19 September 2006

music review:: atrium carceri:: kapnobatai


you could probably make a fairly convincing argument that the world doesn't really need atrium carceri. after all, their label, sweden's cold meat industry, started off the "death industrial" thing almost twenty years ago by marrying the aesthetics of extreme metal with the sonic influence of early laibach. despite the label's subsequent shifts in focus, many of their seminal releases are still available, so it's questionable whether a sort of throwback to the classic cmi sound could be called a necessity.

but need is a strong word. after all, i don't need ice cream, nice wine, mac computers or john fluevog shoes, but i still enjoy them.

kapnobatai, the third album from atrium carceri, shows its influences loud and proud. above all, the one which stands out to me is the more atonal work by raison d'etre, with elements of sirkle zero-era sleep chamber and grand guignol-period schloss tegal also evident. the ease with which i can link this album to other bands is a sure marker that the sound is not entirely original, which it certainly isn't. but it is a very well-crafted example of this type of music. to dismiss this release, or any release, on the grounds that it is not original is to fall into a sort of hipster snobbery.

the churning electronics do create the claustrophbic atmosphere for which he is aiming. the sinuous rhythms and (mercifully) restrained samples enhance the murk. it has enough depth to be involving, mysterious, attractive. in fact, my only quibble is with the front cover art and the liner text- much too far towards the death metal end of the spectrum- which damage the release's credibility.

centuries from now, this won't be held up as a pinnacle of western civilisation, but for the time being, it's a fine release, worthy of enjoyment. it'll remind you at once of how enjoyable cmi releases were when they were at their prime and why you liked that sound so much in the first place.

diet diary, part 5


ah, the mortal enemy of diets: travel. having recently returned from a few days in my favourite city ever to be cast in jello (san francisco, if you're wondering), i am having to readjust my eating regimen after gleefully stuffing my face with more food than my body has been accustomed to for the last month or so. it is really, really difficult to find restaurants with small portions anywhere in the united states of america.

on the other hand, i did compensate for this indulgence by kicking myself a few rungs up the metabolic ladder. san francisco is one of north america's great walking cities. compact in geography, it compensates for its small area in vertical scale. strolling the city is the urban equivalent of mountain climbing, complete with breathtaking scenery of both the natural and constructed varieties. so after six or seven hours of hitting the pavement, i figure i can afford to consume a few more calories.

being in this environment made me realise that i would be a much happier person if i lived in a city that was more friendly to pedestrian life. toronto is vast and sprawling and, unless you're very fortunate, your life is always going to involve moving between far-flung quadrants. i'm not under the illusion that six hour walks would be the norm for me any place i lived, but it seems that i would be happier if i had more time to work on raising my metabolism, rather than just trying to restrict food intake. walking happens to be my favourite method of getting exercise, because it is practical (moves you from a to b), because it is interseting (the scenery changes), because it can be either solitary or social and because it is conducive to thought. the gym just doesn't inspire me in the same way.

the chief effect of this at the moment is that i'm having to reign in my appetite once again, since my body has not yet realised that i'm not doing famous walks (yes, in some circles, i really have been famous for really long walks) every day anymore.

11 September 2006

music:: current 93:: the black ships ate the sky


over the years, i’ve learned that it is a mistake for me to judge current 93 releases when i first get them. i find that it takes me a number of listens just to get my head around the release, so deciding where it falls in my spectrum of c93 releases. so i actually picked this album up a few months ago, but am only now at the point where i feel like i can give it a proper review.

and that still doesn’t mean i can say whether or not i like it.

like much of the band’s later work, it is inspired by the dreams of david tibet, the musical and spiritual centre of the band. increasingly, i don’t think anyone, even tibet himself, is precisely sure of the meaning of what he’s writing, but that may be beside the point. whatever it is he is struggling to communicate, i don’t doubt that tibet feels its meaning and his fragmentary poetry is meant to convey that feeling rather than a narractive logic. that sort of thing is either going to grip you right away or leave you feeling alienated. whether or not you’re going to get anything from the experience of a current 93 album depends entirely on your ability to believe in its genuinity. if you don’t believe, their music will seem painfully pretentious at best. if you do believe, any of their albums is libel to be a profoundly affecting experience for you.

i place myself solidly in the latter camp and current 93 are one of the few bands that tend to get a truly emotional reaction from me. in the fifteen years i’ve been listening to them, they’ve had very few missteps and have an uncanny ability to create music that transcends, the kind of thing that people will still listen to in two centuries’ time, the same way that we now listen to mozart and beethoven. tibet’s music, like his themes, are anything but temporal.

returning to the question of ‘liking’ this album or not. as a writer, i get frustrated with a lack of language to express what’s in my head, but that’s exactly what i’m faced with. there are elements of the album that i truly don’t like. its gravitas is positively oppressive at times. i find tibet’s (re)discovery of is christian spirituality alienating. but what is good about it is indescribably good; beautiful, powerful and enveloping like a thunderstorm.

i’m not sure that i truly understand what it is that tibet is saying (and i’m suspicious of those who do), but i know that listening to “black ships” stirs a lot of feeling in me and that, in a few months, that experience will be increased if anything. and in an era where music is generated to be disposable, that’s a remarkable accomplishment.

