Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for February, 2005


February 28th, 2005


Greg Clow posted this earlier in the month. (I don’t know if he made it up or heard it somewhere.)

There was a composer named Glass
Philip Glass Philip Glass Philip Glass
Philip Glass Philip Glass
Philip Glass Philip Glass
Philip Glass Philip Glass Philip Glass

(I even prefer it to the knock-knock joke.)

And with that, good riddance to February.


“The Wire” on the Wireless (Plus: Save Brave New Waves!)

February 28th, 2005

I’ve been meaning to tell you that there’s a good show on the radio these days. It’s a miniseries titled The Wire on CBC Radio 1 on Mondays at 8:05 p.m., through March 28. The theme is the effect of electricity on music - which is an amazingly abstract theme for a radio show that actually makes it to air, and yet also brilliantly appropriate to the medium. I heard Episode 2, about the revolutions in sound caused by the invention of magnetic tape, including an interview with Stockhausen!, on the highway from Montreal a couple of weeks ago in an empty cargo van in the pitch dark and the driving freezing rain, and I would like to thank the show publicly for saving my sanity on that trip, and therefore possibly my life. (How’s that shit for maximum nerd factor? - it’s not “last night a DJ saved my life,” but “last night an audio-documentary program on music technology saved my life.”) Tonight’s episode, number 4, is about the synthesizer, and features interviews with Bob Moog himself as well as Russian theremenist Lydia Kavina, plus Canada’s Bruce Duncan and Gayle Young. (Unedited versions of the interviews are on the show’s website.) If it’s anything like episode 2, the editing and production will provide a creative sonic echo of the historical themes. However, I hope this time they can manage to get through one episode without playing a Beatles song. Please, just one?

The other cool thing is that they give the tapes of the programs to an electronic-music maker and close each episode with a remix of the show you’ve just heard. So far they’ve had Caribou, Ozawa (from the Wabi collective), Meta4 and, tonight, DJ Delerious. Among others, Janek Shaefer is doing the turntable episode March 21, and Akufen the Internet episode on March 28.

A little bright light in the gloom of current CBC programming and internal politics, with the “reorganization” (read gutting) of the nascent Radio 3, which incidentally will bring, very soon, the cancellation of the nation’s most vital music program, Brave New Waves. (Why the hell do you have to have all the programmers of a satellite service in the same geographic location, with today’s technology?) Perhaps in the long run the changes at R3 will bring all the happy flowers they promise, but given the Corp’s history of misfired gestures towards the younger audience, and recent history of careening unruddered programming in general, it’s lousy that one of the Ceeb’s most solid successes is being killed for the sake of maybe’s and hope-so’s. For solidarity’s sake, turn to the flip to read my tribute to Brave New Waves, written to mark its 20th anniversary a year ago. Note the line about CBC youth strategies that are born and dismembered in their cribs. [...]



Destroyer thru a Blurred Lens

February 28th, 2005


The editors of new local music webzine The Ratio make an ambitious leap today by publishing a special issue on one of Zoilus’s favourite songwriters, Dan Bejar, aka Destroyer. It’s formidably thorough - they review everything they can get their hands on. Adam Hammond’s pieces on This Night and the Jackie sequel single are quite good, but otherwise there’s a lot of verbal shrugging (”I have no idea what to make of this,” “a real challenge to review,” “he’s fucking with us,” “I vaguely understand” …). One reviewer assays an extended comparison of Your Blues with The Breakfast Club (huh?) and a final piece titled “Destroyer Is Smarter Than Me” ultimately seems to sum up the exercise. Why this extended examination of an artist whose work most of them seem to consider tuneful nonsense? They make no real answer, but if you’ve ever wished there was a Destroyer fan club with badges and hats and a weekly newsletter, and that after a few years a couple of the members put a selection of stuff from the newsletter on their website, now there’s a simulation of that experience.


