Thursday, February 25, 2010

Get Me Out Of This Place

Dicevo tirarmi fuori da questo luogo, prima ero ancora nato

In 1976, an Italian man who would go on to become a leading voice for the European integrationist* movement by the name of Toto Cutogno spoke of other international concerns. Specifically, reconciling his easy-going Mediterranean heritage with the encroaching anxiety and concrete cityscapes of high modernism. Like all good bohemians, he looked towards an idealized primitive - in this case, south to Africa.

Any of you who are into Moments of Relaxation, Tranquil Moments, or taking mind-trips to exotic locales through the power of your Hi-Fi while reclining in your Gae Aulenti-designed rumpus room may recognize certain sonic similarities between this mellow groove and Joe Dassin's L'été indien. You're quite perceptive for an idle member of the leisure class. Tuto Cutogno wrote a number of songs to be recorded by Joe Dassin, the Pan-Atlantic chanseur son of blacklisted American film-maker Jules Dassin.

* Was his 1990 Eurovision winning entry Insieme: 1992 a neo-functionalist or intergovernmentalist anthem?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The hips locked, o'ho, and I made jam!

Italian Pino D'Angio's Ma Quale Idea occasionally gets credit as the first instance of Italo Disco Rap, and while that's an arguable point (Kano's I'm Ready also came out in 1980), the song, built atop McFadden & Whitehead's Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now, is just frankly awesome. It's a baritone-voiced roller that fills dancefloors with people and minds' eyes with visions of sparkling lights, dart collars and louche ladies wearing Thierry Muegler gowns. And an old guy rapping about... a disco lady with snake eyes? Okay, so it's stretching it to call Italo Disco Rap a genre, with all of the conventions and trappings that ensure a section in a record store or a folder in someone's MP3 collection, but as Carmen's Throw Down and MC Miker G & DJ Sven's Holiday Rap would follow later, and I love all of these songs, it's enough of a genre for me.

It's hard to pinpoint the moment where Italo Disco turns over and becomes fully absorbed by Hi-NRG. Probably when it became all octave-bass lines, 130BPM, and that Mike guy put on the oversized sunglasses. Creative Connection prove that the cross-over wasn't entirely terrible, with their 1985 cover of the Dieter Boehlen penned and produced Modern Talking song You're My Heart, You're My Soul.

For your edification and entertainment, here are the translated lyrics to Ma Quale Ideal...

I caught her in the disco with a snake look
I went close to her
She was already out of her mind
I looked at her
She looked back at me then I let myself go

In comparison Fred Astaire was static and clumsy
I shot a kiss in her mouth
A kiss with a bang

On the footloose dancing floor then I shook her up

sending her to the air
catching her back
leaving her breathless
She fell into my arms
She was madly in love

I held her fast by her hips
I turned her into jam
Oh yea Oh yea..Is that how you say it ?
And then...and then

What an idea ! But what idea ? Can't you see she is not easy ?
What an idea ! But what idea ? She's malicious but knows
How to take care of a big bully like you
And besides what makes you so special that another one hasn't got ?
What an idea ! But what idea ? Can't you see she is not easy ?
What an idea ! But what idea ? Beware, she is smart
She will lead you in circles but you will never get

The things you want and tell me, what are you going to give her ?

I had a great thought, I brought her in my den

I poured an orange juice and she burts into a laughter
She clung to my whiskey
She gulped down five litres

She seemed to be out of her wits
She kissed me
I kissed her
All of a sudden I held her tight but she slipped away

She looked at me
I looked at her
I stopped her
I caressed her fairy face
But she looked like a potato
I caught her, shook her up and down
Turned her into an omelette
Oh yea is this how you say it ?
And then

What an idea ! But what idea ? Can't you see

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Grand Collectif

It's Nuit Blanche this weekend, and Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila and the always-on-the-mark DHC and Darling Foundry are working together to present a that combines everybody's favourite surrealist parlour game (Exquisite Corpse) with the visual work of the noted (and Tate collected) artist. Anyone who shows up is welcome to contribute to a script, with the visual cues provided by Ahtila's screen direction. For a Rodney Graham fan such as myself, Ahtila's gorgeously crafted images and deft cinematic touch are pure eye candy.

