Archive for the ‘music’ Category

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About “Lair”

September 24, 2007

Tonight I’m listening to John Debney’s soundtrack for Lair1, one of the much-hyped titles unique to the PS3. The score is excellent — evocative, textured, exciting without being immature — to the point that I went to check out whatever I could find about the game’s setting at the official website. Go there, click on the Behind the Scenes link and see what may be the best concept art gallery I’ve ever seen on a video-game’s website. It’s not just pretty, but informative. It really makes me want to know more about the designers were intending for the game to be (since their testimony is the closest I’ll probably ever get, since I vow to never buy a PS3). Dragon-riding sky-knights duking it out in a war-torn, post-apocalyptic fantasy world with a full orchestral score? Sound’s terrific. Too badaboutthe game, …though.

Music: John Debney, “Elegy”

1. I wouldn’t have known it was even released if I hadn’t searched for it, since iTunes does such a lousy job of listing, cataloging, and announcing their soundtracks.

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Again With the Bourne Ultimatum

July 26, 2007

My excitement for The Bourne Ultimatum continues to grow. I’m looking forward not just to the movie — which is almost here — but for composer John Powell‘s score for the film. (You can hear some of it at Amazon.) Both of the previous Bourne soundtracks are staples in my “Get Work Done” playlist, and are great background noise for writing and editing.

The updated Bourne Ultimatum website is excellent — this is what movie websites should be like. Instead of cluttered, jerky MySpace pages (gross), they should offer this kind of enticing setup and additional footage. Go there, enter the site, and you’ll get a nice long stretch of footage introducing you to key characters and context for the story. It’s like an extended remix of a trailer, with little tags showing you what’s what. If you want, you can get all the production notes and cast bios and all that usual stuff, too, but this is kind of footage is what you really want. Simple. Good.

Plus, we get another clever little tie in to the end of a previous Bourne movie — this time the first one. At the end of The Bourne Identity, after Abbot (Brian Cox) has had Conklin (Chris Cooper) killed and shut down Treadstone, he lies to a Congressional committee about the nature of Treadstone, and reports its closure so he can get out from any unwanted scrutiny that could lead to him getting pinched. That done, he moves on to another project, which just gets brought up to show how casually Treadstone gets shut down at the political level, and to provide us some dialogue to go over the visual transition to the Greek coast, where the movie ends.

In this dialogue, Abbot mentions a project called Blackbriar. I remember thinking, “Blackbriar’s a terrific name. Better than Treadstone.” Now we see that Blackbriar is a big part of the new movie. It’s, apparently, a “Treadstone upgrade.”

I’m sure that wasn’t an idea built into the Blackbriar reference in the first movie — deleted scenes from the first movie make it pretty clear that Doug Liman had other ideas in mind for Brian Cox’s character — but Tony Gilroy (and Co.) continue to make great use of little details in the previous movies to create a sense of tight continuity out of what was, before, just the illusion of depth. I love Tony Gilroy’s work on these films.

Next week, I’m going to see the hell out of this movie.

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Loot

May 23, 2007

When I travel, I shop. Instead of food, I buy books, CDs and DVDs. Things bought from used bookstores and record stores in other cities are somehow better than the things I could buy at home. As it stands, I now know more used book stores in Philadelphia than I do in Atlanta. I was there for two days, I’ve been here for two years. This is because I was visiting Philly but I’ve never visited Atlanta. I moved here. Hence, I buy new books here and more interesting, used books there (wherever “there” is).

This is not a philosophical thing or a statement of intent. It’s just a thing I do.

The last week or so I’ve been in Chicago and Philadelphia. Here’s what I got (most of it used):

Yesterday, a Korean sci-fi action thriller starring Kim Yun-Jin, who plays Sun on Lost.

Night Stalker, the complete series on DVD, not because it was good but because I liked it.

Memento, soundtrack by David Julyan and various artists. I thought this was a little more exotic than it turned out to be, but it’s proven to be fine sounds for working.

28 Days Later, soundtrack by John Murphy and various artists. I’m still hoping there’ll be some kind of soundtrack release for the sequel, also scored by John Murphy.

Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut. One of those Vonnegut books I’ve never read. From the look of the nation’s book stores, the time to stock up on an author’s ouevre seems to be when he dies.

Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, by Franz Wright. “The world is filled with people who have never died.”

Travel in the Ancient World, by Lionel Casson, expands on the revision of the historical notion that ancient people seldom got around. It’s got chapters on ancient inns and restaurants, Roman roads, and forgotten museums — purchased not just for gaming purposes, but yes, for gaming purposes.

The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret, by Scott Olsen. This is a silly pop-mysticism bon-bon I picked up at the magnificent Prairie Avenue Bookstore down by Printer’s Row, in Chicago’s Loop. I’d never been in there before, and it’s excellent; the kind of place filled with 200-page, $50 paperback theses like Urban Memory: History and Amnesia in the Modern City, which I’ll be saving my pennies for.

Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design, by Kristen Cullen. This is the other book I bought at Prairie Avenue, the one of substance. I bought this one because I should be better informed than I am.

The Packaging and Design Templates Sourcebook, compiled by Luke Herriott, published by RotoVision. This is actually Sara’s book, purchased from Prairie Avenue, which she’ll be using as a guide for future handmade books, boxes and other craft projects that fall under her “hackbooking” hobby.

Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind, by JB Rhine and JG Pratt. The title page describes this as “A survey of the field, the methods, and the facts of ESP and PK research.” It was published in 1957, and I seem to have a first edition.

Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture by Robert Blair St. George. I could not quite figure this dense thing out in the store, and I was desperate for some kind of early American occultism, so I took it home. From the back cover: “By exploring the linkages between such cultural expressions as seventeenth-century farmsteads, witchcraft narratives, eighteenth-century crowd violence, and popular portraits of New England Federalists, St. George demonstrates that in early New England, things mattered as much as words in the shaping of metaphor.”

Life on the English Manor, by HS Bennett, is a rundown on peasant living conditions between 1150 and 1400, as it looked from the modern day of 1937. (My copy was printed in 1962.) Why I am fascinated by outdated history books, I can’t tell you. But I’m sure it’s meta.

Duruy’s Middle Ages, by Victor Duruy, is a condensed history of the Middle Ages with a copyright date of “1898 and 1900.” I can’t tell when my copy was printed, but it’s not a young book. Still, it looks like all of its little folded maps are still here, tucked between pages. The first chapter of this book is, “The Barbarian World in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries.”

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The Veils’ Nux Vomica

April 25, 2007

It’s brilliant. I stumbled onto The Veils through, of all things, an episode of ABC’s short-lived second attempt at Night Stalker (“The Five People You Meet in Hell”). The only other album of theirs available on iTunes, The Runaway Found, seemed a little uneven at first, but I was wrong. It’s terrific. Nux Vomica is better.

“I don’t want to know the time,
I don’t care about that at all,
nobody knows the way to heaven baby.”

(“Advice for Young Mothers To Be”)

A lot of it is the voice. Finn Andrews does some stuff on this album that should be cheesy or melodramatic, but he’s so genuine and the music is so precisely mixed that it works. He does great things with the sounds of words — halfway between Gordon Gano and Alex Kapranos.

But it’s always weird. A song like “Advice for Young Mothers To Be,” with it’s quasi-’50s style and melancholy message, is a strange mix that I can’t explain and can’t deny. (See the video.)

Plus the whole album is a little pretentious, and you know how I love that. The nux vomica is an Asian pine, also called the Poison Tree. It’s a source of medicines and toxins. It is part curative and part strychnine. Nice.

“Now the wolves all howl
And the birds all sing it:
‘He backed down.'”

(“One Night On Earth”)

This is one of those records where the lyrics and the music sometimes wander far apart, calling to each other through the trees. Other times they meet up on the road and hold hands. Whatever strangeness they’re up to, these songs are greater than the sums of their parts.

“What say you, Lord,
For the olive boys down in the house of corrections
As they try for love and any form of ascension,
Am I on the right train headed in the wrong direction?”

(“Nux Vomica”)

And this is an album with its own through-line themes, all punctuated by inescapable musical hooks. Religion, death, torpor, doubt — plus snow and animals — keep coming back. These aren’t just songs with great hooks, they’re, all together, a long, weird conversation that goes off, comes back, wonders out loud and soaks in its pauses. It feels like an all-night drive through dark, wet scenery.

