Friday, 3 October 2014


What an ambitious adaptation of Hamlet! Worth every second of the scary 45 min drive it took to watch the first day first show of this amazing movie. I was enthralled from start to finish except for a minor misstep or two (only one that stands out in my memory is the odd placement of a song that broke the flow of the film). Some really really good performances. Kay Kay Menon and Irrfan Khan, of course. But also, Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. Even the players of the smaller parts left an impression.

And then there was Tabu. She owned the screen in every frame that she was in. It was simply impossible to keep my eyes off her when she was in a scene. If ever I take up acting, she's the one I'd aspire to be like. What an actress.

Visually and aurally too the movie was a treat. Especially the music. It lingered on in my head even after I walked out of the theater. That's usually a sure sign of a movie that got to me. This one sure did. I really hope I can watch it again on the big screen. Very seriously thinking about going back again next week right after (like driving straight from the airport) I get back home from a week-long trip. I hope the DVD comes out soon as well. Must have it.

Next up in my VB movie to-watch list: Maqbool and Omkara. Was having trouble finding copies of those here in the U.S. So looking forward to finally acquiring them when I go back home.

P.S.: Here's a review of Haider that does it justice, more justice by far than my meager words could do.

Thursday, 2 October 2014


What a delicious rollercoaster this was! I knew going in that it would be good, but man. Shahid, I forgive you for all those godawful movies. Vishal Bhardwaj, this is what I expected from you. Not a confused, uncertain step here. This is the movie I should've watched first. Not 7 Khoon Maaf.

On the other hand, better save the best for last. Speaking of which, so so so looking forward to Haider tomorrow. First day, first show. Don't think I've ever done that for any film. Better sleep now so I don't oversleep and miss it.

Probably shouldn't have picked Kaminey to watch tonight. Hard to calm down after such a ride. *grin*

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Road Not Taken

Spooky coincidence decreed that I should hear this particular poem in Robert Frost's own voice yesterday -- hear it just as I find myself at a fork in my own life.

Initiative is the one thing none can accuse me of. A drifter if there ever was one. Nearly every major turn in my life happened by, well happenstance. I choose by inaction. I'm doing the same now, more or less. Will it turn out to be the road less traveled by? Probably not. But I want it to be. Why? Because I want to be special. Because I want something different. Because..

Naanum veezhven endru ninaithayo?

You know what, it doesn't even matter. The road will be interesting because if it isn't, I will find a way to make it so. Yes, I will.

(How did I get from Frost to Bharathi to fucking Linkin Park?!)

Friday, 29 August 2014


As usual I found out about an awesome show at very short notice. The description on the facebook event page was very intriguing/tempting indeed -

"An evening on the cusp of oblivion. Why-Trance and Virtual Horns."

"Tarot influenced Ritualistic Unprotected Saxscapes:
Devil card has been selected for tonight."

"Zoned out psychedelic keyboard and "super-strong primitive percussion" for the haunted tropics of Beguiling Isles film collage."

"AUROGRAPH" - See here for why the name was enough to get my attention in this instance


-- only catch was that it was all happening tonight and I wasn't sure if I could handle another late night out. I'd already driven to the city three times in the last week, twice for music - two incredible shows which both deserve a few words in due course - and once to see The Shining in 35mm - one of the very few movies to have ever really fucked with my head. Even on the nights when I stayed in this week, I was up really late either spinning newly acquired records or reading old favourites. So I was quite beat. And yet I couldn't pass on this potentially awesome show either. I decided to try and take a quick nap after work and head over come what may.

As it turned out, I couldn't take my nap, but I didn't have to. My week/month/life suddenly opened up wide. I teetered on the edge for a while, but recovered my footing. One of the immediate positive effects of what at first came as a rude and awful shock was that I could stay up as late as I wanted tonight. I determined to go to the show and put everything else out of my mind for a bit.

Music, live music, has always been my go-to panacea. The most life-affirming experiences I've ever had were at concerts. Nothing can match a really great concert.

The show tonight was such a one.

I missed the first act, Quazar Bran - I really wished I hadn't when they joined in for the "final fallout" and I saw one of them playing a didgeridoo(!) and another playing an instrument I've never seen before (a flute shaped like a ghatam??). I bet their set was really good. I blame google maps for sending me around KC in circles.

I finally found the venue and walked in partway through Corum's set. "Zoned out pychedelic keyboard and super-strong primitive percussion" was right on the mark. There was also much incense and a flute(?) and some visuals projected behind him. I couldn't see much though because the smoke was blowing right into my eyes due to where I was standing. Not that I minded that too much. I end up closing my eyes involuntarily when the music is good anyway. And this sure was good. Could've listened to it for much much longer. I'd already been quite taken with the music on his bandcamp page and would have ordered it by now if not for..but nevermind that. Back to the show..

Next up was his co-conspirator from Million Brazilians - Suzanne Stone a.k.a White Gourd. She who drew the devil card (or Le Diable) and summoned him up with her eerie vocal loops and keys and sax. I particularly loved the note she ended on, with a loop that really stirred something up in me.

Aurograph went on last. Needless to say, they rocked. And grooved. And droned. And just tore shit up in general. My eyes were closed within 5 minutes and stayed that way until at some point I realized I was hearing more than one wind instrument, and it didn't seem like a loop either. I peeked to see what was going on, and lo and behold, the trio had turned into a quintet. Corum and Stone had joined them on stage and things got almost unbearably good. Nothing else existed outside of right there and right then.

They could've ended there, but they didn't. Oh no. They called up the Quazar Bran guys up as well and jammed on furiously. Eyes close again. Suddenly, I hear voices joining in the jam and they're coming from the audience direction, and then the stage, and back and forth.  Eyes open and what a sight. A lovely duet (is it still a duet if there are multiple voices harmonizing together on each end?) that goes on for some time that serves as the perfect end to a perfect evening.

I walk out grinning wide, ever so grateful to be alive.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Mindblowing psychedelia from Thailand

No words. Just a couple of links of awesomeness.

The blog post with the live video that started it all.

And the album that came/is coming out of it.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

My superpower, my bane

It has been brought to my attention, not for the first time and quite possibly not the last either, that my superpower bothers people. My superpower, you see, is faultfinding. I have an uncanny ability to spot mistakes. This, in itself, would probably not annoy anyone. But in my zeal to help straighten out someone else's work, I seem to step on toes instead. I become the busybody, the enemy, when what I'm actually trying to do and be is quite the opposite. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I only take pains to correct someone when I care. It is only when I have a certain amount of respect either for the person or the work in question that I bother to play the school mistress. In the majority of cases, I don't bother.

I would prefer to be corrected than to be left wrong. But apparently I'm in the minority in this. Most people, it would seem, take offense instead of being appreciative of someone trying to correct them. I guess they perceive it as a putting down of them. Their egos are hurt by what appears to be condescension when in fact it isn't at all. Is condescension, then, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Should I feel bad about having hurt someone inadvertently? Or am I allowed to feel hurt at having been misjudged? I feel a bit of both right now. I am both indignant and sad. I apologized to the person in question, but it wasn't a heartfelt apology. A part of me, a rather large part, felt like they were the one being rude. Why should I have to apologize for their touchiness? But such is the way of human social interactions. Sigh.

The irony here is that this person was bemoaning the lack of real honest interactions with their fellow denizens. Now thanks to their telling me off, there is going to be one less person who is straight with them. Can't have your cake and eat it too, bro. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Mun Paniya

This song is a personal favourite of mine. A beautiful melody with lovely lyrics, sung brilliantly and picturized so wonderfully. All come together as the perfect depiction of my favouritest emotion - that feeling of falling in love.

So I wanted to share it with you. Pardon my crude attempt at translating the lyrics. Had to do this on my own without my lovely friend K's help since technically I know Tamil better than her. Or should anyway. But while my comprehension might be better than hers, my composition is miserably lacking. In spite of being acutely aware of this, I've tried to wax poetic instead of translating verbatim in keeping with the spirit of the song. I hope I haven't made too much of a mess of it in the process, and that at least the essence of it comes across.
Mun paniya mudhal mazhaiya
Is it the early mist or the first rain
En manathil etho vizhukirathe
That is falling gently in my heart
Vizhukirathe uyir nanaigirathe
Falling and drenching my soul 

Puriyaatha ooravil nindraen
In this confusing relationship
Ariyaatha sugangal kandaen
I find unknown pleasures
Maattram thanthaval neethaanae
And it's all because of you

Yen idhayathai
My heart
Yen idhayathai valiyil
Engaeyo maranthu tholaithuvittaen
I misplaced my heart somewhere along the way
Un viliyinil
Your eyes
Un viliyinil athanai
Ippodhu kandupidithu vittaen
I've found it now in your eyes
Idhu varai yenakkillae mugavarigal
Till now I had no place to call home (literally mugavarigal is addresses)
Athai naan kandaen un punnagaiyil
I've found it now in your sweet smile
Vaalgiraen naan un moochilae...
And I live in your breath... 

Yen paadhaigal
My paths
Yen paadhaigal unathu vali paarthu vanthu mudiyuthadi
My paths all lead to you
Yen iravugal
My nights
Yen iravugal unathu mugam paarthu vidiya yenguthadi
My nights long to dawn to the sight of your face
Iravaiyum pagalaiyum maattrivittaai
You've changed my nights and my days
Yenakkul onnai nee oottrivittaai
Poured yourself into me
Moolginaen naan un kannilae...
And I drown in your eyes...  

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Nighttime musings

Oh night, what is it about you that gives me such pleasure?
Such forbidden pleasure
I know I should be sleeping by now
I know I need to be at work in 6 hours
But defiance feels so good
Even if it really only harms me in the long run
Sensible me has fallen asleep, leaving the rebel in charge
And this rebel is a strange 'un
Not weak, no
She rebels not by doing what she wants
She rebels by not doing what (she's told) she must
Simply, quietly, blissfully ignoring what she wants not
And instead just being
Whence comes the joy in such silent resistance?
Perhaps I'm still just a naughty child inside
A naughty nut
A nutty even

Friday, 25 July 2014

A story of a stalking

I have a lot of serious, scary decisions that I'm pondering this week. But I'm not going to talk about those here. Instead I want to write about a random memory that was triggered by a song today. Isn't it cool how a song can sometimes transport one back to a very specific time and place?

The song was Collective Soul's Shine. The place - IIT Madras. The time - early 00s, possibly '01 or '02. IITM's culfest (do people still use that contraction for cultural festival?), Saarang, was a yearly pilgrimage for me back in those days. I went mainly for the western music group competition, but also for the quizzes, JAM and general vibe. And I always went alone. That was somehow important for the experience. The couple of times I went with someone were the worst. Not sure why..

Anyway, so this one particular year, there was a very cute chap who was compering the western music competition. And I took it into my head to stalk him just because. I knew there was practically no chance of him being interested in me, and even if there was I was totally ruining it by being the creepy stalker type, but I wanted to amuse myself. That's usually why I do most things I do. For my own personal amusement. As long as I'm not harming someone else in any substantial manner, why not, I figure.

At first I was subtle about it. But as the day went on, I became bolder and more reckless. I was literally walking out of a room if he walked out, following him into the next one and glancing his way every few seconds. I was quite blatant about it. To the point where not only the guy in question but even his friends started noticing it.  I am pretty sure that at least once some of them pointed to me and whispered amongst themselves when I walked into an auditorium a few seconds after him. I must admit I rather enjoyed that.

But little did I know the guy in question was growing bolder too. Or maybe just impatient? Towards the end of the day, I had either lost sight of and/or interest in him and was standing by a notice board with the days competition results. Suddenly I became aware of someone who'd come up to my side and was also ostensibly looking at the notice board. At first I pretended not to notice, but no, he wasn't having any of that. He made loud remarks to his friend to attract everyone's attention. I got the distinct impression that he was giving me a chance to strike up a conversation.  I should have taken that chance. I didn't, of course. I never do.

His name, by the way, was Gaurav something or other iirc. Just putting that out there in case by some freakish chance, he or someone who knows/knew him reads this...

Because if you are, I want you to know that I am sorry.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Wake up call

I think I got one of these today. An eventuality for which I was completely not prepared at all suddenly loomed frightfully close indeed. I had fleetingly thought about it before, but never seriously enough to prepare for it. Almost had a panic attack when faced with this scary prospect. Thankfully, while I may not know the "right people", I know some very good people indeed. Friend talked me out of my worst fears. His calm and collected, and most importantly, logical and realistic way of looking at things helped me more than I can say. Thanks a ton, S! I may take you up on your offer if worst comes to worst. But maybe it won't. Maybe.

Either way, I'm at least mentally prepared now and won't have a complete meltdown if shit happens. Bring it on life. I ain't afraid of you.

(Okay, I don't really mean that, don't be too mean...)

((That last part was the superstitious me, who shall get her own piece by and by))

Friday, 18 July 2014


Taste, as they say, is subjective. So it's not terribly surprising to find that different people have different reactions to the same work of art. But still it shocked me to find that one piece of music got an overwhelmingly positive response among group of people and quite the opposite from another.

I'm talking about Nils Frahm's Says. I loved it on first listen. And so did quite a few others that I am very proud to have turned on to his music. But when, encouraged by this positive response on one forum, I shared the same song on another forum..ugh. "Boring", "Too long", "Too repetitive", "Strictly background music", "Is this even a song?"...

Listen to it and judge for yourselves. I think it's a beautiful song and one I can get lost in each time. But whatever you do, don't do what this one stupid person did and turn it off at the 4 minute mark.

P.S.: Gotta give a shout out to Taryn and Kelly over at Love Garden Sounds for introducing me to this wonderful music and many more. 

Friday, 11 July 2014


It's funny how important validation is to us. I fancy myself a fairly independent person. It's the only ambition I ever had. And yet, I find myself lapping up validation from the most unlikely of sources, with the best (worst?) of them. It annoys me. But I can't help it. I can see clearly that it's this very need that we silly humans have that all these social media things feed on and are built upon. The likes, the favourites, the retweets, the shares. Bah. Fuck it all. I wonder if it is time for another retreat into the old shell.

On the other hand, there is a tangible benefit to be had from participating in the circus. That's undeniable. I've already gone on in this blog about all the new music I've discovered, the out-of-the-way shows I've found out about, the movies, the books. That is worth staying for. Just have to find a way to not get too caught up in it all. Easier said than done with a personality like mine. Have always been one to obsess massively over something for a period, then get bored and move on. Hell, I can't even play spider solitaire without getting hooked. But that's the key. This too shall pass. Heh.

Here, have some music to make up for that too-boring-to-even-be-called-a-rant rant. Stumbled on this quite by accident (I mean to write up a proper post about said accident and this show before long), and fell in love with it - Free Music Archive: Le fruit vert - Live at Casa del Popolo

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Free State Festival

I wasn't even aware of this festival before now. Apparently it used to be a film only festival but this year they made it more of a general arts festival, but still with a focus on films. The only film I really knew about and was interested in was the Nick Cave documentary feature - 20,000 Days on Earth. I also saw Manhattan listed as one of the films to be screened and assumed it was the famous Woody Allen film (turned out to be a film set in Manhattan, KS - which is ironic as anyone who knows me irl would know). So with two films I really wanted to see, and some others that sounded promising, I took the plunge and got myself a movie pass well in advance. Then I promptly fell sick the week before the fest.

Still, I wasn't going to waste my pass. Plus being cooped up at home all day only made me more eager to get out and do something fun in the evenings (probably not the wisest decision). So I managed to catch quite a few of the films, though far fewer than I meant and wanted to. Here, then, is a round up of the ones I did watch:

Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty - About the (apparently legendary) eponymous blues musician. I'd never even heard about this man before and my familiarity with blues music is very minimal, but this documentary held my interest all the same. And it made me resolve to get more into blues. A resolution that faded some the day after, but still. Really enjoyed the free concert that he and his band played right after too. The man is 70 years old but still plays incredibly and sings too. I was glad I got the chance to see him live.

Every Everything: The Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart - This one's about Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü fame. I had at least heard of the band, if not about the man himself. Punk is again not at the top of my list of favourite genres, so I'd never actually listened to anything by Hüsker Dü. Very good docu with an interesting structure, and really cool idea for bookends for the scenes. In the Q&A after it came out that Grant Hart himself came up with the idea for the sequence they used for the latter. He was a fascinating character, and still makes good music, some of which he played with some local musicians later that night.

