Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Playlist #34

Sunday Playlist #34

The Clientele - Never Anyone But You

Forest City Lovers - Tell Me, Cancer

Hooded Fang - Ghosts

Carmen Elle - Cold and Alcohol

Tusks - Little Pirouettes

Tusks are playing this Thursday (November 1, 2012) at The Piston to celebrate their new Total Entertainment album. Show up early and check out Gentlemen of Leisure, a new project from Bicycle Drew and Steamboat Matt.


Sunday Playlist is a semi-regular feature that brings back some of this blog's previously-posted original live recordings for an encore. You can always click the tags below to see what I originally wrote about the shows these songs came from.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recording: The Wilderness of Manitoba

Artist: The Wilderness of Manitoba

Songs: Echoes + Help Me [Joni Mitchell cover]

Recorded at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, October 26, 2012.

The Wilderness of Manitoba - Echoes

The Wilderness of Manitoba - Help Me

Full review to follow. A celebratory night for The Wilderness of Manitoba as they launched their new Island of Echoes album to a hometown crowd. This big church-y space is exactly the sort of place I wished I was seeing the band play every time they were drowned out by the semi-indifferent patrons of a bar. The interesting thing is that the band has evolved to a state where they are so much bolder in their presence that they'd have much more of a fighting chance in that sort of environment. It's been happening in stages in front of our eyes, so it's striking to step back and see how much the band has evolved — the close-harmonized folk base is still there, but now the band can just as organically pull off, say, the Fleetwood Mac-flavoured "Echoes".

This was also a coming out party of sorts for new-ish singer/violinist Amanda Balsys, so it was befitting that in the encore she got a vocal spotlight with a sterling take on Joni's "Help Me" — and didn't it feel good.

Recording: THOMAS

Artist: THOMAS

Song: Is My Living In Vain [The Clark Sisters cover]

Recorded at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, October 26, 2012.

THOMAS - Is My Living In Vain

Full review to follow. In the sanctified space of Trinity-St. Paul's, this slowed-down Clark Sisters song fit right in alongside Thom Gill's easy amiability.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recording: Departures

Artist: Departures

Song: Swimming

Recorded at The Shop under Parts & Labour, October 23, 2012.

Departures - Swimming

Full review to follow. To be honest, a week ago I hadn't heard of Winnipeg's Departures, either. But Stuart Berman's review in last week's Grid caught my eye and when I saw they were hitting town this week I reckoned to check 'em out. It seems like word hasn't gotten around yet, but once their mix of college rock and tension/release postpunk sounds sinks in a bit I think they'll have some more curious onlookers when they make it back.

Recording: Cannon Bros.

Artist: Cannon Bros.

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Shop under Parts & Labour, October 23, 2012.

Cannon Bros. - unknown

Full review to follow. A spot on the Polaris long list might carry some cachet, but it doesn't guarantee folks'll come out to investigate a band. The crowd at Parts & Labour was so scant as Cannon Bros. got started that we were soon on a first-name basis. As it happens, the duo's power-pop is right up my alley, and comes with some nicely contrasting textures that appear as Cole Woods and Alannah Walker switch off on guitar and drums. They'll be playing Kingston/Montreal/Ottawa over the next few nights, so go see 'em if you're out that way.

* This was introduced from the stage as a "brand new song" — please leave a comment if you know the title!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recording: Twerps

Artist: Twerps

Song: Dreamin

Recorded at The Silver Dollar Room, October 22, 2012.

Twerps - Dreamin

Full review to follow. Making their local debut, Melbourne's Twerps impressed despite battling with some gear issues that left the impression the band felt they were at less than their best. With influences that seem to include Sterling Morrison's rhythm guitar from "What Goes On" and The Clean's infinite jangle, they can tread water impressively — an admirable form of restraint in a field usually given to propulsion. There were hints here that the band is just this close to really having it all together — their next visit here could see them knock one right out of the park.

Recording: Alex Bleeker and The Freaks

Artist: Alex Bleeker and The Freaks

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Silver Dollar Room, October 22, 2012.

Alex Bleeker and The Freaks - unknown

Full review to follow. There was a time when The Grateful Dead were uncool. Real Estate's Alex Bleeker proves that time is gone, with his widdly-wah mellow jams. Touchstones included covers of of Neil Young's "Helpless" and The Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia", and the set was bookened by the lengthy near-instrumental jams that did the same on his 2009 self-titled album. Along the way there was also room for a bunch of new material that'll probably be bound for the follow-up.

* "Don't Look Back On Me Now"? "Don't Look Down Upon Me"? Does anyone know the title to this one? Please leave a comment!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Festival Preview/Advance Reviews: Ekran 2012

Ekran 2012: Toronto Polish Film Festival

October 25–28, 2012

Now in its fourth year, Ekran shines a light on Poland's film culture, with over a dozen screenings of recent work. As with any "niche" festival, this is a chance to see something that might not otherwise make it onto a big screen near you. After an opening night at Innis Town Hall, the festival settles into the Revue Cinema, which means you should be able to find some Polish food after your screening along the Roncesvalles strip. There's also a satellite outreach series of free screenings at the Runnymede library branch. And while there's some populist heart-warming and inspring fare here that I wouldn't be any more interested in seeing than their Hollywood analogues, there's also some more ambitious programming — which is to say that there's probably something here to interest most everyone. Don't worry if you don't know your Wajda from your Kieslowski, and don't worry about the language gap — all films are offered with English subtitles.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the box office. Check Ekran's website for the full schedule and ticket into.

ADVANCE REVIEWS

The Secret / Sekret (Dir: Przemyslaw Wojcieszek, Poland, 2012, 82 min.)

Screens: Saturday, October 27, 2012, 9 p.m. @ Revue Cinema

There's no easy answers in this film. The past, and how we deal with it, are filled with ambiguity. Wojcieszek confidently extends that uncertainty into the very grammar of his film, with exposition sometimes somewhere out of reach, just as it so often is in real life. He also imbues the wobbly feeling of not knowing into the visual presentation, with a series of distancing alienation effects keeping us as far from the truth as the characters are.

Jan lives a quiet life in his country home, cheerfully puttering in his garden. He's pleased to have a visit from Ksawery, his grandson, with his agent Karolina in tow. Ksawery, now a queer performance artist specializing in transgressive modern dance, shows a great deal of affection for his grandfather, and in return it's clear that Jan is accepting of Ksawery's life and sexuality.

Karolina has revealed that something happened with Jan after the war. The family home had once belonged to a Jewish family — until, suddenly, it didn't. Documentation has come to light showing how Jan had been on trial regarding the family's disappearance, but the charges were dropped under murky circumstances. The possibility that Jan, a "respectable man" of good standing in the community, might have been involved in something sinister causes great consternation to his grandson. As the facts around this secret are slowly unveiled, the film lets Ksawery's ambiguous relationships with the other characters slowly reveal themselves.

Director Wojcieszek here shows a talent for isolating emotionally-revealing moments, whether in quiet back-porch conversations or in the middle of a crowded wedding. He also chooses to keep the viewer at a distance from the film's events with the use of jumpcuts, sped-up motion, and occasional dreamlike sequences. The "truth" of what we see on the screen is as much in flux as it is for the characters. At another level, as we cut from the main narrative to scenes of a completed dance sequence that we have seen Ksawery working on while visiting his grandfather, we get a hint at how his emotional turmoil has informed his art. And in the end, it's the effects that these struggles have had on us that are more present than any resolution to the secrets the past has held.

The Fourth Dimension / Czwarty wymiar (Dir: Harmony Korine/Aleksei Fedorchenko/Jan Kwiecinski, U.S.A./Russia/Poland, 2012, 106 min.)

Screens: Sunday, October 28, 2012, 9 p.m. @ Revue Cinema

A trilogy of mid-length films released, curiously, under the auspices of Vice Magazine, it's probably best to consider each of these on their own merits rather than as aspects of its putative overarching thematic title.

The presence of cult director Harmony Korine is the biggest "name" here and may, in fact, bring in some patrons on its own merit. His Lotus Community Workshop is a vehicle for Val Kilmer's self-parodic turn as a self-help guru named Val Kilmer. Bringing awesome secrets and cotton candy to the masses, this is really over-the-top stuff, with a chance for Kilmer to deliver a lot of goofy non-sequiturs. ("Some of you ride horses... stop riding horses.") And while it has some fun moments, it's neither much of a meditation on the Fourth Dimension ("simply heaven on earth") or very revealing as a character study, feeling in the end more like an over-long comedy sketch.

Aleksei Fedorchenko's Chronoeye is more on point, with its portrayal of a man so obsessed with the past that he's forgotten how to live in the present. Grigory Mikhailovich hasn't been able to invent a time machine, but he is putting the finishing touches on a device that at least lets him see into the past. He's as frustrated with its inability to do that with an omniscient point-of-view as he is with his upstairs neighbour, who has the temerity to interrupt his research with her dancing. The film is interested in some ideas — especially in the idea of perspectives — but the romantic resolution it settles for is a little too pat.

Jan Kwiecinski's Fawns — the Polish contribution that has this playing at this festival — just happens to be the best by a good stretch, with a strong sense of place and mood. In the face of an oncoming flood of seeming Biblical proportions, four young people have stayed behind to experience their evacuated town as their own private playground. With the narcissistic invulnerability of youth, they seem to be in no rush to flee, even as grim news reports and distant air raid sirens hint at the magnitude of the emergency. Instead, they take over the park and explore their neighbours' homes, as hints of sexual tension between the comely Koko and her three accompanying lads ratchets upwards. When one of their group disappears just as it starts to look like it's really, definitely time to get out, they have to begin making hard decisions, and find out if their moral imperatives outweigh their survival instincts. Shot with a striking visual sense, this segment is quite definitely worth seeing, and hopefully Jan Kwiecinski's work will grace this festival again.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recording: Legato Vipers

Artist: Legato Vipers

Songs: Rat King + Angel Dust

Recorded at Tyler's basement, October 20, 2012.

Legato Vipers - Rat King + Angel Dust

This new unit contains members from some top-notch denizens of the T.O.-Guelph axis, who are finding new creative niches in bands like Del Bel and Skeletones Four. Here, they aren't re-inventing the wheel so much as putting their chops to work in the service of quick and party-ready instrumental surf-y jams. The lineage they're staking themselves to is clear from the fact that they got Don Pyle (of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet) to produce some recordings that should be seeing the light of day soon. These guys have the talent to pull it off, making it seem effortlessly fun. Find them at a basement party near you!

Recording: Man Made Hill

Artist: Man Made Hill

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Music Gallery (X Avant VII), October 20, 2012.

Man Made Hill - unknown

Full review to follow. I've seen Randy Gagne's one-man mutant disco inferno before, and I knew he always approached things with a straightfaced focus underneath his glittery makeup. Here, though, everything was cranked up to eleven — and then the dial was smashed with his custom microphone, built into a tin can on its side to make it look like a mallet. Gagne (or, as we were told, his holographic replacement) would occasionally punctuate a line by banging in down in front of him, like a grumpy judge quelling a courtroom.

