s/80s.

Here’s some detail about the creators of this music (according the BBC):

The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble were formed by Kim Jong-il in the early-80s and were the first North Korean band to use electric guitars, synthesisers and saxophone, drawing on Korean folk music, but also Chinese, Soviet and, to a smaller extent, Western pop. They take their name from the 1937 Battle of Pochonbo, in which a group of guerrillas were led by Kim Il-sung in an attack on occupying Japanese forces (yet, despite this, they have toured in Japan). They’ve released over 150 CDs.

After 2 minutes of spacey intro, the vocals come in–a big chorus of voices asking “Supreme Headquarters. Where are you? Lead us to you.”

At 3 minutes the lead vocals come in, sung by Hyon Song-wol.  The music stays much the same (with echoing sounds and trippy synths) but Hyon Song-wol’s voice soars over the top and is quite lovely as she sings unabashed propaganda wonder where their supreme general is and when he will keep them warm and safe.

For a longer essay about this mysterious wake up alarm, check out this article from nknews.

[READ: December 29, 2019] Pyongyang

I really enjoyed Delisle’s A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting.  It was very funny and I really liked his drawing style.  Delisle has written several other books (published by Drawn & Quarterly) and I was really excited to see this one come across my desk (it’s a 2018 printing although it doesn’t look like there’s anything added).

The introduction by director Gore Verbinsky sets the stage for what this book is.  In 2001, Delisle was allowed into North Korea to work on an animated cartoon for two months.

In animated movies, there are “key frames” which are sort of the highlight moments.  In between these key frames are where the North Korean animators draw–the in-betweens.  Canadian and Europeans (and some American) directors then supervise the completion–often trying very hard to get the animators to understand simple Western ideas.

Verbinsky says that Delisle “reduces the amplitude to get underneath the narrative and break down a belief system into something infinitely relatable.  He looks at the daily life of people existing in these “in-betweens” and looks at the citizens who “exist in a bubble of fear.”

The book was translated by Helge Dascher.

Delisle’s self-portrait character is a simply drawn man with a big nose, tiny eyes and a very expressive face. As the story opens he is at customs where they ask about the book he brought (1984–with a funny scene about that later) and his music Aphex Twin.  His driver picks him up from the airport–you don’t go anywhere in North Korea without an escort.  Delilse is shocked that the driver is smoking in than air conditioned car with the windows closed:  “Great.  I can’t breathe and I’m cold.” (more…)

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dq25SOUNDTRACK: ARCHER PREWITT-“O, KY” (2005).

wikldernessArcher Prewitt formed The Coctails (a kitschy lounge act) in the early 90s, several years before the lounge revival.  Then he joined The Sea and Cake and has been making amazing music with them.  And he has also released several solo albums.

He has also published some comics (Sof’ Boy) with Drawn & Quarterly.

This song comes from his album Wilderness.  The title of the song is clever, too.

It’s upbeat and folky with a little psychedlia and rock thrown in.  I like Prewitt’s voice quite a bit–it’s simple but really strong.  But the selling point on this song (and others from this album that I have listened to) is the composition and arrangement of these songs.

I like the way this one goes from simple guitar to orchestration (although presumably not a real orchestra) for the chorus.  And how post chorus there are flutes and other instruments to pick up the momentum which adds a vaguely psychedelic feel to it.

At four minutes (the song is five) it changes direction entirely and turns into a nearly new song with big guitars and drums. And it rather rocks.

And just to make Archer the all around dude that he is.  He also drew the cover art.  Jeez.  He’s probably super nice and friendly, too.

[READ: January 3, 2016] Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty Five Years 

I have liked a lot of D+Q books for a long time, although I never really considered a comprehensive look at their publishing house.  This book–about 775 pages long–is about as comprehensive as it gets.

This book contains a few previously published cartoons and excerpts as well as a whole slew of previously unpublished pieces.  There are essays and histories and reminiscences and love love love for the little Montreal graphic novel publisher.

I didn’t know much about the history of D+Q–that Chris Oliveros started the publisher in 1989 out of his house.  That he was the only employee for years.  And that he was essential in getting the term “graphic novel” used by everyone–including the library of congress!

He weathered distribution problems, he weathered the rise and fall of indie comics in the late 90s and he has come through with some of the most beautiful books published.  D+Q has also brought attention to foreign artists as well as out of print artists.

Really, if you have any respect for graphic novels (that aren’t superhero-based) you owe thanks to D+Q. (more…)

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godboutSOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-“Carry the Zero” (1999).

zeroI loved “Carry the Zero” so much that I immediately bought the CD single (that’s what you did back in the 90s).

