Archive for May, 2008
May 29th, 2008
Tonight marks the release of Eric Chenaux’s latest album, Sloppy Ground, a lovely term for its main subject matter, which Eric describes as not the beginning or the ending but the middle of love - the main part, that is, but the most overlooked, the part for which we need much more music: the “ever after” that follows the closing clinch of the courtship dance. There’s a nice interview with Eric in Eye today too. Meanwhile Eric’s frequent collaborator Ryan Driver (of Deep Dark United, Silt, Reveries, etc) has his first solo album, enticingly titled Feeler of Pure Joy, coming out on home-base label Rat-drifting. (Both releases are celebrated tonight with a show at Wrongbar in Toronto.)
May 28th, 2008
The most quotable quote from this year’s EMP Pop Conference was probably Robert Christgau confessing, “I miss the monoculture” - that storied (and arguably mythic) time when “everyone” listened to the same songs, watched the same shows, and so on. A similar sentiment animated the TVO’s
Studio 2 The Agenda panel I did in April, asking what ever happened to the big hits that “everybody” danced to.
Leave it to this week’s Cat and Girl to provide the counterargument.
It makes me imagine a fable ending with this dialogue:
“I miss the tyrant,” the old hero sighed.
“But you killed the tyrant!” his young disciples cried.
“At least under the tyrant,” he replied, “we all knew who needed killing.”
Okay, a fable or maybe a prog-rock song.
May 27th, 2008
Since people seem to love arguing about Scarlett Johansson’s Tom Waits covers album, let’s extend the theme: The most frequent comparison raised (whether for or against S.J.) is Zooey Deschanel’s duo with M. Ward in She & Him. It’s hardly a one-to-one parallel, because Deschanel’s nowhere near the household name that Johansson is - she’s about M. Ward-level famous in movie terms (which means much more famous … but you see the point).
But the one I’ve got my ear on is Jena Malone, partly because her musical pursuits don’t seem so side-projecty (though a little self-indulgent/twee). She’s not only writing her own songs, she’s dropped her backup group (flying without the safety net of a “real musician” male partner) in favour of inventing her own “one-woman band” rig, The Shoe (see below). And last weekend she did a “treasure map tour” of L.A. with it. You can hear some of The Shoe’s recent output at her MySpace. I’d give them at least a “promising,” and notably I find I don’t think about her status as “actress-singer” at all while I’m listening - I just listen the way I might to songs by any other young new artist. … Arguably, of course, that is to be deprived of a pleasure rather than to gain one.
May 26th, 2008
Toronto’s pride The Sadies exercise a light-hearted version of YouTubin’ vigilante justice by posting this security-cam footage of some asshole breaking into their van and grabbing their GPS unit, and the group’s discovery of the theft, all given a Dukes of Hazzard-esque rollicking soundtrack. If only cameras were on the spot more often when bands’ instruments and gear get ripped off, but that’s usually from the back alley behind some club. The video’s very funny-sad - them Sadies never met a lemon they couldn’t turn into a bourbon sour. If you do recognize the perp in these pics, let their management know.
May 25th, 2008
Just a reminder of the show at the Polish Combatants’ Hall at 206 Beverley St. (a block south of College at Cecil St), 8 pm. Door price has been reduced to $15 (same as the advance price)! Think concretely - wear grey! (See details in sidebar.)
If you can’t make it tonight, remember that it’s also happening next Sunday at the Science Centre in the afternoon.
May 23rd, 2008
Here’s the email interview Sarah Liss did with me about Concrete Toronto Music, the show Jonny Dovercourt of the Music Gallery curated with me, happening tomorrow (Sunday) at the Polish Combatants’ Hall downtown and the following Sunday at the Ontario Science Centre (we’ve got a bus chartered to take people there).
Can you guys both give me a bit of a backgrounder on the genesis of this project and your involvement in it? How much were architectural and acoustic concerns on your mind(s) before taking this on? Was the book your key source of inspiration, or were either of you already thinking about a project that would encourage musicians to interact with some of the city’s not-typically-musical spaces?
The idea was born at the Coach House launch party this winter where the Concrete Toronto book was being launched - at the same time as the bpNichol anthology, which got me thinking about the concrete buildings/concrete poetry parallel in ’60s and early ’70s culture. And then of course the “musique concrete” connection occurred to us too.
Jonny and I were both saying how much we liked the book and then one of us - I think me but I’m not sure - said we ought to do a site-specific show in honour of it.
I think we’ve both been interested in site-specific shows (such as the Extermination Music Night series or a couple of the shows Jonny’s old band Republic of Safety played) for a long time, and in particular Toronto-celebrating and Toronto-exploring culture. So it wasn’t a huge leap.
Concrete Toronto: just a clever play on musique concrete, or a name with deep connotative meaning - discuss.
Most of the music in the show won’t, I don’t think, have much relationship to musique concrete, though some of it will. The name of the show is just taken directly from the book, but I like the phrase too - that what we’re paying tribute to here is the “concrete” Toronto - the tangible, physical Toronto - rather than an abstract idea of the city, like the one sometimes evoked (by me and Jonny among others) the past few years by the phrase “Torontopia.”