His faux-horsehair wig could also have come from a Jacobean courtroom as well — or more possibly some sort of freaked-out re-imagining of Amadeus as conceived by The Residents. Meanwhile, Gagne shrieked and high-kicked his way through his set — a pure embodiment of crazy-legged DIY id unleashed.

This recording can't really do justice to the spectacle of the whole thing. I've put up a few photos on the MFS facebook page to give a bit more of an idea, but put simply: Man Made Hill is a big deal, and you need to get out and see him in action.

Afterthought: The fact that Gagne was able to pull together such a theatrical spectacle — complete with live video treatments from Mani Mazinani — is a testament to how the underground benefits from the sort of curation (and, one presumes, financial support) provided by festivals like X Avant. Artists need space and resources to take their shit to the next level, and when they get it we're all enriched.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Please leave a comment!

Recording: Pon De Replay

Artist: Pon De Replay with Colin Fisher

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Music Gallery (X Avant VII), October 20, 2012.

Pon De Replay with Colin Fisher - unknown

Full review to follow. Sitting on the floor, surrounded by a reel-to-reel tape player, a walkman and a lot of patchcord-connected electronics, Montréal's Brian Seeger created a collage that kept the "pop" in noise-pop. For this set, he was joined by Colin Fisher on drums, who added an element of cosmic propulsion to the proceedings.

The festival's excellent run of matching visuals to music was continued here with Mani Mazinani's old-school video toasting, cutting between realtime footage, shots of an infinitely-spinning reel-to-reel player and found images. It looked like — and I mean this as a huge complement — the trippiest cable access show from 1987.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Please leave a comment!

Sunday Playlist #33

Sunday Playlist #33

The Weakerthans - (Hospital Vespers)/Bigfoot

Daniel, Fred and Julie - Your Love

A.A. Bondy - When The Devil's Loose

Lisa Bozikovic - Wanting the Wanting

Diamond Rings - It's Not my Party


Sunday Playlist is a semi-regular feature that brings back some of this blog's previously-posted original live recordings for an encore. You can always click the tags below to see what I originally wrote about the shows these songs came from.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Recording: Hooded Fang

Artist: Hooded Fang

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Soybomb HQ, October 19, 2012.

Hooded Fang - unknown

Full review to follow. Fresh off some time spent recording, Hooded Fang brought some new songs and a slice of spastic heaven to the sweat-drenched dance inferno of Soybomb HQ. The band is headed overseas for some tour action and won't be seen around these parts for a few months, so it was nice to be able to send 'em off in style.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Please leave a comment!

Recording: Blonde Elvis

Artist: Blonde Elvis

Song: Oh Mary

Recorded at Soybomb HQ, October 19, 2012.

Blonde Elvis - Oh Mary

Full review to follow. The "other" project from Young Mother's Jesse James Laderoute has a sort of glammy crooner vibe on the recordings available online, but live had more of a Stiff undercurrent and no few hints of Graham Parker & The Rumour.

Recording: Contact

Artist: Contact

Song: Contact - Undercurrents [excerpt]*

Recorded at The Music Gallery (X Avant VII), October 19, 2012.

Contact - Undercurrents [excerpt]

Full review to follow. A rich night for the senses at last night's X Avant show. Contact played the complete Undercurrents suite, consisting of mostly slowly-unfolding sounds. The presentation is sometimes "spacialized" by physically distributing the musicians in a venue, but here that task was taken on by Sandro Perri, who mixed the music in room-filling quadraphonic sound. That could have been done in a gimmicky way, with sounds whiplashing back and forth, but Perri instead brought an admirable restraint, with stereo redistribution and occasional effects accenting rather than overtaking the music.

Meanwhile, the night's most striking contribution came from 5D Graffiti's visuals. Quantum theory tells us that nothing around us is really solid, and that concept was made vividly real as the rafters and walls of the St. George The Martyr's sanctuary were slowly brought to vibrating, pulsating life — and from there the visual interventions became increasingly three dimensional, pulling the audience into the furthest depths of the music.

* Undercurrents is the larger title for these Jordan Nobles compositions. I'm not sure which individual piece we have here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Recording: Andy Haas

Artist: Andy Haas

Song: [excerpt from an improvization]

Recorded at OCAD U, Room 190 (X Avant VII), October 17, 2012.

Andy Haas - [excerpt]

Full review to follow. Heading over to the neighbour up the street, this show paired together a pair of solo improvisors who might have started somewhere in the jazz tradition, but then twisted a knob to take it somewhere else. Haas' saxophone was manipulated through a relatively simple set of tools (no laptop!) but it led to a wide range of musical colours, pairing the instrument's natural cry with its treated alter echoes bouncing through the room.

Unifying the night was the excellent projection art of Steve Reaume. It gave the impression that he had found an old Atari 2600 cartridge called Conway's Game and jammed it in without blowing the contacts clean first — which somehow got it stuck in "transcendence" mode, bursting out in crisp, pixellated detail.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Recording: Not the Wind, Not the Flag

Artist: Not the Wind, Not the Flag

Song: [saxophone excerpt]

Recorded at The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), October 15, 2012.

Not the Wind, Not the Flag - [saxophone excerpt]

Full review to follow. Capping off a full night in celebration of a new Inyrdisc CD, NTW,NTF brought their customary heavy joy to their improvised set. It roughly fell into three acts, based around melodica, sax and guitar. This reproduces that middle chunk, as Colin Fisher was in particularly fine form (he'd earlier also played some sax in a mind-blowing coda to Carl Didur's opening set), fracturing his signal through two different pedal chains. I don't mean to repeat myself, but I'm going to keep saying this until each and every one of you understands it: this is hands-down one of the best bands in the city.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Download: Broken Social Scene

Ten years ago today — October 15, 2002 — Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People was released. This is a slightly more practical celebration of that fact than the essay that I wrote for the occasion. It is, admittedly, not entirely period-correct to YFIIP. Rather, it comes from the long couple years after when I was keenly awaiting its follow-up, and decided to go through all of the live recordings I had collected to put as many new songs together as possible in one place. Think of this as the sprawling double live album that BSS never released. And to replicate the vintage BSS concert experience, it's packed full of technical difficulties and stage banter.

