Golden Age of Steam

first_imgBy Jack Marley-PayneiLiKETRAiNS are an interesting prospect: dressed in British Rail uniforms, bearded and surly, they play epic songs about obscure historical events (viz the assassination of British Prime Minister Spencer Percival). Thankfully, in person they are friendly and unpretentious- pretension being a quality they are keen to deny their music possesses. ‘The stories just seem to come to us,’ singer Guy Bannister explained. ‘Sometimes we hear about something that sticks in our mind – we don’t go out searching.’  This is well illustrated by the inspiration for their new single ‘The Deception.’ After a drunken night in Paris, trumpeter Ashley found a message saved on his phone instructing him to research Donald Crowhurst. The band discovered he had entered a race to sail around the globe and claimed to have achieved a record time. In truth, he had just been messing about in the Atlantic.Though the choice of topics seems impersonal, the band undeniably have a passion for the music. As each song reaches its inevitable climax, all members thrash their instruments with all their might. They explained that their aim is to ‘bring history to life.’ ‘The subject can be so dry in textbooks. Putting it in a song can help people empathise with the characters.’ This, however, can be hard to do when the lyrics are often little more than a few clichés said over and over – ‘I needed you like I needed a hole in the head.’The music itself is out of step with current fashion. Their songs often last well over five minutes and have long slow builds, a sharp contrast to the up tempo, dance friendly indie that dominates at the moment.  ‘We thought all that was going to end with Arcade Fire,’ Guy confessed. He believed Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party were good at what they did, but that the trend had run its course. Arcade Fire seemed to promise a return to more serious music with greater dynamic variation. As we all know this was not to be: superficiality has just kept rising since then. World conquering or not, they are keen to keep going. With a cult following, known as railcard holders, their tour is going well and they seem in good spirits (and clean to boot). Guy is already talking of a new album: ‘We definitely want it to be different but we’ve no idea how.’ This is an admirable sentiment since there is a distinct lack of variety on their most recent release. The aspirations of their music are promising and it certainly can be rousing. Its lack of invention and catchy melodies, though, mean it is unlikely iLiKETRAiNS will be starting a revolution any time soon.last_img read more

