Monday, September 27, 2010

Today on Scene and Not Seen - Sun Ra and The 'Noise of Jazz

Subcultures represent 'noise' (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media. We should therefore not underestimate the signifying power of the spectacular subculture not only as a metaphor for potential anarchy 'out there' but as an actual mechanism of semantic disorder: a kind of temporary blockage in the system of representation. (Dick Hebdige, 1979)

The above quote comes from Dick Hebdige's monumental study on the relationship between style and social resistance. Looking at a variety of different 'subcultures' developing in post-war England (ie. The Teddy Boy, The Skinhead, The Mod and The Punk) Hebdige attempts to illustrate how these cultures, formed predominantly in response to the culture and lifestyles of the dominant classes of the day, provided British youth with a means to short-circuit and disrupt the powers and ideologies propped up by mainstream society, powers and ideologies that elsewhere serve to keep them subdued and in the minority. Subcultures represent 'noise' in the sense that they serve to break apart and bring into disarray typical systems of representation; taking daily objects (for punks, objects such as safety pins, tubes of vaseline or even the Union Jack) and reordering them in a way to make them seem like nothing but nonsense.

While there is much to be critical of Hebdige's analysis of the social functions of style (such as his depiction of the active participant in a subculture vs. the passive/disinterested participant in the mainstream, or even his unquestioning assumption of the possibility of a true subculture as such), his narration of the place of 'noise' in popular forms of music, in many ways, provides us with a helpful way of reading the work of Sun Ra. It is fairly easy to write-off Sun Ra's project as yet another vain form of escapism (this time arising out of the free-form jazz tradition), as Sun Ra sought first and foremost to provide his listeners with the means to imagine life outside of this world. While this is certainly part of what is most appealling about the pianist, looking at Hebdige's reading of noise, it seems to me that Ra's other-worldness can also be read as a form of resistance, seeking to re-read this world in a new light, in the hopes of uncovering new possibilities and potentialities. Much of his music is nothing but nonsense, taking one of the great African American triumphs - jazz - and stripping it of western conceptions of harmonic construction (a lack of melody, closed chord progressions etc ...), infusing it instead with a bizarre blend of Old Testament and Sci-Fi imagery. He took that classic American art-form that gave us "Ain't Misbehavin'" "Autumn Leaves" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and transformed it into sonic (and with Ra you can also add visual) nonsense. Like Hebdige's 'punk' figure, Ra's music can be seen as another form of stylistic resistance, seeking to make this world seem 'other-worldly' and as such infuse it with a messianic hope illustrating how the way things appear isn't necessarily the way they are.

All of this is but a means to say you should listen to tonight's show as I will be playing a selection of tracks from ESP-Disc's recent box set Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra. The box set is a wonderful collection of some of Ra's more bizzare moments (which, considering Sun Ra's generally out-there aesthetic is saying something), and does well to illustrate just how 'this-worldly' Ra's declaration that "The Space is the Place" is.

Until next time ...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Carl Wilson on Superchunk

I feel like I should probably link this article from Carl Wilson on Superchunk's recent reemergence. Like usual, he's right on point describing the band as representing the 'anti-slacker version of 90s indie culture," and even more on point in his claim of Pavement's musical influence being overrated and Superchunk's being underrated. Not that I don't of course love Pavement (Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is an amazing record, and the guitar on "Stereo" still gives me goose bumps when listening to it), but I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with the heaps of praise given them, particularly with regards to Slanted and Enchanted which I've never been able to fully get behind. Much of what they accomplished as a band, and much of what is attributed to them (like the whole slacker thing) had already been done by other artists, by the time they showed up on the scene, and in some cases (like with The Fall's Hex Enduction Hour) with much more interesting results.

All of this is to say, yet again, that Superchunk deserves more props then they have thus far received (they gave us the Arcade Fire, and Neutral Milk Hotel for crying out loud, not to mention three of the 90s strongest releases in No Pokey For Kitty, Foolish and Incidental Music).

In other news, the new Black Mountain kicks ass. Here's the epic "Let Spirits Ride" (big props to J-Rod, who reminded me about this earlier today).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Spectacle that is The Flaming Lips Live

My review of last night's Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink show is now up on Stylus.