It was originally designed to fill up two CD's, so I have simply boiled those down to two sets of MP3's that you can grab with these links:

BSS - Egregore (part 1)

BSS - Egregore (part 2)

Alternate links in the comments. Do let me know if you have any problems with these files.

[Caveat: Besides being filled with my art-obsessions of the time, this was assembled when I was just starting to play around with audio editing software, so some of the clunky transitions here make me cringe a little. To the extent that I was aiming for a smoothly-edited montage from song to song, I missed badly. If I had more time at my disposal, I would go back and re-edit this whole thing to flow more smoothly, but I don't — so it's being presented "as is".]

None of these are my own recordings. Many thanks are due to the original tapers. Special thanks are also due to longtime BSS fan Nippleholic, who approached me with a different idea for a 10th anniversary celebration. That project didn't come together — yet — but it definitely planted the seed for this.

Essay: You Forgot It In Yourself

You Forgot It Yourself

[Caveat: This is, no doubt, a variation on the theme of my Nevermind essay, but I suppose I remain intrigued by the disjunction between the neatness of these noteworthy anniversaries and the ambling randomness of our actual lived experience. Like most albums that are important to me, I don't listen to this that often. So, if nothing else, it's nice to have a reason to revisit it, and you probably should too, today.

Ten years ago today — October 15, 2002 — Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People was released. I did not know this at the time.

I

As it turned out, I did head downtown to buy a new release from a revered local group that day, but it was The Sadies' Stories Often Told. But in a sign of where my head was at in those days, I was more excited with an impulse (or, Impulse!) buy, a John Coltrane box setthat was a big deal to me.1

Anyway, I know I first heard of BSS not long after the album came out, as YFIIP did garner good reviews in the local press. But it wasn't 'til I saw it I saw it popping up on year-end lists that I resolved to buy it. In fact, I purchased my copy on January 22, 2003 — which implies it was probably fresh in mind from seeing it in the Eye Weekly critics poll, where it placed a respectable 15th, not bad for a local indie album.

In fact, by that point, word-of-mouth was already building enough that the album was getting to be hard to find. After looking in a couple stores, I managed to snag the last copy from (the now-defunct) Edward's Record World at Yonge and Eglinton.2 After that, the album was hard to come by until the original Paper Bag edition was supplanted by the Arts & Crafts re-release. And soon there would be a lot of demand as the famous Pitchfork Review came out just a few weeks later.3

But to be honest, on my first listens, I wasn't all that blown away by it. In my journals at the time — and oh my, yes, I had journals at the time: in the parts of our lives where the least amount is happening to us, we have the most time to think about things — I would usually include some commentary on whatever I was listening to, and in that regard, the absence of any mention of YFIIP is striking.4 I do remember the first time I listened to the album, out for my walk on a bitterly cold winter morning. "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl", a song for which I had no point of comparison, struck me as I was trudging past the sort of well-tended inner-suburban homes where such dramas were almost certainly taking place. I did dig "Cause = Time", which reminded me of Dinosaur Jr.: that was striking as — hard as it is to believe today — Dino Jr. was pretty-much unhip and not-particularly-all-that-much a part of the cultural conversation.

But otherwise, I filed the album away and didn't really think about it all that much for a couple months. It was only when, in the face of a mounting swell of acclaim, that my friend and co-worker J. asked to borrow the disc from me that I had another run at it... and suddenly it started to interest me.

II

Actually, another kind of music was occupying much more.

One morning, some months before any of this, I was walking from the bus stop to my office. I was listening to "Memphis, Egypt" — the first song on Mekons' Rock N' Roll, and one of the top twenty rock songs of all time. It's a cautionary tale, but like a lot of cautionary tales, it also makes a fairly salacious case for the very thing it's warning against. In fact, that thesis/antithesis is covered in the song's first two lines, where the invitation is followed headlong by the warning:

destroy your safe and happy lives before it is too late

the battles we fought were long and hard, just not to be consumed... by rock n' roll!

I decided I was going to buy a guitar.

I was too old for this. I was hurtling towards thirty, starting far too late to ever really master it, and all the unschooled fumblings that would be endearing in a younger novice would not look so good on me. But still, the deed was done a few weeks later with the help of J., who played a bit himself.

I found a Squire Strat in cool metallic green, and we made grand plans to play together, to "jam out". In that idle, pass-the-work-day style, discussions ensued of preferable stage names and band names.5

We'd need songs, of course. J. was not only a generally competent player already, but he'd once been an English major, who would someday, maybe, finish off that novel he denied he was writing. It seemed logical that those were adequate qualifications for him to become the songwriter. And yet, nothing was forthcoming.

In a rare burst of assertive un-self-consciousness, I took matters into my own hands, more to prime the pump than anything else: I figured that once I made the point that it wasn't so tough that J. would take over. I combed through my notepads for bon mots and trenchant turns of phrase, grouping them together into lists. And on another morning that I was making that walk from the bus to the office, I started humming something, stopped in place, and wrote out my first-ever verse. The rest followed in a rush:

A few more tunes followed relatively quickly, but there were diminishing returns. I was working from the "write what you know" school but I quickly realized no-one wanted to hear that many laments about how I wanted to get laid — nor did I particularly want to ruin the particularly scant façade of worldly sophistication that I could muster at the best of times.

