28 June 2013

Music Day

People, you need this band in your life.

I finally tracked down a copy of their album Incandescent and proceeded to listen to it four times in three days (with great restraint). Their take on the old stalwart church-organ hymn Sweet By And By is nothing short of brilliant. Let's see Matt Redman pull that off.

Unfortunately, Incandescent is not on iTunes and apparently a re-release depends on if they can track down the masters. So today I'm going to feature something from their second album, Escape From The Fallen Planet.

Title: Solo Flight
Artist: Crumbächer
Album: Escape From The Fallen Planet
Year: 1986
Label: Frontline
iTunes here; YouTube here.

It's not quite as intense as the stuff on Incandescent, but it'll have to do. I like the atmospheric feel of it though -- it sounds like something John Lawry (former Petra keyboardist) might have done around that same time.

Things that make this band awesome (or at least the album Incandescent):
- Two -- count 'em, two -- keyboards.
- Eighties music. Do I really have to go on?
- You cannot resist dancing to this music. Seriously. I dare you. Even the most hardened Baptist will find themselves tapping their toes to this stuff (and I should know, I was raised hardcore Baptist).
- They play at a breakneck pace and they do not relent for a minute. There are no ballads on these albums -- no namby-pamby fake sappy 'Christian love songs' to mess up a good record.
- Every song actually sounds different from the one before it -- a practice which apparently is sacrilegious today (heaven forbid we actually use more than two chords!).
- The harmonizing on a lot of their songs -- maybe it's just the male-female vocal mix, but it just adds a fresh, sparkling quality to the band's sound.
- This is such a 'tight' band. You just don't get such skill and chemistry together anymore -- nowadays it's always some 'worship pastor' and a bunch of studio players. These guys were amazing at what they did. Sometimes you listen to some of the songs and you wonder if they all shared a brain or something. Even on their first album, one wrong note would have completely messed up the entire song. But there are no wrong notes, even at such a breakneck speed. It's just fun to listen to them and try to pick out all the instrument tracks (I still don't think I've caught them all).

(You can listen to most (if not all) of the tracks from Incandescent on YouTube if you search the artist and album name. In fact, if you clicked the link to Sweet By And By above, you'll probably find most of them in the YouTube sidebar.)

21 June 2013

Music Day

Monday night.

I'm on the Old Christian Music blog, downloading the otherwise-unavailable Vector album Please Stand By (I got Mannequin Virtue a couple weeks ago and was absolutely blown away by it). In scrolling through the sidebar, looking for other artists I like, I saw an entry labeled Painted Orange. I thought that was a cool name, so I clicked the post.

The album artwork was cool too, and an album from 1991 is probably not-irredeemable. I looked them up on YouTube (because I won't even download stuff for free unless I know I'll like it).

The first thirty seconds of the album opener alone sold me on this band. They call it 'electronic,' but it's good electronic. There's melodies and dynamics and, yes, nuances. Plus, the drumming is fantastic -- it just captivated me.

It was so good, I was actually kind of hoping it wouldn't be on the iTunes Store, so I could get the free download with a clear conscience. But it is, so I can't. So now I'm stuck waiting until somebody who loves me very much (there has to be someone...) gets me an iTunes card because all the money in my music budget is now in lockdown on the off-chance White Heart actually comes to Canada in October... but I digress. This album really is one of the best I've heard of the era.

Title: Standing Still
Artist: Painted Orange
Album: Painted Orange
Year: 1991
Label: Star Song
iTunes here; YouTube here.

This particular song is catchy as heck. That quick high-end keyboard motif alone is worth it, and the ethereal vocal layer in the pre-chorus just makes the song. And probably once I own it and have listened to it seven hundred times, I'll have a billion other things I love about it and be disappointed in myself for featuring it now while the beauty of it in my ears was still mostly untapped.

Ah well. We shall learn to love it together, I suppose.

19 June 2013

A Most Excellent Evening

Today was a very good day. Actually, mostly just this past hour or so, since I checked my Facebook (though I did have a ballet class this morning. That was pretty great too).

Item One: White Heart media galore! Videos and pictures abound! Apparently they did the photo shoot today. For once, I was actually glad to see pictures in my news feed.
(Some links for you all: White Heart Facebook page. Videos one, two, and three (all YouTube). Note that the videos probably aren't really that interesting unless you're a fan.)

Item Two: The long-awaited cover art to the new Daniel Amos album has been revealed! And as if that wasn't cool enough...