More information ici:

6pm - 2 am
451 & 465 rue Saint Jean

Friday, February 26th CFCF, Trebek, Advaance, & Jay Watts III

CFCF Big Love
(Fleetwood Mac cover)

This Friday, the Creamery presents a very special evening with two of Montreal's funnest DJs and swellest fellows, CFCF and Trebek. This is part of a new monthly series, and support will provided by residents Advaance and myself, Jay Watts III. $5 at the door (cheap), drink specials and lots of fun.

More information on the Facebook page.
Jupiter Room (3874 St. Laurent)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leave The Gun. Take The Hamentashen.

I live in Outremont, which is a borough in Montreal with a substantial Hasidic population. Like Williamsburg, but with upper middle-class French people. The Hasidim walk around clutching I love NY shopping bags, pushing strollers, talking on cellphones and smoking, and sometimes you can even catch a really chic matron in Prada loafers (at least one thing they have in common with Pope Benedict). So, when last week I first heard melancholic brass instrument sounds emerging from the apartment below, I suspected that it was a couple of these least cosmopolitan sect of the most cosmopolitan people on earth (Jews!) that were responsible.

"Such mournful music," I thought, "such a tragic song for a tragic people, wronged by history, seeking solace and comfort in Solomon's songs!"

Being from British Columbia and attending school during a lengthy run for the NDP (social democrats) as the dominant provincial party, I was used to this sort of ethnic show-and-tell. A bunch of well-meaning pedagogues shuffle a deck, get students to pick cards, fashion a close-approximate to the national costume and everyone eats perogies, dumplings or whatever doughy treat assuages their carb-lust*. (The poor Inuit, lacking breadstuffs and grains, never made much of a showing. They were a warlike peoples who would periodically raid the tribes to the south for their bannack, I bet). My friend Ali Rahman, an ethnic type himself, abhorred the coming of multicultural days, as he was put upon to bring the samosas. In school districts not as low-rent as mine, the closest analogue was a model United Nations. All great fun until a kid brought a kirpan to school.

And so, these thoughts swirling in my head, lying on my back, I gave myself to the music, to the pathos and emotion, I thought of the Russian steppes, the shtetls of the Pale, etc. etc. etc. A feeling of familiarity washed over me: my own sympatico-ness with the Semitic peoples! Or, wait, was it? No, I wasn't empathizing with the plight of the Jews, I was actually recognizing the song as Nino Rota's Theme from the Godfather. The next morning these curious Hasidim played the theme from Love Story.

Now maybe it so happened that, preparing to play something from Exodus or Fiddler on the Roof for a Purim party, these people of the Book had to end up buying the Great Movie Themes sheet music book, but sadly, I think I just live above band geeks.

* The French, being the French, elevate doughy peasant foodstuffs to high art. The croissant is both delightful and also a typical arrogant gesture, being a crescent moon fashioned out of dough, a historical FUCK YOU to their Islamic enemies. Or so I've heard. I'm waiting for a Parisian patisserie to give the world its first pastry based on the headscarf.

Del Shannon In The Balkans

That's Del Shannon! With Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra!

There have been some very dark days in the global multi-cultural music racket. European stabs at mixing electronic production techniques with folk genres were, for many years, real earsores to anyone in spitting distance of a local cafe, or boutique hotel lobby. Waiting in line at your favourite Starbucks, anticipating starting your day with a nice venti and a wonderful scone, you were likely to be assaulted by a Gypsy Kings knockoff. And heading down to the cafe that, under close scrutiny, is actually just a front for International Development students honing their slam poetry skills? Manu Chao. Ick! (At their worst, you would be served by barista with dreadlocks and a scratchy scarf from an indigenous tribe in central America; at the best, a Pashmina Poetess who'll end up in law school). But there have been bright spots...

