Thursday, November 03, 2005
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Albion, the Country and Bands
I feel like I should have made more explicit in my last post that my background
is rural-as-hell English. I spent the first 13 years of my life in a tiny village
outside Hereford. I only moved to Canada six years ago, at the age of 25.
So, I guess, all I'm saying is that I feel some kind of organic connection to the
English folk aesthetic that (superficially?) informs the whole free/freak-folk
scene. Being an expat gives me a really odd perspective on that connection.
It's like I had to leave the country(side) for a protracted period of time before I
realised what an essential part of my cultural outlook all that stuff always was.
Anyway, I'm actually more into actual English folk music and folk-rock than I'm
interested in the contemporary American post-folk scene. I really love
Fairport Convention, The Pentangle (check out the picture of me in a Pentangle
shirt on this bloc), Shirley Collins, Anne Briggs, Davy Graham, The
Watersons, Incredible String Band, Forest, Trees etc. etc. The catch is that I
didn't discover this stuff until a Canadian Britpop fan played me the first
Pentangle album about five years ago.
I'm extremely aware that my interest in folk music may be due to nostalgia for
an imagined England that never really existed/is a mere delusion of a
homesick expat. However, I know that a lot of people in the UK are also
digging this stuff and that the old real-ale-finger-in-ear stigma around britfolk is
finally fading away. Look at the success of the Green Man festival, just a
short trip west from where I grew up. Also, what's wrong with using music as a
means with which to envisage Utopia?
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Weird, Ain't It?
Wise Reynolds words in the Village Voice re: The Weird New America.
I feel the same way as Simon for the most part, although I suspect that I'm a little more familiar with and discerning about the genre/scene then he is. Basically, I listen to quite a lot of that stuff but I've never been
able to buy into it completely.
From my experiences actually playing in a free folk ensemble (The Bastion Mews), I'd say that being an English ex-pat has a lot to do with it (Reynolds and I both grew up in the
and folklore etc.) are embraced by North Americans in a rather insubstantial "Rocky Horror Show"-loving Drama Club Goth fashion. So, while Wooden Wand are a great band and I did buy one of their LPs ("Sunset Sleeves"), they'll never mean as much to me as Coil or Richard Youngs - artists who are closer to the source in every sense.
This cuts pretty deep and runs beyond the realms of any kind of avant-noise music and into the singer-songwriting world. I really like US freak-folkers like Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Josephine Foster and Marrissa Nadler. And yet, I'll always prefer the work of relatively "corny"
James Yorkston and Chris T-T because there actually seems to be a point to and context for what they do. Listen to Banhart's protest songs on his new album next to T-T's "Bored of the War". The latter may make you cringe at its sincerity but the former will just wash over you - those songs could be about anything really and they'd have the same level of impact (medium).
I understand that Modest Mouse are a very popular band right now. It makes sense that, in the wake of their last album, there would be a slew of terrible major-label indie-rock acts who sound just like Modest Mouse (hellooo Wolf Parade) but what's the deal with previously good (or, at least, interesting) acts trying to cop a bit of that quirky-but-commercial magic. All of a sudden, The Double are signed to Matador and have gone the whole hog looking for a guest spot on The OC (well, they don't sound like Death Cab yet but have you heard the new Why? album?) and now The Animal Collective??? I had these guys down as one of the few truly interesting acts in indie rock today but listening to Feels is somewhat akin to having a good friend try to force turds into your ears. And then, the band have the nerve to complain about record labels insisting they keep their band name the same for every release. Bullshit!
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Hooray for that old zine policy of "we review everything we receive"! The following is from
and is probably the fourth review that "Moss" has received overall.
