Tuesday, February 28, 2006 

The mind boggles

I am currently overhearing a conversation on the other side of the cubicle half-wall about how many of the female students who work here don't know how to react when a guy isn't a jerk.



So, new template, one on which the comments work a bit better, and I just generally like the look and feel. I think I've got everything working, and all of the archives have been converted - except the first two months, which Blogger can't seem to convert. No idea why, might worry about it some other time. Feedback on the new look is always appreciated, although it might not be acted on due to either a difference of opinions of my technical ineptitude.

Also you may notice the list of links is smaller than ever - most of them are in my blogroll, and the journal is gone because Diary-x got destroyed. I'd like some sort of webspace to store longer posts in (I can't see posting International Mixtape Projects and the like here), but for now I'll make do (I've vaguely thought of using Livejournal, but we'll see). This started in February 2003 (the 18th actually, I missed my anniversary again; oh well), but the journal was started back in late October of 2000, and the experience of writing online has changed my life immeasurably. I do feel a little sentimental about losing that particular account, even if I never really used it anymore, and of course all entries still exist as word files on my computer. For now I'm just focusing on getting what I'm still working on running.

Oh, and I had a (hopefully) interesting post up on the Turntable today.

Monday, February 27, 2006 

Tummy therapy

The massive (76 minutes!) ambient mix put together by Will Simmons on the Stypod today is pretty incredible - I hadn't heard a single thing from it before, and I'm loving pretty much every track.


I'm not emo or anything, but...

...I'd be lying if I said today's Questionable Content doesn't make me want to rush out and corner everyone I know who reads it and have one of those ridiculous conversations fans have.



Why not smile

New singles up; for some reason it feels like I'm the only one who likes anything this week, although that's clearly not true. But while I'm not surprised to be a lone positive voice on, say, Lovex, I am a little shocked no-one else seems to like that Pink single.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 


Aaron has tagged me, which is nice but apparently he never saw or has forgotten that the meme he has talking about is one he got from K, who got it from me.

No, I'm not going to do it again. Time for sleep.



I finally had the spare $30 I needed to buy a device that lets me plug my microphone into my computer's USB port, and with that and a little Audacity I did my first Stycast from my own computer instead of Ben's since I switched to a Mac. It's great he let me use his, but it's also nice not to have to run back and forth any more. And it sounds better, too - still some kinks to iron out, though.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 

For He loves me so

if you ever want a bizarrely moving experience, read the end of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood while listening to Gavin Bryar's "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet".


"Your PM is a sissy"

Back from the funeral (it was nice, the whole family had supper afterwards all in one place for the first time in probably a decade or so, thanks again to everyone who commented/emailed before) and catching up on various things; the Turntable (the Stylus blog) has been unusually active and awesome recently, and I had to share the entry on Henry Rollins reacting to the Austrailian government being worried about his reading habits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 

Release the hounds

Up today at Stylus we have not just one but two reviews (the latter of which is of a completely amazing record), as well as the newest Stycast, which you must hear because (a) Todd Burns and Mike Powell's intro to it is quite literally the best thing ever and (b) one of the tracks is one Rachel sent me, and it is gorgeous.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 

Then he gets mad

Warren Ellis puts it exceedingly well, in regards to the whole Danish cartoons thing:

My perspective on the mess begins with the fact that these are shitty, stupid, evil-minded cartoons produced by obvious hacks for a conservative rag that would appear to embody everything bad about the word “conservative” simply by publishing the things. In a sane and ordered world, everyone involved in their publication would be taken behind a stables and hit in the face with a shit-shovel. Jyllands-Posten has a lousy reputation when it comes to ethnic tolerance, their intent to offend in the most racist and simple-minded way possible was quite clear in the commissioning of the cartoons, and their apology was mealy-mouthed at best. The test of free speech always lays in that which is hardest to defend. It really would be nice if maggots like these didn’t make the rest of us work so hard.


Feel good hits of the 21st of February, 2006

Delays - "Valentine"
The Tragically Hip - "Gift Shop"*
Smog - "Song"
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - "The Romance Of The Telescope"
Hefner - "China Crisis"
Leonard Cohen - "So Long, Marianne"
Scarface - "I Seen A Man Die (4Hero Remix)"**
Gavin Bryars - "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet"
Neu! - "Hallogallo"
Super Furry Animals - "Hermann Loves Pauline"

*(prompted by Matt Sheardown's near-perfect article on the Hip)
**(prompted by John Darnielle at Last Plane To Jakarta writing about Scarface's new album; shamefully, this song and his contribution to Lloyd's immortal "Southside" are all I've heard from Scarface, but I like him quite disproportionately from what you'd think)


Needs sleep badly

So I'm up and at work for 8:30 for a three and a half hour "planning session" that is sure to kill all of my headmeats stone cold dead.

On the upside, though, we have a lovely singles column for you, and the title even comes from one of my blurbs. I kind of felt like this was my week, although honestly I was thinking of a few turns of phrase that didn't get picked and not our actual title.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 

Promotional considerations

By which I mean: I loved Mountains' first record a lot, emailed apestaartje, their record label and asked for a copy of their second album, Sewn, and they kindly sent me a copy (and if Sewn is any indication their albums are packaged just as gorgeously as they sound). But after making the request I was informed that Ryan Potts (who reviewed the debut for us, and in his usual graceful fashion) was reviewing Sewn and so I felt guilty, and if anything I liked it even better than Mountains and so feel the need to mention it here.

The label site puts it fairly well, especially considering I agree with all the superlatives: Recorded over several lengthy excursions outside the confines of the city in upstate New York and Connecticut, Sewn invokes a sense of ease and delicate precision. A beautiful combination of clean crisp texture and warm pulsating harmony that shows a group developing and expanding their sound with an extreme attention to detail that reflects new layers in each melody and texture. Eight tracks that combine acoustic instrumentation (guitar, piano, accordion, harmonica etc.), binaural field recordings and resonant electronic processing to create a wide range of electro-acoustic experience. From the folkish acoustic guitar of "Sewn Two" and "Bay" to the densely layered organic din of "Hundred Acre" and the psychedelic minimalism of "Sheets", Sewn shows a group as equally invested in melody as it is in experimentation.

It's the kind of music that when listened to seems more natural than not; unlike pretty much everything else I don't hit pause on Mountains when something disruptive occurs, because it seems like the sort of thing not amenable to alteration from human effort (if that makes any sense); of course on some level this is a ridiculous impression to have since Mountains' music is human effort, but their flawless use of field recordings along with the unhurried, elemental nature of their playing and production make for a convincing impersonation. On the one hand I'm tempted to take it camping, on the other I'm not sure I don't need it more here, indoors, to remind me of what it's like outside when it's icy and white rather than wet and green outside. Rain soaked and subtley meditative, Sewn is in all probability the best record I'll hear all year that fits under the category of "ambient", no matter how widely you stretch that genre definition.

If I had the web space I would absolutely throw up the twelve-minute "Hundred Acre" for demonstrative purposes, but lacking that if you go to apestaartje's releases page you can hear the brief "Sewn Two" (and it is kind of nice that after the hour long, four track Mountains, this album is shorter and less monolithic, albeit just as beautiful). You do need a wholly different kind of listening to hear Mountains than you need for most of the stuff I listen to, but its beauty makes it more than worth it. I'd keep going, but I'm perilously close to babble as it is.



I've been a bit distracted (obviously), but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the 200th Stycast, which I participated in and which has its metaphorical tongue lodged so deeply in its metaphorical cheek I think there may be metaphorical bleeding.


I'm gonna kill all the judges

The key difference between The Sunset Tree and emo, I think, is that John Darnielle never wants our pity. Part of this is probably due to the fact that we know he makes it, but that can't be all of it. I feel a lot of things when listening to that album, but pity never even comes close.


Memory hole

I don't know what the hell happened, but somehow my post about the death of my grandmother disappeared sometime between this morning and now. The cached version on Yahoo had it, but the current one does not. This is a bizarre thing for Blogger (or whatever) to do, especially considering which entry it was. Here's what I posted on Friday, February 17, 2006 at 2:12 PM:

My parternal grandmother passed away this morning, peacefully, with my dad and my sister and my uncle Rob and his wife and one of their daughters in attendance.

I wish I had been there.