The Ep contains 6 songs.  There’s two tracks from Keep It Like a Secret (“Carry the Zero” & “Sidewalk” which is good in itself), 2 new songs (“Forget Remember When” and “Now & Then”) and 2 live songs “Kicked it in the Sun” and “Big Dipper.”

The two unreleased songs are good, but neither one is quite as immediate as anything on the album.  Of course, if you’re looking for extra BtS tracks, these are just waiting for you.

The real gems are the two live songs.  Both of them are solo acoustic guitar recordings recorded in a tiny setting.  They are quite different from the album.  I feel that “Big Dipper” fares a little better since the song is simpler.  There are some complex chord changes in “Kicked It in the Sun” which lose a little of their immediacy in the stripped down version.  Which is not to say that it’s bad–the first half of the song sounds great–it’s when it gets to the middle that it feels a little cumbersome.

So this is certainly a die-hards only release, but if you’re looking for some unusual BtS recordings, this is a great place to start.

[READ:October 2, 2015] Amerika

This is a graphic novel version of Franz Kafka’s Amerika.  And it is really well done.  The artwork is fantastic–clean lines, distinctive characters and wonderfully detailed background scenes.

I don’t know the original story at all, so I assume that Godbout was faithful to it (the back of the book says he was). Actually, this graphic novel was translated by Helge Dascher, so I wonder if she translated Godbout of Kafka?

Unlike so much of Kafka, this story isn’t really “Kafkaesque.”  There is some darkness to it and there are machinations of trouble for the main character, but it is not a perpetual state of nightmarish life.

Karl Rossmann is a young immigrant to America.  (Kafka had never been to America, but he gets quite a lot right).  He was sent to America because of an embarrassing sexual incident (which is rendered rather humorously).  When he arrives in New York harbor, he disembarks from the ship but forgets his umbrella.  So he races back on the ship.  But instead of finding it, he runs into the ship’s engine stoker.  The hulking man is suspicious if him, but after they talk for a few minutes Karl convinces the stoker to air his grievances about his supervisor to the ship’s captain. (more…)

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reunionSOUNDTRACK: KATE TEMPEST-Tiny Desk Concert #456 (July 21, 2015).

kateKate Tempest is a British poet/rapper (and darling of NPR).  She raps with a really heavy South London accent and raps about the “everyday.”  But because she is a poet, her lyrics are really incisive.  And, when she sings, she throws in some really catchy choruses as well.  Her song “Lonely Daze” surprises when the big catchy chorus come in.

Although she doesn’t do that for this Tiny Desk.

Rather, she opens with an incredibly moving poem called “Ballad of a Hero.”  It is an anti-war poem that takes an amazingly personal look at soldiers and the sons of soldiers.  The NPR blurb says “Kate Tempest will connect you with your emotions and the cold, callous world around you. You may cry.”  When I first started listening to her Tiny Desk, I wasn’t really paying attention to the words of this poem, but by the end, I was totally hooked, and yes, I did cry.

The final lines:

I don’t support the war my son.
I don’t believe it’s right,
but I do support the soldiers
that go off to war to fight.

Troops just like your daddy, son;
soldiers through and through.
Who wear their uniform with pride
and do what they’re told to do

When you’re grown my sweet, my love
Please don’t go fighting wars.
But fight the men that start them
or fight a cause that’s yours.

It seems so full of honour, yes,
So valiant, so bold,
But the men that send the armies in.
Send them in for gold.

Or they send them in for oil,
And they tell us it’s for Britain
but the men come home like Daddy
and spend their days just drinking.

Despite the intensity of the poem (and her other lyrics), it’s fun to watch her rap because she always seems to be smiling.  And on the two songs she does “The Beigeness” and “Truth” she is so into it.  Her hand gestures and emphasis really complete the song.  And there’s also the matter of her accent–so noticeable and strangely musical.

I don’t know what the original music of these songs is like.  I gather from the official titles (“The Beigeness (KwAkE BASS remix)” and “The Truth (KwAkE BASS remix)”) that they must sound different on the record.  And KwAkE BASS plays around with her voice, adding echoes and interesting effects that add to the music).

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve heard from Tempest, I’m just not entirely sure I would listen to a whole album of hers.

[READ: July 23, 2015] Reunion

When I saw this book by Girard in the library I immediately flashed back to reading his other book.   I recognized his style (the self-portrait of the main character Pascal made him look much older and more frumpy than he actually was.  But what I’d forgotten was just how much of a dick everyone in the book was.

And it’s even more so in the this book.

It’s clear that Girard has a style and that his humor comes from everyone in the book (including the protagonist) being jut awful.  Last time I wasn’t sure if it was just the way Helge Dascher translated the book (and again, it may be her since she does this one too) but I now think that Girard may just have a very poor opinion of people.