09 September 2006

here be pirates

for me, there will always be something fascinating about radio. it's not just that i used to be involved. the fascination goes back to when i was very young. no matter what was going on in my life, the radio always seemed to be there, making the soundtrack. my childhood is punctuated by the sounds of the cbc. i believe i can repeat, almost verbatim, the cbc news introduction from the day after the 1980 sovreignty referendum in quebec. when i hit my teens, the chief use i had for my walkman was burying myself under the covers when i was supposed to be asleep and listening to shows like brave new waves, or broadcasts of british shows, where the music seemed much more interesting than what was available locally (it was).

always, what fascinated me was the idea that i was hearing someone i didn't know and couldn't picture off there in the distance, someone with whom i shared an interest in music. somewhere out there was someone, opaque to me, who was unaware of the fact that they were making me happy.

doing a radio show is something that one would normally think would have dismantled the mytery of that process fairly effectively. but it didn't. even though i have now seen first hand that radio, particularly community radio, is produced by people who are not mysterious but who are very much like me, it doesn't lessen the effect that listening to a well-constructed show has on me.

the problem now is that it is becoming harder and harder to find radio that really catches my interest. there are still community stations (n fact, earlier this week, i had one of those serendipitous experiences in the car where i heard a track and was compelled to call up the dj to find out what it was), but eventually, a girl gets to craving something a little different.

internet radio, is, of course, a very viable option and a good way to find out about new music once you find a station that lines up nicely with your tastes, but its seamless mix of tunes removes exactly the human element and local flavour that always made radio appealing for me.

happily, the internet also grants access to radio stations, many radio stations with actual hosts and schedules and variety, that stram online. this includes a healthy selection of pirate stations, who in pre-internet times would have had audiences limited to the very dedicated or the very lucky. now, these latter days thieves of the radio waves can enjoy international audiences.

radio history has always been populated by mavericks who worked outside the broadcast laws of the time, often for political ends. but pirate radio doesn't have to be overtly poltical, because it is political by its very nature. its existence is a challenge to political entities like the crtc and the fcc, whose mandate is specifically to impose conditions on the ability to broadcast.

in europe, these sorts of broadcasts are made easier by the fact that it is possible to broadcast across international borders and, hence, dodge areas that have stricter laws. in north america, where it is easier to catch and prosecute offenders, the endeavour is a little trickier. there are examples, of course, like the adorably named pirate cat radio, which seems to be run entirely by unrepentant post-punks who never forgot either their music or their politics. (if you find them a little too pretty for your tastes, you might want to check out their bay area neighbours, western addition radio.) the nice thing about stations like this, for me at least, is that it offers not merely the opportunity to hear enjoyable music, but to hear the voice of someone else who is enthusiastic about it, someone you've never met, but with whom you share a common interest. now how often does that happen?

07 September 2006

diet diary, part 4

ah, the long haul wherein it becomes very difficult to see progress... i guess since i had started to see results relatively quickly, i got a little spoiled. now that i can't see anything happening, i'm getting a little frustrated.

equally frustrating is that i'm able to see where the weight has come off and it all seems to come from weird areas. well, some are weird at least. i can see a little difference in my thighs and backside, which are areas women are supposed to care about, but which have always been the areas that have been the last to gain and the first to lose on me. (actually, i've always taken it as a sign that i need to start dieting when i see my thighs get bigger, since that means i've grown everywhere else.)

there's no sign whatsoever of a reduction in size of the tire on my gut, which is what i'm trying to achieve, but i'm trying to gain patience by remembering that this is probably the last area to experience weight loss.

so where else is it coming off? my hands, for starters, which i would not have thought was even possible (my hands have alwas bordered on bony, no matter my body weight) and my neck. how the hell do you lose weight on your neck? i don't think that has ever happened to me before, but it's served as a little bit of encouragement. having seen it (and tested it with a snug collared shirt), i like my new, slightly leaner neck.

returning to the hands for a moment, i believe that this is something that can be attributed not to weight loss, but to the fact that i have significantly cut down my intake of high sodium foods, so i am likely retaining less water than before. this knowledge is something that has come to me through the process of dieting which, ironically, forces one to become a little obsessive about food. i didn't even want to be, but once you try cutting down, you have to start thinking about other things. what things are going to give your body what it needs? what can you eat that is going to make you actually feel full without making you fat? it's a slippery slope once you start, because one virtuous inclination begets a need for information, information the average person doesn't have.

food may be necessary, but our relationship with it is largely opaque. i am in a minority because i enjoy cooking and because i generally avoid highly processed foods whose ingredients i can actually pronounce. people are becoming alienated from the food that keeps them alive at the same time they are consuming more of it. food's revenge is the damage a lot of it does to our systems, damage that can remain invisible for years. in that regard, dieting functions as a sort of relationship counsellor, opening up the lines of communication.

i told a friend this weekend that this little experiment was not just one that would get me to lose weight (it is that, of course). what i'd like to get from this are smarter habits where food is concerned. i'm of an age where such things are going to matter more and where i'm old enough to have no patience left for relationships that are dysfunctional.

05 September 2006

i feel like crap

... and i can't think of a more creative or clever way to express that.

i came down with a case of the flu over the weekend (because nothing says "holiday weekend" like a good flu) and am still laid low. i made a rather foolish attempt to work today, which was probably amusing for some of my coworkers as they watched me wobble around like a drunkard because i was weak, in pain and hadn't eaten a proper meal in a couple of days.

this is a particularly interesting flu, as well, because it didn't come with congestion, with nausea, or with any of the symtpoms one would normally associate with a flu. the main hallmark of this flu is that EVERYTHING HURTS. i feel like i was doing a workout for about a day and a half. muscles i hadn't met before are screaming at me. my head hurts, my neck and back, my legs... my skin hurts, which meant that i spent the part of the day desperately dodging any type of physical contact with anything. (ever seen someone trying to avoid their own shirt before?)

thankfully, bailing out of work only and concentrating on some serious assal horizontology (thanks, dr. nick) seems to have brought me back to life a little.

and i have my new friends magnus and mr. chow (souvenirs from an otherwise disappointing visit to the festival of fear) to help keep my spirits up.
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