"I felt what we always feel when someone dies – the sad awareness, now futile, of how little it would have cost us to be more loving."
Jorge Luis Borges, 'There Are More Things'

Even more oddly, from the cached page I can go to the page for the original entry, even post a comment there if I'd like. I have no idea what's going on and, again, given the content it's more than a little distressing.

Saturday, February 18, 2006 


Via Warren Ellis, we get a fascinating account of what's wrong with most chocolate.

Friday, February 17, 2006 


I would have posted this last night, if Blogger hadn't been spastic; my good friend Aaron Jacklin is moving back to Guelph, because he's the new Editor in Chief of the Ontarion (and justly so, too).


Anaesthetic X-Wipes

Warren Ellis and Joss Whedon should totally form a comedy team.

Thursday, February 16, 2006 

Grand Unification Theory

Since I've been mentioning it to people recently, I should probably throw up a link to that page that details how all TV series ever are connected to St. Elsewhere (including Arrested Development, since Detective Munch guest stars), but all I could find was Dwayne McDuffie listing a whole bunch of shows that get taken out. He's trying to make a point about comic book continuity, though, so he's kind of a kill joy.


Snow day!

On the one hand, the school is closed today so I don't have to go to work and can lounge around in my pyjamas all day. On the other hand, school is closed and I don't get paid for today (as far as I know), which I was kind of hoping to be.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 


I'm finally getting around to listening to Mike Powell's fantastic girl group mixtape (the tracklisting of which is included in his equally fantastic article on the era); it's even better than I had hoped, although so far Jackie DeShannon's "When You Walk Into The Room", the Paris Sisters' "I Love How You Love Me" and the Cookies' "I Never Dreamed" are the clear highlights for me, towering above their peers.


Parantheses are awesome

How great is it, not just that Willie Nelson has released a gay cowboy love song for Valentine's Day (although that's pretty great too), but that it's called "Cowboys Are Secretly, Frequently (Fond of Each Other)"?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 


The Cross Europe Chart Challenge of Death for France is up - or at least, part one is.


I would like to subscribe to your pamphlet

This week's singles; once again good triumphs over evil (although Kanye/Rhymefest and Goldfrapp are overrated). I really want to hear the Research's album when it comes out.



The recent conversation about Pop's possible undead status (this particular bout of thought kicked off, as far as I can see, with this post at k-punk and followed through there, over at blissblog and Mike's place (and onwards, obviously) has been interesting, but I didn't feel like I have much to add. And still don't, actually, but oddly enough just after making the round tonight what should I come upon in V. but this:

So much for Art. What of Thought? The Crew had developed a kind of shorthand whereby they could set forth any visions that might come their way. Conversations at the Spoon had become little more than proper nouns, literary allusions, critical or philosophical terms linked in certain ways. Depending on how you arranged the building blocks at your disposal, you were smart or stupid. Depending on how others reacted they were In or Out. The number of blocks, however, was finite.

"Mathematically, boy," he told himself, "if nobody else original comes along, they're bound to run out of arrangements someday. What then?" What indeed. This sort of arranging and rearranging was Decadence, but the exhaustion of all possible permutations and combinations was death.

This, incidentally, is why I have so little use for the variations of Postmodernism (or whatever it's calling itself this week) that reduce everything to these sorts of language games, especially ones that deny the possibility of anything else, anything political or artistic or philosophical or prosiac or what have you.


Unexpectedly lucid

Adam Kirsch in the New York Sun writes a review of Daniel Dennett's slightly ridiculous new book Breaking The Spell that manages to point out the serious problems with Dennett's project without descending into sill name-calling or ideological babble from either side (by which I mean, I would be equally unsurprised to learn that Kirsch himself is fiercely religious or an atheist or an agnostic, which is as it should be). The best bit:

Mr. Dennett believes that explaining religion in evolutionary terms will make it less real; that is the whole purpose of his book. But this is like saying that because water is made of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, it is not really wet; or because the color red represents a certain frequency of light, it is not really red. To human beings, the wetness of water, the redness of red, is existentially prior to their physical composition...

