Yoga

I was very privileged yesterday to play a small, insignificant role in Rob Lapansee’s quest to set the Guinness World Record for fastest half marathon dressed as a fruit – yes, it’s a thing (click HERE) – but what initially intended to be an easy 21.1k cycle down the Niagara Parkway, did end up being a very long day in the saddle navigating back and forth between Fort Erie and Niagara Falls; all in gale force winds.  Needless to say, I am 100% whooped today and have little motivation to do anything this afternoon beyond this short and sweet yoga stretch with the ‘A Date with the Duke (Hurricane Club, New York City, 1943-1944)‘ album by Duke Ellington.

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This listen concludes the trio of “Duke Ellington Collector’s Society” records I purchased a few weeks back at Niagara Records in St. Catharines.

It’s also likely my favorite to boot.

This last installment (of my investment anyway) is listed as “Caracol 435” and was recorded at the infamous (now defunct) Hurricane Club in New York City, during several different performances dating between 1943 and 1944. The band at that time featured Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Taft Jordan, Harry Carney and, well, the usual cast of talented characters as the past two albums.

Like the others, it’s an entertaining listen for 30 minutes of light and relaxed yoga stretching on my mat this afternoon.  I might got to the gym to lift some iron later but, right now, I’m just interested in taking it easy with the Duke.

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Core

Today is a sacred day, for today is the all hallowed World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii.  What this roughly translates to (much to Kelly’s chagrin I’m sure) is my ass being plopped in my EZ-Boy for approximately 10 hours this afternoon/evening watching the live feed.

To that effect, I’m up early to accomplish this quick core workout before all the action kicks off.  Today’s mat session then (with coffee still in hand) is set to the next installment of the ‘A Date With the Duke (Toledo, Ohio June 9th, 1945)‘  albums by Duke Ellington.

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This is the second of the three “Duke Ellington Collectors Society” albums I purchased a few weeks back from Niagara Records.

This particular album is listed as “Caracol 433”, recorded in Toledo, Ohio on June 9th, 1945.  the featured band here includes Rex Stewart, “Tricky” Sam Nanton, Taft Jordan, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney, and Lawrence Brown among others.

It’s a short, fun listen for getting business done early this morning so I can totally laze out this afternoon and follow 2400 incredible athletes, one of whom is a close training peer of mine, on their journey through 140.2 miles of Ironman awesomeness.

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Weights

Seeing as how I made it back from my run in one piece, I figure let’s press my luck and complete a quick session with the heavy iron to boot.  What the heck.  My rough and tumble soundtrack for this mornings ripping of muscle fiber is the debut self-titled album by the Ramones.

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With the three-chord assault of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop‘, The Ramones begins at a blinding speed and never once over the course of its 14 songs does it let up.

Amazingly so.

The Ramones are all about speed, hooks, stupidity, and simplicity. The songs are imaginative reductions of early rock & roll, girl group pop, and surf rock. Not only is the music boiled down to its essentials, but the Ramones offer a twisted, comical take on pop culture with their lyrics, whether it’s the horror schlock of ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement’, the gleeful violence of ‘Beat on the Brat‘, or the maniacal stupidity of ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue‘.  Excellent gym music, right?  And the cover of Chris Montez’s ‘Let’s Dance‘ isn’t a throwaway – with its single-minded beat and lyrics, it encapsulates everything the group loves about pre-Beatles rock & roll. They don’t alter the structure, or the intent, of the song, they simply make it louder and faster. And that’s the key to all of the Ramones’ music – it’s simple rock & roll, played simply, loud, and very, very fast. None of the songs clock in at any longer than two and half minutes, and most are considerably shorter. In comparison to some of the music the album inspired, The Ramones sounds a little tame – it’s a little too clean, and compared to their insanely fast live albums, it even sounds a little slow – but there’s no denying that it still sounds brilliantly fresh and intoxicatingly fun.

The album was released on April 23, 1976 by Sire Records.  Interestingly enough, the album cover, photographed by Punk magazine’s Roberta Bayley, features the four members leaning against a brick wall in New York City.  The record company paid only $125 for the front photo, and it has since become one of the most imitated album covers of all time.

The album peaked at #111 on the US Billboard 200 and was unsuccessful commercially, though it received glowing reviews from reputed critics. Many later deemed it a highly influential record, and it has since received many accolades, such as the top spot on Spin magazine’s list of the ‘50 Most Essential Punk Records‘.  My own Bible (Mojo, August 195) ranks it at #43.  Furthermore, it went on to inspire many bands including Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, and the Clash.  Aside from sparking the punk rock scene in both the US and the UK, it has had a significant impact on other genres of rock music, such as grunge and heavy metal. The album was ranked at #33 in Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ in 2012.

