by carl wilson

January 30, 2007

From the Office of Updates
feat. Rhys Chatham, Owen Pallett,
Steve Kado, Brave New Waves...

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Intrapost synergy: Steve Kado as The Blankket, in front of the Brave New Waves logo.

An update on tomorrow (Wed) night's concert in Toronto by NYC/Paris minimalist pioneer Rhys Chatham. (Previously pumped here.) Tickets are $13 adv, $15/door, at the Tranzac at 8 pm, and the roster of local guest players that's been announced includes not only guitarists, as advertised, but a full string section including Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), Julie Penner (Fembots/sometimes Broken Social Scene & many others), Anne Bourne (prolific local folk-and-new-music cellist), Nick Storring (jazz, improv and more), Rose Bolton (respected local composer) and Mika Posen ( ">Forest City Lovers) on viola. Glenn Milchem (of the Swallows/Blue Rodeo) plays drums. Kevin Lynn (who's played with King Cobb Steelie, Holy Fuck and many others) is on bass. And the guitar heroes include: Colin Fisher, Geordie Haley, Brian Kroeker, Bill Parsons, Matt Rogalsky, Paul Swoger-Ruston and Bill Brovold from Michigan (a Chatham and Glenn Branca veteran best known for his own work with Larval). The concert will consist of Chatham's 1977 composition Guitar Trio, best described as one long crescendo that gets very, very fucking loud. (Godspeed fans, come hear where they ripped that idea from.) The concert will be recorded for release on ">Table of the Elements. Local longtime new-music maverick Eugene Martynec opens with live computer/interactive video music. Why wouldn't you be there?

Speaking of Final Fantasy, an update on the following (Thurs.) night's show at Harbourfront, "View Points: Inside the Musician's Studio," with Owen P., Blocks' Recording Club/Barcelona Pavilion/The Blankket honcho Steve Kado, and yers truly, Zoilus: Contrary to some previous misinformation, including mine, Steve and Owen aren't going to be doing any live music that evening. I tried to convince them to turn the show into a performance by their duo, Internet, in which they act out RPG fantasies while screaming. But to no avail. Instead, we'll just be having a conversation, with each other and the audience, about why they make music and records the way they do - with a little three-way iPod battling to lively up the joint. I may press Owen to explain his theory that you can tell whether a musician is an asshole by the way he or she records drum sounds, or Steve to explain why it's a bad decision to try and make a living from your art. We will preview the newest Blocks releases. We will not talk about the Polaris Prize. We may talk about the Art Bears. There will probably be fighting, and Steve's sure to insult someone in the audience - maybe you!

And finally an update to last week's conversations about the assassination of Canada's most important nighthawk radio show, Brave New Waves: Helen Spitzer continues to collect the news, and links to a recording of the final new episode of BNW as it heads into its rerun denouement, and Michael Barclay writes a lovely obit for the show, to which he's been both lover and husband over the years. My former colleague at Hour in Montreal, Jamie O'Meara, also has a column on the subject, in which he talks to BNW host Patti Schmidt (whose "fuck Toronto" sentiments are entirely apt, for once, in this context, unlike those of, say, that whiney suburban baby from MisShapes). We all join in saying, "We will not hear its likes again."

PS: Update update. I somehow managed to miss the advent of a video for Final Fantasy's This Lamb Sells Condos a month or so ago. In case that happened to you, here it is. The young man who shows up in silhouette late in the song is our friend Sasha. The young lady who shows up sooner is CeCe, Zeesy, whom we don't really know, but is a better shadow-show mime than Sasha. This was directed by Stephanie Comilang and puppeteered by Jamie Shannon, and as Torontoist noted, was shot live, without edits.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 30 at 8:45 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)

 

January 26, 2007

'It's the simple ones that bear the most truth'

I'll leave you for the weekend with this Uncle Tupelo video someone pointed out to me, from a St Louis cable-TV show in 1989. Farrar and Tweedy and drummer Mike Heidorn look so heartstoppingly young here - for the first time, I understand how blown away people must have been by witnessing this act live in its early years, with the wizened voice coming out of this kid Farrar and these tough exacting riffs, so solid and unhesitant, blasting out of the gear he and his schoolboy friends had in their slender hands. No wonder a small but intense camp of fans contended, as I first read on a Knitting Factory bathroom stall in about 1991, that Uncle Tupelo was the best band in America.

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 26 at 6:16 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

Gentrifiers Like Me

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The Star's Joe Fiorito gives his account of the Parkdale gentrification discussion I moderated early this week. Unfortunately, his tone is terribly smug and superior, although he comes around to some of the right ideas in the end - "inclusive zoning," in particular, was one of the more valuable ideas raised. I wish he'd talked more seriously about the idea he uses as his hook at the beginning, because it's one of the things the event made me think about a lot: Am I a gentrifier, as a middle-class professional in the arts community who, first, bought a renovated house in the Portugese neighbourhood east of Parkdale, and later, moved into a converted industrial-loft apartment on the other side of the tracks? Sure I am. Not to the degree that a developer building a condo tower is, but as much as someone who opens a fancy housewares shop so they can sell shit to people in my building and the even pricier condo building up the street. How does that relate to my generally wary position on the issue, and what kind of ethical responsibility does it entail?

It's obviously stupid to think that "renovating your kitchen makes you a bad person," as the Star's headline tendentiously teases. Caring for and investing in your immediate environment is a worthy value, just as it is to care for the global environment. Another idea raised at the forum was to subsidize home ownership for poor and working-class people in the area. It's a complicated proposition (to figure out how mortgages etc. work in that instance) but it's a more direct form of security, preventing people from being so easily dispossessed of their homes by profit-seeking landlords - but over and above that, ownership gives people a bigger stake, more pride in the condition of your home and your neighbourhood, which is good for social conditions for everyone around you. It's collective self-esteem, which breeds a willingness to speak up and defend your interests, and so on. These are the intangibles that affluent people have that poorer people don't, which probably count for more than most of the material differences. (Which is why middle-class or wealthy kids who become artists and live at poverty-level incomes don't truly share class interests with working-class families, etc. - they have a different sense of agency, of status, and so forth. Although in many cases that experience of living at a different income level also differentiates them from their class origins. They're a distinct, aberrant social formation, which is why they get demonized by everyone, but also why they seldom have a coherent understanding of their own position.)

However, what we gentrifiers do with that confidence and know-how is another matter. Do we fall into Nimbyist opposition to halfway houses and other social programs in our neighbourhoods, for instance? Do we just selfishly take care of our own stuff and turn a blind eye to what our neighbours have or need? Or do we have a responsibility to try to use some of our privilege to assist those neighbours in getting what they need? Obviously those responsibilities aren't just localized - we've all got an ethical obligation to take care of one another, and those with more means have more of an opportunity to do so and therefore a bigger obligation. The millionaires in Rosedale don't see what's happening in Parkdale, but they still bear an ethical burden for it. However, I also think, personally, that if I'm complicit in the gentrification of my neighbourhood - if the presence of loft apartments and nicer shops in the area works to my benefit - then I incur a special duty to make sure that my neighbours aren't going to suffer as a consequence: That there's still affordable housing, still affordable studio space for artists, that people don't become homeless, that those who are have services, that something of the heritage and personality of the area is preserved, that the changes that happen are beneficial to a broad range of people and not just the privileged few - or even the privileged many. Think of it as the extra rent you pay to live in a special, but troubled, place.

I'm still working all this out in my own mind, and wish Fiorito's column had confronted such questions instead of snarking cluelessly about the people who attended the forum. (Who were by no remote stretch of the imagination all "planning students." Did Fiorito stay for the question period, where people of all descriptions were discussing crime and drugs in the community, housing co-operatives, high rises, political representation, etc., etc., etc.? Were Parkdale's city councillor, MPP and MP all there to talk to "planning students"? Give me a freakin' break.)

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 26 at 1:25 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (10)

 

January 24, 2007

A Rimshot in Cupid's Cuspidor

The February listings for Zoilus's Toronto Gig Guide are up in first draft now - look to your left for the link. As usual, it's the sparsest musical month of the year, but there are some highlights. And as always, your additions and corrections are appreciated.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 24 at 11:12 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

Oh, Inverted Indie World

What does 'independent' mean if you're part of an x-hundred-label consortium? I haven't had a chance to research much about this new "Merlin" project, but I wonder how much uniformity it imposes on participating indie labels' licensing approaches. The idea that it is somehow a "fifth major" seems like an extremely dubious parallel (and not a particularly pretty picture), but I'm curious to hear your opinions. Also, I haven't seen a list anywhere of which indies are actually a part of it - including which Canadian labels.

Meanwhile, a case study in whither-"indie"-2007, from the Seattle Weekly, on The Shins and Sub Pop.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 24 at 5:59 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)

 

'The end of an empire is messy at best/
And this empire is ending, like all the rest'

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Policy prescription 2007: Send in the (20,000?) clowns.

Randy Newman rebuts the State of the Union address today in the New York Times - with the lyrics to his song, A Few Words in Defence of My Country. In light of Newman's Oscar nomination for yet another cartoon-movie song, it's good to see him showing his other side. (For more about which, see my previous panegyric, not coincidentally titled A few words in defence of Randy Newman.)