For the most part, I thought the show was success. Both groups put on quite the spectacle (although the Lips' set had WAY more props and theatrics), but both groups could have done better with their song choices. Ariel Pink went with more of his rock-oriented songs like "Butthouse Blondies" and "Little Wing", which made for a more rock-oriented show than I was hoping for. I REALLY wanted to see how some of his more fuzzed out pop-songs like "For Kate I Wait" or "Immune to Emotion" played out live, and that didn't happen.

With regards to The Flaming Lips, I hate to be that guy, but how could they not play ANYTHING from The Soft Bulletin? Sure their catalog is huge, but this is for many fans (myself included) their strongest record to date. Given that this was their first time through town, this omission really surprised me. That said, the giant laser hands more than made up for it.

Next up ... The Liptonians turn Wilco tonight at Cinematheque.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Ariel Pink Day!!!

I know it's kind of silly, but I'm REALLY excited about tonight's Ariel Pink show (opening up for The Flaming Lips at the Burton Cummings Theatre). Sure, I'm also excited about finally seeing the Lips live. But I think I know what to expect with them - Wayne Coyne doing something crazy involving either a.) some ridiculous costume or b.) no costume (or clothes) at all. But with Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, I have no clue whatsoever. His whole DIY meets hauntology meets 1970's adult contemporary aesthetic is so off the wall that I can imagine what the live show will be like. So, to get you ready, here are some highlights.

The Playlist - Sept. 20th

Below is the playlist for last night's show. I'm working on a review for Women's new record Public Strain for this week and will try my best to post something on that later this week using some of the material from last night's interview with Chris. It's really exciting when a band you like is actually somewhat articulate about what they are trying to do, and this was the case Chris. And, he's a Tim Hecker fan!

Anyways the music ...

Set #1
1.) Flaming Lips - "Buggin'" from The Soft Bulletin
2.) Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Round and Round" from Before Today
3.) Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Jules lost his Jewels" from Worn Copy
4.) Calexico - "Stray" from The Black Light
5. ) Arcade Fire - "Rococco" from The Suburbs
6.) Tokyo Police Club - "Bambi" from Champ

Set #2
1.) Women - "Eye Sore" from Public Strain
2.) Women - "Heat Distraction" from Public Strain
3.) Surf City - "Zombies" from Kudos
4.) Wire - "Lowdown" from Pink Flag

Set #3
1.) Teengirl Fantasy - "Cheaters" from 7AM
2.) Actress - "Futureproofing" from Splazsh
3.) Oneohtrix Point Never - "Returnal" from Returnal
4.) Depatterning - "The Trappings" from Depatterning
5.) Shad - "Rosegarden" from Tsol

Until next time ...

Monday, September 20, 2010

On the Show ...

Today I talk with Chris Reimer, guitarist/vocalist from Calgary noise-rockers Women in anticipation of Saturday's show at the Royal Albert. Their upcoming album Public Strain is easily one of the years best guitar-based records. So much noise! So much goodness!!

Also, I'll be previewing this weeks exceptionally solid list of live shows, focusing particularly on Ariel Pink, and Calexico (who are opening up for the Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire respectively), as well as tomorrow's performance of Yankee Hotel Fox Trot by Winnipeg's very own The Liptonians.

If that weren't exciting enough, I'll also be previewing new releases by Surf City, Teengirl Fantasy, Teen Daze and Grinderman, as well as giving away a pair of tickets to Tokyo Police Club's September 26th concert.

It's going to be a great show, so make sure you tune in.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Adorno and Bieber Fever

It is probably correct to assume that most listeners, in order to comply with what they regard as social desiderata and to prove their "citizenship," half-humorously "join" the conspiracy as caricatures of their own potentialities and suppress bringing to awareness the operative mechanisms by insisting to themselves and to others that the whole thing is only good clean fun anyhow.

In order to become a jitterbug or simply to "like" popular music, it does not by any means suffice to give oneself up and to fall in line passively. To become transformed into an insect, man needs that energy which might possibly achieve his transformation into a man.