May 22nd, 2008
“We wanted to encourage the musicians to explore the true meaning of musique concrete, which is to make music using non-traditional musical sounds,” says Bunce. “You don’t have to have studied Pierre Schaeffer at university to do that. … That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to approach minimal techno and noise artists. There is a sense of ‘ugly beauty’ to those styles of music, which corresponds to the way a lot of people feel about brutalist architecture. … In terms of a real concrete experiment, [noise artist] Knurl will be [using contact mics on] actual concrete and cement! I’m really curious to see how that will go over with the family crowd at the Science Centre.”
That’s a quote from Sarah Liss’s piece today in Eye weekly about the Concrete Toronto Music shows this Sunday and next, co-curated by Zoilus and the Music Gallery. (And tomorrow, I’ll post my answers to Sarah’s questions, which came too late for her to use.)
May 20th, 2008
… are up on the gig guide, in rough form. As always, send along additions and corrections!
A few highlights include Leonard Cohen’s three-night stand at the Sony Centre; Martha Wainwright at the Mod Club on June 6; the Art of Jazz fest in the Distillery District with Randy Weston, Sheila Jordan and Egberto Gismonti among others; SoundaXis’s “Cage-Fest” historical-recreation performances of John Cage’s “Bird Cage” and “HPSCHD” on June 11 with Eve Egoyan, Robert Wheeler of Pere Ubu, and many more; the Better Reasons youth-art program benefit series at the Tranzac June 12-14 with the likes of The Bicycles, The Phonemes, Nif-D and Forest City Lovers; The Bad Plus at Glenn Gould Studio on June 13; and Luminato shows by the likes of Laurie Anderson and Mikel Rouse.
In the second half of the month, ex-Sun City Girls(!) brother-duo Alan & Richard Bishop materialize on the local plane of existence on June 17; the same day, unfortunately, as Darren O’Donnell’s “Parkdale Vs Queen West” concert with Kids on TV, Bob Wiseman and others facing the kids of the Parkdale Public School Band; there’s Al Green kicking off the jazz festival on June 19, followed by other jazz-fest heavies such as Oliver Jones, Ahmad Jamal, Ken Vandermark, etc; BC’s superb Frog Eyes playing the Horseshoe with the Evangelicals on June 23; another damnable double-booking with Gilberto Gil at Massey Hall the same night UK improv titan Evan Parker plays the Music Gallery (June 27); local free-jazz firebrands Feuermusik launching their fantastic second album the next night at the Music Gallery; and to round the month out, legendary reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry playing free at Harbourfront on June 30.
May 20th, 2008
For the first time in a while, I have a record review in The Globe and Mail today, of the new Scarlett-Johansson-sings-Tom-Waits joint, Anywhere I Lay My Head. It is not a positive review. I still like her in movies though.
May 16th, 2008
Strange synchronicities: It seems that just as my book about Celine Dion and “good vs bad taste” came out, a bunch of contemporary dancers in London and Berlin were undertaking exactly the same project - in live dance and YouTube video form. From looking at their site, there are no hints that they know about the book, but I definitely must get in touch with them. I’m so taken with what they’re doing, at least at first sight, that I don’t feel the urge to respond more criticially-analytically, but perhaps later.
Other gleanings from all over:
- It’s a few weeks old but I’ve just discovered this podcast on the making of Veda Hille’s This Riot Life, the amazingliest record of 2008. If you have not heard it, you have been wasting your year, friend.
- In further Hille-related news, she did some music for a show currently playing at the Factory Theatre in Toronto, Theatre Replacement’s Sexual Practices of the Japanese, which is enough recommendation for me (along with all the good reviews).
- If you want to follow the R. Kelly trial, WBEZ in Chicago is doing a daily blog, but also opened with a smart set-up essay on the race-gender-celebrity-perversity-etc. codes that will make this particular merry-go-round spin. If you would rather not follow said trial, I cannot blame you.
- The Guardian blog makes a zippy argument that all the ridiculousness of rock is being hoarded by metal and that the rest of music ought to go back and claim its rightful share of ridiculousness (which is what we love R. Kelly for, no?). But that piece also reminded me that I wanted to recommend to you the new issue of Mike McGonigal’s great art-music-what-have-you zine Yeti, which includes a more indepth and emotionally stirring and funnier celebration of black metal by esquire Scott Seward (adapted from his 2007 EMP Pop Conference presentation). Yeti also always comes with an ear-scouring compilation CD.
- There’s another fun mix in the current issue of Esopus magazine, in which Neko Case & Carl Newman (of the New Pornographers), Marnie Stern, Busdriver and others were asked to find a “good news” clipping in the paper and write a song about it. (The Case/Newman entry provides this post’s headline.) You can listen to the results online.
- Finally, let’s all go to this concert. (I hear rumours that the Ex might bring a similar bill to Toronto someday - but not in ‘08.)