I went to a mixed-culture marriage during the height of the Balkan Wars in the 90's, as you can imagine, it was a pretty tense scene, especially after the bar opened up. And then, a couple of years ago, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with the break-up of the Yugoslavian republic. What remains is a desire to travel there, and a fondness for David Rieff and Balkan brass band music. That fondness for Balkan brass bands also contains within it a kernel of concern! A WHOLE KERNEL! And that concern is mostly that the cartoonish and delightful aspects of the genre aren't solely represented by Gogol Bordello, or TV Carnage bits with Slavs with weird body shapes wearing funny Communist-era nylon sweaters... So for any brass band members out there seeking, I propose that you and yours cover the above two Del Shannon songs, which in their structure and tempo would fit the brass band format, and give a little nod to middle America, or at least NPR.

Del Shannon, by the way, was awesome, not just a parent rock standard. Check out the above photo, with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ONB/NFB: Montreal By Night

Colette, a lonely cigarette girl who speaks Old Normandy French, out for a night out on the town. She wants to get married: she's in love. A cute little tale of miscegenation and outdoor checkers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Use Ether To Subdue Robber

Montreal's newest Great White Hope for pop redemption, the Silly Kissers, will be launching their new 10" Precious Necklace this Friday in the definitely unromantic concrete-bunker of the Torn Curtain. Along for the ride will be Grimes (that's Claire Boucher, who just released a cassette of her own), and Pop Winds. I've already covered the Silly Kissers and Grimes, as well as the solo work of Sean Nicholas Savage in previous posts (here, here and here), so my focus right now is the trio Pop Winds, who seem to be cut from the same cloth as Air France, Lemonade, Tanlines as well as other Sincerely Yours groups: re-formatting Afro-Caribbean poly-rhythms for the less-than-temperate regions of the earth. As superficial as the sampling or adopting of these 'tropical riddims' might be, it's nothing to get your Bermuda shorts in a bunch about - it's pop music, and it rarely gets as lyrically distasteful as 10cc's Dreadlock Holiday or the Bill Wyman song I posted yesterday (Je Suis en Rock Star). If anything, the song that comes to my mind is Siouxsiee & The Banshees' Hong Kong Garden.

So yes, fine, there are the vocal acrobatics and loops of Animal Collective, and those rhythms, but the sentiments and songs are expressed through the production and composition techniques of two very much-maligned genres - 80's industrial and goth. Whereas the post-electric explorations of musicians of that time (Death in June, Current 93 et al.) led to them marching in the wilderness of a martial-pastoral folk almost anti-modernist in its adoption of acoustic instruments, Pop Winds are more comfortable with studio technology, and (in so far as I can tell) less inclined to fascist imagery. And yes, we have a saxophone. (Say what you will about the excesses of the sax-drenched 80's, there's a sonic place the instrument occupies that no other instrument can really move around in.)

It's appropriate that a lot of the lofts and re-appropriated workspaces that house these musicians and events are dank, ranging from the cavernous to the claustrophobic. It's the perfect place to dream of tropical escape in the middle of a bleak Montreal winter. If you're in Montreal, you can catch Kyle Bennett, Devon Welsh & Austin Milne of Pop Winds in just such a place this Friday.

UPDATE: Via Twitter, Pop Winds are recording a new full-length right now at Master Tone in Montreal.

Silly Kissers / Grimes / Pop Winds
DJ sets by Why? Alex Why? and Rough Shape.
Friday, February 19th at the Torn Curtain

Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number (& A Potential Felony)

"It's okay, I'm an artist."

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any musician, in possession of a good fortune, is always in want of a too young wife. Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones made Mandy Smith his wife at age eighteen after having dated her for five years. (Two years later they were divorced.) At age 23, Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year old first cousin, Myra Gale Brown.

