Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 10: Home Cookin'

Louis Jordan
Last night's show was all about tasty licks and cheesy puns. Vamping off the Home Cookin' theme, I served up a fourteen-course meal of food-inspired songs. Here's the menu:

Beans and Cornbread - Louis Jordan
I've Never Seen a Straight Banana - the Happiness Boys
Come on-a My House - Rosemary Clooney
Everybody Eats When They Come to My House - Cab Calloway
A Chicken Ain't Nothing but a Bird - Nellie Lutcher
Eat that Chicken - Charles Mingus
If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked a Cake - Eileen Barton
Alligator Meat - Joe Swift
Chitlin Cookin' Time in Cheatham County - Pokey LaFarge
Sukiyaki - Kyu Sakamoto
Call Any Vegetable - Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
Fish in the Jailhouse - Tom Waits
Beef Jerky - Cibo Matto
A Real Nice Clambake - Carousel

Not the freshest tracks, because like I said on the show, singing about food is fast becoming a lost art. But come to think of it, I don't have to say "like I said on the show" anymore, because the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour will now be available for streaming! I was under the impression that copyright laws forbade me from posting the show after the initial broadcast, but now I have it on good authority, I was wrong. I'll update the old posts, but it's a time-consuming process so it'll be awhile.

That said, don't stop listening on Monday nights! There's only one show left this season before we break until January. Based on the phenomenal success of the Halloween special, brace yourself for a sleighful of weird Christmas tunes...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at http://www.trentradio.ca/stream.htm.

Listen to this episode:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Saddest Book in the World

Is non-fiction, naturally. The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky is one of the first that springs to mind when I think of books that moved me, despite the fact that it is nonsensical, mundane, and repetitive by turns. Because it is a diary, it's very clearly alive, and documents the thoughts and feelings of the most famous dancer in the world as his sanity erodes.

Vaslav Nijinsky earned his title largely through the ballets he staged from the 1912 to 1916, such as The Rite of Spring and L'apr├Ęs-midi d'un faune, which were crucial to the development of modern dance. Both in his choreography (he treated ballet audiences to their first simulated masturbation onstage) and his expressive dancing, Nijinsky was way ahead of the curve and one of the most controversial, challenging artists of his time. His career ended prematurely when he began to suffer from schizophrenia, and after leaving a snapshot of the breakdown in his diary he would spend the rest of his life moving from asylum to asylum.

The book opens with a bland observation that veers abruptly into the ominous: "I have had a good lunch, for I ate two soft-boiled eggs and fried potatoes and beans. I like beans, only they are dry. I do not like dry beans, because there is no life in them. Switzerland is sick because it is full of mountains." The whole diary is written in terse, declarative prose. Despite the dark overtones, the saddest book in the world also happens to be quite funny, when the quick-change nature of Nijinsky's thought catches you by surprise. It's a powerful personal style any author would be jealous of, though the editor suggests it is a byproduct of Nijinsky's attempt to keep his thought process from derailing. I have heard mental health experts say it is helpful to think of how behaviour is adaptive rather than maladaptive according to the inner logic of the one experiencing it, and the suggestion certainly makes for a compelling reading Nijinsky's prose.

For instance, it's sometimes easy to read between the lines and imagine what an impartial observer might see, based on Nijinsky's grandiose descriptions. Here's one example of a walk in the woods: "I ran home, glad these trials were over, but God commanded me to direct my attention to a man who was coming towards me. God commanded me to turn back, saying that the man had killed another man. I ran back. When I got back, I felt blood and hid myself behind a hillock. I crouched down so that the man would not see me. I pretended I had fallen in the snow and was unable to get up. I lay there for a long time." As Nijinksy continues to describe the scene, it seems likely he's waiting out a bout of anxiety as he spies on an old man out collecting firewood.

As odd as the diary can be, helpful footnotes by editor Joan Acocella provide the biographical context sometimes necessary to make sense of it. In some places, there is more sense to the diary than at first there appears to be, such as when Nijinsky mentions his artistic theories, the bitterness he feels towards his contemporaries, or briefly seems to realize that his daughter is afraid of him. The fact that his diary represents his very last effort to maintain makes it all the more heartbreaking. You can tell he is failing in his efforts when the text devolves into nonsense "poems" made of scattered syllables - in a letter addressed to Jean Cocteau he writes, "Tchigi, rigi, rigi, tchigi. Migi, tigi, tigi, tigi."

I can't find the citation to make it official, but I read somewhere that it's rare to find a firsthand account of a breakdown in progress. Written by the person experiencing it, it's much more common to find retrospective analyses (Mark Vonnegut, Kurt's son, has a good one called Eden Express). There's also no shortage of commentary by third parties. The only thing remotely like the Diary is Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by D. P. Schreber, and the academic tone of that book is very different from the raw intensity of Nijinsky's.

If you plan on looking up the Diary, just make sure you get a recent edition, rather than the version edited by Nijinsky's wife Romola. Her edits play up the messianic qualities of the writing and drop the ramblings, framing Nijinksy as a prophet. Whether she was trying build a cult following or preserve her husband's reputation I'm not sure, but the cuts do everyone a disservice. If you really get into Nijinsky, I'm sure it makes for an interesting followup, but go for the straight goods first. If you're interested in reading about mental illness from an empathic rather than clinical perspective, or even just looking for a challenging read, you cannot do better than the unexpurgated Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky. It contains the kind of insight you cannot get anywhere else.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 9: Sad

Berzilla Wallin
Whew! The emotional rollercoaster of the last three episodes rolled gently to a stop last night when I looked at Sad Songs. Of course, I stayed weeping in the car for a few more numbers, praying it would start again, but the ride was over. At least that's how it felt, and here's why:

My Melancholy Baby - Gene Austin
When Can I Change My Clothes? - Bukka White
As Time Draws Near - Tommy Jarrell
Berzilla Wallin - A Conversation with Death
Hard Times Come Again No More - Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O'Connor w/James Taylor
Justin Townes Earle - Mama's Eyes (Live @ the Collect)
Jolie Holland - Damn Shame
Gonzales - Gogol
Iron & Wine - Upward Over the Mountain
Joanna Newsom - Sadie
Tom Waits - Take It with Me

Next week, we'll return to a more emotional balanced musical diet. Of course, I wasn't able to get to everything on my list, not to mention the great suggestions people gave me. Maybe if we ask the carny nicely, he'll fire up the 'coaster once more before the season ends?

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at http://www.trentradio.ca/stream.htm.

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 9

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 8: Happy

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
We put Anger behind us, and this week Happy came due. The latter was more fun to put together, and if you caught the show last night I hope you dug it too. I tried to do a little compare and contrast, so Big Mama Thornton appeared again this week, and the show kicked off with a more uplifting take on a religious tune:

Rev. Gary Davis - Oh Glory, How Happy I Am
Big Mama Thornton - My Man Called Me
Petunia - Big Wide River of Love
Hasil Adkins - I'm Happy
Kanui & Lula - Tomi Tomi
Moondog - Westward Ho!
Harry Belafonte - Jump in the Line
Stevie Wonder - We Can Work It Out
The Go! Team - Get It Together
Four Tet - Smile Around the Face
Taraf de Haidouks - Briu
Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers - The Getaway
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - I'll Fly Away
Os Mutantes - Bat Macumba

A few predictable choices snuck in, but I was in a great mood by the end of it. I hate to tell you, but to complete the trilogy we've gotta do sadness. I promise to err on the side of sweet melancholy, though...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at http://www.trentradio.ca/stream.htm.

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 8

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Movie Review: Blood Tea and Red String

The greatest video store I have ever known, Peterborough's Have You Seen, went out of business this month. I have no reason to live and I can't stop crying, but I cling to the memory of my last rental there. Christiane Cegavske's Blood Tea and Red String will always remind me of better times, before a gaping wound opened in Peterborough's cultural side.

If you don't like stop motion, stay the hell away. If you have a taste for it, Blood Tea and Red String is impossible to dislike. Christiane Cegavske would probably be glad to hear that, because it took her thirteen years from to go from idea to execution. For a move in production that long, it's remarkably cohesive - all the ideas I had thirteen years ago seem pretty stupid to me now. The end product looks like Jan Svankmajer animating a long-lost Alejandro Jodorowsky script. It even has the same kind of grainy, washed out colour that is Svankmajer's stamp. It doesn't have any animated meat, but it does have a cake filled with bugs. The Jodorowsky link comes through in waves of inscrutable symbolism and psychedelic mythology. That said, Cegavske definitely has her own thing going, a certain crafty, earthy, entirely handmade feeling that makes the proceedings feel a whole lot older than most releases from 2006. It also reminded me heavily of the stop-motion version of the Wind in the Willows, the difference being that the weirdness here seems intentional.