“Take the scalpel, Miss Ivonne
Time of death is 1 am
The blood is going to my head,
By God, I’ll never touch another’s heart again.
I’ve been brought back to life so many times I don’t know what’s real”

(“Night Thoughts of a Tired Surgeon”)

Good stuff.

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Post #50

February 4, 2007

Throughout the week, without enough time to properly compose new entries, I’ve been pasting links and notes into the machine to create this mosaic. Because I wrote it, it’s materialistic and fawning. Enjoy.

  • Warren Ellis says this song is “Upon Encountering the Crippled Elephant,” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but on the album I just bought off iTunes (Some Loud Thunder it is “Five Easy Pieces,” and remains terrific. I don’t know if that dude’s saying anything (and thus, if I agree with him) but it’s a great song.
  • Just so we’re clear, you and I agree that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a lousy title, don’t we?
  • My copy of Guy Davis’s newest sketchbook, Sketch Macabre 2, has arrived with a very nice note from Guy himself. As you can assume from the words Guy, Davis, and book, it’s magnificent. If you like Guy Davis’s work (and you do), pick up both the sketchbooks from Guy’s site, if you haven’t already.
  • In related news, the BPRD: The Universal Machine trade paperback is also terrific, but since you bought every issue of that story at your local comic shop, you knew that already. More Guy Davis designs in the back of that book, too, you know.
  • Not by design, I also picked up The Amazing Screw-On Head on DVD, because a store in my area accidentally broke the street date (I guess). You saw this on SciFi.com already, so you know this is great, but besides a smattering of special features, the disc also features a little booklet with original concept sketches by Davis and Mike Mignola, so you know I wanted it. (If you didn’t watch the pilot on SciFi.com, by the way, it’s your fault that this show never went to series, and for that you’ll have to get a little punishment.)
  • The newest issue of JPG Magazine tells us it’s okay to take blurry pictures. To which I say, “No shit.” Blur can be honest. Blurs are genuine. Meaningfully blurry pictures feel alive. But we know that already. This is a terrific issue, though, as you could tell from the red “JPG” box on the cover. Great example of a great magazine. The tourist and souvenir photo arrays are a great match for each other.
  • Here. Watch Andrew Bird performing “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” live (er, on YouTube) and you’ll see why he’s fucking astounding. Live, there on stage, he’s layering all these violin elements, he’s switching back and forth between fiddle and guitar without a slip, and that whistle is coming right out of his fucking mouth, people. It’s fabulous. Get thee to a venue and see him live, for Andrew Bird is the bomb, ye verily.
  • Speaking of things to watch on the internet, Poker After Dark is a great poker program, with every episode available (for a little while, at least) on NBC.com after it’s aired. Throughout the week, you get shown almost every hand at a $120,000 tournament table with great players. Then on Saturday you get the so-called Director’s Cut, which condenses the whole one-table tournament into one hour, with talking head interviews and all that. If nothing else, it’s great to watch all these poker greats engage in exactly the same desperate pleading, lame banter, luck talk and “wouldn’t it be great if?” musings as every plebeian mook I’ve ever played with (including myself). This is a great week for you to start with, too. Go and watch Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandiari in Friday’s segment, then convince NBC to make a show about these two guys. (Use the phrase “pair of jokers,” though, and you’re done here.) Their final hand, for all its inevitability, is just good television.
  • This week, I finally got to lay my hands on the new MIT Press book, Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (at Amazon, via Booksense), from the inestimable Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. An essay of mine (with a lousy title) is in there, but so are lots of good ones from Jordan Mechner, George R.R. Martin, Kevin Wilson, Ken Hite, Greg Costikyan, James Wallis, Rebecca Borgstrom and other game-thinking luminaries. Plus, it reprints Wallis’ Baron Munchausen RPG in its entirety, along with two other games, so it’s a steal at $40. Just a couple of weeks ago I sent off my manuscript for this book’s sequel, Third Person. (I’ll write a post dedicated to Second Person, I’ll bet, once I’ve had time to read more of it.)

  • Squirrel Nut Zippers are playing in Atlanta this Friday. I’ve never seen them live. You better believe I will this time.

Music: Amon Tobin & Michael Shrieve, “Oracle”

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How I Work

January 3, 2007

150 songs. 10.4 hours. Click shuffle and get to work.