Archive for August, 2009

Nosaj Thing at Wrongbar in Toronto

August 31, 2009


30 August 2009

Jason Chung aka Nosaj Thing made his Toronto debut last night at Wrongbar. He delivered a tight set filled with fractured beats, airy synths, and knob twiddles aplenty. The show was really quite good, so it’s a shame that the crowd was a sparse group of head-bobbers, seemingly too hungover from the weekend to move more than their necks. His set was definitely dance worthy, and so on behalf of the city of Toronto I apologize to you Nosaj Thing, please don’t get the wrong impression of Canada, we really do know how to throw down, you just caught us at a bad time. Come back and we’ll make it up to you, I swear. I could understand if he didn’t want to come back, when barely 40 people showed and nobody even moved to his music – he on the other hand, was going wild on stage, groovin to the beat, as he modulated and tweaked cuts from his recent release “Drift”.

Overall, it was an impressive outing from this young talent, however, I felt the sound at Wrongbar was kinda flat and did not bump as much as it should. Seeing Flying Lotus earlier this summer has ruined any chance for another artist in the glitch-hop scene to play a better show than his off-the-hook performance at Tattoo, but with a little more time and practice, Nosaj will be right up there with him. If you haven’t heard “Drift” yet, check it out. It’s available through Alpha Pup Records. I’m out.


Polvo – In Prism (Merge Records)

August 23, 2009


Chapel Hill, NC quartet Polvo will release “In Prism” on September 8th with Merge Records — their first album of new material since 1997’s “Shapes”. 12 years! This makes me feel kinda old, but still, I am thrilled to see the group back together and making new music. Polvo were perhaps the most influential band for me during my own music making days, with their crooked tunings, fucked-up time signatures, and surreal energy. They along with a few other ‘post-rock’ bands (i.e. Slint, Tortoise, June of 44) helped define and sway the way I wrote songs until I fully embraced electronic music in the early 2000’s.

Now a dozen years have flipped by in a daydream, and Polvo have returned with “In Prism”. Recorded as always by Brian Paulson, the new material is exactly what you would expect from them. It’s dark, moody, catchy, and off-kilter. It may be a bit more straight-forward than their earlier work, the production may be a touch cleaner, and the overall tempo slightly slower (think “Fast Canoe”, instead of “Tragic Carpet Ride”), but this is a mature, wiser Polvo, and they do not disappoint. And even though Paulson’s production is cleaner, it’s still his most dynamic recording to date with the band.

The riff of opening track “Right the Relation” sounds like a crunchier “Thermal Treasure” and is a good example of the ‘more straight-forwardness’ I mentioned above, while other tracks like “City Birds” and “Dream Residue/Work” play as if mined from old recording sessions — like secret B-sides from “Exploded Drawing” and “Shapes”. Long time fans will never be able to call this their best album, but hell if it ain’t an amazingly welcome addition to their discography.

A near seamless return. Great work boys. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the few U.S. cities they are touring this fall, go and see them rip it up old-skoool. Peace.

Dog Day – Concentration (Outside Music 2009)

August 15, 2009


Halifax quartet Dog Day return with their follow-up to 2007’s “Night Group” avec “Concentration”. Sounding like a mix between Eric’s Trip, Interpol, and Sonic Youth, the band has crafted a consistently solid dark pop album. This is indie rock for those who forgot such a thing still existed. It sounds nothing but genuine, and it gets better and better with each listen. From opener “Happiness” to closer “Peace”, the record is full of catchy melodies, smooth synth lines, angular guitars, and really excellent vocals.

