2019 November 11 • Monday

Once upon a time I actually did a gig or two with the great bass player and multi-instrumentalist and composer and improvisor Kato Hideki. His music for the documentary film El Viaje de Monalisa is our 595th Soundtrack of the Week.

The first track, "Night Out", is a lovely instrumental with a swaying reggae-like feel. The different instruments sound like they have different colors and blend very nicely.

"Mystery" is a very meditative and hypnotic piece with sounds that are similar to bells or gongs but are probably created with different instruments. There's a background of resonance tones and eventually some string-like sounds come in as well.

This mood and gentle, slow not-quite pulse are continued in "Transformer", a dreamy and soothing piece that has a hint of possible danger.

Things pick up after this with the rock instrumental "Someone Wants Sex, Someone Wants Money". This has a great groove with some snarly guitar work.

The atmosphere becomes mellow again with "Poetry", the most textural and ethereal piece on the record. There are long tones that sound like pastels and some delicate crystalline voices that ease in and out of the landscape.

The record concludes with "Reflexion", a gently pulsating piece with delicate angelic sounds floating above a slightly fuzzy and softly driving bass line. The overall mood is hopeful.

2019 November 08 • Friday

In 1969 or 1970, 17-year-old Wendy Allardyce runs away from her safe and cozy and secure but stultifying home because she feels like she's not being taken seriously or given the independence, trust and autonomy that she has earned.

What happens next is the story told by Lee Kingman in The Peter Pan Bag.

This is, I think, a "young adult" book. I read it anyway and found it to be very well written and absorbing. There's a clever and not overdone Peter Pan motif, what with Wendy being named Wendy and another major character, a catalyst for much of what happens, being named Peter.

Kingman does an amazing job of balancing both a gentle and optimistic story with some harrowing elements that are true to real life's possibilities.

The book itself is somewhat protective of Wendy, but while she is shielded from a lot of harm that could come to her, both she and the reader are aware of the potential dangers.

At one point she takes way too much speed, under the mistaken impression that the pills are aspirin and will stave off a debilitating headache, and blacks out at a party. She wakes up to find her earrings were stolen, but realizes with alarm that any number of things could have happenedd and she there wouldn't have been anything she could have done about it.

The other young people she meets are all well drawn and distinct characters, from aspiring photojournalists to rich kids more or less playing at being Bohemia to a traumatized Vietnam vet—still a kid but permanently damaged.

It's not always to tell the kids on drugs from the kids with serious mental illnesses, the kids who can check in and check out of the hippie scene at well from the kids who cram themselves into rat-infested basements with dozens of others because they have no other place to go.

I don't suppose anybody could or would write a book like this today. It's hard to imagine such a book being published. But it's a remarkable and rewarding novel as well as a time capsule of sorts.

2019 November 06 • Wednesday

John Shirley's Cellars was great reading for the Halloween season, especially since it takes place in New York City in the days leading up to and including Halloween itself.

The edition I read has a really lackluster, blah cover.

The original paperback printing presented it much better.

Edward Lee is not a familiar name to me and since introduction does little more than relate his enthusiasm for Shirley's novel, it didn'do much for me.

The book itself is quite good, though. This is a real horror novel: creepy, violent and disturbing, much like its environment, New York City and the Lower East Side in particular in the early 1980s. By all accounts that was an unhinged, near-apocalyptic, beyond damaged and decayed place.

Only trace quantities of it remained when I moved to NYC in 1990, but it seems to me that Shirley has captured the time and place very well. He happened to be there, so that helps.

The book opens with our hero in 1955 at the age of ten and gets down to business. This boy has supernatural powers, among them the ability to communicate with or at least hear the dead. But this is the kind of gift that can seem like a curse and he's traumatized into repressing them, forcing them down deep, disowning them and forgetting them.

Then we're in 1981 New York and dead bodies are being found ritualistically slaughtered and disemboweled along with symbols and writings that indicate that they're being offered to demons in exchange for wealth and power.

This is actually literally the case and as a metaphorical forecast of the Reagan era, yuppies and big business and huge cultural, social, political and economic shifts that still need to be reckoned with and reversed.

The pace of Cellars drags a little bit at the end, and I think I prefer it without the revised ending that Shirley has added to this edition.

It's described as a hardcore horror novel and that seems apt. It's brutal enough and hardly pulls any punches.

It does have some Fiction Writing 101 tendencies to have literally everything be connected to a very small group of characters—you might find yourself thinking, "wait, he 'just happens' to be his nephew?" and such things—but it keeps things moving along. Not too much plot getting in the way of the story, as Joe Bob Briggs used to say.

I really enjoyed it and will look for something else from Mr. Shirley in the future.

The first line is "'Maybe he's a gypsy,' said the taller of the two boys".

2019 November 04 • Monday

The 594th Soundtrack of the Week is Marcello Giomnini's music for L'ossessa.

The main title theme is some weird electronic noises and screaming at first, followed by a chorus of voices speaking something in Italian. This morphs into a chorus singing what sounds like unholy church music. The weird clanging and bell sounds never stop.

Those unsettling sounds return in "Suspence Diabolica", along with another element that's like an electronic didgeridoo. This is very much like the later cue "Tema Trillato/Magmatico", of which the second half just removes the trilling.

"Suspence in Crescendo" is a variation on this with more space and some deep and mysterious drumming.

"L'ossessa (Samba)" is almost absurd or perhaps actually absurd in its druggy spacey lounge grooviness. It also sounds very low budget, perhaps all the instruments played on the same keyboard.

This is followed by "Tema Agitato", which has a similarly stripped down keyboard-dominated aesthetic but which manages to create a persuasively tense atmosphere.

Is "L'ossessa (Mozartiana)" actually Mozart? I don't think so but it does sound like "classical music" with piano, violin and cello.

The "Tema Ossessa" that was hinted at in the main title track gets a keyboard work out here. It depends more on harmonic movement than having much of a melody. Again sounds like all one keyboard.

After that comes a choir without instrumentation singing "Miserere Mei Deus", which sounds like actually standard church music. "Esorcismo Ex Abea" is similar.

"Ritmico Triste" is another cheap-sounding keyboard lounge track but this one is pretty nice, with a cool melody and a laidback groove.

Things get weird again, and kind of Radiophonic Workshop-like, in "Suspence Diabolica B".

"Tema Drammatico" blends the keyboard with strings successfully for a fuller sound and a classical-influenced piece of dramatic underscore.

An excited and creepy-sounding group of chanting and calling voices gives us "L'ossessa (Litania Satanica)" and then there's a massive 11-minute track that kind of does it all: weird electronics, groovy drums, wailing choir, beats and keyboard drones...

"Messa Nera" is perhaps even more alarming, with genuinely weird vocal parts that might be processed somehow, combined with an insistent and relentless clanging sound and more hard to identify electronic sounds.

Things get wrapped up with the moody "Tema Mistico (Finale)", another keyboard special.

2019 November 01 • Friday


The Twilight Zone: "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" March 03, 1961