Friday, October 27, 2006

Brian Eno - Another Day on Earth

There's a good chance that you haven't Brian Eno before, since he deals with non-mainstream music. Though, he's best known for his ambient and minimalist works. This brings me to another point. So far the only Eno albums I've heard are Another Green World (1975), Music for Airports (1978) and Another Day on Earth (2005). His last album is a bit quirky, and I admit that I've just barely scratched the surface of his album (not literally mind you).

Another Day on Earth starts off with 'This', a very cheery and uplifting song complete with Eno's vocals. A friend of mine once commented that it sounds like Depeche Mode lite. 'And Then So Clear' as well as 'Passing Over' evokes a strange futuristic image. Through vocoders, Eno's vocal's were now morphed into the android-like vocals. I'm guessing that the former song was an attempt at an andriod with a soul, trying to prove that humanity exists in his metallic casing, while the latter one has a much harsher sound, a sound of regret and judgement. In between those two songs was 'Long Way Down' and 'Going Unconcious', both are dreamy songs that tend to lurk on the edge of nightmares. Throughout this album, Eno proves his best at various times and places in this album. 'Caught Between' is no exception. Love the gentle guitar riff.

If you felt that songs 3 to 6 have a dreary, dreamy and dark atmosphere, then songs 7 to 10 have the opposite effect. With the backing of a simple guitar strumming, Eno's voice in 'How Many Worlds' is clean and not very altered, and 'Just Another Day' reprises the theme from the first track. From what I think, Eno has gone a long way since Another Green World in terms of lyric-writing. Lines which sound quite silly when sung aloud like "I'll come running to tie your shoes" are a thing of the past now. I suppose through trial and error, Eno's past experience with ambient music and his vocal works resulted in this piece of finely crafted album. Do keep note on the guitar and piano lines that appear quite a lot, and even if you strip off the lyrics I think it could still stand as a very good intrumental ambient album. Even Eno's vocals is something to ought to hear for yourself. I'm one of those who really appreciate vocalists who can really really sing their heart out.

And then there's the very last song of the album, simply titled 'Bone Bomb'. A lone woman recites a poem word by word without any emotion, most likely the emotion has already been drained away from her. You can read the lyrics here. The technique of stretching the first letter is rarely heard, but I like the effect. "B-b-b-b-bone bomb". Then at the very end, it builds up to a buzzing climax... and ends abruptly.

I was left quite puzzled at this song until I came across this article about it. According to an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Brian Eno was reading the newspapers one day when he came across 2 seperate stories, one about a female Palestinian suicide bomber, and the other about how the bones of suicide bombers can turn into shrapnel when they blow themselves up. This was the inspiration for 'Bone Bomb'.

From now onwards, each time I hear the ending it gives me serious goosebumps. This song is a serious contrast from the rest of the album, when the rest of the songs are titled and themed around 'just another day on earth', touching words and optimistic hopes. In this depressing last song however, it clearly is the woman's last day and last moment on earth! And the fact that Eno chose to create this song from the woman's viewpoint, and for the ending not to be a *BANG* nor a *BOOM* nor a *POOF* but rather the eerie silence that one faces when death occurs, that is just disturbing, especially to someone who has thoughts about his own mortality frequently.

Review score: 4 out of 5 stars.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

MUET Massacre

Absolute and total massacre is the only thing I could describe my MUET (Malaysia University English Test) oral exams earlier this morning. I was Candidate B during Task A and not only did I stammer quite a lot during the oral exam, but when I hit a brick wall I just stopped talking right at the spot. Nothing came out of my mouth, and I even found myself laughing to calm myself down because I was such a bundle of nerves.

During Task B, it was just slightly better. I had more points written down in my paper, though my attention wasn't really focused on my teammates. I was struggling to come up with more points, and I believe that I had stated the conclusion too soon. I say this because since we found ourselves talking in rotation from A till D, and Candidate C opposed my conclusion just because she hasn't finished mentioning her points. I wonder how much damage hitpoints we received just because of that.

My confidence for this Speaking paper has been seriously shaken, though there's still 3 more papers remaining for MUET. And if I don't score at least a Band 5, I'll try again with next year's examination.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Haze Strikes Back

After a week of continous cold and heavy rain here in Penang, the scenery here has abruptly turned back into a sky full of blurry smog. And yet although the winds are still blowing strong, it's bring in more and more haze to the island.

Dammit, we need more rain here!