In Case You Missed It

first_imgEssential 2012 Albums from the South Avett BrothersThe CarpenterThe Avett Brothers have always been about heart-on-the-sleeve honesty, but on their second album for Rick Rubin’s American Recording’s label, North Carolina’s native sons get particularly personal. Through intimate finger-picking that channels some of their early independent albums, the Avetts share emotional introspection on parenthood (“A Father’s First Spring”), losing loved ones (“Through My Prayers”) and the emptiness of materialism in the tastefully horn-accented “Down with the Shine.” The end of the album has a couple surprises, including a veiled rebuke of over-development and prejudice through the infectious piano of “Geraldine” and a cleanse-my-soul unleashing of alt-rock energy in “Paul Newman vs. the Demons.”Band of Horses Mirage RockWho was the right man to reign in the Charleston, S.C.,-based indie rock heroes? Legendary producer Glyn Johns, whose resumé boasts work with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, nuanced the Horses’ usual distortion and reverb into some blissfully mellow moments of vintage folk rock. Front man Ben Bridwell channels the melancholy of Neil Young on the dusty ballad “Slow Cruel Hands of Time,” but there’s still plenty of freewheelin’ fun in the jangly rock dance tune “Knock Knock.” Asheville tunesmith Tyler Ramsey (now the Horses’ lead guitarist) also gets to sing his “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone,” a Laurel Canyon-flavored country shuffle that’s another example of how this group is ripe with versatility for the long haul.Alabama ShakesBoys & GirlsThis debut effort from a major buzz band lived up to the hype. The Alabama Shakes deliver gritty garage soul that’s propelled by the vocals of front woman Brittany Howard, whose range fluctuates between the sensual groove of Aretha Franklin to the wailing howls of Robert Plant. Boys & Girls pays homage to old school Muscle Shoals in the context of kids who grew up on Nirvana—gritty rock club energy that channels ghosts of the past.Widespread Panic WoodBefore shelving their instruments for a year-long break, Panic played a brief acoustic tour. It’s documented on this two-disc set, a compilation of the 12-show run that finds the band digging into stripped-down takes of many of their classic Southern fried jams. Highlights include the bluegrass treatment of “Imitation Leather Shoes” and the juke joint dance groove given to “Tall Boy.” Key to this collection are the choice covers, including John Lennon’s “Ballad of John and Yoko” and Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross.” Here’s to hoping for Wood Tour round two.Shovels and RopeO’ Be JoyfulAs Shovels and Rope, husband and wide duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst deliver gutsy roots rock that features stripped-down arrangements on acoustic guitar, a salvaged junkyard drum set, and the occasional addition of harmonica or keyboards. The group’s debut album channels the energy of their reality—young lovers traveling around the country in a Winnebago, belting out rowdy country-tinged foot-stompers with heartfelt ragged harmonies and all the power that can be mustered from weathered acoustic instruments. Throughout the record they swap instruments and lead vocals, Hearst accentuating a sultry howl on the punk-blues collision of the title track, while Trent favors a rambling folk drawl on the hypnotic crawl of “This Means War.” Without much instrumentation, the album’s appeal comes from raw emotion, but as the duo sings together on the opening track: “It ain’t what you got, it’s what you make.” •5 New Year’s Eve ShowsAvett BrothersGreensboro Coliseum • Greensboro, N.C. In their native North Carolina, the Bros. will play their biggest headlining show to date with help from folk-soul crooner Amos Lee.The Infamous StringdustersJefferson Theater • Charlottesville, Va.The expansive bluegrass heroes will deliver blistering steel and wood jams in the intimate confines of the Jefferson in Charlottesville.Pretty Lights and BassnectarHampton Coliseum • Hampton, Va.You’ll be hard pressed to find a more epic dance party, as two of the biggest EDM acts team up for a two-night (December 28-29) arena blowout at the Mothership.The RootsThe Fillmore • Silver Spring, Md.Hip-hop’s premiere live act—now best known as Jimmy Fallon’s house band—will deliver their soul-drenched grooves to the latest extension of the iconic Fillmore.Old Crow Medicine ShowRyman Auditorium • Nashville, Tenn. Culminating a triumphant comeback year that included a revised line-up and a solid new album, Old Crow will reprise their big end-of-the-year party at the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.5 more albumsThe Mountain GoatsTranscendental YouthBowerbirdsThe ClearingMalcolm HolcombeDown the RiverBeach HouseBloomJustin Townes EarleNothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Nowlast_img read more

