Thursday, July 7, 2011

New ground

After a lengthy hiatus, Alex and I are taking another crack at music blogging. We're fired up and have a swank new site:
I Die: You Die Facebook page
I Die: You Die Twitter

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Industrial People

JG Ballard is dead at 78. I think it's fair to say that if there's a single author who was a literary influence on more of the artists in my record collection than any other, Ballard would be it. The range of artists who've been inspired by Ballard is tremendous: Joy Division, Brian Eno, huge swaths of the early punk and new wave landscapes. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to suggest that without Ballard, industrial music as we understand it might never have coalesced. His themes - technology, sex, architecture, psychology - became those of musicians whose opted neither to flee from nor gleefully embrace the emergence of electronic music within the pop world, but instead to engage in a dialectic with it: Throbbing Gristle, Fad Gadget, Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark. We do not wage war against the machine, nor do we ignore it as it seeps into our aesthetics and subtly shifts our expectations. We study it and its history and through it our own as we observe the changes it enacts in us and we in it.

Ballard was as good a navigator as we could've hoped for of the multiplicity of our futures, those we've inherited and those we've forged. Pick up a copy of "High Rise" or "Concret Jungle", put your TG24 boxset on loop and reflect on what we've lost, kiddies. We'll never see his likes again.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Marissa Nadler

So I know that our posts at DIJ have slacked off in the past couple months, and for that I'm sorry. Without wanting to speak for Alex or Trish, my time of late's been consumed by thesis work, bitching about the bullshit Galactica finale, listening to Carcass, Charles Stross novels, finally giving Lost a shot, and thesis procrastination. But I've also been going to loads of shows.

I'd like to offer not a full review of Marissa Nadler's show at the Media Club last night so much as a brief yet ringing endorsement of her current tour and entire body of work. If Leonard Cohen, Mazzy Star or the short stories of Flannery O'Connor have ever accompanied you and your favourite bottle through a lonely night of quiet reflection on topics like lovers and death, then you should've already been augmenting such revels with any of Marissa's three previous albums (debut "Ballads of Living And Dying" being my harrowing favourite). If not, new album "Little Hells" serves as a great showcase for why Nadler's light years ahead of her supposed peers in the contemporary singer songwriter sweepstakes (Seriously, Joanna Newsom? What is wrong with you people?), and shows her becoming much more proficient with full-band instrumentation.

Speaking of bands, the way Nadler's rearranged her sparser material to suit her touring group is simply ace. Shoegazy gauze augments the plaintive keen of songs like "Heart Paper Lover" without overpowering them, and at the forefront of the live experience remains Nadler's voice. I think I might've dropped the book I was reading the first time I heard it a few years ago. The voice of a woman who knows that this bender will be her last. The voice of the dead woman you wronged beckoning from just outside your window. The voice which dragged you out of your home in the night to ramble along the hills with a bottle of whiskey and try to remember and forget at the same time.

With that slightly purple description out of the way, I humbly implore you to pick up "Little Hells" and to see if Nadler's bringing her songs and her voice to your neck of the woods.

Marissa Nadler, "Rosary"

Monday, March 9, 2009

James, "Say Something (Utah Saints Radio Edit)"

Fifteen-odd years back I chanced across a track on the radio by James, britpop stalwarts who never cracked the biz this side of the pond. The cut was "Say Anything" from their 1993 "Laid" album, but it wasn't the album version that I found when I nabbed "Laid" on cassette. The remix that I'd heard added some characteristically early 90's techno flourishes that punched the song's melancholia up into the heavens. I never heard that remix again after that chance encounter on All Hit LG730 (yes, I'm old school enough to have grown up with an AM station) until today.

Turns out that the remix I heard was done by Utah Saints, and I can't believe I never sussed that out on my own. The radio-friendly brushes of light acid and disco diva backing vocals have the Leeds stadium house outfit's fingerprints all over. While it sounds dated as all get out, the remix still gives me that same hit of summery pop that made me wish I'd had a blank Maxell rolling in the tape deck that night. Peep it (along with the original if you've never heard it) below.

James, "Say Something"

James, "Say Something (Utah Saints Radio Edit)"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hip Hop Hooray!

Oh snap! It was my first hip hop show EVER! I got out my old ADIDAS track jacket, some gold chains and chunky rings, so I felt like the 4th member of RunDMC, and rounded up my homies and I was ready to kick it.

Having never been to a hip hop show before, I was a little surprised that the doors weren’t until 10pm. I must be getting old, since I thought this was some sort of misprint on the tickets. Strange but true. Maestro did not even take the stage until 11:30, so I weasled my way up to the front of the stage so I could get a good view, especially since I only had on my Chuck T’s which meant I didn’t have the height of stiletto heels to my advantage.
Maestro opened up with “Drop the Needle” which got the crowd pumped, and just when you thought the song was over he laid down the “black tuxedo, black tuxedo, black, black, black tuxedo” and everyone lost their shit. He interacted with the crowd on many levels, giving handshakes, love and props to his fellow Canadians, and even holding out the mic so our friend got to sing along. The Maestro is 41 now, and I guess that little person inside me from twenty years ago was thinking he would come out with his crazy slanted Arsenio Hall hairdo and moustache, but times have changed and he was in a ball cap and white dress shirt, jumping around on stage with so much contagious energy. Maestro also dropped his biggest hit “Let Your Backbone Slide” which is the best selling Canadian hip hop single of all time, and “These Eyes” which is one of Alex’s favorites.

