by carl wilson

Hum of Life


May's been sleepy. Not that there hasn't been a copious amount of music to hear and gigs to see, but few of these occasions felt like sharp skewers poking into our asses commanding that we not sit or snooze but rouse to action and descend upon the musical venues of the land like art-devouring locusts. It was restful. I liked it. But now the pause's pregnancy is done and cultural quintuplets are popping out all over. Er, I mean, here's some stuff what is going on. (And by the way, that Times piece today kinda sucked.)

That sordid Santa in the pic above is one Charlie McAlister, who's had a certain renown in the basement-tape-swapping world for almost-decades, but isn't someone I ever expected to be able to see just by dropping over to, say, Rancho Relaxo. Or Oasis. Tonight. And tomorrow. But since new Toronto label Smash the Clock is putting out two McAlister releases - one a comp and the other a new'un called Poppin' Grapevine or Floundering with P.P. Roobenz. McAlister's often positioned as a folk-art or "outsider" type, since his music sounds like it's been made out of vinegar and baking soda and maybe some sideburn shavings scraped from the bottom of the sink by Daffy Duck, but instead of the problematic baggage of illness and alienation and rejection that often accompanies such labels, I get a sweetly average vibe - not that McAlister's music is run of the mill but that he seems just like a creative guy who's hanging out and enjoys tickling his imagination to see what it will cough up, with a psychologically healthy lack of censorship. And contrary to a couple centuries' worth of bohemian propaganda, there's nothing boring about being healthy and robust. Tonight's bill is especially good - he's playing with Lenin i Shumov successor band Rozasia, Alex Lukashevsky of Deep Dark United (whose solo disc Connexions is one of my favourites so far in 2006) and Smash the Clock flagship band Broken Tree Fort. (I'm less familiar with tomorrow's openers, The Corners, Hoover Party, Tradition and Nifty, but I'm sure they're all, you know, nifty.) Six bucks each night or ten bucks for both, Rancho tonight and Oasis tomorrow, 8 pm'ish. You can download the entirety of earlyish McAlister cassette Sardine in Bastard Suit here and find your way to other McAlisterama here and at Catsup Plate. Highly recommended is Mississippi Luau a concept album in which the Old South and the semi-fictional Polynesian idyll somehow merge: "Then the monkey flipped the switch/ and the robot went insane/ slashing at the sailors/ with a bamboo cane."

Speaking of Lukashevsky, he and Ryan Driver (of the Silt and whatever free-improv band you want to name) are performing as "THIS and THAT" on Sunday afternoon at the inaugural edition of the Tranzac's new Kids series - which I'm guessing is a little bit of an outgrowth of the talk at the Wavelength anniversary panels a couple months ago about the lack of indie-culture programming for families hereabouts, in which case, yay us. Doors at 1 pm, show 1:30 till 2:15, and the price is a family-friendly whatever-the-hell-you-want.

While you are feeling cool about your life in Toronto, however, do not forget that off in the wilds of dairy-farming Quebec, the Victoriaville festival of musique actuelle is busy being cooler. Its programming this year is mainly some distance from its avant-jazz roots, following up the turn toward noise that became conspicuous last year. (But longtime Victo-watchers will know that trends develop staggeredly there if at all, so next year it could be all about Jean Derome again.) Due no doubt to the health issues the grand imperial impresario Ron Gaskin has been having, there is no official "VTO" (Victoriaville-Toronto) second-cousin of a semi-festival this year to console us, as there was in the past several years. But Ron has managed to bring at least one Victo artist here - he's just announced that on Saturday night at 9 pm, Chicago's Rob Mazurek's project Mandarin Movie will be at the NOW Lounge - with the killer lineup of Mazurek, Alan Licht, Steve Swell, Jason Ajemian, Matt Lux and Frank Rosaly. It's described as "full frequency audio assault" with "the brutal metal industrialism of God and the electronic freakout of Merzbow." Toronto improv'ers Ken Aldcroft/Evan Shaw/Joe Sorbara open, and it'll cost ya $10-$15 to get in the game. Other Victo spinoff events coming this week: Sister Ray presents Keiji Haino (with Knurl and Chris Worden) at the Drake next Wed., and the Music Gallery offers Sunn0))) - whom I write about in tomorrow's Globe - on Monday with, I believe although it's been kind of hard to discern, Australian guitarist Oren Ambarchi opening (though that show is already sold out).

And oh god there's more but I am getting exhausted, so here is a message that was sent to me: "The Hum is a radio-based performance piece by sound-artist Kathy Kennedy. It's at the Drake Hotel, sun. May 21 from 1:15-2 pm (and surrounding Queen St. area). We're looking for as many people as possible to come with a working portable radio and tune to 103.1FM. (A few batteries will be available). You are the audience and the participants. C'mon all you circuit-bending, technofilic closet-singers! In fact, everyone is a participant since we all play a part in the ambient soundtrack of life. No, seriously we do. Everyone should hum along to the broadcast soundtrack. Humming is a way of improving your listening. Its also a form of internal massage since sound waves are vibrations. Did you know that its been scientifically proven that humming can cure sinusitis? The more radios that come, the further we can spread the hum. See you outside the Drake at 1 pm this Sunday."

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, May 18 at 3:39 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)



i understand what you're saying about merritt. he's not a rockist but perhaps he shares some of their mindset nonetheless.

and, yes, rap is totally rockist in its orientation. i can readily admit that i have more than just a streak of hip-hopism (or whatever we call it) as you probably know already.

sorry to hijack this post to talk about merritt but i got to this conversation late.

Posted by Graham on May 19, 2006 11:31 AM



How is it that in practically the only post in two weeks that wasn't really about Merritt at all, we get back into that conversation? Ah, the power of a Times piece, even a mediocre one.

Graham - I would totally dispute the idea that Merritt is a rockist. It's more plausible to me that he's a racist (and I don't think that's plausible either). His music is incredibly surface-oriented, its guiding stars are Tin Pan Alley and ABBA and Brecht and probably Boulez, and inauthenticity is its prime calling card. You could say it's fake inauthenticity, but still, not in a rock way. Even though a lot of rockists are anti-hip-hop, I'd maintain that if "rockist" means anything, it is not the opposite of "rap fan." (And in fact hip-hop, with its preoccupations with being real and rebellious and tough, is arguably more of a sequel to rock than its rebuttal, with obvious exceptions.) Merritt's a pop postmodernist all the way. What he's got, I'm ultimately feeling, is a nostalgia problem: He does share with rockists and literature professors and Republicans some fantasy of lost innocence and contemporary corruption - although luckily I think his gayness keeps his nostalgia in check, he does kind of seem to yearn for the days when camp could be a style of radical will.

Your point about him and OutKast is right on, though - in fact this fantasy of him collaborating with a great hip-hop producer or two, and both sides learning a hell of a lot from it, has come up a couple of times along the way. It's really too bad that this won't ever happen.

Posted by zoilus on May 19, 2006 10:03 AM



"(And by the way, that Times piece today kinda sucked.)"

Kinda? I found it laughable. A summary that, online, would have taken one judiciously-linked paragraph is blown to long, dull proportions (and not a single URL or blog name...). Of course, the "blogging is an inferior life-form" tone didn't help, either, but it's not as if the author added insight to any of the deeper issues raised on various... blogs.

Posted by mwanji on May 19, 2006 3:05 AM



the whole merritt thing boggles the mind. i've been ignoring it ever since it flared up but then i read that article and some of your posts carl and i can't figure out what the whole point of it all. of course merritt is a rockist who hates rap. that describes like a good majority of rocker doods but doesn't make them racist. saying a racist song is catchy is not the same as endorsing the sentiment of the cartoon; some of the minstrelsy songs (like stephen foster's oevre) are crazy good ... i was introduced to them this year and there's some bit of craft behind them. does that admission make me racist?

does is come down to sasha frere-jones having a hard on for criticism of merrit? personal quests? running at windmills? seemingly so.

the only thing that's pretty reprehensible is merritt's distaste of outkast who have consistently written better and catchier songs than him. (yeah, i said it.) i like magnetic fields and all but he could surely learn a lot from a few sessions with andre 3000 and big boi. and so could they, i suspect.

ugh, i hope that all made sense and wasn't too derivative.

Posted by Graham on May 18, 2006 8:52 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson