The New Decay

for those who love myusik

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Year in the Rear-View (a.k.a. my chance to pretend people actually care about my musical taste)

I'm doing the second half of my year in the rear view on my show today and thought that I should have some write up to coincide with the show. So below is my all-time top 20 of 2006 that I had to submit to umfm a couple weeks ago. Typically a year-end list has to consist of some form of preamble where the writer declares 'how I don't like lists but I'll do it anyway ... for my fans.' I'm just going to forego that whole thing. I know the problems with confining music in the form of list. The fact of the matter though, is I like lists. They help with groceries, they remind you of things you need to do. If done well, musical lists provide the space necessary for larger critical commentary on music (something that doesn't happen enough in my opinion). It's the only moment where musical criticism is taken out of the hands of individual 'professional critics' and relocated with the larger community of music lovers. This I believe to be a good thing. So here's my list;
(note - My pictures didn't upload properly. I promise to do better next time)

1.) Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies (merge)
What can I say? Everything Dan Bejar touches turns to gold. Destroyer's Rubies is no exception. It's the best critique of 'indie-culture' while remaining wholly within that culture that I've heard in ages. Highlights: 'Rubies', 'European Oils' and 'Looters Follies'.

2.) Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds (blocks)
If J.S. Bach was a fan of Destroyer this is what his compositions would have sounded like. He Poos Clouds is a stunning combination of Destroyer, renaissance and video games. Highlights: 'He Poos Clouds', 'The Lamb Sells His Condos', 'The Arctic Circle'

3.) Junior Boys - So this is Goodbye (domino)
With So this is Goodbye, Junior Boys attempt to relocate 'Canadiana' from the confines of typical rockisms, to the more peripheral icy-white sounds of 80s synth-pop, and end up being ridiculously successfull. Highlights: 'In The Morning', 'Like a Child', 'FM'

4.) Tortoise - A Lazarus Taxon (thrill jockey)
The best bands typically are the best explorers. They are on a continual search hoping to point music in a whole new direction. Tortoise's box set A Lazarus Taxon exemplifies such a search in magnificant ways. A 3 cd (plus one dvd) collection of rarities and b-sides, A Lazarus Taxon is a must for anyone interested in the experiemental shape music can take. Highlights: 'Gamera', 'TNT Remix', 'Cornpone Brunch Watt Mix'

5.) The Knife - Silent Shout (mute)
Sweedish brother and sister duo release an album consisting of pop-hook, after pop-hook. Not only that, they have the done so in a disturbingly beautiful way, tempting you to come back wanting more after each listen. Highlights: 'Like a Pen', 'Forrest Families' and 'We Share our Mothers Health

6.) Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (warp)
Ed Drostse comes back at us with a larger ensemble and a larger sound. However, this is not at the expense of the intuitive and beautiful songwriting that made 2004's Horn of Plenty so wonderful. Highlights: 'Knife', 'Lullabye', 'On a Neck, On a Spit'

7.)Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (anti)
One of, if not the, darkest albums of the year. With Fox Confessor, Neko Case brings her songwriting skills to a new level. Hearing a voice as beautiful's as Case's singing about failed friendships, the fragility of faith, and harshness of love, is most definitely something worth coming back to time and time again. Highlights: 'Hold On, Hold On', 'The Needle has Landed', 'That Teenage Feeling'.

8.) Drumheller - Wives (rat-drifting)
Choosing to focus on the importance of sound over technical mastery over their instruments, Toronto's Jazz ensemble Drumheller remind us of the potential that exists within Jazz music. With Wives they give us an album that is both playful and harsh, lighthearted and whimsical. Highlights: The whole damn thing

9.) Cadence Weapon - Breaking Kayfabe (upper class)
With Breaking Kayfabe, Edmonton's Cadence Weapon offers up a collection of hip-hop songs that are able to stand on their own. Unlike much Canukian hip-hop, Cadence Weapon has successfully created a sound not reliant on typical American hip-hopisms, or even UK grime. This is hip-hop you've never really heard before. Highlights: 'Oliver Square', 'Sharks', 'Black Hand'.