This book culminates in a ten-year reunion. And all of Pascal’s actions leads up to it. (more…)

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anoukSOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS- We All Raise Our Voices to the Air (Live Songs 04.11–08.11) (2012).

220px-The_Decemberists_-_We_All_Raise_Our_Voices_to_the_Air I have been a Decemberists fan for a while, so I was bummed that they went on hiatus.  Although I understand they have a new album in the works for next year.  Yay!

This live album came after the tour of their then last record, The King is Dead.  I had heard a number of concerts (mostly on NPR) of their previous tour in which they played the entire epic playing live for The Hazards of Love album in sequence.  That was pretty awesome, both because of its complexity and because they had so many guests with them.

The King is Dead was a decidedly simpler record–one of the simplest they have made–and the live show proved to be an interesting mix of simple and complex rockers.  This collection of songs is not from one show–songs were cherry picked from throughout the tour.

While the show relies heavily on the King is Dead (7 songs out of 20), there’s a bunch from their other records as well.  There’s only one from Hazards of Love (a rollicking “Rakes Song”) but there’s all three parts of the titular “Crane Wife” trilogy.  And then there’s a few classics thrown in as well.  I love that they have an audience participation of the “Mariner’s Revenge Song” (but I do wish there was a visual as to what the signal that Chris Funk sends out is).

There are only 20 songs since three of them are over 10 minutes long,

This album is a really great summary of The Decemberists live music. The sound quality is different–rawer and less “perfect” sounding than the records.  There’s also nice changes of instrumentation in some of the tracks, with Jenny Conlee’s accordion taking center stage from time to time and lord only knows how many things Chris Funk is doing.

And Colin Meloy proves to be a chatty and funny host, as you might expect from his lyrics.

This is a great document that could have been the band’s last.  Although I’m glad they’ll be releasing more music next year.

[READ: October 10, 2014] Benson’s Cuckoos

My oh my this is a strange book. I am unfamiliar with Ricard’s work.  Evidently she does mostly children books (a series called Anna and Froga) and this is her foray into more adult themed stories,.

In this graphic novel all of the characters are animals with human bodies.  And each character is a different species.  The drawing style is simple and child-like but very effective in conveying emotions and feeling. You can tell a lot from the cover image above.

The story opens with a blue headed duck (Richard) applying for a job at the titular Cuckoo factory.  He hands in his resume the boss (the big poodle looking guy on the cover) And the boss says, “What kind of lousy paper is this?”  Confused, Richard replies, “Uh… printer paper.” To which the boss responds, “Yes it is.  That’s one point for you.”  The boss is clearly cuckoo.  He draws a mustache on Richard’s picture and then tell him he look stupid.  Then he asks if he can touch his toes, and then basically hires him without even actually saying that he is hired.  Richard is pleased except that he has to bring his own computer to work.

The rest of the staff proves to be just as weird. The frog looking lady with the Annie wig gets mad that he doesn’t want to see her panties in the elevator and then offers curt responses to everything he says for the next few pages.  But it’s during the first conference meeting (in which Richard is expected to do a presentation even though he was given no materials to work with) that we learn that he was hired because George has gone missing.  (more…)

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oloveSOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Jackson Park Express” (2014).

jpaThe final song on Mandatory Fun is a nearly 9 minute epic which is a parody of Cat Stevens’ style of music.  I would never have guessed that without having read this information online.  However, on listening to it more and more I can hear a lot of Cat Stevens-isms (piano lines and style of chord progressions, although definitely not in the singing style).  I also don’t know if the content is meant to be in reference to the Cat (well, a twisted version of the Cat, of course).

I typically love Al’s longer epic songs, but this one didn’t grab me at first.  Yet after a few listens, I’ve really come to appreciate the twisted humor going on here.   The song starts with some simple pretty acoustic guitars but quickly turns epic with swelling strings and backing vocalists.

The story is about two people on the Jackson Park Express bus in Chicago.  The entire relationship that unfolds is entirely in the narrator’s head.  He bases everything that happens upon the looks she gives him and implies everything through his own looks to her.  As with many Al songs, it starts not just mundanely, but actually sweetly.

