Matthew T Grant

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Tall Guy. Glasses.

How High Was My Fire (or Why High on Fire Matters)

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Easily the best band on earth. I sincerely hope other bands pay attention and decide to eschew all the pretension and all the trends and just focus on creating real, honest-to-God ART. That’s a rare thing these days. – urdisturbing

I went to the Metal/Hardcore festival at the Palladium in Worcester in 1999 mainly to see Morbid Angel, a band I’d been into since 1991.

After reading about Morbid Angel in Spin, I picked up an Earache compilation called Grindcrusher at Disc Diggers (long since defunct) in Somerville (I also picked up Morbid Angel’s masterful Altars of Madness there shortly thereafter) and was introduced to their sound via “Chapel of Ghouls,” a Slayer-esque monolith of strangely psychedelic, thrashy death metal.

Of course, the rest of the cassette kicked as  well because Earache’s roster in the early 90s was a who’s who of genre-defining death and grind bands (Carcass, Entombed, Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Terrorizer, etc.). Given my association, then, of the label with a certain level of aesthetic quality, I was happy to come across a basket of discounted Earache cassettes sitting on a table in the hustle and bustle of the “labels” area set up at the Palladium that night.

After a bit of rummaging around I ended up buying some Napalm DeathFrom Enslavement to Obliteration and Harmony Corruption, if memory serves— and a tape that, like anything that matters, altered the course of my life: Sleep’s Holy Mountain.

I’ll be honest. I bought the thing because is was like two bucks and the cover boasted an intricately ornate graffiti tableau consisting mainly of variations on “pot leaf.” Listening to it while driving through the dark and wooded hills outside of 495, my mind just blew and blew. These Sabbath worshipers, thanks to their ability to craft a riff and wail trippily, took unabashed adulation to the point of mad originality. The first galloping notes of “Dragonaut” —the sinewy ooze of the bass line, the oddly chanted vocal (“Ride the dragon under Mars’ red sky”)— hooked me immediately. I couldn’t believe how great it sounded. Read the rest of this entry »

Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv, or A Fistful of Super Web Strangeness

I received an email from a fellow named Igor. I assumed it was your garden variety, botnet-generated spam. It did, however, include a link to a Youtube video and, feeling secure that the Russians or Estonians or Ukrainians or whoever hadn’t jacked Youtube (yet!), I clicked on it. This is what I saw:

If you go ahead and watch the vid on the Youtubes, you’ll discover that there are multiple versions of it including parodies! Furthermore, the video and parodies are discussed at length on Know Your Meme. Why did they care? Because the video had some viral legs, in part thanks to this description which accompanied the original video post:

There is a video on Youtube named Mereana mordegard glesgorv. If you search this, you will find nothing. The few times you find something, all you will see is a 20 second video of a man staring intently at you, expressionless, then grinning for the last 2 seconds. The background is undefined. This is only part of the actual video.

The full video lasts 2 minutes, and was removed by Youtube after 153 people who viewed the video gouged out their eyes and mailed them to Youtube’s main office in San Bruno. Said people had also committed suicide in various ways. It is not yet known how they managed to mail their eyes after gouging them out. And the cryptic inscription they carve on their forearms has not yet been deciphered.

Youtube will periodically put up the first 20 seconds of the video to quell suspicions, so that people will not go look for the real thing and upload it. The video itself was only viewed by one Youtube staff member, who started screaming after 45 seconds. This man is under constant sedatives and is apparently unable to recall what he saw. The other people who were in the same room as him while he viewed it and turned off the video for him say that all they could hear was a high pitched drilling sound. None of them dared look at the screen.

The person who uploaded the video was never found, the IP address being non-existant. And the man on the video has never been identified.

Igor (if that is his real name) wrote in his message: “Tell you know this person? Simply it would be desirable to put an end in this history once and for all.”

The super strange part? I actually do know the guy in the video! How did Igor know? HOW DID HE KNOW!?!?!

More importantly, should I be afraid?

Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, BSO, October 7, 2010

Got to see James Levine get back in the saddle and ride Mahler’s sprawling warhorse into the sunset last night. It was amazingly beautiful and there were times, especially during the first movement, when I thought, “Is this the most incredible music every written or conceived by any human?”