Still, as time went on, my fingers learned enough to propel me to the basest level of competence. Although the topic of "original material" was largely shelved, J. and I would get together and play songs back and forth every once in a while, and the way that could expose one's technical shortcomings couldn't quite overpower the delight of electrical alchemy.

Our copious theoretical discussion about having a band could have gone on forever. I can't quite say who dared whom, but in the end, I took the plunge, presenting J. with the text for a "musician wanted" ad. He made a couple adjustments, and we sent it off:

I vividly remember pulling my copy of NOW from the box on the following Thursday, and waiting 'til I got down to the subway platform to flip to the classified pages — at which point I nearly shouted in anger at whoever substituted "or" for "of".6 But, still, we nailed it otherwise.

Somewhat to my surprise, we got a handful of responses to the ad. A few of them were from guys who were clearly too competent for the likes of us, and between my efforts at lowering their expectations and dispatching my mini-manifesto7 we managed to chase most of them off.

III

As it turned out, there was one guy who seemed to be on the right wavelength, so J. & I arranged to meet him for a drink before heading into a show. Which would be, by chance, June 13, 2003 — the very same night that I saw Broken Social Scene live for the first time.

Their set included the songs from YFIIP blown up, magnified and re-assembled alongside a whole slew of newer songs that we'd have to wait for years to hear on album, ending with the sprawl of the band's self-proclaimed theme song, which sort of blurred and combined their best and worst traits — they seemed to have no clue and no interest in how to finish the damned thing.

But equally noteworthy was how the whole of the night was like a gateway to this surprisingly robust pre-existing world, where all the component parts of BSS had their own exciting things going on — the night opening with a series of mini-sets from Apostle of Hustle and Jason Collett and Leslie Feist, generally all of whom were rather more obscure at the time.

But seeing BSS was merely the third most astonishing thing to happen to me that day. The second most astonishing thing were Stars, who I didn't really know that well, but who totally knocked my socks off and outplayed the headliners. BSS "were also pretty good," my journal notes. "Given the gushing praise they've been getting, this could be one of those I-was-there gigs to brag about in the future."

But the show was just a show — the thing that really elated me and capped off my summary was, "we met our drummer!"

As it turned out, with life (as usual) trumping an elegant storyline, although we all seemed to get on well we never heard from the guy again. So nothing came of it, except for having taken the step.

Eventually, though, J. & I did connect with some other prospects to get out and play, renting a rehearsal space (in the far reaches of Etobicoke of all places) in Sunday-afternoon three-hour blocks. It was a bit like a succession of first dates, meeting up with strangers to check up on basic compatibility. And like first dates, only a couple seemed promising enough to bother with a second. And though it could be frustrating to try and fall into a shared headspace with strangers, it was rewarding, too, to be able to live out my Metal Box rockstar fantasies; to be actually jamming:

It was all good fun, though as time went on, I actually did less of that rather than more. Even when I was still playing a lot, I became more interested in playing by — and for — myself. I got an acoustic guitar and devoted myself to trying bang out as many songs from my holy trinity of Tom T. Hall, Lucinda Williams and Paul Westerberg as I could muster from my technical limits.

IV

But still, I didn't really appreciate at the time how these were the first fruits of a process that I was undertaking to deliberately complicate my life a little bit, by putting me in the way of other people.

In retrospect, it was really at that point that things started changing. I wouldn't have been able to recognize it at the time, but all of this was happening just as things were shifting for me in my own life. After a few Dark Years, I was slowly starting to transform into a more social version of myself. And if I never started a band, in time I turned into someone who'd go to a lot of shows rather than someone who went to a few — an indirect result of how that first BSS show had suddenly announced that there were all these local bands, this whole local musical ecosystem. This was something I vaguely knew about but wasn't involved with — but suddenly it became something to explore, something I could really dig into.

And the fact that all of this — the album, that first live experience — was celebratory but based in the murk of doubt and confusion also fit in with the spirit I was feeling with the looming road of angst over turning thirty stretching out before me.8 To re-listen to the album now, I can hear this, hear all of this — the layers of hope, insecurity and yearning; mawkish sentimentality mixed with braggadocio; our fears about other people constantly rubbing up against our hopes about other people.9

As such, the mess-music of YFIIP — overlapping, opaque but self-situated in a hazy interpersonal web — was an apt soundtrack for the times I'd been waiting for. Part of its art was the self-invocation of its milieu, and I was waiting for something like that, too. In slow steps over the next few years, I'd move myself a little bit closer to finding my own broken social scene.


1 For the record, there is just so much beautiful stuff on this. Everyone should have this, or at least some of its component albums.

2 I must have also done a troll through the used bins while I was there, as my other purchases that day were Death in Vegas' The Contino Sessions, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's How I Long to Feel that Summer in my Heart and New Wave by The Auteurs, who I was really into at the time.

3 One thing that the Pitchfork review gets very wrong is that Broken Social Scene is, in fact, an uncommonly excellent band name, capturing in one phrase a truism about the human condition — when you mix together a collection of persons, it's going to get complicated and awkward and be on the verge of falling apart all the time. The ars vitae is in how you navigate that.

4 By contrast, there's copious evidence on my near-obsession with the Nikki Sudden reissues that were coming out right around then.

5 There were great stacks of band names considered, with preferences changing every day; but by contrast, I quickly established that my punkrock stage name would be Heraclitus Akimbo.

6 I was less angry that they also misspelled "unacknowledged" — and by this point I'm not even sure if I simply submitted it like that myself.

7 Fortunately, whatever was in the screed detailing what we were trying to achieve is lost to the mists of time. I quoted myself to my journal as saying something like "we want to decommodify our relationship to rock'n'roll by taking part in the conversation", so I can only imagine how embarrassing it would've been once I really got going.