At the heart of organized religion, whether one accepts or rejects it, is the truth that metaphysical experience is part of human life. Any adequate account of religion must start from this phenomenological fact. Because Mr. Dennett ignores it, treating religion instead as at best a pastime for dimwits, at worst a holding cell for fanatics, he never really encounters the thing he believes he is writing about.

I haven't agreed with anything written about Dennett, pro or con, this much in quite some time.

Monday, February 13, 2006 

Gym radio dept.

There was unusually good music at the gym this afternoon; first Low Fidelity Allstars' immortal "Battle Flag", albeit in edited form (I used to be used to the version with "tell me is it time to get down / on your... k-k-k-k-knees", and the full version with its "motherfucking" sounded weird; now it's the other way around). Then in the other room we somehow got a segue from "Bizarre Love Triangle" into Pilate's "Into Your Hideout". It was brilliant.


Group effort

This week the main article at Stylus is our discussion en masse of the New Pantheon Music Award. It's safe to say I disliked the idea upon hearing of the title. I hope Animal Collective wins, though.


Tiny reminders

John Scalzi has some excellent if slightly harshly-worded writing tips up, billed as being for non-writers but good for all of us.

Saturday, February 11, 2006 

Where have they been?

The front driver side window on Cait's car broke just before she drove us to Oakville today - she had it down to ask Ben a question and it never went back up. I haven't been that cold in a long, long time (especially on the way back, once the sun had gone down).

My listening did prompt a little thought, though - I haven't read everything recently written about musical hauntology, but one band/album I haven't seen mentioned is Joy Division, particularly Closer. Especially considering the circumstances of its release.

And on a lighter note, how about the Avalanches? I'd love to see someone get in depth with Since I Left You.



Remember that Plame thing I was so angry about a while back? Via Kung Fu Monkey, here's an exceptional concise account of it. In a just world, this equals impeachment.

Friday, February 10, 2006 

Sing Lazarus

So we saw Constantines last night at the Vinyl. I managed to get all five of the band to autograph Dad's copy of Tournament Of Hearts for his birthday, and although he and Cait left before the show was over (I was at the front,I didn't know they had gone) I think they enjoyed it. I know Ben did, and he hadn't seen them before. They remain, I think, the best Canadian live band out there (as well as close to the top of best live band period, and their recorded work isn't exactly a let down either). I wasn't terribly impressed with their opener (Jon-Rae and the River), but the Cons were predictably amazing - especially considering they played lots and lots of old stuff, including one so old that although I've heard them play it live before when they lived in Guelph I don't know the title. Some of the highlights were predictable ("Young Offenders" is always going to be crucial, the crowd wanted to hear "On To You" all night), but as always a couple of the best performances were surprises; a hornless version of "Lizaveta" that made up for it by being crushingly heavy, their version of Talking Heads' "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel", even "Sub-Domestic" sounded good.

Also, they had copies of the vinyl split with the Unintended where the Unintended play all Gordon Lightfoot songs and Constantines play all Neil Young songs - all obscure choices, but what I'm really looking forward to is their version of "Don't Be Denied".

Unfortunately I also got an elbow drop on my left shoulder thanks to a drunken idiot (I'm pretty sure it was unintentional, but my left shoulder was already sore from a couple of other things and it's been bugging me all today - I almost belted the guy).

I didn't get a set list, but I know the following comprises all of the songs they played. Except for the encore the order may be a bit off, though.

Constantines, Club Vinyl, February 9 2005
Draw Us Lines
Hotline Operator
Some Party
Young Lions
Young Offenders
Soon Enough
Working Full-Time
Steal This Sound or To The Lullabies*
Nighttime Anytime (It's Alright)
(old song)
Shine A Light
Seven A.M.

Scoundrel Babes
Thank You For Sending Me An Angel
On To You

*(I can never remember which is which without the CDs, and Ben has stolen my copy - it's the one with Steve singing)

Thursday, February 09, 2006 


The Danish site Undertoner.dk asked Stylus if we'd like to do a quick piece on some of their top Danish albums of 2005, and Todd Burns passed it on to me. They sent me some CD-Rs, and now the result is up. I feel lucky to have been asked to do this - it was a lot of fun, and it let me hear some really great music.



I am bored and procrastinating, and so you all get another fill in the blanks doohickey. This one is about fours!

