Saturday, January 28, 2006

Year End Rant That Appeared in Eye Weekly

This year Montreal was the new Minneapolis, Athens, Georgia, Halifax,Iceland, Madchester, Terra Del Fuego with all the group think music criticsbreathlessly anointing the bilingual city as the au courant hotspot dusecond. There was only one problem. While the bands selected for adulationlike Arcade Fire, The Stills, The Dears and Stars were at best fair tomedicore, what was lost in all the slobbering hyperventiliating was not onlythat they all shared a uniform chamber pop sound that appealed toneo-traditionalist's ideas of high romance, grandeur and melodrama and loveof lit rock undergraduate narratives but also the same cultural trait. Theyare unilingual, Anglophone acts. This is not to say that individual membersaren't French or bilingual or even attended french language schools. But bymy last Google of Paris on St. Lawrence, the official languages of the cityare French and English or the mongrel version of both-joual. Which is whyall the attention on these Anglophone acts was not only disingenous, butimplicitly/explicitly dismissive of the music and culture from the othersolitude. Now I'm not trying to fly the fleur de lis of the separatistmovement (how can I, I'm from my small-minded southwestern Ontario) orsuggesting a royal commission, however, even a token appraisal of thevibrant, eclectic, Francophone scene which ranges from Haitian grooves tothe free improv/jazz of the Ambiances Magnetiques label might have provideda more complete picture of the Montreal "scene".Ironically, the Quebec group that most represented the Montreal popexplosion and the bilingual nature of the city was not only the one with themost homogenous, bland sound but was also most likely to be identified asbeing an English-speaking rock band- the excerable Simple Plan. And whiletheir bubblegum pop punk is as threatening as the Partridge Family, they areengaging and entertaining when they appear on Quebec TV talk shows.Anyway, apparently Montreal's time is up as Milwaukee or is Portland is thenew Montreal.While this may be disheartening to up and coming Montreal bands looking tocash in on the laser-intensity of international media scrutiny, it alsospeaks to the pack mentality of music critics in general. While indie rockscribes, specifically, pride themselves on their exclusivity and their oh,so individual alt. tastes and like to deride their mainstream counterpartsof bandwagon hopping, they are just as complicit accomplices in this herdmentality. Case in point is the Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise, which will nodoubt top the list here.Whether the record deserves the accolades it has received is moot. Ok, it'snot bad, but hardly mindblowing. Kinda like Kevin Ayers receiving a historylesson of the Midwest state from Woody Guthrie.What the record does do is to conform to all the rigorous standards of theindie rock/pop template or does it?Unbashedly literate and highly flalutingly conceptual. Ambitious, scholarlyand important. Mellifluous folk-chamber pop with arrangements thatowe a debt to classical music, musicals and the pop symphonies of BrianWilson, VanDyke Parks, the Beatles, Jimmy Webb and Paul Simon. In other words, it isARTMUSIC.Drop the towering shadows of Wilson, Dyke Parks, Jimmy Webb andPaul Simon, add some jazzy drum and keys syncopation and what do you have?'70s prog rock, of course. Add in some dub, electronica and krautrock andyou havepost-rock.Of course, those musical arbiters who dissed post-rock as neo-prog rock are thesame ones who have embraced Illinoise as a indie-pop masterpieceSo how different is Illinoise from Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds?Take away the obvious pomp and bombast of War of the Worlds andyou still have a record that is self-indulgent, self-absorbed andpretentious. Not that those are bad qualities, as all music comes from thoseaesthetic impulses. If it wasn't it, it wouldn't be created by a humanbeing.But of course, indie rock true believers will hypocritically deny any thepost/prog-rock comparisons because as children of grunge or even to oldschool punk they have been indoctrinated in revisionist dogma that asserts that anything with amellotron or an extended solo (even it is based on modal jazz patterns)smacks of bloated, excessive, professionalismobsessed with flashy technique at the expense of grit, soul and street cred.In essence, it can be artful as long as it is not mistaken for ART,because that would lump it in with the European tradition of musicalaptitude rather than it is being grounded in the D.I.Y. punk gospel of attitudefirst, musicianship second, thereby rendering it more "Real".Which is something most suburban indie rock fans, of course, know all aboutas they discuss the merits of Bukowski, between loading their i-pods with"authentic' and "honest" songs that speak to their "authentic" lifeexperience.Forgeting the fact that all art, even D.I.Y indie rock, is artifice,fiction and fabrication. Creative lies.But when a concept album is made by their kind of artist, a sensitive indiesinger/songwriter like Stevens, one that isinfluenced by the right kind of music- The Beatles, The Stones, Nuggetsboxes, hiphop, glam, Dylan, new wave, punk, '90s alt.rock, '50s &'60s country- it is embraced as a work of art that is heralded with all theusual gushing cliches about how it pushes boundaries and is uncategorizable.Hogwash!To me, it is smacks of the same kind of tunnel vision snobbery that thesealleged open-minded music geeks claim to be against. In fact, it representsa deep, ingrained conservatism, the likes you only associate with classicrockers, mainstream jazz fans or CBC Radio 2 listeners.Which is why I like to refer to this continuing reverential neo-rockrevival thatloosely kicked off with the tepid garage rock of the Hives and the WhiteStripes and extends through to recent retro '80s dance rock flashback acts like Franz Killers Bloc Partyas Rumsfeld rock: music whose lyrics the U.S. Secretary of Defense may not agree with, but whoseadherent to conservative song structures and conventions he would admire.Which is why New Pornographers and Bright Eyes fans of today are likely tobe no different than those yuppies who now scour for Fab Four vinyl withtheir Stephen Harper buttons, engaging in conversations about tougher gunslaws, increased funding for internal spying and surveillance and using thenotwithstanding clause to repeal the gay marriage law, all the whilerhapsodizing about the bygone genius of those Liverpool mop tops. Or waxing about the good old days of the Lennon/Ono bed-ins.Don't believe me. Check out a Blue Rodeo or Cowboy Junkies show. It's Conservative Party central.Fortunately, there are some glimmers of hope.Association of Improvising Musicians, Toronto.Is Hidden Cameras' mainman Joel Gibbs the next Stephen Sondheim?As much as I detest their Broken Social Scene's smug, frat houseclubbiness, this free form collective does deserve credit for acting as a portal to psychrock free folk freaks like the Animal Collective, Fursaxa, Six Organs ofAdmittance, Double Leopards, Matt Valentine and Erika Elder, Ariel Pink,London, Ontario'sthe riderless.Will noise be the new dance rock? Let's cross our fingers and toes and hope sowith agitators like Wolf Eyes, Burning Star Core and HairPolice, T.O. outsiders like Les Mouches and true emo headcases like Xiu Xiuacting as a beach head.In hiphop Kanye ruled, developed a conscience, but where's the clothingline? The jury's out on Jamie Foxx. Will he be the next Denzel Washington orMC Hammer? Anticon went indie folk. Will it really be a curtain call for Eminem? Don't count on it.Transplanted Canuck expatriate Buck 65 may have relocated toFrance, but his country hop is even more rooted in Hank Snow, Leonard Cohenand Woody Guthrie than before. Distance makes the love of one's country grow fonder. Any nominations for Rich Telfry as Canada's official folkhop poet laureate? Every year, the mainstream needs a token "offbeat, edgy"hiphop disc to fill its "cool" quotient, a "hip" respite from scrutinizing the(ir)relevant liner notes of the Tragically Hip or was that the Hootie andthe Blowfish (same thing. who can tell one bad bar band from the next)retrospective set. And regardless of its merits this year it was theDangerdoom disc. Last year, it was Madvillainy.So who wants to get stoned with Edan? Beauty and The Beat's lysergic musings put on him on the blunted honor roll along with Sensational and New Kingdom.Was it M.I.A's polycultural and rebel chic family history or her elbows up boasts and groovesthat made her this year's exotic novelty act? And now that she is shillingfor Honda, will her sell-out status relegate her to Falco kitsch?Hopes for '06: Death From Above 1979 vs. Lightning Bolt cage matchFinally, think for yourself. Open your ears. In this p2p, i-pod nanoworld there has never been more music available of all genres, subgenres andsubsubsects from all over world than there is now. To use a cliche, for a music lover it isan embarassment ofriches. So fuck the pack. Screw reverence. Embrace the polygot.Enough of the paternalistic brickbats, here are some sounds that challengedme, as all music should do, this year.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Top 10 of '05