It quickly becomes depressing cataloging the actual transgressions made by popular musicians against age taboos in the lifetime of good ol' rock n' roll, so let's discuss the age perversion within the music itself. (We'll leave out the rich vein of schoolgirl felony songs - far too many to list here.)

I don't think that Andre Williams, former pimp, coke dealer and man responsible for the christening of Lil' Stevie Wonder, regrets much in his life. Mostly, he regrets getting caught. And in Jailbait, he issues a stern warning to a chicken-hawking pal to mend his ways. Set to a vamping go-go beat, this is also a world-weary protest against what he sees as the terrible injustice inherent in jailbait cases: the bait goes free while you languish in jail.

In Just 15, Billy Childish takes his below-the-belt approach to romance below the level of acceptable taste by confessing his love for a fifteen year latch-key kid and vowing to fight her father, should the poor working man show up unexpectedly.

I don't know what sort of extremely tasteless behind-the-scenes record industry machinations caused Jerry Lee Lewis and Ringo Starr to duet on an updated version of Sweet Little Sixteen. Similar thinking must have been at work when Ringo recorded and popularized Johnny Burnette's You're Sixteen in 1973. In 1977, teacher Hans Fenger in Langley, British Columbia, had his students record a version for the Langley Schools Music Project. Given that the musicians on this recording were actually 16 or thereabouts, this is possibly the only age-appropriate version of this song ever recorded. Sung by a children's choir, it's either remarkably chaste and cute, or all sorts of wrong. You decide.

Bill Wyman's Seventeen is such a weird droning drum machine dreamscape about a jeans model/actress, that I didn't even want to bother putting it up. Si, Si Je Suis Un Rock Star is faaaaaaaar more interesting as a song: it's got an undeniable bouncy appeal (your parents heard it during their first and last vacation by themselves at Club Med after your birth*), and as a Rolling Stone, you wouldn't expect anything less from him than a confusing soup of self-aware paternalistic post-colonialist sexual imperialism set against a globe-trotting backdrop! Problematic! As the oldest Stone, Bill Wyman was tailor-made for this theme, thus even in this song, the line "They'll think I'm your dad and you're my daugh-ter!"

At their best, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band are an amusing example of turning oil fortunes into dreamy Californian psychedelic rock through the familiar process of bohemian slumming. At their worst, they are a pricey mistake made by this author when, back in the golden age of compact discs, he decided to shell out far too many clams for some self-indulgent pap re-issue that had Kim Fowley's paw-prints all over it. (Now that's a man who'd have something to say about age perversion and rock music!) Despite the astonishing title, I don't think Eighteen Is Over The Hill is a true age perversion song, as it as a lament for the lost beauty of a golden youth. Or something about narcissists wearing tin-foil hats.

When the the baritone-voiced club king of New Order's acid-house influenced 1988 single Fine Time muses that "You know I've met a lot of cool chicks / But I've never met a girl with all her own teeth" you know that this is not your typical tale of man and girl. It's the same skewered and twisted mixture of longing, humour and weird lyrical puns that makes New Order such a delight, or a bunch of pub-stool jokers in night-clubbing clothes.

Ontario's bearded troubadour Hayden (nee Paul Hayden Desser) goes to the well of age perversion in Bad As They Seem, only to (like New Order) draw from it water that runs deeper and more amusing than your average paean to Lolita. At first pining for a sixteen year old neighbour, Hayden soon turns his gaze to that sixteen year old's mother. Trapped working the same job from age fourteen and living in the same house until forty-three, a perpetual pubescent in Peter Pan purgatory lacking both the joys of childhood and the comforts of adult companionship. Aww...

In the world of popular music and rock n' roll, Steely Dan has always been noted, commended (and scorned) for the general maturity of their sensibility and humour. Admittedly this is a field with little competition. In Hey Nineteen, even the magic combination of expensive tequila and cocaine can't bridge the generation gap between a middle-aged Aretha Franklin fan and his teenage lover.

