bITS 'N CHUNKS
Welcome to the end of February just about. Things haven't been too popping lately around here, but as we get into the Spring season that will be changing.
FOR NOW, though, two February offerings if your Black History Month has been a lukewarm wet blanket like mine has.
Chatting about Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) for Global Comment
Finally, I've come BACK to Salty mag and I'm discussing creating spaces for queer folks of color with a couple of very special guests.
Back to doing the work!
Well shipmates, rather unexpectedly I have a brand new piece of unblemished fiction for you this year!
It's been quite a long time since I've entered the 36th Chamber of fiction publication, as I've bemoaned a few times in the past whilst I try to get my act together. Things are coming along pretty well but there are some things that just never change.
Submitted here for your approval is an anthology submission from last year that ultimately got the axe for length; I don't have any further plans for it as it stands so I'm passing on the savings to you. It's fanfiction so it's a little bit of a cheat in that regard Yes, I have an AO3 account but I'm kind of hiding from that right now. And as a fanfic it automatically warrants a NSFW warning.
Well, golly friends would you look at that - 2019 already! I'm not quite ready yet because I still have a little leftover biz from 2018 that I didn't quite get to. I'm hoping that if I do it now, I can still count it for last year. Like a fresh haircut, we don't really comment on new things until it's been 2 weeks at least. Right? Right.
Woven In's 2018 release Razzmatazz is that leftover biz. This album is so worth talking about that I regret not having my isht together long enough to do so. The last time I spoke about Woven In we were chatting aboutBossa Blanca -- at that point, the project was already easing away from the melancholic surf sounds found on Highs and Ultra Lows and previous EPs.
Razzmatazz sees Woven In comfortably in low-fi darkwave dance mode although the retro beachy elements are still there. It's just that the beach has closed up for good and we're just reminiscing on it at this point.
Mariah Fortune keeps up the themes of isolation and its accompanying loneliness and lost angst, but each song creates its own atmosphere here. Considering that most of the album is instrumental, that's something pretty fine right there. There's the freak out of "Gunmetal", the not-that-distant, relatable real life pain of "Hooptie" and "Jingle", the call out of "They Don't Want You to Live" (can a song with no words call anyone out? Yes.)
It's a very personal album, emotive and vulnerable like Ultra Lows with the cool sweep of Bossa Blanca, the definition of a transition. Quiet, wordless like keeping a secret or getting ready to scream -- later. When a band changes their signature sound up, I always think, "maybe this won't be my bag." It almost wasn't. But 2018 has shown me that I'll cry AND dance to anything. Count nothing out. Do yourself a favor.
Well, Haken graced us with a new album this year - something I meant to talk about well before the concert I attended back in November, but well. Perhaps my life is a shambles.
I've seen a lot of descriptions of this album as "djent" but at this point I feel like that term is so far removed from its origins (it's basically an early metal meme to describe something as Meshuggah-esque) that it doesn't have a ton of pull for me anymore. It definitely doesn't describe too much outside of a very niche part of the progressive community overall.
So, what does this album sound like? Well... to me I'd say late period The Mars Volta, thematically and musically. There's probably far less saxophone but especially with the guitar texture and landscapes, it's there.
Haken has always sounded a little retro to me, but here their signature sound is best on display with single "The Good Doctor" and from there it gets... well, different. Let's talk about it, though. Why does prog rock like the Crazy tropes so much?
Well, humanity is complex, from our social interactions to our individual motivations, and nothing encapsulates that better than the mysteries of the human brain. Perfect for a subgenre that itself is complex and often concerned with cerebral things. It's a personal topic for me as someone coping with mental illness however successfully or unsuccessful, and I suppose that's at least part of the reason I am drawn to prog. The feeling that I don't have to pretend to care about mundane topics like boys, girls, money, or politics.
I feel like prog is at it's best when it's prohibitively complex and boy does prog enjoy talking about "craziness". The only thing more interesting than the human brain functioning is when it ceases to function normally and all sorts of nightmares commence. It can be a little navel gaze (see Mars Volta again) or it can be expansive and humanizing (late period Rush). For Haken, mental wellness -- or rather, unwellness -- makes a thrilling topic and an overreaching story line. But one that veers on a little... corny for them.
Let's talk about that for a second because I don't mean the version of corny that equals wack or cringe. I'm talking about something that has the whiff of regular. A twice told tale coming in for a third time. Why now? Because it's a popular trope of the genre so we have to?
The true concept of Vector is mysterious, but it can be surmised that a lot of song elements are meant to connect back to previous albums. It's heavily hinted that "The Good Doctor" is a direct sequel to the infectious "The Cockroach King"; if that's the case, then Vector surely reveals who the cockroach king and his victims truly are, right?
Rather, it's hard to say. There could be role reversal at play, so not a straightforward example at all. Maybe we've even been reading things wrong the whole time. Once we get deeper into the album, things take a turn for Cuckoo's Nest and we explore more of what's going on in this person's psyche. By the time we hit "Puzzle Box" and "Veil", it's established that we ain't getting any clear cut answers this week.
That's a tough pill to go down, but that sort of obsession and nerdery is a commodity in this community.
So, is it good? Yes. It's more likely to clear your skin than clear anything else up. The best Haken album? Not really. At 44 minutes and 7 songs, there was room for a little extra here without dropping into excess. The songs are great but thematically it just feels like we're going through the motions of doing it just to do it. There's better ways to go about this and I'm confident Haken will in the future, this one's just a compromise...
Gang, it's time for concert season once again!
... Except I've already been to all the shows I'm tryna go to this year with the exception of a potential new year's eve bash. My Shows About Town feature is pretty consistent, but for the latter half of this year I've (to be blunt) had my shit rocked repeatedly by the ups and downs of life and depression. So I haven't felt like it!
So, rather than a thorough concert review, here's a speed run of the two biggest shows I hit up in good ol' Music City.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...