Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Great Live Music Coming Up in Vancouver
This show is something of a must-hear for experimentally-minded music fans in the Vancouver area. Don't miss.

Hi Dozo
David Grove: homemade synthesizers
Lee Hutzulak: electro acoustic guitar

Rough Noble
Jeffrey Allport: modified cassette deck
Robert Pedersen: modified cassette deck

Ken Roux & J.P. Carter
suitcase / electronics & trumpet / electronic

Saturday, March 31
8 PM | $5-$10
197 E17th Ave. (@ Main St.), Vancouver, BC

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Adorable Melancholy.
The following is a little something I wrote for the new issue of Geist magazine. Please note that this is the edited text from the mag itself and not some kind of director's cut. As such, it probably represents the first properly proofread post in Blogglebum Cage history. Having said that, they did make the mistake of saying "his" in relation to Tove Jansson and I've changed it back to "her".

Each book in the ongoing Complete Peanuts series (Fantagraphics) is beautifully designed by the Canadian cartoonist Seth and features two years of thoughtfully reproduced daily and Sunday newspaper cartoon strips. This magnificently conceived project, whose latest addition is the sixth volume (1961–1962), will keep the work of Charles M. Schulz on the shelves of bookstores for years to come. It’s interesting to speculate on how the American public would react to Peanuts if Schulz were just starting out today. The great man’s mix of whimsical angst and irreverent theology would probably displease bohemians and conservatives alike. In the reputedly prim 1950s, Schulz found not only acceptance but also massive commercial success, perhaps due to the high artistic status that cartoonists enjoyed at that time. Schulz was a true scholar of pre-war newspaper strips and fully cognizant of publishers’ and readers’ willingness to engage with challenging and eccentric cartoons.
Dip into any volume of this history to dispel any notion that complex form and content in comics is a recent phenomenon. The work of fifteen artists, including Schulz, who shaped the development of the American comic strip, has recently been displayed in a travelling exhibition called Masters of American Comics (the catalogue is published by Yale University Press). One look at the extraordinarily far-out Krazy Kat strips, which ran in American newspapers between 1913 and 1944, will make you a fan. Krazy’s creator, George Herriman, was the true genius of pre-war comics and Fantagraphics has reprinted his brilliant work in a series of trade paperbacks. The recent Krazy & Ignatz 1937–1938: Shifting Sands Dusts Its Cheeks in Powdered Beauty is one of the most agreeably bonkers tomes published in recent memory. Just about every strip tells the story of Ignatz Mouse’s compulsion to hurl bricks at the willing Krazy’s head, and each is told in a linguistic and visual vernacular that defies description.
E.C. Segar’s earliest Popeye comics have just been made available in a gorgeously designed hardcover, also from Fantagraphics. Segar’s Thimble Theatre strips featured some of the most charming characters ever to appear in newsprint, including the hilarious Bernice the Whiffle Hen, a magical African bird with a winning personality. Amazingly, the equally resilient Popeye didn’t appear until 1929, by which time Thimble Theatre was already a decade into its run (and Popeye does not enter this particular volume until page 27). It’s easy to see why the character’s mixture of maritime dialect, big-hearted sensitivity and righteous fisticuffs quickly captured the hearts of Depression-era readers. Popeye came to dominate the strip in no time—and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly has launched Walt and Skeezix: 1921 & 1922, the first in a series that collects Frank King’s seminal Gasoline Alley strips. While these books are fitting testaments to King’s incredible illustrative talents, the content (from the early years, anyway) has dated rather badly—not least the regular appearances of Walt’s stereotypical African-American maid.

Moomin (Drawn & Quarterly) collects a cartoon created in the 1950s by Tove Jansson, a Finnish artist who published her work in a British newspaper—proving that comic innovation was not a uniquely American phenomenon. The Moomin strip was a conscious attempt to take Jansson’s much-loved children’s book characters to an adult audience. The Moomins, a family of hippo-like “trolls,” are equally divided between those who are happy with a simple rural existence and those who yearn for the bright lights of the big city. This familial schism provided Jansson’s delightfully illustrated strips not only with narrative drive but also with a very convincing thematic and emotional weight. At their best, these strips manage to wrap the oddness of Krazy Kat, the charm of Popeye and the angst of Peanuts in a distinctly Scandinavian world view.