Theodore Adorno (1941)
from "On Popular Music"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Below is yesterday's playlist. In the future, I will have podcasts available on the UMFM website coinciding with these lists. For the most part, yesterday's show consisted of a bunch of comfortable (and predictable) songs. I couldn't help but play tons of the new Superchunk which simply just kicks ass. Also, I've linked O Paon's website. Please take a gander. She is an extremely gifted songwriter that one can only hope takes off soon. Take a look and enjoy!

Superchunk - "Digging for Something" from Majesty Shredding
Miles Davis - "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" from Bitches Brew (Legacy Edition)

Set #1
Talking Heads - "Seen and Not Seen" from Remain in Light
Talking Heads - "Listening Wind" from Remain in Light
A Certain Ration - "Life's a Scream" from The Old and The New
PiL - "Swan Lake" from Metal Box

Set #2
Superchunk - "Learning to Serf" from Majesty Shredding
Superchunk - "Crossed Wires" from Majesty Shredding
Superchunk - "Ribbon" from Incidental Music 1991 - 1995
Superchunk - "Throwing Things" from No Poky for Kitty

Set #3
Freeway and Jake One - "One Foot In" from Stimulus Package
Eric Chenaux - "Warm Charleston" from Warm Weather
Siskiyou - "Funeral Song" from Siskiyou
Ryan Driver - "Am I Still too Late" from Who's Breathing?
O Paon - "Raffinerie" from Courses

Young Rival - "Modern Life" from Young Rival

Monday, September 13, 2010

One the Program Today ...

13 years ago deciding that I needed to begin immersing myself in American college rock, a friend of mine made me a bunch of tapes, . As a high school student I was somewhat familiar with the Canadian indie scene (and 13 years ago 'indie' actually stood for something), obsessing over Murder Records and Mint Records and catching every episode of Much Music's The Wedge, but knew next to nothing of what was going on south of the boarder (with the exception of some of the bigger names like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies). So when I put those tapes on, and got my first taste of bands like Guided by Voices, The Magnetic Fields, and They Might Be Giants, I was overcome with excitement. Here was a whole entire culture of music that I had yet to explore.

Of these tapes, there were two that particularly stood out from a North Carolina band named Superchunk. My first experiences with Incidental Music and Foolish are ones that I continue to hold dear today. There was a rawness on these records that I had yet to hear another band utilize so well. Clearly influenced by the east-coast punk scene of the 1980s, yet determined not to fall into typical punk-rock cliches, Superchunk (or at least the Superchunk of these two records) were making punk sound like what I had wanted it to sound like for years. I couldn't get enough of it, and through them was introduced to a wider scene of similar bands (Modest Mouse, Mission of Burma, The Clean etc ...), that further immersed me into the culture of college of rock. As Carl Wilson put it recently "in 1994, I kinda would have given my life for Superchunk.” 3 years later, I felt the exact same way.

All of this is to say, that I was super pumped to find out that my first broadcast of my new radio show would be airing on the eve of the bands first release in over 9 years, Majesty Shredding. I've only had the chance to go through the record once, so I'll say more specifically on the record at a later time. I will however be previewing a few of the tracks on tonight's show alongside some Superchunk classics. So if you're wanting a brief taste, tune in tonight.

In the meantime, here's the video for the first single "Digging for Something."

Also for tonight, on the show there will be some giveaways, as well as some new tracks from Eric Chenaux's new record Warm Weather which is as beautiful as one would expect.

Again, tune in tonight, 6:30-8:00 pm on UMFM 101.5

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is this? A new blog??

Hey, so welcome to my new blog for my kickin' new radio show "Scene and Not Seen." Just for information's sake, Scene and Not Seen is UMFM's new Monday free-range radio program that will run every Monday evening from 6:30-8:00. I'll have more info on that in the coming days.

This blog will feature playlists from the radio show, interviews, write-ups, news and commentary surrounding the Winnipeg music scene. So make sure you come by and check things out every once in a while. On the weekend I'll be posting some more stuff on what my show will be focused on and what to expect on my first show happening this Monday. In the meantime, here some kick-ass classic jazz ...

Cannonball Adderley - Jive Samba

Theolonious Monk - Epistrophy

and one of the jazz tradition's many high points ...

John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy - My Favorite Things

Until next time ...