31 October 2005

i think i might have caught the work ethic

either that or i just went through a very extended dry spell before now. i just realised that in the last year(ish) i have finished 8 short stories (should be nine by the end of the week and another one on the way) and a novella (plus several shorter nonfiction pieces i'm not sure what to do with). maybe other people do more (i'm sure they do), but that makes this the most prolific year of my life.

30 October 2005

i'll regret this when i'm older

a lot of coffee, a fair amount of alcohol and not much sleep. all in all, a good weekend. martin came up to visit, which meant that i probably did more shopping than i should have, but i'll try to behave for the next little while. i will take the opportunity to congratulate myself on not buying more shoes.

went out with m and genevieve last night to panic, the monthly retro-ish party at funhaus, which was a lot better than the last time i went. spent several hours dancing in my much-loved grand nationals. this was great for the first three hours, but the last hour and a half were like some kind of fiendish torture. note to self: five inch heels with no back support require dr. scholl's assistance when you plan on dancing all night.

now i'm going to get a few hours serious relaxation time in before i really start to feel my age.

28 October 2005

Most overlooked albums #1


Laibach:: Nova Akropola (1986, Cherry Red)

Sometimes, a band can be their own worst enemy. No one is a better example of this than Laibach. Yes, they’re a joke now. Yes, they’ve made an international name for themselves doing soulless covers of equally soulless pop music. Yes, it’s been twenty years since they were really on their game. But let me say a few words in their defense (and I have been inclined to defend them since I saw them live in 1998 and they butchered a couple of their own classics):

- the origins of their fixation with cover songs came from a desire to point out the possibility of latent totalitarian messages that was both amusing and thought-provoking, so it wasn’t always so vapid.
- Their attempts to link their music with the (questionably) larger New Slovenian Art (NSK) movement represented a brave attempt to reattach music to its artistic roots that was both intriguing and brave.
- Nova Akropola is a masterpiece.

There are a lot of fans of the Cold Meat Industry label out there- in the past, I counted myself among them. Take note: The music that you love does not exist without Nova Akropola. Same thing for fans of Der Blutharsch, who borrow shamelessly from Laibach’s aesthetic. The idea of combining classical instrumentation, military rhythms and heavy industrial electronics comes from Laibach and nobody else. When you first started to hear of these bands, you heard them all referenced to Laibach, simply because there were no other reference points.

Before they were a gag band, Laibach were infamous for their image as much as their sound. They hailed from a little-known corner of eastern Europe and employed pseudo-totalitarian imagery before the new wave of European traditionalist wannabes made it cool. (Their use of highly ambiguous political graphics, in fact, predates similar tactics from bands like Non and Death in June, who are more direct antecedents to today’s disaffected “we’ll do anything to piss off our parents” crop.) The fact is, Laibach always kept a crucial distance from their audience and that distance made the band that much more intriguing. Those that mindlessly ape the striking imagery of Laibach in this period seem to miss the power in the music that stepped beyond image.

A dozen years ago, Nova Akropola never would have shown up on this list, because people still saw fit to mention Laibach as an influence. As the band slid, people stopped mentioning their name, because no one wants their audience to think that their influences include an over-the-hill troupe popularly regarded as a joke. This is what I mean about the band being their own worst enemy.

Unlike most of the other releases on this list, Nova Akropola remains pretty widely available. Seek it out and appreciate what this band was like in their splendour. Their imitators still have a long way in order to make something as stirring and beautiful as this album. Almost as long a way as Laibach themselves.

it's who's for dinner

closet cannibals rejoice! hufu has arrived! hufu is a soy product painstakingly designed to mimic the texture and flavour of human flesh. originally designed to target anthropology students who were "hungry for the experience of cannibalism but deterred by the legal and logistical obstacles", hufu is available in the united states only for the time being, but you can order through their web site (they ship outside the country).

the company is looking at producing other cannibal alternatives in the near future. i guess i don't have to tell everyone what's going to be served at my next formal event.

27 October 2005

Most overlooked albums ever #2


Dive:: First Album (1992, Minus Habens)

Living in Toronto, I’ve been somewhat impressed at how local DJs will occasionally go out on a limb and pack the dance floor by playing a track from the Ant-Zen label, or, even more daring, from Hands. Wow. Before Ant-Zen, who would have imagined this kind of a sound- danceable rhythms with layers of harsh noise and guttural vocals over the top? Dirk Ivens, that’s who.

Ivens was part of the seminal electronic band The Klinik (who might also have a place on a list like this, under different circumstances) until their demise in 1988. He had always been the vocalist for the band rather than the musical component, so it might have come as a surprise for many that Dirk was the one who embarked first on a solo career. It might also have come as a surprise what shape that solo career took.

Instead of approximating the clean electro sounds of The Klinik, Dive (Ivens’ name for his new project) produced what was probably the harshest rhythmic music available anywhere. Although industrial dance music had found its footing, no one had ever done anything as raw as Dive. And for years, no one would.

Now, of course, the world is replete with rhythm and noise artists, none of whom feel the least inclination to look into where their music came from. In the utmost irony, The Klinik (without Dirk) saw fit to release their turgid new sounds on Hands, a label whose entire existence would never have come to be without Dive’s remarkable first album.

I have yet to hear any of the new-age noise releases that approach the bludgeoning intensity of this album, because, quite simply, they all have the benefit of a blueprint. Ivens didn’t. He was doing something for which no boundaries had been established. As a result, this album, released over a decade ago, sounds fresher than music in the same blueprint released within the last five years.

NB- I’ve referenced the version of First Album from Minus Habens, however, the true original album was released on Dirk Ivens’ own Body Records in 1990. The 1992 release featured bonus material not available on the original.

26 October 2005

Most overlooked albums ever #3


Clock DVA:: Buried Dreams (WaxTrax, 1990)

There was a rumour going around for a while that this album was on the stereo when the police raided Jeffrey Dahmer’s home. I’ve always doubted this, because, even if it was on the stereo, who would have known what it was? Nonetheless, there’s a reason why that rumour started: because there is no album in recorded history that would have more appropriately captured the mix of the erotic, the macabre and the deviant that was Dahmer’s mind.

Clock DVA had started as an interesting but not particularly exceptional electronic band in the eighties, but had lain dormant for a few years prior to releasing this album on Chicago’s WaxTrax label. In the interim, their membership had changed (which it would again in their later career) and their sound had become moodier, darker, unsettling.

While most bands were using their newly purchased samplers to snag catchy spots from televangelists, Clock DVA turned their attention to assembling collages ripe with sensuality and fear, without ever moving beyond the realm of innuendo.

When it is remembered at all, this album is usually unfairly dismissed as being too light by “aficionados” of darker music, a judgment that could only result from a) not hearing the album and making an assessment based on the label that released it or b) giving the album only a cursory listen.

In addition to being one of the creepiest releases ever recorded, Buried Dreams is also surprisingly forward looking. The Hacker one of the singles from the album, dealt with the subject f CIA harassment (and murder) of young computer experts before most of us had heard of the internet.

25 October 2005

old enough to drive


i don't know if i'll be letting him take albert out for a spin any time soon, but please join me in wishing a very happy 16th birthday to morgan.

and when i die, i want to be buried with them


ok, i have a problem. i own a lot of shoes and boots. in particular, i have a john fluevog problem. for some reason, every pair of shoes i find there seem designed to fit my foot perfectly. of course, given the amount that i've spent there, it's entirely possible that they are designing their size sixes around me... yes, i know it's irresponsible, given that i could probably have a down payment on a house if the bank would accept shoes as collateral. it's my vice.

Most overlooked albums ever- #4


Von Magnet:: Computador (Hypnobeat, 1991)

Long before Novy Svet made a hybrid of electronics and drunken Mediterranean romanticism, Von Magnet pointed the way with this gem. Normally lumped in with the early nineties European ebm (in its original sense) scene, the band’s horizons were considerably broader than those of the artists with whom they were compared.

In addition to recording albums, the band also wrote scores for performances by Spanish theatrical dance troops and soundtracks for independent films.

On the other hand, much of their music, and a track or two on Computador, did tend towards the more commercial, club-friendly sounds that were so popular at the time.

The different personalities of the band meet in near-perfect harmony on this album, running the gamut from electro to flamenco, combining elements that left the few people who noticed them scratching their heads. And that left people like me cheering for more.

This album should be the one that the more self-consciously eccentric neo-folk bands of today point to as the point of origin. Instead, you’d be lucky to find it in a bin of cast-offs at a flea market.

For shame.

24 October 2005

and when you're done

repent on line with iGod

on my god... or is it?

there is nothing i can say that is going to make this better than it already is:

homeless or jesus?

Most overlooked albums ever- #5



Tie- In typical Libra fashion, I have difficulty making up my mind, even about things like this. So we’ll start the countdown with a tie for fifth place…

Jouissance- Sunlight Penetrates the Crown (1991, Minus Habens)

I thought long and hard about whether or not to include this one. The thinking had chiefly to do with my aim to have only recordings that were influential beyond what they are given credit for and Sunlight Penetrates really can’t claim to have been an influence, even in the realm of obscuria.

For a brief period in the early 1990s, Michael Sefton, the genius behind Jouissance, looked like he was going to carve a niche for himself in the music underground. He had his new album Sunlight Penetrates out on the highly respeated Minus Habens label, he was appearing on compilations, he had word of mouth from the most reputable part of the independent music press. So what happened?

Well, nothing happened. Very precisely nothing, because shortly after launching his career, Michael Sefton fell off the planet Earth and was never heard from again. Who knows?

Whatever happened, this masterpiece of distorted sample mayhem and underplayed keyboard lines stands alone as a beacon in the forest. It’s a difficult listen, alternately harsh and pleasant, but well worth the effort. No one has produced anything truly comparable, before or since.

Novy Svet- Venezia (2002, Junges Wien)

It’s hard to explain to people who claim to love the wave of Neo-folk that’s come out in the last few years that they don’t really like Novy Svet. After all, with only a few releases under their belt, these Austrian mavericks have garnered the sort of cult following that’s normally reserved for bands with ambitions far beyond dominance of the Austrian underground. But I truly believe that most of the people who claim to like them really just get a kick of of liking something so obviously strange and original.

Novy Svet’s appeal lies in their quirkiness. They first garnered attention for their albujm Faccia a Faccia, with its drunken accordion solos and schizophrenic pace. This was furthered when underground Fuhrer of the moment Albin Julius picked up their next release for his then untouchable Hau Ruck! label. The drunken ambiance, emotiveness and originality of Novy Svet found a following. Nowadays, there are bands spending a lot of time trying to cultivate the mood that the couple behind Novy Svet seem to produce as effortlessly as they breathe.

Unfortunately, the undeniably strangeness of their early releases seems to have undercut them. Venezia should have been the album that took them beyond the perception of a gag band who combined modern and traditional in an alcohol-influenced haze. This should have been the album that turned heads. This should have been the album that made everyone aware that Novy Svet were not just funny and enjoyable, but two powerfully talented songwriters, pretty much without parallel anywhere in the musical world.

Instead, the album received a lukewarm reaction (perhaps due to its being a vinyl only release) and faded from memory. Originally intended as a release for Austria’s Hau Ruck! (originally intended as an analogue to the Allerseelen album of the same name), its eventual positioning on an almost invisible imprint without availability on CD could not have helped. Without the backing of Hau Ruck! (who, within the confines of the neo-folk scene, are a pretty powerful force), the band seemed to lose its momentum as quickly as it had come along. Very few judgments in the history of music have been so completely misguided.

Make no mistake: Novy Svet are perhaps the most talented band currently recording music. There are albums that might underline their lovable strangeness to a greater extent, but this is the album that shows them at their finest. They should have been huge.

23 October 2005

i don't know if there's that much room for jello


courtesy once again of boing boing: elizabeth hicock has made a scale model of the city of sanfrancisco injello. i'm not going to ask what possessed her to do this, but i will insist that you exit this page now and go and look at the photos. it's eerie how you can recognise particular buildings.

equally fascinating is the video of the whole sity shaking. ironically, given the area's propensity for earthquakes, this is probably kind of like how it feels to live there...

top 5 most overlooked albums of all time

A lot of people will ask you what your favourite albums of all time are. For most of us, this is a nebulous list that changes depending on our mood, or what we’ve been listening to lately, or what associations we have with certain pieces of music. You also see the variation of this question that runs something like: What albums would you keep with you if you were stranded on a desert island? I’m particularly fond of this one because of the implicit assumption that the desert island would have electricity and a functioning sound system. (At any rate, my answer has always been a fairly simple one: I would want any album that gave me clear and detailed instructions on how to get off a desert island.)

My point is that picking favourites, especially when you’re as much of a music buff as I am, is difficult. I am much more comfortable making lists with fixed parameters, so that I can focus my attention a little more clearly.

One of the frustrations of being a music buff, especially when your favourite styles of music tend to be well below the radar of all but a handful of music listeners worldwide, is seeing an album that is of excellent quality overlooked in favour of something that curries to a fad. An album can be missed by a wider audience or by critics, but what’s worst of all is when its natural audience either completely ignores the album or seems somehow to miss the point.

To that end, this week on the More Like Space blog, I’ll be presenting my own subjective list of the top five most overlooked albums of all time. I’m not apologizing for the subjectivity of this list, because it’s one that requires an intimate knowledge of the subject. I couldn’t do a top five underrated hip-hop albums list because I don’t have more than a passing acquaintance with the genre. So the list is going to reflect my taste in music. If you’re not sure what my taste is, you might want to have a browse through the archives at hellifax, where I’ve posted the odd music review.

My criteria for this list is pretty loose: I’m looking at albums that are not only good (although that is a natural prerequisite), but that were influential, unique and/ or ahead of their time. Because of the restrictions of talking about music in a certain genre, the albums will be fairly restricted in terms of time period. Again: this is a list relating to a genre where I have some expertise. Comments, as always, are welcome.

One little side note, something for which I will offer an apology: No one wants to sound like the grumpy old fart who keeps talking about how kids today don’t know what their progenitors did. Unfortunately, the nature of putting together a list like this means that for the next several days, that’s exactly what I’m going to sound like. There’s no way to say that the significance of an album was missed without saying that is was missed by someone in particular. So, keep in mind, I like most of the bands I’m criticizing and own their albums. That’s how I know what they’ve missed. No harm intended.

21 October 2005

mindless fun on a friday night

george w bush as freefalling ragdoll. you can stuff him through all the tight spots. unfortunately, it lacks the requisite satisfactory splat at the end.

20 October 2005

when i own the church


the eerie and beautiful artwork of philadelphia artist judith schaecter will adorn the windows.

i've always loved stained glass and it's wonderful to see someone breaking new ground (no pun intended) with the medium.

googlibrary

as an aspiring (soon to be published!) writer myself, i am really flummoxed by the flap over google's plan to scan books and make them available for free.

yesterday, the american association of publishers officially filed a lawsuit against google to stop it from making books available for free. making books available for free is an admirable goal, because everyone should read, but not everyone can afford to buy a lot of books. it also helps authors rather than hurts them, because it allows books to be seen by a wider audience.

this is one of these cases where people seem to get in an incredible uproar over something because there's technology involved and for no other reason.

for all those of you who might be tempted to say that the publishers taking google to court are motivated by trying to protect the rights of the authors whose works they distribute, let me ask you this: how would you feel if they started trying to shut down libraries? aren't they doing the same thing?

here's a wonderful letter from author meghann marco, who wants her book published through google, but can't get her publisher to cooperate.

go team!

unesco, the branch of the united nations that deals with arts and culture (among other things) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution that would allow artistic and cultural products to be treated as distinctive for the purposes of international trade. the motion was spearheaded by canada and france and, predictably, opposed in the strongest terms by the united states.

the motion, which must now be ratified by 30 countries, acknowledges what most people would take to be self-evident: that cultural products have a value and a meaning which goes beyond their value as a commodity. the united states' opposition to this motion is in their own financial interests as the world's largest exporter of cultural products.

19 October 2005

i hate the clever ones


in my time on earth, i've learned that the ideas that tend to make people the most money are the ones that, if someone described them to you, would seem almost too simple to be believed.

here is a really good example. this guy is selling space on his web site in $100 blocks. you can own a little piece of his virtual wall with your logo or picture or whatever linked to your site.

while you're busy laughing yourself sick over the idea that people would pay $100 to have a tiny little logo displayed on a page alongside thousands of other tiny little logos, perhaps you'd like to count the number that are there and do the math as to how much this guy has actually brought in. (Or, if you want to make it simple, just check the stats on his site)... now how smart are you?

one more time

here's a link for the douglasmobile that works. thanks martin!

18 October 2005

baby you can drive my car...

death in june curmudgeon douglas p is apparently selling his car on ebay. i keep getting an error message, but you can try it yourself. news (and the link) comes courtesy of soleilmoon.

17 October 2005

the power of panaphonics can be yours!


most people who know me know that i reference the simpsons way too much. i realise the show slid and no longer even approaches the spectacular (craptacular?) heights it did in its peak, but i still have my fond memories. one of the most ingenious gags of the show involved the invention of an easily understandable parallel language, words that never existed, but really should have. now wikipedia has compilied a dictionary of classic simpsons terms, so that we can all get caught up on our linguistic skills. double bacon geniusburgers for all!

thanks to the always wonderful boing boing for the reference!

15 October 2005

perhaps it's just me

am i the only one who finds it funny to hear panicked news reports about how the avian flu has spread to turkey?

13 October 2005

if google says it, it has to be true

try this:

1. go to the google web site
2. type in "failure"
3. click on "i'm feeling lucky" (you can click "google search" as well, but the effect isn't quite the same, even if the answer is)
4. think about the answer

12 October 2005

you only thought they messed up


i wouldn't have believed it if i hadn't found it myself. following up on a tip from the daily show, i checked out the FEMA web site and found this diagram of how their organisation is supposed to work. look carefully at where it begins and where it ends. this is how their own people say that they are supposed to function...

so, you see, they were really doing their job after hurricane katrina... the rest of us were just misled as to what their job actually was.

10 October 2005

homes sweet homes part two...


ever have the excruciating experience of seeing an ex and haivng them look completely beautiful, especially in comparison to the person you're with now? apparently, the same thing can happen with cities.

damn, montreal, you are looking hot. have you been working out or something? oh, this is toronto, who i left you for... but, i mean, those things change... are you seeing anyone right now?

04 October 2005

adopt a useless blob!


my last shreds of what most would refer to as "common sense" or "restraint" keep me from adopting more cats, but i couldn't resist this little guy, especially since i can keep him here and i don't have to feed him or clean his droppings.

and he's much easier to deal with than the other useless blobs i've had in my life.

Adopt your own useless blob!

03 October 2005

this can't end well

the members of the european union have opened talks to allow turkey to join its ranks. austria, the lone remaining opposition to the proposed talks, gave way under pretty intense pressure, particularly from the uk, to drop its objections. in reality, austria's objections (chief among them a feared increase in immigration) were pretty specious, but that doesn't mean that someone with a level head shouldn't be trying to dissuade eu members from welcoming turkey into the fold.

the government of turkey is a brutal dictatorship with an appalling human rights record, particularly with regards to its native kurdish population. although the current government has made statements to the effect that it will not tolerate the widespread torture and brutality of previous regimes, all indicators are that these practices are still common.

as recently as last week, the turkish government was threatening to shut down a group that defended gay rights, on the grounds that the existence of the group violates the principles of turkish morality.

one thing that has surely won support from the british (good american lapdogs that they are) is the government's vicious crackdown on the pkk, a kurdish separatist or terrorist group, depending on who you ask. both the americans and the british have praised turkey for its hardline stance in dealing with the pkk.

note that this is the same ethnic group who were touted as an oppressed minority in iraq under saddam hussein. cross the border into turkey and the same people become the enemy.

02 October 2005

back in the big bad city

back in toronto, after a weekend in halifax. got to see dave for the first time in a dog's age and got to meet michelle (and tava, sort of...). as i was flying back into toronto, i felt absolutely nothing. there is something about this city that simply prevents it from feeling like home. it's also probably influenced by everything else i've had on my mind lately-

which is a lot.

which is another story.

which is why i'm ending the post here.
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