Of course, it takes Kate Bush to out-creep the rest of these notable perverse musicians with a nanny's tale of an infant kiss from those "lips that speak of adult love" in The Infant Kiss. That mischievous little boy, that predatory preschooler: "a man behind those eyes!"

* Did Dudley Moore ever do a third Arthur film after Arthur 2: On The Rocks? Was it set in the Caribbean? Cause y'know...

"You're so mature for your age."

Many thanks to Sean Michaels at the incomparable and long-standing mp3 blog powerhouse Said the Gramophone for the kind words. Do yourself a favour and keep tabs on his regular missives for the Guardian. And please, people: don't go in for any of that guilt by association stuff. In so far as I know, Mr. Michaels lives and loves within his age.

The images are from the late Eric Rohmer's great film, Claire's Knee.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Operation: Calypso!

Okay, well...

On Friday evening, I stopped by a Dollar store on avenue du Parc - one of those places with a heavy fluorescent buzz and off-brand toys that seem funny until you realize that some poor kid with a single mother is wondering how he'll be able to pass off his underwater warriors from the Operation: Calypso line* ($1.25, includes action figurine and three bendable attack fish companions) as part of the GI: Joe universe. My mission was to find a mask, or some items with which to construct a mask for a party happening later.


After poking around, I realized that masquerade parties only appeal to two constituencies: girls and drag queens (good thing for masquerades that the first constituency makes up 50% of the population). A guy would only actively participate in one to placate/impress a girl he's got his eye on. Maybe it's a whiff of Robespierrean French Revolutionary abhorrence at the mores and modes of the Ancien Regime that turns us off. Do you know any men who liked Sofia Coppola's Mario Antoinette, for example? Panned by critics, but adored by more than a number of women I can think of.


Given that my current ladyfriend and Valentine wasn't even going to be at the party, it seemed all sorts of stupid to strap a piece of cardboard with cat whiskers around my face; to wear while making chit-chat with a production assistant wearing a beaked mask like the Knife, circa Silent Shout.

I haven't learned much in my six years as an Anglophone in Montreal (certainly not French!), but I have learned to mostly make nice. I think it was this spirit of going along with a culture not my own that made it seem plausible to me that I'd be peacock-strutting around a bar with a bunch of other fellow revelers in a goofy mask. Francophones recognize that Anglophones have some tired and embarrassing idee fixes, hang-ups and sacred cows that it's best not to harp on (middle names, getting married before procreating, monogamy, selling home-made jewelry on Etsy), just as Anglophones realize that, for the sake of cultural peace, it's best not to make fun of gymnasts in leotards and face-paint dancing around a giant egg to New Age music**. They're reasonably accommodating, and we're assimilating. Or at least keeping our mouth shut. But sometimes, before you're even aware, the spirit of assimilation has come over you, and you're engaged in some pseudo-minstrel show. Speaking of which, I think the Olympics have to be the longest running and most expensive minstrel show in history.***


I ended up at Sparrow, talking about adult things like having children and watching a girl named after a Verdi opera carve a dancefloor of her own out of the middle of the room, soundtrack provided by former campus radio aficionado and current nice-guy Mitz Takahashi.

* I don't think that these toys had anything to do with the 1969 British invasion of the Anguillans in the Caribbean, but the thought that they could is amusing...

** To say little of the fact that most of our linguistic continental brethren will happily shell out hundreds of dollars to watch that spectacle when it shows up in Las Vegas.

*** I've had a real Saul to Paul on the road to Damascus moment after watching this video. The Separatists were right. Get me out of this stupid country.

I started writing this lengthy piece in mid-December about melancholy and dance music and the minor 7th, starting with Arthur Russell and working my way up to the Russell-esque stylings of Kelley Polar... I've tried to return to it a couple of times in the past couple of months, but I've always been defeated by it. Maybe if I'd spent more of my weekend mornings in the mid-90s coming down from designer chemicals, listening to The Orb's Pink Fluffy Clouds I'd be able to power through. All this to say that I've posted about it now, so I'll feel obligated to finish it in the next couple of days and post it.