I was riding to work on the
Jackson Park Express
Seemed like any other day
Then my whole world changed
In a way I never could have guessed
Cause she walked in
Took the seat right across the aisle
I knew we had a special connection
The second I saw her smile

Pretty nice, right?  And so we see the two communicate (in his mind) nonverbally

She smiled as if to say
“Hello, Haven’t seen you on this bus before”
I gave her a look that said
“Huh, Life is funny, you never know what’s in store
By the way, your hair is beautiful

Again, pretty sweet, until we get to the first wonderfully odd Al line (about her hair)

“I bet it smells like raisins”

And it just gets funnier as it goes on:

Then, she let out a long sigh
Which, I took to mean, “Uh”
“Mama, What is that deodorant you’re wearing?
It’s intoxicating
Why don’t we drive out to the country sometime?
And collect deer ticks in a zip-lock baggie”
I also really enjoyed this punchline:
I gave her a penetrating stare
Which could only mean
“You are my answer, my answer to everything
Which is why, I’ll probably do very poorly
On the written part of my driver’s test”

The song gets really dark and creepy, with (hilarious) lines like:

I gave her a look, that said
“I would make any sacrifice for your love–
Goat, chicken, whatever

And the far more creepy:

Whoa-o-Oh, “I’d like to rip you wide open
And french-kiss every single one of your internal organs
Oh, I’d like to remove all your skin, and wear your skin, over my own skin–
But not in a creepy way”

This is also Al’s most “sexual” song ever, with a line about french kissing (true, it is her organs, but whatever), and this hilarious dramatic pause:

Then, I glanced down, at her shirt, for a second
In a way that clearly implied–
“I like your boobs”

and this other hilarious dramatic pause:

I want you inside me…
oh, like a tapeworm”

But the romance was not to be.  She leaves the bus, despite his nonverbal pleading

Think of the beautiful children we could have someday
We could school them at home, Raise them up the right way
And protect them from the evils of the world
Like Trigonometry and Prime Numbers, oh no
Baby, please don’t go”

There is to be no romance on this bus line.

This is truly a love it or hate it song, but as with most of Al’s epic songs, the more I hear it, the more I love it.  And I can’t wait to see if he plays it live.

[READ: August 3, 2014] On Loving Women

This book is a collection of brief stories about women’s first crushes on other women.  I don’t know how the collection was compiled exactly, but it appears that various women told Obomsawin their stories and she made these fun little comic strip panels out of them.  (Helge Dascher translated them into English–she also did Pascal Girard’s book, that I posted about yesterday).

Each story is named (presumably) after the woman who related it to her.  And each one becomes a simple (but not overly simple) version of the attraction.

Mathilde is obsessed with horses and falls for girls with horse faces (the drawing that accompany this are funny because Mathilda is drawn like a kangaroo or something and the girls she likes are horses.  The ending of this one, about how she learns sign language was very touching.

Indeed, in all of the stories, the women have animal heads and human bodies (but not weird hybrid creatures, just cute cartoony creatures). (more…)

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pettySOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Now That’s What I Call Polka” (2014).

npwpolkI knew that Al wouldn’t make a video for his polka medley (always a highlight of his albums).

I was surprised that I knew so many of these songs (on the last album I knew hardly any of the apparently huge songs that made up the medley).  So either I listen to more mainstream music now (or, perhaps I have kids who know more mainstream music) or the music was just much huger this time around.

This batch includes: “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People “Best Song Ever” by One Direction (I didn’t know this one, and I crack up at the childish way he makes the “best song” sound like gagging) “Gangnam Style” by Psy “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen “Scream & Shout” by will.i.am featuring Britney Spears (I didn’t know this one) “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra (I can’t believe how different this one sounds) “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha (I didn’t know this one) “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO (or this one) “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz (or this one, amazingly) “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams.

It’s in these medley’s that Al’s lyrics are the most graphic, because he’s actually singing other pop lyrics, not his own.

It’s always fun when he sings this live because he matches up the original videos to his new sped-up tempo.  Looking forward to Mandatory Fun Live in 2014 (or 15).

[READ: August 3, 2014] Petty Theft

I was intrigued by this story because of the strange cover art–two people in a book store–a hunched over guy and a pretty girl–both reading books.

The story is about Pascal.  He and his long time girlfriend have broken up and he is in a hellish limbo. He’s staying in a friend’s spare room and he is not drawing anymore.  In fact, he’s looking for a major change in his life–the whole cartooning thing isn’t working out for him.  The only comfort he has left is running, but on his last run he hurt his back and has been laid up practically immobile for weeks.

He goes to the chiropractor who helps him out some (although it hurts him as much as his back already hurts).  But she tells him that he cannot run for a couple of months.  He is despondent.  So he decides to go to the bookstore, his favorite local indie shop of course, and look around.  While he’s looking around he sees a girl pick up his own book (Bigfoot)…and steal it.  He is offended and intrigued at the same time.  He tries to follow her but loses her in a crowd.  And now he has to decide what to do.  Especially since he hears the clerks talking about how many books have gone missing lately.  And because he thinks the girl is really cute (and she likes his book!) (more…)

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