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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Murder of the Universe (2017)

Every KGATLW album is different.  Including this one.  Murder of the Universe is their second album of 2017.  It is narrative concept album split into three separate stories, each containing elements of spoken word to carry a narrative. The first two chapters feature Leah Senior’s narration, while NaturalReader’s “UK, Charles” text-to-speech application narrates the final chapter.  And it totally rocks.  There’s great riff, distorted guitars and harmonicas and lots of whooping vocals.

There are, essentially three stories on this disc.  The first chapter, The Tale of the Altered Beast, is about a human who stumbles on a mystical human/beast hybrid.  The narration is quite long and deadpan and tells a fairly complex story, which starts:

As soon as the dust settles, you can see
A new world in place of where the old one had been
Your skin is crawling with dry, crusted mud
And your naked feet are wet in a pool of blood
And the whistle of the wind in your ears is so loud
That your memories have blown up in a mushroom cloud
And as your eyes accommodate
There appears by the meadow
A brute like a bear with a long, dark shadow
And you violently shake over what you have seen
As you remember the tale of the Altered Beast

Nearly each of the nine tracks has narration interspersed with singing.  There’s a lot of repeated sections, but more as a thematic choice rather than as repetition.  The titles of the songs are indicative of this: Altered Beast I, II, III and IV and Alter Me I, II and III.  But those parts are not simply repeats.  Rather, they allude to each other with repeated riffs and words.  But even though parts are repeated there are plenty of original riffs throughout.

The third part of “Alter Me” has a cool 80’s sci-fi keyboard sound, which works perfectly before the noisy harmonica returns.

The “Altered Beast” story is the longest part of the story at 19 minutes.  And the final “Altered Beast” part has a very nifty fast section that I believe is in 11/4.

The last track “Life/Death” is very different–keyboard-fueled and almost poppy sounding, this final minute of the story is not a happy one.

The second chapter, The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog, focuses on a battle between the forces of light of darkness.   And the segue between the two, called “Some Context” references “People-Vultures” from Nonagon Infinity.

It opens with guitarist Joey Walker’s Mongolian throat singing behind the narration on some of the tracks.  This adds an extra sense of ominousness to the story.

So the main story is a battle between The Lord of Lightning and Balrog and  they each get a song:

When the songs proper start, “The Lord of Lightning’s” theme is somewhat proggy with all kinds of ostinato (to use a term form the narration).  In addition to keyboard parts and some heavy rocking parts, there’s a callback to the chorus of “Nonagon Infinity.”  The music for this chapter is very complicated with fits and starts and various drum lines.

While the interstitials in the first chapter were done with an interesting guitar riff, the interstitials in this part come with a fast rumbling bass line.  “Balrog” has a lot of chanting befits a KGATLW song.

The war comes to a head in the Floating Fire which has more throat singing and a martial beat and its aftermath “The Acrid Corpse” … but which one is the corpse?

The third and final chapter, Han-Tyumi & The Murder of the Universe, is about a cyborg in a digital world who gains consciousness and decides to strive only for what a cyborg cannot do: vomit and die.  How very King Gizzard.  There’s a lot about vomit in this song. Maybe it was just fun hearing the robotic voice say vomit?

He decides to create a creature dubbed the “Soy-Protein Munt Machine” whose only purpose is to vomit. When the creature rejects his love, Han-Tyumi decides to merge with the machine, which causes it to lose control. This machine explodes and infinitely expels vomit, which eventually engulfs the entire universe: and so the universe is murdered.

It opens with keyboard swirls, like the opening credits a sci-fi soap opera

This is a much heavier bunch of songs, like the thumping (with extra drums) on “Digital Black.”  Over a futuristic keyboard section Han-Tyumi recites his problem:

I am bereft of two human things
Two things that a cyborg can never do
Two things that I strive for
Two things between myself and mankind
Death
And
To vomit

This story is bonkers.  But it totally rocks and it leads to the really catchy song (which they played live when I saw them called, what else, “Vomit Coffin.”  The final song is a tour de force of instrumental power while HanTyumi talks of vomiting and getting bigger and bigger until he destroys the universe.  Gross and hilarious and totally rocking.  Destroying the Universe never sounded so good.

