by carl wilson

March 30, 2006

Eye Spy (or, Lit-Rock Revisited)
(and/or, Thursday Reading Revisited)

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Literaoke: Poet Ken Babstock, red shirt on right, dances while poet Adam Sol, with microphone, belts out a horrible horrible song (unidentified).

I'd begun to fear that our friends at eye weekly were losing the plot, but the new issue is a banger from stem to stern, so I think the recent thinness was just due to a typical late-winter slump. Take a look:

1. The cover story is an interview with poet Ken Babstock, a Zoilus friend and verse hero, by Zoilus pal and kultcha heroine, Damian Rogers. (A poet herself, of Pontiac Quarterly fame, not to mention that she was Green Day Girl in High Fidelity.) Their dialogue brings us back to the "lit-rock" debatin' days of yore (see links here), with its sidebar of "Babstock Rock Trivia," noting not only that Ken's a former Vancouverite housemate of Dan (Destroyer, note: new website!) Bejar, but the use of Babstock poems by the Deadly Snakes, Rheostatics, Ron Hawkins and Jim Bryson. I love what Ken says about all this, which cuts through a lot of the posturing on all sides, especially the sourpuss defensive no-no-don't-let-those-moron-musicians-touch-the-poetry line (which is really just the mirror image of the don't-let-the-dickless-poets-touch-the-rawk line):

"One of the happiest things in the last few years, since my first two books came out, is finding out how there is a cross-genre interest. I grew up, like every other young person, loving music - pop music, indie rock and whatnot - and finding out that some of these bands that you're listening to are reading poetry is fantastic. It's wonderful because when you start writing poetry, this party line is drummed into you that only other poets, and possibly students, read poetry. And that's just bull.

"... [With] the whole do-it-yourself, post-punk, indie-rock ethic, maybe they see camaraderie in poetry as something that is just sort of a quiet pursuit with no hope of big dollars at the end."

(As the article says, Ken reads from his new book, Airstream Land Yacht, on April 5 with Bill Kennedy (who is also Zoilus's resident Web Roshi), Don McKay and Darren Wershler-Henry, 7:30 pm, $8 at Harbourfront, and at the Anansi Poetry Bash with Lynn Crosbie, Robin Robertson and Sharon Thesen, April 6, 6-9 pm, El Mocambo.)

2. Speaking of Destroyer, and not just to note once more the dawn of the aforesaid new official website!, Michael Barclay offers an alternate perspective on last weekend's show in Toronto. Obviously he's wrong, but he makes a case, which really only differs with me in degree not kind.

3. Wow, a full page devoted to Glissandro 70! Which is certain to be one of the Canadian recordings of the year. I'll write more about it next week, but meanwhile there's Friday's record-release show to get warmed up for, so read the piece. (By the way this one is easier to read online than on paper, because of what the hell is up with that layout.)

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4. Torontopia-wise, read the interview with John Lorinc, author of new book The New City, with fresh eyes on the whole Drake-you-whore histrionix on Queen Street West but also a global grasp on urban issues.

5. Denise Benson(oops) Dimitri Nasrallah conducts an intelligent conversation with avant-dumbfuck-sampling priest Jason Forrest aka Donna Summer, at Sneaky Dee's tonight w/ Ninja High School and Knifehandchop. Among other things, he points out the free mp3s available at his label Cock Rock Disco.

6. And Brian Joseph Davis continues his run of can't-miss book columns with a timely perusal de a couple pissed-off-French-cranks' tomes, notably Superhip Jolipunk by Camille de Toledo, the radicalized "reluctant heir" to the Danone yogurt, um, empire? Basically it's an anti-hipster, return-to-Marx (I think) screed, and I'm sceptical of its "Gallic seriousness cranked to 11" but can't helped be tweaked by such claims as that the Situationists "have been transformed into 'another amusement park for the overeducated,' who only managed to create 'a how-to for compromise.' " As BJD sez, "Ouch."

Plus: So as not to play favourites entirely, I will also point you over to Now for Tim Perlich's nice piece on Khonnor (playing tonight at Supermarket): Most interesting fact? Not so much that Khonnor is 17 but that he is considering composing an electronic piece based on handbell choirs. I love handbell choirs. The best bit of music writing in Now this week is Sarah Liss's very fine piece on the Flaming Lips, even though it mainly served to confirm that I don't care much about the Flaming Lips. Now also talks to Jason Forrest, and Sarah talks to Neko Case and offers a psychological thesis about Neko's overuse of reverb, which seems pretty acute, though I had a much bigger beef with the reverb on Blacklisted than on Fox Confessor. I should also have some more on Neko next week. The Art Brut and Centro-Matic pieces did little for me even though I like both those bands.

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 30 at 07:07 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (16)

 

March 29, 2006

Hungry Like the Lynx

Belatedly discovered: An online "punkcast" of the panel last month on postpunk, with Rip It Up & Start Again author Simon Reynolds, Connie 'China' Burg (Mars), Steven Daly (Orange Juice), Vivien Goldman, and James Chance (James White & The Blacks). It occurs to me that what I'd like to see is a discussion between Simon and Michael Azerrad, who wrote the other post-punk book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, though I'm not sure if he even uses the term post-punk. Each of them barely touch the material the other does, but they're two parts of the same old glory, no? One the art-punk and new-pop scene in the UK and east-coast U.S. (from PiL to the Mekons to the Art of Noise), the other the hardcore-and-artcore underground in the U.S. (from Black Flag to Beat Happening). They're not the only books, but right now they're the two mains; you'd perhaps have to add Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids, which deals with the fact that post-punk actually began pre-punk. (Later: Of related interest: Glenn Branca talks about the no-wave era and other things. He blames Brian Eno for wrecking everything.)

Boldtype praises our dear Ticknor for being "as dense and textured as a truffle ... adding an unforgettable new antihero to the Pantheon of the Misbegotten." Out now from Farrar Straus & Giroux.

David Cantwell, a friend and one of Zoilus' favourite U.S. music writers, especially on country and soul and their intersections, has a very snazzy lookin' new blog indeed, flying the banner of Living In Stereo. It's partially an incubator for thoughts related to David's upcoming book about the Nashville Sound, but also excurses out into pop, hip-hop and politics of the present day. Warning, he's, like, a total commie.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 29 at 06:03 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

Post-Soviet Auktyon Heroes

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When the Soviet bloc fell apart in the late 80s/early 90s, it seemed briefly as if a cultural bottleneck had been uncorked and the repressed visions only glimpsed in samizdat flashes would soon flood out to the world. But the nasty business of reconstruction and, in places such as Russia itself, mafia-capitalism hasn't turned out to be the fertilizer for a great flowering. There's been a smattering of literary and cinematic action, but outside the former East Germany's electronic and other sounds, how much notable new eastern-bloc pop music has surfaced? (Not counting, uh, tATu, who for all their catchiness seemed as much part of the porn boom as a sonic one.) That's not the whole story - there are traditional, jazz and new music stars out of many of the republics, especially Tuva, and east-west emissaries Tamizdat are tracking tons of emergent voices yet to make a global impact - but it's a much more marginal story than you might have expected. There remain some legends of samizdat rock, often with as many prison records as record albums to their names, such as Prague's Plastic People of the Universe and Uz Jsme Doma. But even the post-Soviet diaspora to the west has just begun to make a mark, with Gogol Bordello and their comrades in New York and a few others - such as Lenin i Shumov, one of my favourite bands in Toronto, led by Byelorussian scoundrel Eugene Slominerov. Tonight at the Mod Club, they'll be opening for a veteran and venerated group Eugene claims is one of very few great Russian rock bands, St. Petersburg's Auktyon, founded in the early 1980s.

