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Archive for the ‘Philip Gabriel’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-Tiny Desk Concert #892 (September 20, 2019).

It used to be that no one was invited back to play a Tiny Desk Concert.  The rules have been relaxed somewhat as of late (I would have thought that maybe they’d wait until 1000 shows).

The blurb explains why they (she) was invited back though.

Luz Elena Mendoza has such a far-reaching creative spirit that it’s almost impossible to confine her to a single musical identity. Which is why she’s one of just a handful of artists who’ve been invited back to the Tiny Desk to offer a revised musical vision.

Y La Bamba was on back in 2011 and they played a more acoustic style of music–accordion, percussion, guitar and lot of singers.  For this show, lead Bamba, Luz Elena Mendoza looks quite different.  In 2011, her hair was black and long, here it is silver and short–the neck tattoo is the same, though.

When she was here last with the band Y La Bamba, it was a vocal-heavy, folk outfit. The band’s sound has always been about vocals and her music has become even more so over the years.

Back in May, Y La Bamba played Non-Comm and Mendoza was pretty confrontational.  She is less so here, allowing the music to speak for her.

And the music is quite different.  It’s almost all in Spanish this time.  There’s a second guitarist (Ryan Oxford), a bass (Zachary Teran), and a drummer (Miguel Jimenez-Cruz).  She also has two backing singers, Julia Mendiolea who also plays keyboard and Isabeau Waia’u Walker.

I knew that Y La Bamba was the project of Mendoza, but i didn’t realize she did everything herself:

Y La Bamba’s albums are meticulously crafted sonic treats with her vocals layered like a choir made with a single voice. But in our offices, she called on vocalist Isabeau Waia’u Walker to replicate their distinct sound.

There’s a great variety of styles in this Tiny Desk.

“Paloma Negra” (“Black Pigeon”) [also played at Non-Comm] benefits from the voices of the entire band in a high-energy mediation on rhythm and voice.

It’s got a groovy, funky bassline and some cool echoing guitars.  There’s a tension in the verses that is totally relieved in the super catchy chorus.

This song segues into “Rios Sueltos” which is a kind of rap–but sung.  It’s bouncy and catchy but I sense is probably not a happy song, despite the catchy “hey ey ey heys” in the middle.

The song ends with a rumbling from Mendoza’s guitar as she starts up “Bruja de Brujas” [also played at Non-Comm].

There is a bruja energy and spirit to their performance, and not in the negative connotation that is the Spanish word for “witch.” In Luz Elena Mendoza’s hands a brujeria spirit is all about conjuring the kind of magic that took place on this video.

The song opens with a cool bass line and a somewhat menacing feel.  It starts quietly, but when all three vocalists sing together it’s really lovely.

At the end of the song she sinks to the ground to play with her effects as the song fades out with trippy sounds.   She jokes, “And aliens came down.:

Then she realizes, “we forgot to do one more.  Sorry the aliens did come down… and took my brain.”

The final song is the fantastic “Cuatro Crazy” [also played at Non-Comm].  It is sweet and pretty and has echoing guitars and a vocal style not unlike a Cocteau Twins song.  It even ends with a lot of “dah dah dah dahs.”

I really enjoy their music quite a lot and should really look into their stuff more.

[READ: October 6, 2019] “Abandoning a Cat”

This essay is, indeed, about abandoning a cat.  The cat story has a happy ending (although another one might not).  But mostly the essay is about how mundane events trigger memories of our parents.

He says that when he was little, his family had an older cat and they needed to get rid of it.  “Getting rid of cats back then was a common occurrence, not something that anyone would criticize you for.  The idea of neutering cats never crossed anyone’s mind.”

His father took the bike and he sat on the back with the cat in a box.  They rode to the beach about 2 km from their house, put the box down, and headed back.

When they returned home, they opened the door and there was the cat “greeting us with a friendly meow, its tail standing tall.”  His father’s expression of blank amazement “changed to one of admiration and, finally, to an expression of relief.  And the cat went back to being out pet.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE McCRARY SISTERS AND THE FAIRFIELD FOUR-“Rock My Soul” (Field Recordings, September 20, 2015).

