Sunday, August 24, 2014

Is This Thing On?

*tap tap tap*


Oops.  Guess so.

Hi there!  Since I haven't done anything here for a few weeks I thought I'd let everyone know where some projects lie.  Firstly, Inkbok is no longer a thing I'm going to be putting any more time and energy into.  They decided that they couldn't compete with Amazon and made the entire service free, which means that any writers who have anything up there won't get paid for it.  That in addition to continued format issues with the site, it's just not worth it for me to deal with it anymore.  (Figures that I finally get the nerve up to advertise for something I believe in and it all goes belly up.  Oh well.)  I'm leaving the stories I put up there already on the site (y'know, all two of them), but I won't be uploading anything more.

That being said, the second installment of "eM:I-elle, A Techno Fairy Tale" is on it's way.  I'm just waiting for an illustration from my wonderfully talented sister, and once that gets here it'll be available for all you fine folks to read and hopefully enjoy.  Also, in the same vein as that, I'm going to start another episodic story adventure in the same sort of format as eM:I-elle, only it'll be a bit more light-hearted and fun.  I've been keeping this one under wraps since I wasn't sure at first if it would work, but at this point it's another case of waiting on an illustration and it'll be here.  So, on that note, I'm proudly announcing the arrival of the first episode of "The Beating Of Her Luminous Wings"! 

Except I don't know when it'll be posted, so I guess that was kind of a crap announcement.  Sorry.

So that's the state of things.  If I get some time I can throw away I'll probably put up another Mystery CD Review.  Although... does anybody read those anymore?  Seriously, I have no way of knowing.  Here's an idea: If there are any features in this blog that you'd like to see more of (or something I don't do that you think I should), leave a comment below letting me know.  I'd love some feedback.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Mystery CD Review: "A Woman Gives Birth to a Gun and it Stabs Her" by Elad Love Affair

Mystery CD: “A Woman Gives Birth To A Gun and It Stabs Her” by Elad Love Affair
Found at: AmVets
Price: Okay, did all the thrift stores get together and decide that $1.98 is the only price their CDs can be sold at? Not that I'm complaining, but that seems to be what they are pretty much everywhere.

First impression:
This is one I've been pretty eager to do for a while. I haven't because I promised stories, then I had a poem I wanted to extract from my brain... but I figure it's been a while since I did one of these, and what better way to revitalize this little feature than with one of the most bizarre entries I've found thus far? Therefore, I present to you Elad Love Affair's “A Woman Gives Birth to a Gun and it Stabs Her”! I found this one with Anna while we were visiting AmVets. The first thing I saw was the title and as soon as I re-read it to make sure I hadn't made a mistake I knew I was going to take it home. Of all the absurd things to call a CD, that has to be one of the best I've ever heard.
Judging by what's in the liner notes it might be some kind of electronic music, which could either be really good or really bad. The last electronic CD I got from a thrift store was unspeakably awful (which came as a surprise... I didn't know bad electronic music existed. But then again, I'd never actually listened to Moby, so what do I know). Either way it ought to be interesting, and if it is horrible at least the CD isn't very long. It's only got six tracks averaging about five minutes each.

1. My Life as an Automaton
Well, this one starts out with some flaily guitar and a very tom-tom heavy drum kit. It's kind of a depressing melody, very angsty. There's some sort of synthesizer as it moves on. This actually sounds a lot like The Mars Volta, if they were a little less experimental and fronted by a woman. The style is almost exactly the same, if a little sloppier, but that's not really a bad thing. The lyrics are pretty clear and the only reason I'm not listening closer is because I'm writing things as I'm listening. The singer almost sounds like a mix between Kimbra and Bjork. It's a very distinct sound and I really dig it.

2. The Pardon Me End of the Knife
This one's much more dissonant, but they continue to remind me of The Mars Volta. I wonder if they are/were fans.
So the last line of the first song is “it's time to run away with the knives,” and given the title of this song and also that of the album, I'm starting to notice some kind of pattern here and I'm wondering if this might be a concept album. They keep throwing in some punk-rock screams here and there, but it's not overpowering and adds a nice effect. They end with some low-fi piano, rustling of papers and someone saying “eheh... yeah? Guess that works.”