I've never seen Auktyon in the flesh, but I've been listening to samples of their music for several weeks, and find their eight-piece, folkloric-new-wave-jazz-ska cocktail at least as combustible as the Czech massives' molotovs. The jousting voices of leader Leonid Federov and hypeman Oleg Garkusha add up to a lyrical-inflammatory hybrid of Jacques Brel and David Thomas of Pere Ubu, two names I never forecasted combining. Reportedly their carnivalesque stage presence lives up to the aural character, as you might gather from the photo above. Having long ago seduced their homeland and much of the Euro club scene, they're on their American campaign now (they turned heads at SXSW) - Eugene reports their plans to record with John Zorn this summer.

For further persuasion, peep this Toronto Star piece by Greg Quill from last weekend, and many others from around and about the interweb. You can also listen to this short feature on the BBC's Global Hit series. As a bonus, you needn't sweat the lingo barrier, as a lot of their lyrics are neo-futurist sound-poetry tossed salad anyway.

Locals will want to know that tonight's incarnation of Lenin i Shumov will come flavour-enhanced, sprinkled with new horn, percussion and string arrangements featuring guests such as Owen Pallett (of Final Fantasy) on violin and Doug Tielli (of the Silt and other Rat-drifting outfits) on trombone. Doors are at 7 pm, and tix $20. But even if you're nowhere nearby, Auktyon is the pickaxe to crack the remnant cold-war permafrost on your listening map.

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 29 at 04:57 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)

 

March 28, 2006

Death, Be Not Concrete


Ian Hamilton Finlay, Wave / Rock, 1970. From Aspen 7 at UbuWeb.

Is the beginning of Spring always like this? It's one of those mortality ridden weeks. There's been the aforementioned passing of Nikki Sudden; that of the heroic Polish-science-fiction dissident novelist Stanislaw Lem (best known for writing the only book ever adapted to film by both Tarkovsky and George Clooney) (and Lem didn't like either version of Solaris, by the way); and, in country music, those of the great Buck Owens, Merle Haggard's peer in producing the Bakersfield sound, and songwriter Cindy Walker - Willie Nelson's new tribute album of her tunes turned out to be all too timely.

Now I hear of the death of Ian Hamilton Finlay, the 80-year-old Scottish artist familiar to me mostly as a 1960s pioneer of concrete poetry (later, visual poetry), a peer of Canada's bp nichol and the few other true greats of the period. (Am I right to think of Toronto as a centre of '60s-'70s concrete poetry, by the way?) Until reading his obituaries today, I hadn't been aware that Finlay went on to combine his poetics with a kind of earthworks sensibility, creating a great number of sculptural and landscape works shaped into or inscribed with words. (Although he used neon too.) Perhaps I'm misusing the word earthworks here, since his creations were far more modest and "civilized" interventions in landscape than the monumental terraforming of Smithson et al. His latter phase was as an "avant gardener," fighting surprisingly militant battles with local authorities in Scotland over the autonomy of his "Little Sparta" poetic glade as a place of almost secular-pagan worship: "Certain gardens are described as retreats," he once said, "when they are really attacks." I also hadn't known that his neoclassical and "libertarian revolutionary" positions included gestures that led to accusations of some unsavoury sympathies. It seems to me these were misunderstandings, that his use of fascist imagery was in service of critique - an attack rather than a retreat. Though one has to wonder about his contacts with fellow neoclassicist Albert Speer.

In other words, I hadn't known much, except the great force of his poetic figurations of the 'sixties. It took his death to tell me what a broadly compelling and problematic figure he was.

(Further reading and links at the always stately and elegaic Wood S Lot. There's also an interesting 2001 interview to be found at Jacket magazine online, especially on concrete poetry, though it does not broach the more troubling topics.)

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Ian Hamilton Finlay with Ian Gardner, They Returned Home Tired, But Happy, 1975-76, via UbuWeb.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 28 at 06:44 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

CCMC vs. Kaiser (w/ Lukas Ligeti
as Conscientious Noncombatant)

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From left, John Oswald, Michael Snow (not playing, which is a misrepresentation) and Lukas Ligeti.
Not seen: Henry Kaiser (which is a fairly accurate representation) and Casey Sokol, who sat at his
own piano, out of frame to the left of this shot. (Thus preserving his valued anonymity...)

I've got a new camera, and you're going to have to suffer through it. I took some better pics of Sunday night's gig at the Music Gallery with Henry Kaiser, Lukas Ligeti and past and present members of Toronto's CCMC (John Oswald, Michael Snow and Casey Sokol), but my deft handling of data-transfer resulted in their simultaneous deletion from both camera and computer. Pardon the murky image, but the aptitude will improve.

Meanwhile, you can read my review in today's Globe and Mail (or by clicking "Read More" below). The headline - "Improv guests have to fight for playing room" - spins the piece much more negatively than it was meant. My point was closer to, "Big-name foreign guests yield to dazzling Torontonian fireworks." If you look closely, it even includes some jottings towards a formula for the gunpowder. But perhaps I succumbed to that tendency of improv reviews to sound too much like the sports page. Then again, Mike Snow really did give 110%.

NEW MUSIC
Improv guests have to fight for playing room

BY CARL WILSON
The Globe and Mail
March 28, 2005

Henry Kaiser, Lucas Ligeti,
John Oswald, Michael Snow
and Casey Sokol
At the Music Gallery
In Toronto on Sunday

For devotees of riskily rudderless, improvised sounds, the ensemble at the Music Gallery this weekend was practically a supergroup.

The first, and rarest, visitor was California guitarist Henry Kaiser. At 53, Kaiser has a yards-long discography that crosses paths with everyone from funky Herbie Hancock to folkie Richard Thompson to iconoclast John Zorn, with stopovers from Norway to Madagascar and Japan.

Then there were two current members of Toronto veteran improvisation unit CCMC - celebrated multidisciplinary artists Michael Snow and John Oswald. They were joined by CCMC founder Casey Sokol, who has inducted younger generations into the rites of improv in his classes at York University. (The acronym CCMC, by the way, has no fixed meaning, fittingly enough for a continually concocting musical crew.)

Finally there was a lesser-known quantity, the Austrian-born and New York-based drummer and composer Lukas Ligeti. His aura draws juice from the fact that he is the son of monumental modern composer Gyorgy Ligeti. But his global musical and multimedia projects make a daunting résumé in their own right.

As it transpired, though, the CCMC disciples in the sizable crowd that turned out to the Gallery's current home at Toronto's St. George the Martyr Church probably went away more content than the Henry Kaiser fans.

Snow and Sokol were the most on their game, each with a grand piano and a couple of synthesizers to hand. Oswald and Ligeti made personable and occasionally dramatic interventions, often nudging the pianists onto more challenging ramparts.

Kaiser, on the other hand, seemed generally reticent and, later on, damn near reclusive. Strange for a player who is often a dominating shredder. But mood is always an issue in a form where spontaneity is all.

In the first set, the full group showed an unexpected swagger - Snow making like Dr. Who on his vintage synth, Ligeti layering low toms and high chimes, Kaiser rambling in the bass range and Oswald pulling bronzed harmonic overtones out of the ozone. At moments it sounded almost like a psychedelic-era funk band, but one that omitted notes and rhythms and played only the multicoloured intervals between.

The second set began with a ringing piano duet in which Snow's bebop accents and Sokol's more lyrical tendencies merged into a glinting cubist mobile of harmonic fragments. They were joined by Ligeti for a more agitated kind of meditation, a series of long oscillating waves in which both pianists played the insides of their instruments, with Snow tossing around a set of bright green oven dishes on the strings of the big black grand.

Finally the full group reassembled, beginning with an ultra-quiet improv that gnawed at the threads separating sound and silence. In that piece, Kaiser provided rippling, near-subliminal ornament by plucking an unamplified electric guitar.

Oddly, though, as the others ramped back up, Kaiser never plugged back in. He hardly played at all, but when he did he couldn't be heard. Ligeti showed some hesitation, too. But in the end, when the CCMC players cleared the way for their guests to shine, Kaiser wandered right off-stage and never returned.

There was plenty else to be savoured amid CCMC's characteristically madcap, archly competitive antics. Hearing Sokol back in the gang was a particular pleasure. But the "supergroup" aspect never quite gelled. You might say the Canadian players were poor hosts who gave their guests too little room. But restraint isn't what CCMC is about. Snow, for example, can and will carve out a place no matter what the dynamic, and expects others will do the same.

Such unassuming boldness, at once impolitic and comical, is a common trait in improv here (arguably in other Toronto music, too). If it brought on some awkward moments with these two other heavy-duty players, it just may have shown that the local style is more distinct and demanding than it looks.

Read More | | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 28 at 05:13 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

March 27, 2006

Suddenly Saddened

I'm sorry to pass along the news that Nikki Sudden (Nicholas Godfrey), best known for his early work as part of the groundbreaking 1970s UK-DIY band Swell Maps, died yesterday (Sunday) at 49, after playing a show Sat. night at the Knitting Factory. The cause of death hasn't been made public. Sudden had been putting out very strong solo discs on Secretly Canadian; apparently he'd just finished a new one and was nearly done writing his autobiography, The Last Bandit. Chillingly, Sudden's younger brother Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Godfrey) also died of unknown causes, in 1997 - Nikki's partner in Swell Maps, who also went on to a solo career. Some reports said suicide, others that he'd died in his sleep. If Swell Maps, in particular, are unfamiliar to you, take this chance to school yourself: One of the first Rough Trade bands, they began in 1972, became part of the punk/postpunk explosion in 1977, and disbanded in 1980. Genuine individualists, their Can-and-glam-influenced bedroom-tape sound in many ways (along with fellow travellers like the Television Personalities and later Orange Juice) cleared paths for the meandering basement-workshop pop-avant of many artists in the '90s and '00s, including Pavement, the Shrimper, Kill Rock Stars and K Recs crowds, and even up to Fiery Furnaces or Animal Collective. Trip to Marineville and the International Rescue compilation make fine starting points. Check out Chapter 2 of Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again for more history; I believe Jon Savage also discusses them, either in England's Dreaming or his Time Travel collection.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, March 27 at 03:42 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)

 

March 26, 2006

Getting It On With the Hangman's Daughter

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Destroyer at Lee's Palace, March 25: Daniel Bejar, left, and Nicholas Bragg, right.
Photo swiped from Suckingalemon with guilt and gratitude, because my camera-phone pictures,
uh, sucked lemons.

In brief on last night's Destroyer set at Lee's Palace (opening for Magnolia Electric Co.): If you get a chance to see this tour, go. Dan's performance with this band - the same that recorded Destroyer's Rubies and with any luck a grouping that's going to last - was light-years beyond anything I've seen him carry off in a live setting before: Self-assured, musically commanding, so far from his usual (endearing but patience-trying) skittishness as to render those memories obsolete. What you're getting here is the man you hear on the recordings, and that's just never been true in any other show I've seen. Clearly these are players with whom he's fully at ease, and the usual vinegar of his live persona was honeyed by a comradely sense of humour that brought out the warmth people tend to miss. I'm sure it would be less of a surprise to audiences in Vancouver, but for anyone who's been disappointed by previous tour visits (such as the writers at NOW, who said in their shows-of-the-week listings that Magnolia would undoubtedly blow Destroyer off the stage) prepare to have your preconceptions realigned. Where Dan's tended before either to mumble or to spit out his lines live with little reference to their original melodies, in a style part late-Dylan and part Mark E. Smith, this time around those mannerisms was deployed only where they were the right gauge of ammunition to hit the mark; as a result, words and melodies were all recognizable - which may seem a conservative criterion to use, but it's simply a matter of not selling short the songs themselves, which deserve to be the star attraction. Fine work from the band all round, especially Ted Bois on the keyboards, picking just the right moments for a tickle or a punch. Unfortunately Nick Bragg's lead guitar was subordinated to Dan's in the mix, a mistaken call from the sound engineer, but his parts were audible enough, unlike the occasional background vocals. High spots included a version of Rubies that made its mock-epic narrative fly by like a particoloured parrot with a jet pack; a thunderous retake on Streethawk II; a snowball fight of a romp through Your Blues; and most of all a rendition of Looter's Follies that showed all the deep indigo and fluttering pink shades of the tune to unforgettable advantage. "Win or lose, what's the difference?" Sometimes it's all the difference in the world. (For the Records points to this review of Rubies from the Washington City Paper, one of the more intelligible, least convoluted accounts it's gotten so far.)

After that it was a quick cab over to the Oasis to see The Magik Markers in a surprisingly packed, and sweltering, back room. I was sorry to miss the several other noisemakers on the bill, GHQ, Flynns and Gastric Female Reflex, and heard mixed reports. The Markers themselves didn't seem to be having their best night - whenever frontwoman Elisa Ambrogio was delivering her rants to go with the noise, there was a firewater magic to the madness that suggested worlds of possibility, but she didn't keep that up. Much of the rest of the set was improvisation in search of a resonant response from the audience to fuel the bonfire up - and it didn't quite come together. There was a hilarious rolling-on-the-floor moshpit going on down front that took the scene partway there, but it wasn't enough. Intriguingly the Markers are more reminiscent of Toronto's local "bad band" sensibility than of the free-improv, Japanese-sonics or even new-American-noise-rock modes, but it seemed to me they didn't have the provocateur part down - like some of this city's "bad bands," they were a little too slack about creating the sense of tension and event it takes to make that barrierless Happening happen. The most memorable moment was a confrontation between Elisa and an audience member that had a bite of threat, but because the man involved was twice her size it was a bit too much threat to accept as a unit within the performance rather than something that needed to be stopped. (Reportedly it was Alan Bloor of Knurl, though I thought this guy looked younger.) Instead it was Leah Quimby who actually held the stage most impressively, flailing away at sporadic bass notes and chords but making each blurt count, while Elisa and drummer Pete Nolan were busier but less incisive. Still, I'd definitely see Magik Markers again, ideally in a space with more character, which might offer some of the boost in focus they needed.

| Posted by zoilus on Sunday, March 26 at 07:01 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (14)

 

March 25, 2006

Showgirls!