Win Your Oscar Poll! (At Least In One Obscure Category)

February 26th, 2005


Overtones is back in today’s Globe and Mail with a little look at the world of film-score fandom, this year’s Oscar nominees and why it’s not necessary to think movie scoring is a dying art (maybe). Why scores rather than original songs? Dude, this year’s song nominees suuuuuuuck - except the songs from Motorcycle Diaries and Les Choristes, which don’t have a prayer because they’re not even in English. The songwriters should save themselves on tux rental. At best, the crappy ballad from Phantom of the Opera (added just to qualify for the award) and the crappy bar-band song from Shrek 2 will lose to the crappy Christmas song from Polar Express: I figure even Hollywood types are more likely to have bought a Josh Groban album this century than a Counting Crows one (at least those who haven’t actually dated Adam Duritz). Zach Braff should have gotten a new song from the Shins for Garden State so there’d be something to watch for (a la Elliott Smith in 1997). (Wow, that’s a long time ago now.)

Update: It turns out you can be too cynical about the Oscars - at least to some degree. The voters surprised me by selecting Uruguyan music star Jorge Drexler’s Al otro lado del rÌo from The Motorcycle Diaries, making it the first Spanish-language song to win the award. On the other hand, the Oscar producers proceeded to butcher it by having it sung by that well-known singer Antonio Banderas, slapping his thighs and braying, accompanied by orchestra and by Carlos Santana in full blues-guitar-wank mode. It was horrible - so much so that when Drexler accepted his Oscar, he used his acceptance-speech time to sing a verse of the song so that viewers might get some idea of how it actually went. Drexler was pissed off that he wasn’t allowed to perform the song in the first place, and the choice of Banderas prompted the film’s director, Walter Salles, to issue a protest and its star, Gael Garcia Bernal, to boycott the ceremonies. Slate had more on the story this (Monday) morning.

Otherwise: the Oscars were as boring as ever. I totally owned the six-person Oscar pool at the little party I attended last night. And the column’s Finding Neverland score prediction nailed it. [...]


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A Ray of Sungrime

February 23rd, 2005

D Double E and crew.

Massive news from Luca that Toronto is going to see its “first grime show.” (Luca’s not counting Dizzee Rascal, who’s been here before and is back at the Opera House on April 28.) But he’s right in that this here is a real scene-of-the-grime show, not a star turn, celebrating the release of the Run the Road, which I think is the first major-label grime compilation, in North America: At B-Side on March 12 with D Double E, Jammer, Ears (with his charmer Happy Days) and Toronto’s Steady Merkin’ Sound (wuzzat, you, Luca?). (More on the compilation stars here.) All for just $12. Update: Also word is (via Paul Autonomic on Dissensus) that a Canadian grime/dubstep web news hub is imminent. Update update: Make that “is here” (thanks, Mark).

Meanwhile, I’d love to speculate about Simon’s question about what “level 4″ of “realist” discourse is, but like M.I.A. and Missy’s music, my day right now could be none more cuckoo-bananas. I’ll tell you what level 4 isn’t, though: It’s not, after realizing that “realist discourse” has a cultural freight that shouldn’t be discarded as insignificant, to decide it’s okay to go ahead and start dismissing artists and art as phony all over again, but explain it away as a symbolic gesture of solidarity with those who “fantasize realness” (legitimized by their deprivation, which trumps all other grounds of credibility), thus getting to have your snark and disavow it too.

The outcome is to blame the artist for the discourse around her: She shouldn’t talk about her background because it causes bad writers to exoticize and fetishize her. (Calling her “the M.I.A. industry” for giving interviews = “Maya, shut up.”) And why assume she’s receiving all the feedback uncritically, exploiting it unreflexively? When she dropped that bit of Knitting Factory stage banter about “us refugees,” Simon, maybe her tongue was a tad in cheek?

More to say about Zizek’s class categories (which are helpful but omit the migrant waves that I brought up in the beginning) and Dave M.’s ideas about community and dialogic music, but no time to say it in, so the saga continues. (Anybody else who’s blogging about this, aside from Eppy, whose snorts of disbelief do help clear the air, drop a line - I’d like to know.)


Meanwhile Back at the Other Obsession

February 22nd, 2005

Pitchfork reviews Final Fantasy today, lukewarmly. (For once I beat PF into print in The Globe with a review.)

I’ll complain later, starting with the Andrew Bird canard. (That’s a pun.)

“Listening, It Should Have Exceeded”

February 22nd, 2005

If you’re following along with this “M.I.A. debate” - this story we’re wanting to tell ourselves - the new chapters are up on Blissblog now, in typically cogent and core-mining proposals from Simon, while Jordan resorts to Zizek (which pleases me inordinately). Go read. I’ll wait.

If you’re not following, because for instance your interests at Zoilus are more local (which would theoretically please Simon) - and you miss Hunter S. Thompson - you could do worse than make a movie about Dan Burke, read Aaron on Canadian musico-psychogeography, watch Phil Dellio (who needs to get out of Tripod!) and Scott Woods sort their record collections according to tangential criteria (High Fidelity geekout, to use a reference that will make them both gag), or read Japanese banjo poetry.


Keepin’ What Real?

February 21st, 2005


I’m trapped in the land of a thousand dances right now and can’t stop the worksongs, but wanted to note this series of events: Simon Reynolds semi-slams M.I.A. in the Village Voice as being “from nowhere.” I write him to point out my pre-buttal to his argument, but he says the migrant case doesn’t wash with him because her refugee days were years ago and then - horrors - she went to art school (does it matter if it was on scholarship?) and has met musicians people have heard of (Elastica, Peaches). Then I spot Simon arguing exactly the opposite of his own case, seems to me, in a Dissensus thread cited by Jace Clayton in this 100-proof post about the use and abuse of the “real,” especially in racial terms, the “voice from the ghetto” etc etc. Says Simon: ìAnd so it starts, all the bollocks about ‘who’s real grime’ ” - but isn’t that exactly the same species of accusation he just made about M.I.A.? (Not about whether she’s “real grime,” as nobody’s arguing she is, but whether she is from a “real scene,” as Simon and others in this instance seem to feel is mandatory.) We am puzzled.

I still suspect that the reaction M.I.A. gets is partially because the Sri Lankan situation is unfamiliar - or, let’s say, illegible alien - to most western listeners and commentators and we don’t particularly have a category in our heads for Sri Lankan refugees in the west, either - well, there’s “suspect terrorist” (the one she’s playing footsie with so provocatively) but most liberals won’t rush to that conclusion but don’t know where else to rush. If she were Palestinian, would anybody say, C’mon, she left Palestine 15 years ago and then she got an education, so how can that be really pivotal to her work? No, she’d still be given respect when she spoke from that place. Because we get that it’s for serious.

Okay, back atcha on the morrow.

Good Fights

February 18th, 2005

Photo swiped from Sasha with apologies (and naughty giggles).

One. News broke on Pitchfork this week that the U.S. release of M.I.A.’s Arular has been delayed indefinitely. (Anyone know if it’s still coming to Canada?) It was supposed to come out Feb. 22, but her London label XL is claiming there’s an issue with clearing a sample… But rumour has it that the real reason for the delay is that she is considering offers from major labels. Personally, Zoilus doubts that she would be better off on a major, at least for her debut - it’s dangerous to pump your buzz balloon up too fast, because it can burst and leave everybody covered in tequila and regret. Maya should eat organic. But what’s more amazing is that even with all the buzz, much of the biz is still so skittish at something as irreducibly itself as M.I.A.’s grime-ragga-asia-rap-politixxx concoction. A friend of a friend of Zoilus tells us that she questioned a buyer at a very major Canadian record chain and was told that it would not be making a national buy on Arular, whenever it came out - that is, they wouldn’t put a single copy in their stores, except (I’m guessing) maybe in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Asked why, the buyer said they “didn’t like the record.” Um, is that how the fuck they do business? Really? (Apparently something similar transpired when the Arcade Fire first tried to get its discs into the chain’s shops.) Zoilus suggests whenever you’re walking by a major record shop, wherever you are, you walk in, sing a few bars of Pull Up the People and walk out, Alice’s Restaurant-style - or failing that, specifically request they get the M.I.A. album. Do it every couple of days. (Or medically approved email substitute.) (Thanks to John Sakamoto for reading Pitchfork.)

Two. CBC Radio is in the midst of a drawn-out exercise called 50 Tracks, in which (the very good on radio) Jian Ghomeshi and (the very unbearable on radio) Shelagh Rogers and panels of critics and musicians etc. are choosing the 50 “essential” Canadian songs decade by decade. They’re up to the 1980s now and Joel Plaskett has nominated The Nils’ Scratches and Needles - a true teenage kick from the late Alex Soria et al at the dawn of Canadian punk, and one of the only nominees in the series that recognizes the Canuckderground that’s coming to flower today. The public is invited to vote and I urge you to go do it right now. Do it in honour of Alex Soria’s memory. It takes five seconds. (Don’t be tempted to vote for Rockin’ in the Free World instead! Neil Young is already on the list!) (Thanks to John Campbell for the alert.)

Three. A more minor beef: Joanna Newsom is touring the U.S. and Europe but there are no Canadian dates. I know a lot of Torontonians (and I bet Montrealers too) are yearning with a shameful passion to see the divine Ms. N. play here. So drop her booking agent, Ali Giampino at Billions Corp in Chicago a note and tell her so: Email Ali - giampino@billions.com. In other news-om (groan), the BBC has live video of her performing in London, and earlier this month Julianne Shepherd had a nice little tidbit fleshing out a subject previously discussed on Zoilus, the influence of West African kora polyrhythms on Newsom’s harp playing. Shepherd pointed to some audio evidence from Toumani Diabete and Ballake Sissoko of Mali. (But with unwarranted mockery.) Anyway, to recap, WE WANT JOANNA. Thank you.

Four. There will be no Overtones column in this weekend’s paper. I was taking a mental health day. You are encouraged to send letters of horrified dismay to The Globe and Mail and to the Review section. But wait till Saturday. If you did it now it would look suspicious.


Be Realistic: Demand Fantasy

February 18th, 2005


Final Fantasy Watch: The promised review is in today’s paper. The published version was cut down quite a bit. Here is the original. Annotations to come.

Has a Good Home
Final Fantasy
Blocks Recording Club

ast004.gifast004.gifast004.gifΩ (ie., 3Ω out of 4)

Every year now, a film seems to come along that was financed on credit cards and restaurant tips but holds its own beside the blockbusters (in 2004 it was Primer). This debut is a rare musical equivalent. Recorded in six days at engineer Leon Taheny’s home, it’s as saturated with colour as many big studio productions. The original scenario for Final Fantasy found Owen Pallett (known for his string work with Toronto’s the Hidden Cameras and Jim Guthrie, and his own band Les Mouches) alone on stage with fiddle in hand and FX pedals at his feet, looping and layering short violin lines atop one another into high honeyed towers from whose windows he would sing. The image went wide-screen last month when Pallett joined his friends in Montreal “it” band the Arcade Fire (the subject of the second song here, This is the Dream of Win & Regine) on a smash U.S. tour. On the recording, Taheny and a small musical crew help add depth and shadow, as the arrangements ping-pong along tangents and vectors that befit an act named for a video game, like Bartok reborn with a yen for synthesizer pop. But there is nothing second-hand about these 16 songs, sung in soft mumbles and occasional shouts, coming across like dialogue from a mislaid narrative about family and friendship, cities and money, attachment and betrayal: “My mother never takes a break/ from pining after furniture … and I share her love of wine and cake/ and taking advantage of amateurs.” Scenes drop in and out of focus, one shot in a Montreal cannery, the next in a plane bound for the Philippines, but they are all lit with the same gentle glow. Never tentative, always exploratory - although perhaps too interior for some fans of Pallett’s more extroverted collaborators - the curtain is just rising on Final Fantasy, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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