8 All of my insecurities about turning thirty were way, way worse than the actual fact of turning thirty. I offer this as an instructional comment to those younger folks who are on their way there as much as I am now using it as an instructive mantra for myself ten years later and hurtling toward that next dreaded milestone.

9 And, by the way, Justin Peroff's drums on the album, as recorded by David Newfeld, remain fucking fantastic.

Recording: Muskox

Artist: Muskox

Song: Muskox Jr.

Recorded at The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), October 14, 2012.

Muskox - Muskox Jr.

Full review to follow. Like Chipper Jones bowing out after a 124 OPS+ season, Mike Smith has decided to retire his chamber-prog ensemble while they are still a formidable force. That left an undercurrent of sadness to this wrap-up show at The Tranzac, but it was still a light-hearted and spirited time. Mars' mountains were listed, Joni Mitchell's spirit was called upon (in a room just a stone's throw from her old digs!) and the band's friendly competition with Rush was finally brought to an end. After the fact, the music still lingers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Recording: Ringo Deathstarr

Artist: Ringo Deathstarr

Song: Fifteen

Recorded at The Garrison, October 13, 2012.

Ringo Deathstarr - Fifteen

Full review to follow. Note to promoters, venues, etc.: Late last call or no late last call, it's basically inexcusable to run a show where the headliner finishes at 3 a.m.

Recording: 5biTscience

Artist: 5biTscience

Song: The Book of Hours [excerpt 1] (composed by Bob Ostertag)

Recorded at The Music Gallery (X Avant VII), October 13, 2012.

5biTscience - The Book of Hours [excerpt 1]

Full review to follow. The centrepiece show for this year's X Avant festival gave a couple different perspectives on the work of composer (and this year's Artist In Residence) Bob Ostertag. His own set with animator Pierre Hébert presented his new work "Shadow Boxing", and it was quite the visual spectacle. Musically, though, I was especially struck by the opening set where some top-notch local improvisers (Wes Neal, Mark Segger, Jay Hay, Matt Miller) under the direction of Nilan Perera took AIM at Ostertag's "The Book of Hours". Originally primarily a vocal piece, it was presented here as arranged for electric guitar, sax, bass, drums, live samples — and silence.

X Avant will be continuing all this week, and there's a diverse range of shows that you should check out if you want to expand your circuits. You also still have some time to enter my contest to win tickets to a couple of the shows.

Sunday Playlist #32

Sunday Playlist #32

Volcano - No Signal In the Valley

Torngat - Minute by Minute

Laura Barrett - Chidiya

Béla Fleck - unknown

Muskox - Ghost Ride

Muskox will be playing their final show tonight (October 14, 2012) at The Tranzac. Come on out and help give 'em a proper sendoff.


Sunday Playlist is a semi-regular feature that brings back some of this blog's previously-posted original live recordings for an encore. You can always click the tags below to see what I originally wrote about the shows these songs came from.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recording: METZ

Artist: METZ

Songs: Get Off + Sad Pricks

Recorded at The Horseshoe Tavern, October 12, 2012.

METZ - Get Off

METZ - Sad Pricks

Full review to follow. A well-deserved celebration for local-lads-gone-big-time METZ, celebrating the release of their long-gestating debut album on the venerable Sup Pop label. Despite bouncing around on stage like electrons in a higher valence, the bandmembers make a strong case against atomisation, exhibiting a joyful we're-in-this-together spirit — whether showing concern for the audience or repping their hometown. Call 'em model citizens who play hard but don't need to front hard — I'm proud that they'll be heading out as ambassadors of our city.

Recording: Ell V Gore

Artist: Ell V Gore

Songs: Scandals/Her Vicious*

Recorded at The Horseshoe Tavern, October 12, 2012.

Ell V Gore - Scandals/Her Vicious

Full review to follow. It's been a fair few months since I've seen EVG, and while I liked them from the get-go, last night I really got the sense that this band is no longer a Brides-maid — it's as if the sound has been distilled into something purer, the songs more minimalist in formulation, even as they've doubled in length. Now featuring Rob Gordon (Les Mouches, From Fiction, Pony Da Look) on drums.

* Thanks to a commenter for passing the titles along!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Recording: Bruce Peninsula

Artist: Bruce Peninsula

Song: Salesman

Recorded at The Great Hall (Front Room) – Music For Uninvited Guests launch party, October 11, 2012.

Bruce Peninsula - Salesman

Full review to follow. As part of the celebration of Misha Bower's new book of short stories, Bruce Peninsula played a stripped-down set, reconfigured to place her at the centre of the action.

Reading: Misha Bower

Author: Misha Bower

Story: Naked Women

Recorded at The Great Hall (Front Room) – Music For Uninvited Guests launch party, October 11, 2012.

Misha Bower - Naked Women

Full review to follow. Misha Bower did a couple readings to celebrate the release of her new book of short stories. If you grab yourself a copy now you'll get a complimentary digital mixtape which includes a brand new track that she did with fellow BP'er Matt Cully.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Preview + Contest: X Avant VII

X Avant VII: Expanding Circuits

October 12-21, 2012

Unless otherwise mentioned, all events are at the Music Gallery.

Now in its VIIth year, The X Avant festival has lived up to its name by positing that illusive, unknown X and filling it in with a constantly shifting variable. In his first year at the helm, Artistic Director David Dacks is substituing "electronic music" for X.

"Expanding circuits" is an apt goal in a year when electronic music has reached new levels of exposure and commercial success. But there's way more to the genre than the quote-unquote EDM making waves right now, and though the recent past has seen an increasing number of electronic music festivals in the city, none are dedicated to pushing boundaries like this.

