Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

review: Akron/Family-Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free

In music, reviews on May 18, 2009 at 10:25 am

Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free
Dead Oceans, 2009

Have had my hands on this one for a couple of weeks, but I needed some time with it. Unlike some more esteemed critics, I don’t know this band. I’ve since read that they’ve presented a few killer shows, come out with a few awesome albums. But if there was a band that the term “freak-folk” was created for, it’s these guys. Once the hottest thing in Brooklyn was starry garage rock, now it’s some folksy-get back to basics-off the grid mess. Now, I don’t really know what the “freak-folk” tag means, but on the opener “Everyone Is Guilty” it means combining some of the more traditionally organic instruments into some raucous explosions and funk jams. On “Creatures,” it means quiet electronics and gentle bass beats. Something like “Many Ghosts” finds a happy medium between these two, both in instrumentation and pace with some angelic harp harmonies for good measure. The album rides back and forth between those two speeds–15mph and maybe 45 mph. This isn’t some full-on Avett Brothers folk-punk, but there are some admirable guitar jams (“MBF”) moody atmospherics and quirky brass, and sometimes all appear at once such as on “Sun Will Shine.”
But the heavy hitter and the one most passed around for good reason is “River.” It has an accessible melody and mines ground that favs of mine Anathallo and The Decembrists have already explored. Akron/Family splinters in many directions, but somehow reels it in by having the similar ideas for each song. The only difference may come in choosing a piano or a violin to play the same part. Those decisions are crucial and Akron/Family is still navigating it. Hence, the term “experimental.”


missed it the first time: Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler

In books, missed it the first time, reviews on May 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm

An occasional series to review books that are several years old and Deckfight has never read before

To describe Italo Calvino’s classic If on a winter’s night a traveler as difficult is the same as saying that dog barks or babies cry. It’s that obvious and sometimes the difficulty of it is that annoying. To approach the book without that mindset will cause all to fail. It demands patience, it demands long attention. In some ways it may be the best literary theory book ever written (not the ‘theory’ word), because of his knack for illustrating tough concepts into imaginable situations. That he does all of this with the second-person (choose-your-own-adventure style) is both confounding and genius. He challenges the notion of reading, the concept of books, and the idea of authors and readers at every turn while somehow also concluding it.
The conceit is that Calvino writes ten different beginnings to story, each with a portion of a title that then makes a longer sentence. The plot is that a character named “you,” indicated as the reader is on a quest to find and connect these stories together, each time running into a new story and more difficulty. Along the way, you meet several different readers and people who each approach books and the concept of books differently. There is the person who derives meaning from books by the frequency of how many times a certain word is used. There is the sculptor who uses books as his material. There are the scholars who argue constantly over proper translations. Like the best soapbox prophet, he is still somewhat of a pariah. Unfortunately all of his ideas presented here still seem new and fresh even though it’s thirty years old. The literary world still hasn’t caught up with him. Calvino manipulates, warns and challenges us without few ever fully engaging him. He is either one of the best ever or the craziest ever. Or both.