Four jobs I've had
Library Page
Special Grinder (in a forklift factory)
Arts & Culture Editor
Tracing Clerk

Four movies I can watch over and over
The Limey
The Big Lebowski
Grosse Pointe Blank

Four places I have lived
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Kincardine, Ontario, Canada
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
(first of all, it doesn't say four different places; secondly, these are the only places I have lived for more than about a week at a time)

Four TV shows I like to watch
(current ones, presumably)
The Daily Show
The Office

Four foods that I like
The steak and mushroom pie made by a small "British" bakery right near my grandmother's apartment in Oakville
Chicken wings
Good lamb souvlaki

Four websites I visit daily
BBC News
CBC News
Something Awful

Four things I want to do before I die
Get out of debt
Get rid of all the crap I don't need
Write enough
Settle down

Four places I would rather be right now
Nowhere, really. Maybe New York.

Four people I'm tagging
I don't really care who does one of these, but I will "tag" Jack (not least because he buys me beer in my hour of need, UNLIKE THE REST OF YOU BASTARDS)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 

Not actually that clever

For the first time in ages, my staff page at Stylus has been updated. Altough not the picture. See if you can get all the injokes!


Double shot

Today, a new A Touching Display is up (extra full of the Rock, for fans of that), plus my first dual review, both bands of which are featured in the Stycast.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 

Diagnosis of a foreign frame of heart

Just watched the new episode of House. We're at an interesting point in the series; the problem has been lengthily exhumed, dissected and pinpointed (to quote Wilson: "Being miserable doesn't make you better than anyone else; it just makes you miserable", or to quote Chateaubriand, "One is not superior merely because one sees the world is odious"). Now we see whether they keep going at it ad nauseum, in which case House will at some point no longer be my favourite current TV show.

Or else they have to solve it.



If you swing by Clinic's site right now, they have a new, free single that they are encouraging wide dissemination of. It's called "Tusk", although sadly it's not a Fleetwood Mac cover.


"Why am I not happy?"

It turns out that in order to make Garfield actually funny and moving, all you have to do is remove Garfield's dialogue. The results are amazingly good.


Early but late

The Singles Jukebox is on Tuesday today, but it's also up early enough for me to post before I hit the sack. For once the overall order makes basic sense to me, which is nice.

Monday, February 06, 2006 


You know I don't post everything good that goes up on Stylus, because that's just silly, but Nick's newest Soulseeking raises some interesting issues. I think his definition of "iPop" is valuable, even if naturally I disagree about some of the examples (not that I think Nick is trying to make them universal; still, if I could buy the Robyn album in a record store I would, and even though I can't I imagine I'll wind up mailordering it when I have enough money). And I definitely don't relate to his computer music experience; I have a large playlist called "Sorted Music" which is stuff I actually listen to, and everything else goes into "Unsorted" and has to filtered through before I keep it (most of it gets deleted). I only have whole albums when I am deciding to buy them - if I'm not going to buy them they are deleted, not out of deference to the RIAA or what have you, but because why would I keep them? The idea of keeping things around that I'm not going to listen to/read/watch/what have you is not something I've ever really done, the one area of music collection insanity I seem to be able to avoid.


Good Bible

Look, I'm not much of a fan of Bono's music (especially recently), or his interviews, but anyone willing to stand up in front of George Bush et al at the National freakin' Prayer Breakfast and say that "It's not about charity, it’s about justice" in terms of giving good aid to Africa (i.e. not handouts, not money that winds up in the hands of tyrants) before carrying on to mention that while America is pretty good at charity, it kind of sucks at justice, deserves a listen. Full transcription here; it's actually a pretty excellent speach, one that deserves to be distributed widely.



I don't mention it often, but Brendan Adkins' Anacrusis is consistently amazing. And today's is just devastating, especially if you're dealing with what we're dealing with right now.


No negotiation under duress

I'm not a fire-breathing atheist like Christopher Hitchens, and some of the points he makes here in regards to faith are, bluntly, embarrassingly wrongheaded, but the bulk of the article needs to be said. To wit,

You can be sure that the relevant European newspapers have also printed their share of cartoons making fun of nuns and popes and messianic Israeli settlers, and taunting child-raping priests. There was a time when this would not have been possible. But those taboos have been broken.