The Lappetites-Before The Libretto (Quecksilber)
Peter Cusack- Baikal Ice (Spring 2003) (ReR)
Maja S.K. Ratkje/Lasse Marhaug - Music For Faking (C3R)
APSCI-Thanks For Asking (Quannum Projects)
Greg Davis/Steven Hess-Decisions (Longbox Recordings)
Mikroknytes-Sess-Supastreng (Kavekavity)
Edan-Beauty And The Beat (Lewis)
Jon Mueller- What's Lost Is Something Important, What's Found Is Something Not Revealed (Crouton Music)
Mecha Fixes Clocks-Orbiting With Screwdrivers (Alien 8)
Morceaux De Machines (A Dontigny/Erick D'Orion+Diane Labrosse/Martin Tetreault/Otomo Yoshihide)—Estrapade (No Type)

Recent reviews That Appeared in Signal To Noise magazine

Nels Cline/Wally Shoup/Chris Corsano
Immolation/Immersion
Strange Attractors
Wayne Peet Quartet
Live At Al’s Bar
Pfmentum

While I was aware of guitarist Nels Cline’s virtuosic versatility with fellow West Coast free reedman/bandleader Vinny Golia, his ECM-ish dappled atmospherics with cellist David Darling and his membership in Carla Bozulich’s rock/country outfit, the Geraldine Fibbers, it was until his and drummer Gregg Bendian’s brave interpretation of John Coltrane/Rashied Ali’s 1967 classic free jazz disc, “Insterstellar Space” on 1998’s “Interstellar Space, Revisited” that the immensity of his talent became evident.
Of course, since then Cline has barely unhooked his guitar strap, contributing to partner, Bozulich’s various projects, Scarnella and her re-make of Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger” album, his own improvised trio and Nels Cline Singers groups and his inclusion in the latest incarnation of Wilco.
East Coast improvisers, altoist Shoup and percussionist Corsano know each other well as documented in their duets and trios with saxophonist Paul Flaherty. Corsano, like Cline, has straddled the avant rock/free jazz divide in his collaborations with free folkers, Matt Valentine, Sunburned Hand Of The Man and Six Organs of Admittance.
With its Machine Gun explosiveness, the two-minute opener, “Lake of Fire Memories” should by all rights be a signifier as to the rest of album’s tone.
And the first third of the 28-minute title track would lead you to believe that as well: Cline’s tight, intricate bass string circular Fripp-like apreggios and runs tangling with Shoup’s scalding bleats and shrieks and Corsano’s Sunny Murray/Milfred Graves lightning press snare and tom rolls crashing like tsunami waves. However, once the feverish instrument to instrument combat subsides about the nine-minute mark, it takes on a more sculpted shape as Cline’s Thurston Moore/Sonny Sharrock use of distortion, feedback, bent notes, textured taps and clangs, Corsano’s bowed cymbals and manipulation of wires and Shoup’s bluesy dirges focus more on subtlety, dynamics and harmonics until the tune lifts off again in the last third.
The rest of the album bleeds seamlessly between these slow/fast tempos and free jazz/no-wave noise rock miasma in much the same way as the album title implies as this trio sacrifice themselves willingly for this deep end dialogue.
These are three players at the top of their game that leave the listener exhausted and exhilarated and with one request:Please, sirrs, can we have some more.
West Coast organist, Wayne Peet’s 1999 live set with Cline, guitarist G.E. Stinson and Tommy Bolin/Freddie Hubbard alumnus drummer Russell Bizzett is as equally robust and corporeal as the foursome evoke the spirit of the greasy, acid funk fusion of Tony Williams’ legendary group, Lifetime and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.
Like Cline, Peet has been a Golia sideman and former Shadowfax founder, Stinson, has worked with them both. And the camaraderie between the quartet clearly shows as they stretch out on three lengthy tracks.
Without willing to do so, Stinson and Cline take on the roles of former Davis string wizards, Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey, deftly pealing off funky licks, teasing with distortion and feedback and indulging in their wah wah pedals, with power, control and finesse. Peet digs deep with smeary, circular vamps and ghostly swirls, while Bizzett expands and contracts the pocket, changing up the grooves, while still keeping them cooking and interesting.
A message to you post-rockers out there: this is how it’s done.


Constantines
Tournament of Hearts
Three Gut Records/SubPop

When rock musicians celebrate the sweat and toil of work, from the Boss to Bachman Turner Overdrive, it’s hard not to smirk.
After all, isn’t that why, meeting girls and the pull of their creative muse notwithstanding, they decided to become musicians in
the first place: to avoid the daily grind, drudgery and monotony of the lunch pail/brown bag, blue collar/cubicle struggle of
securing the needed greenbacks for economic survival.
That isn’t to say musicians, especially on the indie rock side of the equation, still don’t slave at menial jobs before they are able
to sustain themselves from their music.
Which is why it would be easy to mock to these odes to labour and the accompanying virtuous values of tenacity, sacrifice and
commitment on “Working Full-Time”, “Hot Line Operator” and “Good Nurse” from this Toronto soul-punk quintet, if they
were from anybody else.
As for the past years, The Constantines have been serious road hogs.
However, there has always been a roll-up-your-sleeves earnestness and irony-free romanticism to this group whose bruising, muscular music has elicited comparisons to Springsteen meets Fugazi.
I’ve never quite understood the connection to Boss, except, perhaps, with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Webb’s gruff baritone and in
the common man themes, if the Asbury Park street poet had decided to couch his lyrics in allusive and elliptical poetry than
straight forward narratives.
The other overriding theme here is man’s struggle with nature. It may be no-brainer, but as everyone on this planet knows
Mother Nature is an unpredictable and devastating force whose respect one ignores at one’s peril. For the Constantines, it’s forbidding and enchanting.
Musically speaking, this album leans less towards the testifying soul power urgency of the previous two discs and yet retains the taut blues and disciplined, propulsive grooves of Touch and Go bands like the former Jesus Lizard. However, the elbows up angularity of the past that referenced the Dischord acts has been straightened out somewhat and in its place beefier, Crazy Horse-style guitar and chunkier arrangements. (The band has been sprinkling their shows with Neil Young covers along with Talking Heads).
In a competitive analogy that these Canuck rockers would love the Constantines are like a complete hockey player: with quick,
shooting hands, great skating legs, but who is tough in the corners. In other words, one is smart and sensitive and who can
counted on scoring the big goals but isn’t afraid of dropping the gloves.


APSCI
Thanks For Asking

Quannum Projects
Lyrics Born
Same !@#$ Different Day
Quannum Projects

Remember the fuss when the Anti-Pop Consortium signed with Warp Records back at the turn of the millenium, highlighting the obvious but unspoken connection between IDM and hiphop.
While that fusion isn’t new anymore, there hasn’t been a hiphop act that has advanced Anti-Pop’s innovations to the next level. Until now.
APSCI (Applied Science) is the New York couple of classically trained Filipino/New Guinea/Australian vocalist/producer of Dana Diaz-Tutaan and Bronx MC/producer Raphael La Motta aka. Ray Heatley, along with DJ Big Wiz. As you might expect from their diverse cultural and musical backgrounds- La Motta was the bassist/vocalist for the punk trio, Vitapup while Diaz-Tutaan has guested on Mike Ladd’s “Vernacular Homicide”, The Infesticons’ “Gun Hill Road” and Blackalicious’ new disc, “The Craft” – “Thanks For Asking” is a disparate, mesmerizing kaleidoscope of old school, electro, glitch, IDM, R’n’B, Timbaaland, downtempo and Asian pop that is playfully experimental without losing sight of the bump’n’grind of the dancefloor.
Even when the music leans more towards the space cadet territory of MF Doom or Kool Keith, this husband and wife team have such a mastery of melody that are they able to pull it back from the brink. Much of that has to due with Diaz-Tutaan’s elastic voice breezes seamlessly between the sweet sexiness of Beyonce and the sour pain of Beth Gibbons. Guests like the Perceptionists’ Mr.Lif, the Antibalas’ Martin Perna and TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe drop by, but with La Motta and Diaz-Tutaan sharing the vocals and beat construction equally, the invitees feel like interlopers at a party for two. If this doesn’t top year-end charts, there is an injustice.
“Same !@#$ Different Day” is a less straight up remix of Lyrics Born’s debut solo disc, 2003’s “Later That Day…” and more of a hybrid sequel that ironically improves on the original.
Instead of just inviting outside producers and friends to re-shape his music, the Quannum Projects co-founder has gone step further and written new lyrics and music for the most of the ‘remix’ tracks as well as inviting a stellar list of guest MCs and DJs. If that wasn’t enough, this San Francisco MC/producer has dropped five new tunes to go along with the 8 re-mixes.
While there is the usual list of heavyweight friends you’d expect from the Solesides collective days – Lateef The Truth Speaker, DJ Shadow and Chief Xcel of Blackalicious- and like-minded sonic compadres like Born’s romantic partner, Joyo Velarde, Dan The Automator, the Cut Chemist, Lifesavas’ Jumbo The Garbageman and the Ugly Duckling’s Young Einstein, other contributors like Stereo MCs, Morcheeba and the Poets of Rhythm may come out of left field but speak volumes about Born’s belief in the global interconnectedness of funk and hiphop.
They also collectively inject the disc with more of rare groove/70s Soul vibe.
And just for old school’s sake KRS-One’s duet with Dilated Peoples’ Evidence on the “Pack Up Re-Mix” is a reminder that despite the unevenness of his solo work, Kris Parker still has the goods.
Of course, Born (aka. Tom Shimura) would have been remiss if he didn’t include a re-working of the indie smash hit, “Calling Out”, which this time around features E-40 and the Hieroglyphics’ Casual.


Joscha Oetz/Greg Stuart/Andreas Wagner
Permanent Flow
Accretions

Now based in Lima, Peru, the German-born bassist Oetz, who has been associated with San Diego’s Trummerflora Collective, couldn’t have chosen a better moniker for this decade-old free improv ensemble, which not only happens to be the album title, but also fits these spirited improvisations to a T.
The first and second tracks – “Complex Geometry”, “Membranen”– are ample proof. As Oetz, Cologne tenor sax man,Wagner, and Minnesota percussionist Stuart combine the muscularity and power of American and German improv with the close ensemble interplay and small sound tactile bustling of the U.K. scene in an engaging tussle in which the trio barely stops to catch its breath until the third track ballad, “Straight Curves”, only to pick up where they left off on the final track “Verzahnt”.
The mournful melodic solos on “Straight Curves” may be a welcome respite from the busy clatter but they unnecessarily slow down the spontaneous, uninterrupted flow and hide and seek darting exchanges of these harmonics and timbre explorations.
Permanent Flow has had a revolving cast of players, including Hans Koch and Wagner who joined in 1997. And Wagner and Stuart, contributed to Oetz’s 2002 disc of solo and duo material - “Vieles Ist Eins”- along with bassist Barre Phillips.
And this 2003 San Diego show exemplifies this close relationship with Stuart’s rattling accents, rim shots and percussive skittering intersecting and overlapping with Oetz’ melodic/rhythmic bows, scraps and rubbing and Wagner’s punctuated blurts, squeals and fleeting lines.
Permanent Flow is like a slam dance between three people tied at the feet that are in constant threat of collapsing and yet somehow by the force of gravity and irregular symmetry never do.

