Archive for March, 2007
March 29th, 2007
Everybody: It hasn’t escaped my notice that in recent weeks (or longer), the tendency has been for Zoilus posts to consist of meaty facts about Toronto events and little about the larger music world. There’s a reason for that: First, there’s a lot going on here; and, second, my attention is mostly on other projects and I’m not writing the discursive excursions and reactions to general musical issues that give the site its meat. The latter situation will change when the book is done, but that’s a couple of months away. But in general, I feel this site fills two functions, one for folks who live here and one for those who don’t. Upcoming is a redesign that will make it work better for you, wherever you are. Meanwhile, a little patience while we conceive that hybrid structure. And thanks for sticking around either way.
March 28th, 2007
Zoilus comrade-and-associate Misha Glouberman (best known as host of Trampoline Hall) is getting ready to do another of his sets of “classes,” which are always fantastic intellectual exercise and delightful social blowouts all at the same time. In the past, I’ve studied group vocal-noise improv, “How to Get Really Good at Playing Charades,” and the nature of happiness in Misha’s series, which he teaches without ever seeming to be teaching.
The very best class I’ve ever done with Misha, though, was his one-night “Open Cobra” project, where somehow a huge room of mostly non-musicians learned to play John Zorn’s 1980s “game piece” Cobra to a pretty decent level of competence, in a few hours. The whole thing unfolded like a little miracle. (Read an account of the night by Eye’s Dave Morris.) The YouTube clip above shows Zorn and other NYC downtown ’80s luminaries playing Cobra, from Derek Bailey’s BBC series on improvisation.
Now, Misha is planning to do a longer (maybe six-part) version of that process. And though I can’t take part (goddamn book deadlines), if you’re in Toronto, I highly recommend you do. It’s for performers and non-performers alike.
As Misha says, “I’m really interested in noise improv as a participatory activity that people can do for fun. You don’t have to have done anything like this before, you just have to want to. The class will be entirely vocal - no instruments, just voice-noises. We’ll spend some of the time working on general vocal-noise-improv, some working specifically on Cobra. I’m still finalizing the details of time (hope to start in the next few weeks), schedule (probably 6 or so consecutive Wednesdays or Tuesdays or something like that), price (some variation of PWYC), and place. If you might be interested in knowing more about the series, drop me a line. How/whether/when I can do this will depend on what I hear back from people, so if you might be interested, don’t just wait to hear more news, email me and let me know.”
So don’t hesitate.
For another taste of Cobra’s sting, you can check out Misha’s “Open Cobra” collaborator Joe Sorbara’s new monthly Cobra event with musician-participants from AIM Toronto, as part of the Now Lounge Sunday improv series, this Sunday, April 1 at 2 pm, pwyc.
Toronto turns out to be Grand Cobra Central. The Cobra Cabana. Who’d'a thunk?
March 27th, 2007
Fred Frith, photo by Cathy Caraveo.
I’m grinding my teeth in envy, because this gig takes place the final day of the Pop Conference, while I’ll still be in Seattle: “Fred Frith, US/UK composer, improviser and guitar innovator performs at the Music Gallery with Toronto’s Anne Bourne, cello + voice; John Oswald, sax; Owen Pallett, violin. Sunday April 22, 8 pm, $15.”
I’ve made inquiries to find out if the show is partly composed music or all improvised - if so, I suspect it would be Owen (Final Fantasy, of course) Pallett’s improv debut - but his presence makes me suspect there’s composition involved.
If you’re unfamiliar with Frith’s career, going back to the heady Rock-in-Opposition days of Henry Cow in the 1970s, but going much beyond that as well, there’s plenty of remedial reading out there, beginning with Frith’s own site, and including a great range of interviews like these, videos (many) and even quotable quotes. If you can find it, I particularly recommend the documentary Step Across the Border, which features Frith in collaboration with Iva Bittova, Chris Cutler, Arto Lindsay, Tom Cora, John Zorn, Rene Lussier and many others (a sample - by the way, it turns out there’s a ton of Bittova on YouTube…) - it’s certainly one of the better filmic documents of improvised music I’ve ever seen.