3. Bee Swallower
This one's slower and a little more laid back. The tone is consistent though and it's pleasingly moody. The lyrics give off the impression that they've got some thing really deep and urgent to say, but they're so cryptic I'd be hard pressed to say what it is right off the bat. This is a good thing in my opinion... if what they're trying to say is too obvious then they run the risk of being heavy-handed and pretentious, and I can't stand that. Also, she's pronouncing “bees” like “baes,” and I can't tell if she's got an accent or if that's just how she sings. She does draw out her vowels a lot.

4. On Wifeburning
This one starts with a pumping bass line and picks up quickly with the rest of it. These guys have a great sound. The mixing is wonderfully balanced. You can clearly hear all the elements which is only enhanced by the fact that the songs are really tight. The group hangs together really well, and even if the guitar playing is a little slippery here and there it's still really skillful. To do what this guy's doing on guitar is challenging and he's pulling it off really well. The closest thing I can compare it to is, again, The Mars Volta, and that's not a fair comparison to anybody.

5. When You've Run Out of Words to Eat, You've Only Got Yourself
The last track ended with city street noise and what sounded like a foreign news announcer. This one's a little more upbeat-sounding, and at this stage in the album it's a refreshing change of pace. Even with the change in mood it's still unified. She really doesn't want to drink my water, apparently.
This album is just flying by. This feels like the longest song I've heard yet, and it still seems really short.

6. Finding Sex Appeal in Oncoming Traffic
This one starts off with a synthesizer. It's ethereal and cool and I like it already. The guitar quickly follows, and it sounds like it's getting better and better as the album goes on. Too bad this is the last track. This is one of the songs I was most curious about, mostly due to the title. I just picture someone standing naked on a busy highway. She's singing lyrics that aren't in the liner notes... the end of the first verse just wasn't there. These lyrics are so absurdly cryptic. They're good, just... weird. I don't know what to make of it and honestly I'm a little disappointed. With all these bizarre titles I almost expected a little humor. I mean, let's face it, you have to have some kind of wit to come up with titles like these. And yet, all I find is complex chord structures with obtusely poetic lyrics and nothing tongue-in-cheek at all, and all of a sudden there's that pretension I was worrying about earlier.

Overall impression:
Well it's not bad. I like the band's sound. It's tight and moody and complex and artistic... it's very much like The Mars Volta, of whom I am a huge fan. The problem is they have the same downfalls too. This style of music is as heavy as it is relentless, and sometimes you're just in the mood for that, but most of the time you're not. That's what The Mars Volta has that these guys don't... they know when to take a break from the relentless pounding angst and replace it with a more subdued, subtle angst. I guess “When You've Run Out of Words...” provided some of that, but instead of lowering the tempo and relaxing for a bit they just made it sound less angsty. I'm almost thankful that this is such a short album. Anything too much longer might have been too exhausting.
The other thing that gives me pause is the vocalist. She's great... she's got a very distinctive style that fits so well with the music. The problem is that the lyrics are just so abstract I can't really get a grasp on what any of these songs are supposed to be about. Now, I'm all for ambiguity but these songs just take it to a whole new level. I think it might just be too far out there for me, which I might add are words I never thought I'd hear myself say. Just look at some of these:

fatal line stepping
just don't open the can again
staged pulses dying of a fake disease
the speaker said to leave them perfectly dead
choke up a trigger to pull
planted gun barrels gnawed out shells
document only the green side

Now I know that's out of context but trust me, it is all just like that. A couple lines might look like they have something to do with each other, but that's all you get before it's off on several other brief tangents. If this is a concept album I haven't the slightest clue what it's supposed to be about, because the title certainly isn't telling anyone. That's why I thought this CD was going have some kind of cheeky humor, because that's the only way I can think of that a title like that would make any sense. But no, they were apparently one hundred percent serious.
I was only able to find one video online. You can look for it if you want, but the quality was terrible and I don't recommend it. They are on bandcamp though, and they've got four albums up there including this one, all available for free. If you like The Mars Volta, I definitely suggest checking them out. And if you don't, check them out anyway. It won't cost you anything.