And speaking of altered states, I feel that Zoilus readers would want to know that a Pee-Wee's Playhouse reunion movie is in the works.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 24 at 2:12 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

January 23, 2007

Tepid New Streams: RIP Brave New Waves, 1984-2007

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Ex-Brave New Waves hosts Patti Schmidt, Brent Bambury, Augusta LaPaix.

I've put off long enough discussing the upcoming programming shuffle at CBC radio, and specifically the official anti-climax of the long, slow, choking death of Brave New Waves (and the rather sudden demise of the broadcast version of Radio 3). In part, that's just because I've written about it at such length in the past. That last link includes a column I wrote about BNW in 2004, and it sums up most of my feelings; the one before that is my screed about CBC "youth strategies."

It's worth saying that, as CBC revamps go, this round overall is one of the least asinine so far. It doesn't arrest the decay that's been eating away at the network(s) for years, but in the single stroke of removing the horribly misconceived Freestyle show it has at least killed off a national embarrassment. It also wisely defines the people they're trying to attract as between 35 and 50, more than 20 to 35. The kind of 20-somethings CBC can attract will be attracted by the same programming a 40-year-old will; its attempts to aim at people in their 20s have always been condescending and messed-up.

And while I strongly feel that Brave New Waves had the potential to remain vital, and even be a flagship program for a smarter Radio 2, I also see rationales not to carry it. There are very few people who would have been BNW fans in high schools and universities today who really need the show the way we did in the '80s and '90s. The Internet, mainly, makes discovering alternative, experimental and avant-garde music much easier and more probable. Yes, there are going to be kids who lose out, who don't have the internet access or the cultural reference points and might have discovered them through BNW, but it's a small number and I can't strongly argue that the CBC had to keep the show going for their sake. (Contrary to some misreadings, by the way, BNW is not becoming a podcast or a satellite show - that's the Radio 3 fate. All indications are that BNW is just dead.) What's irksome is the abuse and disrespect the show got the past couple of years: It should have ended in a week's or month's grand closing with a media publicity campaign and celebration of the role it played in Canadian cultural life the past 20 years. The network's never understood what it had on that level. Instead, as far as I can see, it dies with a whimper. That's undeserved and insulting.

As for Radio 3, it's harder to say. Certainly they've made a mockery of all the promises and promotion around it by shuffling it over to satellite. Yeah, the podcast is nice, but that's not radio - as far as the mainstream of CBC listeners goes, R3 is apparently over, for now. But ever since the demise of its distinctive web project, R3 has just been a polished version of college radio, and again, while that's enjoyable, I'm not sure how vital a service it is, for all the reasons given above. If anything, the BNW model, as an explicitly intellectual take, makes much more sense, if we consider the CBC's purpose to be to provide what commercial radio cannot.

The cumulative effect, though, is that the CBC is backing off of post-boomer pop-based music, and reinstating a lot of the high-low divisions that always made Radio 2 seem stuffy. Glad that jazz is being given a prominent berth, and to see Matt Galloway's name on the live-music show, but, well. We'll see what the new evening show with Laurie Brown, whom I admire, involves. They haven't defined the term "contemporary" music in this context, so I'm not sure if they just mean contemporary concert music (are they really going to play three hours a night of new composers? That's kind of awesome, but weird) or if it is in some broader sense that would incorporate popular music (which is more Laurie's ballywick, no?).

(Addition: A CBC employee in the comments section to this post clarifies "contemporary" in this context: "While I stress that this is still being worked out, the original idea was to have all sorts of contemporary music--from new composers to modern classical to experimental. Some examples of artists that could fit on the show, and that were tossed around during an earlier development phase, are Final Fantasy, Polmo Polpo, Arvo Part, Gavin Bryars, Hard Rubber Orchestra, Sigur Ros, John Oswald, Omar Sosa..." So that's actually very very good news, and obviates some of my sniping above.)

Meanwhile, aside from the first hour, BNW's old slot is taken over by the ill-defined "Overnights" - why BNW couldn't have filled this position just as ably is an apparent mystery. CBC management has just had it out for the program, no matter what. And Patti Schmidt ends up off the national airwaves (she currently has a regional show in Montreal).

Otherwise the most upsetting move is the elimination of The Arts Tonight, which is probably the most consistently intelligent regular block of arts coverage in any mass medium in Canada. (Including newspapers.) I have no issue with Jian Ghomeshi's afternoon show - he gets more flack than he deserves, and will do fine if the show's well-planned and produced - but shunting his reruns into the Arts Tonight timeslot is a shoddy, cheap decision. Fortunately, we'll still get Eleanor Wachtel, the country's best broadcast interviewer, on Writers & Company - but that's just once a week, and in a very specific format, no substitute for the wide-ranging cultural conversations on The Arts Tonight.

Here's one very cogent response with a long-range view, and if you want to plunge deep into these debates, check out the comments section on the Ceeb's official blog. Personally, I will mourn and move on. I think most of the damage was done to CBC radio before now; it's going to be a long time till it fully recovers, if it ever does. Most of my radio listening in recent years has been to NPR via the Internet, to pop radio of various stripes whenever I'm in a vehicle, and to podcasts. But I'll turn an ear to some of the new programming when it begins. Even a hopeful one.

Meanwhile, speaking of BNW, check out this lovely piece of writing from Helen Spitzer, recent temporary host of the show, describing the Arcade Fire's secret show at one of their old high-school alma maters in Ottawa last week.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 23 at 7:11 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (10)

 

Guest Post: Brook No Argument

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Michael Brook @ Joe's Pub, New York, July 18/06. Photo by Kevin Yatarola from Brook's MySpace.

Erella Ganon (aka "Erella Vent"), a graphic artist, writer and much more, has been a nurturing presence in Toronto music since the Queen Street scene of the '80s, and it's been a pleasure and an education to have her helping me out with the Zoilus gig guide for the past couple of years. She knows Michael Brook, the Toronto-born guitarist probably best known as a Brian Eno collaborator and Real World producer, from those days. When she mentioned that she worried his show here might be at risk of cancellation because of weak ticket sales, I suggested she write a post to fill people in. I'd second the notion that Lisa Germano's presence alone makes this show worth attending - I'm a huge fan of her music. And local hero Mary Margaret O'Hara is on Brook's new album, so the prospect of a cameo appearance should also sweeten the deal. (Though with the mercurial O'Hara, of course, nothing's ever guaranteed.) (Sorry, I was misinformed about that.) In any case, hope to see some of you there. - CW

It is hard not to sound like a namedropper when talking about Michael Brook. As a pretty hands-on-style producer, he's contributed to the musical releases of an enormous collection of musical artists.

Look at the range: He's produced or collaborated with Brian Eno, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Youssou N'Dour, Dan Lanois, Cheb Khaled, The Edge, The Pogues, Djivan Gasparyan, Claude Chalhoub, Jane Siberry and countless others. I was introduced to Chalhoub because of Brook's involvement - a classically trained, Lebanese Stradivarius player who is amazing for his sensitivity and scope. What he adds to Brook's current release, Rock, Paper, Scissors, is another haunting layer among many.

Harnessing his abilities as a rock guitarist in local bands, Brook modified the instrument so much that he invented a new one. The "Infinite Guitar" simulates a kind of feedback loop that replicates sounds similar to ones heard in some Indian music - U2's the Edge used it on The Joshua Tree album's With or Without You.

Of late, Brook has written film soundtracks including the music for Albino Alligator, Mission: Impossible II and the recent eco-documentaries, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth as well as Who Killed the Electric Car? Actually a great soundtrack to a pretty good IMAX film is one he composed for India: Kingdom of the Tiger, which has shown on the big Ontario Place screen for the last few summers and will likely be there again this year.

With a kind of graciousness or an implied elegance, Brook is able to make the artists he produces sound more like themselves than had he not been involved. That's a remarkable feat. Experimenting and really listening to the musicians, he seems to draw a very human sound of what is presented. His third album is a compilation of distinct songs that distill much of what he presumably takes from personal musical musings and travels.

Not really much of a touring artist of late, Brook doesn't offer many opportunities to see him live - even though this is his home town. Joining Brook here at the Revival Jan. 30 is Rich Evans (of Peter Gabriel's band), his collaborator on the new cd. Multi-instrumentalist, Lisa Germano (with releases on 4AD and now on Young God Records) will play a solo set and then join them later on in the show. She's worth the price of admission, if only to see who could possibly work with Simple Minds, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Neil Finn, John Cougar Mellencamp and Smashing Pumpkins and still keep a distinctive solo style together. Tickets are a reasonable $20 at Rotate This, Soundscapes and Ticketmaster.

Brook also appears in Vancouver on the 28th, Montreal on the 31st, and plays Boston, Philly, New York, Baltimore and Chicago in the week following that (tour dates here). Tomorrow morning he's on the radio show Morning Becomes Eclectic at 11:15 am PST (2:15 pm Toronto time) - you can hear it in simulcast from the KCRW website. - Erella Ganon

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 23 at 2:08 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)

 

January 22, 2007

Parkdale Gentrification Confab Update

A reminder that I'm hosting a panel and community discussion on gentrification in Parkdale tonight with panelists Matt Blackett, Misha Glouberman, Craig Peskett, Victor Willis and Margaret Zeidler. Due to anticipated high turnout, the event has been moved: It's no longer at Gallery 1313, but next door at the Parkdale branch of the public library, 1303 Queen W. It starts at 7 pm sharp, and your questions and input will be welcome.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, January 22 at 2:01 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)

 

Rock Plaza International

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Chris Eaton of Rock Plaza Central, photo by Fourth Place.