Hearing these eight voices intertwine so beautifully is wonderful (I especially love the bass voice).  Knowing how the voices are connected is pretty cool, too.

The original Fairfield Four was founded nearly 95 years ago in Nashville, and has remained relevant into the present day; many current listeners know the group from its appearance in the Coen Brothers’ 2000 film O, Brother, Where Art Thou? The McCrary Sisters are the daughters of the now-deceased longtime Fairfield Four lead voice, Samuel McCrary; together, they’ve made a major impact as that rare thing in a mostly masculine preserve, a female gospel quartet. To hear these voices perform “Rock My Soul” together is to feel the power of living history and the timelessness of family connection.

“Rock My Soul,” powered by their persistent clapping is just wonderful.  Their voices sound amazing, their harmonies are wonderful. It’s a joyful three minutes.

[READ: August 29, 2018] “The Wind Cave”

This is a somber story from Murakami.

It concerns a boy and the death of his younger sister when she was 12.  She was born with a malfunctioning heart valve and although she was never robust, it was still a surprise that she died so young.

His parents told him to watch over her, to look after her because she was so delicate.  The fact hat he couldn’t save her from death (no one could) has hung over him.

He hated seeing her in the coffin and he grew claustrophobic even thinking about her in that tiny box.  The symptoms didn’t start right away but occurred after he had been locked in a box truck.  He was working a part time job and was accidentally locked into the back of the truck when people wanted to leave early.  (Frankly I would think that might trigger claustrophobia more than anything having to do with his sister).

But now he can no longer ride in elevators or watch movies about submarines. (more…)

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6916SOUNDTRACK: MARGARET GLASPY-Tiny Desk Concert #560 (August 22, 2016).

margaretI really love Glaspy’s 2016 album Emotions & Math.  Her lyrics are sharp, her voice is unusual and mesmerizing and her guitar licks are simple but just chock full of hooks.  What’s not to like?

This Tiny Desk sees her playing songs from that album. Her band is just a bassist, a drummer and her on guitar and voice.

“Emotions & Math” starts off quietly with just bass and drums while she sings in that unique way of hers.  Then the guitar comes in–it’s nothing fancy, but it plays off the bass notes in a very cool way.  And it’s super catchy too.

“Love Like This” opens with a cool bass and drums rhythm–bouncy and tribal.  And when her guitar comes in, it’s with a ripping couple of chords before disappearing again.  Once again, the bass is rumbling along with her chords accenting in a neat way.

“You and I” bounces along with some low chords and bass and Glaspy’s most growly vocals. This song features the first “solo” which is really just the notes of the chords played, but it really stands out among the deep notes.  And once again, the whole business is really catchy.

“Somebody to Anybody” is just her singing and playing guitar.  Although it feels a little quiet without the rhythm section, she fills in more guitar parts on this song and it feels quite full.  And the chorus is, that word again, very catchy.

It was this Tiny Desk that sold me on getting her album, and I’m glad I did.

[READ: March 17, 2016] “The Running Novelist”

This essay appeared in the Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker.  Since I really like Murakami, and hope to read more of him one of the days, I’m going to include this essay because it is as surprising as some of his fiction.

This is the story of how he became a runner and how he became a novelist.

He had been the owner of a small jazz club (which I feel he has written about in one of his stories).  It stayed open late and was a novelty in Tokyo at the time.  He had a niche audience and while many people didn’t like the place, he had a steady clientele.

His friends said it would never work, but he didn’t listen and he became quietly successful.  He was there in the morning and worked late at night.  And once he made a profit he hired people to help him out. (more…)

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slowreadSOUNDTRACK: DIRTY THREE-Tiny Desk Concert #245 (October 15, 2012).

dirty-3For a Murakami collection I should really have picked a jazz Tiny Desk Concert.  But none jumped out at my on my list.  So I decided to do something that might be jazzy in spirit, even if it is nothing like jazz at all.

