Music


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Think of a world in which the continuum between Beethoven and the Pixies had been left unbroken. Think of a world in which instrumental power jazz would be free of Jamie Cullum. Think of a world where modern classical vamps would contain 0% clayderman fat and where innocent boppy pop tunes would not spell b-r-i-t-n-e-y.

Now think of the Bad Plus.

 

I don’t know if they would be happy reading this introduction, but something tells me they would not disagree so much. I mean, how many times do you come across a traditional piano trio combo sounding like both Schubert and Soul Coughing at the same time?

It amazes me how much music there is out there that is still unknown to a lot of people, how even the Bad Plus (which, if one goes by their presence in the international festival circuits and their contract to Sony, is not an obscure group) were unknown to me until a month ago. You’ve got to thank the people who go through my orders at amazon.com for suggesting them to me…

And you’ve got to thank Pandora. The best thing since wonderbra (or was it wonderbread, I’m not sure…)

 

Suspicious activity is their latest, and probably best, album, because it features more long tunes from Reid Anderson, the bassist. His sense for the intrinsic beauty of melody is brutally honest, in a time where music has never been so redundant and inward-looking. Listen to Prehensile dream or lost of love and try to be cynical about it: there is not a hint of misplaced sentimentalism, not a note that should not be where it is. It speaks the truth, pure and simple.

 

But the Bad Plus are more than that, and they’re more than the sum of its brilliant parts. Dave King is the beefiest non-straight-rock drummer that jazz is seeing right now, and Ethan Iverson’s left hand is scary. His right hand is scarier.

 

The Bad Plus have a myspace site here.

 

And when you thought it was all over, there is also Happy Apple, but that’s another story…

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So after nearly three years spent in Seem City, I finally attended my first non-classical concert. This coming from someone who used to spend his meagre stipend in London to watch bands on a weekly basis, you can understand how getting my ears roughed up a bit came as a relief, at long last.

Not that we’ve had no choice: Nana Mouskouri and Kenny G came a few months back, Clayderman is a regular, Coldplay played their earnest ‘we need to save the earth’ stadium-friendly tunes for the socialist-minded sum of 180 bucks (seem city money, but still), and about 2000 15 year-old-schoolgirls convened when Franz Ferdinand stopped over.

But Mogwai now, that’s another matter. They played at the Esplanade theatre, which is one of the Classical venues of choice: good acoustics, comfortable seating, no mosh pit. Not that you need one with Mogwai, mind you… but it was interesting to see how the usual uppity crowd of well-to-do educated Seem citians had morphed into the national convention of indie kids. I suspect it was all their children anyway… seriously, how many dark thick-rimmed glasses can you have in an ‘alt rock’ concert? But nevermind the sociological rant.

At least the usual Mogwai crowd is well behaved to the point of not talking within the tracks, and since Mogwai played their set almost straight, the crowd didn’t say much. That reminded me of the black sessions on France Inter some 8 or 9 years ago, when they were still a relatively unknown Scottish outfit. The same earshattering drive, the same ethereal melodies, and somehow what works is the combination of both. It is actually a harrowing experience live, which is why I don’t think you can talk so much.

My problem with Mogwai is that I can’t remember the title of the songs, but the highlight of the gig was the last 20 minutes of the first set, when they segued the opening of happy songs for happy people into Mogwai fear Satan from the young team album, and then, just when you had sunk in the trancelike motive of that track, they played Glasgow megasnake (correct title? See, I don’t remember and I can’t be bothered to check amazon whether I’m right). Awesome. J. wished she had taken up the offer for free earplugs at the entrance though…

Whatever it is, listening to a band like that always gives me directions for my own music, and at the same time thoroughly frustrates me a bit too. Same old same old. But it’s getting there, slowly…

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This is the view from the new apartment. Same block, same layout, same size, but no more car park!!! No more darkness at 3 pm because the damn window faces North. Instead we now have an unblocked view of the reservoir, and if you were to zoom past the row of HDB blocks, you may be able to spot some of the downtown skyscrapers.

Thanks, Giedre and Kaj! But I suppose the summer cottage beats this anytime anyway.

Moving has been good, and with my holiday 2-week MC I have been able to unpack everything, while taking care of Luca as well. Actually i don’t mind moving, I must get that from my parents, who were absolute experts in their day. It’s a good reason to throw away unwanted stuff, get rid of the useless junk and clutter, and just make the house more practical, which is a luxury when you have a toddler.

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Luca is almost walking now, and it’s a matter of weeks before he tries it out on his own, so you don’t really want too much furniture in the way.

But for the moment Luca’s big thing is his Chiang Mai xylophone. We bought quite a few toys in Thailand, in the hope that the sweatshop condition is less objectionable there (is it? is it?). Whatever it is, the wooden toys are nicely made, way cheaper than what you can find over here, and much better quality than anything made in China.

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Plus, the xylophone comes with its own exotic scale. No ‘doremifasollasido’…instead, it’s a hybrid pentatonic/atonal scale! Fantastic. Luca loves it, and after a few days of figuring out, he has learnt how to beat the xylophone with the right end of the mallet, the harder the better…

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He does get bored after a while though…but so far this new activity has been keeping him very busy.

Of course, once you have tried the kiddy version, you want to have a go at the real thing.

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I have sat with him on the piano for some time now, but he hadn’t quite shown much interest. These past few weeks have been such a drastic change though. all of a sudden, he has discovered the difference in pitch (he loves going from low to high and back again) and in dynamics (again, the louder the better).

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He kind of hums too, like a miniature Thelonius Monk.

The musical dad is happy. But Luca can definitely improve his spoon-management skills.

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