While we’re talkin’ Music Gallery, note that the exciting and excitable mad minimalist Arnold Dreyblatt will be the MG’s composer in residence in May, and that the VTO festival (Toronto’s picnic of leftovers from the Victoriaville banquet) is also promised to return that month.
March 26th, 2007
Daniel Nebiat’s krar in a photo from Feb. by T.O. Music Pix.
Eritrean-Canadian musician Daniel Nebiat and band blew the room away last night at Wavelength - his gorgeous, intricate vocals and electric krar wizardry combining with the bass and keyboard (mostly as a horn section) and drum machine to create a hurricane of beautiful, danceable sound. Beyond its musical value, the show also represented a risk the series was taking - following up on the panel discussion during February’s anniversary festival - by bringing the young, largely white crowd at Wavelength together with an African musician who in the past has played mostly to his own community. There may have been a little wariness on both sides, but within one song it was clear that the sizable audience was enraptured with the music, and the musicians made a point of saying they were having a good time (and they looked it). It’s a small step, but Wavelength has, throughout its existence, been the event that tries to take a laterally creative approach to what the music scene in Toronto can be about. For a while, it began to seem that it had been so successful in helping set those new terms, that there was little more for Wavelength to do. Last night proved that the space left to explore is practically limitless. (The audience seemed to enjoy the other band, Bruce Peninsula, enormously as well, but I wasn’t taken with their material, despite the talented people among the lineup and the potential appeal of the Will Oldhamish style meeting freak-drums and chorus line. Maybe another time.)
Later:: More on Nebiat from David Dacks.
Today, the Hamilton-based Sonic Unyon label announced that it’s signed the Hammer’s one true legendary band, Simply Saucer, to make their first full-fledged recording since 1978. The new disc will be called Half Human, Half Live (because it will be half live, half studio); it draws on the dozens of classic-era Saucer tunes that were never recorded in the band’s original half-life, as well as perhaps some newer songs by Saucer frontman Edgar Breau. The album’s being recorded at Catherine North studios for a release later this year. Meanwhile, Saucer plays its first Toronto gig in nearly three decades on April 13 and 14 at Ciao Edie’s. (And in second-cousin-once-removed news, the Pointed Sticks from Vancouver play their first Toronto gig since 1979 on Friday at the Horseshoe.)
Elsewhere: Mike Scott of the Waterboys recounts his adventures in self-wikiing with good humour and curiosity. And just by coincidence, the first Waterboys studio album in four years comes out next month. My affection for 80s-period Waterboys is something I do feel just a tad embarrassed about - all that sincerity. But there it is. I’d actually totally neglected the fact that there was a 2003 or a 2000 album; I thought Scott had just been releasing solo albums since ‘93, when he released a Waterboys disc with none of the rest of the band on it, and it was awful; although the one just before that, with the band, sucked nearly as hard.
Meanwhile, the album? Still dying.
March 23rd, 2007
And Jonny Dovercourt talks to Eritrean-Canadian musician Daniel Nebiat (”Danny the Prophet”) who plays the krar, a hand-held amplified harp. Nebiat appears on Sunday at Wavelength with po-fo (ie po-mo folk) group Bruce Peninsula .
March 22nd, 2007
So we won’t be talking classical crossover yet because I missed the Hour broadcast; but I taped a later re-run, so we’ll come back to it.
So speaking of earplugs, the Illuminati broke up. Eye this week also speaks to two women of great stature and longevity in the New York art and poetry scenes, Carolee Schneemann and Alice Notley (who also talks about her ex-husband, the late great Ted Berrigan).
