A Good Read A Good Listen and a Good Drink: Stephen Charouhas, Cetacean

It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss.

In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire.

Cetacean are from Los Angeles, CA, and their sound is an unusual fusion of black metal, prog rock and experimental jazz. In practice, this means that sometimes the first three minutes of a song will be experimental (but jazzy) ambient noise, the kind of thing that is good to put on low for background noise at cocktail parties, and then WHAMMO the ogre roar explodes out of the deep, the drums pick up speed and the guitars take a turn for the doomy.

It can be kind of startling, I guess, but not in a bad way. In fact I specifically liked it because of the change in tempos and general vibe that happen within and between songs.

Here is Breach | Submerge, their most recent release, so that you can listen for yourself:

And with that, I turn the floor over to Stephen Charouhas, multi-instrumentalist currently playing bass, who joins us today to talk about a good read, a good listen, and a good drink.

Cetacean; Stephen Charouhas is on the far right in black. Photo by Erin Stone

Cetacean; Stephen Charouhas is on the far right in black. Photo by Erin Stone

A GOOD READ: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Now widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, McCarthy’s story takes place in the late 1800’s and follows a drifter, simply named “the kid”, as he roams the southwest of the United States and finds himself joining a band of mercenaries as they head south into the bordering Mexican territory on a bloodthirsty hunt for Indian scalps. Gorgeously written, despite its graphic gore and stark depiction of the unforgiving capacities of land and man alike, the book is bleak, harrowing, visceral and, to me, absolutely essential.

A GOOD LISTEN: Henryk Gorecki: String Quartet No. 3 (…Songs Are Sung) by Kronos Quartet

This 2007 album, paying tribute to the music of Gorecki, is dark, brooding, menacing, and captivating. The execution and expression in each movement makes the music sound as though it’s breathing with every emotion from angst and panic, to exhaustion and resignation, to acceptance and relief. Gorecki was a follower of such composers as Stockhausen and Penderecki. His music exemplifies that same strangely dissonant and beautifully abstract feel, and the Kronos Quartet capture and recreate it perfectly.

I. Adagio-Molto Andante-Cantabile

A GOOD DRINK: Bourbon, neat

Quite simply, a liquor that has enough character to enjoy on its own, in just the way it ought to be enjoyed. I prefer to have mine warm, held in my hand, so as to unlock the aromas that lay in the liquor- from smoky oak to sweet vanilla. Those who don’t enjoy the initial bite of the drink may want to dilute a couple of fingers with an ice cube.

A GOOD BONUS: Try pairing all three recommendations (Book, Album, and Drink) into one sitting simultaneously. It may not be the most comfortable night of your life, but you’ll probably never forget it.

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