On his second full-length album as Connect_icut, Sam Macklin builds warm, organic sound pictures from melodic elements and industrial clangor. Macklin, who relocated from the
Until now, Moss has been an interesting trip with occasional moments of transfixing beauty, but the record finds its space-centric groove during its second half. "Lethal Cocktail" is space-journey mysterious, laced with reverberating pings and Ligeti-esque choral sweeps and conveying a sense of endless space and time. "TV Lightware" has the same feel, but its colliding tonal pulses and lingering after-tones are warmer, more melodic and organic. "Winter Song" brings a music-box precision to the same run of notes that illuminated "Blood on the Walls", but cranked up faster and more mechanical. "Deathless" is denser, a tangle of overlapping staccato tones through whose gaps can be glimpsed Enya-like washes of altered vocal sounds. As in other cuts, the sound shimmers, mirage-like, in and out of focus, discord building and fraying as the cut moves forward. There is a profound, oscillating mysticism to "Pass the Aura Goggles" and a transcendently beautiful resolution to "Omsk-F" that closes the disc in slow moving, mood-shifting style.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
(i) Not even slightly disappointing: music.
Sunn0))) and Boris at The Brickyard. Forget the "metal" schtick - it's central but oddly beside the point. The interesting and neat thing about these bands is that they're really interesting and neat. These are the most exciting avant rock acts in the world right now.
Good turnout too. The Brickyard is the only venue I know which is actually more pleasant to be in when it's filled to the rafters with sweaty humanity - it masks the smell of piss.
(ii) Slightly disappointing: TV.
Prison Break. Let us never speak of it again.
Veronica Mars. Not bad of course but is it turning into a soap opera? Let's hope not.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
(i) Of course, Noriko Tujiko was superb last Saturday. In ten years time people will be saying to me, "Wait, you saw Noriko Tujiko, LIVE???" And I'll be all smug and say, "Yeah, FOUR TIMES". And then they'll be, like, "What was I doing?" And I'll tell them, "Dude, you were into Bloc Party." I bet.
(ii) The new album by Peter "Pita" Rehberg ("Fremdkoerper" on the alarmingly-named Mosz label) is his most subtle, varied and brilliant to date.
(iii) Sunn0))) tonight. Shame it's at the stinky Brickyard. The blackest possible atmospheres, indeed.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Thursday, October 20, 2005
New Blim Grand Opening!
featuring new installation by Drew Shaffer and Sonja Ahlers.
music by Daniel Giantomaso and Niall Morgan.
firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
New Blim Arts Society Hours
monday-saturday - closed sundays
Blim #197-east 17th (@ main)
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Sunday, October 16, 2005
AN OPEN LETTER TO SIMON REYNOLDS PART TWO
Simon was nice enough to dig out some of the email exchanges that I couldn't access, so I'm able to address a few more of his thoughts on his unloved child UK Post-Rock.
Last time, I wrote about what I think we all agree was the total and utter commercial failure of UK post-rock. This time, I'm going to address one of his other concerns: post-rock's "contraction to basically what it is now, pleasant instrumental music with a tinge of experimentalism (or eclecticism construed as/mistook for experimentalism)".
This is a good point up to a point. All it really amounts to, though is that US post-rock sucked. Most of the British acts either dropped off the face of the earth (Hello? Insides?) or moved into more purely electronic forms (Bark Psychosis becoming Boymerang). Not that some of them didn't also start to suck (I'm thinking of Scorn here, mainly). It's also worth pointing out that there was, to a tiny extent, a second generation of UK post-rock that was divided between those who kept the faith with the original scene (Third Eye Foundation...) and those who aped the American style (Fridge...)
One mistake, I think Simon makes is his association of post-rock with self-conscious futuristicness (if that's a word). I took him up on this and he commented that "well most of the British bands did definitely want to be if not futuristic, then contemporary..." He's both right and wrong here and you have to deconstruct his wording just a tiny bit to know why. His sentence sorta suggests that "futuristic" and " contemporary" mean basically the same thing, which is clearly not true in the literal sense. However, when seen in the context of early-90s experimental rock and dance music, this conflation does make sense, kind of. That is to say, to be self-consciously contemporary in the early 90s was to be de-facto futuristic. It has to do with the birth of the information age and the paradoxical pre-millennial optimism of early 90s life. For Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis and Moonshake, "giving people something real" inevitably meant embraces recent advances in technology and technology-based music. Other acts, like God and Scorn, were more futuristic per se but still very much within the framework of the early-90s discourse on what "the future" was going to entail. Their brand of Futurism was very much of its time.