And so the new list of books in the 33 1/3 series has been announced. Happy to see a lot more hip-hop in this round, but most happy for two things: the book about Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, which if it’s done well will, I hope, become a cult book, and should at least be very well read in Hawaii, where the guy was a national (to use the term in its non-statist sense) hero; and, of course, the book by John Darnielle on Black Sabbath’s Masters of Reality, which I greet with both glee and the glum certainty that no matter how good, if it’s good at all, my book is, John’s book will be better. (Though it’s nice to see from the comments on the 33 1/3 site that there’s still some juice in the outrage over mine.) Hardest row to hoe: Good luck to the guy with the Van Dyke Parks book - a worthy subject, but not so easy to market. Wonder if Continuum thinks the Joanna N. fans will read it? (As long as you’re doing the Ys crew, maybe you could do a Steve Albini book - Songs About Fucking, anyone? - and Jim O’Rourke’s Eureka is a great record, too.)
March 21st, 2007
I’m interviewed in a piece airing tonight, about classical-and-pop-music crossovers from Andrea Bocelli to Final Fantasy, on CBC-TV’s The Hour; the segment’s apparently on at about 11 pm. My part was taped a couple of weeks ago, in the corner of the Globe’s cafeteria right after a production deadline, so I didn’t have a chance to think it through much in advance - in retrospect I would have made a somewhat different set of points. After tonight’s airing, let’s meet back here and discuss what they would be.
Preliminary concert listings for April are up now, by the way.
March 20th, 2007
Via Ron Silliman: A years-in-the-making site devoted to founding Torontopian bpNichol’s Computer Poems, First Screening. If there were an oath of citizenship in this city, it would have to be a bp text, no?
And we haven’t talked BSG for a while have we? (Peli, look away!) I quite enjoyed Part 1 of the finale, though it was hobbled by the weakness of the foregoing half of this season. For those of you who haven’t seen it, or just don’t give a shit, I’ll put my ramblings on the jump.
March 20th, 2007
Just wanted to let you know this record actually exists.
I have a review of Saturday night’s Shins concert in Toronto in today’s (well, yesterday’s technically now) Globe and Mail. If it seems a touch over-enthusiastic, fair enough. I despise the shed of a venue, Kool Haus, so I spent the day of the show dreading the event. And for the first half of the evening, watching openers Viva Voce (whom I probably would have enjoyed in a smaller space), I still felt grouchy. But then the Shins managed to transform the vibe and make me - and everybody else in the room - glad to be there, which won a lot of points. (This feeling vanished immediately when the show was over and the whole audience was caught in a bottleneck for 15 minutes trying to get out the one open door; finally the management wised up and opened the back doors. Argh.)
Also in today’s Globe, my colleague Guy Dixon has a piece about the new lineup at CBC Radio 2 (which also has a new website). We here at Zoilus (not just me but many of you) have been very vocal in our displeasure over the cancellation of Brave New Waves, but I tuned in to its 10 pm-to-1 am replacement The Signal tonight, and I have to admit I’m impressed. So far I’ve heard the world premiere of Faster Still by the stellar Toronto-based composer Brian Current, a Joanna Newsom track, an Aphex Twin performance with the London Sinfonietta and a selection from Jerry Granelli’s Sandhills Reunion. And while I’ll miss Patti Schmidt’s wry conspiratorial voice, The Signal is hosted by one of my other favourite Canadian arts broadcasters, Laurie Brown. I don’t think this show can accomplish what Brave New Waves did for two decades (unlike the Shins, it really could change your life), and I wish it started a bit later, although thanks to interweb magik I can just listen to a stream from the Prairies or BC and hear it when I want. But aside from the decisions around BNW and The Arts Tonight, I’m giving the new Radio 2 a tentative hurrah as the first CBC revamp of my adult life that just may make sense, with its dismantling of genre barriers and respect for its listeners’ open ears and minds.