It’s starting to sound like the “rock” album of the summer for me and I love the fact that they are Canadian and consist of 2 couples from old skoool Halifax bands The Burdocks and The Hold. Truly, this album will be an underated, near-missed, top 15 of the year for me. Like I said, it gets better with every listen. A total grower. The songwriting is mature, and the interplay between vocalists is the stuff of Rick and Julie from back in the day – it also kinda reminds me of Versus, another band so very close to my heart. Find this album and play it while making dinner or reading or chilling out, and once you’ve heard it a few times, listen to it baked and hear it again for the first time. Good work…

Edit: Read a review of their live show at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

dog day

David Berman – The Portable February

August 11, 2009

the portable february

Silver Jews frontman David Berman has published a book of strange, crudely drawn comics entitled The Portable February. Looking as if they were scrawled on napkins and on the back of ticket stubs and on bathroom walls, these 90 or so sketches at first had me slightly befuddled, but soon had me dribbling urine down my leg in near hysterics. Is it weird? Yes. Do I understand it all? God no. But I believe their is brilliance in this slim hardcover. Like his lyrics in The Silver Jews and his book of poetry “Actual Air”, Berman seems to have a limitless supply of clever observations and off-kilter aphorisms, and “The Portable February” is no different. I have always enjoyed Berman’s music and find this collection of visual non-sequitirs an excellent addition to his body of artistic work. I’ve already decided I am going to buy a copy for all of my friends for Christmas this year. Available through Drag City Records, it’s a steal at under 10 bucks. Buy it for posterity and for your friends…

Enjoyable, irreverent, and so po-mo it ain’t po-mo no-mo, or better yet, never was in the first place.

lmao once i finally understand how weird this shit is...

Mathieu & Deupree – Transcriptions (Spekk 2009)

August 7, 2009


Transcriptions is a collaborative work from ambient artists Stephan Mathieu and Taylor Deupree. The album contains music that is warm, decayed, and emotive. Sounding a bit like William Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops” series, “Transcriptions” is an album for reading, sleeping, writing, and meditating. Being a big fan of the genre, this comes as a welcome addition to my growing collection of ambient electronica, and sounds like one of the most pleasant and pensive releases of the year.

My initial fascination with the album had to do with how it was recorded. Stephan Mathieu began collecting mechanical gramophones, wax-cylinders, and early 78’s from the turn of the century. Once he’d gathered enough stock material he recorded the cylinders and 78’s via two portable gramophones directly into his computer, and while doing so he rendered and digitally kissed the sweeping orchestral ambience. Next Taylor Deupree added acoustic plucks and strums and vintage synthesizer to act as a perfect counterpart to Mathieu’s wash of sound.

The overall result is an enveloping 48 minute melodic surge that can only be described as gorgeous.

transcriptions gear

Check it.

Maritime Road Tripped

August 6, 2009

Confederation Bridge

I’ve just returned from a two-week road trip out east. In a word: glorious. Toronto – Montreal – Fredericton – Fundy National Park – Alma – Hopewell Rocks – Charlottetown – Kensington – Cabot Beach Provincial Park – Halifax – and all the way back again. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Cape Breton as originally planned, but still had a wild and raucous time. Why is beer from the Maritimes so goddamn good? Pump House, Propeller, Garrison, and sweet sweet Picaroon’s, I salute you all. Even you too Alpine and Keith’s.

Cabot Beach, PEI

As most road trips go we had our ups and downs. Lost wallet in Kingston. Stolen backpack in Montreal. Flooded tent in Fundy. Mosquitoes bigger than baseballs on PEI. Temper tantrums in Halifax. The weather was flighty and fickle and fearsome but also occasionally perfect. Overall, the experience was memorable and bonding and amazing and hilarious. Night frisbee anyone? Another bowl of mussels perhaps? The seafood out there is delish and divine.


Driving through New Brunny is like owning your very own highway. My return to Freddy was short-lived but drunken and nostalgic. The ocean mist in Fundy was cleansing and seemingly alive. The backroads in NB possibly the best part of the adventure. The red dirt on PEI geologically fascinating. Halifax on Jay’s birthday was an absolute shit-show. Our last night camping in Cabano, QC ended fittingly in vomitous disaster inside my tent. Thank you lil’ pointer for that one.

Abandoned house in NB

Pointe Wolfe, Fundy

Now back at work in Toronto I am oddly relaxed but still I wonder once again: What in the hell am I doing here?

Regular musical musings will return toute suite. Peace.