After a short intermission and a DJ scratch session, Naughty By Nature took the stage. Treach came out in a fur jacket and hoodie, looking like a mean mofo. I have to admit the white girl in me was a little scared, but as he proceeded with the show and joked around with the crowd; calling us “his family” I realized every little white girl needs a big black brother. I was still at the front of the stage stuck next to a wigger who was the longest, lankiest and the leanest white boy I have ever seen trying to dance to hip hop, he was waving his arms around like he was trying to land a plane, and I can’t believe I didn’t get elbowed. However, I was privy to wigger-boy shouting out lyrics in my face whenever he happened to turn my way like he was free-styling his own tracks, which was absolutely hysterical. NBN mixed up a bunch of what we called “white people’s favorite black songs” such as “California Love, Drop it Like its Hot”, and “Golddigger” and in between those scratched up remixes, they would perform their own tracks. The boys opened up with “O.P.P” which made everybody bounce, and gave us “Jamboree, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and ending with “Hop Hop Hooray” where they dragged a bunch of peeps on stage and they all danced.

I was hoping there would be some raw break-dance action happening, but the show was pretty dope as is. Treach and Vin Rock also did a shout out to 2Pac, and Treach actually poured some Hennessy on his tattooed arm which had a picture of 2Pac on it. There was so much love in the room last night and the boys kept yelling at us to all get home safe and not fight cuz we are all family, which is a pretty awesome statement for a hip-hop band to make since Vancouver has become Canada’s gang capital. In any case, if this is any indication of what hop hop shows are like, count me in for the next one!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Depeche Mode, "Wrong"

Hey, you guys like Depeche Mode right? Well, here's the first single from their forthcoming album Sounds of the Universe. Produced by Ben Hillier, who also helmed the delightful return to form that was Playing the Angel way back in 'Ought Five, the track actually makes me think of some of the stuff from Dave Gahan's underrated 2007 solo album Hourglass. It's not knock-me-on-my-ass awesome, but it certainly has that recognizable DM sound and the repetition of the song title throughout actually hearkens back to some of the stuff they were doing circa Some Great Reward. Also, does anyone else really enjoy hearing Martin doing his angelic vocal thing as a counterpoint to Dave's tortured sex lizard wail? I sure do! I'm actually pretty excited for this record now!

Depeche Mode, "Wrong (Radio Edit)"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Laughter and Reception

I recently watched a performance of Erik Satie's ballet "Rel√Ęche", which accented small chamber and ensemble pieces of Satie's with theatre, dance and film he had a hand in crafting as well (you haven't lived until you've seen Satie lamping around an artillery gun in slo-mo, replete with his trademark bowler). The show was both lively and contemplative in trademark Satie fashion (although I still prefer his piano work), but the audience's reaction to some of the material presented struck me as odd...

A series of short ensemble pieces were preceded by a suite of three short chamber songs with vocal accompaniment. These first songs were as "serious" and emotive as Satie gets, and were treated as such by the audience. Later, there was a series of brief comedic pieces ("Sports & Divertissements") which were narrated by an actress performing an exaggerated pantomime: the audience laughed throughout. But it was the audience's reaction to "Mercure", the short pieces between these "serious" and "comedic" pieces, which puzzled me. The pieces are brief, seemingly off the cuff. One might describe most of them as comic in tone, but not comedic. The audience listened "properly" to each song, but when each of them came to a quick and sudden end, laughter broke out.

I'm not sure if what prompted the laughter at the end of the pieces was simple propriety - one doesn't laugh during classical music unless there's a clown onstage, as there was with "Sports & Divertissements" - or the sudden conclusions which punctuated the pieces at there end. Were people laughing at how quickly the pieces resolved? At how short they were? If that's the case, it seems like a stunted manner in which to approach comic music. All of the pieces in "Mercure" were brief and resolved themselves quickly. Those which were explicitly comic were so throughout their duration, not just during their abrupt conclusion. If we laugh at the manner in which an episode of "Seinfeld" ends with multiple storylines crashing together in manic chaos, we've also been laughing during the episode. So why not laugh during a piece of comic music as well as at its end?

I suppose I'm drawing a somewhat arbitrary line in the sand between music with explicitly comedic content (Weird Al, Spike Jones, or, say, Biz Markie) and music with a comic approach to form and structure (Sparks, Wire). I laugh at Weird Al's jokes or Biz's zaniness during their music, but if a Sparks or Wire song is both amusing and taking liberties with pop/rock expectations and structural devices, I tend to have a smile on my face throughout a listen, but that doesn't necessary culminate in a catharsis of laughter once the song's ended. I don't keep a straight face until "Field Day For The Sundays" reaches its quick end then break out laughing - "They ended the song after 29 seconds! How magnificently frivolous!" Music rarely makes "jokes" in the most restrictive sense of the term: setup and punchline (although I'd be keen to hear suggestions or examples). It may have a humourous conclusion, but it plays and japes along the way (especially Satie's): everything does not depend on the punchline.

Bah, I have hundreds of problems and concerns about the way music is received in public, especially art music. I don't expect people to be slapping their knees and hooting throughout performances (that actually sounds quite hellish), I just wish that music which overturns so many formal conventions like Satie's would be able to provoke at least some upset in the conventions of listening.