[READ: February 28, 2019] Castle in the Stars 2

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

Part two continues with the beautiful look of his book.  I am really fascinated at the way these characters can look at time cartoonish and at times almost photo-realistic (in soft focus).

At the end of the last book our team escaped from certain danger by jumping aboard an aethership.  The crew is Seraphin (whose mother has been lost in the aether when she took a ship there and never returned), Seraphim’s father as well as Seraphim’s friend Sophie (a girl!) and her half-brother Hans (the very cartoony looking character). They are joined by King Ludwig whom we are told at the begiinning of the story just wanted to leave everything behind. (more…)

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

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

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

Here’s some more details they came up with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SOUNDTRACK: REIGNWOLF-“In the Dark” (Field Recordings, June 29, 2012).

This is another Field Recording set at Sasquatch! Music Festival [Reignwolf: A One-Man Rock Show].

I’d never heard of Reignwolf and I’m still not sure if Reignwold is typically a solo project–like here or a band.  “In the Dark” is a simple blues rock song–like Led Zep via the White Stripes.

Jordan Cook plays a noisy, distorted guitar with a metal slide so that there’s pretty much always something coming out of the amp.  After some pretty simple verses he plays a wild, sloppy (broken stringed) solo.

The way he was tearing it up during an impromptu set at the Sasquatch Music Festival, you’d barely notice that Jordan Cook, a.k.a. Reignwolf, broke a string midway through his fiery rendition of “In the Dark” — that is, until you saw the mangled remnants of his guitar, smoldering on the ground after he’d wrenched every wailing chord from its guts.

The song works best when he plays the kick drum.  It adds just enough oomph to make it not seem like a guy playing a guitar.

The Saskatoon native and recent Seattle transplant never misses a beat — literally. When he’s not with a band, he accompanies himself on kick drum and makes enough noise to match a dozen metalheads. In this video, recorded at the artist campground between sets at the festival, Reignwolf causes a ruckus beside his RV and rousts a crowd of sleepy campers into dancing and cheering.

The soloing goes on for a while and the people around him seem to like it.  Although the soloing behind his head is a bit much, but hey, if you can do it, then go ahead!

[READ: February 1, 2017] “The Sightseers”

I really liked a main aspect of this story, and so many of the details.

The story begins with an overprivileged New York family.  They have a maid/cook/gofer named Kiki from Tibet and the husband marvels at Kiki and “their calm, those people.”

The father, Robert, is happy that they no longer go to North East Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving–the round nephews and the piles and piles of food.  For their Thanksgiving they would be having salmon as Robert was training five times a week with a Navy Seal.

When the salmon turns out to be halibut, the son says that wasn’t on the menu (the menus were designed ahead of time to limit daily stress by preparing the children for their dinners ahead of time–there would be no surprises.  The son asks if the next time they have halibut it will be salmon.  The father thinks that’s an excellent suggestion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE COLEMAN-“Ritual” (Field Recordings, April 27, 2012).

This Field Recording was filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival [Steve Coleman And The Invention Of New Languages] is one of the few where the artist speaks over the music.

Coleman talks about the tradition of making vocal sounds with music.  He says that Jen Shyu was a classical singer before she started singing with them.  She is Taiwanese-American and after working with them making sounds (not necessarily words), sometimes she sings snippets of any of the languages she speaks, and sometimes not.

The Asian-American singer Jen Shyu speaks several languages, among them English, Spanish, Portuguese and various East Asian tongues from China, Taiwan and East Timor. But then she started performing with saxophonist Steve Coleman. None of her native tongues would serve for his knotty tunes; “doo-bop-a-da” scat singing wasn’t going to cut it, either. So she had to devise her own sound and fury — perhaps signifying nothing formally, but full of intense personal feeling.