Which is what taboos are for. Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute.
[or is it?] So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.


Now that's what I call philosophy!

So whaddaya say, Kant, are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?


One intricate network overlaid on a completely different one

Dorian Lynskey has plotted modern Western music on the London Underground map. Amazingly fun to stare out, even if the first couple of comments below it seem to be missing the point.

Sunday, February 05, 2006 

The radical notion that a female is a human being

It's just as well that I heard about Betty Friedan's death from Last Plane to Jakarta, because Darnielle has what is probably the most fitting eulogy to her up there right now.

Friday, February 03, 2006 

There are cracks in everything

Warren Ellis is absolutely right - This is "an astonishingly fucking good piece of writing", especially the lengthy fifth page, and anyone interested in good reporting as well as having their heart broken a little needs to read it now. Afterwards I had some qualms - luckily the author answers some questions in an honest and open fashion, touching on what I was bothered about and making me feel much better about the whole thing (particularly when Eric himself chimes in).


Mixed notes

The live version of the Knife's "Heartbeats" over at Said The Gramophone is incredible. As are José Gonzalez's and the original. This just might be the best song made in the past five years, and amazingly durable to boot.

The part in Ataxia's "Montreal" where Joe Lally(?) slurs out "Sold all my records/What a stupid thing to do" hits me right in the chest. I'm not sure why.

The intro to Destroyer's "Sick Priest Learns To Last Forever" is straight Neil Young, "Down By The River". The rest I'm not so keen on (sorry, Mike).

Finally finished Borges' Collected Fictions. Wow. Precisely as mindblowing as I'd expected/hoped from Labyrinths. Now I need to find his poetry and nonfiction.

Probably the singular thing for someone my age to take from V. (how could I have forgotten the period?) is that the twentieth century is not what we often think it is. I was born in 1981 and so my view of the "twentieth century" is the eighties and nineties - a fifth of it. And arguably not even close to the most representative fraction. The back of my edition of V. calls it "the wild, macabre tale of the twentieth century", and it was written in 1961, before so much of what we latecomers think of as the twentieth century. V. conjures up a world hidden beneath (not before - remember Faulkner!) ours, one that we could trace backwardsto from ours if we were smart enough (and maybe that's partly what he is doing). Pynchon writes of a world where, before the great upheavals of the 60s and beyond and the recent and still painfully present fever of millennialism, it felt like "Nothing was coming. Nothing was already here." It often feels like that, to those alive at the time. They're always wrong.


An apology to plants

Ryan North = AWESOME.


And cannot live but in the dreamscape of the future.

I'm re-reading V, and am excessively glad I'm doing so; the first time through the first 2-300 pages was a slog, leavened by the end of the book, but this time it's 100% beauty. How did I ever sleepwalk through pages filled with this:

She knew instinctively: he will be as fine as the fraternity boy just out of an Ivy League school who knows he will never stop being a fraternity boy as long as he lives. But who still feels he is missing something, and so hangs at the edge of the Whole Sick Crew. If he is going into management, he writes. If he is an engineer or architect, why he paints or sculpts. He will straddle the line, aware up to the point of knowing he is getting the worst of both worlds, but never stopping to wonder why there ever should have been a line, or even if there is a line at all. He will lean how to be a twinned man and will go on at the game, straddling until he splits up the crotch and in half from the prolonged tension, and then he will be destroyed. She assumed ballet fourth position, moved her breasts at a 45° angle to his line of sight, pointed her nose at his heart. Looked up at him through her eyelashes.
“How long have you been in New York?”

It really is monumental, and after this I am going to have to finally get down to it and crack Gravity's Rainbow.



Pollution sucks, but sometimes it has some nice side effects.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 

Slept on

I'm not sure who qualifies as "missing out" on Port-Royal's debut (does anyone obsessively collect this kind of instrumental guitar music the same way some people get deep into obtuse techno or hard-edged rap or cryptic indie or whatever?), but whoever they are it's getting pretty obvious as time passes that they're missing something big. Or actually not, which is part of its charm for me; as I sort-of kind-of tried (or at least meant to try) to get at in my review, there's something a bit more humble and lived in about the scope of Flares. It's long and open skied, of course, but it never feels like it's trying to push the Sublime on you, which naturally means it winds up much closer to the sublime than its more pushy siblings.

