Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for November, 2006

Zoilus Guest Post: If Matt Collins Did It

November 30th, 2006

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The room was almost entirely fuchsia (the porter referred to it as “marigold” but I know a sickly pinkish orange when I see it), and I was poolside. Not that I was going to swim, but shit, great is great, right? Why settle for good? The next time you’re a 15-year-old with killing for Charles Manson and a media conglomerate as his weekend plan, get back to me on whether or not you took the poolside room.

In a first for this website, Zoilus is pleased to present the following work of fiction: “If I Did It,” a rollicking topical young-adult noir by Matt Collins of Toronto band Ninja High School. The events portrayed are fictional, not meant to represent any person, living dead or incarcerated, and all opinions expressed belong to the author, or CNN, or Charlie Manson.

You can read the whole twisted, incredible saga, after the jump. And no, further fiction submissions to Zoilus are not invited - unless you catch me seeming pliable in a bar at about 3 a.m.

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Weirdest Destroyer Review Ever

November 29th, 2006

Amazon reviewer interprets Rubies as a country album, comparing it to Jim Reeves! I like this idea so much that I wish it were true. Or even remotely plausible. Dan, country album to follow, please?

Announcing

November 28th, 2006

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I will be talking and leading some perverse group ritual yet to be invented. The theme will be something related to bad bands and participatory culture, unless some other whim strikes me. The Barcelona Pavilion will be serving as exhibit A. It will not go very late.

Man, my name looks so boring on a poster.

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Art for a Change/Change for the Arts

November 27th, 2006

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Had a grand time yesterday at the launch of the new Coach House uTOpia book. There were two major themes that I think emerged from the “unofficial culture” and “official culture” panels (I was on the former, along with Sarah Hood, Karen Hines, Stuart Ross and Kat Collins), along with discussion among the several hundred people in attendance: One, the notion of exploring alternative models of funding based on a grassroots patronage system, either for individual artists or for organizations - there was a lot of talk about getting rich people involved, but I think you could also get groups of middle-class people to pitch in, if there were a structure for it. I’ve mentioned the project ArtistShare before on Zoilus. I wish I’d thought to bring it up yesterday: It organizes musicians’ fans to fund projects up front, rather than just buying T-shirts and CDs at the back end - and that’s a model that could be emulated in various forms for other endeavours. But also, as moderator Misha Glouberman said, it would be a simple step forward if arts audiences (music fans very much included) were encouraged to think of themselves as patrons rather than consumers - rather than trying to get a bargain price on a CD, pay extra for it. Buy the T-shirt even if you’re not going to wear it. Who cares? Give it to your little sister. And if you’re broke, what about forgoing that pint of beer at the bar so that you can help out the band? Because what you’re doing is funding artists whose work you admire. It’s not like trying to get the best price on breakfast cereal.

The other big theme was the relative isolation of the downtown, white, indie-arts community from the racial diversity of Toronto. I talked about this from several angles in my piece in the uTOpia book, which is about participatory culture - a form that’s been flowering in Toronto, but when looked at closely can seem dangerously incestuous. Two of the main things people name when they say what they love about Toronto are how great the arts community is and that the city is so diverse - and yet the two virtues don’t overlap nearly enough. In part, that’s a natural contradiction: People seek out like-minded people to work with, and art that speaks directly to them, and so it’s inevitable that this will lead toward some similarness. Not as much as armchair critics resentfully assume, but still more than is ideal. I think these things have to come in stages: The community that’s been built is mature enough now to begin extending into new realms, and challenging itself with encounters with people from very different contexts and ways of thinking. It seems necessary not just from some sort of politically correct point of view but in order for the art itself to get sharper and more powerfully connected to the real world that we inhabit. It was great to hear that feeling emerge from the crowd collectively as a real yearning, something that went deeper than lip service. My feeling is that it will be fraught with complications on a bunch of levels, but for change to begin all you need is a few smart, small initiatives. Most often people are just too hesitant to take the first step.

Recordings of the panels will apparently be up on the Coach House website, along with a discussion board.

The music after the panels was actually a lovely illustration of the themes and ideas of the day: First there was a classic indie-art-scene group, the Phonemes, playing one of their better sets ever (their new album on Blocks is going to be wonderful, and I’m betting it’ll garner a lot of blog attention in 2007). They were followed by rapper More or Les and his DJ, Professor Fingers (also of Insideamind). It was my first time seeing Les - I’ve been meaning to check him out for awhile, thanks to buzz from local heads such as Del Cowie - and it was a real pleasure. He’s got great flow, but moreover he’s got one of the most charming, personable stage personae I’ve encountered in a while - and while some of his raps-about-rap are predictable in that indie-rap way (okay, we get it, you don’t like women being disrespected, guns or the N-word), quite the opposite is true when he rhymes about brunch, busking and other quotidian facts of life. Plus, he did a freestyle based on the uTOpia book - getting an audience volunteer to call out page numbers, he flipped to those spots in the volume and improvised rhymes based on words and sentences in it. I got to hear a subtitle from my essay turned into a rap. Pretty hard to resist. And finally there was the one-off band Scarborough A/V, who played a live soundtrack to a video of the sights of the suburbs, mostly desolate and ugly, but sometimes beautiful, which fit with the occasional mentions in the book and through the day of the downtown arts world’s need to consider the fact that most of the population doesn’t live downtown, and to exhibit a little curiosity about life north of St. Clair, and to the west and the east.

