New Arp Pulsars e Quasars truly cosmic (pop, that is!)

arp 2

Alexis Georgopoulos (aka Arp, one third of The Alps) certainly means business when he opens his new mini-LP titled Pulsars e Quasars with “Suns” a burning, scorching fade in not all that dissimilar from the likes of Spiritualized’s “The Individual,” which appeared on 1997’s opus, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.

The comparisons to J. Spaceman’s approach to lysergic rock end there, however, as Georgopoulos is more indebted to the pastoral, new age end of the Krautrock spectrum (think Cluster, Neu! and Popol Vuh) along with early (good), Barrett era Floyd — and more recently, we’ve heard him borrow heavily from Brian Eno’s deliberate and detached vocal style circa Another Green World — than Pierce’s VU/MC5/Stooges touchstones. Like Pierce, though, Georgopoulos is adept at creating something new out of something old, in addition to harboring a fondness for a good bit of retro-futurism a la Broadcast and fellow UK hauntological travelers, Ghost Box.

The main reason Pulsars e Quasars works so well is its variation throughout. After the fairly straightforward but very enjoyable title track he enlists fellow Alps traveler, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma for a “version” of the previous track, entitled “Chromatiques II (Extended Mix)” and it’s some of Ledesma’s finest work to date; blissful waves of dronegazing, or, is it just (just) the noise of the night sky blazing overhead at thousands of miles per hour while we sleep?

“UHF1” does a great job at combining the two aforementioned elements into one cohesive whole, the first half something right out of Eno’s early songbook, the second half adding layers of noise, all blurred verticles ever ascending. “On Returning” might have you second guessing Ledesma’s presence again at a ‘version’ of the previous track as well. You’d be forgiven thinking “The Violet Hour (Film Dub)” was by aforementioned, sadly now dissolved UK retro-futurist hauntologists Broadcast, as it certainly captures that whole “eerie-film-score-to-a-1960s-b-movie-arthouse-film-that-really-never-existed” feeling.

To close out the release, Georgopoulos tacks on (but the key here is that it doesn’t feel tacked-on) a remix of a track from his 2013 full-length release, More (Smalltown Supersound), by Le Revelateur (ex-Godspeed You Black Emperor’s Roger Tellier-Craig) which filters intense electronic squiggles and textures and completely at place here.

There’s a looseness to this EP that just feels right; right down to the song sequence and the diversity of styles on display—including the odd, unlikely inclusion of musicians &/or remixers, Pulsars e Quasars is an utterly enjoyable ride, even if it is all too brief.

BUY

New Christopher Willits’ “Opening” compelling, grandoise

Willits

I’ll admit I sorta stopped paying attention to Willits after his 2006 release, Surf Boundaries. But, then again, I was highly impressed by his collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamato, Ocean Fire (12k) the following year.

I believe it is here, with Opening, that Willits has found his true voice. No, this is not a return to his singular ‘folding guitar’ loops – not completely anyway. There is enough of that throughout Opening, but here Willits builds on those, letting tracks slowly, well, unfold and, likewise, dissipate, in what sounds like clouds of warm analogue hum. Which is truly what made Ocean Fire so damn refreshing – he and Sakamoto made music sound blurry. I couldn’t find the notes, or melodies, per say, it was like the music itself was veiled behind sheets upon sheets of some thick fog; moving, rising, burning, but never revealing.

At times, Opening sounds like a quieter, prettier version of Ocean Fire, but there are other elements at play here too, such as on “Ground” and “Connect” in particular, where big, soft ‘80s drumpads and new age basslines evoke Hollywood’s more heart-tugging moments. Yes, these songs are pretty, and nostalgic sounding, and maybe even too much so, BUT THIS TIME IT WORKS.

“Wide” acts as the album’s centerpiece; a beautiful balance of loss and determination while “Release” is all glowing embers like the last dying campfire of summer – equal parts Loveless interludes and Fennesz’s more introspective moments.

Willits has accompanied the album with a self-made film, not in the style eluded to above, but rather, a hypnotic, panoramic Baraka inspired journey of enveloping non-narrative photography (sans the people and religious element) to completely immerse yourself in.

WATCH/LISTEN / BUY

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup (w/ or w/o chicken, it doesn’t matter it’s so good!)

thai chix noodle
Another relatively easy soup recipe that never fails to please (even the kids).

Heat oil (coconut, olive, whatever) over medium heat and add 2 cloves garlic, chopped and 1 Tbs (eyeball it) chopped fresh ginger for about a minute before tossing in a couple chicken breasts (chopped), ½ tsp turmeric and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper. Have your chicken chopped and ready because you do not want to burn the garlic! Stir the chicken 3-4 minutes, it does not have to be cooked through at this point. Add 5 cups liquid (again, I use a mixture of both chicken broth and water – about a 2 to 1 ratio), when liquid is near boiling add ¾ to 1 cup coconut milk, 2-3 Tbs fresh lime (or lemon) juice, 2-3 Tbs peanut butter and 2 cups thread egg noodles broken into small pieces (so you can actually get them on your spoon!). Bring to a boil, stir, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add 2 Tbs chopped scallions, 1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro, ¼ tsp salt, and ground black pepper. Simmer 5 more minutes.