Item Three: My photography is featured in it! It's not the main picture, but the point stands that my photography is featured on the freaking COVER ART of the new Daniel Amos album!

This isn't some hole-in-the-wall local band, people, this is Daniel freaking Amos! And they apparently liked my photo enough to put it on their new album's freaking cover. A cover that will be seen by thousands of people the world over for years and years to come.

(I may be just a tiny bit excited about this... I can't even imagine the excitement of the guy who did the main piece.)

14 June 2013

Music Day

I can't add much to this song. This pretty much nails it. It's White Heart's Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Christian from the perspective of the 'heathen' -- some might call it a stroke of genius, but it's really quite a logical standpoint (in fact, it's long overdue if you ask me). While White Heart took on the subject from the perspective of another member of the church (which could easily be taken as hypocritical, especially if Rick hadn't delivered the vocal with such concern), these guys put themselves on the outside looking in. As a result, the song hits closer to home than anything White Heart could have done, and yes, it is much harsher. But with the North American church in such a disgusting state of nearly-comatose apathy, only the harshest realities can possibly wake us now.

Thanks guys. You'll get a lot of flack for this one, but we need to hear this more than we know.

Title: Dear Mr Christian (feat. Dee-1 and Lecrae)
Artist: Derek Minor
Year: 2013
Label: Reach Records
iTunes here; YouTube here. (I don't recommend watching the video on an iDevice or in a moving vehicle -- the visual concept is great and the camera work is as smooth as possible, but even watching it on a stationary computer I got rather dizzy.)

09 June 2013

I'll Just Let This Speak For Itself...

(From the Reunion Tour Event page. I didn't make that first post, but I very much appreciate the person who did for alluding to the question... especially because of the response it generated.)

Oh please, oh please, may it be true...

07 June 2013

Music Day

I've been listening to this song for a week. In a week where the radical shifts forthcoming in my life are threatening to strangle me, this song has been comforting me in a way not much else is. The other night I fell asleep repeating that word to myself -- Changeless, changeless... It was the only glimmer of anything I could focus on that didn't try to crush me with the pain of knowing I might never dance ballet again. My Father in Heaven, who holds my life in His hand, is changeless.

Title: Changeless
Artist: Terry Scott Taylor
Album: A Briefing For The Ascent
Year: 1987
Label: Frontline Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

06 June 2013

A Farther Edge...

I've been putting off writing this. There's a part of me that's excited, but right now the bigger part of me is the part that wants to pretend time doesn't move.

I'll try to condense the story a little... otherwise, you'll be here reading forever.

In February, I found out Briercrest college in Saskatchewan has a dance team. Several years ago I had considered going to Briercrest, but didn't really pursue it. After all, what was the point of blowing four of the best years of my life in some classroom just for some dumb piece of paper that doesn't even guarantee you a job unless it says 'M.D.' on it?

But when I found out they have a dance team... I don't exactly know what happened. It was like an explosion over my life. It was like God was poking me, telling me to go to Briercrest. At first I was willing enough... probably because I didn't think it was ever going to actually happen. I sent the application, and asked God that if He didn't want me there that the application wouldn't even be accepted in the first place. At this point, I didn't care if I was accepted or not.

Then the email came. I had been accepted.

And reality set in.

Did I seriously just apply to blow two years of my life at college because of a dance team? And a hip hop team to boot? Aside from modern/contemporary, that's the one dance discipline I don't do. Plus there's this little matter of my, um... varied (yeah, let's say that) sleep schedule. I'm actually going to have to carve out time to fix myself more substantial food than nachos and salsa (I can cook more complex stuff than that, I just hate all the time wasted on preparing it). And my family -- I wouldn't see them for months at a time...

And then the gut punch. Ballet class.

A hip hop dance team suddenly becomes little comfort when you realise you may never wear your pointe shoes again. I'm a rare bird who actually enjoys dancing on pointe, and it's not something I want to let slide after so many years of working toward it. It doesn't take long for muscle strength to fade, and if I go without for two years, I'll likely have to start from the bottom up again.

As I write this, it's very early in the morning (very early) on Sunday, the second of June. Later today is what I now know is very likely my final stage performance with my ballet school. My sister is also in it -- last Tuesday was possibly the last time we drove together to the dance school for our classes, one right after the other. My mother will have to take her next year. I don't want to leave this. I thought God had called me to dance -- right?