Pardon my vanishing act. I have been consorting with showgirls in Vegas.... if by consorting, one means walking past them in casinos. I didn't mean to be absent so long, but the Internet connection in my bargoon hotel room was - what's that word? oh yes - fucked. Regular programming will resume this weekend, a weekend that features such events as the Destroyer show at Lee's Palace, the Magik Markers show at the Oasis (ah, the Oasis, that brings me back - Frankie, Sammy, Dean...), both Saturday, and the Henry Kaiser/Lukas Ligeti/CCMC concert at the Music Gallery on Sunday. See youse theres?

Oh, by the way: Vegas? Awfullest place I've ever been. (Sheltered, obviously.) The Celine show seemed positively benign by comparison. Now I must go download Veronica Mars.

| Posted by zoilus on Saturday, March 25 at 02:45 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (23)

 

March 20, 2006

Brother Love's Epistolary Trampoline Travellin' Show
(And An Invitation for New Yorkers)

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The Trampoline Hall Love Show: Photo by Lee Towndrow. To see more letters to and from Lauren Bride about real and imaginary love and heartbreak, click this link. (Or read on.)

I may not be around much this week: I'm off to gamble my aesthetics away on a (kind of) close encounter with Celine Dion in Las Vegas. I'll try to drop in. For now I have other things to tell you.

Last week's edition of Trampoline Hall was one of the loveliest ever, or at least the most love-obsessed. For those who don't know, the show features three people giving lectures on subjects in which they are not expert, followed by questions from the audience, and I am the doorman. This time it was curated by my partner-in-ticket-taking Lauren Bride, and featured three radically contrasting talks on eros and its errors.

(... more ...)

(The questions posed: Is romantic love harmful to creativity? What if you think you're incapable of love? Mightn't some kind of arranged marriage be a more sensible way to find lasting love than the North American random-kamikaze-dating model?)

The tickets to the show were each distinct love letters handwritten by the curator, all perfumed, and many of them including a genuine lock of her hair. We had also solicited letters on the subject of heartbreak from the public: If you sent one to Lauren's post-office box, you were admitted free. These letters were available to be read during the show - albeit only if you approached the British-accented, bespectacled young lady acting as the "archivist" in the back of the room (at the pool table), and agreed to don protective white gloves while handling the letters, many of which were surprisingly elaborate and moving.

Now, all these things can be seen online. There are photographs by Lee Towndrow (one is above). But there is also an archive of the letters written and received by Lauren, which you can access from here. And in fact, Lauren actually would like to receive more letters on the question of what good comes from heartbreak. If you'd like to write her, consult this page.

I also wanted to let you know that if by any chance you will be in Manhattan on Wednesday, there's going to be a New York Trampoline Hall show that day, with three lecturers talking about things other than love. One of them will be Sheila Heti, who is also launching the U.S. edition of her novel Ticknor (with Farrar Straus and Giroux) that evening. Sheila is the inventor of Tramp. Hall, and she has never given a lecture at a show before, so it's a bit of an event. I don't know who the other two will be. Later: Her lecture will be called "Why Go Out?" - that is, why do we leave home and socialize? The others will be one by a young man named Aaron Mate and a doubles lecture in which artist/actor Stephen Lack (celebrated painter, and also star of Scanners, frequently identified as one of that movie's "major liabilities" by critics) will perform - without ever having read it or even learning the subject before hitting the stage - a lecture written by his son Asher, of NYC band Lost at Sea.

The show will be hosted as always by Misha Glouberman, which, trust me, is enough reason to attend. It takes place at the Slipper Room, with which Yelp.com says "There is Absolutely Nothing Wrong", at 167 Orchard St., doors at 7:30, show at 8 pm sharp, admission $7, set by Leanne Shapton.

Read More | | Posted by zoilus on Monday, March 20 at 02:51 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)

 

March 18, 2006

In Which I Get All Up in Your Grill

You can find parts of me that got stuck to magnetic tape and sliced into strips in a couple of places this weekend. For one, there's this piece on NPR, which is a very nicely done bit of radio about Destroyer: Interviews with me, Carl Newman of the New Pornographers and Dan Bejar himself are artfully interspersed with Dan's music in a way I think is quite worth a listen.

And then there's this show about music critics on BookTV tomorrow (Sunday) at 9 pm and on Bravo on Thursday at 5. Apparently I put on swimming trunks, grease myself up with lard and go four rounds with Chuck Klosterman in a hen house. Watch at your own risk.

| Posted by zoilus on Saturday, March 18 at 01:06 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

March 16, 2006

As a Charter Member of
the Deception Island Optimists' Club ...

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I direct your attention to Kevin Hainey's interview with Toronto kalimba-playing fantastical songcrafter and longtime Zoilus musical crush Laura Barrett in this week's Eye. If the notion of a Joanna Newsom with a less divisive voice, an imagery based more in animation and video games than in classical fantasy, and a much more miniature kind of harp appeals to you, check Laura out. (Though I can't wait for Newsom's new album either.) The interview also touches on some recent subjects of debate, although it skirts too close too close for my tastes to the gobbledygook swamps of self-expression along the way. ("Pure creative release?" Yuck - who will mop up?)

In the same issue, Denise Benson's interview with Ghislain Poirier is also worth note, as is Dave Morris's ever-useful Totally Wired.

(Searching for images of Laura, by the way - the one from Eye is above - I began to wonder if parents now consider Googlability when they name their kids. Laura Barrett is not easy to find, but the photographer, Alyssa Bistonath, pops up instantly. It's the first decent rationale ever for those obnoxiously "unique" names and altered spellings. But you could say you do them as much of a favour by providing data-camouflage - if they want to be a high-visibility target, they can always take on some obscure nickname, like Zoilus or something.)

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 16 at 06:40 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

March 15, 2006

Ticket to Random

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L to R: 1, 2 and 3.

1. Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood has landed her at #54 on Billboard, her first time cracking the Top 200. It's sold five times the first-week numbers of her previous studio albums, and three times her last disc, the live Tigers Have Spoken. Some reviewers seem to find it overly cryptic and short on hooks; I am predictably on the opposite rampart: She's out of the awkward stage in her writing and into a style that's not alt.country-noir or any other pimped-up genre, but Neko Music that's shot in wide-screen cinemascope.

2. Kompakt house-pop producer Justus Köhncke has cancelled his North American tour, meaning he won't be at the Goethe Institut in Toronto this Sunday.

3. But more than making up for that loss, Wayne Shorter (ex-Miles Davis Group, Weather Report) is coming to Massey Hall on April 5, bringing not only his quartet (Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade), but special guest Brad Mehldau as opener, who would be worth a Massey Hall visit in his own right. (Tickets $39.50 to $79.50, 416-872-4255 or at the Roy Thomson Hall Box Office.