American Interior - This probably doesn't count as music documentary per se. It's maybe more a musical documentary, in that it's a documentary with music used like in a musical film. It's made by Gruff Rhys, the Super Furry Animals dude, and it's about one his Welsh ancestors who came to the US back in the 18th century looking for a Welsh-speaking Native American tribe. It starts out as ridiculous as it sounds, but then the tone shifts halfway through. The wry sense of humour remained throughout and yet it highlighted some serious issues as well. Really enjoyed this one, and highly recommend it.

The Story of Children and Film - Quite possibly my favourite part of the whole fest. A documentary about children in film, with clips from a wide range of movies from around the world. I don't even like children, but I really enjoyed this film. The narrator/maker is apparently a well-known critic from Scotland. I loved his exposition and choice of scenes/movies. Made me want to watch every single movie that was featured. I mean to hunt down a list of these and do just that.

Trap Street - A Chinese film based in contemporary China. Really good movie. Eye-opening even though we all theoretically know what it's like over there. But that aside, it's just a really good movie, with great performances, absorbing plot and an interesting visual style. The producer was there for a Q&A after the screening and he wasn't sure if there would be a wide release. But, if it does happen to play near you, I highly recommend checking it out.

I Put a Hit on You - A dark comedy about a woman who has to team up with her ex to stop the hit she accidentally put on him after he dumped her. It could've easily turned into a "quirky" film, but thankfully didn't. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Was originally planning on slipping off halfway through because I really didn't want to miss even a little bit of 20,000 days, the one movie I really wanted see (it was playing at a different venue and the movies at this venue were running behind time due to technical issues). But, it drew me in, and though I walked to the door before the final act, I ended up watching until the very last frame (standing by the door).

20,000 Days on Earth - Semi-fictional account of Nick Cave's 20,000th day on earth. I'm a fan of the man and his band, so I was really looking forward to this one. It did not disappoint. The makers are visual artists making their film debut, and it showed. Not the debut part, the visual artistry part. Very different from the other documentaries (actually, they were all quite different from each other - kudos to the film selection team), but just as interesting as all the rest. Quite the perfect end for a lovely festival. One that I'll be sure not to miss from here on out.

Other (non-film) highlights were - An incredible double bass performance in the art gallery by James Ilgenfritz; a rocking performance by the KC band Monta At Odds, with some really cool visual projections by Barry Anderson; a screening of Wizard of Oz synced with The Dark Side of the Moon and Kid A, which was a wee bit half-assed with some parts that went completely quiet, including about 5-10 minutes of the climax (I tried to think of some song/piece that would work well with that part and play it on my phone. Only song I could come up with was Alisha's Attic - I am, I feel - because when Dorothy clicks her heels together that part of the song "Clicked my heels together three times.." started playing in my head - but the stupid youtube app on my phone took too long to load and then insisted on playing an ad first and by then the movie ended already :( - Oh well)

I also sneaked off to KC Saturday evening for an amazing collab performance of Helen Gillet's music choreographed by Owen/Cox Dance Group called Memory Palace. But that deserves its own post, if/when I can get to it.

Here's a bit of the Monta At Odds performance

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Shuffled Quartet, Aurograph and Cornelius Cardew

On Thursday or Friday last, I got an invite on facebook to an event that sounded really promising. The invite was from Shawn Hansen, whom I've seen play a few times before. He was also the one who organized the Mind Over Mirrors show that I (half-)wrote about sometime ago. So I knew it would be something good. Then I noticed Helen Gillet was one of the members of the New Orleans based Shuffled Quartet, who along with KC's Aurograph were going to interpret these "graphic scores". I had seen Helen play a most excellent improv set along with a couple of European musicians back in 2012. My interest was piqued even more now.

I still had no idea who Cornelius Cardew was, or what a graphic score was either, for that matter. Now this all happened when I was stuck at home sick, so I naturally went on a wiki/youtube binge. Read up all about this amazing avant-garde musician turned communist and his graphical scores. Watched scores of videos of his masterwork Treatise, all of which were unique and a lot of which were quite awesome. By the time I was done, I knew I was going to this show, cold and flu be damned!

I went, I saw, and I was conquered.

Rather than me going on about what I saw, why don't I shut up for once and let the music do the talking. Enjoy!

The first set of original works by Shuffled Quartet

Part of Shuffled Quartet and Aurograph's interpretation of Treatise (only part of because I ran out of space on my memory card, which I really should've thought to empty out before the show)

For the curious, the number of fingers they hold up after switching slides indicates the number of minutes that particular slide will be played for. I have a number of questions still about whether they decided this time per slide beforehand (I'm guessing not), if they had set rules among themselves on how the different graphical elements of the score would be interpreted (my guess is yes), if they rehearsed part or all of it before, and I could go on. Maybe someday I'll muster up the courage to actually go talk to musicians after a show and ask. Or maybe it's best to let the magic be.

Thank you to both bands, and the Artspace, and everyone who made this happen. And special thanks again to Shawn for the invite.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Love, Food and Movies - Few of my favourite things

This weekend I watched a couple of Indian movies that were both about older (than the norm in Indian movies anyway, which seem to think love is the monopoly of young'uns) people falling in love. Not just that, they were also both about food. Food as the means of connecting these couples who fall in love without even seeing each other. I didn't plan to make a theme out of my weekend movie watching, but realised there had been one after the fact.

The first movie was the malayalam movie Salt and Pepper. It was mostly a light-hearted, feel-good sort of movie. Nothing earth shattering, but a nicely done romcom, which just happened to have at its center a lonely man in his 40s and an equally lonely woman in her 30s. They come together through their shared love of food, are kept apart by their insecurities (and complications arising therefrom), and finally overcome all to, if not live happily ever after, at least make a promising step in that direction.

The second one can be summed up in a strikingly similar manner, but for the ending. Although, that would really be selling it very, very short indeed. It was The Lunchbox. I have been meaning to watch this for a long time now, ever since I found it on pretty much every critic's (ones whose taste I respected anyway) end of the year list, usually at the very top. And it did not disappoint. I remember in an interview with Anupama Chopra, the director and actors talked about how they wanted to make the movie sweet but also sad. Or maybe it was happy but also sad. So they kept trying to find the sweet spot between the two - not wanting to make the characters out to be tragic or comic, but a bit of both. I think they nailed it. I found myself smiling throughout the movie but also feeling that tug at my heart. It's so easy to go overboard, but they managed it beautifully. I felt for these characters, with them, and most importantly, I fell for them.

When Saajan reads one particular note from Ila, and you can see in his face that he is falling for this woman, the thought that went through my head was "How I miss being in love!". But nay, that's not what I really miss. What I truly miss is falling in love. That sweet euphoria tempered with just the slightest bit of uncertainty. You are at your most vulnerable then and yet somehow feel on top of the world. Oh, to feel that way again!

That phase invariably leads to insecurity - in my case anyway. And so it is with Saajan. He is, however, more timid than I am, and almost lets his one chance at love slip away. The movie ends on a cliffhanger, leaving it up to the viewer to complete the tale. Having said so much, I think there can be hardly any question which ending I would want for these two people, whose loneliness I can relate to only all too well. However, much as I want it, can I believe such an ending to actually be possible? Life is rarely that kind. But, that's what movies and dreams are for. And I refuse to stop dreaming. Not yet, anyway.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Push the Sky Away

I braved a rather nasty cold to go see Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds tonight. And boy did I make the right call. I'd seen them once before, about 7 years ago, in a smaller venue in a bigger city (which strikes me as quite unusual in retrospect). But somehow, despite the fact that I was way at the back of this fairly big music hall, I enjoyed this show much more. Even the constant distractions in the form people walking up and down the aisles and from their seats and back (I really wonder why people can't just sit in one place for an hour together) didn't take away too much from the awesomeness of this band. They really blew me away.

There were three definite highlights for me, aside from the really strong opening three tracks which I wasn't previously familiar with and consequently can't name until I find the setlist. But coming back to the highlights, the first was naturally my all-time favourite song of theirs - From Her To Eternity - the song that first made me take notice of them. That it is featured in one my all-time favourite films - Wings of Desire - helps, of course, but the song itself is so powerful that I would've been drawn to it regardless. I positively squealed out loud tonight when Nick Cave began it with the classic "I want to tell you about a girl". No one else seemed to know or care for it much, but I jumped up from my seat and spent the whole song on my feet, swaying along with Nick. The second time I was compelled to get back on my feet was when they started playing Stagger Lee. This is a song that I only very recently got acquainted with thanks to a live version from their last tour on youtube. I was really hoping they'd play it and was so glad they did. Another incredibly powerful song and a tour de force performance from the whole band. That bassline is to die for. Also, Nick Cave's baritone works so beautifully in it, I must say.

