Friday, April 30, 2010

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

"Clever they may be, but like all Swedes, their genius is derivative. Search, Delmore, search! Find the source!"

Yesterday, I alluded to the nagging suspicion that the first released track from The Knife & Mt. Sims' Darwinian opera reminded me of some other song (also the Penguin Cafe Orchestra for Depressives, I remember Jack Oatmon at The Montreal Mirror comparing it to alley cat copulation), and halfway through my shower, things began to clarify for me. At first, I thought that it could have been one of the songs from Low's 2001 album Things We Lost in The Fire, but that didn't quit stick enough to make it an Eureka! moment (and as we all know, since the days of Archimedes, Eureka and bathing have been forever linked). I hummed through it a couple more times, my mind skipping a year back, and what came to mind was the above Yo La Tengo song Everyday from their 2000 album And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.

I have a very lengthy to-do list, and for some reason, (maybe the Delmore Effect), it's nonsense like this that receives priority over the more pressing things like the Sonic Youth piece I should be finishing for the summer issue of Maisonneuve Magazine. Which is what I'm working on now.

Free Screening: Montreal Premiere of Women Without Men

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @ 7:00 PM
Maxwell Cummings Auditorium
Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion
Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal
1379 Sherbrooke Street W.

The Montreal premiere of acclaimed Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat’s first feature film, Women Without Men. This film marks an assured shift from her beautiful multi-screen gallery installations to the grand scale of the cinema.

Adapted from Sharhnush Parsipur’s magic realist novel, Women Without Men movingly chronicles the intertwining lives of four Iranian women in the summer of 1953 – a crucial moment in Iranian history – when an American led, British backed coup d’état brought down the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and re-installed the Shah to power. Opposition to the monarchy ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Brought together over the course of several days against the backdrop of political and social turmoil, the destinies of the four female characters converge in a beautiful, mystical orchard where they find solace, independence and companionship. Sumptuously photographed and majestically paced, the film captures a complex moment in Iranian society, while offering an imaginative archeology of the recent protests, which, although met with brutality and repression, remind us that the struggle is alive and well.

Shirin Neshat was born in 1957 in Qazvin, Iran, moved to the United States in 1976 and lives in New York City. She has gained wide international acclaim for both her photo portrait series of women overlaid with calligraphy Women of Allah and for producing a series of lyrical video installations addressing the complex social and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women, among them Rapture (1999), and Turbulent (1998), which won her the International Award at the Venice Biennale. She has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum, New York, The Serpentine Gallery, London, the Hambuger Bahnhof, Berlin and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal. Women Without Men is her directorial feature debut.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Israeli Telecommunication Network

There's something far too abstract about most electronic music, with its emphasis on textures and rhythms over song-craft, melody and traditional capital-p pop tropes that has meant I've never truly come to embrace it like a great many of my friends and acquaintances. And it's true, chances are, that if you went to raves during the 90s or liked Aphex Twin, there's going to be an instant aesthetic gap between us that might seem minuscule and unimportant at the time, but will extend to other mediums and art-forms. I practically guarantee it, actually. And I know that, on your end, you'll not as easily understand how my taste. In a certain respect, we're all individuals and we all have our own unique tastes - that's a conceit of good ol' Western civilization and classical liberalism that I'm not about to let go of, thanks - but in another respect, when it comes to pop music and its bastard children, there are certain things we expect from a song, elements we demand, and elements we can predict. We like things in a certain way. If I'm skimming through a bunch of MP3s, for example, I skip to about the 1/8 point of the song, listen for a second or two; skip to the mid-point of the song and listen for a little longer, and by that time I can tell whether the song is worth me investigating further or whether it's not for me. It's like being able to know when something sounds "Christian." After years of absorbing all forms of music, you internalize standards, expectations, norms.

So I guess when I say I don't think of electronic music as album-oriented genre, my rockist roots are showing. Last year, three albums that a lazy record store clerk (when such things existed, outside of the last gasps of a dying empire reflex that is Record Store Day) would dump into the electronic category made me think a bit differently about that. The Junior Boys Begone Dull Care, Rokysopp's Junior and Telefon Tel Aviv's Immolate Yourself.

As much of a fan as I was of the Knife, the Fever Ray album I found overwrought, humourless and oppressive in its demand for emotional attention*. I had hoped it was a case of an artistic misstep, but maybe the Knife's previous work was anomalous and I was guilty of loving too early and too strongly, because the collaborative track with Mt. Sims, Colouring of Pigeons, failed to capture my attention. (Except for that cello - where'd they rip that off from? It's been driving me crazy. I want to say it's from an Eno solo album, but I feel like it's actually a film score.) I expect the rest of the album to continue with The Penguin Cafe Orchestra for Depressives theme.

Much has been written about the tragic circumstances of Charlie Cooper's passing that precluded the release of Telefon Tel Aviv's album, and I don't have anything to add about that. What I do have to say and present to you, just in case you missed it, or maybe forgot about it momentarily (like I did!) is the music. The album itself is expansive, neurotic, vocally impressive, emotive but not pushy... From album opener The Birds, which operates at a level above M83, to the positively euphoric Helen of Troy, the album exhaustively covers all of the area within the confines its set for itself. (If I wasn't so tired, I'd re-write that sentence: it demands elaboration.) The strength of the production and the songwriting manages to transcend the stop-start dynamic-less drum machine beats (a la Junior Boys) employed in You Are The Worst Thing in The World. Immolate Yourself was recorded on analogue equipment with analogue synthesizers, so perhaps all of that preamble about being able to detect certain sensibilities was a bunch of nonsense and I'm just responding to that. I don't really know.

In years gone prior, Marc Nguyen Tan's Colder album and Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours were also albums that affected me in similar ways, though I have the feeling that they were created by people with rockist inclinations.

By the way, the painting above is by March Hutchison, one seriously talented artist whose work deserves more attention than I can give right now. If you're in Montreal, you can see for yourself, as she'll be opening a drawing show at Ethecae (2131 St. Catherine East) on Thursday, May 6th from 6pm - 9pm. (I think the above painting might have been posted on Said the Gramophone before, but I can't recall.)

* Remixes of Fever Ray songs, however, were much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Raúl Baduel & The 48 Laws of Power

In Early Morning, Swedish (associates of ear-candy creators Studio) Fontan take the kraut-rock genre back its hidden roots, stripping the noodly elements of Hawkwind, while maintaining the genre's expansiveness into one tightly wrapped package of compact rock kosmisch. For all the avant-garde talk about Can, Cluster and their Germanic ilk, it's easy to forget that was a reaction to and celebration of rock. Damien Suzuki didn't take it all that seriously (I've been pushing for an archive of misheard Can lyrics for years now). I have an incredibly soft-spot for the Shout Out Louds and think they're also as adept at working with space and mood as Fontan (and more so than the XX - zzzzzzz), which is why it's delightful to hear Fontan's take on Walls, which takes it time teasing out the baroque elements from the original, surrounding it with richly produced psych elements, Eno-isms and a fabulous guitar lead. The Shout Out Louds will be here on May 7th, playing at Cabaret de Musee, tickets available from Greenland. (Fortuitously enough, I got an e-mail from Big Hassle with the Fontan rework in it just as I was writing this post up. Psychic PR agents.).

In the same vein, the Parisian group Turzi seemed to have lost the plot and ended up in the same deep, dark swamp of self-seriousness that produced Iron Butterfly's Innagadavida and Vangelis' more paranoid elements. Moderation in all things is key. Time & Space Machine show us that it's good to feel young and gifted again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shrewd Appraisals: How To Make Anything You Want Happen

Take Ivy

"Around the celebration in Cannes were set the boundaries of a certain style. The boundaries of this style coincided with the area held in common by two ethics (each of which had been composed of bits and pieces of other, older ethics, but each of which could be recognized by 1971 as having an identity of its own). What met in Cannes was the ethic of café society (which is the ethic of aristocracy shorn of its specific responsibilities, its specific etiquette, and its specific geography, and reduced to self-parody) and the ethic of high drag (which is the ethic of satire shorn of its politics). The boundaries of this style encompassed wit, perversity, commercial utility, and an interest in finding the cutting edge, wherever that should be."
- George W.S. Trow, I-eclectic, Reminiscent, Amused, Fickle, Perverse. New Yorker profile of Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records head.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Six Finger Satellite, Live in NY

Simian Fever
Parlour Games (MP3)
Where Humans Go
Pulling a Train
Rabies (Baby's Got The)
Massive Coke Seizure
Man Behind the Glasses
Board the Bus

46 shrill & thrilling minutes with Six Finger Satellite in 1995 at the Westbeth Theatre in New York, New York. They were touring in support of Severe Exposure, so most of the selections are primarily from that album (Montreal favourite Rabies (Baby's Got The) appears, for example), as well as Man Behind the Glasses, which only appeared on a 7". Singer J. Ryan plays a Moog keytar and dresses like he's fronting a nightmare prom band. John McLean has a white-belt on and is doing a lot of palm-muting, laying out the blueprint from which the Swing Kids' house was built. I stumbled across it while checking out the Pessimist Club blog, which, naturally, comes highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hovatron Mix on Discobelle

Phil Aubin in Thom Browne meets Kraut-Rock Mode

A long time in the making, check out Hovatron's mix for Discobelle, inspired re-workings of Rihanna, Cassie, Janet Jackson and Jeremih.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


We'll start with another great George "Shadow" Morton penned girl group song, from the master of teenage melancholy, this one all about loving your mother. As my mother is named Sheena, I'm posting four songs from female artists with the letters Sh in their name(s). I posted this Sandie Shaw song just over 5 years ago in May of 2005, but I'm sure your memory doesn't extend that far. Nor does the Yousendit link, for that matter. I'm not much of a Led Zeppelin fan, but this is the first recorded Led Zeppelin cover and it's an interesting twist. Compared to a lot of the girl group production, the guitar in this Shirelles song is uncharacteristically present - bright, out-front, and it compliments the vocal melodies well. And Shirley & Company's Shame Shame Shame is the perfect song to mix into with the appropriate Hues Corporation and George McCrae songs.

Win Two Tickets to See Band of Skulls, April 30th at Studio JPR

Lookin' Like The Pretenders

Hey readers, here's your chance to win two tickets to see British trio Band of Skulls on April 30th at Studio JPR here in Montreal, QC. As these guys were on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, you know this is one of the hottest tween tickets in town, a phenomenon in their world second only to that of Justin Bieber.

To win these tickets, all you have to do is tell me what you think the worst venue in Montreal is, along with a one sentence explanation. All entries must be received by Friday, April 23rd at 5pm EST. The winner will be notified by Monday, April 26th. Send your entries to jaywatts at gmail dot com.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves: Mario Kart Soca

Up until recently, the calculated upbeat dance-floor pop of Delorean didn't have a lot to recommend itself to me: 2006's Into The Plateau album presented the Spanish group as a tepid VHS or Beta (imagine that), diluting an already weak post-punk brew with an obnoxious singing style and unfocused guitar-playing, and so I was content to consign them to the dustbin of blogosphere history, over-stuffed as it is.

But when I heard Monsoon from last year's Ayrton Senna EP, I realized I might not have given them as much credit as I should have. Sampling Aretha Franklin's Jump To It* isn't anything new, (there were God knows how many house songs in the 90's that did the same thing), but the vocal slicing and dicing is subtle enough that, in this instance, they're swinging for the fences/trainspotting readers of Prefixmag. And while it seemed like Delorean was committed to aping Lo-Fi-FNK's mannerisms until such a time as that Swedish duo got its act together and released more than a single song every four years or pinching a bit from The Friendly Fires, last month they branched out on Subiza, which added El Guincho, Tanlines, Lemonade, Air France and 90's pop-techno to their creditors' list. It is, sadly, a capable and generally forgettable contribution to the yet-to-be-named genre of music inspired by the soundtrack to Mario Kart. (Mario Kart Soca, perhaps?) Witness Warmer Places.

I'm sure they have taste. I'm sure they're fun to hang out with. Enjoy the festival season this year, guys.

* Again, one of my favourite songs, and produced by Luther Vandross!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Teen Dreams Twenty Years Old

Bear with me today - I'm going to expose you to songs both awful and great.

I posted A Viable Commercial off of Modern English's debut album a couple of months back, but today as I was shuffling through songs, I came across their album After the Snow. Given the great success of the single Melt With You, anyone should be able to pick up a copy of this album in a dollar bin. The rest of the album without its hit single stands by itself as a superbly produced new wave record that marries synthesizer atmospherics to tight song-craft, propelled by a muscular rhythm section, and is blessedly free of mercurial Mancunian brooding. I was pleasantly surprised enough to listen through the album twice today.

For whatever reasons, the arch Anglicisms of the Psychedelic Furs in their mid-period were present primarily in Richard Butler's voice, while the production bore the unfortunate taint of that era's anthemic arena rock. Listen to Heaven, released in 1984 - plodding buried basslines, "soaring" guitar lines that appear at the appropriate moments, production-line mock-piano keyboard parts. Where Modern English got it so right, the Psychedelic Furs didn't.

But... Moving up to present day, a tongue-in-cheek appropriation of such studio staples animates Fred Falke's remix of Grizzly Bear's Two Weeks, and here it really works, transforming the song into a perfect sync for the ultimate 80's movie moment - when our underdog romance crystallizes just before he wins the big game/match/race/swim-meet. (In this case, I'm thinking of the BMX slow-dancing scene in the 198 film Rad, which used Real Life's Send Me An Angel.)

It seems like Falke had the glories of youth on his mind, as he spent most of 2009 attempting to score some imaginary 80s film. Flaxen-haired Norwegian Anne Lilia Berge-Strand, known as Annie, received the benefit of Falke's nimble touch, teasing all the melancholy from her song Anthonio - a tale of her impregnation by a caddish Brazilian.

As for the rest of Annie's recent output - there's probably a reason why you haven't paid attention. Annie's genre-jumping betrays an unsettling amount of insecurity. The uncertainty and lack of direction in her last album sees her hopping from sugar-rush pop, guitar-driven dreck, to - the weirdest - a hyperactive cover of Stacy Q's freestyle classic Two of Hearts that's so sped up and the synths so dissonant it sounds like an Acid House take on Miami Bass. Her visual identity, her difficulty in remaining stylistically consistent and her forced sass (an alternate title for the album? Snaps) are either a result of too many cooks spoiling the broth (she worked with a frightening number of producers), or they point to a cynical pandering to the growing drag queen demographic that has been so very kind to Lady Gaga.

I've remarked before that Goldfrapp's most recent album Head First would be more aptly titled Contractual Obligation, as in the only acceptable impetus for foisting this colostomy bag of over-produced nonsense on a generally appreciative fan base. Assuredly they'll receive more handsome royalty cheques from the shampoo companies & reality television shows that will license tracks from it but UGH.

The first single, Rocket, with its synthesizer stabs, snoozeworthy chorus and absurd countdown to blast-off is by-the-books and unremarkable. Coming after the pastoral amblings of Seventh Tree, I was expecting a more interesting album, and it's distressing reading other reviewers and critics trying to grapple with the press-release suggested adjective Moroderian as if 1) that's something new in the music of Goldfrapp, and 2) as a guarantor of quality. (Certainly Giorgio Moroder had numerous missteps during his days as the operator of Munich Machine.)

I guess we can't be too upset for musicians in their fourties phoning it in - now that everyone downloads everything, what's the point of putting in the energy to writing halfway decent songs? Your audience is halfway contemptuous of you, so you might as well return the favour.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Radio Days

I went to bed at some ungodly hour last night* - I think it was 4AM - and before that, my ladyfriend commented that this was pretty much "high school life." Thinking back to my high school years, I developed incredibly fucked up sleep patterns that have plagued me since then. I'd stay up all night, reading or listening to music, and halfheartedly try to get up on time, but usually end up being at least 30 minutes late.

For most of grade 8, I spent my evenings listening to an AM radio station from Calgary called Hot 1040. They specialized in mostly alternative rock, which thinking back about it, seems like the connective genre tissue between 80's college rock and the 00's indie rock, albeit with a heavier dose of grunge than I could even take at the time... But whatever, this was before I had disposable income for CDs and while putting a one-speaker radio under my pillow so I could listen to the Jesus & Mary Chain or Jawbreaker didn't really seem cool (per se), it got me through the nights when I couldn't sneak out of my window to go skateboarding with my friends.

* Seriously, I'm operating at a catatonic pace today. The four thoughts I had about McLaren and asbestos I couldn't even hammer out in my previous post.

Asbestos & Angel Dust

Malcolm McLaren passed away, the first true casualty of hipster asbestos poisoning - a that was primarily confined to the working class. Incidents of hipster asbestos poisoning will surely rise in the years to come, as the years pass and the time spent in squalid squats and basement punk rock venues comes to significantly impact the respiratory health of the slumming classes.

I was over at Mark Slutsky's place last night for a good friend's birthday party, and after one of the inevitable death of print conversations, he mentioned in passing that some of the most profitable targeted ads online were those pertaining to asbestos in general, and massive class action lawsuits about asbestos poisoning in particular. Always up for a challenge, I decided what with Malcolm McLaren's passing rumoured to have been the result of asbestos dust in the SEX shop he ran with Vivienne Westwood, that now would be the time to bring the formerly disparate worlds of and asbestos lawsuits together, y'know, in memory of Mr. McLaren. I guess the army of lawyers can kick up some serious indirect revenue streams while Googling every nook and cranny of the internet for people who might have been exposed to asbestos and are ready to lend their name to the cause.

Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, diffuse pleural thickening, and cancer are all linked to asbestos exposure, but there is great skepticism amongst many jurists and legal scholars as to how liability is to be determined. Given the . In the case of Malcolm McLaren, his companion Young Kim believes it specifically to have been because of the time he spent in his London clothing shop SEX, but as he was the owner of the shop and, one imagines, a particularly negligent shopkeeper at that, I don't know that his estate or his offspring would necessarily have much luck profiting from his passing. In a related note, here's a crazy story about Roger Ebert writing Who Killed Bambi with Russ Meyer.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Elephant Stone "I Am Blind" Video

Elephant Stone - I Am Blind

It's always great to see a bunch of smiling and familiar faces, impeccably shot, and it's even better if those faces are set to the music of a local band comprised of nice guys that you like. So, that's why the video above, directed by Patrick Andrew Boivin and Richmond Lam, for Elephant Stone is such a treat.

Richmond Lam is the tremendously talented master of light & shadow, who, if this video is any indication, appears to be moving into his Gregg Toland phase. Of all the photographers I can think of, he has a light humanistic touch that's completely unique to him. Up until now, I'd only seen it in his portraits, but it looks like he can move between the worlds of still and moving images with ease - his photography perfectly compliments the breezy and easy-going psychedelic charm of this song.

Shot in the confines of Korova bar Terroir (Montreal's favourite non-McGill campus Craigslist Missed Connections hotspot), the video's full of familiar faces. Outside of the band members - Richard White (who also plays in The Besnard Lakes), Bobby Fraser, Rishi Dhir, Robbie MacArthur, & Chris Wise - there are also cameos by Eve Thomas, Lorien Jones, cinematographer Bobby Shore (who shot Who Is KK Downey?, Peepers, Prom Wars, and is shooting Fubar 2), bartending nice-guy Cavan, Mikala Grant, jeweler Mercedes de la Rosa, Nicholas Robins (of Homosexual Cops), Maya Fuhr and many others.

Elephant Stone just finished recording an EP at Breakglass Studios, and they'll be joining the Brian Jonestown Massacre at the end of May/beginning of June for a number of dates. Rishi also hosts the Bollywood night at Casa every second Thursday of the month called Bombay the Hard Way!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New Sounds From Pop Winds

The only Easter candy I received this year around was an e-mail from Devon Welsh featuring two new songs from his group Pop Winds' new album The Turquoise. I posted their song In Harmony in mid-February and grouped them in with a number of (what I saw as) similarly sounding groups, like the Sincerely Yours roster (Air France, the Embassy et al.), but noted an undercurrent of industrial production techniques and sensibilities that, really, pulled them from the wreckage of a genre that I don't have much love for. That undercurrent seems to have really come to the surface on these songs: the jerky stop-start dynamics, as well as the arpeggios, in Feel It remind me of Flux Information Sciences (albeit blissfully free of their pranksterish nihilism).* The new album was recorded by Chris Ploss at 1616 (CORRECTION: not Mark Sandford at Mastertone as I erroneously reported.) Little Sister is from their Understory EP.

To see how it holds up live, the CD release party is here in Montreal on April 16th with Blue Hawaii and the Silly Kissers. Before that, Devon will be going solo, opening for (of the Silly Kissers) as he marks the release of Movin On Up In Society tomorrow night at Club Lambi. Sean Nicholas SavageFurther details at Arbutus Records.

William de Samman is a former short film festival programmer, current communications genius, and also the resident DJ (along with Heidy Pinet) at Movement - a night of house & disco (deep and otherwise) that takes place Fridays at Kafein in a part of Montreal poorly served by great DJs such as those two. As Heard From Mars had him curate their 2nd podcast, which I highly recommend checking out here. I've had the great pleasure to DJ a couple of times with William, and I have to say, the guy's got great taste (Paperclip People!) to match his straight-up robot-like beat-matching skills.

* I just re-listened to some Flux Information Sciences after five years and I have to say that it's not as similar sounding as I thought. Damn my faulty memory.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Spring Wind Kisses My Face

Could it be? Could the dark, deep, and depressing winter be finally over? Could great happiness, peace, prosperity and sunshine be within our grasp?

I remember when I was first introduced to the Cambodian Rocks compilation by JR at Ditch Records, Victoria's best (and probably now only) record store a number of years back. The CD was a collection of Cambodian pop and rock oddities collected by an intrepid backpacker, mostly unlabeled and of dubious sound quality. Since then, thanks to people at labels like Sublime Frequencies, much more southeast Asian pop music from the 60s and 70s has surfaced and been collected, much to my delight. And now John Pirozzi, who directed the Dengue Fever documentary Sleeping Through Mekong and worked on Zoe Cassavetes' Broken English, has produced a documentary called Don't Think I've Forgotten about the lost golden age of Cambodian pop. Trailer above, more information on the Don't Think I've Forgotten website.

The first song is an obvious, er, Cambodian homage to Proud Mary, and the second is from Singapore around the same time.