Bonus round: Go read Sasha's piece in this week's New Yorker about the new Ghostface album. For one thing, I suspect our boy drops, within this article's quotation marks, the biggest barrage of F-bombs and other cusses in the shortest space in New Yorker history. (Anyone?) For another, the album sounds killer. For a third, I'm torn, maybe productively, about the style Sasha's New Yorker pieces have settled into over time. They're always admirably composed, with a humour that's at once hipper and even more dry than New Yorker standards - it's almost subliminal, which seems one very canny way to deal with the newbie/cognoscenti dilemma in addressing a readership: It's not that he's making inside jokes so much as that you have to be inside to tell that there's a joke to get. Yet his style there has settled into one that tends to eschew concepts in favour of nearly pure description. If he has a thesis in this piece, it's hella implicit. This by no means consigns Sasha to the daily-grind, consumer-guide camp of music writing, but it renders him mainly an unusually articulate reporter from the cool-music front. For me this really is too far from the opposite, "participant-observer" pole. I miss the SFJ who used to provoke heated arguments that helped set the agenda, the way Kelefa Sanneh does now at the Times. (That side of Sasha is left to his blog, which has been minimal lately**, and his non-feature contributions; eg., it's hinted at in his current Pop Note on "hotel music," which almost overlaps with my schmaltz project.) Either that, or I am missing some of the jokes myself.

(This post certified Bad Band Revolution free.)

** Oh wait, he's back!

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 15 at 04:39 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (19)

 

March 14, 2006

Dialogue of a Scene

An interview with yours truly, conducted by Katarina Collins (Pyramid Culture, Barcelona Pavilion, ex-Republic of Safety, maker of the "Torontopia" documentary film) has just gone up on the website of the spry and assiduous Indiepolitik.org. It's mostly on Toronto-specific themes, but also about criticism, participation versus observation and why widespread secret dreams of rock stardom are toxic to music communities. The photo, by the way, isn't meant to be coy - it's a picture from a masquerade party that happened to be the only shot of me I had on my computer.

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 14 at 09:03 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (28)

 

March 13, 2006

Planetary Stumpers, Answers We May Never Know


Dixie Chicks: Is Nashville a Pyramid Culture?

Still not quite back on the regular-posting train, but here are some tidbits:

Video of Neko Case on Leno last week. Very nice - you can see even Leno being surprised how good she is. (By the way: Although Jenny Lewis seems to have her heart in a nice, Neko-loving place, she cannot sing country. Or even countryish. She's much better in Rilo Kiley.)

This weekend the Toronto Star ran a piece about Bad Bands Revolution. Some kind Stilleposter fixed it so that you could see both pages, complete with the glam shot of Pyramid Culture opening for Of Montreal. It's a fine piece, but I felt it framed the bands as much more reactionary - against, for instance, Broken Social Scene - than they really are. This is a persistent problem, and it's a frame-of-reference issue. Here's an alternative suggestion: While much of the music scene these days is looking back to post-punk as a source of an "angular" guitar sound with a dollop of disco, these bands are drawing on the intellectual underpinnings of post-punk and no wave, trying to interrogate the ideological framework of rock music and nightclubs in a confrontational way, reclaiming and updating the underlying critical tradition in indie or underground rock, rather than just borrowing a series of gestures with only cursory attention to content. When you think of something like Pitchfork, you're thinking of a conversation in which the existence of a genre and network known as "indie" is taken for granted as a naturalized fact. Bad Bands Revolution is about denaturing that fact and asking "why" again, in as giddy and rapturous (and occasionally angry) a tone as possible. (For further background reading, look up last week's Slate dialogue on post-punk between Simon Reynolds and Stephen Metcalf, which again is better than Simon's book itself, I feel - maybe I'm just not the intended audience, but it seems as if Simon only figured out his bigger ideas about post-punk after the book was done.)

Also on the Bad Bands front, if you have not yet listened to Parasitic Fetal Twin and Saturnian Sponge on the Pyramid Culture MySpace, you are sadder than you need to be. (I am less fond of the theme song, which works better live.) Not that PyCult actually has that much to do with the preceding thesis - they are more in solidarity with Bad Bands than they are one of them, although they come in for some of the same indie-guitar-rat sniping. And to come full circle, Pyramid Culture do sing country music, except that the countries are Ancient Mesopotamia and the moon.

And speaking of country, the Dixie Chicks have come back with a single that is a complete fuck-you to everybody who attacked them over their anti-Bush remarks. It's called Not Ready to Make Nice. Lyrics are by Natalie Maines, I assume. The chorus goes, "I'm not ready to make nice/ I'm not ready to back down/ I'm still mad as hell and/ I don't have time to go round and round and round." In case the subject matter is in any doubt, dig this verse: "I made my bed and I sleep like a baby/ With no regrets and I don't mind sayin'/ It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her/ Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger/ And how in the world can the words that I said/ Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter/ Sayin' that I better shut up and sing/ Or my life will be over." I haven't heard the music yet, but I'm thrilled that rather than try to shut the door on the whole episode, they won't let it frigging go. That's politics. Chickxx rulez OK.

A drink recipe from the Mountain Goats mailing list, just for the heck of it. I have not tried it but it sounds delicious.

Add to iced shaker:
2 parts gin
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part creme de cacao
1 part lillet blanc white wine
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
Taste heaven.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, March 13 at 03:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (11)

 

March 11, 2006

Retractions. Reminders. And Rent.

I made an error in the gig guide, which a reader pointed out - it's not Monday's Donald Fagen show in Toronto that was cancelled. It was his Ottawa show. Steely Dan-ishes, buck up! Apologies for any inconvenience and confusion.

Also, wanted to remind you all of the "Interface" festival the Association of Improvising Musicians of Toronto (AIMT) is holding this weekend with Montreal clarinetist Lori Freedman. It began last night but continues tonight and tomorrow afternoon with shows at the Now Lounge. Check the gig guide (link in the sidebar) for details.

And finally - today I put a deposit down on a great living space for which I am paying entirely too much money. Thanks to all who offered information (especially Brian and Emily) and good luck to those searching. The Toronto rental market is not the easy ride it's been reputed to be in recent years. It isn't as arbitrarily cruel as it once was, perhaps, but shit, it's gotten expensive. Which is, to come back to topic, Bad for Art.

| Posted by zoilus on Saturday, March 11 at 06:07 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

March 07, 2006

Personal Note: Dub Housing

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I'm looking for a new apartment. I'd greatly appreciate any leads on an attractive two-bedroom or large one-bedroom (or loft/studio equivalent) anywhere in the range between Harbord and King, north-south, and east-west between Bathurst and Dufferin (or small distances beyond). I am neither rich nor poor, am fond of hardwood floors and high ceilings (my tastes were nurtured in Montreal, which makes Toronto house-hunting painful), and have to house a lot of books and CDs and files. Must move April 1, and am searching intensively this week. Thanks in advance for your tips.