All of these works share a vague mood that could be described as “adorable melancholy”—something that seems like a fading echo from a gentler and (in some ways) more tolerant age.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


The new issue of Vanity Fair tells us that The Sopranos is the greatest TV series of all time and goes on to insist that this is because it is "relatable". Wrong. The reason that The Sopranos is one of the greatest shows of all time is that it is a brilliant attack on the essential immorality of capitalism. Veronica Mars is a better show because it is a more brilliant attack on the essential immorality of capitalism.

I've Been meaning, for quite a while, to write something about hauntlogical aspects of Veronica Mars. These things are always mentally planned out as tightly-written online essays with, like, footnotes and stuff but unfailingly end up as hastilywrittenandpoorlyproofread blog posts. Okay, I don't have much time, so here we go...

The specific aspects of hauntology that I'm referring to here are:

(a) The use of ghosts and ghostly imagery to represent a hazily remembered, vaguely idealized past/youth, characterized by the strength and efficacy of the public realm.

(b) Images of drowning used to represent an unreal, dystopian present, characterized by the victory of disturbingly cynical elements in the private sector.

The presence of ghosts in Veronica Mars is, of course, a simple fact. For example, Veronica spends much of the first season being rather benignly haunted by her murdered best friend, Lilly. In VM, though, ghosts don't represent the way our dead friends come to manifest themselves in the living world but the ways in which we come to realize that they are truly absent.

Veronica's life pre-Lilly's death is portrayed, through a series of gauzy flashbacks, as a paradise of inclusiveness, in stark contrast to the hell of exile she enters after the murder. Lilly is a fairly major character throughout the first season but we never see anything from her perspective because she doesn't have a perspective any more. She ventures plenty of opinions and theories about the season's central mystery - her murder - but these are a mere reflection of her fading memory, as it exists within Veronica's subconscious. Therefore, she is only able to help Veronica solve the mystery in a thoroughly mediated fashion.

Likewise, Veronica makes most of her important realizations about Season Two's central crime after a series of oblique conversations with victims' ghosts. During one pivotal episode, she spends much of her time asleep, dreaming conversations with the kids who died when a school bus plunged, rather suspiciously, off the Pacific Coast Highway and into the ocean. Significant aspects of this episode are as follows:

(i) Veronica only really knows most of the ghost-kids she talks to via her post-mortem investigations into their lives.

(ii) The conversations happen underwater, in The Drowned World.

(iii) The conversations happen on a yellow American school bus. I always think of these buses as being an anachronistic hangover from a time when the US public realm was not quite so marginalized - perhaps the 1970s of After School Special.

(iv) Some of the kids who should have been on the bus decided, at the last minute to hire a limo - a private car - to take them home in style. Obviously these are rich kids and two of them are the sons of an unscrupulous local property developer.

This last part is a pretty brutally angry use of hauntological metaphor: the rich get away in private luxury while the poor perish in the destruction of the public realm. It's quite amazing how VM creator Rob Thomas has managed to sneak this kind of thing under the network's nose again and again.

Or, at least, he managed during the first two seasons. Now, in season three, the ghosts are gone and the show takes place squarely within the "gritty reality" of standard televisual murder mysteries. As such, it represents a much less compelling vision of the world we actually live in.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Listen to Me
If you're in Vancouver on Friday March 23rd, you really should go see Kellarissa (Larissa from thee holee see) and Sinoia Caves (Jeremy from Black Mountain) play at Blim (197 East 17th @ Main, starting at 8pm).

Or, if you want to enjoy some great music without leaving the warm glow of your computer screen, just click over to the connect_icut website, where three MP3s are now posted. Too much like hard work? Okay, I'll post them here as well...

TV Lightwell (from Moss)

Advanced Distortion (from LA...)

