by featured contributor, Troy Farmer
Some things in life need to be torn down and rebuilt to truly reach their most revered state. Sometimes you have to break something into its most basic parts, examine those parts, and then throw everything you thought you knew before out the window, simplifying and revising the whole’s place in the world. Such is the case with the Minneapolis band, Now Now Every Children. The sounds they produce come from the most conventional of sources—guitar, keyboard, drums, voice—but it’s been stripped of its form and any gaudy pretense and built into something more raw, basic, and beautifully simple that does what music is supposed to do: Make a visceral connection with its listener and move them.
At its core, Now Now Every Children is the duo of singer/guitarist/keyboardist, Cacie Dalanger and drummer/multi-instrumentalist, Brad Hale—two now barely twenty-somethings who started writing songs together after marching band practice in high school. This is one of those handy facts that people writing an article on the band or interviewing absolutely love to bring up, so I won’t pretend to be an exception. That said, listening to their songs with that keen bit of knowledge, you can definitely hear a little bit of the marching band influence in the drumming—less in a beginning of Destiny’s Child’s Lose My Breath kind of way, more in that it seems to have fostered a less traditional way of playing. Indeed, Hale lets his drums take the spotlight that would usually be reserved for guitars or another tonal instrument rather than just providing a backbone for the band’s songs. His syncopation and diversion from the run-of-the-mill, 4/4, gotta-get-the-song-to-the-end rock drumming is a welcome change and gives NNEC’s songs a unique vibrancy and life.
The other facet of the duo’s music that gives it an irresistibly enjoyable quality is Dalanger’s voice. Husky, low, and brooding, it seems completely disconnected from her diminutive body and young age. On top of that, she sings with a slight but strange almost-accent that further separates the songs from the usual. The overall result, when built into structures dressed with some sparse, well-cultivated keyboards and guitars, is an interesting, wholly-enjoyable collection of songs that pull you towards them in an often melancholy manner.
Dalanger and Hale followed up the release of their first two EPs last December with their debut full-length, Cars, on local indie superstar label Afternoon Records (http://www.afternoonrecords.com/news.php). The title track is one of the more upbeat tracks and likely the one that will make you fall in love with the band. Sleep Through Summer keeps the beat up, steadily building on meandering keyboards and chunky, shoe-gazey guitars to a lovely wall of noise finale. Have You Tried roots itself in Dalanger’s voice and a gentle, slow organ line, showcasing the group’s ability to rely on simple, stripped-down sound. First two tracks, courtesy of Afternoon Records, third via Bradley’s Almanac, a great Boston-based music blog (http://www.bradleysalmanac.com/).
Sleep Through Summer
Have You Tried
You can purchase Now Now Every Children’s LP and earlier EP’s via Afternoon Records’ site – http://www.afternoonrecords.com/nownoweverychildren.html
To pair with NNEC and the theme of stripping things down to the most bare part to make something new, we have for you a Deconstructed Curry that’s based on the premise that, in between all these rainy, unseasonably cool days, when it actually does feel like summer outside for a split second and we get to grill out, sometimes we want a little more than your basic veggie burgers, tofu pups, and kabobs. So the idea is to create a dish that makes good use of the grill to keep the heat outdoors and away from the kitchen, bases itself in the taste of traditional Thai curries, but attempts to avoid being overly heavy so we can enjoy it without collapsing in a sweaty heap at the end of the meal. Sorry. You likely don’t want to read ‘sweaty heap’ when considering food and the like.
Most of the work for this will be done in prepping the curry paste, which is based on a Massaman curry, a curry that’s Muslim in origin and features warm, sweet spices and rich coconut milk. It’s actually easy enough to make, but it employs a bevy of somewhat obscure spices and ingredients. Most of them should be easy enough to find at your local Asian market. If you’re in New York, I highly recommend a trip to Kalustyan’s on Lex in Manhattan (http://www.kalustyans.com/). They specialize in Indian and South Asian spices and, really, even if you already have everything to make the curry, it’s worth a visit just to be blown away by the sheer number of spices they have there. That place is amazing. And yes, you could always do this on the quick with a can on vegetarian curry paste (watch out for shrimp paste in some brands).
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
For the curry.