Not bad for a bunch of skinny and apparently cursed dudes with really, really bad haircuts.

Good lifting music though.

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Drills/Tempo Run (6k)

Let’s face it, with all the luck I’ve been having this year in regards to training (click HERE and HERE  for reminders) I should have just wrapped myself in bubble wrap, hid under the bed and prayed for tomorrow to come.  Instead, here I am tempting fate by going out running (two faster paced intervals no less) with a Friday the 13th themed album, ‘EVoL‘  by Sonic Youth.

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By 1986, a still relatively recently formed Sonic Youth was in a time of transition. Born out of the noise of New York’s thriving-in-ugliness no wave scene and ensconced in the influence of Glenn Branca’s avant-garde guitar experimentalism, the band’s early albums slowly morphed from the snotty abrasive clatter of its self-titled EP and spotty first proper LP ‘Confusion Is Sex‘  into a far darker but still somewhat inconsistent merging of haunted song sketches and foreboding noisy atmospheres on second album ‘Bad Moon Rising‘ which, coincidentally, I listen to last Friday the 13th back in November of last year.

Anyway, ‘EVoL‘  found the band in a similarly eerie mindset, but this time the dark dreaminess of songs like ‘Tom Violence‘, the tense instrumental ‘Death to Our Friends‘, and the gorgeously restrained ‘Shadow of a Doubt‘ are snapped into lockstep clarity by Steve Shelley’s precise, tom-heavy drumming. Shelley, still a fresh-faced Michigan transplant to N.Y.C., joined the band on ‘EVoL‘, replacing ex-Pussy Galore drummer Bob Bert, whose trash can percussion added some of the roughness to earlier Sonic Youth albums.

While ‘EVOL‘  is still an album steeped in the noise and collage aesthetic the band grew from (most notable in the tape experiments, unexpected screams, and mesh of feedback and car-race sound effects of Lee Ranaldo’s spoken word contribution ‘In the Kingdom #19‘  and the ghostly music-box loop and Kim Gordon’s slithering vocals on ‘Secret Girls‘), the songs here also represent the band’s first flirtations with pop.  Though gift-wrapped in jagged guitar tones and airy alternate tunings, songs like ‘Green Light‘, ‘Star Power’, and the hypnotic bliss-out of album closer ‘Expressway to Yr. Skull‘  are built on cores of reaching melodicism and a tunefulness that borders at times on sounding playful. The addition of Shelley’s propulsive drumming gave much-needed punctuation to the band’s previously murky approach and connected some of the amorphous Halloween-themed textures the band was immersed in at the time to more deliberate, even traditional song structures. This affection for big, dumb, simplistic pop is driven home by their cover of Kim Fowley’s unabashedly sleazy rocker ‘Bubblegum‘, included as a bonus track on early non-LP versions of the album. A product of a band finding its way between worlds, ‘EVoL‘  is a remarkably strong effort, and sets the stage for crystallizing ideas that would soon result in what many considered the band’s finest work.

Truly, this was the album where the seeds of greatness were sown and, fortunately, I made it back in one piece and survived to tell the tale.

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Functional Strength/Core

Get this:  I’m up early.  Yup.  Well, earlier than usual anyway (6:00am).  I accomplished this 2300m swim and afterwards, this 30 minute functional strength/core session with this ‘White Chalk‘  album by P.J. Harvey.

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The quiet ones are always the scariest. Polly Jean Harvey’s appearance on the cover of ‘White Chalk‘ – all wild black hair and ghostly white dress – could replace the dictionary definition of eerie, and the album itself plays like a good ghost story.  It’s haunted by British folk, steeped in Gothic romance and horror, and almost impossible to get out of your head, despite (but really because of) how unsettling it becomes.

White Chalk‘ is Harvey’s darkest album yet – which, considering that she’s sung about dismembering a lover and drowning her daughter, is saying something. It’s also one of her most beautiful albums, inspired by the fragility and timelessness of chalk lines and her relative newness to the piano, which dominates ‘White Chalk‘; it gives ‘Before Departure‘  funereal heft and ‘Grow Grow Grow’  a witchy sparkle befitting its incantations. Most striking of all, however, is Harvey’s voice: she sings most of this album in a high, keening voice somewhere between a whisper and a whimper. She sounds like a wraith or a lost child, terrifyingly so on ‘The Mountain‘, where she breaks the tension with a spine-tingling shriek just before the album ends. This frail persona is almost unrecognizable as the woman who snarled about being a 50-foot queenie – yet few artists challenge themselves to change their sound as much as she does, so paradoxically, it’s a quintessentially PJ Harvey move. The album does indeed sound timeless, or at least, not modern.