Versions:

If you’ve got a family member that doesn’t eat meat, substitute chicken for tofu, or, skip the protein element altogether – the flavors alone will serve as a fresh alternative ‘warm-up’ to regular ol’ chicken noodle soup. Or, chop the chicken big enough, so if there’s just a picky eater amongst you, they can choose to not eat the chicken.

Substitute the thread egg noodle for something a little more hearty like Kluski ‘egg dumpling’ noodles. This works especially well if you are leaving out the meat.

Some folks find cilantro off-putting, so I’ve substituted it (the color anyway) for a handful of chopped fresh spinach. I add the spinach at the beginning with the chicken. This works especially well if you’re trying to sneak it into the kids’ diet. They’ll see tiny green things floating around, and if they ask, you can (1) be honest, or (2) say it’s “just some herbs like parsley that the recipe called for, you won’t even taste it.” Lime juice – as opposed to lemon – works especially well when omitting cilantro.

Healthy and delicious. Enjoy!

Grizzly Peak’s Humongous Imperial Red is, well, big

I am not the biggest fan of North Peak beers (or their associated ‘Jolly Pumpkin’ brand either). I don’t know what it is. Too carbonated? Not adventurous enough? But I digress, it’s just too easy to criticize, and the world has enough negativity so I won’t add to it—unless it’s a good chance to unleash some humor, which, I’d argue, the world needs more of.

But I really do like North Peak’s wet-hopped seasonal, Hoodoo, which I can’t say or write without wanting to sing Cpt. Beefheart’s “Floppy Boot Stomp” backing chorus, “HA! HOODOO! HOEDOWN!” Anyway…

And I remember hearing about this Grizzly Peak offshoot series a couple years ago and here they finally are. The first one, Hellion, released a couple months ago was a very nice DIPA, my style of choice, for the most part. Humongous is billed as an Imperial Red, and, while I’m not a big fan of Reds in general—too malty or caramel, or sometimes too close to the Amber style, which to me, if I dumb it down, seems too much like generic craft lager. Short’s Aorta Ale was a great exception, with lots of noticeable alpha hops thrown in to the equation. So, while I was hoping Humongous was going to be similar to Short’s Aorta, I also wanted to experience something different. Which it is.

2015

Humongous pours deep dark red in color with a solid head. It looks great. Taste is full of caramel and toasted malts, and not enough hops for my liking. I did however, appreciate the low carbonation (compared to what I have come to expect from most North Peak brand beers), even though it had that thick head. They also package their beers in those stubby Red Stripe style bottles, and the design on their labels are some of the best around, for sure. I did enjoy Humongous enough to recommend, should you be able to find it. It won’t be hanging around for too long. ABV 9.6%

Ryder Cup 2014 vs. 2012: A Personal Perspective

gleneagles

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Or am I way off on this? Even if the underdog US team were to scratch out a “W” at this year’s Ryder Cup at Scotland’s Gleneagles, won’t you just be left with the feeling that things are all square vs. Europe? Like, it won’t really feel like too much of a win since Europe’s won the last two (2010, 2012), especially with the way they won in 2012. Or maybe that’s it—how big of a win it is will be determined by how they win (if they win). Not that they can’t. Or won’t, but…

Let’s compare and contrast some things with 2012’s Ryder Cup:

Five (out of 12) new US faces this year: Ricky Fowler (okay, he’s been playing pretty consistently great all year), Hunter Mahan (arguably should have been on the 2012 team, thankfully seems to be coming around with his game again), Jordan Spieth (surely someone that’s going to represent the US for years to come), Patrick Reed (he peaked early, could be clutch and feed off the comaraderie), and Jimmy Walker (ditto).

In comparing that with 2012, that’s no Tiger (no big deal IMHO), no Stricker (thankfully) — well, he is a vice captain, and that could actually be a real good thing, no Duff (who honestly hasn’t been too impressive since his PGA win last year), no Dustin Johnson (no biggie) and no Snedeker—which is a shame because I really like Snedz and he’s known for his strong putting. And, arguably, Billy “Keith Richards” (that’s my nickname for him anyway. To me his face resembles a young, healthy Keef) Horschel deserved to be on the team this year as well. But, apparently, schedules need to be made, uniforms need to be tailored, family arrangements need to be booked and, alas, it is, after all, just that other four letter word we’re talking about here: g-o-l-f.