This pressing need is, by the way, the reason that I haven't yet gotten back to the Zoilus volunteer squad yet. Will do so very soon, my apologies.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 07 at 11:07 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

BlissBSS

Fascinating to read Simon's second-hand reflections on Toronto via the New York Times piece and his comparison of our supposed collectives (few of which actually are such) with those of the post-punk period, such as Scritti Politti. (Thanks to Andrew in yesterday's comments for pointing this post out.) The "eradication of tension" (and the lack of a sense of a struggle with power/knowledge in the music) that he picks up on with Broken Social Scene are certainly part of why many of the younger bands here don't identify with them. (And the smarter ones don't mix that up with the "selling out" issue.) Yet Simon's instincts certainly zone in on the bad-bands-revolution aspect that's not actually mentioned in the article, when he says, " in a weird sort of way there's a sense ... that the music was kind of irrevelant, or at least of secondary consideration; that what the fans (if such a hierarchical concept is appropriate) really enjoy is the drama of egalitarian social relations ... being in on the rhizomatic intimacy of it all."

Caught a clip on TV tonight of Johnny Lydon in the late 70s saying to rockers: "Forget about music. Concentrate on producing more generation gaps." A great quote, though I would cut "generation" - just gaps.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 07 at 10:54 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

The Revolution Will Be Linked

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Garbage!Violence!Enthusiasm!, left, and Pyramid Culture, right, at the Bad Bands Revolution CMW "showcase," photos from thecjm on Stillepost.

Shockingly positive reviews from Chart (whom I hardly think of as advocates of the anti-band, anti-music vibe) of the Bad Bands Revolution show on Saturday night at the Boat, though sadly they seem to have missed the debut of the out of town guest, Montreal's Happy Burger (Rhode Island noise skater stuff). And apparently had their heads turned during the brief set by Your Shatterproof Guava Beverage and left before Dollarama. More thoughts to come on that night, the comp, badness and bandness and torontopianity and mumbledypeg, but meanwhile: The Riptorns! (The only band that made me understand the alienation and annoyance of the stray CMW-goers who wandered in unprepared. Matt Collins compares their slop-mock-covers of random songs to Derek Bailey. I am unconvinced, though I can see how someone would hear Bailey that way. Nonetheless, a gruelling test of tolerance, and within that paradigm, a complete success.) The Statutory Apes! (Who were, well, fun.) Garbage!Violence!Enthusiasm! (So Best! No mosh pit because the band is the mosh pit. Beating each other up with chains and baby doll limbs and motorcycle helmets! With deepfried beats [I mistyped "beasts" which is also apt] and yelling that was mostly inaudible in the din and the violent destruction of their own mic cables, but sounded good when it had a sound). Robocopp! (Who played an atypical set that omitted nearly all actual Robocopp performance, in favour of total riot facilitation. I was bleeding from the head and hands by the time they were done. And I am not talking metaphorical rocked-out bleeding.) Pyramid Culture! (The Hottnessss. A little out of place due to their having of actual songs. Which I can sing for you: Yooou think I'm joking, but I am not! The world's largest frozen peat bog is melting! What the world needs now is singalongs for climate change, no?) (PyCult plays the [freakin'] Mod Club on Wednesday, opening for [freakin'] Of Montreal. Tix nearly gone. Hope the Elephant 6 geeks [not the band, the crowd] take to them.)

And in the annals of the vicarious: Bury Me Not recreates yesterday's "shamelessly hammed-up" but "happily punch-drunk" Howe Gelb action (see my recent review of his latest disc), and offers a fistful of Gelbtastic trax, including a couple of rarities. Howe is kind of a one-man Bad Band Revolution, isn't he?

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 07 at 02:55 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)

 

March 05, 2006

They've Been Itzhaked!

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3-6 Mafia. (Not the "they" of my headline.)

I'm watching the Oscars instead of going to Howe Gelb tonight, for the same reason I didn't get to Shipp today - felt like a quiet day in. I'm not live-blogging it by any means, but wanted to comment on the montage they just did of the original scores, played by Itzhak Perlman: Common practice, I know, but it does a real disservice to the music. The effect was to flatten out the differences between the scores into equal sentiment and bombast, making the Brokeback Mountain score sound like it was by John Williams, when its textures are much bolder, dominated by acoustic and slide guitar. It won the award anyway, though - guess Williams' two nominations split the vote there. I know Williams has his defenders, and he was great in the Seventies, but I'm not fond of much he's done the past 20 years.

Of course, the music-watcher's sport tonight is to see what the hell they're going to do with Hustle and Flow's It's Hard Out There for a Pimp, by Three Six Mafia, nominated for original song - and against only two, pretty weak other contenders. It'll be the first rap performance at the Academy Awards, I'm told. (Eminem was a no-show when he won for Lose Yourself.) ... No doubt Dolly will win, and you can't begrudge that, but it's not her best tune.

Heh. Jon Stewart's just accused Perlman of "finger-synching." Oh, and poor Lauren Bacall, but I will always love her.

[10:28 pm]: Whoa! It won! Three Six does a classic hip-hop huddle around the mic to say their thanks. They are definitely the happiest winners of the evening. And Jon Stewart got a case of the giggles: "You know what? I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp." Heh - he was thinking what I was thinking: "How come they're the most excited people out here tonight? That's how you accept an Oscar."

| Posted by zoilus on Sunday, March 05 at 09:56 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (10)

 

Shipp Shape (Plus: From the Cutting Room Floor)

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I didn't make it to Arraymusic for the second Shipp show today (had a little too much Bad Band Revolution in my system), and would love to hear reports from anyone who did. Last night's Music Gallery show had its ups and downs. The main set, one long improvisation drawing on material from One and earlier work, was very fine but lacked the heat-spark of his best. I always question the wisdom of the single-piece concert: In my experience, improvisers tend to get better from one number to another in a live setting; even a momentary pause to begin another piece allows that little intake of breath that recalls the literal meaning of "inspiration," which can raise the performance to a new level. Otherwise it's like running a marathon from a standing start. The proof was in the encore, which I found much more engrossing and emotionally engaged, setting off a cinematic montage of mental imagery. ... And you?

Some outtakes from my interview with Matt this week can be found on the jump.



Matthew Shipp outtakes

How much are the pieces on the album composed and how much improvised?

Let's just say that there was a certain mindset that i wanted to capture in the studio and I practiced a long time before going in to attain that mindset. Probably four cuts had heads, like a jazz lead sheet, that were composed that way. The rest were kind of conceptual. ... but a way of approaching concepts for pieces - this is something I have been developing for a long time.

Does it relate at all to wanting to take a break from the electronic settings of the Blue Series?

Well, I did three albums that way as a leader, and I kind of think in trilogies, so that phase has probably come to an end, still doing some concerts occasionally. I'm doing a tour with Guillermo [E. Brown] where he's playing laptop. I don't want to say 'take a break' - I think I'm just going into a different mindset.

Did doing that work have an effect on your piano playing?

I do think it altered my sense of playing and spacing, but I can't put my hand on it exactly.

Have the reactions to the series been sharply divided?

I found an audience for it. So it worked for me. It worked for the audience that I found for it. There was actually a lot less resistance than I expected. A lot of people were able to go with me, or say, "Well, it's just him doing that." I didn't get a lot of outright attacks - well, I did get some and i'm sure you've seen some. With some people, I guess they felt it was a licence to pick up on me. It opened up a way.... But I had to be free to explore things. If I can't, you know, what is this?

But you're going to go on curating the series?

