New at Peter White Public Library
Recent additions to the library’s collection enable us to journey through the revival of near-extinct rock and roll styles from halfway around the world. We get acquainted with possibly the best Grateful Dead biography yet published. A PBS series takes us through the history of music technology. A superbly funny Zen memoir rounds out the list.
“The Deepest Lake”
by Dengue Fever
Sounding like a late-sixties spy movie soundtrack with exotic Asian vocal harmonies, Dengue Fever’s latest album continues the revival of a music style that was wiped out by unimaginable circumstances in the post-Vietnam War chaos of Southeast Asia. Dengue Fever, from Long Beach, California (home to the largest Cambodian-emigre community in the world), is centered by a groovy guitar twang backed by bass-drum-keyboard-sax group of Americans. At the forefront of the ensemble is the angelic voice of Phnom Penh native Nimol Chom, singing in her native Khmer language, with occasional English lyrics. These are absolutely timeless compositions — at times frenetic, funky, exotic — never devolving into retro kitsch. This is simply the most fun album in years. These guys should be the headliners of a revived Northern Nights concert series at Northern Michigan University. Those music events are so desperately absent in the Upper Peninsula!
“The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Cambodia”
From the same excellent label whose “Rough Guide to the Music of Afghanistan” and “Rough Guide to Reggae” we have at Peter White, comes this introduction to the masters of Cambodian rock and roll from the brief golden age before the communists took over the country in 1975, and musicians in particular were targeted by the Pol Pot regime. This compilation showcases the masters of the genre Sinn Sisamouth “the Elvis of Cambodia,” as well as golden-voiced divas Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron. To round out this disc are three contemporary groups, featuring mixed lineups of Cambodians and Westerners, including Dub Addiction, Dengue Fever, and the most extraordinary Cambodian Space Project. The latter group flew to Michigan to record their last album in Detroit. The guitar riffs here are killer, with hypnotic vocal harmonies.
“So Many Roads: the Life and Times of the Grateful Dead”
David Browne of Rolling Stone magazine authored this tribute to one of the paramount legacies of the psychedelic Sixties: the Grateful Dead. So Many Roads is filled with interviews with surviving band members and known associates. This work was published to coincide with the band’s 50th anniversary in 2016, which also saw the four original members reunite and tour, which proved to be one of the most talked-about tours of last year. Reading about drug busts, band in-fighting, is always entertaining, but with the Dead it is the music first and foremost and forever. How did this group of hippies, forged during turbulent times, driven by discipline and chaos, survive for decades? Work ethic, brotherhood, and a ton of talent.
“Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music”
338.4778 SO (New DVD section)
If you’re like me, you got real excited by this music series which aired so briefly on PBS last year. If you’re like me you never got to finish all of the episodes due to the restrictive and confusing PBS schedule (I literally tried to watch the seventh episode on the night after it premiered, only to discover it to be unavailable one second after midnight!) The library now has the entire series for binge-viewing purposes. Soundbreaking is cutting-edge examination of recording technology from the beginnings of rock music to the computer era.
Highlights include interviews with Sir George Martin on the secrets behind the creation the Beatles 1960s masterpieces, the “one single person can do it all in the studio” approach of Stevie Wonder, and the rise of hip-hop and its parallel with sampling technology. Soundbreaking is a nice companion piece to the 2013 Dave Grohl documentary “Sound City.”
In the early 80s Brad Warner was a young Akron, Ohio, bass player in the hardcore punk band Zero Defex, expressing nihilistic rage with lighting fast tempos and an unpolished punk rock style. Eventually, the dissatisfied attitude of punk gave way to a fascination with Soto Zen Buddhism. Warner ended up living in Tokyo for a decade and a half, eventually becoming the appointed lineage holder by Zen master Gudo Nishijima. With a distinct humor Warner explains the basis of Soto Zen, its founder Dogen, and the Zazen meditation form. He describes the necessity for the Zen practitioner to be able to endure the extreme boredom inherent to meditation, while describing the psychological and emotional benefits of the practice.
— Jeremy Morelock, reference desk