category: Seen Heard and Read

Seen, Heard, and Read Vol. 4

(As I continue to finish up my 2013 Music Year in Review post, figured I’d squeeze in one of these to share some stuff I’ve enjoyed recently.)

Seen

Four Flies on Grey VelvetFour Flies On Grey Velvet

2014 is “The Year of Argento” for me, where I work through his entire filmography in mostly chronological order. Of course, I’ve already screwed that up a bit, in that Four Flies… is his third movie (and the third movie in his “animal trilogy”). The music is fantastic, courtesy of Ennio Morricone. Apparently, though, the music was a source of contention between Argento and Morricone, making this the last movie where they worked together until the mid-90s. Italian prog-rockers Goblin would take over soundtrack duties.

Trademark Argento visuals and a mostly comprehensible plot make this as enjoyable as any of Argento’s gialli, goofy ending aside.

Heard

artworks-000054301670-rre2s3-t500x500[1]DJ Moneyshot: Solid Steel & the Hour of Chaos (alt: Mixcloud)

There are a lot of very good mixes popping up all the time, but very few that could be deemed “instant classics.” This one, though, may be one of them. I went in expecting a solid mix of tunes from PE’s legendary album but what I heard was so much more. It’s a blend of PE’s music with the samples that inspired and interviews with the Bomb Squad about the production and the creation of the album. What makes it really special, though, is that it provides the musical, cultural, and political context for the album. Beyond just playing sample sources, DJ Moneyshot seamlessly integrates the music and speeches that inspired the productions. If there’s a college-level hip-hop class that requires listening of It Takes a Nation of Millions…, they should offer extra credit to those that follow it with this mix.

Essential.

Read

Time & Again coverTime & Again by Jack Finney

I was on a bit of a time travel kick late last year and was looking for a recommendation for a movie I may have missed. Naturally, I went to Joe G. from Exhumed Films for a suggestion. Rather than a movie suggestion, though, he shared this 1970 novel about a man chosen by a hush-hush agency to travel to 1880’s New York City as part of a government experiment in time travel. What drew me most to this book is that it doesn’t try to be outlandish. No need to embellish the idea of time travel — the experience itself is enough. No crazy machines, no “Butterfly Effect”-type changes to history (indeed, an alternate theory is introduced in this book that looks as time as a stream and simple changes as sticks in the stream unlikely to truly interrupt the grand flow of the river), and no implausible plot twists.

Seen, Heard, and Read, vol. 3

Seen

Confessions of a Superhero

A touching (and ever-so-slightly exploitative) look at the mere mortals behind the superhero characters on Hollywood Boulevard. With Superman, Batman, and the Hulk, you can sense that this is probably a spot they’ll be in for a while, despite all their best efforts. While Wonder Woman’s story isn’t overly sad, you can sense she’s destined for bigger and better things (since the movie, she’s had bit roles on Party Down, True Blood, and New Girl).

Heard

Miles Davis: Get Up With It

Like anyone else who’s ever spent any time in a college radio station, I went through a heavy Miles Davis period when I was starting to get into jazz. Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew were, of course, on heavy rotation, but I tried to dig into some of the lesser-known Miles albums from various points in his career as well. Somehow, I missed Get Up With It, a double-LP of super-electic electric recordings from 1970-1974. Even if you’ve heard his other electric-era recordings, you’ll be surprised over and over again with Get Up With It.

The two most notable tracks are the 32-minute “He Loved Him Madly,” a dedication to the recently deceased Duke Ellington, and the supremely bonkers “Rated X,” a fiercely funky assault on your senses. The latter is particularly ahead of its time, sounding a lot like the intense electronica-infused jazz we’ve seen coming out of Poland in the last decade (a la Pink Freud, Robotobibok, etc.). (The live version on the Miles Davis In Concert album isn’t as good.)

Read

Fire Monks coverFire Monks by Colleen Morton Busch

A super interesting look at the California wildfires of 2008 and how the monks of Tassajara (which is connected with Suzuki Roshi’s San Francisco Zen Center) worked to defend their land even with little help from professionals. Really engaging and a fascinating examination of how “beginner’s mind” works under extreme pressure.