This leads me to my other point. Simon has always seen post-rock as being distinctly anti-rockist but I would say that UK post-rock is specifically an example of what happens when someone applies an extremely rockist attitude to making experimental music. In that sense, I think it fits in with Simon's concept of Neo-Rockism rather nicely.
Basically, my argument about UK post-rock was that it was not futuristic or iconoclastic so much as it was an attempt to be natural and "real" in a more honest and thoughtful way than is usual in rock music. Simon has suggested that Britpop was a more real reflection of British rock life and music at the time, which is a de facto truth, I suppose. Nevertheless, Britpop was drenched in artifice, irony, retro-referencing and almost entirely overwhelming crapness. It did a bad job of capturing the truth of early-90s British life but provided the white middle class rock consumers with a cosy, matey vision of Britain that made them feel very cosy and not a little proud. I think I covered my feelings about this issue in the last post, so I'll leave it at that.
That's all for now. Questions and comments are welcomed.
Seriously, if you're not watching Veronica Mars, what are you watching? "Deadwood"? Give me a fucking break.
About the only positive thing I've ever read about this show was a Terminal City review of the DVD that basically described it as good "escapist" fun. Either the dude was totally missing the point or he's a fucking chicken shit, who's afraid of saying what he really thinks.
While we're acting all pissy, I would just like to say that I hate White Whale Recordings of Vancouver, Canada, with every little piece of my soul.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
AN OPEN LETTER TO SIMON REYNOLDS (PART ONE?)
I know this sounds like a Half Man Half Biscuit song title. But, seriously, I mean it. I have recently been having an email conversation with Simon on the topic of the early-90s UK post-rock scene - which he was single-handedly responsible for pointing-out the existence of, and naming. It stemmed from a mild resurgence of interest in said scene, particularly an article on Pitchfork (of all places!)
Anyway, seeing as Simon has encouraged me to start blogging again, on a couple of occasions, I though I would post my latest answers in a public forum. I hope he doesn't mind.
One problem. I actually CAN'T open the last email Simon sent and I can't even seem to open the last one I sent to him! This has never happened to me before. My Yahoo account usually works like a dream. Perhaps this is destined never to happen but I'm pretty determined to get there in the end.
As far as I remember, the main comment he made in the last email was that UK post-rock was never destined to have widespread popular appeal or commercial success. Maybe he's right. Certainly, the large audience that now exists for "left-field" music wasn't around back then. In fact it was the moment that UKPR represented that created it, to a large extent. Before 90s post-rock, post-techno etc., it wasn't the case that the audience for experimental music largely consisted of people who were weened on indie rock and electronic dance music. I even remember, at the time, giving up on the melody Maker and starting to read The Wire instead. A truly seminal moment for me and one that generally sums up the transformation of the avant audience from being a small enclave of people interested in contemporary composition and free improv to being a rather larger enclave of jaded indie rockers and burnt-out ravers.
Having said that, post-rock did produce a fair number of catchy pop songs (Disco Inferno's "Sleight of Hand" and Bark Psychosis' "Blue" spring to mind). Certainly, I think the most accessible post-rock songs were a much better, more honest and more compelling commentary on 90s British society than anything produced even by the more intelligent Britpop groups. I guess Moonshake's "Second Hand Clothes" was never going to be a bigger hit than "Common People" but it's still surpising to me that it, and songs like it, didn't garner a substantial cult audience at the time. I suppose the feeling of the nineties was one of surpisingly positive pre-millenial optimism and people didn't want angst-ridden social commentary.
So I guess Bill Clinton is to blame for the commercial failure of UK post-rock.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
All quiet on the connect_icut front. There's a CD release planned for this winter but the whole process is positively crawling towards it's conclusion.
Apparently, Noriko Tujiko is playing in Vancouver this month but I wish I could find out *when*.