It has a plot. It has to do with a bunch of bat-eared crows with brown fur getting their idol back from a posse of white mice who stole it. Along the way they eat psychotropic passion fruit and face a spider with a human head (come to think of it, that's exactly the kind of stuff I was thinking about thirteen years ago). I'm not sure I understood a whole lot else, but I know I liked it. For a film as homemade and rustic looking as this one, I thought the angles and editing were sharp and creative and kept things ticking. I seem to be moving away from words, because like the Jim Woodring comics I wrote about a few months ago, this fairy tale is entirely wordless. It's got one helluva soundtrack to make up for it, though. Mark Growden's music, with its meandering, pastoral wooden flute melodies, sometimes verges on cheesy sixties folk but matches the scene perfectly and lends extra mystery. The music during the tea party dance made me excited and sick to my stomach, exactly what I look for in a soundtrack.

Cegavske says on her website that Blood Tea and Red String is part of a planned trilogy, and the next installment is almost ready to begin shooting. She's posted a tantalizing image or two already - if I have to wait until I'm in my forties to see I'm going to be disappointed. In the meantime, I heartily recommend the first film. I don't know where you're gonna find it... but enough lamenting, here's the trailer:



(P.S.I don't want to spoil the movie, but if you want to see that wonderful sickmaking scene with the dancing mice, it's available online here.)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 7: Angry

Angsty Weirdo Robert Graettinger
Last night's look at expressions of anger through music was probably more nerdy than cathartic, since I disallowed overtly aggressive genres. We did manage to cover a fair bit of ground, though, across a spectrum of the political and personal. Below you'll find righteous anger, wrath, cynicism, spite, and vengeance, most of it tuneful. Some tracks, like Randy Newman's "Short People," just pissed people off when they first heard it. If you're trying to keep an even keel, tune in next week and I'll follow up with Happy, Sad, any other emotional state you suggest, provided I can scrape up an hour's worth of music to match. Here's yesterday's playlist:

Rev. Sister Mary Nelson - Judgment
Harry McClintock - Hallelujah, I'm a Bum
Blind Willie McTell - Your Southern Can Is Mine
Leadbelly - Bourgeois Blues
Big Mama Thornton - I Smell a Rat
Nina Simone - Pirate Jenny
Wild Man Fischer - The Wild Man Fischer Story
Randy Newman - Short People
Robert Graettinger/Stan Kenton - Everything Happens to Me
Charles Mingus - Solo Dancer
Tom Waits - Hell Broke Luce

Did I miss anything? I'm certain I did. Let me know and maybe we can do a year end round-up...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at http://www.trentradio.ca/stream.htm.

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 7

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 6: Halloween!

Screamin' Jay Hawkins
I didn't get any trick or treaters at my house last night, so this was my big Halloween hurrah. Here it is, boys and ghouls:

Frankie Stein and his Ghouls - Lullaby of Ghost Land
Joe Meek (The Moontrekkers) - Night of the Vampire
Vincent Price - Hand of Glory
Tom Lehrer - I Hold Your Hand in Mine
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You
The Destroyers - The Glass Coffin Burial of Professor Zurinak
Firewater - Before the Fall
Cat Power - Werewolf
Vincent Price - Protection from the Hand of Glory
Timber Timbre - Swamp Magic
Judson Fountain - Garbage Can from Thailand
Stephen Terrell - I Lost My Baby to a Satan Cult
Tom Waits - Don't Go into that Barn
Me - Bang & Jangle Halloween Special
Secret Chiefs 3 - Welcome to the Theatron Animatronique

I had a hoot doing that one. Hope you liked the track by Judson Fountain, the Ed Wood of radio drama. If you liked that particular piece of crap, boy is there a lot more of it. Hope you had a spooktacular Halloween, let's do it again next year and I'll shower you with puns all over again...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at http://www.trentradio.ca/stream.htm.

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 6

Halloween Special: Theme Recording

I got so jazzed about doing a Halloween episode of the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, I had to record my own entry. I debuted it last night on the show, and now it's available here so you'll be ready the next time Halloween rolls around.

It's a bit muddy, and only half of that is intentional. As I said on the show, I was aiming for campy, but I landed on brutal. I had a good time concocting it from things you can find around the house (broken music boxes, bowls of dead leaves), and my neck still hurts from screaming. That's legitimate anguish you hear, ladies and gents.

Speaking of muddy recording, you may have noticed I proposed a slew of projects in early September, and have been quiet ever since. That's because holiday specials excepted, I don't want to record anything until I know I can make it better than what's come before. That means upgrading my space, equipment, and know-how (a large shipment of hideous pumpkin-coloured acoustic foam arrived yesterday, for instance). Once I've pasted that up and I'm over the learning curve on the new software, my recordings should be sounding pristine in time for the holly jolly Christmas special.

But that's beside the point. Here is my ultra-spooky Halloween special, which incorporates the sound of being buried alive, werewolves, and changing your guitar strings into a horrifying span of three and half minutes. Listen to it now... if you dare!

Bang & Jangle Halloween Special