Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tempered Temperaments

Despite the fact that heavy amount of news from the other current concerns would have overshadowed much of the news from Afghanistan, the truth of the matter is that despite a few headline worthy events, and one fairly tragic event, there hasn’t been much to spotlight here recently. Even the German soldier gaffe didn’t spend too much time in the news.

I’m happy for that. Event wise, Ramadan went fairly unnoticeably, and the subsequent weeks have gone by quietly too—at least here, for me, in Kabul. (Though, a week or so back, nightly, one could hear the jets taking off from around the area. I assume this was tied to the activities in the south and along the western border). Mullah Omar promised a continued assault, by the Taliban, through the winter. Though it’s too early to make a call the veracity of that, as maybe they’re bedding down for that assault, there hasn’t been much news regarding them on the assault recently.

The recent dearth of front-page worthy news (with the few noted exceptions) and the press’ focus shifting, headline wise, may have to do somewhat with the apparent shift in temperament. Apparent to me at least. Through the spring and summer, everyone was spelling doom. It felt like this place was on the verge of a doom-laden spiral. I both believed and felt it true, at least the part about it being at a precipice. Despite there not being any singularly significant events, it seems like there is a noticeable shift here. The military transitions have gone fairly well, and what was to be a slow and grinding war in the south seems to have been a quelled insurgence in retrospect. I hope I’m not hasty in saying that.

Hopefully the headlines and attention of a few months past were just crying wolf. That is not to say that they were false, the wolf was (and still may be) there. Just rather than raiding the chicken coop, it was circling the hills. The failures, difficulties and problems chronicled in those articles and stories are true, and the problems still remain.

The tone, though, was maybe a bit more apocalyptic than what has come to play. In the least, my temperament at the time was a bit over the top. As for what I’m working on, despite how problematic it is, and how difficult things are, they are moving. Crises are being averted. Perhaps the take on this place, and at least my thoughts and disposition, got caught up in the tragedy to the west of us, but thankfully, things are nowhere near the same, both institutionally and governance wise, and simply in the day to day life of everyone here. All may not be functioning well, but they are functional.

The nip at the heels this past spring and summer (I hope that isn’t too diminutive) may have been, and will hopefully be, a necessary dose of reality as to the current state of this place and what is still so desperately needed over here. Hopefully expectations are a bit more realistic now. Hopefully the rhetoric, from all spectrums (and especially after the shake-ups in D.C.) will be tempered a bit. Hopefully the donors will start to get their act together and priorities can be aligned. Hopefully the blunders have taught some lessons.

There isn’t much rose-glassed hope here anymore. But for the work I’m involved in, there are at least positive expectations for the next 5 to 6 months. I hope that’s true on the larger scale for what’s going on here and with a tempered hope things are turning for the better.

As a complete side note, I am very hopeful about what may be to come from a new band I’ve come across. I’m still loving the recent finds, though today I came across this track, “Brittle Britches” by Quien Es, Boom! via Salon’s Audiofile. The EP (though called a full length release, it’s only 7 tracks), which I promptly downloaded from iTunes, “Cast Your Burdens Aside” is titled well for the current mood. The music captures and conveys the current temperament quite well, so it’s been on repeat for the past several hours.

The band is from Austin, with some strong links and ties to Chicago (may have been recorded there? and the producer is from the Chicago scene). Listening to a few tracks reinforces both of those locales' sounds. The album is fairly heavy on the alt-country and Americana sound of a few of the Austin bands like Calexico. There are nearly equal measures of Chicago post-rock of several variants, such as the bluesy Califone to the jazzy Pele or Joan of Arc. A few of the songs have well done math-rocky time signature and/or tempo shifts. The guitar lines are largely clean and melodic, the hooks simple and repetitive in a good way.

That free song linked above sounds like it coulda been the intro to a Joan of Arc or Don Caballero song, shifting to a lyric verse instead of distorted guitars and breakbeats. The drumming is largely sparse, and fills the space incredibly well. In many ways, this does sound like the Chicago (?) band Pele with lyrics, and a new found country/Americana fixation. The songs, over all, are composed really well, crescendos and codas and other musical terms I don’t really know how to correctly define, let alone identify.

And the dude's voice is quite good, a slight gruffiness, and a slight drawl, with good phrasing and delivery for poppy songs. One song in particular, "Twenty Eight in Twelve", with a quick sunny poppy cadence, the dude sounds like a smoked out Paul Simon. Though the plucky guitar line may make that reference to "Diamond on The Soles..." era Simon easier.

Regardless of my incompetence, or perhaps largely because of it, I’m hopeful that this EP bodes very well for things to come from this band.

On it’s own and with an affable ethos, the band crafts balanced and nearly languid songs while displaying solid musicianship and well placed electronic/experimental flourishes...why's all tempered well.

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