Etly, “La Tortue” mp3s,

maybe it’s something like the new decade having arrived, but the idea of listening to this kind of ’00s music seems kind of repetitive. Maybe, maybe not.

The state of blissful absurdity, ‘Anna Karenina’

‘Then relations arrived, and there began that state of
blissful absurdity from which Levin did not emerge till the day after
his wedding. Levin was in a continual state of awkwardness and
discomfort, but the intensity of his happiness went on all the while
increasing. He felt continually that a great deal was being expected
of him—what, he did not know; and he did everything he was told, and
it all gave him happiness. He had thought his engagement would have
nothing about it like others, that the ordinary conditions of engaged
couples would spoil his special happiness, but it ended in his doing
exactly as other people did, and his happiness being only increased
thereby and becoming more and more special, more and more unlike
anything that had ever happened.…

 ‘What was extraordinary was that everyone not only liked him, but even
people previously unsympathetic, cold, and callous, were enthusiastic
over him, gave way to him in everything, treated his feeling with
tenderness and delicacy, and shared his conviction that he was the
happiest man in the world because his betrothed was beyond
Anna Karenina, Part IV, chapter 16.

 As I was reading this chapter sitting in my folding armchair in the
sunshine outside the tent yesterday morning, the oracular shuffle
feature brought up this Monty Alexander classic, which is on a
collection called “Strange Funky Games and Things,” right after Sam
Mangwana singing “Marie Kembo.” The songs seemed to match like lock to
key the delirious, yet organized nature of the happiness that Tolstoy
describes Levin as being in the throes of as he plans his marriage to

Françoiz Breut, ‘L’origine du monde’ for that first cup of stor jente Valentine’s Day coffee

From the Valentine I ought to have sent:

My love, every time I hear this song I feel like waking up. Perhaps it
comes on instead of your seven alarm clocks, and as I rise to make
stor jente caffe, big-girl espresso coffee for your
rising-from-sleep needs, the chorus thrums in my ears and the cats
circle my ankles, jostling for attention or tunafish, I don’t know


Flat fix zen

I fixed another rear-wheel flat this afternoon. This one was a good-sized tear right by the valve, forcing the issue of whether to patch the tube or to replace it. So I duped my buddy Tom into helping me with the chain tension by first listening to him tell me about his Ancient Order of Hibernians chapter and then telling him about this cylinder recording of Edward Meeker singing ‘The A.O.H’s. [sic] of theU.S.A.’ from 1915.

It was a little tricky because the new tube had a shorter valve stem than the punctured tube, and its business end was just peeking out of the tube, not far enough to attach the pump. So I remembered a trick I’d used before and pulled out the Schraeder adapter, which was able to screw onto the end of the valve and allow me to fill the tube with air anyway.

The funny thing is that I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering if there was some kind of bad mojo that had caused my flat. I keep having to remind myself, “There’s plenty of air in the tube. I could hit a shard of glass or a staple any time. I had enough air in there for a week, so it’s not like there was some kind of slow leak. It’s a tear in the tube and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“Gatemouth” Brown – River’s Invitation

I love this one for how the interplay between the section players and
the soloists is so sharply defined. It’s like a tour of a really
fantastic house, where in each room there’s a new tableau-vivant on
display, telling a different part of the story.
Starting with the drummer’s endless invention, it’s as if each chorus
has a different dynamic construction, the three-way tug of war between
Brown’s guitar, his voice, and the horn section ends up over a
different spot each time. The drum and organ modulate the proceedings
and guide the listener through. It’s as if the arranger went through
all the great tricks of instrumentation and section play, and used
them all in this one song.

V is for velocity

Azda by Franco

(My grandmother has driven a Volkswagen for the longest, which I mention in case you need an excuse for why I’m talking about the stone classic “AZDA” today, one of the classics of African music and the theme song for a Kinshasa VW, pronounced fay-vay in Lingala, dealership.)

This is where soukous comes from: start with a fairly conventional rhumba, the kind of thing that you could hear all over Africa in the fifties and sixties, courtesy of a stream of Cuban rhumba vinyls that helped create and indulge the rage for “international” sounds. All of a sudden, at six minutes in, Franco’s guitar pops out of the mix and he throws down an absolutely incandescent solo, the kind of thing that I imagine lighting up the entire Kinshasa nightclub district. But wait! At seven minutes, he pulls into this insane hammer-on theme, and it makes me break down and cry for joy and excitement, as if all of a sudden the bay horse on which I’ve staked my wages is making his move!  He’s edging through the pack, galloping around the back turn, tail  waving, going for absolute broke, foaming at the bit, his tiny jockey  up in the stirrups coaxing the beast to embody the pen-and-ink drawing  on the children’s primer page for “V is for velocity.”


This record, La Tarantella del Gargano, has such an amazing blend of fierceness and tenderness. As this referenced review points out (it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the booklet), it’s mostly duets with voice: a Spanish (acoustic) guitar and a slack guitar. There’s some accordion here and there, too.

Just to get this out of the way: this record has finally arrived in my “Hidden Gems” playlist, some 950-odd days after I found it at the library in May of 2006. Just for quick reference, that’s longer than Barack Obama’s presidential run. I had mixed feelings after borrowing it and when I saw it in my sonoteca I kind of wondered what I was thinking of when I took it out. Plus, the individual artists aren’t listed in the booklet, which is a bugaboo of mine. So I’m ashamed to say it languished in the queue for a very long time.

But no longer! Now it’s time for me to describe it and share what I like about it with you.

First, it’s dance music, which makes it automatically more interesting. The guitar parts are pretty straightforward strumming and the slack guitar adds a weird, minor-key drone that complements the voice. I have no idea what they’re singing about, or what language they’re singing in, only that I assume that it’s some kind of incomprehensible Italian dialect.

Now I know that throughout all the time you and I have known each other, it has always been I who has had the lust for heavily rhythmic songs in minor keys sung in incomprehensible languages at the top of the singer’s lungs, and it will always be so. I will encourage you to listen to these fantastic records, like Sory Kandia Kouyate’s “Souaressi,” and Mari Boine’s “Etno Jenny,” as well as Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and you will politely assent, then go back to whatever you were doing before I grabbed you and dragged you over to the hi-fi set, like taking rust off of old tools, to the happy sounds of Taj Mahal, or Robert Cray, or Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. It’s been so for years, and I’ve learned to accept it.

But oh! “Tarantella alla Viestesana” comes on, and there’s this guitar, then the slack guitar, then the castanets, then this sound that sounds like a box of tambourines being pushed across the stage by a pack of ragazzi, then the singer comes in with this incredible phrasing that both accents and complements the rhythmic line. The really subtle ringing sound after the first verse is just the icing on the cake, as if distant church bells were sounding in celebration of the music.

I can’t help it; it’s just so exciting to listen to. At the start of “Montanara” the slack guitar chimes in and at first it sounds just atonal but then the vocals come in, perfectly in key with the guitar and it becomes so emotional and powerful. The halting rhythm of the guitars is in perfect emotional sync with the sadness of the lyrics. Even when the rhythm seems to catch up to the strum pattern and the guitarists appear to miss a beat in order to get back in line with the measure, it still all holds together as a song.

Tarantella Alla Viestesana