John Korsrud
Odd Jobs, Assorted Climaxes
Spool

The subtitle to this grab bag of tracks from 1995-2001 from the leader of the Vancouver’s avant jazz big band, Hard Rubber Orchestra (HRO), is “An Eclectic Collection of New Music Compositions”. And that’s about a good a description as any, especially one, which features legendary Canuck punk pioneer DOA’s Joe Keithley aka. Joe Shithead with the Hard Rubber Orchestra on 1996’s “You Look Like Angel” that fuses an excerpt from an opera by HRO with a reference to the classic standard (You’re The) Devil in Disguise, but is also a nod to John Zorn’s Torture Garden. Got that.
Keithley, by the way, is in fine sneering form, spitting out the lyrics with a hilarious tongue-in-cheek bravado.
But that isn’t the only shout out to Vancouver’s fabled ‘70s punk scene. Korsrud titled the 1995’s Xenakis-inspired, “Zippy The Pinhead” for two pianos and a bass drum after an infamous Vancouver punk drummer.
Korsrud’s spirited wit and obliteration of the artificial totems of high/low culture recall the work of Dutch New Music and jazz masters like Louis Andriessen, with whom he has studied, and Willem Breuker.
Indeed, Korsrud still maintain close connections with the Dutch New Music community. 1997’s “Glurp”, for 14 musicians, was commissioned by the Dutch TV station, VPRO and here is performed by Amsterdam’s Combustion Chamber. And Korsrud still makes regular trips to the Netherlands.
With its manic, swirling descending strings and woodwinds counterpointed by staccato, intervals of horns, the dramatic “Glurp” recalls the gulp that many people had in their throats when they first heard Stravinsky when combined with strident Cecil Taylor-like piano roaming.
This contrasts with the electronic and drum’n’bass programming of 2001’s “Xs&Os” or the crime noir feel of 1998’s “From Swing Theory Mvt.IV”, for five musicians and sampler, featuring HRO member Ron Samworth on guitar as well as Vancouver free jazz six-stringer Tony Wilson.
That “Odd Jobs” showcases Korsrud’s versatility and multi-disciplinary talents is no-brainer. What this disc does, though, is further strengthen his reputation as one of North America’s most original jazz and New Music composers.

Greg Davis/Sebastien Roux
Paquet Surprise
Carpark
Greg Davis/Steven Hess
Decisions
Longbox Recordings

Perhaps the most fitting context to frame the folktronica of Vermont laptop composer, Davis is to see it as a musical metaphor of the continuing enroachment of the numbing suburban and strip mall sprawl on our rapidly diminishing rural farmland.
Yes, the allusion is far-fetched but Davis’ use of digital noise seems to always to flare up just when the music at its most placid and pleasant; the bombardment of the acoustic sounds with a granular shower or a crunchy squelch much in the same way as a back porch hoedown is ruined by the lumbering roar of bulldozer or the spitting whine of a chainsaw.
On the other hand, Davis’ fractured cut ups and bricolages of sunshine pop and pastoral folk with glitchy noise could be just as much part of his synthetic/acoustic dialectical aesthetic as they could come from an impish prankster side of him.
With its semi-adherence to pop structures, “Paquet Surprise” is in the same spirit as Davis discs like 2002’s “Ann Arbor” and 2004’s “Curling Pond Woods”, than last year’s collection of drones, “Somnia” or this year’s “Yearlong”, his collaboration with Keith Fullerton Whitman. An industrious man, indeed.
However, if “Ann Arbor” and “Curling Park Woods” had a North American rustic quality to them, this collaboration with French sound explorer Roux (who works at the famed French computer music institution IRACM) - has a more exotic flavour, mainly due to the employment of non-Western instrumentation like the kalimba and double mijwiz.
But for the most part, the two rely on combinations of acoustic/electric guitar, keyboards, vibraphone and glockenspiel, sticking to simple melodic phrases which play hide and seek amongst the digitized atmospherics beds.
Indeed for all the digital processing, these two have pop hearts and smarts, witness the soothing vocal harmonies on the title track and the beginning of “To See The Wonderful World” before drifts off into violin drones, and yet are perhaps too shy or cerebral (Davis has two degrees in music and composition) to abandon their computers and write acoustic pop songs.
Or may be not. Judging from Davis’ laptop improvisations with percussionist Hess on “Decisions”. Hess contributed to a track on the “Paquet Surprise” disc, but if that disc had a warm and delicate glow to it, “Decisions” is a more severe, rigorous and spare affair. Recorded at Hess’ apartment, Davis’ micro-tonal rings and pops, sine wave flares, dark noise storms engage Hess’ brush and stick snare taps and gong-like cymbal splashes in a compelling dialogue that recalls the electro-acoustic strategies of AMM and MIMEO yet within a strictures of a duet context. This is duo music at its best, regardless of the instrumentation.


Windy and Carl
The Dream House/Dedications To Flea
Kranky

The last couple of years have been tough for Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren.
The Dearborn, Michigan couple lost their beloved canine friend, Flea, and Weber’s mother passed away.
Not surprising then that the space drone duo have been in a bit of musical hibernation as this double-disc set composed at their home studio is their first new material in half a decade.
Fortunately for us, out of this grief and suffering have come these two sublime tributes.
While “Dream House” takes its name from La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s legendary audio and visual installation located at their MELA Foundation, it is dedicated to Weber’s mom. Nonetheless, minimalism has always been one of the cornerstones of this duo’s instrumental soundscapes and the two pieces that make up the first disc, Dream House – “The Eternal Struggle” and “I’ve Been Waiting To Hear Your Voice”- are quintessential Young/Zazeela-style drones with their sustained and gradually layered organ lines.
On “The Eternal Struggle”, the organ drones are chilly and severe, celestial and mournful much like a requiem played on a church pipe organ, supplying the bed for and yet contrasting the warmth of Weber and Hultgren’s resonating minor chord guitar melodies as they flit sporatically in and out of the drones.
Lighter and less somber , “I’ve Been Waiting To Hear Your Voice” is closer to Eno/Fripp’s No Pussyfooting/Evening Star ambient projects with Weber’s e-bow providing gentle and melancholic turns of phrases, like ripples to glowing pools of shimmering light on a serene lake.
The 37-minute “Dedication to Flea”, which occupies the second disc, is classic Windy And Carl with delicate, billowing, expansive Durutti Column/Felt guitar strums and filgree ostinatos, except with one difference. Mixed in underneath the delayed and flanged twin guitar interplay are sounds of Flea walking the staccato pattering of his feet and pants and rapid breathes could easily be mistaken digital scratches as acting rhythms.
Unlike the two walks from which the sounds of Flea were gathered which had a starting and ending points, the music drifts along with the aimlessness and grace that illuminate the joys of casual strolls.
In the past Windy and Carl’s dreamy vignettes were tranquil balms, rorschach blots that allowed the listeners to imagine their own visual panoramas. However, with these discs tied to concrete themes there is a greater weight to this music.
Weber has described this trio of tracks as about “death and dreams and beliefs and leaving and moving on.”
“The Dream House/Dedications to Flea” are gorgeous epitaphs and further proof of the healing power of music.