But then, God also allowed me to be accepted to Briercrest. And He ordained that I get a high enough SAT score to confirm my acceptance to the college. Everything is coming together so quickly, almost too quickly... there's so much evidence that God wants me there, for whatever reason. All that's missing is the money, but if God wants me there so much, apparently it's on its way.

I feel like Jamie -- the slippers or the Bible? Is clinging to dance going to be worth sacrificing whatever God has out in the unknown for me? Whatever He has must be good, because He is good. I just can't see it right now. So do I trust Him enough to actually go see? It must be something better than ballet, because God is good. Maybe not more enjoyable right now, but better in the long run...

I keep coming back to the words PFR wrote in the liner notes to their farewell album, The Late Great PFR, in 1997: "God was good when He called us to the road. God was good when He called us home."

It's still the edge of the dream... the plan God laid out for me. It's with different people, in a different place, in a different style of dance than I expected, but it's still His plan. However, at the moment all I can see are the faces of my dear friends who I may not ever dance with again, at least not on this earth.

But if Christ, and following where He leads, is the treasure in the field... how can I not go and 'sell everything,' even dance, for the greatest treasure? (For those who are puzzled by this: it's the concept laid out in Matthew 13:44 in the Bible -- '...the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.')

As I type this, I can barely see the screen due to brokenhearted sobbing. Ballet, and the people it connected me to, were such a huge, huge part of my life. How can giving this up possibly bring me anything better? I don't know, but whether I like it or not, I have to say God is good. His plan must therefore be good.

Changeless breaks the tide to shore
Changeless are the times and seasons
You are the same forevermore
I will keep these changeless reasons...
No shadow of turning falls
No promise is broken
No, nothing can turn my heart
From the words You have spoken
Changeless Your love
Deep as an ocean
-- Terry Scott Taylor, 1987

And should you come into the promised land
From where you came
And if your greatest fears are realised
Your sanctuary
-- Daniel Amos, 1984

03 June 2013

Unofficial Choreography Month - Debrief

And so ends another thirty-one days of my life (and when the heck did it become freaking June? We seriously just had Christmas!).

In terms of quantity, Unofficial Choreography Month was a dismal failure. Out of the five songs on the list, only two of them actually got choreographed. But believe me, it wasn't laziness. I lost a week to strep throat (and the accompanying Tylenol haze that I needed to be in in order to even sip water), plus performance season is extra loaded this year, meaning extra rehearsing. And, of course, there was this little matter of staging my own choreography in that showcase a couple weeks back...

But in terms of quality, it was quite satisfactory. As much as I hated actually working on Youth With A Machine, I have to admit the dance that came out of that was very cool. It was a lot less restrained by my ballet training (more honest-to-goodness jazz), but still technically dazzling. It's a very 'tight' dance too -- lots of quick canon work (which is why it took FOREVER to notate). I don't think there's a wasted count in this dance. It's pretty hardcore.

Future Now -- I love how this thing turned out. Going in, I was a little bit terrified... see, I had this idea of having four dancers at the back of the stage following the beat, and then two other dancers in front of them following the lyrics. I didn't anticipate much trouble with the lyrical pair, but I was seriously concerned that the line of four at the back would either look stupid or not really have anything to do. But it worked beautifully. I even managed to work in some concepts from Prodigal's original music video.

The line-at-the-back-following-the-beat thing was actually sort of a 'test run' -- I want to use the same idea for the Swirling Eddies song The Twist (which had been in the top eight for the month's playlist), but since Future Now was a slightly smaller scale, I decided to try it with that one first. Now that I know it's doable, choreography for The Twist may not be too far into the future...

What's next? Actually, I don't know yet. Sanctuary is still a very viable possibility. During April, when I was supposed to be writing a novel and leaving the choreography till May, I came up with about half the dance (each) for A Sigh For You, Shadow Catcher, and Memory Lane (all Daniel Amos). I've had a good chunk of White Heart's Raging Of The Moon already in my head and sketched out on basic notepaper for quite a while now, but not notated. Same also with White Heart's Let The Kingdom Come. In addition, I've been listening to Terry Scott Taylor's Changeless quite a lot lately, and it captivates my kinesthetic imagination more every time I hear it. And Strong Points, Weak Points (also DA) is half-composed.

I guess it depends on if I feel I can take on a mammoth project after pushing myself so hard through Unofficial Choreography Month (all but two of those dances I mentioned above have eight or more people). If so, any one of those is in the running, but if I decide I want to take it easy for a week or two, I'll probably be doing Changeless.