Pitchfork's already had the news, but for those who don't read it - congratulations to our friends in Toronto band Rock Plaza Central, who've signed a U.S. deal with the fine label Yep Rock. YR seems to have a Canadian happy on these days, since they also released Sloan's last album in the States. RPC is performing live on MTV Canada tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6 pm (you can attend in studio by emailing here) and playing an in-store at Criminal Records (493 Queen W) on Sunday at 4:30 pm and at Lee's the same day opening for Oxford Collapse and Thunderbirds Are Now. They're in Montreal at the Main Hall on Saturday, and playing some NY-area dates in mid-February.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, January 22 at 1:34 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

January 19, 2007

Against the Doctrine of Relatability

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Neko Case topped the albums list in the Eye Weekly critics' poll.

Yesterday brought the annual Eye Weekly national critics' poll, Canada's own Pazz-&-, er, Jackin' Pop. I like Eye's results a bit better, which may be some small testimony to a distinct Canadian society. Hosers remain more rockist, which despite my ideological objections I find kind of sweet in my compatriots. It's clearly waning, although the "most overrated" list and the "best artist" lists could switch completely and I'd be just as (un)happy. But I'm glad to see honourary-Canuck Neko Case atop the heap, astride Ghostface and safely above the overly lauded TVotR, Cat Power and Hot Chip (in the latter horserace, I bet Spank Rock); as well as to share the true patriot love for Junior Boys, Final Fantasy, Malajube and others; and to see Amy Winehouse, whose new music I've been bathing in, sneak into the top 10. Tokyo Police Club (whom I like) outranking Destroyer is not benign for my stomach-acid levels. But, eh, it's a list. (In which spirit, note the advent of the Parsefork review-aggregator. So far, so underwhelming: "MetaCritic with fussier statistics, fewer sources and an ugly-ass layout! Woo!")

I did enjoy the comments: Scott Woods' defence of Paris Hilton, Phil Dellio on the Clipse vs. Michael Richards, and also in the Seinfeldian field, Stuart Berman's The Hold Steady=Newman thesis (with a nice sideline on the Constantines as superior Springsteenians). As for the case of Zoilus vs. Adrien Begrand in the matter of J. Newsom... Well. First, kudos to the editors for making me look like a blowhard with the full-paragraph-vs-one-liner contrast. My bitch is that it's comedy over context, as the bit on Newsom was pulled out of a bigger point about the year in music (I'll print it after the jump, though it'll hardly exempt me from charges of wordiness). Still, strange that a guy who writes a heavy-metal column should get snarky over the idea of an instrumentally dense, verbally obscure, antiquarian suite. How does he handle those Nordic epics?

But Begrand is right: Ys isn't an album many people will throw on as background or workout music day to day. I'd compare it instead to a favourite novel that you re-read on a quiet Sunday every year - it's more in that internal register, an interior-experience-transporter to activate when needed. Dismissing that option hints at a pop-ist cognate to rockist bias, likewise asserting a narrow range of legit functions for music, and that intensities of specialization (whether that's "mainly good for dancing" or "mainly good for serious introspection") are inherently inferior to broader utility. That kind of attitude has sour outcomes in politics and culture alike. It's not the "lowest common denominator" problem - it's more similar to my most despised buzzword of 2006, "relatability."

"Relatability" isn't all bad: On its face it could read as a corrector against the idea of art being either self-expression or stimulus-response, saying art needs to speak from one interiority to another, that the magic happens in the dynamic relationship between maker and audience. That's the "relational aesthetics" I've often written about this year. But in practice, "relatability" nearly always boils down the presumed interests of the audience to the crudest drives, like sex and status. It doesn't say people are dumb, just that they're homogenous and easily summed up. Sentences (like Adrian's comment) that begin, "Come on, admit it," work aggressively along that line: "Look, don't pretend to be complicated, don't pretend to have your own motivations or curiosities or whims or moods - you're just like the next guy, and the next guy is just like you, and this is how we all are, all the time, and it's bullshit to say otherwise."

This perspective is part of the disproportionate bio-determinism that permeates social thinking right now - that we are the sums of our drives, which are in turn direct expressions of genetic destiny. That's not a crazy position: It stems from recent discoveries that indicate we probably are more biologically programmed than we thought when, for instance, psychoanalysis was the dominant paradigm for the human operating system. But it's an over-extreme pendulum swing, which I optimistically assume will eventually swing back into better balance. And it's a view that, as "relatability" indicates, synchs up conveniently with the current dilemmas of dispersed market capitalism: For instance, when you're trying to market to and extract labour from a mindbogglingly diverse range of people and places who don't share social references and norms, it's reassuring to fall back on universal drives as a hu-manual for how to work their buttons and levers.

This approach has ugly consequences in many fields. But in culture it removes most everything of interest from the dance - except, I guess, the funk, the pheromone trace, or rather the signals that stand in for it. Funkiness is all that counts. I once speculated that there's a corollary to rockism one could call "funkism," and maybe this is what I meant. The positive thing about funkiness in this sense is that it can be found everywhere - you sure can like metal for its funk; that's the "heavy" part. But - and this is a reason not to adopt the term "funkism" - generalizing funk as a "universal" entails forgetting what funk meant to James Brown. For a start, see the last three 'grafs of this definition, for a cursory look at how "funk" fits into the history of oppositional script-flipping in African-American culture. When such inversions get assimilated and incorporated into the outlaw romances of mainstream global culture, into the "rebel sell," the flip gets flipped - and literalized, so that, for instance, the millionaire is now the outlaw and the guy with the hundred-buck-an-ounce cologne is now the funkiest. And the most "relatable." (The meaning of gettin' paid is a lot more complex and contradictory, of course, but that's the part the music business likes best, because, to use another gross 2006ism, it can be "monetized.")

Part of what I like about Newsom, and Matmos, as I say in my Eye comments, is that their music is so physical, so bodily, while not remotely "funky." Then there's Ghostface, who's less funky in the 2K usage than in the older sense, stinking of eccentric individuality that doesn't reduce down to any pusher/pimp/tycoon blaxploitation figure.

And Neko's funky in that way, too - her voice is big-bottomed and sensual, but her persona and concerns don't track to anybody else's outlines. One of the most irritating comments in the Eye poll praises her singing but backhands her as "having her way with a thesaurus" with the title and lyrics of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. In fact, her title character is drawn from the Russian folklore she got from her grandmother - exactly the kind of funk (old picture books in indecipherable script; the must of grandma's sweater when she pulls you in to tell a story; her weakening voice, ghost of an accent) that marketers don't know how to fake, that doesn't relate to get-it-and-spend-it imperatives but asks for the listener to enter into a more thickly woven narrative of where people (and their music) come from and what they might become.

Whew. I was going to try and tackle the CBC radio realignment in this post too - especially the demise of Brave New Waves - but that'll have to wait for later. Now I'm rushing off to satisfy some drives, namely by grabbing some dinner. Just like the next guy.

My comments for the 2006 Eye Weekly Poll:

"It's too bad that the Destroyer and Ghostface records came out so early in the year, or their ranking in the Eye poll probably would be closer to what they deserve. Instead they're probably eclipsed (pun intended) by fresher novelties to our jaded ears, including mine. And despite the many many reasons these days to celebrate Canadian music - which the Polaris prize did a terrific job of marking and making memorable - I actually think that Destroyer and Final Fantasy aside, 2006 was a weaker calendar year than the previous couple of years. But that's mostly just the accidents of release dates. I'm betting the average goes up in '07.

"Otherwise, the digitization of musical experience, between YouTube and listening to music on computer speakers, reached unprecedented lengths in my life in the past year. Perhaps in reaction, I appreciated that the Californian dyad of Joanna Newsom and Matmos struck blows for the re-embodiment of music in 2006, from entirely different angles.

"Newsom is the organicist, consciously deploying her anachronistic arsenal, her fingers blistering on the harp, her folkloric vocal tones, her natural and mythological allusions, and even her intricate metrics and internal rhyme schemes, to knock out the cobwebs of media illusion and open space for the sort of unforgiving introspective examination that is distinctly out of fashion. Ys demands a ridiculous amount from its listeners, but far less than the artist does of herself, and it confirms - if her debut left any doubt - that she's an artist we're going to be contending with for decades.

"Matmos, by contrast, applies the most sophisticated, synesthetic technological tools to combine found physical objects with a whole pantheon of cultural heroes, making a witty but also deeply touching argument for the continued vitality and importance of the bohemian tradition (from modernist literary and philosophical icons to queer sex radicals) to our lives as we live and experience them in real time today.

"In a year when the broader social picture was so very often so very bleak, it was sustaining to hear Newsom and Matmos (among other artists) locate the reasons for hope and faith in each small human body, carrying its unique memory, its shared history and its essential fragility."

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 19 at 5:50 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)

 

Knitting Factory: Quit Bitchin', Start Fixin'

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Now that all the indie ladies and gentlemen have sharpened up their mad knitting skills, time to put 'em to socially productive use. There are many options, but here's an immediate and local one, from Streetknit.ca, courtesy of their media czar Ryan Kamstra, whom you ought to know as the man behind - or, actually, in front of - Tomboyfriend.

With the first fallen snow officially powdering u(T.O.)pia, we should be doubly reminded of the state of homelessness in our communities.