Dr.Israel
Presents Dreadtone International:
Patterns of War
ROIR
Inna City Pressure
ROIR

It’s been three years since the sonic doctor’s last disc, “Another Day In Babylon” and four since his last proper disc, “Black Rose Liberation” with the Brooklyn Sound System.
In that time, of course, electronic and dance music has changed at the rate it takes to send an e-mail to the South Pole and so on “Patterns On War”, this former mainstay of the Brooklyn illbient collective has wisely dropped the jungle and drum’n’bass and returned to his digi-dub reggae roots.
That doesn’t mean, however, that he has abandoned his conscious-raising, caustic political and social commentaries. Far from it. In his baritone raggamuffin voice, he still rails with wisdom and conviction at injustice and global war mongering. And this time out he has some help in the form of MCs Lady K and Chemda. This may be Lady K’s first time on disc, but with a powerful soulful and sexy delivery let’s hope it’s not her last.
The Israeli-born chanteuse, Chemda, first appeared on Doc’s second disc, but here he gives her plenty to shine, especially on the hiphop/dancehall “Tetze” (get out in Hebrew), which addresses American foreign policy abroad. Can you say Iraq or Afghanistan.
While Israel keeps the musical vibe relaxed and laid back in a Mad Professor/Jah Shaka/Massive Attack stylee, he once in a while lets his fury get the better of him as on the bruising ruffneck hip/dub hop of “Interference” featuring Systemwide.
The track also provides a good entry into the re-issue of the Israel’s 1998’s disc, “Inna City Pressure”.
Re-mixed and re-mastered with a new version of “Revolution” and bonus tracks like “The Junglist” and “Jacob’s Ladder”, this drum’n’bass/punk/dub/metal/ragga smorgasbord this shows its age and transcends it.
The good news is how well the drum’n’bass fusion of “The Doctor vs. The Wizard” wherein Israel loops Sabbath’s “The Wizard” onto the skittering triplet boombastic beats has stood up as well as the Dalek meets Chemical Brother-like distorted vocals and crunching block rock beats on “Crisis”. And has the dubby drum’n’bass massive of “Iron City” that could have come from the On-U-Sound catalogue. And the righteous cover of Willie Williams’ “Armageddon Time” (originally covered by the Clash).
The bad news is how jarring and discordant (in a bad way) the collaboration between the doctor and neo-punks Rancid is on “Coppers (Brooklyn Version) Rancid Vs. Dr. Israel” with Rancid doing their Mick Jones/Joe Strummer smooth/raspy imitations and sounding lame in the process. (Richard Moule)


The Numbers
We’re Animals
Kill Rock Stars

After two albums and Eps of new wave, garage and electro-punk, this guitar, drums and keys trio haven’t quite finished plundering the post-punk dance funk of the late 1970s and 1980s, but aren’t not quite ready to embrace 1990s indie rock either. Hence the transitional feel to this disc as Indra Dunis (vocals/drums), Eric Landmark (Moog/vocals) have allowed Dave Broekema (guitar) to make his guitar more muscular and bulky without shedding the group’s economical stop/go structures or its pop hooks.
So what you get are heavier guitars that suggest a more laconic, loping rhythm and in turn longer songs, when all of a sudden a Rough Trade Records dance party circa 1981 breaks out, with the band falling back on brittle, short guitar riffs, grinding synth vamps and white funk grooves.
With its menacing Suicide synth, propulsive rhythms and Dunis’ raw/sweet vocals, the album opener, “Beast Life” is good example as it has all the making of a cross between Devo and Liliput, but a nasty slashing guitar from the Clinton decade sneaks in disturbing the post-punk grooves.
“Black Crow Heart of Gold” and “Funny And Sad” hints at more aggressive sound, like a double-tracked Throwing Muses, as if fronted by Pauline Murray that ends into an L7/Babes In Toyland rage. “The Fuck You Garage” is a meatier, electro Slits with its chopped up guitars and marching white funk grooves.
But it is with “Desert Life” and “Solid Pleasure” that luxuriate in Medicine-like gigantic layered walls of guitar riffage that signal where the Numbers’ future direction may lie.
Then again “Crows” flies in with its Six Finger Satellite/Chrome blown up to anthemic proportions with the synth on stun and its slashing slide guitar.
But it’s on “Time Story” with its voice sample/P.I.L skeletal bass/drum marching rhythm that explodes into Sonic Youth Daydream Nation fuzz and chanting vocals that the competing rock and dance tensions coalesce into a glorious whole.



MV/EE&The Bummer Road
We Offer You Guru
The Child of Microtones

Although Vermont guitarists Matt Valentine (Tower Recordings) and Erika Elder’s bluesy, folk space drones have been tagged as part of the New Weird America free folk scene, the duo’s hypnotic, rustic/raga improvisations can also be tied to a larger global movement: that of the slow movement which has manifested itself in food, learning, sex and travel.
As an alternative to our hyper-text, fast food world, the slow approach, especially in the area of gastronomy, emphasizes the pleasures of preparation, of multiple courses, culinary diversity and of course organic sustenance.
Likewise, with the laconic, echo-drenched “The Bummer Road”, the delights of this ghostly disc can be only be appreciated if you lie back, throw away your watch and are transported away by this backwoods psychedelia.
Although the late King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry would likely object this being dubbed a dub album, in a way that’s what it is as all the instruments, particularly the harmonica and jews harp are soaked in delay, reverb and echo as if The Upsetter had decided to re-construct his Black Ark studio in the heart of the Applachians and immersed himself in Depression blues and Indian ragas and invited John Fahey and Blind Willie Johnson to sit in.
The secret of this disc is in the deceptive simplicity and starkness of the arrangements. Elder and Valentine and Mo’Jiggs, who credited with his “harp environments”, use the minimum amount of instrumentation (vocals, guitar, jews harp, electric duclimer, cumbus, sruti box and percussion) for maximum effect, allowing the silence to act as a sonic accompaniment.
Trippier and more hallucinogenic than their Medicine Show discs, “We Offer You Guru” proves that you don’t have to pay big bucks to enjoy your own personal trip into space, just move out into the country and get stoned.




Dawn Smithson
Safer Here
Kranky

She has been the bassist for post-rock jazz funksters, Jessamine. Supplied the low end for doom drone rockers, Sunn O))). But who knew that the Portland, Oregon native was also a sensitive folk singer/songwriter.
Well, with this solo disc, now we do. Smithson has a quiet yet sturdy voice that lies somewhere between Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Julie Doiron, but possesses neither the stark somberness of the former nor the cute whimsy of the latter.
Accompanying herself on acoustic/electric guitar, bass, keys and accordion, Safer Here seems to be the struggle of making decisions and the ambivalence and dilemma that comes from the freedom of shedding the past and the uncertainty of the future.
In a conversational manner that is more an interior monologue, Smithson contemplates why we can run from others but not from ourselves.
Although friends like Rex Ritter (Fontanelle, Sunn O))), Jessamine), Brian Foote (Nudge, Fontanelle), David Farrell (Southerning, Dormant) and Jussi Brightmore (Baron Samedi) drop by, this is Smithson’s project.
While the on the surface, there is a wistful melancholy to these unadorned, intimate tunes lurking underneath is a quiet defiance. And in the context of her past musical associations, Smithson seems to be saying while it may have been safer to be in the security of a band, she is just as comfortable on her own.



Brian McBride
When The Detail Lost Its Freedom
Kranky
Christopher Bissonnette
Periphery
Kranky

I have a jazz buddy whose highest form of praise for a work of art is to be tasty.
While these ambient meditations from McBride, one of half of Stars of The Lid aren’t exactly lipsmacking, this refined, discreet music is to be savoured like a rare delicacy.
As with his collaboration with Adam Wiltzie in Stars of the Lid, there is a hushed dappled elegance, suggestive of Harold Budd, to these narcoleptic lullabies and threnodies; a soft, peaceful serenity to these extended melodies.
However, if the Stars of the Lid were the Edward Monet of the French Impressionist movement, then McBride is more the George Seurat. As unlike SOTL’s smeared textures, McBride has allowed, like Seurat’s pointillist dots of colours, the distinctive character of the instruments-guitar, piano, harmonica, trumpet and strings – to shine through, even while he recorded it on an ASR X keyboard sampler.
That isn’t to say he hasn’t processed or treated the instruments – McBride even sampled room noise- but there is a clarity and luminosity here that was often blanketed over by a hazy gauze on SOTL compositions, rendering them a opaque quality.
Windsor, Ontario native, Bissonnette has no problems with being opaque.
The Canadian electronic composer, who is a founding member of the Thinkbox media collective, has taken seconds long samples of piano and orchestral-based material, manipulated them into extended textural and tonal edits and constructed in sets of randomized variables. Tracks like “In Accordance” and “Substrata” showcase these acoustic manipulations to best effect;“In Accordance”, with its aquatic, echoing pulses that morph into damped, clipped, piano notes that act like sonic beacons in a fog and “Substrata”, with its stirring forcefield of lumbering bass tones intervals of layered arpeggio guitars which are grounded by a fire alarm-like single note organ drone. However, rest of them exists in a murky, shroud of either glacial drifts (Proportions In Motion) or misty, digital grainy showers and skipping Oval-like harsh rings that sit atop hymnal vocal/synth washes (“Travelling Light”) that can be characterized by their grey indistinctiveness.
Despite its unevenness, “Periphery” makes the compelling argument that Bissonnette clearly deserves to be the forefront not in the margins of electronic music.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sleater-Kinney story

This was originally supposed to be published in the latest issue of Signal to Noise magazine , but they had some computer problems when I was sending it and it got lost in cyberspace.


It is one of the most unenviable and undeniably masochistic rites of

passages for musicians for all stripes -- being the opening act.

With attention that ranges from polite applause to bored indifference to

outright derision, it’s a wonder that performers subject themselves to

being aural wallpaper that occasionally provides distraction from more

meaningful chatter.

Some groups meet this challenge by trying to win over the crowd either

through good old fashioned sweat and showmanship, sprinkling their set

with covers, or repeating the hit that gained them the slot in the

first place. Others simply

give up and put in a perfunctory performance, knowing full well that

they aren’t the main draw, yet optimistic that the show will gain them exposure they might never have had.

And then there is Sleater-Kinney, who cognizant of the above pitfalls,

decided to take a different tact during its 2003 tour with

grunge elder statesmen, Pearl Jam. Why waste time to pandering to a

nearly empty arena of fans who clearly aren’t there to support you, let

alone even know your name. Why not take a practical course of

action and use it as a form of rehearsal? A laboratory for

experimentation, so to speak, with added benefits of a huge stage, a

larger crowd than usual and even larger P.A.

With a what-the-hell-do-we-have-to-lose-attitude, that is exactly what

the 10-year-old Portland, Oregon via Olympia, Washington power punk trio proceeded to do.

“I think it really didn’t matter what we did,” recalls drummer

Janet Weiss. “In the instance of playing with Pearl Jam, instead of

spoon feeding the audience with the hits, we could try to do something

different and improvise. It’s not like they were going to leave. It’s

also not that rewarding to play to people who don’t care, so we wanted to

make the shows meaningful for us. We really did find a new voice for

ourselves on those shows.”

These improvised jams sowed the seeds for the songs, which would take full bloom on their latest disc, “The Woods”, but also establish the overall experimental spirit of the record.

Just as the inside band photo depicts the trio- Weiss and

vocalists/guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker about to walk into

a darkened forest, so too was the album a step into uncharted territory

for the group. It also represented a moment of truth.

“Instinctually, we wanted to push the boundaries not only for ourselves

but for the listener as well,” says Weiss. “ And prove mostly to ourselves that we’re

capable of more than we had achieved. We had to sort of re-define the

meaning of the band within the group and really figure out whether we

had it in us to make a seventh record. And in asking that the question

the answer came back in a fierce way. The answer was yes, we

desperately need to make this record. We not only need to make a record,

we need it to be our best record.”