Finally I just want to express gratitude and warmth to everybody who braved post-green-beer hangovers and came out to Sunday night’s Queen West West Equitable Development Beach Partee. Especially the bands, who came on-board with enthusiasm and generosity on a few days’ notice and all put on amazing sets. The Thomson/Oswald/Chenaux/Oelrichs quartet bore down and set a tone with a restlessly meditative improv, then Ghostlight gave fine dub-psych freakout; Tomboyfriend brought a shout-along rush with the thematically appropriate anthem The End of Poverty; the Phonemes played a special “mutant Phonemes” set - because drummer Matias couldn’t come, they recruited a bunch of guests at the show, with members of Ghostlight playing synths and theremin and Eric Chenaux twisting inventive guitar lines around Magali’s delicate plucking and Dave (Mez) Meslin sitting in on the drum kit; and Garbage!Violence!Enthusiasm! capped it off with an intimate “chamber” version of their usual mayhem, dressed “yuppie” in shirts and ties and suspenders, smashing a computer keyboard and a portable radio over each other’s heads, but making it all a little poignant. Seriously, have you not seen this band yet? Do it. Props to Ryan Kamstra for making it happen. And thanks to BlogTO, For the Records and The Abstract Index for their neighbourly promotional assists.
March 15th, 2007
Garbage! Violence! Enthusiasm! play the Queen West West Equitable-Development
Beach Partee on Sunday night in Toronto.
Here is how you will spend the next few days. Shh, baby, don’t fight it.
Friday night, the Test Reading Series presents Stuart Ross and Rod Smith at 7:30 pm at Mercer Union. Ross is, of course, everybody’s droll fave T-Dot absurdist/surrealist poet, who hocked poems on the street in the ’80s, started the Small Press Book Fair and transformed Jean Chretien into a lyrical genius. Rod Smith is the author of seven-plus books of poetry, the editor of Aerial magazine, the publisher of Edge Books and the manager of Bridge Street Books in Washington, DC, often just as funny as Ross (and in that mode a fellow traveler of the Flarfistes) but likewise capable of delicate and tender music. In fact, now and then he strikes me as the contemporary poet maybe closest in sensibility to Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, with his extreme, self-sabotaging and yet beautiful tonal shifts. You can read a bunch of his poems at EPC and listen to him read a great many more at PennSound, or you can just show up tomorrow night.
On Saturday, the day of ersatz Irishness on which all somewhat-Eire-descendent North Americans such as myself affect to enact our non-existent ethnicity, a clan with an authentic O’ to their name present their on-again-off-again-annual “Martian Awareness Ball” - a green and auspicious occasion for an all-too-rare performance by Mary Margaret O’Hara, the most elusive of Toronto’s greatest musicians. She’ll be joined by brother Marcus and a passle o’ family and friends, some famous and some who oughta be, that evening at the Horseshoe. Arrive early, and bring your own potato face.
Last but most, I helped organize an event happening Sunday at the Gladstone called
The Queen West West Equitable-Development Beach Partee, to raise arts-community awareness of equitable development, homelessness, and the growing disparity between the rich and poor in the neighbourhood and in the city. Musical entertainment will feature Blocks Recording Club artists The Phonemes, Bad Bands veterans Garbage!Violence!Enthusiasm!, Ghostlight and an improv group featuring John Oswald, Scott Thomson, Eric Chenaux and Jake Oelrichs, plus a cameo appearance by Tomboyfriend (whose lead singer was lead organizer on the event), tracks from DJ Misty Rock’n'Roll, and quite possibly between-set dance lessons. Proceeds go to homelessness-aid organizations PARC (Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre), and Na-Me-Res. We will party in the name of respect and equality between street artists, the professional art world and nightspot parvenues, and a better balance between the wants of faux-boho condos and the needs of their neighbours, whether homeless or housed. We’ll raise some cash and dance on the brink of no return. Please come join us at 9 pm (admission $7). And if you’d like to, buy an original drawing…