Every year people in Toronto freeze to death because they have nowhere to come in from
the cold. In winter 2004-2005 there were 15 extreme-cold-weather warnings in Toronto. While we at streetknit cannot knit shelter for people (yet - we're working on it), we are rousing the knitting communities of Toronto, hobbyists, s'n'b'ers, society yarn-darlings, needle-clackers of all ages and walks of life to provide the next best thing.

We're asking knitters to put needles together and spend some time knitting some warmth into an extra scarf, maybe some toques with affectionate or somber colours, mitts, blankets, socks, even a sweater and see it reach those without home. These can be dropped off at local yarn-knit shops Knit-O-Matic (1378 Bathurst St.), The Naked Sheep (2144 A Queen St. E.) and The Knit Cafe (1050 Queen W.).

Let this year be the year Toronto started knitting herself up a terrible storm, wrapping up our communities fair and beleaguered in one big loving scarf with matching mitt-lets and a toque.

Depending on how many fresh woolly goods this winter drives see, streetknit will be distributing to homeless outreach programs all over the city including Windfall Clothing and Ve'ahavta so far. Need has also been expressed by future friends Scott Mission,St. Francis Table and Out of the Cold. If you are a homelessness service-provider interested in this project, please contact streetknit@gmail.com.

In the knitting community and want to help? Please post this request to your own blog, list-serve, events group, and forward this request to all your woolly-minded friends. How about organizing your own knitting party for streetknit's winter drive? Need help publicising it or representation on our site? Any Questions? Don't hesitate to contact us at streetknit@gmail.com.

Thank you in advance for your kind wooliness and effort.

Yours,
Ryan Kamstra (Media/Outreach)
Sadie Lewis (Founder/Director)
Streetknit.ca

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 19 at 3:45 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

January 18, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

"...with the skill of a rapper" is our generations "like x on acid".
- Peli

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 18 at 8:36 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

Let Them Eat Jazz!

Ugh, with one thing & another this week I forgot to put together my planned post about tonight's concert, We Are One: Art of Jazz Community Voices, a project in which jazz musicians come together with kids 8 to 18 from the Jane-Finch corridor. Their show tonight at the Danforth Music Hall is their debut, featuring 240 young singers in a jazz choir as well as veteran musicians Barry Harris and Don Thompson. It's at 7 pm, and it deserves support. I hope to follow up with more on the program at some point. Meanwhile, here is some coverage from my colleague JD Considine today in The Globe and a piece from the Toronto Star.

Other shows worth catching tonight, while I'm stuck at work: New York rockers Earl Greyhound at the Silver Dollar, whom I just-missed at Pop Montreal but immediately heard was one of the best sets in the festival, an endorsement backed by The New Yorker's Sasha Frere Jones and other critics since then. Also the first of two "evenings of Jewish music" at Harbourfront with the Art of Time Ensemble, playing music by John Zorn, Osvaldo Golijov, Sergei Prokofiev, Jeff Wall, Marilyn Lerner, David Buchbinder and trad. Yiddish songs & klezmer. More details in the gig guide.

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 18 at 5:11 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

"The L Word" That Keeps On Giving:
Hideous Band Name Alert

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More substantial posts to come later today, including one on the changes at CBC radio. But I couldn't pass this up. The name is moronic enough. But the spin, from NY's Fanatic PR, is so much more retarded that I think it vaults them up and over all the other worthy contenders.

Lesbian Comes Out This Spring... Er, That is, Lesbian the Band
Releases Debut Album, Tours the U.S.
Fans of Boris, Pelican, Neurosis and Mogwai rejoice.

Yep, the band's name is Lesbian.

Why would an all-male heavy-rock quartet from Seattle call itself Lesbian? Well, equally-cool names like Black Sabbath, Venom and Pentagram were already taken. But also, the name Lesbian evokes pure, sexually-charged freedom - and, that's what rock music is all about.

[...]

Ahem.

The band itself doesn't sound that awful, actually, though it's not about to have you trashing your Mastodon albums.

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 18 at 4:06 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)

 

Guest Post: SOBs at the OMB

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At left, the currently permitted heights for buildings in the Queen/Gladstone area, looking west along Queen. At right, the heights of buildings that were approved by the OMB this week for development. From the Active 18 website.

Last night I got a note from visual artist Carolyn Tripp, of the Mercer Union artists' centre, asking if I would post her notes from the Active 18 press conference on Tuesday, which I mentioned here but wasn't able to attend. For much more discussion, let me remind Toronto-(dys)topians of next week's panel discussion on Parkdale-area gentrification, organized by the Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation and moderated by yerz truly at Gallery 1313 (1313 Queen W), at 7 pm on Monday.

Active 18 held a press conference on Tuesday January 16th in response to decisions recently made concerning the development of the Queen West "triangle" by the Ontario Municipal Board (affectionately, the OMB). These decisions are largely in favour of the developers wishing to build four high-rise towers and four eight-storey buildings in a three-block area (largely falling in between Dovercourt and Dufferin Streets). These are also entirely residential, leaving no space for business or the light-industrial needs of art practioners.

Jessica Wyman and Charles Campbell were on hand from the community's activist group, Active 18, along with City Councillor Adam Giambrone and Urban Planner Ken Greenberg. The event shed light on several issues and examples of poor planning in Toronto, but largely maintained its focus on the current Queen situation, which includes the now marked 48 Abell Street complex.

In his statements, Councillor Giambrone tried to highlight some of the progress that has been made in terms of proposed park space and road extensions. To my artist and culture worker ears, that was no music, and at best feeble optimism. Gaining a small park and not much else seems a poor trade-off. There are very few development guidelines in the OMB ruling that would be beneficial or accessible to the surrounding community.

While nobody would deny that the 18th Ward has the support and efforts of its councillor, there is only so much that can be done to pressure the OMB. It is an unelected, independent body that, in light of recent events, certainly has no mandate to rule in favour of Toronto communities.

Finally, Mr. Greenberg took the microphone, and took time to respond to the aforementioned "progression" putting it in a sharper perspective: "With all due respect to Councillor Giambrone... how low do our expectations have to be?"

The OMB's role in Toronto urban development apparently is not typical of provincial involvement in the rest of the country. At the conference, Mr. Greenberg described its process as a "fruitless gladitorial contest" as opposed to providing solutions for Torontonian communities that are conscious of their specific needs.

One might ask what comes next for everyone involved, and especially for those who live and work in that area. Answering that, Active 18's website has a section that simply says, "Get informed." As Ms. Wyman pointed out, we would hate to see what would happen to development in Toronto if there was no opposition whatsoever. Get involved. - Carolyn Tripp

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 18 at 2:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)

 

January 17, 2007

Orders in the Court

I'm generally averse to reprinting press releases but this is of note and perhaps some of you will want to analyze in detail. There have been other contenders since the closing of two of the city's three main jazz clubs (which had their own problems, mainly fuddyduddyness, but at least kept the city on the touring map) - and I'd be happy to hear which ones people feel are working best - but this is the first one that smacks of, well, real money.

I pause only to register my cringe at the word "sophisticates." And squirming-in-my-seat discomfort at the gratuitous mention of the Rolling Stones. Other reactions? Music world, how's it shaping up on that "radar screen" you got for Christmas?

Introducing Toronto's Newest Jazz Club
LIVE AT THE COURTHOUSE

Patrick Taylor, jazz impresario and Executive Producer of the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival, and Nick DiDonato, Founder and President of Liberty Entertainment Group, are pleased to announce the opening of Toronto's newest jazz club, Live At The Courthouse.

Located at 57 Adelaide Street East, The Courthouse will host live music six nights a week beginning Tuesday, March 20, 2007. The Courthouse will be transformed into an intimate venue designed for jazz sophisticates and music lovers. "The opening week of The Courthouse is a tribute to the Montreal Bistro and Top O' The Senator," states Taylor. "Following in their footsteps, we hope this will become another great home for local and touring artists alike."

For DiDonato, this represents an opportunity to present more live music acts to the City of Toronto and obtain some much needed international exposure. "We witnessed the buzz created by acts such as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Tragically Hip when they performed at the Phoenix Concert Theatre and believe these concerts showcased the City of Toronto's concert and entertainment scene to the world.

"We hope to receive the same international attention when we create a 'world class' jazz club at The Courthouse, an historic Toronto landmark and an ideal venue to present live concerts. By combining a great venue and state-of-the-art sound with one of the greatest jazz promoters, this venue is definitely going to be on the music world's radar screen."

To help kick off the opening of The Courthouse, from Tuesday, March 20 to Saturday, March 24, musicians will present a different style of jazz every night to celebrate the rich and diverse talent the city has to offer. A grand opening gala will take place the following week on Thursday, March 29 with special guest performers.

Designed to comfortably seat 150 guests, with a capacity to hold over 400, the historic Courthouse features 25' high ceilings, original hardwood floors, four authentic fireplaces and a mezzanine furnished with three iron-laced balconies. In addition, a custom built acoustic stage will be enhanced with a state-of-the-art sound system and a 7' Grand piano.