Now, how about that European team?  This year there’s no Francesco Molinari, Paul Lawrie, Peter Hanson, Luke Donald (practically an official US resident it seems anyway), or Nicolas Colsaerts, and in their places sit Thomas Bjorn (a vice captain in 2012 for Olazabel), Victor “match play” Dubuisson, Henrik Stenson, Jamie Donaldson, and Stephen Gallacher.

I haven’t paid as much attention to the European tour this year, or, golf in general (could be due to my own lack of “game” and/or “time” this year) for me to comment specifically on players’ or parings’ strengths but there is about the same amount of turnover on both teams. And, luckily we’ve got some “off the course” drama between McDowell and McIlroy.

They say that the pressure is really on Team USA to win this year, and I suppose it is, not having won since 2008 and then not since 1999. But the US is definitely the underdog, and my hunch is that the pressure will be off somewhat, due to that and the fact they’re not playing on “home soil” (sorry, couldn’t think of anything better w/o repeating myself, I do have other things to do).

Nevertheless, the Ryder Cup is the most exciting event in golf due to its team nature. It allows these otherwise mostly “boring gentlemen” to act more like professional footballers (from both sides of the pond). Or not quite. While the fashion is usually fairly cringeworthy, the level of play rises dramatically from most players at some point over the weekend. Surely, it’s all in the name of good fun. This one’s in Europe so it’s going to take a little extra effort people to tune in to the live programming. (As I mentioned before, it is only golf). Tune in if you dare!

and happy autumnal equinox to you too!

autumnal equinox 2014So today, as I sit writing this, just shy of the northerly 45th parallel, I enjoyed seeing the sunrise over the horizon at about 7:31am, and boy were we blessed with a beauty. Tonight, if it’s not cloudy, it should set around 7:38pm, which makes the ‘day’ part of my day seven minutes longer than the ‘night’ (which, if you factor in things like ‘civil twilight,’ I actually enjoy probably at least another good half hour of light on either side) which, I guess isn’t too bad when you’re this far north, albeit just one day removed from summer. But a mere month from now, my daylight hours will shrink by a whopping hour and a half (approximately 38mins. in the morning and 56mins.(!) in the evening) as the sun rises and sets further and further south and that midday angle creeps lower and lower on the horizon (to the point where, I’ve joked, that days in December and January are so short, and the midday sun is so low, that it seems like you go from morning to evening with no afternoon to speak of – oh, it’s comin’ my friends, it’s comin’).

Now, I know a lot of people that just love fall. “Oh, it’s the best time of the year, I just love it!” I hear. Well, not me. Although I have nothing personal against snazzy Mr. Autumn, I’m not too fond of his shoulder rubbing buddy, Old Man Winter. So, for me, fall just signals what’s coming—lots of darkness. And wind. And cold. And snow. And for a long time.

Living in the Great Lakes region you know Old Man Winter sets up camp weeks in advance. He’s also one to wear out his welcome for a good month or so, year after year. So, some quick advice to you autumn lovers out there: live it up now – the cooler temperatures and (admittedly) beautiful changing colors because before you know it, “cool” will be “downright freezing” and the “vibrant” colors will be nothing more than “lovely” shades of grey. And brown too. Right about now, I wish I had a home in New Zealand for six months, where I’d be out and about wishing folks a “happy vernal equinox.”

A few fun facts:

Seasons are opposite on either side of the equator, so the equinox in September is also known as the “autumnal (fall) equinox” in the northern hemisphere. However, in the southern hemisphere, it’s known as the “spring (vernal) equinox.”

What exactly happens during an equinox? The September equinox occurs the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year. This year it occurred Tuesday, Septmeber 23, 2014 at 2:29am UTC.

Thai Tomato Soup w/ homemade croutons and jazzed up grilled cheese. Yum! (and easy)

Thai Tomato Soup

Another reason this blog isn’t exclusive to music reviews or actual music mixes is because I spend an awful amount of time in the kitchen. And while I do love prepping and making usually somewhat delicious and usually somewhat healthy meals, the ‘doing the dishes and putting them away’ contributes greatly to ‘my time in the kitchen.’

So I thought I’d share this simple recipe for homemade Thai Tomato Soup:

Heat oil (coconut, olive, whatever) over medium heat and add onion (1 cup) for 5 minutes. Add garlic (2 cloves) and fresh ginger (1 ½ Tbs), sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups liquid (I usually use a combination of chicken broth and water) and 28 oz. diced, canned tomatoes, undrained. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. chili paste w/ garlic (Sriracha sauce will do nicely) and some salt. Take your hand mixer and puree so there’s no big hunks of tomato. Add ½ cup coconut milk and heat for a couple more minutes. Serve with lime wedges.

You can also make your own croutons to put on top by simply cubing a couple pieces of bread and drizzling some olive oil, salt and pepper on them and throwing them on a baking sheet in the oven at 375-400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

Think about adding some cream cheese or mayo (yes, really) to your grilled cheese. If you like everything spicy throw on some sliced jalepeno peppers, or add some sliced roma tomatoes to jazz it up as well.