Why We Cry (from They Showed Me the Secret Beaches)

Happy now? What's that? You'd like to see a clip from A Scanner Darkly? Sheesh, the things I do to keep you people happy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Liked It!
Still so busy working on the whole LA project that I don't really have time for blogging or much else besides. Some more scattered thoughts, then.

1. Personally, I think that Reformation! Post-TLC is a freakin' great album. Ragged and understated, it recalls Room to Live more than anything else. "Insult Song" is an instant classic, to these ears, at least.

2. Was Philip K Dick a cat lover? Apparently, yes but It's hard to find many details beyond that. Does this help?
What a guy! Anyone who can provide more details on this subject will receive my eternal gratitude and maybe a prize, if they're lucky.

3. I've just started trying to fancy up the connect_icut website. The first part of these efforts involved finally posting some music on the site. Consequently, you are now invited to listen to an MP3 of "Advanced Distortion" from the new album.

4. While I'm barely writing anything coherent nowadays, the rest of the gang are producing some of their best material yet. After Saelan's awesome character assassination of the Arcade Fire, Carl hits us with a stupendous essay about The Young Gods. No wonder he hasn't had time to send those Adventures in Stereo albums he promised me (due to my high office, other bloggers are required to send me any UK post-rock obscurities they may have in their possession).

5. The New Electronic Underground just keeps on revealing great artists. Where are these people coming from? Seems that, for the most part, I find out about - and hear - them via Mapadasical. Case in point, Mark Templeton. Never heard of him before but listen to how great this song is.

6. K-Punk mentions Buffy but - shame on him - he's never actually seen the show or, at least, he's never seen "Once More with Feeling". Does this help?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

For those of you who would love to order a copy of connect_icut's new vinyl LP, LA (An Apology), but feel that your means are somewhat limited, there are two additional options.

1. A few non-full-art promo copies are left and if you intend to review LA for a reputable publication, you may be entitled to one of those. Get in touch, before they're all gone.

2. Alternatively, we could do a trade. If you've released a record or CD of your own and think it might be something that would tickle the fancy of Ye Olde Post-Rock Ombudsman, swapsies may be in order. Doesn't hurt to ask.

Here are a couple of the discs that LA has recently been traded for:

a. Drahomira Song Orchestra - The Couch
Superbly whimsical dark ambience from France. Hmm... apparently playful French post-industrial abstraction is The Blogglebum Cage's new favourite sound (see also: Ultra Milkmaids). So be it. This 220g slab o' wax was released by Brad, who also put out the first connect_icut CD, Moss. The Couch was a very limited edition but there are still a few copies left at Beta-Lactam Ring. Get it. It's good.

b. Flatgrey - XXXXX
Very fancy, one-sided mini album from Vancouver's second most popular harsh noise artist. I was listening to this for half an hour before realizing that it has a locked groove at the end. Brutally hypnotic. This one came courtesy of Josh from rundownsun, who would be only too happy to sell you one, I'm sure.

"Thank you. My means are limited but that's not the reason."
Okay, okay, I'm back.
How to start? Well, by typing quickly and not proof-reading, of course.

1. LA (An Apology) is out right now and can be bought in person at Zulu in Vancouver and at Cheap Thrills in Montreal. If you want to mail order it directly from me, go to this page on the connect_icut website. The recommended mail order method, though, is from the Canadian distributor Scratch Records, which is selling it to Canadians for $16.50CA and to the rest of the world for $14.99US.

2. The best Tower of Sleep post ever happened recently. Good to see that Baby S is capable of hatin' on a playa, especially when said playa is the Arcade Fire. For what it's worth, I agree with every word.

3. Can't say I'm too excited about all the metal talk going on in the blogsphere right now, particularly as I was trying to get all blogga dem to get with Sunn0))) and Om, like, two years ago (with very little success). I suppose I was still a record store clerk at the time, so it was (in a very literal way) my job to be ahead of the curve, just as it is currently my duty to act all snooty and superior about the whole thing.