I’ll post quickly later about last night’s Wavelength, with Tomboyfriend and Yah Mos Def. But I also wanted to mention that I have a brief piece in this feature in the recent anniversary issue of This Magazine, the small Canadian leftie publication where I worked a decade ago. My bit, about halfway through, is called “The Art of the Game,” and in many ways, it’s a short summary of some of the ideas I discuss in my uTOpia essay. If it catches your curiosity, why not buy the book? It’s a sweet, gooey Whitman’s Sampler of cultural notations and impulses - I’ve only gobbled up a few truffles so far, but it tastes like inspiration.

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T-Dot Thrillz: Sunday
Tomboyfriends in uT.O.pia

November 24th, 2006

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Tomboyfriend as portrayed by Margaux Williamson and Photoshop. See 2nd half of this entry.

This blog has been having SlowMovingBlood Syndrome (known to laypersons as “November”), but until its mojo regenerates, there are still events to tout. And this Sunday: No day of rest!

I’m part of the all-day launch at the Gladstone for The State of the Arts: Culture in Toronto, the second volume in Coach House Books’ uTOpia series. I’ll be on a panel on “Unofficial Culture” with moderator Misha Glouberman presiding. Last year’s party for Vol. 1 was a highlight of ‘05, so don’t come to please me. Come to please yerself. Talking is followed by tuneage, see sidebar for deets.

(My essay in the book, “The Party Line,” jams on “the participatory turn” in local and global culture in recent years - from raves to flash mobs to Trampoline Hall to Haircuts by Children to Bad Bands - trying to scout out a critical perspective and vocabulary for art whose raw material is social relationships, stuff decidedly under the sway of the ‘Net, but back in physical space.)

However, I urge you, urgently, not to loiter too long at the Gladstone, because the regular Wavelength program that night, at 11 pm sharp (pwyc), features the debut of Tomboyfriend, the band whose existence I teased you with back in July, with that post asking how many rock groups there’d ever been with a male frontman and all-female band. (Answer: Some, not many, and Robert Palmer doesn’t count.) Let me let them elaborate:

“We are one poet (ryan ’scratch’ kamstra), one illustrator and map-making social activist (Marlena Zuber), one gtarist and jackass inspired performance artist (Karilynn Ming Ho), one robot and visual artist of the freak show (Lindsay Fisher) and one bassist and scientist for the peoples (Susan Bustos). [We] play songs about androgyny, promiscuity, the economic opinion of Jeffrey Sachs, bisexuality,ultra-violence, high fashion, the plight of heterosexuality, cheerleaders, the wealth divide and what to do about romantic love. There is sprayed blood, costume changes and camp. There are participatory dance moves. You may wish to move back. The blood washes off. ”

Check out their MySpace to hear The End of Poverty, one of Zoilus’s top singles of 2006. (Any song posted at MySpace is a single now, right?) Or at least one of my top songs of the year, as it hits better live than in the rough demo recording. Like all Ryan’s songs, it’s romantic post-Marxism in an polymorphic-bestiality-blues ballet, obsessed with global capital and melancholy sex, as if Xiu Xiu were making out with Lou Reed in a hotel bar in north Ontario. For further tunes, including the possibly even better, due to more falsetto, but even worse recorded, Swan, see Ryan’s site. To view lead singers Ryan and Marlena perform End of Poverty with an army of pigeon dancers outdoors at Nuit Blanche, check that there YouTube. Ryan attempts to explain in the Wavelength online zine and in their bandifesto.

I’ve been looking forward to this gig for months. Come along. Bring a smock. And word has just broken that the other band on the bill will be The Yah Mos Def, “hardcore-inspired hip-hop” from Philly. (Making two hip-hop acts in one night, if you count the earlier Gladstone bill, at Wavelength: Programmer Trevor says “we’re trying to repair the damage caused by Michael Richards.” Granted, Yah Mos Def are crackers, but doesn’t that make it even better?)

Meanwhile, the other days your weekend are your last chance to catch /Dance/Songs/ - see previous post.

Tomboyfriends in uT.O.pia">9 Comments

Swan Diving in Canuckistan

November 20th, 2006

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He must have told me, but somehow it evaporated in the brainpan that music writer Michael Barclay (of Exclaim and other publications/broadcasts) had started bloggifying on Radio Free Canuckistan. Mostly he’s been publishing transcripts of interviews, which is a fine way to use the medium, and in the past few days he’s posted chats with all three principals in Swan Lake - the three terrors outta Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and Destroyer, three of the better songwriters anywhere, let alone in Canada. (Two-thirds of whom you see above.) You probably know that their album Beast Moans is being released tomorrow, but I guarantee you’ll know a lot more about it after you read Barclay’s smart discussions with the three tricksters, which will be the basis of a Swan Lake feature in an Exclaim yet to come. Previous Barclaytalks on the site include interviews re: Final Fantasy, Torontopia and Bad Bands, so many Zoilus readers should go hang out in his blog-yard.

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T-Dot Thrillz: Dance/Songs/! 416!

November 17th, 2006

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As suspected, I’ve barely had a second for bloggeration this week, or even to update the gig guide - all that will come over the weekend, and I promise never to be so tardy again. But meanwhile, wanted to tell locals two things:

You absolutely gotta see this show called Dance/Songs/ being put on by the mad crazy bright lights at Public Recordings, opening tonight in Toronto and continuing through the next week, choreographed and directed by the sparkling Ame Henderson and featuring the attractive people in the above pic. The music, by Constellation Records character Eric Craven (Hanged Up and other projex), is worth the ticket in itself. If you hate dancing and humour, then close your eyes and soak in the deep sound pool. But if you don’t hate, you know, life, then you should also watch what takes place, which is a dance show aimed especially at us - the music nerdz. It’s a very light and subtle parody of a rock concert, which treats physical movements as “songs” and the dances as components of a concert set - except where an actual rock group might dive off the speakers or do the splits, this “band” (bande a part) will start pounding their heads against one another’s bums, or spinning in figure-skating patterns all over the floor, or otherwise enacting some puzzling ritual in a unique gestural code, with barely a shred of over-earnestness but an out-of-the-blue - and dead sexy - physical confidence and grace.

I had the privilege of being able to watch a rehearsal last weekend, and I look forward to seeing the staged version. So should you. (And you know, I almost never recommend theatre or dance shows here, so take me seriously this time.)

Also I wanted to mention that next week brings the annual 416 improvised-music mini-festival, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 22, at the Tranzac, with a panoply of oddball instruments and askew approaches arrayed as if in a cabinet of wonders. Or something like that.

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And You Can Call Me ‘Bitsy Teacup’

November 14th, 2006

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I may not be much on-site the next few days due to a hectic workweek, though I’ll check in when I can. A bit of news meanwhile: Eric Warner is bringing recently married and pseudonym-happy couple Avey Tare (David Portner of Animal Collective) and Kria Brekken (Kristin Anna Valtysdottir, ex-of Icelandic band Mum, with whom she’s been credited as “Doctess”) to play a set at Sneaky Dee’s on Nov. 30, along with locals Nifty (Matt Smith) and Tradition (James Klassen). There’s a fine live recording of the pair’s spooning harmonies and baby-talk poetry here on Alias Pail.

And in less localized events, note that Pere Ubu is appearing this week on Chicago critics Jim Derogatis and Greg Kott’s weekly rock-talk show Sound Opinions, broadcast this weekend on various NPR stations and also available as a podcast. One fine day when things are quieter I’ll get around to a proper diiscussion of the new Ubu album, Why I Hate Women, which hasn’t gotten its fair share of attention but, when it has, like most new Ubu albums in recent years, also has been a bit occluded by overgeneralized praise.

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Ellen Willis

November 10th, 2006

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A model of the culture (and music) writer as social critic, and much more besides, Ellen Willis died yesterday at age 64 of lung cancer. Little I could say here in haste could do her justice, but the way that she balanced her insistence on pleasure and freedom with her feminist vigilance on fairness and frankness, her suspicion of all paternalisms (especially of the state variety), and her attention to the detail of the resulting complexity, remain exemplary.

There’s a starting point here, but her best work is in her published collections of essays. (The best of which, Beginning to See the Light, seems sadly to be out of print. Hopefully someone will correct that now.)

I’m sure there will be many eloquent testimonials in the coming days from those who lived, worked, thought and struggled alongside her, as well as the many people she inspired.

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Monsieur Chenaux’s Musical Microscope

November 10th, 2006

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I have an interview today in The Globe and Mail with guitarist, composer, improvisor and songwriter Eric Chenaux, mostly about his new disc Dull Lights.

Eric opens tonight at the Music Gallery for the Icelandic-American free-jazz-math-rock Tyft Trio. And he plays Tuesday at the Tranzac as part of Drumheller, who are releasing their great new second disc, Wives.

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