You may be brilliant, of high position, inordinately wealthy; not one of these
things shall avail you aught if you are not clubbable.
Lewis Saul Benjamin

Michael Ondaatje, by Sheldon Grimson

Michael Ondaatje is the kind of author who'll eat an apple with a paring knife.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Listen, Brahms, Hungarian Dance 1 in G Minor is great, but I gotta say, you don't look like much of a gypsy."

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the Awesome Tapes in Africa blog in a column in the Montreal Mirror, referring to it as "a tightly-wrapped gift from another globe-trotting trust fund brat." Naturally, the maligned blogger took the time to fire me off a feisty e-mail calling me names and proclaiming just how very un-trust-funded he was. In my defense, I thought it came across a little more tongue-in-cheek when I wrote than, well, now, when I read it.

Truthfully, I don't care if someone's parents kicks in cash to underwrite their aimless bohemian wanderings, and as for all of the arguments about the cultural politics of consumption and authenticity in music and appropriation? Well, I find them all incredibly tiring. I don't really have better things to do than read page upon page of music nerds trying to assuage a guilt that I guarantee they had to fortify with a whole lotta critical theory before it turned to shock n' outrage, but I like to think that I do. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

And all that time spent so that we can navigate some hierarchy of maligned cultures that's constantly in flux in order to properly understand, listen to and create music? If Vampire Weekend wasn't around, we'd all be listening to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Riiiiiiiiight.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Orchestre Afrizam. These songs are from 20ème siècle Ike Ike, recorded around 1973 (or so). The songs are inspired by Congolese dances, Zébola and the Kwassa Kwassa. That's not entirely correct, as Zébola is a term that refers to an ailment (a woman is attacked and possessed by an evil spirit) and also a therapeutic treatment (the woman enters a trance, identifies the spirit and later completes a series of complicated dances. Having thus wooed the spirit, the spirit turns benevolent.) The silk-voiced crooner is Mr. Pepe Ndombe. Ghana and Nigeria tend to hog all of the attention when it comes to blogged Pan-African pop from the 60s and 70s, thanks in part to the continuing popularity of Fela Kuti and some highly-regarded and highly-recommended compilations that Soundways (like Ghana Soundz) put out a couple of years ago, but the Democratic Republic of Congo has a lot of very worthwhile stuff as well. (For example, Orchestre TP OK Jazz).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Three Maudlin Songs To Improve Your DJ Game

Ever since I saw the scene in Penelope Spheeris' classic LA punk cult film Suburbia where the management clears the room by playing some old time jazz, I've been convinced of the absolute necessity of playing a spectacular and fitting song at the end of a DJ gig. Something that speaks as much to the one night standers as it does to the sad and lonely single people nursing warm bottles of soapy ale. So, here goes, a couple of sure-fire that will elevate your from simple bar-room clearing to emotional catharsis.

I have a very distinct memory of playing Blue Rodeo's Lost Together as a closing song one night and watching a couple enact a theatrical slow-dance to it that would be best titled, "." A real snapshot of how the common people live and love." Our was a moody big lug of a guy, with a big mess of hair, a quiet demeanor, and a matching jean jacket and jeans. He looked like he could be in Blue Rodeo. His partner was a younger woman, dressed a little too trashy for her own good, and looking too aged for her age. Together, they moved, hands held, pushing apart and pulling back together, in a pantomime tinged with prairie pathos. It was a real moment of human feeling, made possible by Cancon regulations and the diminished expectations of the hardscrabble Canadian working class. (Authenticity's hard to come by in this post-modern era, so it's important to notice it and laugh silently at it when you can.)

Doesn't Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo sound like Neil Diamond? Blue Rodeo even has an album called Diamond Mine, which any close-reader worth his or her salt knows cleverly refers to Neil Diamond. And Neil Diamond has a song called Forever in Blue Jeans, which is about as close to a Blue Rodeo mission statement as I've ever read.