Live At The Courthouse is Toronto's newest home for live music. Continuing in the tradition of the city's great clubs, Live at The Courthouse will present the best in local and international entertainment.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 17 at 4:11 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (14)

 

January 15, 2007

Surf City: Monday Notes of Note Omnibus Post

An urgent local note from the counter-gentrification West Queen West troops, who are holding a press conference at City Hall tomorrow (Tues) morning at 11:45: In response to the shocking news that the Queen West "Triangle" (on Queen between Lisgar and Northcote) developers got approval (and everything they asked for) from the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) for 4 condo towers on the south side of Queen, despite active opposition from the City of Toronto and many neighbourhood associations, Active 18 is arranging a meeting to appeal this awful decision. Please attend if you can. Visit their website to learn more about the flouting of city-planning guidelines and the probable effects on artists and other lower-income people in the area.

Also on the urban-culture front, Timothy Comeau's marvellous magpie project GoodReads links in its latest edition to an Los Angeles Times piece about the "art party" issue in the L.A. scene. Timothy snappily connects it with the conversations about the nightclubbing-meets-participatory-aesthetics conundrum that have been going on in Toronto for several years, including my essay in the Coach House uTOpia 2 book.

In a similar spirit, I recommend to you the arts-talk-show series Pick 7, which continues tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7 pm with a dialogue between theatre maker Erika Hennebury, interdisciplinary artist Laura Nanni and the audience. I haven't been able to get to any of these sessions before now but am going to try to make this one.

Throughout February, dancer Aimeé Dawn Robinson is curating A Month of Sundays, a series of dance and improvised music performances by Zoilus guitar hero Eric Chenaux, the charming creator-choreographer Ame Henderson, dancer Claudia Wittmann, composer Colin Clark, troubadoric duo Moth Ring (Janet Macpherson and Jason Benoit), dancer Barbara Lindenberg and composer Stephen Parkinson. Each show takes place consecutive Sundays in February at 1:30 pm at 96 Spadina (at Adelaide), Suite 802, Toronto. Find out more at the aforelinked series blog and, as Zoilus always says, keep holey the Sabbath Day.

The newish Canadian Association for Sound Ecology presents a scrumptious seeming early-spring wilderness-retreat opportunity under the title "The Soundscape in Our Landscape: "Sleep in a log cabin, enjoy the wilderness, participate in workshops/talks by R. Murray Schafer, Bernie Krause, Andrea Dancer, Kristi Allik & Robert Mulder and share your experiences with others about your own artist works and/or research/interest in the area of acoustic ecology." If it weren't right around book-deadline time I would certainly think of going. You have to register by Feb. 23.

New songs by Franklin Bruno's new band The Human Hearts (which is such a perfectly Brunoesque bandonym) at his new label Tight Ship Records. If you don't know Franklin Bruno's work, well, my dears...

Think good thoughts for Peli, whose father is unwell.

One of my favourite contemporary composers, Robert Ashley, has a new opera, as covered by Alex Ross (who delightfully calls Ashley "the world's mellowest rapper," which is kinda true the way Scott Walker plays the world's mellowest grindcore; but I'd compare him to David Byrne before I compared him to David Lynch) and the NY Times. I've been out of touch with Ashley's output for a brace of years and look forward to hearing the new work.

I dimly suspected someone would, but did not till now know that someone had, built a Blogville Best-Of List Aggregate Database. I cannot bring myself to analyze it, though - partly because it reinforces the exhaustion of the year-end hokeypokey, but also because whatever meaning is embedded in it is probably depressing.

On which note, Jason Gross groans at MTV's Rolling Stone magazine "reality" show. Can't disagree with Jason's take, but would it be impossibly pollyannaish of me to say that I have a creeping affection for even a flimsy phony show about a dead husk of a magazine that still celebrates the goal of becoming a good writer? Check out the website, where viewers/websurfers are actually doing the writing assignments along with the characters. I can't hate that. And even though the characters are going to become annoying, look, one of them is a Bay Area Filipina who publishes her own hip-hop zine (although she's muy obnoxious), another is a black lesbian shaved-headed New Yorker, and another, whom I just like ridiculously well so far, is Russell Mores, a sarcastic but sweet-dispositioned, ex-juvenile-delinquent who got his life together through a juvie-hall writing program. Again, can't hate on that, at least on the prison-reform tip. Though the Times' Virginia Heffernan is probably right that as the early favourite, he is set up for a fall. I'm peeved that the show omits to mention all their last names, which is reality-show convention but ridiculous when these are people who are going to live by their bylines. Which includes last names. And no doubt by the next episode they'll all be doing things that deflate my optimism entirely. (There's a moment in the first episode where Russell refers to his tendency to "self-sabotage" which is no doubt prophetic, though it was kind of endearing to hear the little echo of in-the-system-counselling-session language coming out of this otherwise well-guarded guy.) But just to watch Joe Levy say (and not even explain!) "you buried your lede" in little editorial confabs, I'll watch it as long as I can still stand it.

Or until it's pre-emptively cancelled. Because I might be the only one. PS: Jim Derogatis's inside-Jann-Wenner's-beltway commentary is amusing.

Of much more substance on the criticism-business front is this cogent post from former Dallas Morning News books editor Jerome Weeks on the plight of arts coverage in the modern daily newspaper. I've had conversations recently with, in particular, jazz musicians and listeners about what is happening to coverage of their field in Toronto newspapers, and Weeks captures some of the structural issues involved. His comments on the DMN's short-lived "GuideLive" section, especially, remind me about my own sadness over the removal of performing and visual arts coverage from The Globe and Mail's own Friday "7" tabloid, which now focuses just on film and video. I'm not blaming anyone in particular, certainly not the Globe: Newspaper editors do what they have to do, at a point where the whole business model is shaky, but it's difficult to imagine the future of professional criticism of non-pop forms in this climate.

But enough gloom: Wednesday is Art's Birthday!

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, January 15 at 6:06 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)

 

Alice Doesn't Live Here, On This Plane, Anymore

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I've just found out about the death on Friday of Alice Coltrane, the remarkable composer and multi-instrumentalist (and widow of John Coltrane) at the age of 69. Her passing was overshadowed a bit in the jazz world by the passing of Michael Brecker, the popular saxophonist who was an acolyte of John Coltrane's more mainstream side. While Brecker deserves his due - he wasn't just a dull neo-traditionalist, the way some on the leftish side of the jazz spectrum would dismiss him - I'd bet Alice will be better remembered years from now, and it's nice to think that, though 69 is still too young, she lived long enough to see that for herself.

She was for decades treated with some intolerance by the macho jazz world, as kind of the Yoko Ono of bebop - partly because of her spiritual preoccupations, which she and her husband shared in his later years, partly due to her flamboyant personal style, and partly because of the claim she "broke up" 'Trane's classic quartet with McCoy Tyner, which wasn't true. But my sense is that, like Ono in fact, in the past decade she's been rediscovered and lionized in her own right as a distinctive talent.

Tributes and remembrances and some music samples of Alice Coltrane (and sometimes Brecker, too) can be found at the LA Times, Boing Boing, Do the Math, The Left End of the Dial, Bagatellen, Los Amigos de Durutti, ILM, 33/45, BlogCritics, Church Number 9, Destination Out, the Huffington Post, Every Word Means, 22 Over 7, Deeplinking, To Live & Shave in LA, Earfuzz, Hardly Art and Pharoah's Dance.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, January 15 at 2:08 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

January 12, 2007

T-Dot Thrillz: Much Ado About the Weekend

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Montreal's The Nymphets.

Besides the can't-miss William Parker Interface concerts this weekend (discussed at length the other day), there's a lot more music'n'kulcha in Toronto the next couple of days - I know I'm going to have to make some tough choices.

Tonight, there is of course the Friends in Bellwoods CD release party at the Tranzac, which has been covered by everybody this week (see the roster in the "top shows" sidebar to your left) and rightly so - a lovely celebration of community with a terrific roster of bands.

But not to be neglected is Dan Burke's "Class of '07" show at the Silver Dollar, with the city's most passionate promoter's picks for ones to watch, including Montreal's Nymphets, who were one of my happiest discoveries this year at Pop Montreal. Zoilussistant Chris Randle's review this week in Eye sums it up well, but I'd add that their recorded charms are easily outstripped by their skinny, twitchy foul-mouthed live show, with charismatic drummer/vocalist Johanna in particular feeling like the kind of grrrl-idol whose face kids are going to want to sketch on their scribblers in future years, a la Kim Gordon. (I'm a bit more dubious about the bass work, but it's a small complaint.) The rest of the bill ain't slouchy either - again, look to your left.

If you crave a non-musical option, I have high hopes for Small Wooden Shoe theatre's Connect the Dots or Dedicated to the Revolutions, Part 2: The Information Revolution, tonight and tomorrow at Buddies in Bad Times. The show's created by many of the ensemble members from Public Recordings' /Dance/Songs/, a performance I spent a lot of breath praising in November. Expect a relaxed and intelligent interaction that discards a lot of the assumptions and obstructions of conventional theatre for a more convivial night out. And it probably won't be entirely without music, either: Check out this very enjoyable ditty about horses and Montreal (mp3) from one of their earlier productions - their site suggests there may be an EP of tunes from SWS shows in the works, a move I always applaud. (I'd certainly like a cd of Eric Craven's pieces from Dance/Songs.) If you can't make it, look forward to the "Gutenberg" chapter of the company's "Revolutions" series at Harbourfront in December March, Reasonable People, Reasonably Disagreeing.

And finally, I'd mention that Brooklyn band The Cause Co-Motion is in Toronto this weekend for two shows, one Saturday night at the Press Club with Montreal's Think About Life and our own beloved Blankket (see yesterday's post) and then again at Wavelength on Sunday at Sneaky Dee's with Think About Life offshoots Dishwasher and Miracle Fortress as well as Michigan's Tyvek. I'm intrigued by the latter's self-description: "The tunes and lyrics are straight outta overgrown abandoned lots and decreipt playgrounds, and there are plenty of strange little bones on the cracked sidewalks to puncture your bike's kevlar tires and brand new tubes. Sonically, Tyvek is inclined to agree with the rough simplicity of groups like Crass and the minimal bashing of early Kleenex or Slits. That's all well and good, but, straight up: it's midwestern blood that flows through these grooves and Tyvek owes a lot to their retarded regional ancestors: the Pagans, Electric Eels, and Rocket from the Tombs, etc."

Those last couple of Cleveland '70s references go straight to my heart, of course, but they're high bars to vault. We'll see! (Speaking of which, word arrived today of a March '07 release for the Unknown Instructors' second album - a band featuring Mike Watt and George Hurley from the Minutemen/fIREHOSE, as well as members of Saccharine Trust, and on this new album, vocals and lyrics by Pere Ubu/Rockets' David Thomas and artist Raymond Pettibon. Now that'd be a tour.)

And that's not everything. For complete listings see the gig guide.

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 12 at 5:34 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

Bookmark Over Troubled Waters

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Depressing fact of the day: Art Garfunkel is better-read than you are. According to this log of his reading from June of 1968 to last January, rhymin' Simon's shadow has been holding up his bookend very diligently. His pace isn't unrealistic - three or four books a month - but he heavily favours the classics, steering wide of the bestsellers and trends, adding up to a formidable grounding. His list of 135 favourites is topped by Rousseau's Confessions and finishes with Bukowski's Post Office, and is lighter in-between on fuzzy-headed (sorry) post-sixties philosophy than you might expect, though it does include Madame Ouspensky and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Strangest top-10 finisher: Bill Moyers' Listening to America (better than Proust and Jung, really, Art?); top (well, only) CanLit: Robertson Davies, Fifth Business (no. 29). We'll excuse the presence of Carrie Fisher's Postcards from the Edge at no. 83, since she's another ex of Paul Simon, so they have a lot in common. But generally, you could do worse than to follow the Art Garfunkel Course in Great Books.

For all that learnedness, Art doesn't seem to know better than to jump on the so-and-so-sings-the-standards bandwagon. His new album Some Enchanted Evening comes out this month.

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 12 at 4:10 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

January 11, 2007

See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me: Events 2 Come

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Since Torontoist has brought it up, I might as well too: On Thursday, February 1, I'm hosting the first in Harbourfront's "Inside the Musician's Studio" series, an on-stage conversation with Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) and Steve Kado (Blocks Recording Club as well as The Blankket and The Barcelona Pavilion). All ages, 7 pm, $5. As To'ist said, I'll be James Liptonning it up, and I think the artists will play a tune or two as well. (Is this a good time to tell you that The Blankket's upcoming EP of Springsteen covers, brilliantly titled Be Your Own Boss, is a dream, a rapture, the most fun you can have with a 396, Fuellie heads and a Hurst on the floor? Cuz it is.) If you've got subjects on which you'd like to hear Owen or Steve wax eloquent, send 'em along.

My other public appearance in the near future will be at PLEDC's Where Goes the Neighbourhood? Managing Gentrification in Parkdale, "to discuss, debate and brainstorm how to achieve a socially sustainable neighbourhood." I'll animate a panel with Matthew Blackett (Spacing), Misha Glouberman (Trampoline Hall), Craig Peskett (Parkdale Residents' Association), Victor Willis (Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre) and Margaret Zeidler (Urbanspace Property Group (The Gladstone, 401 Richmond)). That's followed by a Q&A; and some informal discussion groups to talk about the hothouse growth of fancy-dancy shite in the Pee-dale and whether we ought to toss incendiary bombs at it - or if, as Monkey Warfare would suggest, not, then what? It happens the 22nd of January (a week from Monday), 7-9pm at Gallery 1313 (1313 Queen W), and c'est gratuit, with free child care on site.

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 11 at 3:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

January 10, 2007

William Parker: The Mayor Comes to Town

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William Parker. Photo by Francesca Pfeffer.

Any genre where reissues get attention ahead of new work and there are more students of the form than listeners has to provoke worries over its continued health, and for the first time in my life, in the mid-2Ks, I'm starting to feel more sympathy with the "jazz is dead" crowd when it comes to instrumental, improvisation-based jazz. Not that there's not great work in the field, and "dead" is always a ridiculous formulation - music mutates, branches, burrows, migrates, but forms almost never really terminate. But it's hard not to feel that jazz as a popular form, as a non-academic music, is in a pickle; its feeding currents (whether in dance, song interpretation or identity-remolding experimentation) are mostly turning other wheels, in electronic music (including hip-hop and remixing), non-jazz-based-improv, noise and other hybrid forms. Which would be fine except that it's happened less consciously than it might, so some of the electricity of jazz's legacy and knowledge is leaking out of the code along the way. (One of the reasons I was such a partisan of the Anthony Braxton-Wolf Eyes live CD was that it seemed to resist that dispersion.) The upheavals in the Toronto jazz scene - venerable clubs collapsing, new ones seeming uncertain in their identities - haven't helped my mood on the subject - which is probably a temporary one, but it's a question that's on my mind.

One of the few developments in the past couple of years that's helped to stave off such pessimism has been the Interface series staged by improv-community group AIM Toronto (whose founding has also been very encouraging). Interface has brought guests such as Lori Freedman from Montreal, Wilbert Dejoode from the Netherlands, Stephen Grew from the UK, Joe McPhee from the U.S. and many others to collaborate with members of the Toronto improvising scene. It's inspiring to see the effect of these more experienced players on the local ones, to see people learning and stretching and reconnecting with a global tradition in real time, undoing the isolation that it sometimes feels afflicts the scope and ambition of the music here. It's a reminder of the potent informal processes that helped jazz's place in the previous century remain so compelling for so long, that helped it spread and change as a vernacular music, an oral culture.

The incarnation of Interface taking place this week is likely to be a pinnacle in that process. The guest is New York's William Parker, a figure whose ubiquity, artistry and immensity of spirit has been a binding agent, an essential ingredient in the glue that's held the jazz-improv tradition together in the past few decades. For those who don't know Parker's work, a quick survey: He was best-known from the early 1970s through the 1980s as a sideman with Cecil Taylor (though he also played with artists such as Frank Lowe, Don Cherry, Billy Bang, Jemeel Moondoc, Charles Gayle and Peter Brotzmann) but in the later part of that period he started playing with the likes of David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp, who helped drive the 1990s renaissance in free jazz that took over from the John Zorn/Knitting Factory "downtown" scene (which I'd argue ran into certain dead ends around the same time). In the early 1990s, he began playing and recording solo, participated in the Brotzmann-Vandermark axis that connected Berlin to Chicago, and founded his groups the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra and the In Order to Survive ensemble, among others. (If I had to recommend one Parker disc as a place to start, it'd be 2000's amazing Little Huey double-album Mayor of Punkville.)

Since then, it'd be little exaggeration to say that Parker's been everywhere and played with everyone in east-coast U.S. and northern-European jazz improvisation, including the electronic and hip-hop crossover projects curated by Shipp for Thirsty Ear's Blue Series. His alliance with percussionist Hamid Drake has to be noted as one of the most formidable rhythm sections in any genre in the past decade, probably the equal of any drum-bass pairing in jazz ever; he's also been the force behind the vital Vision Festival of music, art, dance and activism in New York.

What stands out for me with Parker, more than any specific detail of his rapid, rumbling walking bass lines, or his ultraviolet-spectrum bowed atmospherics, is the stunning empathy that he brings to every session. To intuit, underline, echo, counter and reply to the underlying thoughts of your fellow players is arguably the essential skill of improvisation, but Parker seems to raise it beyond a musical form to a humanitarian one - he has an uncanny ability to make his fellow players seem more themselves, to pinpoint their emotional and expressive potential and subtly guide a piece towards that territory, while balancing out their weaknesses. I'm not sure that he's technically superior to any of a hundred other bassists, and he's certainly not the most bravura or innovative of soloists, but in his performances he seems to put fewer barriers between himself and others than most people can manage - not only to follow the music where it wants to go without imposing his ego or will on it, but really to create an environment in which the audience, too, feels embraced, and in that security, can let its own imagination (collective and individual) range freely as well.

All of which makes Parker the ideal Interface guest, and I'm thrilled for the Toronto musicians that will have a chance to meet, play and learn from him. The series begins tomorrow (Thursday) night and runs to Saturday night at the Arraymusic space in Liberty Village, at 9 pm each night, $15 a show. (Parker's also holding a free participatory workshop on Friday from 3 to 5 pm at U of T - the Boyd Neal Room, Edward Johnson Building - that musicians ought not to miss.)

If you're the sort who always intends to catch improv shows but never quite gets there, make a point of coming to one of these performances, and see jazz the way it's meant to be, not reissued but issued into the world as if for the first time, a newborn answering the cry of the moment-to-moment, and very far from dead.

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 10 at 6:56 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (8)

 

January 9, 2007

Border A-peel: Invasion of the Illegal Warhol Bananas

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First the acetate, now the airship: Montreal artist Cesar Saez acknowledges the Velvet Underground influence on his new project, in which a giant flying banana will slip (ouch) inobtrusively across the Mexico-U.S. border to hover over Texas. This story's been Boing-Boing'd etc. already, of course, but I'm pleased with the Globe's investigative acumen in digging up the V.U. angle. Beginning to see the light...

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 09 at 2:56 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

January 8, 2007

Jack the Tabulation

I belatedly direct you to the results of the Jackin' Pop poll - predictably taken by TV on the Radio for an album my mind likes better than my ears do, and Gnarls Barkley for a single that's all vocal, no saddle. But there's much more to explore in the poll than the basic numbers - go into the "demographics" menu to find out which albums polled best among Canadian voters, check out particular critics' ballots (mine included), or dig deep into the bowels of the lists to find out the several dozen albums that tied for 190th best reissue (from China Shop's 21 Puffs on the Cigarette to Queer Noises: From the Closets to the Charts 1961-1970 and beyond). And, of course, read the essays, from convenor Michaelangelo Matos' poll analysis to Rod Smith's take on the metal surge.

Immense thanks to Idolator and Matos for putting this 'un together, as burnt-out on year-end lists as we all are. If I could make one tiny criticism: Could it be enforced that critics vote under their own names or actually in-use pen names, and not random 'net handles? I can't quite bring myself to care who "wrong_wrong_bingo" or "rubinbooty" voted for, for some odd reason. And maybe also tell us who they work for.

Of my Top 3 picks, Newsom did predictably well (No. 5), Matmos predictably not-so-well (no. 60) and Destroyer predictably (due to early '06 release) middlingly (at no. 18).

The real interest, of course, will come in comparing this to the Voice's official Zombie Pazz'n'Jop, as we'll call it, when it comes out - likely to be most revealing in terms of demographic shift involved, although the hamstrung New Times alt-weekly chain employees will keep the P&J; voting roster younger than it otherwise would've been, I imagine. I'd expect to see Dylan ratchet up to the top and the Clipse, Ghostface and the Knife to drop precipitously out of the top 10...

For those who, like me, have mainly been looking forward to getting jazz lists, to catch up on everything we may have missed last year - the jazz folk tend to be a bit more leisurely and laid-back in their year-end ablutions, not being in the same hype dome that the rock-and-rap crowd is, but a good source to check out is Bagatellen contributors' mounting set of 2006 top 10s. Also of recent note on that site, an argument that France is taking over from Scandinavia as the new black-metal capital of the wrold.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, January 08 at 7:00 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)

 

January 5, 2007

Help Wanted Ad from Rhys Chatham
& Heavy Thinking in Improv

A postscript to my earlier Chatham entry: Ron Gaskin seeks additional guitarist(s) for this gig: "The base touring group will be Rhys on guitar and conducting with David Daniell (San Augustin, Rhys Chatham, Jonathan Kane, etc.) also on guitar. Indigenous players will be a part of this performance, so each city will have 4 different guitarists, a bassist and a drummer, with the possibility of other instrumental additions. An intro/instructional form from Rhys will prepare players. The composition is 40-45 minutes long and not overly complicated. The composer requests approx two hours committment before doors for rehearsal/sound check/set up.Robert Longo slide projections will be shown during the concert. Every show will be recorded for a live album on Table of the Elements."

Contact Ron via roughidea AT rogers DOT com.

Also: The improvimentalist contingent of Zoilusians might be interested in some of the material in the new issue of Critical Studies in Improvisation, notably a roundtable discussion among the directors of the Association of Improvising Musicians, Toronto. There's also an interview with Steve Coleman, and a piece based on a too-weird-not-to-be-true anecdote about a failed 1997 collaboration between Ornette Coleman and Jacques Derrida. Plus some truly unreadable academic writing.

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 05 at 5:01 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

Here Come (Back) the Cyborgs

YouTube provides a window on the first Simply Saucer reunion show for those of us who missed it. Feels a bit bar-band for the first half (Breau's vocals much less demented than in his yout') but then it takes off:

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 05 at 3:58 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

Green-Eyed ...

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Joanna Newsom, photo by Paul Jones via Milkymoon.

Not, as sniggering detractors might claim, over the sit-down (though I'd have enjoyed that, too), but due to the space, depth and accomplishment: Erik Davis writes the only article about Joanna Newsom's Ys you ever need to read, in the new issue of Arthur. It's lengthy (12,000 words) but justifies it with thoroughness and helpful demystification for those out there who still find the album difficult to get into. One for the next Da Capo anthology, even if I differ with him on some of the record's strengths (my favourite song, Only Skin, is his least-preferred), and wish Davis offered a bit more contrast to some of Newsom's northern-California-hippy-kid locutions, rather than reinforcing them. Not that she's so bad on that score (she's madly articulate at the same time), and as writers leaning to organics, psychedelics and paganism go, Davis has always been among the sharpest.

(Thanks to Sara at Fig Records for pointing it out.)

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 05 at 12:51 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

January 4, 2007

An Angel Moves Too Fast to Drool:
The Reveries & Rhys Chatham

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Congrats to The Reveries (Eric Chenaux, Doug Tielli and Ryan Driver, recently joined by percussionist Jean Martin) for getting their slobbery-pop-standards music to the cover of the first issue of Eye of 2007. I've been touting their music of, as Driver says in Vish Khanna's accompanying story, "vulnerability, mystification and confusion," for several years and it's nice to see other press take notice. The Reveries launch their Live in Bologna disc tonight (Fri) at the Tranzac, but their planned four-disc box covering Prince, Willie Nelson, Sade and Nick Cave promises to be one of the furthest-out highlights of 2007.

Also in the far-out file, I'm excited to announce that January will be capped this year with a concert in Toronto by eccentric minimalist Rhys Chatham, whose "guitar trio" will be on a 12-city tour in which they'll perform with local guests yet to be announced (a la Jandek, Damo Suzuki or Ariel Pink last year). Chatham, who is kind of the experimental-guitar-composition Ramones to Glenn Branca's Sonic Youth, gets fewer props than many of his '70s NYC peers, but I'm confident it'll be a night to remember: Chatham doesn't get to North America that often lately, as he's been living in France for years. Price and venue remain up in the air - it's currently booked for the Arraymusic studio, as the Music Gallery is unavailable on Wednesday nights, but the mighty Ron Gaskin is still searching for a more spacious place. You can sample cuts on Chatham's MySpace (I'm still amused when musicians of his generation show up there - I'll get used to it, I guess) or listen to part of his Greatest Hit, 1989's An Angel Moves Too Fast to See, in RealAudio courtesy of WFMU. Or watch this video from Arte in France (it's in French but Chatham speaks in English about, among other things, listening to his refrigerator and sticking his finger in electric sockets). If you're talking about records to watch for in 2007, Chatham's upcoming 400-guitar-strong Crimson Grail on Table of the Elements is another one for the roster.

(Speaking of which, this week's Now has a fine set of contenders, including 79-year-old country legend Charlie Louvin.)

In case you doubt my description of Rhys as "eccentric," above, here's the kind of thing he's been uploading to YouTube lately. If anyone has a copy of his late-eighties interview with Option magazine they can send me, one of the most marvelously nutters conversations I've ever read (I think it mostly had to do with tantric masturbation and deafness), please get in touch!

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 04 at 11:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

January 3, 2007

Extra: 2006, An Assistant-Baker's Dozen

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In which Zoilus listings-&-otherwise help-out guy Chris Randle discusses 12 songs that didn't come up in my own year-end roundup of albums and singles... and one that did. - CW


Pet Shop Boys, I'm With Stupid
George is dumb and Tony's his poodle, as the jokes go (often gayed up for extra hyuks). Somehow Neil Tennant can wring emotion out of even these tired jibes, turning their special relationship into the stuff of all his best songs - tortured queer love. His affecting portrait of a self-absorbed man attempting to justify his feelings for a lover everyone deems dumb as a post is that rare thing, a political song both sympathetic and damning. Tennant twists the knife even as he pities: Is his man really stupid, the singer quails as those sirens blare, or just an unthinking user? "Have you made a fool of me? Are you not Mr Right?" Oh, Tony - why couldn't you tell?

Rozasia, Track 3
Whirling flute trills, raw noise, mad little yelps. I first encountered Rozasia at one of those vital shows being organized in the city's dark, abandoned industrial spaces and it couldn't have been more perfect. I'm happy that their soundtrack for insanity will help ring in the new year for a hundred or so lucky people.

Meat Loaf, It's All Coming Back to Me Now
The Eye writer who reviewed this album called Meat Loaf "an eight-year-old's fantasy of what 'rocking out' might sound like when he or she grew up to be a teenager." I can't put it any better than that. Apparently the latest album was mostly a disappointment, but I love this single, reclaimed from Celine Dion (unlike most of her songs, it sounds more uncomfortable than merely terrible) and inflated with all the hot air that Loaf's barrel chest can muster. Bombast seemed to come back in vogue this year, with even mallcore bands embracing operatic openings and gothic excess. There's a kind of naive charm in the likes of My Chemical Romance attempting ludicrous concept albums they can't actually articulate the meaning of (better that than the Decemberists' basing songs on their English-lit classes), but the Wagnerian heavyweight still blew 'em out of the water with this one.

The Bicycles, Two Girls from Montreal
Summer was idle days in parks and snug clubs, listening to songs like this. They admire The Monkees and the drummer girl's voice is deeper than the singer boy's. How could they not be lovable?

Tim Hecker, Blood Rainbow
Music to fall asleep to, music for moving on, as a friend said when I was listening to this record recently. The glitchy soundscapes soothe while hinting at disquieting, thrilling uncertainty.

The Hidden Cameras, Lollipop
Awoo didn't get as much attention as it deserved, most reviewers glossing over a notable shift in the Cameras' subject matter from all dicks, all the time to a subtler, more wide-ranging lyrical approach. It's no classic, but it feels like a maturation. Of course, having said that, I would go and pick the ditty about blowjobs. But I love the sly poetry here, Joel Gibb yelping about "mouths of salivating froth" over bouncy sing-song staccatos that sound like a kids' song. They've broadened a bit, chosen to code and play coy more, but the Cameras are still queer and explicitly sexual in what they address, and when more indie groups seem willing to show that side of themselves than even at the year's beginning they deserve some credit. That Kids on TV album can't arrive soon enough!

Belle & Sebastian, The Blues Are Still Blue
Quite possibly the best song from their best album yet. The twee has been dialed down and augmented with a playful glam swagger. Kind of like a feyer New Pornographers.

The Blow, Parentheses
Paper Television seems to have been underappreciated, judging from all those year-end lists. True, it lacked an unflinchingly honest and heart-flaying vocal performance on the level of Come On Petunia or Hey Boy, but it's still solid, with this song being a particular standout, as the captivating Khaela Maricich gently tells her lover that it's cool to be sensitive and a punctuation mark: "You're not a baby if you feel the world/All of the babies can feel the world, that's why they cry."

Yelle , Short Dick Cuizi (Tepr Remix)
Some kind of French dance thing? Apparently remixed by a Gallic rapper? I could barely find this track online after hearing it at a dance party, with my limited capacity for the language, let alone uncover much information about it, but I love this, even if mocking a guy over his small penis seems like a failing of that famous French wit.

James Kochalka Superstar, Superfuckers Theme
I wanted to include a song taken directly from a video game for this, in recognition of the medium's increasing convergence with mainstream art and music and my own interests, but nothing was weird and compelling as 2004-05's Katamari soundtracks. My nerd substitute is the theme song for indie-comics-weirdo James Kochalka's demented, hilarious and sneakingly affectionate parody Superfuckers, performed by his side project band (which has gotten a distinctly higher profile in the past year - they did the theme for a failed sitcom!): "Always in our clubhouse getting high/ Everybody wishes we would die."

Plastic Little, Rap O'Clock
Ghostface frankly kicked their asses on his guest spot, but Plastic Little aren't really concerned with refining technical skill or the best production; they're practically outside the game, some goofy guys from Philly simply having a good time. The rap equivalent of a Toronto bad band? I'm just happy there's a crew with "being funny" as its main goal that isn't soul-destroying nerdcore. Plus I'll always like any group who came up with this rhyme: "I like indie girls who say they like electro/ Clash, crash, that's cool, I like Fischerspooner too/ But nah, bitch, I don't bitch/ I like some Ice Cube."

DAT Politics, Turn My Brain Off
I took some speed for money recently (long story) and the first thing I did under the influence was play video games. It still paled a little in comparison to these guys. Sounds like Sega Genesis on crack. God willing, the inevitable 90s revivalists will take their influence from 16-bit and not Pearl Jam's Ten.

Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds
Not the best song from my favourite album of the year; my head would go with the anguished vaudeville lament This Lamb Sells Condos or the quavering percussion that forms Song Song Song. But He Poos Clouds is my favourite, having become more personal than that tale of condo developer/wizard as an impotent, hubristic despoiler. It was, I think, during a late-night discussion of the song-in-progress that I actually met Carl for the first time, almost exactly a year ago. I heard this song at the first local show I ever went to. I was a nerdy kid, pretty solitary for much of my childhood and into the beginning of adolescence, and a young Owen Pallett taking skirt-wearing elf Link from the Legend of Zelda games to be his alternative gay icon makes perfect sense to me, just as the Final Fantasy series' fey, operatic melodrama lends itself beautifully to the name for all his work. 2006 was also the year Grant Morrison completed his brilliant, affecting forgotten-superhero epic Seven Soldiers (itself often concerned, like He Poos Clouds, with malevolent father figures and confronting mortality); the year in which the most universally-acclaimed film appears to be a fairy tale (the old kind, bloody and frightening) created by the director of Blade 2 and Hellboy. Gutter culture or folk culture, both ostracized in their own way, imbued with a modern sophistication and vital relevance to the present. So why not a meditation on loss, on the atheist dealing with death, that quotes Zelda and Narnia and Dungeons & Dragons in the musical language of a band geek? Inside so many nerds beats the bleeding heart of an emotional basket case.

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 03 at 7:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

January 2, 2007

Double-0 What? Baltar Budd, Beyonce
and Other New-Year Babies

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Hi, and welcome to 2007, a year that I currently can't help regarding as a work of science fiction. This perception may be disproportionately affected by having spent too much of the turn of the calendar watching almost the entire series run of Battlestar Galactica, which feels in my current dvd-marathon haze like the best serialized novel since Dickens - a claim that might more plausibly be made about The Wire, but the latter is too indebted to documentary film and too polyphonic really to stand compare with any pre-21st-century model. But Battlestar Galactica, while it partakes sparingly of some of the same techniques, is at heart a seafaring epic, albeit one with political, moral and mythological layering that I don't think any naval saga ever essayed, though I'm far from fluent in that genre. I mean, are there any seafaring novels that take place after the annihilation of the home country in a genocidal attack? It changes up the game. (Not to underestimate novels of the sea - you could bring up Moby Dick, but Galactica, despite its play with scrolls and prophesy, is much more worldly in its concerns, not remotely transcendental; Billy Budd might be closer, with its mix of sex, tyranny, betrayal and could-be saviours.)

I won't go on, except to make a musical observation: While the score for the show is nice, with its Asian-overtoned ancient-future styling, I can't help wishing for music that would be more forward-looking in the same posthuman-humanist way that all the human-cylon sexuality of the series is. (Speaking of which, is there any precedent for a long-format narrative in which one of the primary romances takes place mostly by having each of the lovers hallucinate the other? There's a bit of Laura in it, as well as a dash of Antony & Cleopatra... mainly the Gaius-Caprica relationship is everything that the Buffy-Spike relationship never was, though the short-lived "chip in the brain" theory probably was meant to acknowledge a debt.) So it'd be nice to hear the voice of artificial intelligence dueting with the poundy drums and Celtic choruses in the music; it would run the risk of being too obtrusive, dooming the series to an even smaller audience, and dating in syndication (though that'll happen anyway), but I'd love it if there were a bit more, say, dancehall riddim in the Galactica soundscape - or to be patently obvious, just a dash of Timbaland.

Well, that was the tangent that ate the entry. Coming up, some belated songs-of-'06 ruminations from Zoilus aide-de-camp Chris Randle, some belated rumination from me on Canadian lefty-nostalgia flick Monkey Warfare, which I saw over the holidays, and a return to yer regularly scheduled bloggery. Meanwhile, I recommend above all other year-end music surveys I've seen so far Jane Dark's thoughts on singles and albums and the ought-six pop zeitgeist. His mini-monograph "On Melodic Range in Popular Music" nails a theme I'd been half-thinking about myself:

"One might argue that the structures of tune in American pop float between forms where affect is largely conveyed by speech, and where it's indexed to variations of melody keyed to the Western scale. .... Shifts, of course, never happen all at once: uneven development, three-steps-forward and two-steps-back, little gestures here and there, these turn out to have been key junctures in a story that the market is trying to tell. And this is the story that Irreplaceable begins to narrate. It's a good song, not a great one; nobody thinks its within seven rungs of Crazy in Love on the ladder of the Ideal Pop Song. That song had decent range as well, but it also had other things on its mind, and returned relentlessly to the three-note theme. Irreplaceable seems to have as its main purpose the restoration of melodic range to pop."

Which is exactly why that single has been running through my head for the past six weeks, the way Ne-Yo's So Sick did early in the year, while other songs I admire as much or more don't take up residence that way. Joshua didn't go on to interrelate that to the "generationality" theme, but surely he could - melodic preference is, I think, one of the matrices of taste that get fixed early, and so it makes a difference whether your peak taste-forming years coincide with a more range-oriented period or a more speech-emulating period in pop melody. One of the few points in his two posts with which I disagree is his dismissal of the notion that anything was happening in teenmo (my new coinage for what's been misleadingly called emo for the past five years but is really a branch of teen pop) in 2006: My Chemical Romance's pompera has much more melodic range than you'd hear in its teenmo predecessors, which is part of why all the 30-something crrritics glommed onto MCR while continuing to ignore other bands listened to by MCR fans. (And yes, I know it's not a new band, but this was its breakthrough year). Not that MCR pulls any of the deft generational distancing moves Joshua was pointing out in country and rap artists, but this melodic difference does seem like a marker - in particular, MCR has no discernible tie to hardcore, a genre as extreme as hip-hop in its disavowal of melodic range, and one whose echo was distantly audible in the genetics of most chart teen punk in the double-0's until MCR decided to replace it with Bowie and Queen.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 02 at 3:39 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson