Archive for June, 2010

An Education

June 17, 2010

For the past two years I have been teaching Grade 12 English at a questionable private school in downtown Toronto. The majority of the kids come from China, with vague hopes of getting into a Canadian University. The amount of hard work and dedication my students have shown throughout the years was incredible. I was truly blessed to be surrounded by these future leaders.

Many of them were addicted to various computer games which they played late into the night. Reading anything longer than two pages was a painful struggle which most could not complete before falling asleep.

These kids had some interesting English names. Here are a few of my favourite: Ocean, Rock, Sky, Fish, Magic, Energy, Lancer, Aquamarine, Trance, Plantain, Crane, Seven, and Rick.

Their grammar was a fantastic jumble of confusion. Their habits of rampant plagiarism and cheating was unparallel. Catching a student cheating and then wildly berating him/her in front of the entire class was perhaps my only pleasure. But to be fair, they weren’t all bad. A whopping ten percent of the 200+ slack-jawed monsters that slept and farted in my classes were impressive. Ambitious, creative, and intelligent kids, with a genuine willingness to LEARN. Thanks to the few among many.

And now I have happily quit this job, never to return, and quickly to forget. I will be going back to skoool in the fall to get me some more educations so I can get a real job and finally become one of them real live adults I see walking around everywhere. Wish me luck.


June 10, 2010

Electronic duo Zerkalo is a project worth getting excited about. First of all we have production duties from Heinrich Mueller (real name Gerald Brown) of legendary Detroit techno outfit Drexciya, and chilling vocals from French chanteuse Victoria Lukas. The result is that classic Detroit synth sound meshed with dark beats and eerie voice. The mood of Mueller and Lukas’ collaboration can’t help but bring to mind the work of Fever Ray, yet the comparison falls a bit flat, as Fever Ray is more about spectacle, whereas Zerkalo seems more of a multimedia project featuring a cinematic element at live performances that go part in parcel with the music. Either way, the music is great minimal synth-oriented electronica that is reminiscent of the more sedate Drexciya tracks but also sounds like something entirely new from Mueller, and Lukas’ mesmerizing vocals are the perfect extension.

They have released three 12’s thus far through Clone Records and their videos are all worth repeated viewings. I am looking forward to more work from this exciting duo in the near future. If I’ve piqued your interest, then check out an interview with Lukas courtesy of FACT Magazine. Cheers.

Marsen Jules Trio at MUTEK

June 9, 2010

4 June 2010

Ambient neo-classicist hero, Marsen Jules, made his North American debut at this year’s MUTEK festival in Montreal. Accompanied by twin brothers Anwar and Jan Phillip Alam on violin and piano, Jules had the large crowd enraptured as his emotive and glacial soundscapes swirled and pulsed in the airy Monument-National Theatre.

Marsen Jules is my favourite of all composers in the ever expanding genre of modern classical/ambient music. The opening track on Herbstlaub, “Fanes D’Automne” is the most played track on my iTunes, and his music has sailed me off to sweet dreams many a night, as well as, welcomed the dawn with me on many a morn. So you can imagine how stoked I was to finally experience his music in a live setting. And what a performance it was. Choice of venue had a lot to do with it, and the Monument-National was perfect, providing a large theatre space with phenomenal acoustics. The visuals by VJ Nicolai Konstatinovic were an excellent addition to the concert — showcasing abstract imagery in uber-vivid colour, as well as calming footage of hovering birds and a beautiful steady shot of a local swimming hole somewhere in what I imagined to be a small village in rural France.

It was great to see him do his thing live. Using his computer, a mixing tablet, two glasses of water, two drum cymbals, chimes, and the twin brothers on strings and keys, Jules was able to create a stirring live rendition of his work. Overall, his performance was the highlight of the festival for me, and further proof as to why I think he’s one of the best musicians in the genre.

Unfortunately, the rain stopped me from going to see him play at the Picnic Electronik under his dub-oriented krill.minima guise, but still a great time was had. Check out the remastered version of his first album Yara right now.

The Chap – Well Done Europe

June 9, 2010

Last summer I discovered avant-pop weirdos The Chap, thanks to Ghostly International’s annual Ghostly Swim compilation. Hailing from South London, The Chap craft irreverent and infectious songs that groove and rock and shimmer and bump with nods and influences ranging from post-rock, new wave, electro, punk, funk, techno, folk, and French pop. Wooh. Lemme take a breath.

The Chap are a veritable musical melting pot and they pull it all off with so much style it’s almost as if they have none at all. 2008’s Mega Breakfast and last year’s EP Builder’s Brew are excellent albums that made me dance, head bang, and laugh my ass off on account of some brilliant lyrics. Imagine a dead pan delivery of these lyrics: “Nice Face/ Shame about the haircut/ Good body/ Bad conversation” over a tight 4/4 techno beat for six minutes. Makes me chuckle every time. Their roving hitter “Proper Rock” from Mega Breakfast is so good I imagined it could not be topped, but the band has returned with brand new full length Well Done Europe, and have effortlessly outdone themselves. After a few listens you begin to notice just how incredibly adept they are with regards to composition and the ability to add that little extra something to make each song sparkle and stand out. On the whole, Well Done Europe plays out beautifully all the way through — their isn’t a throwaway guitar lick or snare pop, and although they’ve kept their irreverence and cheekiness intact, the album also manages to pack a solid emotional punch.

“Even Your Friends” is the feel good song of the summer, and makes LCD Soundsystem’s “Drunk Girls” sound flat and dumb in comparison. Its chorus is a rollicking sing-along that you’ll already be singing to yourself before the first listen is done. Yet the catchiness doesn’t stop there. “Obviously”s almost haunting refrain: “Is anybody still out there?” seeps into your brain and stays there, just as the chorus to the groovy “Your Horoscope”: “Get the funk out of here, or my bandwith flows…” will do the same. The penultimate track “Chalet Chalet” perhaps best reveals the group’s maturity, with its ‘forget about it all, let’s get away’ vibe, Stereolab-esque refrain, and buttery guitar line reminiscent of Jeff Parker near the end. Just lovely.

To get a sense of how infectious the album really is, I’ll provide a brief anecdote: Me and my friends Matt and Kristiann went to Montreal for Mutek this weekend (which was awesome btw) and during the drive up we listened to Well Done Europe, smiling and singing along the whole way. On our return to Toronto, we didn’t listen to the album, but only because we were still humming the refrains and choruses lodged in our brains from two days before.

I wanted to put Mega Breakfast on my end of year list for 2009 even though it came out in 2008. As it stands right now, Well Done Europe will be high on my list for 2010. I am ready to go steady with the summer time love that is The Chap’s Well Done Europe. Check it! Now. Please. Yay.