Whereas with each successive record, the group’s sound had more become polished,

assured and inventive, they still cleaved to the stark, spiky, stripped

down template of late 1970s/early 1980s Rough Trade-era impassioned

post-punk acts like Liliput, Kleenex, Essential Logic, Au Pairs and the

Slits yet shot through speed, discipline and precision of the Ramones.

On “The Woods”, some of the constants remain: Brownstein and Tucker’s dueling, interwoven riffs, Weiss’ pummeling grooves, Tucker’s

passionate vocals which howl against political and cultural injustices

from a feminist perspective.

What is different is the scope, scale and intensity of the new record.

Louder, dirtier, darker and more abrasive and anthemic, it is equal

parts garage rock, Sonic Youth, Neil Young, Babes In Toyland and Led

Zeppelin. And yet it also shows a stronger commitment to melody. Something that no doubt rubbed off on them being around bassist/guitarist/vocalist Grant McLennan and guitarist/vocalist Robert Forster, the songwriting team behind The Go-Betweens. In a surprise move, Sleater-Kinney were invited to back up the sensitive Aussie pop merchants on their comeback disc, 2003’s “The Friends of Rachel Worth”.

That said, “The Woods” is the explosive sound of turmoil and combustion, of self-questioning, of a group not only challenging its own expectations, but also re-examining the musical conventions and structures that they have become so comfortable with.

“I think the struggle was to make something vital and good and

exploratory,” spells out Weiss. “It was artistic struggle, always pushing each other harder,

striving for something more, more, more, always. There are many more

uncharted moments on this record than ever before. There were passages

where we had no idea of what was going to happen or where we were going

to.That uncertainty being documented on tape is scary. But in the end,

it is what is keeping us inspired.”

"We had written a lot of the songs with the same structures and we were

interested in trying something new. And not being confined by the

typical verse chorus verse chorus bridge kind of structure. We wanted to

switch things up a bit and toy with placing different emphasis on

different parts of the song then we usually did. Having an extended

middle period where you’re going to a new space in the song and you have

to figure out how you get back to where you started. It was more

uncertainty. So the listener also feels that. ‘This is weird.’ The

record is intended to say this is weird, this is unusual. ‘What was

that?’ I think it should inspire some wonderment.”

No more was this element of surprise more pronounced than on the last

two tracks “Let’s Call It Love” and “Night Light” with the long,

improvised, psychedelic Sonic Youth/Sonny Sharrock guitar solos that

connects the two.

“The whole thing is one take”, asserts Weiss. “We knew we had that basic

structure because we had played it at shows a couple of times. We knew

we wanted to capture that emotional rawness on the record.”

Joining the trio on this yearlong musical journey of discovery was

producer, Dave Fridmann.

Newcomers to Fridmann’s catalogue, especially his lush, wide-screen pop

orchestrations with the Flaming Lips, deemed this a mis-match when the collaboration was announced, overlooking or unaware

of his role as bassist/producer in capturing those roaring space guitar

chords on those early Mercury Rev albums.

Rumour had it that Fridmann wasn’t a fan of previous Sleater-Kinney

discs, but Weiss insists he was the perfect foil.

“People seemed surprised but I didn’t think it was much of a stretch at

all. His rebelliousness really matched the tone of the songs we were

writing. Sonically, he inhabits a different space from our other records

and that’s exactly why we picked him. But as far as his body of work is

concerned we’re not that far outside of that realm. We don’t have

synthesizers. I think people just associate him with that one Flaming

Lips record.”

While many of the songs explore lyrical themes and targets familiar to

Sleater-Kinney discs - domesticity, the corrupting influence of

corporate edutainment on women and the knotted complexities of love and

relationships - others like “Jumpers”, which take an ambivalence view on

suicide, underscore the deliberate desire by the band to unsettle and

provoke. Overall, says Weiss, the tone is one dissent and rage.

“I think it is about fighting against a culture of apathy and of apathy

in general. Growling against the idea of being quiet and submissive and passive and

of letting corporate culture take you over and dictate what is good and

what isn’t. Feeling powerless in a political realm. Seeing George Bush

getting re-elected was disheartening. Instead of lying down and taking

it we felt like we had to make a loud, abrasive statement that could be

understood on a base level.”

"You could learn a lot about the lyrics writers by their lyrics. They are

not shrouded or veiled and they really are singing about things that

matter to them, the emotional states they have been through. Although

there is a certain amount of role playing, I can see so much of each of

them in their songs. Corin’s always got that element of hope in her

lyrics and Carrie’s are a little bit darker. And I think those two

perspectives are interesting to see butted up against each other.”

A perspective on Sleater-Kinney is something this John Bonham fan possesses.

After all, she continues to lead a parallel musical life in

Quasi, the group she started with her now ex-husband, guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Sam

Coomes back in 1993, four years before she joined Sleater-Kinney.

“Sometimes it is very hard to go back and forth. Sometimes I think it

suits my non-monogamous nature, where I find if I start getting tired

and to keep myself from being bored I’ll start thinking about the other.

It keeps my brain happier, than if I only had one band. But it’s true

that there is an overlap. But I learn things from Sam that I want to use

in Sleater-Kinney and the whole idea of improvisation in Quasi is

something we’ve been very, very interested from the beginning. I think

that I push Carrie and Corin more into that realm. I think when we

started improvising live they were very surprised about how much fun it

was and much they enjoyed it.”

"But that’s the sort of position I want to be in with music, to be on the

edge. Not hiding. Out front. Being bold.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Recent Reviews That Appeared In Scene Magazine

Dwight Trible&
The Life Force Trio
Love Is The Answer
Ninja Tune

Take the cultural consciousness of Marvin Gaye, the cosmic consciousness of Sun Ra and the restrained, unorthodox soul grooves of Al Green-producer Willie Mitchell, updated by hiphoppers and neo-funksters like Daedelus, Madlib, J Dilla and Carlos Nino (one half of Ammoncontact), and you have this glowing, subdued search for universal peace and harmony from this virtuoso Los Angeles jazz vocalist. Trible’s credentials are impeccable, having dropped vocals for the likes of Bobby Hutcherson, Charles Lloyd and Harry Belafonte. He is also a vocalist for the Pharoah Sanders Quartet. Sure, a lot of it smacks of naïve ‘60s utopianism, but there is no denying the sincerity and the humanity of his message. Not convinced. Wait until you hear until his vocal take on Coltrane’s Love Supreme.


Sailboats Are White
Turbo!
Let’s Just Have Some Fun/Sonic Unyon

Don’t be fooled by its quaint, child-like name as it's actually the album title that provides the clue to the vicious electro-punk barrages of this Hamilton quartet plus its drum machine. Unlike Steve Albini’s first band, Big Black, for which this scrappy, nasty Hammer outfit, will naturally draw comparisons to, it is unknown whether SAW has named their drum machine. Well, they should as its driving beats easily make it an indispensable fifth member, hurtling Kevyn Wright’s fuzzed out guitar blasts and Kevin Douglas’ maniacal pleads to the brink. Closer to Chrome and Six Finger Satellite than say Ministry, like its acronym, these primal electro-garage rock cuts will slice you into ribbons.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Recent reviews that appeared in Scene Magazine

AC/DC
Family Jewels DVD
Epic

Although these Aussie rockers are universally recognized as heavy metal gods and for their sledgehammer sound, at heart they are more a no-nonsense blues boogie act closer in spirit to Rory Gallagher than the excesses of Judas Priest and Van Halen, but who just happen to play in stadiums. This comes through in this double DVD of television appearances and video clips that acts as visual history of the band from its early appearances on Australian TV through its 80s and 90s videos. All the hits are here. But is the early footage that is of most interest, particularly in revealing that like all great rock acts, these hard rock legends were once wild and crazy kids who found salvation through rock‘n‘roll.


the riderless
Fallen Reverends
Kinghaxi

As its recent gig with legendary Can vocalist Damo Suzuki only further demonstrated, this Forest City psych/post-rock group is one of the premier acts in the city. And this disc, their sixth, recorded live by Andy Magoffin at his House of Miracles studio, will also cement this reputation. Fallen Reverends mesmerizes, as this instrumental sextet effortlessly glides between sweet, free folk John Fahey-like ragas, motorik Krautrock grooves, dreamy, space rock epics and even some lounge exotica with a languid unhurriedness. Hypnotic and transcendental, like a rider-less horse, this group is following its own path to beatific bliss.



The Go! Team
Thunder, Lightning, Strike
Sony

Remember the spine-tingling sensation you got when first heard Phil Spector’s wall of sound, the best of Bacharach/David, Muscle Shoals studio-recorded songs, the Shaft soundtrack, the Nuggets double-vinyl, early Small Faces singles, the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and early Sugarhill Gang stuff and then you decided to mash them together into a glorious, exuberant, funky, hiphop, garage-rock, Brit-pop, sample-crazy bricolage that exclaims fun with a capital F. Well, then, you’d have this U.K. dance rock outfit who more than live up to the hyperbole that’s being bestowed on them. Think an orchestral Odelay, complete with horns and strings and without Beck’s insufferable smugness crossed with Fatboy Slim and the Beta Band. If this doesn’t make you bounce around the room, you have need to be committed.

Monday, November 28, 2005

On my CD player this week

Iannis Xenakis:Electronic Music (Electronic Music Foundation)
Mountain Goats:Protein Source of the Future...Now (3 Beads of Sweat)
Alan Shorter:Tes Etat (America/Universal)
Mikroknytes:Sess-Supastreng (Kavekavity)
Get Carter Soundtrack (Castle Communications)
Yoko Solo:The Beeps (Quaketrap)

Friday, November 25, 2005

John Cale in Waterloo, Ontario:

The cold, blustery wind blowing in insistent waves of snow flurries heralding the first onslaught of winter was an appropriate backdrop for the Welsh renaissance man’s return to this southern Ontario multi-university town after more than a decade.
Even the upstairs club with its ballroom floor, disco ball and low stage was chilly or maybe they couldn’t afford the heating.
This awkward feeling of having to wear a winter jacket indoors fit with the spirit of Cale’s music that always been fraught with tensions.
Between he and former Velvets band mate Lou Reed. Between ferocious spare blues rock (Slow Dazzle, Fear, Helen of Troy) and pop music craftsmanship (Paris 1919, Honi Soit, Vintage Violence). Between primal, harrowing minimalism and classical music formalism. Between lit rock and cock rock. Between soul-baring confessions and diffident detachment. Between punk rock pioneer and corporate record executive.
Reserved and yet ambitious, Cale’s career has been an embrace of his unwieldy bundle of contradictions and head-scratching paradoxes.
If Neil Young’s credo has been to head for the ditch when expectations on him became too unbearable, as a relentless experimenter Cale’s mind set has always been to ignore them completely.
Not for nothing did this iconoclast call one of his albums, Guts.
With the two back to back releases - the elegant, sampled pop of Hobosapiens and the spare rock of Black Acetate, the former violist for the Velvet Underground and collaborator with La Monte Young in the Theatre of Eternal Music, Cale is dipping his toes back into rock mainstream, after a decade of soundtrack work and a tribute album to his late friend, former VU chanteuse, Nico.
After shows in Hamilton and a three-night stint in T.O., rumours abounded that Cale might strap on the viola for a rendition of “Venus In Furs” .
Not sure, whether he did at the other shows, but when the 63 year-old attired in black leather pants and a blue and beige rugby t-shirt and looking remarkable trim and fit picked up the sister instrument to the violin the shock of recognition was immediate.
And yet it was typical of his contrarian nature that he would kick off the set with this legendary S/M ode rather than leaving it to the end.
On the other hand, the song set the tone for the rest of the two hours: tough yet gloomy, sweetly seductive yet menacing, urgent and yet laid back.
Backed by guitarist Dustin Boyer, bassist Joe Karnes and drummer Michael Jerome, Cale demonstrated these contrasts as he moved from guitar to piano and back. New songs like “For A Ride”, “Sold Motel” with its coo coo harmonies and the U.K. pop hit, “Perfect” were untampered with, while classics like “Helen of Troy”, “Dirty Ass Rock’n’Roll”, “Gun” and “Pablo Picasso” underwent the Dylan treatment.
With its scrapping guitars, feedback and lurching syncopated rhythms, “Gun” was unrecognizable for the first 30 seconds. Set closer, “Pablo Picasso” became a mantra rocker on par with Sister Ray with Cale breaking the words down into frenzied, clipped syllables. Then it was over. No encore. And yet somehow it seemed appropriate. Sure, it would have been nice to hear “Fear Is A Man‘s Best Friend” or “Mercenaries”.
Yet afterwards, strangely enough, the car ride back through the snow storm felt warm and cosy.