Yeah, I'll definitely keep on curating it. I think it is moving in a different direction. I'm really into this whole idea of developing a "jazz ambient music." If you know my album New Orbit, you'll have some idea of what I mean - something that's melodic, but in a totally different way than early ECM albums or whatever. So I think some of the projects will have to do with that. And also some jazz and classical elements. It's not all up to me - we sign people and they do whatever they do. But it seems certain things are going that way. But there's also a Beans project with William Parker and Hamid Drake, and then a blues-R&B; project with Carl Hancock Rux that I'm really excited about - that's really new for us.

What influence do you think it's had?

It seemed the right thing to do at the time. I think it had an impact. And not just because we were doing it: There are a lot of other scenes too. In Poland I heard a lot of local recordings of people doing - it seemed like it was something in the air. There was a pretty decent audience for my electronic recordings over there. But it's not all down to me. It does seem like it was something that will continue to be explored.

Is there a challenge to sustaining solo live performances, night after night, to keep up a level of inspiration?

Not if I do it this way: If I were doing it five or six nights a week, that would be physically, spiritually and mentally exhausting. But doing it this way, on weekends, actually I see an evolution in the performance, little atoms I develop this week that I take somewhere else next week. ... I want to keep touring till I've played everywhere. If it keeps working out with this album i won't make another album as a leader.

Do you find your classical background emerges more in this less rhythm-driven setting?

I think that's unavoidable on solo piano, with the history of the piano, even the history of jazz solo piano. What you have to look at is what was done in solo piano in the 70s, whether you like it or not - Keith Jarrett, that Cecil Taylor series of solo albums - so there' s a modern solo piano jazz tradition. I think when you play solo piano your classical roots if you have any are bound to come out. For me, it's Charles Ives, Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg's piano works, Webern, Morton Feldman, Cage's prepared piano, some Boulez - the spirit of a lot of things more than the actual sound....

This album particularly seems to work with long lines, extended structures within relatively short pieces, and I wondered if there was a particular intention to that.

Obviously I don't want to be seen as just a free-jazz player, but that's the tradition that I come out of. I would say that my use of extended techniques in solo performance and the concentration of it is not unlike what Evan Parker is into. Evan's great and he's doing what he does, but Roscoe Mitchell has been doing solo pieces on soprano and alto for years and years. I don't think you could just pigeonhole what he does as just free jazz. It's Roscoe Mitchell music. Both of them, within their sax improvisations, they don't bring in as many of the classical overtones, though Roscoe does in his chamber ensemble pieces. But that's the piano. The extended techniques are there because obviously Coltrane's what i come out of.

Something about One also reminds me of early Anthony Braxton.

Yeah, I would also put him in there. I saw a solo concert he did 12 or 14 years ago, I don't pay attention as much to the recent stuff. I haven't heard On Alto for years and years and years, but i really admire what he used to do in that setting. There's also Abdul Wadud, somebody who doesn't get talked about so much. With Anthony, there's kind of a freedom to his persona that I really like - you know what I mean.

With Jason Moran, and Brad Mehldau, Vijay Iyer, you and a few others, it seems like there's a return to piano as a prominent force in jazz in the 21st century. Is this coincidence or do you think there's a reason for it?

I have no idea. That article needs to be written in Time magazine - it was written in Newsweek, but... For a long time pinao wasn't used so much in this particular side of the music. There's a lot of pianists like Mulgrew Miller - they're there and they made an impact. I don't know, I have to sit down and think about that. So far as lettting stars happen on the instrument, that might be happening again. I guess my take on that would be in the 60s and early 70s a lot of stars were groomed on the isntrument - Jarrett, Herbie Hancock - and then there you had disparate voices in the Sixties like Paul Bley and McCoy [Tyner] obviously. Then other people like Andrew Hill, who didn't have quite the name. Then I guess in the mid-70s they figured it was enough.

Perhaps it's gotten to the point where it has a certain exoticism, even - it's less of a staple in the home, and that kind of things.

Maybe so - you know, now everybody's playing electronics so maybe hearing somebody playing an acoustic instrument makes you freak.

I read an interview where you said that you didn't think the word jazz was positioned to have meaning at the present moment. What do you think the reasons for that are?

I'll take a line from somebody who was criticizing the Blue Series: They said everything "seemed jazzy without being jazz." That was the, what do you call it, the Paris Transatlantic. I don't know. I guess at one point real hardcore jazz is just - there's a lot of reasons - from the deterioriation of the music as a part of the black community, that deterioration process started with bebop, that blacks don't support jazz - that's problematic for performers who are Afro-American. And then, I don't know, I just feel that it's all corporate now. For anything to survive outside of that, it's a struggle and then you become wrapped up in the struggle and that becomes the story. There's strength to be gained from that. There' s a part of me that never wants to be embraced by the establishment, but I do want more institutional support. The people who do get it, I'm never into what they're doing. You probably know the names. Even with these types of music - I'm not a big fan of what dave holland does these days, but he gets the institutional support of the jazz community per se. I'm not trying to put him down - he's had a long distinguished career, with lots of great things, but what he's up to now... well.

Isn't it also that the word "jazz" has been coopted by the neoconservative movement. The language is historicized so thoroughly, that it's difficult to work with, if you're trying to make a truly contemporary music.

Well, yeah, I didn't want to get into it, but that's the crux of the matter. It's difficult. I read things by Wynton Marsalis - and even him, you feel like it's a burden on him to have to be a "jazz musican." I've talked to Branford Marsalis about it - someone I love because of his music - and he's like, "Oh, wow, jazz? Nobody's interested in this society."

What are your plans after this record and tour?

There are some things. I'm doing a new age album, actually. Peter Gordon is producing it, with Zeena Parkins and William Parker and myself. We call it "free zen." It's already done.

What do you mean when you say "new age," exactly?

You know, something you can hear in a New Age bookstore - most of it wouldn't be out of place, seriously! But it's our take on it.

Read More | | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, March 05 at 07:56 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

March 04, 2006

A CD With A Manifesto!

"Static means punk! Tuning is junk!" - Destroyer, Rose Felched This

Tonight at the Boat (you can go to the Shipp and then go to the Boat - I'm doing it!): The Bad Bands Revolution compilation CD launch, with Dollarama, Pyramid Culture, Robocopp, Garbage!Violence!Enthusiasm!, The Riptorns, Happy Burger and a manifesto by Kat Collins. (See below. I am not saying I agree with this manifesto - mentions of revolutionary armies and coup d'etats are maybe ill-advised unless they are funnier - but it's worth reprinting.) FREE. Also, after hours and very nearby, an illicit event starring Lenin i Shumov. (Not free.) See you all over the place.

BAD BANDS REVOLUTION

Bad Bands are united by a bond – the bond isn’t in the tools they use to make their music or in the type of music they create, and it certainly isn’t in the degree of skill or effort they put into their work or in the degree of seriousness with which they do it. Bad Bands are united by a common desire to build around themselves a new type of creative atmosphere within an already thriving music scene in Toronto.

Bad Bands believe in replacing independence with interindependence, and creating a scene which welcomes musical failure as well as musical success, because it thrives on experimentation and risk. We await the future and recognize the past, but in our work we reject both as the false idols of cultural mediocrity.

