Tuesday, June 24, 2008


And now for something completely different. Trance and down-tempo music at a forest rave! They colored this party as a "Lightship Activation," some kind of preparation for the coming madness, climate change, the end of the Mayan Calendar, etc. There were a few speakers on Saturday afternoon, but ultimately, this festival was not what we would call a conscious collective moving toward change. I just can't ever care about trance music, especially when it's supported by so much electricity (where's the bike-powered generators?). The only reason Julia and I were there was to help Simon and Drea work at the art gallery, which Simon was in charge of.

Lots of the right elements were in place. A beautiful property on Mt. Elphinstone with a pond, a creek, summer tanagers flying amok; the art gallery; vegan food huts; plenty of unique vendors who try to be as sustainable as possible; a hooka lounge off the beaten path; ravers camping instead of driving. Yeah.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to the music. This scene is still the same scene, no matter how pretty an environment is. People are still doing drugs everywhere, which isn't necessarily bad, but the collective intent is totally misguided. It is, after all, a party, not a learning community. The music is trance-oriented. Duhn-duhn-duhn-duhn-duhn. You know the kind. A relentless pulse which, if you are not actually in the tent listening, always sounds terrible from afar. There was another tent that had much better and diverse music, but our art gallery was right next to the trance tent. So, we got the raw deal.

At least we were surrounded by people we love and great artwork all weekend. The sun did shine and we lay on moss and blankets. It was very relaxing. It's a shame I have to complain about the festival, because if it didn't express those intentions beforehand, it wouldn't have fallen into the category of "not good enough." It was a very nice place. I think the organization was fine, but the scene just doesn't reflect what the intent is. Nice costumes, though, as usual.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Russian Circles "Station" akin to Quality Hamburger

Enter came to my ears first as hype. Russian Circles were this enigmatic "word on the street" of post-rock and post-metal and all that malarky. Whenever this happens with a new band, trepidation takes hold of me. Who deserves such hype before I've heard it!? Who!?

These guys do! For once, something actually lived up to all the unnecessary and possible career-damning "talk" about a record. Some serious guitar virtuosity, solid drumming and song writing is to be heard on that record. Their second record Station came to me first as a military graduation photo. I assume the regiment posing for the band is Russian and have seen many winters since photo day. I saw it in the record store, and went "Oh yeah, THEM!"

Before I spun the record, I recalled having seen Russian Circles live at Richards' here in Vancouver. They opened for the Red Sparowes and really stole the show. It didn't help that only four of the five members of Red Sparowes made it across the border. Russian Circles' stark lighting scheme and mature dynamics were captivating. The drummer is so damn good, and the guitarists--Woa, wait a minute. There's only one. I swear there were at least two. Ahh, I didn't take into account technology. This guy uses a loop pedal, and he's slick! So good with it.

So in goes Station and damn if I'm not listening to it non-stop these days. I have to be careful not to over-do it. Nothing hurts more than saturating my brain with a really good record, only to find it over-played and bland. I just can't help it. Where Enter had awesome riffs, Station has mature song-writing. I just watched a really slack-jawed dude interview the band in Seattle (he didn't know they were from Seattle or what their albums were called), and they said the goal was to write a mature record, one with staying power in the song craft. Bravo!

Station is just so solid. It's my go-to record for getting through these long days of animating children choking on carrots and un-cut hot dogs. I just listened twice in a row, without a decrease in enjoyment. See graph:

According to the graph, you can see that the record even grew on me at the beginning. It had to, because Russian Circles were widely known for their RIFFOLOGY and the awesome PUNCH IN THE OVARIES that is "metal," even though they aren't metal, really. They borrow a bit, but Russian Circles are way more melodic and pretty in their approach to achieving sirloin steak-quality electric worshipping. And yes, they are worthy of a well-risen kaiser bun to wrap around their meatiness.

In fact, Station is much like a hamburger. The first and last tracks are like a quality kaiser, much more subdued than the meaty filling that is the center of the album. As we chomp through, I might liken this album to a triple cheese burger, but from Black Angus, not Wendy's. Even though Wendy's gets props for being the "high class" chain of fast foods, this album ain't no Baconator. Burgers that grace a Russian Circles sandwich would be cuts of buffalo or caribou, a sublime blend of intelligence and meat -- High quality, grass-fed meat that's high in iron and zinc and low in saturated fat. When you eat caribou or moose, you know you're getting optimal nutrition. That's how Station is. Like an organic caribou burger from a local farm. Bon appetit.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mystery Sea and Pregnancy: Part II

Well, another order of albums from afar came my way about a week ago, and dang if I am not totally stoked. Despite all the amazing music I got, I had a secret affinity to first listen to the two Mystery Sea selections that were amongst the lot.

The one that easily stood out was Umbilicus Maris by a one-woman act named Gydja. Self-describing her music as "dark ambience for dark goddesses" I immediately pictured Drea collecting herself at the bottom of the ocean, her dark hair swimming every which way as she slowly turns into coral, inhabited by a plentitude of fish and polyps.

Being as it is on Mystery Sea, it has the unfortunate fate of being limited to 100 copies. It really is quite lovely. The good part is that Gydja (Norwegian for "Priestess") does make other albums. There's a new one on Gears of Sand called Machina Mundi. It apparently evokes weather and plant life, unlike the album I have, which is clearly a holy bioluminescent existence in an undersea cave. Actually, I specifically imagined being in the underground rivers and lakes in Mexico underneath the pyramids on the Yucatán Peninsula.