Dirty Three are a three-piece band which consists of violinist Warren Ellis (who works closely with Nick Cave), drummer Jim White (who I had the pleasure of seeing live with Xylouris White), and guitarist Mick Turner (who has released a string of gorgeous instrumental solo albums and worked a lot with Will Oldham).

I’ve liked Dirty Three for years, although I kind of lost touch with them back around 2000.  So it was fun to see that they are still working.  (They’ve released all of 3 albums since 2000).

Jim White plays an eccentric but very cool style of drum–it always feels improvised and random, and maybe it is, but it’s never “wrong.”  Turner is the only one who is keeping the song, shall we say, “stable.”  He’s got the rhythm and melody both with his strumming.  And Ellis is all over the place with melody lines and bowing.

For this Tiny Desk, they play three songs.  Their music is ostensibly instrumental although Warren Ellis is not above shouting and yelling and keening when appropriate.

The first two songs are from their 2012 album and the last one is from Ocean Songs.

“Rain Song” opens with Ellis strumming the violin while Turner plays slightly different chords.  Then Ellis takes off on a series of spiralling violin rolls.  As always, White is back there waving his arms around with the loosest grip on drumsticks I’ve ever seen.  He plays brushes on this song but the drums are far from quiet.  Meanwhile Ellis is soloing away, yelling where appropriate and doing high kicks when White hits the cymbals.   As the song comes to an end, White is going nuts on the drums and Ellis takes off his jacket (revealing a wonderful purple shirt) .  He starts screaming wildly as he physically gets into his violin playing.

“The Pier” is about realizing that it’s the rest of the world that is driving you crazy.  It’s about “trying to undermine Facebook and realize a new way of communicating with people beyond the internet.”  It’ about… are you ready Mick?  Okay.  “The Pier” is a slower song with some plucked violin.  Ellis climbs up on the desk and dances around as he plays.  This one feels a but more controlled but in no way staid.

For “Last Horse in the Sand,” white switches to mallets and adds a tambourine to his cymbal.  It’s really interesting to watch White play around with things–moving his gear around as he plays.  He switches sticks and seems to be not even paying attention, but without ever really losing momentum or timing.  For this song, Ellis and Turner are the mellow ones while White is just all over the place with his amazing drumming.

I haven’t said anything about Turner because he is really the grounding of the band, while the other two are taking flights of fancy.

This is a wild and untamed set and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s also amusing to watch the audience witnessing this seeming chaos.

[READ: December 16, 2016] Slow Reader Vol. 1

Madras Press had released 16 small books, which I enjoyed reading quite a lot.  I have posted about some and will post about more in the new year.  But word is that they have given up on the small books and have switched their attention to a new magazine/journal called Slow Reader.  The first issue came out this month and it collects stories, essays, poems, illustrations, and other things that center around novelist Haruki Murakami.

Support this small press!  You can order this issue directly (and name your price, although I think the asking price is $6).

From an article elsewhere I’ve learned that future issues will cluster around M.F.K. Fisher, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Patricia Highsmith.

This issue contains essays, fiction and illustrations, some dating back as far as 2000.

CHIP KIDD-cover illustration (wind-up bird)
Chip Kidd is awesome

GRANT SNIDER-Murakami Bingo Board
This bingo is hilariously apt–covering most of the bases of Murakami’s writing: cats, jazz, running, and even a Chip Kidd cover.

JESSE BALL-Sheep Man
A line drawing of a sheep standing upright with the caption “The sheep man’s peculiar tail was never visible to me.”

HARRIET LEE-MERRION-Diner illustration
A nice line drawing of a corner diner

KAREN MURPHY-Sputnik and two moon illustrations
Two simple drawings of Sputnik and two moons.

BEIDI GUO-Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World map
A cool map of the locations of the novel.