There's also a most-pleasing range in the events under the festival's umbrella, meaning there's as much here for those who want to get up on the dancefloor as those who want to sit down and take in a lecture. The goal here is to make some new discoveries, so while I'll be plunging myself into, say, the "Living Cinema" of Bob Ostertag & Pierre Hébert, there are a few things that I'm familiar enough with to recommend:

  • Vancouver's JP Carter will be familiar to many indie-rock fans for his sideman work with Destroyer and Dan Mangan, cutting a distinctive figure with one hand on his trumpet while the other manipulates effects and electronics. He's also passed through town with several of his own projects, including Fond of Tigers and Inhabitants. At this show (also with Andy Haas), he's playing under his own name, and it promises to be exciting stuff. [Wednesday, October 17, 2012 @ OCAD University. $20 regular/$10 MG members+students]
  • Nick Storring, who can deploy his cello treatments in the service of electroacoustic soundscapes as readily as for dancefloor grooves, is in a good position to ponder the mind/body split. He's opening for Shigeto, whose music is also "beat-driven but given to richly textured sound design". [Thursday, October 18, 2012. $25 regular/$15 MG members]
  • Local new music ensemble Contact impressed recently with their work at the INTERsection festival, and their return to the Music Gallery is going to be anything but a regular show. Expect three-hundred-and-sixty degrees of sound as their performance of Jordan Nobles' Undercurrents is given live treatments and a surround mix by Sandro Perri — very much a one-time event that you'll have to experience live. [Friday, October 19, 2012. $30 regular/$15 members]
  • And things will probably get a little Weird at a triple-header of futurepop anchored by Québec's Jean-François Laporte. But the real hook for me is sets by Man Made Hill (outsider-in existential disco) and Pon de Replay (found-sound funk bricolage) — the latter to be joined by local hero Colin Fisher. A not-to-be-missed show. [Saturday, October 20, 2012. $22 regular/$13 members]

Contest

Courtesy of the Music Gallery, I have one pair of tickets to give away to the JP Carter/Andy Haas show and another for the Laporte/Man Made Hill/Pon De Replay spectacular.

To win, shoot me an email to mechanicalforestsound@gmail.com with "X AVANT" in the subject line, and let me know if you're particularly entering to win tickets to one show or if you're interested in both. Act fast — I'll draw and notify the winners on Monday, October 15, 2012.

Recording: The Soft Pack

Artist: The Soft Pack

Songs: Extinction + Chinatown

Recorded at The Garrison, October 9, 2012.

The Soft Pack - Extinction

The Soft Pack - Chinatown

Full review to follow. Damn, buzz dissipates quickly. Back at NXNE 2010, these guys were one of the Big Things of the festival. And now, with a just-released new album, they're playing the same room I saw 'em in in those heady times but the crowd has gone from packed to less than half-full. That didn't keep the band from pumping out song after song in an efficient set, focusing on their new material.

Vocalist Matt Lamkin still presents like a boy with the perpetual nervousness — perhaps fitting as they're still at their best when channelling The Feelies, but in the interest of sonic variety, the new tunes try on a variety of different guises, from vaguely-funky new wave ("Bobby Brown") to postpunk art/shouts ("Head on Ice").

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Festival Preview/Advance Reviews: Planet in Focus 2012

Planet in Focus: 13th Annual Environmental Film Festival

October 10–14th, 2012

Raising awareness through film since 1999, Planet in Focus brings together four full days linked by the broad themes of our relationship to the world around us. There's a wide scope within that to be explored, both in style and tone, so there's room for both lyrical reflection of the planet's natural beauty and hard-hitting factual investigations to the many perils humanity is subjecting it to.

There's a lot to explore here, from the rivers under our cities to the forests of Vancouver Island and it's certainly worth just picking a locale or issue that you want to explore and settling in at the comfy TIFF Lightbox. I've had a chance to check out a few things already, so I can give some further recommendations below, but I'd also especially put a word in for the Evening with Jennifer Baichwal with Edward Burtynsky, where the pair (along with producer/director of photography Nicholas de Pencier) will talk about their spellbinding Manufactured Landscapes and give a sneak preview of their new collaboration Water while Baichwal is honoured as the festival's 2012 Canadian Eco Hero. [Friday, October 12 @ 7:15 p.m. PWYC]

Most films are $12, though there are some budget-conscious options, including $5 daytime screenings. Check PiF's website for the full schedule and ticket into.

ADVANCE REVIEWS

Vanishing Point (Katinngat) (Dir: Stephen A. Smith/Julia Szucs, Canada, 2012, 82 min.)

Screens: Friday, October 12, 2012, 9:15 p.m. @ TIFF Lightbox 1

This NFB documentary gives us a taste of the Inuit world through the eyes of Navarana, an Inuit elder from Uummannaq in the northernmost reaches of Greenland. Asking "what did we lose and what did we gain?" (from modernity in general, and from being moved away from their traditional homes by the arrival of the Thule Air Base in particular), she effortlessly weaves together strands of past and present in a conversational manner, her awareness of the modern world always informed by those who came before her — "our ancestors are not people living in the past," she tells us early on.

Foremost among them is her great-great-great uncle Qitdlarssuag, a powerful shaman with a strong wanderlust, who ventured forth with his band of people at some point in the 1860's — heading from Baffin Island to Greenland in a multi-year journey. Once there, his group not only replenished the gene pool (a third of Greenland's Inuit trace their lineage to these visitors) but reintroduced some of the traditional technologies that are still being used today.

