Misinterprotato and The Gentle War

8 out of 10: A fine, inventive jazz record

A brilliant Coltrane record is still a brilliant Coltrane record. The music hasn’t changed; what the kids are to listening to has. Jazz used to be the “noise” kids listened to that their parents couldn’t understand. Now jazz is the “noise” that parents listen to that their kids can’t understand.

It’s unlikely then that Misinterprotato, a Brisbane piano, bass and drums trio, are ever going to lock in a place on Triple J’s Hottest 100. Despite a number of their songs featuring nods to modern-day indie rock, The Gentle War is still a jazz album – and refreshingly so. It’s energetic, full of movement and rhythmically inventive, a far cry from the staid version of jazz that befouls the genre’s reputation. What impresses most is the album’s constant play — no drum beat settles without textural fills, no bass pattern remains on repeat, the piano doesn’t just vamp over a chord. Even on the slower numbers, the instruments feed off each other, guide each other.

Wrestle is perhaps the standout, a song that highlights the band’s strengths: a masterly control of dynamics, piano that is both melodically and rhythmically appealing, and Pat Marchisella’s sublime bass, which, just like Mingus’s, is sometimes aggressive, always majestic.

Generally speaking, the album is best when the band works more as an ensemble. Sync and especially Tailgater demonstrate how well Misinterprotato can create so much of interest to the ear, the instruments interweaving rambunctiously across ebbing and flowing passages. Time buttresses the same point from the opposite direction: it’s mostly a solo piano piece that fails to fire without the band’s inventive interplay.

The Gentle War is a fantastic record — a happy change from what the litany of guitar, bass and drum rock trios are offering around the traps, and far more interesting to boot.

Borges’ Spinoza Metered and Rhymed

I am by no means qualified to translate poetry, but reading Borges’ sonnet Spinoza translated into English unrhymed and unmetered disappointed me so much that I thought an attempt at a rhymed and metered English version of the Spanish original wouldn’t offend too gravely. And because Borges admired Shakespeare so much, I supposed translating Spinoza into the classic Shakespearean sonnet form would be the most appropriate option.

Anyway, here’s Richard Howard and César Rennert’s version; here’s Willis Barnstone’s version (which is rhymed, although the meter is all over the place); here’s a literal version; and below is my own version along with the Spanish original:

The Jew’s translucent hands robustly work
The lenses in the late penumbral dark.
The dying evening cold where terrors lurk,
One evening, every evening always stark.
His hands, his space of hyacinth and blue
That pale within the Ghetto’s borderlines
Hardly exist for him the silent Jew
Who dreams a labyrinth’s lucid, clear designs.
He undisturbed by fame — what comes reflected
From dreams within another mirror’s dreams.
Free from a maiden’s timid love confected
And metaphor and myth’s distracting streams.
He works resistant glass: the endless One
He maps, whose shining stars no skies outrun.

Las traslúcidas manos del judío
labran en la penumbra los cristales
y la tarde que muere es miedo y frío.
(Las tardes a las tardes son iguales.)
Las manos y el espacio de jacinto
que palidece en el confín del Ghetto
casi no existen para el hombre quieto
que está soñando un claro laberinto.
No lo turba la fama, ese reflejo
de sueños en el sueño de otro espejo,
ni el temeroso amor de las doncellas.
Libre de la metáfora y del mito
labra un arduo cristal: el infinito
mapa de Aquel que es todas Sus estrellas.

Endless Boogie’s Full House Head

1 out of 10: Rock and roll never sounded so dull

Three major chords on a Gibson gold top still haven’t gotten old. Amped up to eleven, the pummeling sound of rollicking guitars remains a primal joy, the riff still the lynchpin of bonerattling rock-and-roll abandon.

No doubt Endless Boogie, who named themselves after a John Lee Hooker record, frequently intoxicate themselves on rock’s sonic ambrosia. Formed in New York, the foursome have kept stars well away from their eyes and devoted themselves purely to swampy-blues riff construction, completely unconcerned with whatever might be hip and only bothering to grace a stage when invited.

Such devotion, which would ordinarily hold a band in good stead, has  nonetheless come at the expense of considering the listening public and writing anything resembling a song. Full House Head is seventy-seven minutes of aimless riffage and teenage-boy-in-a-bedroom noodling broken up into eight “songs”, the music’s lacklustre repetitiveness inducing boredom rather than hypnotising. Every now and again, the monotony is interrupted by Paul Major’s inconsequential rasping; every now and again, the monotony doesn’t sound so bad in comparison. Hardly anything has changed since their first album of two years ago, and one would think that a band so lacking in ambition will never change their ways.

All in all, Endless Boogie are like the bird that wishes the air away thinking it a hindrance to flying faster and higher, only to discover, tragically, that without air there is no flight. Divorced of any kind of structure, divorced of any kind of build up or tension, Full House Head relentlessly meanders, an album lost on a limitless plain, no heights, no troughs — no nothing really.

The Indo-Europeans: The Undisputed World Champions

The whole world might play soccer (I’m Australian and I prefer soccer to football), but only a tiny portion of nations have ever held the World Cup aloft or even played off for the honour. Of the 202 nations that FIFA have given a world ranking to, only 8 have ever won the World Cup the 19 times the festival of soccer has been held and only 12 have ever made the final.

But here’s what’s really interesting: if we organise nations by language group, only 2 language groups have ever won the World Cup and 4 reached the final.

And even more interesting: if we organise nations by language family, of the 20 or so that exist (some are disputed), only 1, the Indo-European, has ever won the World Cup and only 2 have ever reached the final (those pesky Uralic Hungarians the only thorn in the Indo-European side).

If ever there was proof that language influences sporting ability, we have it here.