I was awe-struck by Mahler’s unending melodic inventiveness, his mastery of independent harmonic and rhythmic motion, and that insane chord which verily shreds the fabric of sanity and reality in the third and fifth movements.

I was furthermore impressed by, among other things too numerous to enumerate, the ominous and almost menacingly hushed entrance of the choir in the later stages of this dazzling and confounding masterpiece.

There may have been flaws in the execution (at least the Globe thought so) and the sheer volume towards the end was too much for my aging ears, but, all in all, I found this performance sublime and cathartic.

Plus, driving to and from the concert my car radio provided the following musical bookends: Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City” (driving in) and ELO’s “Fire on High” (driving home). Sweet.

Chris Potter at the Regattabar, 2nd Set, October 6, 2010

285007703_81fe676758_mFirst thing I noticed was that Chris Potter doesn’t have an iPhone. He took a call right before the set and it looked like he just had one of those free phones, or maybe a Blackberry. A Blackberry would make sense – as one of the leading tenors of the day, he’s got a business to run – but, somehow, an iPhone would have made more sense.

Chris Potter plays with the precision, force and lucidity that I associate with Stan Getz. His harmonic conception is palpably modern stemming as it does from Coltrane, of course, but even more obviously, at least to these ears, from Wayne Shorter. Last night he led the band through a set comprised primarily of new and, as Potter pointed out, untitled compositions, many reminiscent of the cyclical openness of Shorter’s mid-sixties work, though one at least, the last number, sounding fairly Zawinul-esque.

In other words, the evening provided a healthy dose of melodic and spacious dynamism that was simultaneously grounded, cerebral, and even atmospheric.

Last time I saw Potter he was accompanied by the guitarist Adam Rogers and I was struck then by Rogers’ mastery of myriad styles from bebop to fusion to funk-rock. Last night, I had a similar feeling about Potter’s talent; he has obviously subsumed the dominant tenor strains of the last fifty years and continues to deploy and forge them into a deliberate and individualized sound.

The main challenge for someone at Potter’s level of playing is not sounding too much like any of the guys he could sound like. Following in Shorter’s footsteps helps him do this since the latter’s career was literally born in Coltrane’s shadow (Trane had recommended him as a replacement for himself to Miles). Shorter of course, whose playing in the 60s bears some un-mistakable Trane-isms, went on to build a towering body of work characterized by a nuanced, engaging and distinctive vision. Potter’s oeuvre, for its part, remains a compellingly evolved work in progress.

Potter did sound sort of Trane-y at times, especially on one self-penned ballad. In fact, he even took the band on an extended, Eastern modal workout right out of Trane’s playbook. I was glad to see him take the head with his tenor but, inevitably, he reached for the soprano and I thought we were moving straight into imitative homage territory. I was pleasantly surprised, however. Potter’s soprano tone was more in the controlled, Jan Garbarek vein and, in fact, highlighted by contrast the helter-skelter, jittery and frantic nature of Trane’s.

Potter’s supporting cast featured Larry Grenadier on bass, Edward Simon on piano, and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Grenadier is a pro – thoughtful, lyrical, focused. Marcus Gilmore is full of energy and ideas and a deft juggler of simultaneously independent rhythmic flows and phrases. Simon produced endlessly beautiful and absorbing tableaux which, unfortunately, I was not always able to adequately descry, seated as I was some five feet behind the cauldron of Gilmore’s drum kit.

A young Berklee kid sat down next to me right before things jumped off. We were chatting and he asked me if “I played.” I’ve been playing guitar for over thirty years but I’m so self-conscious about my abilities that I responded, “Ah, I’m just a hacker. A journeyman.”

Later, as the band kicked in and I started to get a little lost in the music, I realized I should have told him the truth: I’m a latter-day beatnik jazz mystic type of guy. Ever since I heard Coltrane’s Ascension, I knew that jazz was a portal into the All, a complex and transient exploration of the infinite Now. When I hear jazz live, I’m looking for a hit of that.

And frankly, listening to Chris Potter’s angular, sinewy, but fleshed out and utterly human solos, and everything the band did around and through them, I got my fix.

Image source: Olivier Bruchez.