This short piece is trumpet and sax and Jen’s voice and they all seem to be doing their own thing, but it all melds nicely.

Steve Coleman has long been known as an inventor of language — a composer who draws equally from rigorous examination of music theory, esoteric natural science and myth, and Charlie Parker. But you don’t have to speak his language to be entranced by it. There’s flow, and pulse, and delightful chord changes. And, yes, it’s a little disorienting, which seems like part of the point.

Coleman’s vision was on display when his band Five Elements played the Newport Jazz Festival last year. But we wanted to know more. So we brought him, Shyu and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson into the ruins of Fort Adams for a more intimate, stripped-down look at his music. We also asked him for a translation into the English language: “If anything, that’s what this music is…  It’s a lot of different influences, coming from different places — plus, whatever’s coming from inside you, which is the main thing.”

It’s pretty cool to hear what you know is nonsense but still feel it embued with meaning.

[READ: April 10, 2016] “Alone”

I have read a lot of stories by Yiyun Li and I have consistently enjoyed them all.  What I especially like about them is that while none of them are ever “exciting,” (since they are all about small human dramas), none off them are ever boring and none are ever quite the same)..

Most of the stories are an encounter between one to four people and they have something in common (or not) which brings them together.  It’s the commonalities that vary so greatly in each story–and those commonalities are virtually never the “interesting” or “dramatic” part of the story.

This story begins with Suchen, a young woman, sitting in a cafe.  The waitress has just asked her how she is dealing with the smoke.  There is no smoke so she just nods.  The man sitting next to her leans over and fills in that there have been wildfires in the north.

There is an older couple sitting at the table next to her as well.  She imagines what it would be like to be with someone you trusted until you were that age.  For the time being anyhow, that won’t be her as she and her husband Lei have recently separated–on pretty much mutual terms although Lei is the one who started the proceedings. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID WAX MUSEUM-“Born With a Broken Heart” (Field Recordings, January 12, 2012).

This was the third Field Recording in the series [David Wax Museum: Folk Among The Ruins] and it seems to have started a trend of recording musicians in the ruins at the Newport Folk Festival

The video opens with the band climbing through a broken down house.  Then the music starts with David playing the charango and Suz Slezak clapping.  It’s a catchy fun song with handclaps, wonderful vocal harmonies and oohs.

Two minutes into the song a tenor horn adds some depth and bass to the music, making it sound much bigger.  Around three minutes the whole horn section is playing along with a kind of mariachi feel..

At the end of the song you can hear cheering–presumably for the festival itself and not them, but it seems apt as well.

[READ: November 15, 2017] “The Hotel”

I feel like this is an excerpt.  If it’s not an excerpt than I don’t know what.

It’s basically about a woman who lands at an airport.  She is discombobulated from all of the flights and transfers (which seems unlikely but whatever).  The story starts with no explanation at all as to why the woman has flown from Dublin to New York to Milan.  She is now at a layover in Germany or Switzerland or Austria (the signs are all in German).

She can’t read the signs.  It’s very late. The airport seems to be closing down.  Her next flight is leaving in 5 hours.  She figures she will need to be back at the airport in four.  So instead of camping out at Gate 19, she decides to go to look for a hotel.  By the time she checked in , she would get max three hours sleep.  It’s just not worth it in my opinion, but whatever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOYCE DIDONATO-“When I am Laid in Earth’ (Dido’s Lament)” (Field Recordings, February 4, 2015).

Joyce DiDonato is an opera singer with a wonderful voice.  She is also an outspoken LGBT+ advocate.

DiDonato, 45, straight and a native Kansan, is outspoken on LGBT issues and one of today’s most sought-after opera stars. At London’s popular Proms concerts she capped off the 2013 festival with “Over the Rainbow,” saying it was devoted to LGBT voices silenced by Russia’s anti-gay laws. At the Santa Fe Opera, she dedicated a performance to a gay New Mexican teen who took his life after being bullied.

