Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holly Miranda - Black Cab Sessions

Shana passed this video on to me, knowing that I really dug Holly Miranda's stuff at the Brooklyn Vegan CMJ Day Show at Pianos last month. This Black Cab Sessions blog/site seems pretty rad too, placing up-and-coming acts in a cab and doing a bare-bones recording. It reminds me a lot of the Take-Away Concerts. Perfect for when you just can't get enough of your favorite performer.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Watching "The Shining"

Bestest Boy and I are watching one of his birthday gifts right now -- Stanley Kubrick's classic "The Shining" on Blu-ray. I haven't watched this movie in ages, probably in almost 20 years, and never before as an uncut version. Anybody remember the creepy twins the son Danny keeps on envisioning while wandering throughout the Overlook Hotel? I was immediately reminded of the cover of Jenny Lewis' solo debut, Rabbit Fur Coat, and the eerily similarly staged Watson Twins. (I'm sure I'm not the first one to notice.)

Had to have been deliberate, right? So does that make Jenny Lewis the Danny character? Or is she in her red dress the deluge of blood rushing through the hotel that we see in the movie? Quite the opposite from the tenderly precious sentiment conveyed by the songs on the album.

Anyway, here is a clip of Bestest Boy's favorite scene in the movie, in which Wendy Torrance, played by Shelley Duvall, realizes that all this time her husband has not been working on the Great American Novel, but rather, has descended into a repetitive madness of "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Quite a reveal, Bestest Boy termed it, and quite a delicious example of the terrifying score.

Akim Funk Buddha @BAMcafé, Nov. 27th

Last night, after a fantastico meal at the mucho delicioso Umi Nom, Bestest Boy and I continued our all-Brooklyn evening by heading to the upstairs of the Brooklyn Academy of Music aka BAMcafé to check out Akim Funk Buddha perform his show, Hip Hop Holiday I: Back to the Essence, a creative presentation of his personal journey with the musical genre. I had attended numerous performances in the Howard Gilman Opera House portion of BAM before, including a concert by Patti Smith that inspired my very first Gigoblog entry, but this was our first time checking out the café as a venue itself. We didn't know what to expect, and the crowd was pretty random with a good number of children in attendance, and the majority of people were seated at tables, but it was free, so why not.

Akim was a charismatic leader, using his numerous talents of breakdancing, rhyming, Tuvan throat singing and general showmanship in putting together a thoughtful narrative of his musical experience, from his first exposure starting with the '80s in South Africa, to his days in New York, and ending with a voyage to Bali where he learned to appreciate the syncopated beat. The show ran a little unevenly in terms of energy, perhaps due to having to be tailored to an all-ages audience as well as constraints of space and lack of staging, but, for the most part, Akim kept the audience's attention with his interesting and varied range of musical stylings.

What perhaps was most impressive about the evening was the support he assembled -- a multi-instrumentalist on kalimba and percussive gourd, a DJ on turntables who spun some great old school samples and rhythmic scratchings, a violinist whose instrument at times lent a spaceship ride quality to the songs, and our favorite, a human beatbox genius (Adam Matta) who blew us away during a solo using nothing other than a looping pedal and his own mouth.

Despite having no expectations, Bestest Boy and I had a nice mellow Friday evening at BAMcafé, proving that one need not stray far to find good quality entertainment.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Matti Bye Ensemble @MoMA, Nov. 7th

File this under completely random experiences.

Bestest Boy's good friend Karen Violista had been jonesing to get together, so I happened upon a listing for a Swedish film called "Körkarlen" aka "The Phantom Chariot" aka "The Phantom Carriage" at the Museum of Modern Art, which screened this 1921 silent film last night with live musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble, a trio from Sweden. I thought it could be the perfect random activity for our group -- something for the cinéastes (which we all are), with a live music element (for Karen and me), and Swedish (for Bestest Boy and his mom). I got tickets for our group, armed with a newfound ability to pick up tickets for MoMA events for practically free (thank you, corporate membership). After a nice vegan dinner, we descended into the subterranean auditorium excited for what was to come (well, as excited as Swedes get, anyway).

The musicians were set up on the floor in front of the seats, stage right, reminding me much of the time I caught Yo La Tengo when they too played a live soundtrack to some film. After some introductory words by a Swedish dude explaining that this film has been long-beloved by his country, they got into it. Unfortunately, 10 minutes or so into the program, the band halted and called for a mulligan. Bestest Boy guessed the disruption had something to do with the projection of the film being too fast for silent films -- like the film was probably shot at 18 frames per second, whereas the projection was probably running at 24, so the musicians had to play faster than they were supposed to. Eek! It's nice dating a film guy -- you learn something new every day... =)

So they started over, and from there, things went on without a hitch (so to speak). The film itself was pretty interesting, especially keeping in mind that this came out 88(!) years ago. It employed some great imagery with decent special effects for the time as well as intriguing storytelling structure involving flashbacks. Basically, the central character, a man named David Holm, is an alcoholic who abandoned his family and was a dick towards this nice Salvation Army girl named Edit, and is doomed to be the next in line to drive this phantom carriage which picks up all the dead, à la the Grim Reaper. It is a Dickensian tale filled with much regret and some redemption -- kinda like A Christmas Carol except bleaker and with more drinking and tuberculosis. (I use "Dickensian" because I know it'll piss my brother off. He thinks it's overly pretentious of a word.) And way cooler than the Jim Carrey flick that's out now.

However, more crucial to me was the score provided by the Matti Bye Ensemble. Since this was a silent film, and the occasional words on the screen were in Swedish with subtitles that suffered from bad placement (a bit too far below the screen for viewing comfort), the music to me was of tantamount importance in bringing along the viewer. The trio used a variety of instruments, including a piano, an organ, xylophones, violin, saw, guitar, banjo and some percussion, which were central in creating the various moods. And even when my tired head decided to lean back and miss some of the visuals, I was still able to soak in the ambient music, which did not intrude into the experience at all. It was a perfect mix, Karen felt.

After the film, we lingered outside before going our separate ways, and we were able to chat with the musicians a little bit. We complimented their presentation and talked about how nice it was that they depended on minimal sound effects and relied more on instrumentation, and their leader, pianist Matti Bye himself, agreed that it was important to let the music itself come through without any distraction. Nice folks.

Anyway, if you're searching for something different to do this afternoon, the ensemble is at it again, with a different film called Häxan: Witchcraft through the Ages.


Based on my two recent visits, the film crowd at the MoMA seems to be different from the noisy bunch you'd usually find at a movie theatre. Gone are the Milk Duds and tubs of popcorn and rude cell phone users; instead, the audience seems to be comprised mostly of senior citizens, Europeans and hipsters, with a healthy dose of eccentrics. Being that my office is just a block away now, I think I'll be checking out the film schedule more often now, as well as becoming intimately familiar with the museum itself. And all for free. =)