• 1 tbsp fresh Coriander
• 1/2 tbsp fresh Black Cumin (not ground, regular fresh cumin will work too)
• 1 tbsp White Peppercorns
• 2 stalks Lemongrass with the rough outer layers removed, bottom 1/4 inch cut off, divided and thinly-sliced, employing only the tender, fragrant parts
• 6 cloves Garlic, peeled
• 2 large Vidalia Onions, peeled and sliced (can substitute any large sweet onion or an equal amount of shallots)
• 7 dried Red Chilies, sliced in half and soaked in warm water for at least 15 minutes (remove seeds for a less spicy curry, keep them in for a spicier one)
• 1 tbsp Kelp Granules (finely chopped nori sushi wrappers will work too)
• 1 tsp fresh Cardamom Seeds
• 1/2 tsp freshly-grated Nutmeg (already ground works, but fresh nutmeg, in general, is pretty great stuff, so it’s recommended)
• 1/2 tsp ground fresh Cinnamon (again, recommended but can be substituted with pre-ground)
• 1 Bay Leaf
• 5 Cloves
• 2 Kaffir Lime Leaves or (these can be hard to find, but some markets have them in the frozen section, if you can’t find them and see fresh Ngo Om leaves, these Vietnamese leaves can be substituted with the peel form 1/2 lime)
• possibly 2-4 tbsp Vegetable Broth or Water to help blending
• 1 can (14 oz) Coconut Milk
For the rest of the meal:
• 1 large Vidalia Onion, peeled and quartered
• 2-3 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, unpeeled and cut into chunks that will be small enough to eat but large enough that they don’t fall through your grill
• 3/4 lb Green Beans, trimmed
• 2 blocks of Tofu, cut into large triangles or squares
• 5 leaves Basil
• 1/2 package (8 oz) of linguine-size Rice Noodles (size M)
• 2 cups Vegetable Broth
- First, the paste. Begin by soaking the chilies.
- Next, take the coriander, cumin, and white peppercorns and toasting them in a heavy skillet for about 7 minutes, getting them fragrant and lightly browned, but not at all burnt.
- While that’s going on, prep the rest of the ingredients as noted above.
- Once that’s done, add everything to a blender or food processor and blend and mix until you have a smooth, uniform paste. I like to try to rely on as few appliances as possible in the kitchen, so I do this in a blender, which usually means adding all the ingredients except for the onion, which I only add a little bit of so that the whole thing doesn’t overflow. It also means using a little broth and a whole lot of mixing to get a good consistency.
- Once that’s done, set the paste aside in the fridge to chill. Not that this is really going to make a lot of curry paste, so feel free to either plan other meals around it or halve the recipe.
- Now use the basil leaves to rub down the pieces of tofu and then plate and cover them with the basil to get that herb’s essence.
- Next, microwave or steam the potatoes for 4-7 minutes to the point that they’re less raw, a little tender. They’re the ones you’ll need to watch on the grill to make sure they’re completely done. Or you can just put them on the grill way, way earlier. I like to then use an oil pump mister to get a touch of olive oil on the onions, potatoes, green beans, and tofu and then salt them, but that’s totally optional.
- Now get grilling! I usually start with the potatoes, keeping them over the high heat and turning them often. After about 5 minutes on the grill, the onion quarters should start to fall apart. When they do, gently roll the layers out onto the grill so more of the onion is making contact with it. The tofu can also go over high heat, just watching to make sure they don’t burn and turning the pieces once to crisp. The green beans need the least amount of heat and can go on last, when you’re about 5-10 minutes from plating. I keep them on a sheet of aluminum when I grill them so they don’t just fall into the flames.
- The coconut milk can be put in a small to medium cast iron skillet and put right on the grill, not over too much heat, so that it begins to boil and condense. I like to keep mine on the warming rack of the grill the whole time, bringing it down to the main grill once I can watch it and want it to start thickening up.
- While you’ve got everything grilling, you can add anywhere from 4-8 tablespoons of your curry paste to the skillet, depending on how you like your spice to milky ratio, stirring it in and letting it continue to thicken but not burn.
- Back in the kitchen, while everything’s grilling, you can start to cook the noodles according to the package directions, keeping them just a bit al dente.
- Drain them and add them to a lightly-oiled heavy skillet on medium heat. Stir the noodles to keep them from sticking and, after 2 minutes, add the 2 cups of broth and 1-2 tablespoons of the curry paste from the fridge, depending on how flavorful you want the noodles on their own. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly, and remove from heat, covering them until you’re ready to serve.
- Once everything’s ready on the grill, plate the noodles, bring ‘em on outside, and top them with the vegetables and tofu.
- Now take a serving spoon and dress with as much curry sauce as you like straight from the grill. You’re ready to eat! Feel free to visit your nice, cool kitchen for naps, card games and the like.
Until next time, here’s wishing you a delightfully deconstructed summer!