The final song that really struck a chord with me tonight is the one I really wanted this post to be about (hence the title, which I wrote down first) - Push the Sky Away. They finished their set and the show, not counting the encore, with this song. And I really don't want to count the encore either because this was the perfect note to end on. It's the title song, and the closing track, from their latest album that came out last year. I hadn't listened to it before. I was listening to the album on my drive over, but reached the venue before I got to it. The lyrics gave it away so I knew what to look for right as soon as I got back to my car. I've listened to it over and over again since then. I don't know if I can describe what it means to me. The lyrics speak to me on a very personal level. And the music is such a good match for those words in how subdued and yet insistent it is.

Also, by a strange coincidence, it fits in with my post from yesterday. This song so eloquently says everything I struggled to express there. And it does so with such exquisite economy of words and tones, too.

This is what I live for. For nights like this. For discovering songs like this. Thank you Nick Cave. Thank you Bad Seeds.

I was originally going to link this recorded version of the song because it has the lyrics in the video. But I really love the live versions of this song so much more. They have an extra something. Immediacy perhaps. I also think I prefer the male backing vocals. And whatever instrument it is that Warren Ellis plays (if anyone knows what it is, do leave me a note below) sounds so much more fuller live.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

On Being Happy

There's a song on my favourite Venetian Snares album that goes like this

I used to understand happy, I know that I used to be happy. I was really happy.
I'm unhappy now and I don't remember what it's like to be happy, I only remember... I don't remember...
I remember being happy only in comparison to not being happy, which is what I am now.

Now I've gone through phases where I've felt this way, as I'm sure most other people have. Of course, I find my way back to being happy again by and by. But this past weekend, a couple of my friends confessed to not having ever been happy. Or rather, to not know what being happy really means. One of them said her mother would have a checklist and say "Okay, so you have this, this, this and this. So you must be happy." Her mother is a truly practical person, I guess. And I suppose that is one way.

To me, though, that seems a cop-out. No, that's not the right word. It's more that it is short changing your life to boil it down to things that can be put on a list. From my perspective, anyway. I would find such a life tedious and pointless. Funny thing is, "pointless" is probably precisely the word that many would use to describe my own approach to life. This, too, came up in subsequent conversation with the same two friends. One offhandedly told me I have too much free time, when I was telling them about the various movies, interesting and otherwise, that I've seen recently. This cut me to the quick and instantly put me on the defensive. I demanded that she explain herself because I wasn't quite sure what she was getting at, but the other friend jumped in and said it made sense to her and that it was said in jest. I still don't get the joke. It seemed to me more an implied accusation. As in, you have nothing important/worthwhile to do so you spend your time frivolously. The reason for me jumping to this conclusion is that it's not the first time I've had that thrown at me, overtly or subtly. My own mother being first in line among my accusers. If not that, then the most generous alternative interpretation that I can think of is that she meant that wistfully. In the sense of "I wish I had that kind of free time." Which would make sense given that she is super busy in her many roles as mom, wife and scientist, and views movies and music and such as primarily entertainment (to me they mean so much more).

But I digress. The point is, I live to be happy. I can't imagine not knowing what happiness is. It is scary to even think of such an existence. And an existence is all it would be. Not a life. To me living, truly living, means to experience joy, which comes through many means. One of the primary joys of my life is a very primal one - simply experiencing with my senses. That's why I would describe myself as, first and foremost, a sensual being (in the true sense of the word). I live to touch and see and hear and taste beauty. Beauty, not in the sense of aesthetically pleasing alone, but in a more wider sense. Beauty is in things that touch your soul. I don't believe in the concept of a soul or what-have-you, but I can't find another word to describe it. Something that strikes a chord in your innermost being. I've briefly touched on how music makes me feel in an older blog post. It is almost indescribable. It makes me feel alive. Yes, that's the way to describe it. I find beauty in things that make me feel glad to be alive. Glad that I'm alive in this moment to experience this thing that makes me feel this way. Life-affirming.

Maybe it's a very selfish way of looking at life. In fact, it certainly is, because if everyone chose to live like me, then the world would simply stop. At the end of the day, we do need people like these friends of mine, who take it upon themselves to put aside their own need for happiness (or lack thereof) and bear children and raise them and work at jobs that have meaning and a purpose and all the rest of that.  For myself, I'm not quite ready to give up my hedonistic life. And I strongly suspect I never will be. There's just too much out there, man.

Also, I should add that you don't need to confine yourself to listening to happy songs and watching feel good movies in order to be happy. On the contrary, I find myself drawn more to works of art at the other end of the spectrum. Mainly because they feel more real. To illustrate what I mean, I'll leave you with the song I opened this post with. It's one of the things that make me happy in the sense I've tried to describe. And it's a good example because, as you've probably guessed based on those words, it is not a happy song. It's not that I take pleasure in the pain expressed in it. I'm neither a sadist nor a masochist. Rather I find pleasure in how beautifully the song conveys the emotion of despair. It is a good song. And that makes me happy.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Dance of Reality

Watched this movie tonight. My first experience with Jodorowsky, not counting the countless times I've seen a certain gif from The Holy Mountain (sup mope). I understand that unlike his other movie this one had more structure and a (mostly) clear plot. It still had plenty of his trademark surrealism. But the mix of semi-autobiographical elements and this fantastical imagery made me think of magical realism.

Now I must confess I'm not terribly fond of magical realism. It's often too whimsical for me to really connect with, while at the same time not magical enough for me to ride that carpet. So the result is some level of frustration. However, I must admit that I find it much more engaging when presented as a movie. I think I liked this one. Still not sure what to make of it all. But the experience was not unpleasant overall. There are certain images that will stay with me for a while for sure. And certain images I hope I can get out of my head by and by. Some of the latter made me cringe and others made me squirm. There was one scene in particular that was so outré that it completely took me out of the movie and I found myself wondering how they shot it and if it was really real.

Fellini was an obvious reference point for me. But this film also reminded me of Mallick's Tree of Life. Both movies have fathers who are stern and rooted in rationality, and mothers who are deeply spiritual and advocates of, well, magical realism. I did NOT like the Mallick film. I found the religious overtones quite off-putting and the whole movie rather tiresome. In this movie, however, the treatment is less reverential and more dream-like.

I'm awfully sleepy and practically nodding off so I'll write more later perhaps. Apologies for any typos and/or general incoherence. Goodnight world.

Update: Sorry to anyone who read this before I fixed the colour/font mix up on this post. I typed it all up from my phone, half-asleep and didn't realise it was so messed up until I looked at it just now. But, in a way I guess it was oddly fitting of a write up on such a surreal movie. Heh.

Monday, 26 May 2014

What a shot!

So many thoughts running in my head about the movie I just finished watching - Kai Po Che. A rare real film. Sometimes a little too real. I mean to write about it in detail after I gather my thoughts, but I simply had to gush a little right away. My friend P didn't want to watch this on my birthday last weekend. She said it was too heavy and sad. I guess in a way it is. But that wasn't my take away at the end of the movie. Or if it was, it was sweet sorrow. I'm smiling but my heart is heavy. However, I don't wish that heaviness away. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014


Feeling like I should be doing something
Not work
Although I really should do that
And soon
Something more fulfilling than work
But what
Should write something more
A story?
Random words?
Or is that called free verse?
Sometimes having a brain can be such a

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Under the Skin

Saw this movie for the second time in as many days this evening. This is only the second time in over a decade that a movie has drawn me to the theater twice. The first was The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I may write about by and by), but I went back to see that one over a week after my first viewing. Part of the reason for my urgent need to see Under the Skin again so soon was, admittedly, external - tomorrow is the last day it is playing here and today is the last day I was free. But, even without that impetus, I don't think I would have been able to wait too long before going back for seconds. This film is just too compelling.

The first time I saw it, yesterday that is, I was simply spellbound. This despite the fact that there were some rather annoying distractions that marred my experience - multiple sets of people walking in late and taking their time to close the curtain at the back of the theater, an extremely loud party at the restaurant next door with obnoxiously loud country music playing over the movie (which uses sound in a brilliant way, but more on that in due course) and even louder women. But the movie broke through all these and held its own and made me hold my breath for most of its running time.

Scarlett Johansson really got under the skin of the character. She is fast becoming one of my favourite actors, having starred in two of the best movies I've seen this year (Her and Under the Skin). The film wouldn't have worked if she hadn't played the part just right. She is, after all, the only actor credited in the opening titles. And she was flawless. But this movie, like most all movies, really belongs to the director, Jonathan Glazer. I haven't seen a single feature film of his, aside from this. Only ever knew him as a music video director. A great music video director, truth be told (some of my all-time favourite music videos are his works), but that was it. Of course, I am now going to make it a point to seek out his other movies, both past and future.

Speaking of music videos, this movie in some ways feels like a long version of one of Glazer's best videos. There is very minial dialogue, and even so a lot of it is unintelligible (and unscripted too, I believe) because of the thick Scottish accents. But this matters not. This is a movie that doesn't need words. It speaks loudly enough with the visuals and even more loudly with that incredible background score. The music is pretty darn great in its own right, and I can easily see myself listening to it on loop for its own sake (Apparently it was scored by Micachu & the Shapes frontwoman Mica Levi - never heard of the band or this woman, but you can bet your ass I'll be looking both up and grabbing a copy of this score). But, the way it is used in this film! Seriously, this is hands down the best use of sound in a film I've seen in a very long time, possibly ever. Spoiler: The way that the recurring motif used when Scarlett's alien draws her prey in is used again when the roles are reversed - just wow. And silences are used just as effectively.

Sound editing deserves mention too. I especially liked how the sounds were abruptly cut off or changed when the scenes changed. It fit the mood of the movie well. And the mood is what this movie is all about. The atmosphere of the film is pitch perfect, and this is what draws the viewer in, I think. It is hard not to get sucked into it all. We are seduced in spite of ourselves. And once we're in there, it does strange things to us, that are hard to describe. Nay, hard to even make sense of. We are to this film what Scarlett's prey are to her alien.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Where did my Saturday go?

And I wasn't even sleeping all day. Oh well. Here's some cool music by a band playing at the Ende Tymes festival in NY this weekend. A festival I really wish I was attending. Maybe next year.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A very belated show report

I've been to some really great live shows these past 4 weeks or so. And I keep meaning to write about them but haven't been able to get around to it. I shall remedy this somewhat now. I scribbled part of the following on the back of a grocery store receipt while waiting for A Minor Forest to take the stage at one of the aforementioned awesome shows. I meant to copy it over and finish writing it that night (week before last?) but never got around to it.

Mind Over Mirrors, Shawn E. Hansen and ISAM

I found out about this show a couple of days before it was set to happen. It was at the same place as that Midday Veil/Expo '70 show I stumbled upon sometime ago. This place as I later found out happens to be where Justin Wright of Expo '70 lives, which explains how they're able to set up shows there at such short notice. It also explains why these shows are invariably really really good.

So anyway, once again I got there too early, even though I had taken the precaution this time of double-checking beforehand about when exactly the show would start. I was told in response to my enquiry on facebook that the music would start shortly after 8:30pm, and so I rushed over straight from work without even stopping to get dinner. I still only made it around 8:40, but fortunately, they hadn't started playing. I sat myself down in a corner of the room and waited. And waited, getting crankier by the minute.

Finally, just after I had broken down and posted a snarky tweet (which I later deleted), the first person (ISAM) began playing. This was an evening of 3 solo acts, you see. I quite enjoyed the first set once I got off the bench, whose shaking with every move of my neighbour was distracting me a tad too much, and sat myself down on the floor.

Next up was Mind Over Mirrors. From the first drone of his harmonium, I was hooked. This harmonium was nothing like the ones I was used to seeing my music teachers playing back in the day during my short stint at learning Carnatic music. Instead of having the bellows in front of the keys, this guy had a set up where the bellows were by his foot like pedals in a piano. See pics below..

                               To be continued... 

I made a friend... real life! This hasn't happened in so long that I thought it never would anymore. I was resigned to only getting to know new people through the internets. Which, to be honest, isn't so bad. It's quite wonderful being able to connect with people with similar interests who're on the other side of the planet.

But, there's just something so exciting about finding someone like that within stone's throw. Someone with good taste and, more importantly, that certain undefinable something that makes me feel comfortable being around them and speaking my mind. Comfortable enough for me to not come off either condescending and arrogant or painfully shy.

Someone I can maybe actually go to a show with. Without worrying about whether they're going to hate it. Without being annoyed by their persistence in chatting whilst the band is playing (we did meet someone like that at the show though and I did my best to ignore him).

But, more than that, this is someone I am interested in getting to know as a person. Not just a concert buddy. I sort of had one of those (through the internet again) sometime ago and we fell apart. No, what makes this so cool is that this time I enjoyed the conversation on our way to the show and back almost as much as the time there. Real actual conversation. Not just small talk or simply talking about music, but wide-ranging intelligent interesting conversation.

I'm quite giddy with excitement. I only hope I didn't completely misread her and she really did mean what she said about having had a good time and hoping we could do this again. Time will tell.

What I find amusing in all this is that I never thought I'd be so thrilled to make a platonic friend. The few times before now that I have made new friends or almost-friends in the past few years, it was always with men. I think this is because the only time I step out of the house, or connect with people on the internet, is for the sake of music and I guess the music I listen to draws a largely male audience. Now, if I'm being completely honest, invariably, on some level I either read more into it than there is or want to or expect to or whatever. Bottom line, it's rarely purely platonic, even if it is so on the surface. There is almost always subtext (real or imagined). And again, if I'm completely honest with myself, I must admit getting a kick out of this. So to find in myself the potential for excitement over a friend who will be just a friend is exciting in and of itself.

Okay, at this point, I'm probably rambling and should stop, so I will. Blame it on the lateness and the tiredness from a long but fun day. I'm sorry for the self-absorbed nature of the last few posts. I actually started writing about a concert today but wasn't able to finish it. Maybe I'll publish the incomplete draft just so all my recent posts aren't about me me me. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Bayta Sings the Blues

Somethings in life you can never really fully prepare for. You know it is inevitable, but deep down somewhere you hold on to the hope that you won't ever have to face it. That somehow, magically, you alone of all the people in the world will luck out and not have to face this particular situation that innumerable people before you have had to deal with, and uncountable people after will as well.

And then you find that your lot isn't all that special, and you too have to suck it up and make the best of it. You tell yourself half-cynically that you were a fool to ever think otherwise. That, of course, this has come to pass, as you knew it would. You try to be brave about it and cynical and anything but vulnerable. But it still hits you hard. Right in the pit of your stomach.

Never mind. This too shall pass.

By a strange coincidence, I was listening to this gorgeous song over and over earlier today. I don't quite know what the lyrics mean (I can make out a word or two but that's about it), but the music and the singing deliver the message clearly enough. The sense of melancholic longing pervades Rekha Bhardwaj's vocals as much as the sitar(?) strains. *sigh*

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Catching up

Today's been a day of catching up with old friends. Actually not just today. This whole week has been about that. It is true what they say - the older you get the more you need the people you knew when you were younger. Sometimes you don't even know you needed it until after the fact. So next time you feel like something's missing, not quite right, whatever, try giving an old friend a call. It just might leave you with a smile. I know I'm smiling today.

This one goes out to all my friends:

P.S.: I always thought I'd be one of those (most interesting) 40-year-olds who still don't know what to do with their lives. Now I'm well and truly on my way to that. Except I'm probably only interesting to myself. But hey, that's all that matters at the end of the day.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

When I grow up

I think I've finally hit on something I'd like to do for a living that perfectly matches my interests and abilities. I want to either start a record label or run a record store.

I love discovering and, more importantly, sharing new and interesting music. I am reasonably good at judging the sort of music someone would be open to based on their current interests and recommending something along those lines. I've done this in the past with tolerable success. While I'm generally not a people person, I am not exactly socially awkward either. So that shouldn't be a hurdle.

Yeah, the more I think about it, the surer I am that this is what I want to do - what I ought to do - when I grow up. The only question is when will I grow up? Or should it be will I ever grow up? Perhaps this is just another one of my daydreams. Well, I like dreaming. And who knows, maybe one of my dreams will come true one day...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


As a peace offering for whoever had the misfortune to read the rant I posted earlier, here's some amazing music I just came across (Twitter ftw yet again - thank you, Brett Naucke!)