DINA AVILA–Murakami Tasting Menu at Nodoguro in Portland, OR
I don’t really get if the menu items are related to the stories but it’s a neat idea that there are foods named after his works. But why are so many called IQ84?

EUGENIA BURCHI–IQ84 menus
A drawing of foods with what I think are character names (I haven’t read the novel yet).

FABIO VALESINI-train illustrations taken from the book trailer for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
No idea what the original context is, but it’s a neat, clean drawing of a train station.

JEFFREY BROWN-“In Conversation” What Jeffrey Brown Thinks About
The first piece is an amusing cartoon in which Brown scores a job at an indie bookstore by mentioning Murakami.  The little blurb says that it is an only slightly exaggerated account. There’s also a later picture by Brown of Murakami’s face posted on a bulletin board (with a lost cat flier), that’s really great.

DANIEL HANDLER-“I Love Murakami”
Handler begins his piece by apologizing to dozens of authors before saying that Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction.  He mentions a few books but heaps a ton of praise on Wind Up Bird Chronicles and mentions his excitement at  finally getting Norwegian Wood in English (it had been untranslated for many years).  He wrote this essay in 2000.

YOKO OGAWA-“On Murakami’s “The Last Lawn of the Afternoon” [Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder]
Ogawa writes about a house in her neighborhood which has a lawn that she finds unsettling–it’s perfectly manicured and a pale, cool shade of green.  She is reminded of the Murakami story in which a boy mows a woman’s lawn and she asks him an unexpected question.  Ogawa imagines a woman in that home asking the same kinds of questions.

ETGAR KERET-“What Do We Have in Our Pockets?”
This was inspired by Murakami’s story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.”  This story is about a man whose pockets are always bulging with unusual items.  People often say to him, “What the fuck do you have in your pockets?”  And his answer is that he carries things that he imagines the perfect woman needing–a stamp or a toothpick.  It is a wonderfully charming story.

RIVKA GALCHEN-“The Monkey Did It”
Of all of the items in this collection, this is  the only piece I’d read before.  I remembered parts of it (particularly the excerpts from “A Shinagawa Monkey,” and her talking about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.  I also recalled her saying that she liked his short stories better than his novels, but that she was perhaps wrong in thinking that.  The one thing I didn’t pick up on last time was that in the beginning of the essay she writes about Toricelli’s Trumpet or Gabriel’s Horn–an item with finite volume but infinite surface area.  She says this perfect describes Murakami’s work.  And I love that she ties it to translator Philip Gabriel who is a gentle and modest translator–perfect for the watery novel.

TESS GALLAGHER-“Murakami and Carver Meet at Sky House”
Before he had written any substantial works, Murakami translated Raymond Carver’s works into Japanese.  Ray was excited and bemused that Haruki and his wife Yoko would travel from Japan to meet with him.  This essay tells us that the following poem came about as Ray tried to imagine how his poems could possibly be appreciated in Japan.  Murakami told him how both the Japanese and American people of the 1980s were experiencing humiliation at being unable to make a decent living.  Gallagher says that if they were to meet today Ray would be awkward about Haruki’s stature.  But he would have loved knowing that Murakami had translated everything he had written.

RAYMOND CARVER-“The Projectile”
This poem is wonderful. It begins with Carver speaking about his meeting with Murakami and then flashing back to when he was 16 and was hit with an ice ball.  It was thrown from someone in the street through a small crack in the window of the car he was riding in–a chance in a million.

RICHARD POWERS-“The Global Distributed Self-Mirroring Subterranean Neurological Soul-Sharing Picture Show”
This is the most abstract and “intellectual” of the essays here.  It speaks of a team of neuroscientists discovering a lucky accident–that neurons in the brain fire when someone else makes a motion that we recognize.  Similarly, in Murakami–representation is the beginning of reality.  He speaks of the parallel narratives in Hard Boiled Wonderland.  He wonders at the universality of dreams and ideas in Murakami.  “But if his own stories are steeped in the endless weirdness hiding just inside everyday life, how then to account for Murakami’s astonishing popularity throughout the world?”