Ironically, the Greenland Inuit remain more "traditional" than the Baffin Islanders who now use snowmobiles and speedboats instead of dogsleds and kayaks in their annual hunts. "More and more, life runs on gasoline and sugar," Navarana muses as she sees their ways when she makes a special trip to Baffin Island to meet with her distant cousins, learning how their common traditions have changed over time, and about the impacts of their own encounters with modernity.

The changes revealed in both Greenland and Canada involve not only tradition and heritage, but also the environment in which the Inuit live and hunt, making this a dispatch from the front lines of climate change: "The ice is different now than it used to be."

The film is beautifully shot and the Arctic landscapes make it rather worth seeing on the big screen — an extended sequence following a family on an auk hunt is especially striking. Once in a while the white subtitles against the Arctic background are a little problematic, but on the whole a very rewarding experience, especially for a chance to meet our memorable interlocutor.

Although Navarana's lore and connections to her culture are a constant source of joy for her, they aren't nostalgic, and we're left with a portrait of a pragmatic elder, using the lessons of the past to adapt to this constantly-shifting world. Recommended.

Canary in the Mine (Dir: Danielle Heifa, Canada, 2012, 33 min)

Screens (with Orange Witness): Saturday, October 13, 2012, 4:30 p.m. @ TIFF Lightbox 1

This issue-oriented mid-length doc relates the backstory of one of our country's more shameful quirks: long after being abandoned by most of the world (due to its highly cancerous nature), Canada continues to mine and export asbestos, largely to developing nations with lower health and environmental standards. This has left a trail of death not only in the places we have shipped it to, but also among generations of workers who were exposed to this one-time wonder product here.

Canada is at the centre of the world's asbestos industry, which has received a rebranding ("chrysotile"!) courtesy of the marketing tactics (and PR firms) employed by the tobacco industry. Heifa takes us through the industry's history, but rather than being too didactic about it, it's treated as the context for the stories of those affected by exposure to it — and their family members who have been left behind to try and fight to change the policies of an intransigent government.

This is a worthy call to arms, not only for this specific battle, but as a reminder that out country isn't the globally upstanding do-gooder that we like to think of ourselves as — and it might make us reflect on what other destructive substances we're dredging out of the earth at great environmental cost. Since the film's completion, there have been some important advances in the fight, with the federal government finally beginning to back down and agree to identify asbestos as a hazardous product, and the recently-elected provincial government in Québec reversing the former support for the industry. Danielle Heifa will be in attendance and will surely have some interesting things to say about recent developments following from her film.

Cerro Rico, Tierra Rica (Dir: Juan Vallejo, Colombia/Bolivia/USA , 2011, 90 min)

Screens: Sunday, October 14, 2012, 2:15 p.m. @ TIFF Lightbox 3

Cerro Rico in southern Bolivia hovers over the mining town of Potosí. In colonial times, its silver provided the Spanish Empire with great riches, and even now over ten thousand miners still ferret out the minerals buried deep inside. Meanwhile, not far away is the Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, where a different kind of mining community exists. Under the alien moonscape lie vast lithium deposits which could be the nation's next mining boom. Will it be exploited for the riches of others, or will there be a chance for the workers of Bolivia to improve their lives and their children's prospects? "Mining is just suffering," comments one, after we're told many earn on the order of $8 a day.

Cutting between these two communities, this observational doc lets these questions emerge as we spend time with the miners and get a patient exploration of their world. There are some striking vistas, both in the mountains and the salt flats, and anyone terrified by the idea of working in a mine might feel at unease here, as the workers fearlessly set off explosions and smoke in confined spaces. We also spend some time with the miners at home and with their children, who may someday inherit their jobs. A lot of this is lo-tech, labour intensive work, but there are some hints of changes, like newfangled groups of eco-tourists coming through. Still, the message is mostly of endurance and a sense that the miners, like the mountain, will stay as it ever was.

With its deliberate pace, this will probably be enjoyable to those who can enter into its languid rhythms, and painful for those who cannot. It prefers to show rather than tell, so it also doesn't come with an easy-to-digest didactic point. But who those who can appreciate it, the images will stick around after the movie ends.

Recording: DIANA

Artist: DIANA

Songs: Perpetual Surrender + New House*

Recorded at The Drake Underground, October 8, 2012.

DIANA - Perpetual Surrender

DIANA - New House

The local wave of avant soft-rock intensifies with the live debut of this new combo. At one level, this could be seen as being precisely the sum of its parts, but given that they aren't necessarily intuitive parts to stick together, the result still manages to surprise. Kieran Adams and saxophone king Joseph Shabason played together in Everything All The Time, although the former has more recently been seen contributing explosive percussion to Bonjay and atmospheric textures to Warm Myth, while the latter has been a key part of the Destroyer's latest sonic reinvention while showing up in plenty sideman appearances. Meanwhile, vocalist/guitarist Carmen Elle's Army Girls has been dazzling with heart-on-sleeve guitar-rock. (Paul Mathew, on bass + guitar, was an unfamiliar face to me, but hopefully someone in the know will add a comment here filling in where else we might have seen him has apparently been playing in Hidden Cameras.)

The upshot was a musical backdrop of lush synth-rock and gated drum sounds that could have sounded like neon/pastel '80's kitsch pastiche, but was always grounded by Carmen Elle's emotionally resonant vox. For a band that has so far only revealed itself through a couple songs on their Soundcloud, it was a genuine achievement to have all of these disparate textures integrated on their first gig — and the fact that have some ace songs makes it something worth paying attention to.

This six-song, half-hour set was a warm-up before the band heads down to make a splash at CMJ, but it was also noted their next local show will be at the AGO's new "1st Thursdays" series on November 1st.

* Thanks to Joseph for passing along the title to this one.