Saturday, January 28, 2006

Interior Design – Interior Design 03 (Canada Lynx Records)
Interior Design is Shockk’s solo project. He plays guitar in Mongoose and the on-again, off-again Roadbed, and is one of the most ridiculously talented musicians I’ve ever seen, much less hung out with. If he weren’t such a nice, modest guy, he’d probably be famous. With Interior Design, he applies his dexterous fingers to ambient music. I think this is his first CD, after releasing a handful of tapes over the years. It comes packaged in a DVD case with a hyper-elegant sleeve designed by SN Ratio (Simian of Supersimian—see below—who’s becoming Vancouver’s answer to Vaughn Oliver or Storm Thorgerson). Shockk deploys his mastery of beatboxes, effects and jazz licks on music that is a companion unobtrusive. At times this album sounds like Pat Metheny jamming with Boards of Canada. With the exception of “abrasion test,” featuring a touch of trumpet from Roger Dean Young, the music you hear is just the Shockker, his guitar, and machines. The rhythm tracks alone make for a fascinating listen (Shockk’s pretty handy behind a drum set and carries this over when programming beats), never mind his stunning guitar playing overtop—too well-placed and appropriate of tone to qualify as mere noodling. The songs are of a piece while maintaining their separate identities, and several of the longer tracks take some interesting directions. Track 10, “opaque,” nods to Roadbed in the form of samples of between-song banter from Roadbed gigs (if you listen carefully, this blog gets a mention). The distortion drone of “geometric” works as a soothing musical sorbet for a mid-album ear cleansing before the next piece gets going. While some might scoff at the idea that this kind of Ikea-core might be anything but sonic wallpaper, Shockk’s ear for detail makes the music work as both an active and passive listening experience. Bung it on whilst entertaining, or hunker down under the headphones, close your eyes, and start editing together your own private Koyaanisqatsi. A highly recommended accessory for good living.

Monday, January 16, 2006

These are the people in my neighbourhood, Pt. 2.
How the Tiger Got Lionized is the first album from the team of Super Robertson (scene kingpin and Supper Show impresario) and Simian Special (whom I know as Roadbed’s last drummer, but is a man of many musical projects), who’ve merged their talents to form SUPERSIMIAN! A couple of good Canadian guys making good Canadian music with a lineage from Neil Young to the Rheostatics and beyond. And, because my Canada is in the Commonwealth, I’d throw XTC into the cluster of references too. How the Tiger… is an aimable, spontaneous (spontamiable?) record, loaded with detailed arrangements and variation ’tween songs. There are a lot of vocals on this album—neither of these chaps is afraid of a microphone—which lends it a density that took me a few listens to penetrate and appreciate what was going on. Fortunately their vocal talents are more than a match for their extroversion. Sim’s a huge talent, with a voice that ranges from a direct, folksy tone to a falsetto that soars into the big sky. Super’s the king of rhythm and feel, able to wrest music from the most mundane phrase…not that the lyrics of SUPERSIMIAN are in any way banal. They’re rather brilliant, actually—filled with character sketches, natural phenomena, and local references. There’s even a tune about hockey for the ultimate toque ’n’ block-heater appeal. Favourite songs would be the Crazy Horse charge of “Bill Von Bacon Tell,” the barely contained abandon of “70s Rock at the Railway” (I’d like to hear this bashed out live sometime), and the amazing “Provincial,” a song I remember from the last few Roadbed gigs I saw, captured on this album in a live recording that trades a few duff notes for an incredible atmosphere. Magic. In fact, the band lineup on this song includes guitarist Shockk (whose latest release I will write about soon), making it a Roadbed reunion of sorts. The inclusion of a version of “Sun Rises,” last heard on Roadbed’s Last Dance at the Shock Centre, re-emphasizes the connection to Super and Sim’s previous band. Graced by Sim’s fantastic graphic design, How the Tiger Got Lionized captures some harmonious heroism from a pair of unstoppable characters.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I celebrated my 40th birthday last weekend with Fancy and friends, a lot of cake and a lot of beer. I've been reeling from the fun and the assault of complex sugars on my system ever since. I can't say I'm worrying too much about the age milestone. That stuff is for people who have regrets and amends to make. I mainly worry about how long my stretch as the luckiest person alive is going to last.

Super Robertson recently called me a fucking son of a bitch (I was being a smartass in his blog comments), and that's okay, although I'd like to amend his slur to fucking lucky son of a bitch.

I got lots of birthday presents; everyone's way too nice to me. I got some Tetley's beer glasses, gift certificates to Happy Bats Cinema and A&B Sound (I sense a haul coming on), the Mist King Urth LP by Lifeguards (Pollard and Gillard from GBV), the Criterion Withnail and I DVD (Fancy rolls her eyes), and season 2 of Reno 911.

And from Fancy, the little belter that she is... How do I describe this? She took my stash of concert ticket stubs (99 of them) and had them arranged and mounted inside a shadow box. It's beautiful. From Scorpions/Iron Maiden/Girlschool in July 1982 to Judas Priest last October, there's my goddamn life. Not a lot of personal and aesthetic growth there, but I've enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I have a lot of talented friends with new music out right now. First up...

Ross Vegas features my pals Smash on bass and Alec Macaulay guesting on lead guitar. The band itself is led by Tim “Hey Rock” Bourchier on guitar/vocals, whom I’ve known slightly ever since his old band, Rubicon, gigged with Roadbed and Stoke a few years ago. To be absolutely honest, Ross Vegas don’t play a style of music I actively seek out. Their album Flow is full of unabashedly commercial mid-tempo rock mainly based around guitar grooves and easy-to-grasp chord changes that’s designed to get people out on the dance floor. It's not my scene, but I can appreciate the talent and craft that went into the album. Tim has a versatile, soulful voice that’s neither boy-band vulnerable nor ridden with empty post-grunge angst. Every element fits perfectly, from the pristine recording and production by Jonathan Fluevog, to the assorted talents that Tim’s assembled here. Besides Alec’s tasteful string bending and Smash’s spot-on bass work, Rick Maksymiw (keyboards) and Sam Cartwright (drums) deliver like studio pros with performances that more than demonstrate their respective expertise. You know when you hear someone playing with impeccable taste and restraint in service of The Song, yet you know they could unleash a holocaust of shred if given the opportunity? That's the feeling I get listening to this band. Though, as I said, Ross Vegas aren’t my thing, the music on Flow is comfortable with itself, and that's a pleasure to hear.

Next up: How the Tiger Got Lionized by SUPERSIMIAN.