Archive for January, 2011

A while back, I reviewed a small release of music from a band led by an elf gal who goes by the alias of Solarbird.  Well the crafty and inventive songster is back with her elf posse, CRIME and the Forces of Evil, along with a full-fledged album of new improved songs to whup our behinds with a belt!

Solarbird put forward a raffle to divvy out a series of advance copies in exchange for a review. As per my usual truculent self I said, “Funk Dat” and bought the album off the Bandcamp space. I told her to keep me out of the raffle and I was going to do a review anyway, because of course—I had already made up my mind to do so!

Last time, I was curdled and mixed about the music the band put forward.  I knew I was going to give the full album a fair shot once it came out, though quite frankly I thought it would be a chore.  Save for one track, the style of that first release let my expectations down and the sound grated on me.

Okay enough yapping already! What the Hek do we have here anyway?

I was impressed and surprised.  Consider me totally floored.

First off, the title is awesome.  I’ve stated my superhero stance before, so the title of the album, Dick Tracy Must Die, is a stance I immediately understand and sympathize with.  I’m on board at the conceptual level.

I’m impressed with the Bandcamp interface—I’m all about low barriers. I got myself a high quality download and cover jpg with no-fuss and no-muss.  This really is a step forward in the ability for artists to control the horizontal and vertical.

I know the site takes its cut, but right now this format kicks the music industry in their undead nutsac.  I know that I’m giving most of my Ducats to the people I choose to support.

Musically, the tracks are outstanding.  The audio has been cleaned up.  There are lots of extras in the background for punctuation.  There’s variety in the subject matter and sound while still remaining distinctive as a style.  Having listened intently for a week now, I can’t think of any song that sounds unfinished—these birds are grown up and fly on their own.

Having let go of previous expectations, I can at least make that kind of objective statement about the material.  It holds up as good music that has been pushed through the dip to fruition.

What I wasn’t expecting was that I would actually like the stuff.

Maybe I ought not to be surprised, since what we have here is different, interesting, and independent at its core.  All stuff I really dig.  It’s hard to remain unmoved by the biting insight and subtle wit of “When You Leave”, or the sincere and reasoned tenderness of “Let Me Help.”

Solarbird’s voice has been blended with the music and now the cranky, irksome elf has been replaced with a softer and more even level that lets the lyrics deliver their potency without detracting from the energy and skill of the strings.  Nothing’s wasted here.

While I like some songs more than others, I can’t find a single one I dislike.  There’s the outrageous and knowing humor of “My Boyfriend”, the restrained buoyancy of return in “Stars”, and the sorrowful understanding of “Thought You Knew”—the territory covered is impressive.  I have yet to tire of it.

The group characterizes itself as acoustic elf-metal.  I would venture to say their sound is better described as acoustic elf-chrome—lustrous, hard, and pure.  This is the kind of punk music you would hear played in Rivendell when the elves had downed a few.

Or in the markets and fairs of Cascadia.  Played by those few diminished immortal elves who never went into the Undying Lands, yet have enough kindness and wisdom in their hearts still to sing songs of complexity and beauty.

The elves of Middle-Earth were known for crafting items of exceptional artistry, but that only explains half of what I’m hearing. I can’t help but feel there’s an edge to all this.  It’s music you’d hear played by the elves in the movie Wizards, where fantasy magic and archaic technology mix.

Solarbird has a machine gun now.  Die, Dick Tracy, die!

Okay, so a long while ago I swore I would level up on the knitting power. It’s pretty sad news that a category on this blog has been limping along at only one entry for such a long time. Can you guess my undeveloped side here?

No longer! Unpacked (again), re-learning my skill (again). I will get back in touch with this and make myself the very scarf that Kimaroo mentioned I need in this day and age of psychic blizzards.  Everybody needs an advanced tool of civilized multi-purpose function in this era of Road Mutants In Training.

But hey, sometimes the trove comes up extras on the bonus round. Lo and behold at the store, an array of potions such that K and I thought were relegated to an age of history sadly written. Just goes to show that anything can reappear when the world turns with a subtle flavor.

Behold, potions of healing goodness! K loves this beer, swears by it and has sorely missed it. We plan to stock up before those Roguesy weirdoes turn off the emergency damage repair spigot accidentally again.  For now though, it is exceedingly cool to run into an old friend of tasty character and refreshing vitality. Times are tough!

Of course, scrolls of revelation are included in the package as well. For my roleplaying game group I do maps and tokens as part of my full Game-mastering package of goodies.  Here’s a picture of one such map that I created, of the village where the characters begin their adventure.

Yes, full on detail and color of the highest order.  These things help my players imagine the scale and scope of the area they find themselves in. I was telling Kimaroo about this very thing, when I realized I ought to show her what the Hek I was talking about.

Yes, magic items are everywhere. Because we need them.

For the last few months, I’ve found myself at a high degree of stress factors with diminished creative activity. You could say all sorts of components and clusters of energy have been blazing hot and ashen. Then, the downslide into long periods of rest and dulled, zombie-like shuffling about to no particular aim. Whatever’s going on in the deep unconscious, I’m pretty much surfing it as best I can.

No doubt, this last year I’ve been processing and working out an avalanche of dislodged material from my brain connections. I’ve truly felt like this was not for the faint of heart or tender of spirit, yet I’ve managed to keep the trans-warp drive going on jury-rigged plot devices.  Work, relationships, artistry; all on the hopper alert main panel with flashing jewel studded lights.

The past returning along the elliptic, the future looming across the event horizon, and the present busting a move on the loudspeakers and display panels as fast as I can render a thought.  Still, I’ve found fun where I could and helped people along in whatever manner I could find the wisdom and strength to do so. Really, there are long periods where all you can do is hope, and wonder, and dream your way through these blizzards of the soul.

It’s time once again for a recap of the honeycomb hideout news. We got killer bees recharging their pew-pews and buzz-blares through the winter in the central stairwell. The garden is in slumber mode, while all the amazing bonus critters are street fighting it out on reserves or scavenge dice rolls.  There’s the sound of psychological sparks flying as internalized experimental processes run on bio-organic energy sources. It’s an introverted circus of exploration during a time of cold withdrawal.

After last year’s snowpocalypse, and the resultant gigantic creatures that emerged out of the space left behind when humans retreat indoors, there was a huge furnace of frightful manifestations all around the immediate area.  It gets me to wondering if people are hip to the amount of work that needs to be done just to maintain the local life support systems, let alone the scale of megalith size collectives.  Make no mistake, it’s definitely a sliding about of earth’s subterranean top.

I mean, even long term protective gear forged in the treasuries of lost youth are showing damage from the goob-a-loo resounding.  We just can’t depend on the ol’ standbys to keep on truckin’ to the remaining Stuckey’s still able to reload the chili dawg torpedoes.  I look at my Merlin-size library of tracts, tomes, potions and tablets—and I’m shlumped to the floor. The slack in the vast array of miraculous to godawful junk isn’t there.  It is closed to me, save by only the most intense of effort.

Despite the relentless pressure of deep sea diving without a hat, I’ve managed to hold it together—and keep more than a few people I know sane through their own blast furnace or stellar particle shower.  There’s a volcano of one million years BC metamorphosis scale clearing her throat in our hearts, I just hope I can dodge the boulders and screaming dinosaurs as they tumble past me into the abyss. But in the meantime, at least there’s still late night horror hosts to ease the squeeze on my brainstem!