This 2007 album  took five months to record with Harvey’s longtime collaborators Flood, John Parish, and Eric Drew Feldman, but these somber, cloistered songs sound like they could be performed in a parlor, or channeled via Ouija board. There is hardly any guitar (and certainly nothing as newfangled as electric guitar) besides the acoustic strumming on the beautifully chilly title track, which could pass for an especially gloomy traditional British folk song. Lyrics like ‘The Devil’‘s “Come here at once! All my being is now in pining” could be written by one of the Brontë sisters.

On a deeper level, ‘White Chalk‘  feels like a freshly unearthed relic because it runs so deep and dark. Harvey doesn’t just capture isolation and anguish; she makes fear, regret, and loneliness into entities. In these beautiful and almost unbearably intimate songs, darkness is a friend, silence is an enemy, and a piano is a skeleton with broken teeth and twitching red tongues. ‘When Under Ether‘ offers a hallucinatory escape from some horrible reality – quite possibly abortion, since unwanted children are some of the many broken family ties that haunt the album – and this is this album’s single. What makes the album even more intriguing is that it doesn’t really have much in common with the work of Harvey’s contemporaries or even her own catalog.

When she’s at the peak of her powers, as she is on this frightening yet fearless album, the world she creates is impossible to forget, or shake off easily. ‘White Chalk‘ can make you shiver on a sunny day which, fortunately, it isn’t today making it the perfect October near-Halloween(ish) listen this morning.

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Yoga

With my slow shuffle behind me, it’s time for a short bendy-twisty session to stretch out ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning after what seems like forever since my last run (Crystal Beach 5k not withstanding).  To that effect I’ve chosen something particularly extremely mellow, the ‘Bell Studies for the Clock of The Long Now‘  by Brian Eno.

cover_1914136102016_rReleased in 2002 on Opal Music, this album is a limited edition promo, sent out to wine dealers to promote Pelissero‘s ‘Long Now’  wine, named in honor of the Long Now Foundation.

What is the Long Now Foundation?

Established in 1996, the LNF is a public, non-profit organization based in San Francisco that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. It aims to provide a counterpoint to what it views as today’s “faster/cheaper” mindset and to promote “slower/better” thinking. The Long Now Foundation hopes to “creatively foster responsibility” in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

Whatever the fuck that means.

Essentially, it’s a big ass clock that’s going to run for a stupid ass long time (10,000 years) hoping that we come all come to out collective senses by then.

All I really know at this precise moment is that it is a very soothing listen which, as you would expect, is ideal for a slow yoga stretch on a mat in a quiet corner of the gym.

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Easy Run (6k)

The plan was to start up the ‘ol run program this afternoon now that the weather is cooler and Autumn’s palette is in full bloom but, oh no, Mother Nature (the bitch she is) had different ideas so here I am, shuffling around an indoor track instead and listening to the ‘Seventeen Seconds‘  album by The Cure.

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Yay.

Sure it’s not exactly your most upbeat album but, hey, as it’s currently overcast and gloomy outside and the mellow spareness of this album is actually perfect for my slow, methodical 40 minute shuffle this afternoon, it’s kind of ideal actually.

C’est la vie…

In a sense, this 1980 album is the beginning of a trilogy of sorts, the emptiness that leads to the questioning and eventual madness of the subsequent work. Mostly forgotten outside of the unforgettable single ‘A Forest‘, the album is an even, subtle work that grows on the listener over time.

Sure, the Cure did better work, but for a new lineup and a newfound sense of independence, Robert Smith already shows that he knows what he’s doing. From short instrumental pieces to robotic pop, ‘Seventeen Seconds‘  is where, for all intensive purposes, the Cure shed all the outside input and became their own band.

It beats me how far I ran today.  I gave up on keeping track of my laps around the track after, oh, say, the second one?  The goal was 40 minutes of slow, pain free jogging just as I did back in January when getting over a different injury and, as such, that goal was accomplished just fine.  I am “guesstimating” around 6k or so.

Hopefully, the weather will improve for Friday’s anticipated run and I can once again return outside to enjoy what remains of this pretty Autumn season.

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