For this particular performance, she was drawing attention to Mark Carson, a gay man fatally shot almost two years prior. The city’s police commissioner stated Carson’s death was clearly a hate crime.

The murder happened just blocks away from the famous Stonewall Inn, a historic gay bar.  And that is where she chose to perform this piece [Joyce DiDonato Takes A Stand At Stonewall].

“The idea of a murder happening blocks away from the Stonewall Inn is incomprehensible to me,” DiDonato says. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere. It tells me that we’re not done talking, and we are not done working for people to comprehend what equality is about and why it is important.”

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. A riot broke out, sparking successive nights of protest and, many say, the emergence of the modern gay rights movement.

LGBT rights have come a long way since that summer night 46 years ago, when there were still laws criminalizing homosexuality. But mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato believes there’s still work to be done, so she chose the Stonewall to gather a few friends, talk about equality and sing a centuries-old song that still resonates.

For this memorial she chose to perform a piece from Henry Purcell’s 17th-century opera Dido and Aeneas. The piece is called “When I am Laid in Earth” also known as “Dido’s Lament.”  She explains the piece: “‘Dido’s Lament’ is about a woman who is dying and she asks for absolution.  When I am in the earth, I hope that I haven’t created any trouble.  Remember me but don’t remember my fate.”

The aria unfolds slowly yet purposefully, with a refrain that seems to predict the mournful strains of an African-American spiritual.

The piece is beautiful and mournful.  And the musical accompaniment (students from Juilliard415) is understated and lovely.  The inclusion of the viola de gamba and the therobo is inspired.  Musicians:  Francis Liu and Tatiana Daubek, violins; Bryony Gibson-Cornish, viola; Arnie Tanimoto, viola da gamba; Paul Morton, theorbo.

[READ: April 15, 2016] “The Lower River”

This story looks at a man from Medford.  As the story opens its says the man, whose names is Altman, always imagined he’d one day return to Africa, to the Lower River.  He had loved it there when he volunteered in a village called Malabo.  He stayed for four years (longer than anybody else had).  He helped to build a school and taught at it.  He felt a real connection with the people there.

And now, some forty years later, as he was getting tired of Medford, as his clothing store was failing, as his marriage was failing, as he had very little left for himself in Medford, he decided, why not.  Why not go back to Africa and see if people remembered him at all.

The Lower River is the southernmost region of the southern province of Malawi, the poorest part of a poor country.  It is also the home of the Sen people.  They were a neglected tribe and rather despised by those who didn’t know them.  They were associated with squalor, credulity and incompetence.  And indeed, when he went there the first time people, were afraid to take him as far as the Lower River.

Now, Malawai is something of a vacation destination where rich people are pampered by the poor locals.  But when Altman arrives and asks for transport to the Lower River, people are hesitant to take him, there, making sure he knows where he is going.    Even after his driver drops him off he speeds away without any concern for formalities. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKOWEN PALLETT–Live at Massey Hall (December 1, 2015).

Owen Pallett founded the band Final Fantasy (which was pretty much him anyhow).  Since 2010 he has been recording under his own name.  His music is orchestral and complex, but also distinctly weird.  He loves to explore sounds, but he also knows hot to throw in some catchy melodies as well.

He says he has plays Massey Hall before but this is the first time as a solo performer. He wants to take advantage of the beautiful-sounding room and comfortable seats.

The songs he plays are a mix of new ones and Final Fantasy songs as well.

On “That’s When the Audience Died” (Final Fantasy), he picks out a complicated pizzicato on the violin and loops it (he mutters, I hope that worked) and then he launches a great melody over the top.  He has a great singing voice as well.  The lyrics are consistently clever and interesting.  The end of the song is amazing with the sounds he ekes out of his violin.

He says he took violin lessons but wasn’t it to it because the violin leaves a mark on your neck.  He quit it because it ruined all his “sexual dreams,” and he switched to guitar and piano.  He was always really into composing–he loved Béla Bartók and György Sándor Ligeti–he wanted to make music you see in Stanley Kubrick film.

There’s beautiful looping with the pizzicato as he play’s the solos live.

“This Lambs Sells Condos” (Final Fantasy) is really quite funny if you know the story behind it, which I didn’t.  But here it is

This song is a comic interpretation of Brad J. Lamb, a figure in the Canadian real estate business (who used to live in the same building as Owen Pallett’s boyfriend), with allusions to elements of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game:

This snarky look at Lamb:

When he was a young man, he conjured up a firemare
Burnt off both his eyebrows and half a head of hair
And then as an apprentice, he took a drowish mistress
Who bestowed upon his youthfulness a sense of champagne chic
His seduction, his seduction to the world of construction
Now his mind will start to wander when he’s not at his computer
And his massive genitals refuse to cooperate
No amount of therapy can hope to save his marriage

Before he did Final Fantasy he played bad country music in bad country bars–because he had a violin.

“Tryst with Mephistopheles” rocks with a band (Matthew Smith and Robbie Gordon) and even some synths.  The drums really propel the song forward.

When he created Final Fantasy he had a guitar, a violin, a bed and some books.  He borrowed a looping pedal and got good with it.  He wanted to be the best violin looper.

“The Riverbed” is with a string quartet and has a fast ripping opening melody–dark and very cool.

He says now that he’s making a record in which he’s not thinking about how to play it live.  He’s just trying to make sounds–not thinking about performance or how to tour it.

So he’s playing new songs in traditional formal.  He conducts the orchestra and sings “On a Path.”  if t his is the “traditional format,” I’m very curious to hear what the non-traditional way is.  It has a fantastic vocal melody and is incredibly catchy.

The final song is “This is the Dream of Win and Regine” (yes of Arcade Fire).  It’s an older Final Fantasy song and has some great references to Montreal:

Montreal might eat its young, but Montreal wont break us.

There’s some great thumping beats throughout until the great dramatic ending.

Pallett had been on my radar, but I’m sold after seeing this show.

[READ: July 3, 2018] “The First World”

This story is bookended in an interesting way.  It starts with the narrator saying that his marriage had come to an end.  An unexpected consequence was that a series of men confided in him about their marriages past or present–not old friends, they stayed quiet, but people he’d had at arm’s length.  A contractor, the dermatologist etc.  People felt free to say wheat they wanted.

And then it was over, the men disappeared for about a decade during which time the narrator remarried.  And then Arty resurfaced.

Arty ran into him on Ninth Avenue and insisted they grab a drink.   He said there was something he’d like the narrator’s opinion on.

Arty had to talk about Gladys, the former nanny of his two girls. Gladys was is nanny for seven years, gave the girls all kinds of love and then left when the kids were old enough not to need her anymore. She got a new job in Chelsea for a younger child.

It was while working for this new family that Gladys lost her husband, Roy.  He had died while in the hospital and they were billing her for one hundred and ten grand.  She didn’t want to fight it because she was waiting for her green card.

Arty’s wife had cut off ties with Gladys (and didn’t want to talk to Arty either).   Not long after the divorce, Gladys rang him up and asked for $500, explaining what had happened to Roy.

She had agreed to a payment plan for the $110,000, but times had been tough.  She asked Arty for $500.

The bulk of the story is Arty’s impassioned telling of Gladys’ story.  How everything seemed to go wrong for her.  She moved back to Trinidad bit was not welcomed with opened arms.  She tried to find work but was unable.  And so regularly, she asked Arty for another loan, a loan that he knew he would never see.

She has even stayed with Arty when he pays for her ticket to visit her grown up son.

The narrator wants to get out of the conversation, but Arty has bought yet another round. The narrator has an amusing aside about how he lost his wallet and paid for his round with cash from his back pocket.

The story is bookended with the narrator returning home. The way the whole piece ends with him imagining his wallet being returned shows how differently two people can live and ponders what their attitudes have to do with it.

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