Looks like the whole album is up on youtube. It is so so very unfortunate that this man is no more. I'm going to try and listen to everything he ever created.

Warning: Acerbic Rant Ahead

I haven't posted in a while for a combination of reasons. Primarily because I haven't had the time. But also because I wasn't feeling like writing. Been in a curiously dissatisfied frame of mind. Made a bit of a bad social blunder that I think I was led on to because of impatience. Either way it made me feel terribly ashamed of myself and resolve to not bother trying to reach out to humans again. Until the next time anyway.

So the reason I didn't have time was because I went to a music fest. It was a bit of a let down tbh. The highlights were seeing Wolf Eyes, Shabazz Palaces and Gary Numan. The first two I was especially looking forward to, and while they did not disappoint in themselves, the venue left something to be desired. The sound wasn't the best, and a patio in the cold wasn't the ideal place on some rather chilly nights.

The Shabazz Palaces show was almost ruined by a couple of really annoying drunk chicks who drove me up the wall. These idiots somehow managed to get spots right at the front and instead of enjoying the music spent almost the entire time either chattering loudly and taking selfies or taking a video of the performance on their phone with the flash on the entire time. I came -this- close to grabbing their phones and smashing them on the ground. It was so very distracting. They had some nice lights and stuff set up on stage but all we got to see for a large chunk was the infuriating white light from their phones. Just thinking about it makes me want to @&*$^*&!#^^&!#%

I'm adding drunk self-absorbed people more interested in themselves than the show ruining it for everyone else to my list of most FSSR (Fist Shaking Saber Rattling) inducing things ever. It may even surpass people who cruise at or below the speed limit on the passing lane and make it to the top of the list. These are not "pet peeves", mind you. These are the things that make me shudder with extreme repulsion when new-agey people talk about how we're all one mind or whatever. I do not want to have anything to do with inconsiderate jerks like these on any level.

These two women were extreme cases but I came across many such during the course of this music fest. Why oh why do people go to a concert and spend their time there talking, nay yelling loudly over the music, to each other? Couldn't they go elsewhere where they can talk without being disturbed by music and without paying the price of admission? Sigh.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Earth and Expo '70

Saw this awesome double bill tonight. I've seen both bands before multiple times so I knew what to expect. And neither of them disappointed.

I missed a bit of Expo '70 since the movie I was at earlier in the evening (the widely acclaimed Queen which I will write about tomorrow) ran a little later than I expected. I think the song I missed half of was the promised new one too. But no sweat, I'll be setting them again twice later in the month.

Earth was just what I need to soothe my ruffled feathers. Ruffled because I got stood up. Sort of. This dude I'm friends with on said he'd look out for me and say hi. We go to a lot of the same shows but have never actually met up. His taste in music is so close to my own that I actually use his upcoming shows list to pick the ones I want to go to. Would've been nice to actually have a friend irl with similar interests. Oh well.

But going back to the show itself, Earth, as I said, was the perfect music to make peace with the world. They alternates between tracks from their upcoming album and older material. The new stuff held up great, so I'm liking forward to that album which comes out in July apparently.

I get a day of tomorrow (not from work sadly) and then it's back to plenty of live music again on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at a music fest. I should get some rest now. Early and busy day awaits tomorrow. Think I'll play my favorite Earth album to sleep to. Here's a song from said album:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

Watched the first movie in the series - Tale of Zatoichi. All the movies are available for free streaming on Hulu this week courtesy of Criterion. It was really good. Perfectly paced and quite captivating. I want to look up the actor who played Zatoichi. He was so good. I want to watch all the films now. Maybe I'll try and sneak in a couple more before the week is up. Highly recommended.

Here's the link to the first one on Hulu. Only annoyance is that they have stupid ads breaking up the movie. I guess it's no worse than watching a movie on TV. At least they don't pull a Spotify on you and not let you mute the ads. I hate Spotify so much for that shit. But that's a rant for another day. Go watch Zatoichi be badass. Gogogo.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Some conversations

can be so draining. You know you're not really getting through to the other person but you try anyway. In the end, you walk away frustrated and they aren't feeling any better either. Wish I could avoid these situations. Usually I'm in too deep before I know what's up and then it's too late to back out. Ugh.

In other news, I spent a ton of money on music today. Have a sweet bunch of records headed my way soon. I should start doing the Vinyl Weekend thing again. I haven't been listening to my records as much as I should ever since I moved. Need to set up my gear properly. Soon.

Here's a list of what I bought today. All good stuff that is well worth checking out, mainly of an electronic/noise/drone/ambient music persuasion.

Dino Spiluttini & Nils Quak - Modular Anxiety

Safiyya - Shareek Hayaat

Fennesz Daniell Buck - Knoxville

Robert A.A. Lowe & Rose Lazar - Eclipses

3 Derek Rogers albums on bandcamp

Also, gave the new self-titled St. Vincent album a listen and quite liked it. I think I'll try and go see her show tomorrow after all.

Update: I took a photo of all that stuff I bought. Here it is.

Sunday, 30 March 2014


Been awake for 36 hours now. Not really sure why. On the bright side, got a couple of chores done, listened to some new music (well, I've been doing a lot of that, but this time it was full albums instead of soundcloud / bandcamp track by track listens: Andy Stott - Luxury Problems, Death Grips - Exmilitary, and Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Insen), and finished catching up on Community Season 5.

I quite like this new season. A huge improvement over the gas leak year. Lots of laughs as usual, but what was surprising was how emotional Troy's departure was. Maybe it was because I was running on no sleep for so long, but I admit I teared up a couple of times (that Abed!).

Ok, now I go sleep. Probably going to sleep my Sunday away. Oh well. Next week is so full of happenings it will totally make up for a mostly uneventful weekend. St. Vincent on Monday (maybe), Earth on Tuesday (definitely) and the Middle of the Map fest from Thursday to Saturday. I mostly only got tickets to the latter because Wolf Eyes was on the lineup. Still not really sure who else I really want to see. Was hoping some of the local psych acts would play but looks like they aren't. Have a few days to figure out my schedule, I guess...Ok ok, really going this time. Night night!

Oh, before I go, a recent music find that I'm quite digging -

Thursday, 27 March 2014

7 Khoon Maaf

Just finished watching my first Vishal Bhardwaj film - 7 Khoon Maaf. I knew going in that it was his least appreciated film. So why did I watch it first? Maybe for the same reason I save the best for the last. Mostly though because it was really available as the local library had a copy by some odd chance.

The film had certain striking sections and one brilliant song. The twist at the end was nicely done. But other than that it left me rather cold. The tone of it was just off. I liked the actor who played the narrator - turns out he is Naseeruddin Shah's son. The son outdid the father in this particular movie, as well as most others in the cast. I found John Abraham particularly lifeless and Annu Kapoor's caricaturish performance cringeworthy.

Overall, I find myself agreeing with Raja Sen's review minus his sense of disappointment for obvious reasons. I found his line about Neil Nithin Mukesh's moustache particularly enjoyable. More enjoyable that the whole of this movie, unfortunately.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

March is for Music

This month has been a wild ride. I haven't discovered this much new music in this short a time frame since sometime back in 2006 or 2007 when a certain bunch of people threw a lot of great music my way changing my life in a very fundamental way. That may sound like an exaggeration but it really isn't. It was pretty much the big bang of my musical universe. Or rather the inflation shortly after the bang (if I understand inflation theory correctly). So I'd like to say a big thank you to all those people whom I'm sadly not really in touch with anymore (internet, heh).

But coming back to the present, today's major discoveries were Good Willsmith and Nils Frahm. Never heard of either of them before today but one listen was all it took to compel me to buy their recent records. I haven't listened to Nils Frahm's Spaces in full yet, so I'll talk about that album another day. Good Willsmith's The Honeymoon Workbook, on the other hand, I listened to not once but twice. I listened the first time, LOVED IT, immediately bought the LP online (something I very rarely do, usually preferring to buy direct from artists on tour or at local record store), then listened again all the way through. I'm listening again as I write this, so make that three times.

Despite all these listens, I don't know if I can actually describe this album. A very vague description would be noisy ambient drone experimental electronic field recording and otherworldly sounding vocals filled yet rhythm oriented crazy dark yet compelling ride. It really is something you have to listen to and experience in its entirety, which you can do courtesy of tiny mix tapes here (scroll down to the soundcloud stream). The album is one cohesive piece with the tracks flowing right into each other. In fact, I found the little hiccup in the stream during track transitions a little off-putting tbh, so I'm all the more eager to get my LP with the download code. Here is the second track from the album, which is a good taste of it, and what drew my attention to it in the first place. But really, do listen to the whole thing if you like this. And buy it (they're even throwing in a free limited edition cassette of live recordings with the LP!)

In other unrelated news, Kronos Quartet started following me on Twitter this morning! I still half-think they must've accidentally clicked follow when looking at the multitude of tweets where I mentioned them yesterday. Which is partly why I didn't even give a shout out thanking them for the follow; I don't want them to realise their mistake and unfollow me right away. So instead, I'll say wtfwhee here instead. :)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Happy Birthday, Kronos Quartet!

I've gone on about them elsewhere but they deserve a post all to themselves, especially on their 40th birthday. Despite being someone who is not particularly knowledgeable or even uniformly appreciative of (western) classical music, I'm still strangely fond of Kronos Quartet. I think this has a lot to do with their very varied repertoire and collaborations with musicians from every imaginable genre and country pretty much.

I originally wrote a couple of paragraphs listing all the different works they've performed and tried to link one of each kind, but that's a hopelessly colossal task. So I'm going to content myself with writing about their live performance today to celebrate their fortieth - Kronos at 40 at the Greenespace in NY. As it happens, their set was well chosen to showcase their versatility, so it will serve my original aim perfectly.

The first piece they performed was written by Nicole Lizée specifically for Kronos Quartet. Death to Kosmische was actually more like a celebration of Kosmische Musik. Or maybe it was named thus in the sense that people say "they killed it". Yeah, that must be it, because Kronos did just that. The facility with which they switched back and forth between their regular string instruments and some really fantastic looking instruments was a joy to behold. But the greater joy was in listening to the brilliant sounds they created with all of these. I really really need to look up the composer to whom an equal share of praise is definitely due. When the piece ended, I couldn't help breaking out into rapturous applause even though I was sitting at home watching the video stream and knew they couldn't hear me. Sometimes (or is it most times?) applause isn't about showing appreciation so much as an involuntary response to a moving experience. Much like tears - which almost fell by the end of today's performance. But more on that in due course.

After that impossible to top opening piece, they played an arrangement of an old blues song by Geeshie Wiley called Last Kind Words. While this was really good, it didn't quite measure up Death to Kosmische for me. Admittedly, part of the reason for this is that Krautrock/Kosmische Musik is a top favourite genre of mine. But I think more critically this piece suffered from the lack of vocals. What's a blues song without the singing, eh? I can imagine how good this song would be with the right vocals and lyrics (the host recited a few of the latter and they were quite promising), and I mean to look up the original soon.

The third piece was also one that wasn't written specifically for Kronos, but they nailed this one. It was a special arrangement of a Cuban song - Margarita Lecuona's Tabú. I loved it. Hank Dutt was bang on in his introduction when he called it a very sexy, seductive song that it would be hard not to move to.

The final work was specially commissioned by Kronos Quartet as part of their Under 30 Project. In her introduction, the composer Mary Kouyoumdjian said that her piece was influenced by Steve Reich's Different Trains - one of my very favourite compositions ever. Unfortunately, I missed the first minute or so of Bombs of Beirut thanks to a bit of a snag in the live stream and/or my wireless network. When the video came back, my brain immediately recognized the Reich influence, but it took me some time to truly get into the piece and feel it. By the time the part where Kronos's playing and the voices narrating faded away to be replaced by the sound of the bombings (actual field recordings from the Lebanese civil war) came on though, everything except the music and the atmosphere it created had faded away as well. The last movement/section was extremely moving and I simply had to close my eyes and listen with all my being. When the piece ended, it left me in a completely different place from when I began listening to it. This time there was no bursting into applause. Just a sense of awe and also of emptiness.

After giving myself some time to recover, my first impulse was to seek out another song which was brought to my mind by this one. Very different in style, but very similar in theme - Vidai Kodu Engal Naade from Kannathil Muthamittaal. It was hard not to feel a deep sense of frustration and almost hopelessness after listening to this song right after the other one. Hard to keep back the thoughts about how stupid and pointless war is and why on earth stupid humans keep fighting each other time after time, all over the goddamned world. But no, I won't go there again. I'll leave you instead with these videos from today's performance (skip to 11:30 in the first video if you want to get right to the show):

My heartfelt thanks once again to Kronos Quartet, The Greene Space, Q2 music, and every single other person behind this amazing show and its live webcast!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Glenn Kotche - Adventureland

I mentioned this album in my last post and how I was interrupted mid-listen. Well, I finally listened to the whole thing today, and it is really really good. Definitely picking this one up when it releases. What drew me to this album was the fact that it featured Kronos Quartet, who can do no wrong in my eyes. I love just about everything that they've been involved in that I have heard. Even got to see them live once and it was amazing. Side note here - Q2 music is hosting a 24 hour Kronos Quartet marathon on Monday in honour of their 40th anniversary, including a live video stream of their anniversary performance (squee!)

But, I digress. Given that I was listening for Kronos Quartet, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked some of the movements of the second piece, The Haunted, that they haven't performed on. The rhythmic interplay between the piano and percussion work really well in them and are quite delightful.

The album itself starts off with Anomaly, movement 1 (the piece written for Kronos Quartet), which is glitchy minimal goodness, but the album really gets going with the second track, the aptly named The Haunted, movement 5 - Dance. The momentum keeps up after that with Anomaly, movement 2, whose percussive elements really speak to me. There are also a couple of pieces not belonging to either The Haunted or Anomaly, which are also really good. The first of these, The Travelling Turtle, is a simple happy tinkle-y piece. The other, Triple Fantasy, is quite a bit more complex and will require at least a second listen before I can digest it.

I am always drawn to percussion, to the beats, the rhythm more than anything else in music. And with Glenn Kotche being a drummer, there is no dearth of that here. I really should check out more of his work. Maybe even give his band Wilco a listen. Always assumed they were your typical indie rock band and never bothered checking them out. But, given how good this album is, a band this man is associated is surely worth my while to at least give a chance to.

You can listen to the entire album (and read a much more coherent write up of it) here. If you don't want to commit to listening to the whole thing without a small taste first, try this first

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A very musical day

It's been an overwhelming day. So much new music. It all started with listening to a mixtape by a Bang on a Can All-Stars member on Q2 music. I missed the Terry Riley piece, which is what drew me to start listening in the first place, but all the rest were very good and by unknown artists (to me) to boot. The only other name I recognized aside from Riley was Ryuichi Sakamoto. Mainly because of his association with Fennesz. I also vaguely remembered coming across Alva Noto sometime or the other. So I was eagerly waiting for that bonus track Moon. As it happened, it was never played.

Today also happened to be a busy day at work, which is where all this listening has been taking place. But I was so captivated by the music that was on this mixtape stream that I didn't want to leave my desk to go talk to a co-worker about some work related stuff. Kept waiting for a boring part that I could use as a break. It never came. Then I saw that the track currently playing was the last one before the bonus track. So I told myself I would go after that one and Moon had finished playing. Just 15 more minutes tops. Well, instead of Moon, they went right into a John Adams track. It was interesting enough to make me want to keep listening, even though it didn't make me want to look him or his work up right away. What I heard after the John Adams made me sit right up. I switch tabs to see whose work was playing, and it is John fucking Cage. Of course. I really need to listen to more of his discography. I loved this particular piece - Mysterious Adventure.

Meanwhile, I had seen a link to a new album featuring Kronos Quartet by some person I hadn't heard of called Glenn Kotche. Turns out he is the drummer for Wilco, a band I've heard of but never actually listened to (that I can remember anyway). Anyway, I started listening to this and really liked the two-ish tracks of it I heard before having to step away. Should listen to the rest of it sometime.

In all this, I hadn't forgotten about that bonus track that never got played. I had actually googled it as soon as I saw they weren't playing it, found a youtube video, which I left open in another tab so I could come back to it. I finally did just that and wow. So beautiful. At first, I was only listening to it in the background while doing other stuff, but it drew me back to it. The beginning actually reminds me of a Björk song I can't put my finger on right at this moment. The video was very interesting also. Turns out that it is actually an unrelated performance of a dancer called Yang Liping also titled Moon. It fits this track so well, however. I think I've listened to this song over a dozen times today. This despite discovering yet more new music thanks to a closeout sale at mimaroglu (brain was too fried by this time to take in any more new music, although I've made note of the stuff I want to revisit there). Anyway, I'll leave you with the video/song that really caught my fancy on a day filled with so much amazing music. Enjoy!

Just realized that this is my 50th blog post. How fitting that it should be about music - my raison d'être.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

More Marx Madness

Saw my second Marx Brothers feature on the big screen today - A Night at the Opera. It was eerily like watching a Tamil masala movie (not sure if other Indian language films do this as well). Only in our masala movies, what could have been a perfectly good drama/romance/whatever is rudely interrupted by an unnecessary and jarring comedy track, while here it was the other way around.

The Marx Brothers were brilliant, even more so than in Duck Soup in places, but their hilarious, rip-roaring (I was seriously laughing so loud, but I didn't feel awkward this time thanks to everyone else in the audience also joining in) awesomeness was awkwardly broken up by this completely bland, boring and oh-so-badly acted romance plot. Seriously, even I, with my fanning-only dramatic skills, can do better than the "lead" couple in this movie. And my cat staring boredly at the camera would have more screen presence that these two with their vacuous expressions.

And those songs! Ugh. Almost yelled at the screen a couple of times asking them to shut the fuck up and get the brothers back on screen already. Managed to restrain myself with a great effort and satisfied myself with pulling faces in the dark instead.

The only musical piece I enjoyed was Chico and Harpo's piano and harp bit after the token item/hero song (they seriously showed a random shot of a woman's undies, because hey, why not) in the ship. Chico's piano playing was such a treat to watch. I was as memerised as those children were. Never have I enjoyed watching someone play the piano so much. Harpo's harp (!) piece, on the other hand, quite took me by surprise. It was such a beautiful rendition. He's always the clown - right before going to the harp he takes over the piano from Chico and does a zany bit - so I wasn't expecting him to play something so moving. He does make crazy eyes for a bit in the middle, his playing is still on point.

The comedy, like I said before, was ridiculous and absurd and amazingly funny. Groucho seemed to have fewer puns this time around. Or at least, they weren't coming at jet speed like in Duck Soup. He kills it in that cabin scene though. "Two boiled eggs. Make that three."

Give them a thousand boiled eggs, for crying out loud. They deserve that and more. These guys were so freaking talented. I am officially a fan. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Random Live Music Day

I found out about this show (Expo 70 + Midday Veil + Airport) just an hour before it was supposed to begin in a venue some 40 miles away. It was a show I really wanted to see. Only catch was I didn't have the exact address of the place. I had a vague memory of catching another show there a few years ago, featuring Expo 70 again, actually. All I remembered was that it was an art studio type place in an out-of-the-way part of the city where some of the more experimental local bands and occasionally some out of towners played, usually for free or for a small donation. I posted on the Midday Veil fb page asking for the address without much hope of an answer that late. But, lo and behold, they answered.

So I drove over thinking I was an hour late and hoping I wouldn't miss either Expo 70 or Midday Veil. I get there only to find no one but the bands inside and about 4 people hanging outside the studio. It was too cold to stay out, so I went in, said an awkward hello, sat down and pulled out my phone. Expo 70 who went first started playing a solid hour or more after I got there. Smartphones are such a blessing in circumstances like this, although I did wish I had the guts to join in in their conversation about krautrock and other cool musics. Especially when I overheard them talking about Can and Faust. Sigh.

Anyway it was a great show and a perfect way to start the week. Very glad I decided to go even though I was feeling a bit under the weather. I'll write up a more detailed review tomorrow maybe. I just got back home and it's already past 2 (I wrote up part of this post in between acts). Must hit the sack soon 'cause I have to make it to work early tomorrow so I can get out of work early as well.  Marx brothers month continues tomorrow with A Night At The Opera. Whee.

Oh, also, the percussionist from Midday Veil (dude played the bongos and a triangle(!) among other things) thanked me for stopping by on my way out. It was a last minute plan to have the show apparently, and only a handful of people turned up overall, and I was the only one aside from the band folks who stayed till the very end. It was very nice of him, but I'm pretty sure I made a fool of myself. Still, :)

And since I'm in such a good mood. Here have a song by one of my all-time favourite bands, a live version even:

Monday, 17 March 2014

Stop waffling

Why is change so scary while at the same time stagnation intolerable? You want to get out of the rut you've somehow gotten yourself into, but you're afraid to take that leap. What if what you leap into is worse than this shithole?

So you do nothing. Not yet, you tell yourself. But guess what, inaction is how you ended up where you are in the first place.

Stop. Waffling.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Music for a rainy day

Bohren & der Club of Gore is one of my top choices for rainy day music. This is music that will conjure up images of rain and drench your soul even if you listen to it on a bright and sunny day. It is like the soundtrack to an imaginary film noir, only slowed down even more than those soundtracks usually are. I guess that's where the labels doom jazz and noir jazz come from. This is not happy music. But it is seductive all the same.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Bang On A Can's 2014 People's Commissioning Fund Concert

I caught the live stream of Bang on a Can's People's Commissioning Fund concert yesterday (you can find the full audio here) and it made me so so happy. Bang on a Can is a contemporary classic music outfit based in NY. Every year they do this concert funded by, well, the people where they commission works from upcoming and established composers to be performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars ensemble. They also do other festivals and events throughout the year - one of which, the marathon concert, is one I've long longed to go to but it always either happens when I'm least able to fly to NY or I find out about it just after it's over.

Yesterday's PCF concert started out with an avant-garde piece called Lick which was apparently composed by one of the co-founders of Bang on a Can, Julia Wolfe, 20 years ago! I missed the intro and had no idea that the piece was that old. It was quite radical and rad. A joyfully cacophonous way to start the concert, I must say.

After that energetic start, they premiered the three pieces commissioned for this year, the first of which completely blew me away. It was Alvin Lucier's Firewood. Now I had never heard of this man before. The write up called him an electronic music pioneer. He spoke about the piece before the played it and he sounded very old. That's about the sum total of what I caught since my mind was wandering. The one thing he said that caught my attention was how he didn't use electronics unless he had to (none was used for Firewood). The incongruity of that struck me since he was billed as an electronic pioneer.

I paid more attention when I listened to his introduction speech again just now (I'm relistening to the whole show as I write this), and only some of it made sense to my musically ignorant brain. The gist of it is that the piece was inspired by the tracks left by insects as they crawled on firewood. He split the All-Stars into two trios that play his score in such a way that one trio follows the pattern of the tracks and the other plays tones that cause interferences that produce beats.

All this I know now. All I knew yesterday was this was a piece of music that really moved me. It was completely mesmerising. One of those rare moments that make you really glad to be alive. My only regret is not getting to experience it live in that hall. It starts just after the 16 minute mark in the audio stream. Start a few minutes earlier if you want to hear the intro. Headphones are essential for the full effect. I don't have my headphone here with me now and it really takes away from the experience when ambient noises interfere with the music.

The second piece they premiered was The Brief and Neverending Blur by Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry. I didn't really know Parry or his work, in or out of Arcade Fire, aside from the score of Her (although I think it was another band member who co-composed that). I found this piece quite underwhelming, but I think it suffered because it followed Lucier's piece. When I listened to it again today, with an adequate break in between the two pieces, I liked it more. Still it seemed to fall just short of being great.

The final premiere was Daniel Wohl's Holographic. This piece brought back the magic, the joy. A very fun and delightful electroacoustic work. It is hard not to smile when listening to it. I'm definitely looking up more of this guy's work. Quite the find.

And speaking of finds, Alvin Lucier is obviously the biggest discovery for me from this show. The best musical/artistic find in quite some time. I've looked him up since then and I'm quite keen on listening to every single piece he's ever created. I did listen to his most famous work, I am sitting in a room, earlier today. It is quite something indeed. The concept is brilliant, but what's amazing is how well it stands as an engaging piece of music in its own right. I really want to try it out in different rooms to see what I can come up with.

I know this post is already overlong and I should probably end here, but I really want to share this brilliant review of I am sitting in a room by Brian Olewnick. It says everything I can't. Read, and then listen.