Don’t miss this Flickr set with photos from before, during, and after the fire by Mako, one of the five monks that fought the fire from beginning to end.

Seen, Heard, and Read, vol. 2

5 1/2 months since vol. 1. Off to a good start with this “series,” eh?

Seen

A Show, with Ze Frank

Welcome back, sir! And thanks for the inspirational opening video. No, really. I’m filing this one alongside Jay Smooth’s Little Hater and Merlin Mann’s Courageous Sucking as part of the eternal battle to get over the f’ing fear.

Heard

BADBADNOTGOOD

This non-drinking age crew got their initial notice thanks to their jazz treatment of Odd Future tunes last year and has since gone on to release two albums and two more live albums. I was shocked to hear kids this young (those whippersnappers!) could making such innovative, interesting music. It’s dark, it’s complex, it’s the next logical step after nu jazz (or, at least, a parallel step). All their material is available for free via their site or Bandcamp.

Here’s a video of a recent track of them, which features the group eating cereal. And that’s it.

Read

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

My friend Alex turned me onto Murakami a number of years ago and I’ve been slowly working my way through his back catalog. I was especially excited when the English translation of 1Q84 hit the shelves late last year. It was originally released as three separate books in Japan, but the Knopf version combines all three volumes and weighs in at a hefty 944 pages. I’m about a third of the way through the book, which means that at this pace, I’ll finish the book at about the one-year mark.

True to his previous work, 1Q84 presents a hazy, dreamlike tale in a such a fashion that it seems completely plausible that a women would descend a latter beside a highway and find herself in a slightly alternate version of 1984.

I’m definitely enjoying this one so far and look forward to continuing to savor it throughout the rest of the year.

Seen, Heard, and Read, vol. 1

This is going to be my attempt at an irregular feature here on the site, where I’ll occasionally post a list of one movie, one book or article, and one piece of music I’ve recently consumed, along with some commentary.

Seen

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, directed by Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman

While this documentary won’t change the mind of someone whose views are set about “radical” activism, it will no doubt show that there is a big difference between groups like Al-Qaeda and organizations like the ELF/ALF. And it does make one wonder about the “#1 domestic terrorist threat” being an organization that has never physically harmed a person. (That said, their tactics are certainly not ones that I would ever choose to use, but I can understand the thought process behind them.)

There is a bias to the documentary, but even so, it does give a legitimate voice to the victims of the activists’ actions such that the film doesn’t feel like a propaganda piece. Worth watching.

Heard

France Gall: Baby Pop

A while back, I asked on Quora, “What are some amazing upbeat ye-ye albums?,” looking for music similar Chantal Goya’s amazing songs from Godard’s Masculin/FĂ©minin soundtrack. It took a while, but I finally got a bunch of great suggestions from Brie Larson.

I dug in this week and checked out France Gall’s 1966 album Baby Pop. It seems to have been the trend for the most successful ye-ye singers to be pretty young women that didn’t necessarily have the most amazing vocal range, but could carry a tune and look innocent and naive while doing it. Gall fits this role: you can hear some inconsistencies in her vocals, but the songs are catchy as all get-out and downright fun.

Read

Land of the Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets by Cadillac Man

I recently finished this book I received through LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers program. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a tale of homelessness as told by one that lived through it: stories of violence, spiraling depression, and a healthy dose of quirky characters. Land of Lost Souls gives us a glance into the everyday lives of the people we pass on the street, often without a second thought.

Though the book’s chronology jumps all over the place, making it hard to get your bearings on your place within Cadillac Man’s life, the structure turns out not to be all that important. What is important are the individual stories, like the touching story of Penny, a 19-year-old runaway who Cadillac Man develops both a fatherly and sexual relationship with before helping to reconnect her with her family. That sounds creepy, but it’s more that it’s just how things go in that environment.

Recommended.

(Cadillac Man reads a selection from his book in this CSPAN video from a couple of years ago.)