Mr. Bojangles. I bet when Sammy Davis Jr. performed Mr. Bojangles on German television, the audience wept and wept and wept. They wept because here it was, wasn't it? Proof of the victory of the American ideal over the hard-headed Teutonism that had driven them to wage war like the world had never seen before. And a sparky, petite, soft-shoed black Jew with one eye (just like Claus Shenk Graf von Stauffenberg!) was singing to them about a tap-dancing guy and his dead pet that he met in a jail in a formerly French city in the south of the United States! Man, that must have really let loose the floodgates. War guilt and silent shame and pet death.

As a parting shot, Fleetwood Mac's Hold Me is three minutes and forty-nine seconds of . If the other too suggestions are a touch too morose, Hold Me will let your revelers depart on a high note.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Berlin's Take My Breath Away, The Cars' Drive, and Leonard Cohen's Closing Time.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Karaoke & MURDER

Klaus Kinski? Why not?

It's a poorly kept secret in the Canadian music industry that Danko Jones is an angry man. (Danko Jones himself, is a poorly kept secret in the music industry, as well!) Jordan Robson-Cramer of Magic Weapon/Miracle Fortress/Sunset Rubdown has attested to Mr. Jones' hostility in interview, and the man wears his attitude like a single black glove. That is, foolishly, and mostly in a music video.

But could there be something more behind his angry man persona? Yes. It's because he comes from a culture where rage, homicidal impulses, a fuck-you attitude and Sinatra can all coalesce into cold-blooded murder, simply from some off-key warbling as a drunken crooner follows a bouncing yellow ball and sings "the record shows, I took the blows, and did it myyyyyyyyyyyy wayyyyyyyyyyy."

From Saturday's New York Times comes this story about The My Way Killings - incidences where a poor rendition of Frank Sinatra's classic My Way sparked enough anger to cause blood to be spilled, over six times fatally, to say nothing of times the violence was less-than fatal and unrecorded.

The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?
Thankfully, such extreme measures have yet to cross over to North America, which means that Steven Tyler (formerly) of Aerosmith can do bonkers-shit like show up to a karaoke night in Palm Springs to belt out a couple of songs while he's in rehab and not fear for his life.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Liz Harris of Portland, Oregon is Grouper and she specializes in atmospheric and ambient pop songs that best accompany an IV drip. This is from 2008's Dragging a Deer Up A Dead Hill.

Thums Up! Classic Bollywood Sights & Sounds In Montreal

Meri Haton Mein Nau Naw
from Chandni (1989)

Tomorrow is the first night for Thums Up, a Bollywood DJ night at the recently expanded Casa del Popolo. Since the demise of the Garam!Garam! monthly, which also focused on sounds of the subcontinent (with DJ Valeo (formerly Khiasma, of the Masala blog), I've had the opportunity to DJ some of my Bollywood favourites along with Rishi of phenomenal psych-pop outfit Elephant Stone. Having enjoyed it quite a bit and being given the opportunity to by Niki at Casa del Popolo, I jumped at the chance to do a Bollywood monthly.

As my tastes lean towards the Golden Age and pulpy 60s & 70s films, I'll most concentrate on Burman & Rafi-penned hits, unforgettable songs from playback queen Asha Bhosle, and forgotten gems from Bollywood's golden age, while we'll project some movies featuring the daring-do of matinee idols Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, and Dharmendra.

There's more information on the Facebook event page.
Casa del Popolo - 4873 St. Laurent, Montreal, QC

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

New Lo-Fi Fnk Song & Video

What was the last thing the Swedish twosome Lo-Fi FNK did? Want U from the Kitsune Compilation? God, that's ages ago. Well, I'm glad they're back. They leaked this song yesterday. With both this and a new Caribou track (which is about divorce, maybe?) released recently, 2010 is shaping up to be the proper successor to 2006 that 2007 never was.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Yankee Dodge: Solvent Abuse & Diethyl Ether

from Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker

Dubri durnomu brat
Dity i durni hovoriat pravdu

I first heard about ether abuse during a youth group visit to, of all places, a Bible College. A couple of the students were repeating a campus legend about a bogeyman who used ether to subdue his young male victims before violating them in the preferred method of the citizens of the more memorable (and less hospitable) of the two cities, Sodom & Gomorrah. At the time, I remember it being, like most aspects of a bible college, at once antiquated, comical and fucking weird. Thinking back to the prairie roots of many of these students and their families, an ingrained fear and historical knowledge of ether abuse and lecherous family members makes more sense.* Evidencing a lack of imagination common to Bible College campuses, the midnight molester was known as Ether Man.

Hoffman's Drops were, for many years, Western Culture's greatest boon to ether imbibers - a daily fix in a flavoured lozenge. Called Hoffmanstrophen or Hoffman's Drops (or more formally, spiritus aethereus), the mixture of ether and alcohol was created by Freidrich Hoffman (or Fredericus Hoffmanus), a 17th and 18th century physician and chemist.

From their creator's hands, Hoffman's Drops bounce through Western History like narcotic karaoke balls - making an appearance in many works of literature, including Leo Tolstoy's Childhood, Boyhood & Youth and War & Peace, Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo and even Soren Kierkegaard's Sickness Unto Death. Louis XV preferred to mix it with a bit of sugar, and for Queen Victoria's Royal Consort, Prince Albert, it was his preferred sleeping aid. The Pragmatist philosopher William James reportedly drank it with his students. By the late 19th century, Hoffman's Drops were being used to treat everything from coughs to depression to vapours, and offered as a suitable alternative to alcohol by temperance lobbyists. (The lesson here seems to be that, whenever something is presented as a healthy alcohol alternative, it will be far unhealthier and get you way more fucked up.)

From such initial illustrious heights, Hoffman's Drops fell - becaming the equivalent of crystal meth - prairie fire. To the great number of Canada Ukrainians immigrants to Canada in the first part of the 20th century, upset at having traveled across the globe to find they were in a just as cold and unforgiving place as their homeland, cough drops were their only solace.

Several families who had moved from Stuartburn to Peace River in 1913 actually returned when they realized Hoffman's Drops were not available in the remote colony. Near Calder, Saskatchewan, in 1911, forty-eight bottles of Hoffman's Drops were consumed at a dance in several hours.
Ukrainians in Canada: The Formative Period, Orest T. Martynowych
As you can see, the depressed Slavs took to the drops with a relish that has made their reputation since. In so far as I can tell (and Wikipedia can tell me!), the only notable remaining population of ether lovers are the Lemkos**, a small group of ethnic Ukrainians who primarily reside in the Carpathian Mountains, and drink a kropka of ether along with either milk, orange juice, or water and sugar. As compared to simple spirits, the appeal of ether is in its rapid intake rate and the relative rapidity with which the effects wear off without a hangover, making it possible to get drunk multiple times throughout a day. The downside being that ether is highly flammable, making for some dangerous belching and memorable historic deaths.

This low earth music takes into itself each movement
of ether, grows and slims itself, and rings with light,
And rings the shrouded bell of night until it reaches
The meeting point of the Eternal and of Nothing
Bohdan Ihor Antonych

The poet Antonych, who died at the age of 27 in 1937, and who declared himself a "poet of spring intoxication," provides an early cultural touchstone for ether use amongst the Lemkos.

* Also, that the creator, Friedrich Hoffman, wrote a treatise on witchcraft De Potentia Diaboli in Corpore in 1703, which posited that one's receptivity to the Devil could be determined by a variety of factors, including sex, diet, age, and climate.

** "I have to congratulate the Lemkos," said Mr. Steforak, who came to the Vatra with his Lemko wife. "They keep together better than the Boykos or the Hutsuls."

If Sodom gave us sodomy, what lost act of the Judeo-Christian sexual canon did Gomorrah give us? What of Admah & Zeboim?
When was the last recorded case of vapours? Is the female hysteria epidemic finally over?