Bad Bands don’t believe there should be an incubation period before creative ideas are brought into the public realm, to be performed, discussed or critiqued. We believe in DOING IT NOW, not in waiting until you’re “ready”.

Bad Bands aren't bad bands, nor are they good bands – they’re bands whose ideas about music are too radical for the mainstream independent music scene to accept as serious. Our goals aren’t to create a lasting legacy of well-crafted pop songs and hit albums that will establish Toronto as a respected cultural hub. Our goal is to build a revolutionary army which will establish Toronto as the centre of a coming coup d'état on the arts establishment – both corporate and independent – in order to awaken the sleeping monster from its smug apathy.

| Posted by zoilus on Saturday, March 04 at 07:24 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)

 

The Crystal Shipp

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Tonight at the Music Gallery and tomorrow afternoon at Arrayspace, a rare visit from one of my favourite living jazz musicians, New York pianist Matthew Shipp, collaborator with DJ Spooky, David S. Ware, William Parker, the Anti-Pop Consortium and many others, curator of the Blue Series, but more vitally an extraordinary rider of the keyboard-as-rocket-shipp. I have a profile and interview with Shipp today - about his new disc One and his current (and perhaps perpetual, he says) solo tour - in The Globe and Mail, aptly titled, "Future jazz for solo piano," which you can read on the jump. There were some nice sections in that interview I didn't get to use in the piece, and I'll post them later in the weekend.

Also, I was stunned by how many people wrote volunteering to help out on the site. Thanks to you all. I'll get back to everyone by Monday.



Future jazz for solo piano

Matthew Shipp strings together a century of musical styles with ease, CARL WILSON writes

The Globe and Mail
Review
Sat., March 4, 2006

In his film The Five Obstructions, Danish director Lars von Trier dares an older peer to make a series of movies based on rules he imposes: One must be made of very short shots, another in "the most horrible place on Earth," another as a cartoon. When he thinks his foil has cheated, von Trier penalizes him with the most torturous challenge he can muster: No rules. No guidelines. Total freedom. The result is the worst film in the lot.

A not-dissimilar provocation led to One, the new album by New York-based jazz pianist Matthew Shipp, who comes to Toronto this weekend.

At a time when he'd played in every possible setting, with squealing saxophones or skittering violins as well as DJs, drum machines and even rappers - and was eager to record with his then-"hot" acoustic trio - the owner of his record label heard Shipp play solo at an awards ceremony and urged him to make his next record that way: On his own. Total freedom.

"He felt I should really bring pressure to bear," says Shipp, hoarse from a cold, on the phone from New York, "It would force people to deal with my vocabulary on the instrument directly . . . because that's all there'd be."

Yet Shipp's response was a revelation, a 40-minute kaleidoscope of a century of piano styles strung together as naturally as a sigh.

Now in his mid-40s, Shipp is a beacon for younger musicians seeking the outer limits, not all of them jazz buffs. You are as likely to find some of the 26 discs under his name and dozens more with other groups in shops that stock techno or indie rock. Experimental-rock audiences picked up on Shipp's chunky, dissonant improvisations in the 1980s and 1990s. He had the austere look of a monk, or a ninja, to match his music's quantum-math complications. Unlike a lot of "free" jazz, Shipp's music wasn't so much a stream of emotion as a spiral drilling simultaneously into sediment and stratosphere.

Yet he played like an athlete. His shoulders bobbed like a boxer's (he's a big fight fan). He covered the 88-key range like radar sweeping the territory, with close attention to suspicious goings-on in the bass registers, where alien entities might most likely be found. Younger listeners disillusioned with punk rock were attracted to another path of musical extremes.

Next, as curator of the Thirsty Ear label's Blue Series in the past five years, Shipp became a pioneer in "jazztronica," mixing and matching DJs, industrial-beat mongers, laptop-computer musicians and rappers with the most stubbornly abstract acoustic jazz, perhaps most ravishingly on his own 2004 disc, Harmony and Abyss.

These projects have drawn predictable bile from purists, but much more praise. They've provoked visions of a future jazz that might reconnect with its roots in popular black dance music without requiring a neo-conservative retreat into swing.

After all that, Shipp relished the chance to strip down. "Solo, I can go where my whims take me in a really organic way," he says. "With a group, it's maybe 60 per cent, since I have to respond to what's going on. Alone, it is a placement in space, a certain way I can breathe, that I think is unique."

Indeed, the dozen pieces that form One can be heard as a continuous statement instead of 12 units of two to four minutes. "I'm dealing with minuets, miniatures, little atomic structures," Shipp says. "I'm trying to find little poetic worlds and put the extended techniques inside them."

With its integration of gospel and show tunes, Duke Ellington blues and Bud Powell bop with spiky atonal rows and funereal chord clusters out of Debussy, Schoenberg and Ives, One also suggests the unity of all musical means. "I'm fascinated by language and syntax, and that's what it all is to me," he says. "Hopefully, I digest it and make it a part of my body."

The disc has a measured maturity compared to Shipp's previous solo discs, such as Symbol Systems a decade ago. Rather than a mass of theory in twisting diagrams, these pieces are like long sentences out of Henry James, thoughts sustained over semicolons and commas and caesuras of musical grammar.

Shipp himself is so satisfied, he says, "If I had my way I'd continue touring behind this album forever and never make another."

It's a notion he's raised before - he loudly announced his "retirement" from the studio in 1999, but reconsidered when Thirsty Ear offered him the Blue Series. But it reflects a view of recording honestly different from the jazz impulse to "document" bands and performances.

"I don't want to have as many albums as [saxophonists] Anthony Braxton or David Murray. It's too much for people to deal with. It's too much for me to deal with. . . . For me, the recording process is not unlike the R&B; and rock I grew up with, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, which was all about concept albums. My hero was Stevie Wonder, with albums like Songs in the Key of Life. That's how I think."

While continuing the Blue Series and playing with other groups, he is heading to a different town on his own every weekend, from Toronto to Nashville. "I want to play every city in America, in old folks' homes and churches and galleries," he says.

With the significance of jazz as anything but a historical music so badly deteriorated today, Shipp sees the tour as secular evangelism. "If I'm seen as a 'crossover' artist, to me you can't get more crossover than playing solo piano. People have pianos in their homes. You think of solo piano, you think of Scott Joplin, Vladimir Horowitz, Rubenstein, even Elton John. That's why I want to get out and connect with people in small rooms."

Solo piano, he says, is "turn-of-the-century music" - and Matthew Shipp is more than ready for jazz to turn to face the next one.

Matthew Shipp performs tonight at 8 p.m., at the Music Gallery, St. George-the-Martyr Church, 197 John St., and tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at Arraymusic Studio, 60 Atlantic Ave., Ste. 218.

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, March 04 at 01:09 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

March 01, 2006

Help Wanted!

Zoilus seeks an editorial intern for this site, mainly to help keep the gig guide up to date. Involves an hour or two a week, small honorarium, credit on site, everlasting gratitude. Looking for an organized reasonable person who won't flake out a week later. Snappy patter in correspondence a plus. [PS: Since this is mainly a local-interest element of the site, a Toronto-based person will probably have the best handle on it.] Please email Carl if genuinely interested, or to mock my delusions of grandeur.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 01 at 12:54 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson