Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: "Give Up" by CV

Here's a record from my friend William Scott Chaffin. The old CV moniker now falls under the "Brighton Street Ghosts" name, which is appropriate, because this represents an evolution from older CV stuff I've heard.

Cover photo by Jacob Wold
Compared to other releases by this artist, I hear less hip-hop beats and more piano. Still, there are the canned beats underpinning it all. Still, there is Scott's effortlessly bluesy voice, which is an instant identifier. Whether growling or in orgasmic falsetto, it's instantly recognizable.

"Gotta Move On" is a solid starter with an insanely cool acid meltdown at the 1:20 mark. Reminds me of King Crimson if Robert Fripp listened to more Sam & Dave.

"Fight You" is in the same mold, perhaps a bit more dance-oriented, maybe? Scott's voice is gentle and vulnerable on this one. I like it.

"Fang" is a straight-up rocker that would have been right at home with Scott and I's old band Electrophonic Foundation. This is bar-room rock with brains, which is the best kind. A healthy dose of reverb on the vocal gives it a nice retro-50s vibe.

"Clancy's Mojo Blues" for some reason reminds me of Steely Dan. It doesn't really sound like Steely Dan. Perhaps if Steely Dan lived under a bridge and smoked too many cigarettes. It's nice and smooth.

"Snakes of Portland" begins with a vibe I'd put somewhere between acoustic Nirvana and the Folk Implosion. This one sounds like a broken music box. That's a compliment.

"Cue Portland Rain" reminds me of old-school CV - that is, full-on Chocolate Velvet. There's a certain vibe here that I can't quite place - maybe it feels like some of the lighter Led Zeppelin stuff, off Led Zeppelin III, maybe. The rhythm of the vocal track pushes this one forward. If you're not careful it will get stuck in your head. There's some fun Nicky Hopkins-style piano noodling in the instrumental breaks that does, indeed, bring to mind a soft rain.

"Ripped To Skull" reminds of me of nothing so much as the second track on Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica. 17 seconds of Scott uttering quasi-mysterious poetry.

"The Witches in 148" begins with a strong borderline 1980s beat, helped along nicely by some guitar-slabs. This is an instrumental track. It would make a good driving song. The entire vibe of this one is a bit more straight-up rock than most of the rest. Some very nice chiming Chris Isaac/Chris Penn guitar work at the 3:06 mark is the climax of the song, in my opinion. Now it's not just a driving song, but a driving at night song. I can almost see the steam rising from the road. Wraps up with a nice "fuck it" style ending that screams "bedroom pop."

"All Going Down" has a great intro, very reminiscent of one of my favorites, the Marcin Wasileski Trio. Over the top of this is Scott reading poetry (or speaking lyrics, however you want to look at it). This would remind me of beat poetry if it wasn't so gentle and didn't rhyme. There's a touch of Jim Morrison on this one, but better, because it's not about Jim Morrison's penis.

"Lion" is another one that reminds me of the Electrophonic Foundation. A phallic blues riff that would make Robert Johnson proud kicks things off, and continues in various iterations throughout the song. The guitar break at about 2:30 something sounds like a train whistle, which is totally appropriate the bluesy vibe. We get a break at 3:13 where the main riff cuts out and things get a bit mellow. More disembodied guitar trails out to the end, and the track ends, satisfyingly, not with a bang but a whimper.

"dribeulb" (that's "bluebird" spelled backwards) has an early morning vibe. One can almost imagine waking up, pulling open the curtains, flooding the house with sun, especially with some faux vibrophone action at about 1:15 or so. Scott's disembodied backward vocals on this one sometimes remind me of David Yow of the Jesus Lizard, if David Yow had eaten about 15 tablets of hydrocodone.

"How Dat Move Mountains?" Another one that would remind me a lot more of classic CV if not for the weird cosmic tones that pervades most of it. The airiness of the vocal matches well with this. I like the chord changes that start around 1:28 or something. At about 2:30 this breaks down into what I can only call "space ambient." We return rather quickly to the quasi-chorus. A somewhat sad and somber tone to end the record on seems appropriate.

"Secret Backwards Message" is 17 seconds of just that - a secret backwards message. Less of a "last song" and more of a mysterious capstone.

Overall, this is another winner for CV. It also showcases a certain growth, perhaps a mature mellowing out of a hard rocker who is slipping into his 40s and is just fine with it. If you like it, keep an eye on that link above. Scott is probably the most prolific songwriter I know. He's probably written more songs that Bob Pollard. This record just scratches the surface of his various releases and collaborations (such as the Black Bullet Promise). This is indie rock at its purest form, made by someone who's not doing it for the money, or the girls, or the party. Scott would be recording music even if no one was listening. But I know I'll be, at least.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Complete Guide to Heraldry


Thanks to the always-fascinating Project Gutenberg, I found this digital version of an old book by Arthur Charlies Fox-Davies and illustrator Graham Johnston. It was published in 1909 in Scotland. Everything you ever wanted to know about heraldry - more than you ever wanted to know, I'm sure - is here. The real treat is a ton of illustrations of various pieces of heraldric devices. Creative types might enjoy cutting and pasting their own coat of arms together, if you're not happy with yours. Personally, I like mine so I'll leave it alone. At any rate, there's much to explore in this interesting book (not to mention Project Gutenberg in general).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

D&D Clarifications From Beyond the Grave


When Gary Gygax was alive, he was a regular participant in the forums at Dragonsfoot. In that time, he answered all kinds of questions about various forms of D&D, specifically his baby AD&D. I remember some of his answers being surprising. Often, questioners were far more concerned about "the right way to play" than Gary seemed to be. That being said, he'd happily digress into excruciating minutia regarding alignments, druids, weapons proficiencies, and so on. Leon Baradat has compiled all of those separate threads into one massive (somewhat low quality) PDF. While it's certainly not what I'd call casual reading, you can pretty much randomly sift through it and discover some interesting tidbits. The one thing I take away from it more than anything is that edition warriors and old-school purists either don't know or conveniently forget that Gygax himself didn't really love all the AD&D rules, openly admits to writing the Dungeon Masters Guide ("off the top of my head") and so forth. The purist approach to D&D is a castle built on fluid. There's never been a right or wrong way to play, and Gary always acknowledged that.