Thursday, March 9, 2023

Bratko Twins

In Ukrainian-Canadian music news: The Bratko Twins' Kolomayka's on Fire is super great and I may have just won a copy on a certain internet auction siteThanks as always to POLKADONDB for bringing it:

Bio copied from the YouTube page:

This band originated from the Winnipegosis Mb area. The twins started their music career at a very young age playing home made violin and cymbaly. As they grew older their sister bought them a violin and a brother in law made them cymbaly. 

They were part of a large family of 13 children, money was scarce in the 1930's playing weddings and dances was a valuable source of income for the family. Being identical twins made them a fascinating novelty. People traveled long distances by horse and buggy to see them play. Later in life as children and farming took priority they played less frequently, but music was always in the home. Each twin had one son and as they grew older they too joined the band one on accordion and the other on guitar, we now had a 4 piece band. This however did not last long as the youngsters soon moved away making their own way in the world. These two recordings were made in Winnipeg with very little or no rehearsal, tunes were picked and played at random.We recorded about 2 hours of music and out of those tunes 2 LP's were released

They play with absolute abandon, like they're compressing their entire lives into a 2-hour recording session. They do that thing that I wish I had the music theory chops to explain where they play minor chord melodies on top of major chords or vice versa (a trick I blatantly stole on my most recent album), but they take it to the next level - intentionally or unintentionally, I'm not sure ("very little or no rehearsal"), but it's totally spellbinding.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Every decade or so I need to figure out a new way to watch Jan Svankmajer's Dimensions of Dialogue. When I was in college, it was through the Film Club and the brilliant love interest who knew all the cool things, later it was through beloved Portland institution Movie Madness, and now, of course, we're at the point where it is through interlibrary loan from the library. Picking up high Czech surrealism along with Japanese kitty manga for a kindergartner, at no cost. Watching it while riding the exercise bike during my work-from-home lunch break. 

No matter how many times I see it, I'm still amazed. I can only hope that I live long enough to have multiple new perspectives on the toothpaste squeezing itself out of the tube onto a pencil sharpener on a meat tongue.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Album sequencing, more Roches

When I was young and chronically bored in the car (in the 80s - we had car stereos and tapes but did not yet have handheld devices) I would go through my folks' collection of boomer tapes (James Taylor, Marty Balin solo, etc.) and my various embarrassing Sting tapes etc. and develop theories about which songs would go in which positions in the album. You start off with the strongest statement, go into something more conventional but still strong with the second one, end the first side with something memorable and optimistic, start the second side with a hey-we're-back, and then the penultimate song is the most enigmatic, the grace note to the strong and memorable closer that is the final song.

The position that I could never quite figure out is song 2, side 2. In many ways it seemed to be the place where the weakest material hung out, at least according to my very scientific study of approximately 20 over-the-hill boomer tapes.

I mentioned a few posts again that I've been getting into the Roches. Keep on Doing has a very interesting side 2/song 2 in "The Scorpion Lament," a slice of deep melancholy about almost getting caught doing something regrettable at night. They can't resist clever clunker couplets like:

faithful and unhenpecked
I somewhat recollect

but then it has just an awesome line in

God has let me release a sting
in my own eye

It's the only obvious reference to a scorpion in the song, and then it incongruously ends on a major chord as they sing "it's not alright with me," and then there's a super jarring transition into "Want Not Want Not." I like it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Swim lessons, The Tubs

Registering a kid for swim lessons in 2023 is totally nuts. The moment registration opened, I breezed through all the waiver stuff and got him registered and paid for. Mere moments after I hit submit and got confirmation that my boy had been registered, all the classes showed up as being full. Wow. Like piranhas, man.

I mentioned to my wife that hey, now he'll be able to pass the freshman swim test when he goes to some fancypants college. She was not aware of swim tests being a thing and we both agreed that it is kind of crazy. I was glad to see that my fancypants alma mater will allow you to take a PE class for a quarter if you do not already know how to swim, because swimming pool distribution is, let's say, not exactly equitable in this country.

UNRELATED: Reliable old Trouble in Mind Records just put out The Tubs' Dead Meat. In the words of the old Dark Beloved Cloud catalog describing the Clean's "Late Last Night," it is "like the best parts of all your other records." Perhaps too much so, but it is hard to deny that it is well-crafted. The song "Two Person Love" is the second song on the album, as it should be*, all the performances are spirited, and the algorithms have decided that since my peers like it, I will also like it. And I do, more or less. I do wish they would FIUM** a bit, and I wish the mastering job were less heavy-handed and allow for a little space here and there, but it fills in the workday and complements a second cup of coffee just fine.

* Everyone knows that if you have a number in the title of the song, that is what its position in the track listing should be. Souled American's Around the Horn has "Second of All" and "Six Feet of Snow" in the appropriate positions, one of many reasons I love that record. My various 33-track albums violate this rule in favor of maintaining an alphabetical order track listing, well, with one exception, namely, a song about choosing which set of rules to prioritize.

**F--k it up more, my standard instructions to the folks at my songwriting group, and, in general, a good guiding principle for making music.   

Sunday, January 29, 2023

And finally, old media and realizing how far we've come

My beloved has a cache of old Flipside punk rock magazines from the early 80s. Kind of great to read all of the eternally-hashed-out punk rock arguments when they were relatively new and fresh. But also kind of shocking to 2023 ears to hear endless SoCal bros endlessly tossing out homophobic slurs. Man there are so many of them. Flipside 32 has an interview with the Big Boys in which Randy Biscuit Turner talks about his pink cowboy boots, and there's a picture of him in a tutu. and reading about him in the face of all of this F-word garbage in the Letters section makes me appreciate them even more.

I've been riding my new exercise bike up in the office during lunch breaks at work in the rainy/cold Portland winter. I bought it from some lady in a Clackamas mobile home park - I drove into this weird manufactured-housing labyrinth in winter-solstice darkness - and that was weird, but eventually I found her and thankfully it folded up into my subcompact just fine.

This winter I've been replaying the Fable series of video games while riding the fake bike - turns out endless fetch quests in a pretty world are just what the doctor ordered for exercise entertainment (exertainment) - and when I finally finished the main quests I went back to playing Madden 12. I don't really see the point in buying any more recent pro football games, particularly since I haven't watched the real thing in years anyway - and there's a lot to be said for just annihilating one's opposition while also crushing calories.

It's hard to believe, but endlessly destroying the digital NFC North gets boring after a while, so I'm rewatching old 30 Rock episodes, starting with season 2 because that's what I had on hand from some garage sale or other. Pretty funny, and "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" will be in my head for a while, though it's weird to hear this show that's otherwise so smart using transphobic slurs and playing up the gayz for the laughz. 2007 doesn't seem that long ago, but I guess it was?!?!

Videogames part two for the evening

The boy (now 6) has gone head over heels for Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I was playing that game during his first year or so of life, digging up fossils and catching fish with a little guy snoozing on my chest, and now here this kindergartner is just devouring this really text-heavy game with a passion. Today on the way to the library he asked me "when did you move to town?" "Oh, Portland?" I asked, prepared to tell him stories of young and zitty me in a Reagan-era lumber town. "No, Animal Crossing," he said. It is nice to see this thing that I spent a lot of time on through young and totally obsessed eyes.

I've still never played the new version for the Swytxch. I have this good/bad habit of not buying consoles until the next generation comes along and everything is really cheap. I figure I'll give things another year or so post-pandemic and see if prices come down. We'll see if I can hold out, though, especially once he starts going on about it to his classmates and realizes there is a new and shinier version out there.

I've been playing this loony Bubble Bobble sequel called Parasol Stars. As ridiculous as a game about dinosaurs blowing bubbles is, this sequel is even more ridiculous. It is delightful. Like any game requiring any coordination whatsoever, I'm terrible at it, but it's fun.

The best webpage, plus joysticks

I understand there may have been some arguments about this subject, but for me, the best webpage is obviously Atari Compendium's list of VCS controllers. It goes on and on, telling the story of a million ideas, mostly bad, crapped out in a gold rush environment in a very short period of time. Boy does it go on. There are so many of them. Mercury-switched Le Stiks that kids held in their hands? Check! Combination joystick/paddles, almost none of them usable? Checkarooni! Shapes that no hand could ever really grasp? You got it! Something called the "Obelisk"? There is an obelisk. It goes on and on and on and on.

"Retrogaming" is, as we all know, a pretty stupid hobby, especially if real money gets exchanged in the process, but I might make an exception for weird old joysticks. I don't need them to plug into any authentic hardware - the 2600-daptor works fine for my purposes - but there's something tactile and pleasing about these old crapsticks. And unlike the mechanical keyboard thing, joystick hunting remains clunky and funky and resoundingly uncool and, therefore, largely cheap.