Unlike most of its American/British contemporaries it has no problem trading in rock grit and distortion for gleaming Italian/European modernist sheen, but even with that this is less a record that calls to mind windswept landscapes and burning spaceships (or whatever your preferred visual metaphors for sweeping grandiosity and ridiculous but thrilling apocalypse are) than one that brings to mind a nice warm bath and slowly falling asleep. Which probably is at least partially down to my comfort level with this kind of music, but I don't think anyone acquainted with Godspeed, Mogwai, Slint, et al on down to someone like Explosions In The Sky is going to find this as aggressively widescreen as even the best of that breed tend to be - sometimes ludicrously so, as with The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place which is so "epic" that it works, but in kind of a weird way. Flares feels less urgent, as if the music is just happening rather than Happening, if you know what I mean.

I still wish they sequenced "Zobione" and "Flares" as one track each, because this is definitely a record that is mercilessly cruel to excerpters; either you're in it for the full 77 or you're not going to like it at all. And any follow-ups may not be up to this standard - Flares is the cream of five years of work by a rough collective; of course they're going to spike it full of their best moments of warmth and shine. Still the pick of the completely random promos I got (and got to) last year, and a record which I'll probably bitterly regret leaving out of my top 20 as time continues to pass. I kind of wonder what the reception for it would be like if it was American and thus was heard by much of anybody.


Hanging fire

There is a kind of translucence (or fear of translucence) that comes with the morning after, a superstitious reluctance to look at yourself; as if raising your arm in front of your face would show something beyond or below its normal comforting solidity and persistance and subjection to your will (the valid fear that one day your body will stop obeying you is always present in hangover). A tenativeness to existence, a shying away from light and noise and movement, especially in the stomach, in equal and opposite reaction to the certainty of the sour burn of gin in your throat the evening before (like all sensations, it can either be enjoyed or endured, although I suppose one could always stop drinking gin).

Last night I ran into a friend who wasn't quite on a bender, but rather was on ten nights of successive drinking (a bender would be ten days and nights of drinking). I couldn't do that; even with the break for "normal" life (wake up, have breakfast, go to work, have lunch, work, go home, eat supper) things start seeming tenuous after two or three nights out. The converse of William James' contention that "Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites and says yes" is that if you do it too often (and I have a very low tolerance for this), you begin to have difficulty discriminating yourself from the rest of existence.

There's a reason Nietzsche said the Apollonian was a necessary illusion (one of individuality, separateness, order); too many nights engaged in even mildly Dionysian pursuits and you start to blur around the edges and fade away.



You want to read something funny today? Watch the Kung Fu Monkey's head explode as he has to deal with a guy who "[shows] he is ignorant of how Hollywood business works; completely clueless on recent film and Oscar history; either an idiot or a hypocrite when it comes to the purpose of the very foundation he has set up; and revealed with, I must admit, breathtaking efficiency, he has no critical film analysis skills whatsoever".

And then it gets worse.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 

Character arcs

This probably should have occurred to me earlier (of course, I also heard it late enough that I didn't give poor Rachel any (deserved) spots on my year-end lists), but parts of Come And Get It really do sound like the necessary prelude to "Since U Been Gone" (particularly "All About Me"), the moment of doubt and loneliness and weakness that comes before tossing the jerk out on his ass. Or maybe the moment after, when you don't change your mind (because he is a jerk, and she is better off without him), but the hurt starts to be felt (especially, say, "Nothing Good About This Goodbye").



Mad/genius Brad Shoup has unearthed this - I need to see/hear it, desperately. Come on - Jesus singing "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now", duetting with Judas on "Blue Monday" and Mary Magdelene singing "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have?)" - with strings? This may be the epitome of too good to be true, especially in execution.


What makes a man start fires?

For that matter, what makes a man get wasted on cheap Labatt 50 when he has to go to work the next day?

(PS If you thought the answer had something to do with the lack of anyone to say "don't stay out so late tonight" or "don't get so drunk tonight", you're on the right track)

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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