10.) Joanna Newsom - Ys (drag city)
Everyone and their dog seems to be writing about this one so I'll leave it up to them. This album is absolutely stunning though. Highlights: 'Only Skin', and everything else.

And the rest...
11.)TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (interscope)
12.)Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (ba da bing)
13.)Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (matador)
14.)Eric Chenaux - Dull Lights (constellation)
15.)Swan Lake - Beast Moans (jagjaguwar)
16.)Matmos - The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast (matador)
17.)Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers (astralwerks)
18.)The Creeping Nobodies - Sound of Joy (blocks)
19.)Glissandro 70 - s/t (constellation)
20.)Birdapres - Get it Done (peanuts and corn)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Interview with Robert Pollard

I had an email interview with former Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollard last week for an upcoming piece for earshot magazine. I'll be working on a full article based on the interview this week for earshot's website. But in the meantime here's there interview;

1.) Can you describe to me some of the thought process that has gone on with your post - Guided By Voices work?
The decision to enter a solo career was a conscious attempt on my part to become more "active" in the studio as an instrumentalist. It was a little more democratic before. I also wanted to work closely and directly with Todd Tobias. We have become a complete team.

2.) It seems as though there has been a shift towards a more internal focus with your recent solo material. Could this be seen as a reaction to the persona you developed throughout your time with Guided by Voices?
Maybe subconciously. I think it's only natural that when you become an
"individual" entity as opposed to a collective energy, the material takes on a more personal nature or internal focus, as you put it. Other than that I don't really think there's a great difference.

3.) Have you attempted to make a conscious split with your Guided by Voices material?
No, not the material. I don't see much of a difference. The conscious split is manifested in the actual physical performance of the material, something that I missed and I think followers missed a bit.

4.) There also seems to be an increased interest in extending your song structures lately. Is this indicative of a change in the way you approach song-writing?
My method of songwriting is now more spontaneous, natural, unforced. Wherever a song goes I allow it to go in that direction or take a turn if it is so inclined. I add parts until it feels finished. The entire process must not take more than 5 or 10 minutes. I then take much more
time on polishing it up, especially the lyrical part. It could take a month or two...or not.

5.) How has the transition to Merge records gone?
Swimmingly. A good bunch of people that I have known for a long time. They are less concerned with charts and trends than some other labels I have been with. That is to say that they are probably more tolerant of the laziness on my part in the marketing and promotion aspect.

6.) I heard recently that you are considering no longer playing live shows. Coming from someone who is known for being a stunning and charismatic performer I found this to be really surprising. What led you to this decision? I've been doing it for 25 years. I'm 49 now. It's getting harder to re-energize myself physically and psychologically for each successive show on a tour. I love it when I hit the stage. It's the rest of the day that's a drag. I may still play a show here or there from time to time.

7.) Has it been difficult performing shows for your solo material to people who might be expecting a Guided by Voices show?
No, the crowd reaction has been good. I assembled a very fine fucking band for them. It's been a step up professionally, and the energy is still there. There is no reason for anyone to complain because I've shedded the name Guided By Voices, although not quite as many people show up because of that. You would refer to these types who don't show up as "scenesters".

8.) Your upcoming release 'Silverfish Trivia' is rumoured to be bookend by two string-instrumentals. Is this the first time you've worked with such large instrumentation? If so, how do you see this as shaping your upcoming material?
I've worked with Chris George before. He did strings on "Universal Truths" and "Pipe Dreams". It was just a spur of the moment decision. I wanted to give the album the presence of a film, like an opening and ending credit roll kind of you're entering and exiting a

9.) Strings seem to be developing some serious 'indie-cred' lately (from Joanna Newsom to Sufjan Stevens or even Canada's Final Fantasy). What do you think is so appealing about the use of strings in songs?
They appeal to the emotions on an intrinsic level, not in a literary
sense. It takes less effort as a listener. Also, I guess one gets tired of being beaten over the head with power chords after a while.

10.) Other than 'Silverfish Trivia', what else are you working on presently?
In the can: Circus Devils - Sgt. Disco (double album), Meet the King -Asshole 2 (LP only), Acid Ranch - The Great Houdini Wasn't So Great (LP only), Eat 3 - Keep Your Christmas Lights Up Forever. Those are all on Record Company Records. Then I'm working on: The Takeovers - Bad Football (album), Crickets - The Best of the Fading Captain Series 1999-2007 (double CD w/ bonus tracks and book to wrap up the series).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Drumheller plays with 'Wives'

Last week I did a feature on guitar wiz Eric Chenaux. Below is an article on his Jazz group Drumheller and their latest album Wives. I will be doing the first half of my year-in-the-rear-view on tomorrows show and will have something up here soon. In the meantime ... Drumheller;

With their latest release Wives, Drumheller reminds us how the greatest triumph of Jazz is not one of technical proficiency but rather the creative shape that experimentation and improvisation can take in music. Drumheller is a Jazz ensemble that consists of Eric Chenaux (guitar), Rob Clutton (bass), Nick Frasier (drums), Brodie West (sax) and Doug Tielli (trombone). With their strong focus on experimenting with sound, song structure and melody, Drumheller create an eclectic style of Jazz that is flirting with disaster.

Wives can be seen as equal parts Duke Ellington and Pere Ubu. Each piece on the album contains a melody that harkens back to 1940s swing era Jazz. These are melodies you can see your grandparents singing along with. However, with this focus on creating good melodies for each piece coupled with the ‘deep pocket’ of the Clutton-Frasier rhythm section, the horns and guitar are allowed the space to take many liberties with their solos. Reminiscent of Dub-Housing era Pere Ubu, where their rhythm section allowed for more freedom for the other members to experiment, the horns and guitar on Wives constantly play with and irritate each other. As a result the album exudes a lighthearted experimentalism that is still well rooted in the Jazz tradition.

Take the song ‘Porch’ as example. It begins with a melody that is so stereotypical of Jazz that you are convinced you’ve heard it before. This is made stronger as the horns and guitar are all playing it together in unison. Yet this predictability is short-lived as the melody quickly breaks down into various unpredictable solo sections. All of a sudden the instruments that were playing in playful unison are now working against each other. Just before the song collapses completely, in comes that familiar melody again, this time to bring the song to an end. The result is that, to quote Carl Wilson of the Globe and Mail, Drumheller constantly “sound like ‘Ain’t Misbehaving’ except they’re clearly misbehaving all the way.’

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hey So Am I Picks ... delayed?

So my new feature is only two weeks old and I've already hit a bit of a snag. My pick this week was going to be Chad VanGaalen's Skelliconnection. I had set up an interview with him for Earshot! magazine but alas, he wasn't home when his manager told me he was. Arrrrrg! So instead I'm just going to through something together involving Eric Chenaux/Drumheller. Hopefully I'll still be able to post said interview soon.

Other things I'm hoping to have up here soon are a interview with Robert Pollard from Guided By Voices, and my year in the rear-view. I'm supposed to submit my picks to umfm sometime soon. So far I have on my list for albums; Destroyer, Final Fantasy, Junior Boys, TV on the Radio, Joanna Newsom, The Knife, Matmos, Mission of Burma, Cadence Weapon, Neko Case, Beirut, Drumheller, Eric Chenaux, Glissandro 70, David Byrne and Brian Eno, Espers. For songs I don't really know maybe something like; Rouch Gem (Islands), Sexy Back (JT), Maneater (Fertado), Kilo (Ghostface Killah), Nancy Reagon's Head (Mission of Burma), Like a Pen (The Knife), Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio), Oliver Square (Cadence Weapon), In the Morning (Junior Boys), Postcards from Italy (Beirut), The Needle has Landed (Neko Case). I don't know though yet. Any guidance would be much appreciatied.