Umbilicus Maris truly is the perfect imaginary soundtrack to aquatic spelunking in Mexico. It's "dark" only in that you can't see that well, but the tones and the nature of the disc is really quite warm. Underground rivers on the Yucatán maintain a temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) year-round. I'm not saying that Abby Helasdottir, the woman from New Zealand who is Gydja, was going for 76-degree water with this recording, but even if you're staring into the dark abyss, it's much more comfortable if the water is warm. The disc is akin to drifting underground and discovering a plethora of iridescent petroglyphs that animate in a slow dancing story of an unrecorded civilization. Gurgling swaths of reverb use the water's reflection to paint images on the cave's ceiling, while prismatic droplets drip from glowing stalactites with beating hearts from an ice age still encased inside.

Then the serpent designs on the walls start to rotate and glide, sprouting wings, cascading symmetrically creating four-dimensional objects in a non-threatening manner. This gives way to a procession of whale sized coffins floating overhead, presumably containing the bodies of various banished gods of Mayan lore. The drones inhale and exhale with many shades of the same overseeing voice, a plenitude of awareness oozing from the water and the overmind into my own. Drea once dictated to me, "When you sing or use your voice in any way, you are co-creating the Universe."

Basically, this sounds like the Universe singing along with our efforts. Very nice. Might be a bit subterranean as a soundtrack to our home birth, but maybe Julia will feel extra Earthy that day. Considering we're doing a water birth, this might fit in nicely with the ambiance, as there is an endless supply of drips and ripples aiding the airy bellows of Umbilicus Maris. I reserve the right to believe that she'll only put up with Stars of the Lid, though. I just have that feeling. Gydja does the patient sonic "breathing" that SOTL do, but it definitely has a darker cumbustion to it.

Gydja's myspace page also has something fun to say, and I share this sentiment:
"Please do not send an Add Request if you already have several thousand friends for no conceivable reason; your only contact with women is the porn stars you've added as your top friends; your style of music requires that your band appear in photos in a single line wearing black t-shirts with indicipherable white logos on them; or you just seem an odd fit for Gydja's themes and music. If it seems like you come under any of these categories and would still like to be added as a friend, perhaps an explanatory private message to coincide with the Add Request is in order."

Follow this link to hear her music.

El Ten Eleven Rock!

El Ten Eleven - "My Only Swerving"
These guys practice.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Stream the New Sigur Rós Album

It's time, once again, for another band to let people hear their album for free. Sigur Rós are streaming með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust for a limited time so . . . go here.

Ruhr Hunter meets special Smoking Blend

Xris, Nathan and I were relaxing in the parlor the other day when we had the idea to try a mild smoking blend I obtained from the Urban Shaman. I put on the new Ruhr Hunter album, and wow, our minds were blown. Piqued, you could say. What an amazing record!

After finishing the hardwood floors in this room and setting it up for entertaining guests, I felt like it was a dead ringer for "music parlor." I could imagine an old Victrola propped up in the corner, filling the well-lit space with tart crackle and tone. Ruhr Hunter is definitely something I'd like to hear coming out of a Victrola horn. It is so unusual. Ritualistic mantras or spells cast across long expanses of "time."

As with all Glass Throat releases the packaging is unreal. Oversized and impeccable design sense. It's sort of like leafing through an animal tattooed with runes and iridescent scripture. It instantly set the tone for us as we tried to decipher its contents while the sounds cascaded throughout the room. Xris heard an owl, and then the sample began hooting to the beat. He criticized the creator for enslaving this bird's call to a beat, which wouldn't ever really happen. But in Ruhr Hunter's world it does happen. Chet Scott gets the animals playing with him like a moss-covered pied piper. Rain starts falling, we hear thunder. We forget about impossibilities. We relax. And then Hannibal storms our small walled city. We could hear his army in the distance, approaching. When we saw the torches and the elephant phalanx, we lost our minds.

Later, after we were conquered, their ministry entered the city and cleansed us of our false gods with a smokey ritual. Worshipping God by another name is better than dying for a strict interpretation of it, so we caved and bowed. Our new lives would be different and we would have to re-interpret freedom and our relationship to Nature...

Then we remembered Suzanne had cooked strawberry rhubarb pie, and we descended the stairs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Toshiaki Ishizuka sure sounds good on my new iMac

You know that movie Predator? When the special OPs soldiers are investigating things in the jungle, no one knows what is happening. The music accompanying parts of movies like this is sparse, physical and invokes that "mystery." Bowed cymbals, woodblocks, water drums, "ethnic" percussion. It tells the audience, "You're not from here, and there is mystery." Toshiaki Ishizuka's third album "Drum Drama" is like the beginning of Predator, for forty minutes, persistently hiding in the jungle, sneaking up on you, attacking, receding, droning, dilly-dallying in the underbrush. There is drama, indeed. The kind that implements silence as much as sound.

Shimmery percussive dronescapes constantly redirected by a "kitchen-sink" drumming approach are what this album is all about. It's amazing that there's even a drumset involved, since most of the sounds (save for the sparse and emphatic tom fills) sound more like pots and pans, lakes and bells. Plus it's just one dude. I find it incredible that all these sounds are from hands or sticks hitting things. The drones that come from some of these membranes are awesome as they capture such rich, multi-dimensional tones. My brand new iMac can make my office sound like a well-tended Japanese garden, with professionial nods from the Samurai sentries and the occasional tanuki battle. It's all very serious, but also very capable of outbursts. It's drama, people.

The album I got is all in Japanese, save the album name and song titles. So I have no idea what instruments are being used to do all this amazing textural work. And even though Toshiaki Ishizuka is a bit of an underground drumming legend in Japan, I can't find much about him other than he is in a band with Keiji Haino called Vajra, which i recall is a "sword of truth." Awesome solo work.