Okay, there's one interesting thing about this whole issue for me, which is that I still can't bring myself to come out and say "I like heavy metal". I have the same problem with the prog. Somehow, these terms have a very great symbolic power over me; they cast a spell I can't break. For me "metal" and "prog" are pejorative terms, so if I think something is good, I can't bring myself to admit that it might be classifiable as "metal" or "prog". What's extra weird about this is that I have no problem with equally icky/reviled terms like "new age" or "indie rock". I know it's probably just another of my silly hang-ups but it seems so weird and possibly significant. I can't dope it out, as we used to say in the thirties.

4. How could I not admit to liking indie rock, when I just went to see the reformed Sebadoh play - for the second time, I might add? The reason this time was that Lou and Jason have let crazy Eric Gaffney back into the fold. Sebadoh with Eric is a very different proposition from the Bakesale-on Sebadoh of popular memory. The first three 'Doh albums are whimsically occultish works, nerve-wrackingly emotional documents of early '90s small-town stonerism. They demand your attention and are not to be dismissed lightly. Luckily, Domino Records seems to be in the process of a major re-issue programme.

5. What I'm actually listening to right now is Pop Pressing by a French combo called Ultra Milkmaids. These folks have been toiling away in obscurity since 1993, apparently but this is the first I've heard of them. And what a fantastic discovery it is - rather like a more good-natured guitar-centric farmersmanual. A must have, if you can track a copy down.

6. I got my copy courtesy of Darren "Lim" Milos. In the same package he sent a one-of-a-kind version of his new CDR His Destinys Dub, which is made entirely with samples provided by yours truly as part of the ongoing Not Me project. This represents the first Not Me material to become commercially available and it's fucking great stuff. Therefore, an essential purchase for all human beings. Get it from Lim's website.

7. Talking of Not me, my plan for the next stage of this endeavour is Not Me Presents: The Acid Folk Remix Project. Basically this will involve me and anyone else who wants to join in remix/covering/etc all of the songs from my three volumes of Acid Folk mix CDs.

8. And talking of mix CDs, I have two new mixes to offer all of y'all.

Sam's Mix CD for Spring 2007...

"Fall Sound" The Fall
"Fallen Faces' Mordant Music
"Get Ur Freak On" Satanicpornocultshop
featuring Carl Stone
"Trill" Clipse
"Kilos" Ghostface Killah
"Badman" Roll Deep
"South London Boroughs" Burial
"Midnight Request Line" Skream
"Dem a Bomb We" Ladybug
"The Long List of Girls" The Blow
"Cosmonaut" High Places
"Wetland" Belbury Poly
"Janet" To Bad Catholics
"Get Off the Internet" The Microphones
"This Gun is Not a Gun" Chris T-T
"虹が始まるとき" Boris with Michio Kurihara
"Monkey & Bear"
Joanna Newsom
"Memory Eleven" The Caretaker

...and UnPlug, which turned out to have the same track listing as when I talked about it before. Shoot me an email if you want a copy of either or both of these. Or if you see me out at a show, just ask - I'll probably have some on me.

9. What me? Go out to a show? That isn't Sebadoh? Well, y'see, there are a lot of neat things coming up in Vancouver, right now. Here are a couple of highlights...

Friday, April 6th
Open Studios - 252 E. 1st Ave.
10pm, $15 @ the door

Hi Dozo
David Grove: homemade synthesizers
Lee Hutzulak: electro acoustic guitar
Rough Noble
Jeffrey Allport: modified cassette deck
Robert Pedersen: modified cassette deck
Ken Roux & J.P. Carter
suitcase / electronics & trumpet / electronic
Saturday, March 31
8 PM | $5-$10
@ Blim
197 E17th Ave. (@ Main St.), Vancouver, BC

10. Or maybe I'll just stay home with a good book. See, after that whole MES/C93/PKD riff, I finally got around to reading some Philip K Dick books and I've become more than a little hooked. One thing I'd like to know: was PKD a cat lover? Mark E Smith and David Tibet are both crazy cat people and felines seem to feature rather heavily in Dick's work. Could be significant. Anyone know anything about this?

Okay, that's all for now. I've got to get back to convincing people to buy my record. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to expand upon some of these threads before too very long.

Friday, March 02, 2007