MARY MORRIS-“The Interpreter”
I loved this story.  An American business woman is giving a series of lectures in Japan.  She is assigned a translator who goes with her nearly everywhere.  She is a little annoyed that he is always there, but he is very respectful of her and only speaks when spoken to.  She assumes he is translating her speeches correctly, but during one, the audience laughs where there was nothing funny.  She doesn’t want to disrespect him, but she can’t imagine what he said to them.  In the next one, they are practically doubled over with laughter at what he says.  Finally she has to confront him about it.  He reveals astonishing insights into her personal life.  And the next day he is called away–just as she has begun to feel close to him.

In the author’s note, she says that the she was at an writer’s meeting in Princeton (where she teaches) and Murakami was there eating with them. He was by himself, and she talked to him because she was a fan of his work.  She relates a story of holding up a sign for him when he ran the New York City Marathon.  She says that the part about the translator and his family (which I didn’t mention) is from an actual translator she met in Japan.

AIMEE BENDER-“Spelunking with Murakami”
Bender speaks of trusting Murakami.  She says when the cat started speaking in one of his books, she began to mistrust him.  Nevertheless, she says, she loves a lot of writers but only trusts a few of them.  She’s not trusting Murakami’s honesty or his ability to make her smarter.  Rather, she trusts him like a man with a torch in a cave–someone who is willing to explore–and to be in front leading the way.

SUMANTH PRABHAKER-Editor’s Note
Prabhaker would like to ask the world’s philosophers why some things seem to happen to us in a random fashion.

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2015_02_23SOUNDTRACK: THE LOW ANTHEM-Tiny Desk Concert #43 (January 20, 2010).

lowanthemThe Low Anthem grow more charming as the Tiny Desk goes on.  The first cool thing is the story that accompanies them. They played at the Newport Folk Festival and when Bob talked to the organizer about them, the organizer said that “Last year, they were volunteers at the festival, picking up trash.”

Then things get more interesting as each of the three songs introduces new instrumentation and ways of making music.  They brought a lot of gear to this Tiny Desk.

The first song, “Ghost Woman Blues” opens with strummed acoustic guitar and upright bass.  The first surprise comes with the clarinet solo (by harmony vocalist Jocie Adams).  Lead singer Ben Knox Miller has a voice not unlike Vic Chesnutt’s and these songs follow along his rather simple and spare style.

The biggest surprises come in the second song, “This God Damn House.”  Miller starts the song by playing a small bras horn (not sure what it is).  Adams plays more clarinet (in a very cool echoing style) and upright bassist Mat Davidson switches to an old-sounding organ.  But the coolest thing is when Miller takes out his cell phone (what!).  He has dialed another phone in the room which he then answers.  With both phones flipped open (it is 2010 after all), he begins whistling into them, playing with the feedback and echoes and creating a very cool sound to end the song.

It’s a shame there’s a cut to the next song, because I’m sure Bob asked him about that.  For the final song, “To the Ghosts Who Write History Books,” Miller switches to the organ (and harmonica, man that guy is talented). Davidson is back on bass and Adams plays a bunch of cymbals with a violin bow (I wish that was a little louder).

I generally don’t like super mellow music like this, but there’s something really captivating about The Low Anthem–the instrumentation, the voices–something, really elevates them.

There is a drum kit set up although no one uses it.  I can’t imagine it would have made a lot of difference.  Check them out here.

[READ: April 11, 2015] “Kino”

This longer story was a typically enigmatic one from Murakami.  In it, he does a great job of melding the real with the psychological, so that things that seem very surface level are actually much deeper.

Kino is a pretty simple man.  He was a runner until he pulled his Achilles tendon and could no longer run.  So he started working for a shoe company.  He sold the premium shoes to good runners.  The brand was not super popular, but it had a devoted following.  And Kino made decent money for him and his wife.

He was a salesman and often went on business trips.  As happens, he came home early one day to find his wife in bed with a fellow coworker.  He walked out and never went back. (more…)

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