Fighting Narcotraffickers with Staunch Allies

first_img Systematized area registry: so that the dogs learn exactly where to search, how to carry out searches and what to search for and find. Adaptation to extreme situations: consists of familiarizing the canines with loud sounds, textures of different types of terrain, different environments, weather, etc. Collar or leash-restricted tracking: habituates the dog to only obey his master’s orders by use of these tools. Point-to-point tracking: is utilized on the battlefield in front of the entire troop. Association of smells: consists of permeating dog toys with different smells, including narcotics, explosives, etc., and teaching the dogs to recognize these by way of positive stimulation. During a visit to the Colombian Military’s School of Engineers’ (ESING, for its Spanish acronym) Bogotá Canine Training and Re-Training Center, Diálogo talked to the NCOs responsible for the canine program and met many of the teams during their training sessions. Sergeant First Class Rafael Viveros, director of the search and rescue program, explained that the use of dogs for this type of task is not only a logical move, but one that greatly benefits the force because, “[the dogs] have 250 million olfactory cells in comparison to the five million that humans have. In addition to their agility and speed, this makes them an important asset to find a person that may need help.” The Army recruits or purchases the dogs from different breeding kennels, mainly Labradors or golden retrievers, for their agility, intelligence, ease of learning, good-natured disposition and in general, for the positive results gained thus far. But they also work with German and Belgian shepherds. At the same time, the Army personnel look for specific profiles to fit the dogs’ human counterparts. They carry out thorough psychological testing in order to choose personalities that are kindred to animals and the work involving them. The courses for the dogs and their trainers vary in length. For example, the canine guide courses for search and rescue and explosives detection last 14 weeks each, divided into 48 weekly training hours of classes, such as explosives detection techniques, crinology, first aid, canine training techniques, explosives, kennel maintenance and upkeep, and weaponry. Likewise, the courses designed for the dogs last three months in which the pups learn to recognize smells by means of repetition and positive reinforcements. During training the dogs run through a field where they smell out a number of metal containers distributed throughout until correctly identifying the one holding a small amount of explosives. Once they identify it they sit next to it, a passive sign to their trainer that the search was successful. Given the case, the trainer rewards the animal with one of its toys, which in turn serves the dog as a stimulus, and is previously impregnated with the smell of the explosive substance it is being trained to recognize. According to data from the Colombian National Army and statistics from the Presidential Program for Mine Action, 1,079 members of the Armed Forces died between 2000 and 2009, while 3,711 were hurt, most of them mutilated. “The participation of canine-soldier teams has been highly effective for our Army because the percentage of casualties and those injured by explosives –both, to our troops and to the civilian population, has been greatly reduced as a result,” said Captain Eliécer Suárez, chief of the Canine Department at ESING. During the search and rescue of anti-personnel mines in the operational field, the dogs are trained to sniff through a given area until they successfully identify the exact place where the mines are buried. Just like during the narcotics detection course, they know that once their objective is detected, they must warn their trainer of the find through a passive sign. This is done simply by sitting close to the objective. “It’s difficult for a dog to make a mistake,” assures Sgt. Viveros, sitting next to Zeus, his German shepherd specialized in search and rescue. Regardless of each dog’s specialty, or of the place where they develop their specialties, it is clear to all Colombian professionals dedicated to working with dogs that this duty has made them more human. I WANTED TO CONGRATULATE YOU ON WHAT YOU DO WITH THESE ANIMALS. YOU MANAGE TO CONVERT THEM INTO OTHER HEROES AS YOU ARE. I WANTED TO ASK THE FOLLOWING: I DONATED A DOG TO A CANINE CENTER. I WANT TO KNOW IF AT LEAST SOME DAY I WILL KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT HIM. I WANT TO BE CALM BY KNOWING HE IS OK. CAN THEY SEND ME PICTURES OF HIS PROGRESS? I KNOW I TOOK THE BEST DECISION, BUT CAN I SEE THE DOG AGAIN? OR AT SOME POINT THEY CAN GIVE ME PERMISSION TO ONLY VISIT HIM? THANKS IN ADVANCE FOR THE ANSWER YOU CAN PROVIDE ME. Sasha served the Colombian National Army for most of her life; she was one more soldier fighting on the frontlines against the South American country’s terrorist groups. She was trained in explosive and anti-personnel mine detection since the beginning of her military career. Becoming an expert specialist in this area, Sasha served in approximately 3,000 missions during six years of service, in which she detected more than 100 anti-personnel mines, saving innumerable human lives. During Operation Sodoma, the military operation executed by the Colombian Army in September 2010, from which the death of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader aka “Mono Jojoy” was produced, Sasha detected eight anti-personnel mines close to the guerrilla leader’s shelter. But the terrorists launched a grenade very close to her, resulting in her untimely death caused by the explosive range. Sasha was the institution’s only casualty during Operation Sodoma. Sasha was a 7-year-old black Labrador retriever, trained by the Colombian Army since her first year of life, and she represented half of her team –a human guide coupled by a dog for life in the Army’s K-9 operations. Her human counterpart, who did not reveal his name during an interview in honor of the black Lab by local television program Vamos Colombia, remembered Sasha as being “a sweet, playful and very smart puppy who was completely devoted to her job.” The Colombian Army’s K-9 Department currently has close to 3,500 active dogs, like Sasha, in 13 training centers distributed throughout the country’s main cities. The units fall under the Directorate of Military Engineers, which has been responsible for training and pairing up teams to confront challenges imposed by rivals as well as by nature since 1997. The dogs are specifically trained in one of five specialties, including: mine and narcotics detection, search and rescue, installation security and agility. Each dog is assigned to a human counterpart for life, and together they make up the teams that only end when one of the team members dies. “He is like a brother in the patrol. He is another soldier,” agree many of the non commissioned officers (NCOs) and soldiers that have trained in the different specialties. The training is carried out in five phases of operational and terrain adaptation, each of them necessary to make the teams fully capable in each specialized field. These begin as games as soon as the dogs reach one year of age. The phases include: By Dialogo January 27, 2012last_img read more