Tuesday, November 19, 2013

diary 11.19.13- in search of the epic bummer

Diary 11.19.13- in search of the epic bummer by Shalloboi on Mixcloud

song- artist- album

1. radio friendly unit shifter- nirvana- 'live and loud'
2. lupine dominus- thee oh sees- 'putrifiers ii'
3. kali yuga blues- bardo pond- 'peace on venus'
4. fell from the sun- opal- 'early recordings'
5. obscured- smashing pumpkins- 'pisces iscariot'
6. mirage- lucrecia dalt- 'vix xlr8r'
7. wordless in woods- tara jane o'neil
8. ursec- loveliescrushing- 'glissceule'
9. immune- low- 'secret name'
10. the drowning man- the cure- 'faith'
11. shut me down- rowland s. howard- 'pop crimes'
12. i'll follow you- white fence- s/t
13. seasons of your day- mazzy star- 'seasons of your day'
14. berlin- the velvet underground- 'le bataclan '72'
15. creator, destroyer- angel olsen- 'strange cacti'
16. towers- grouper- 'the man who died in his boat'

Thursday, November 14, 2013

review: mazzy star, psychic ills at the vic 11.13.13

For some reason I was expecting tonight to be a disaster—the past few days have been a mixed bag and I figured tonight would continue the trend. I should’ve taken the announcement that was made multiple times while I was waiting in line for the doors to open at the Vic tonight as a sign: no cell phone usage would be allowed during the concert. No pictures, no audio, no video recording. Anyone caught violating these rules would be thrown out of the show as per the band’s request. What should’ve clued me in further was how little of an impact this announcement made on anyone waiting in line around me. Once inside I walked up the stairs to check out the Vic’s balcony for the first time ever. I didn’t know there were seats up there or a wonderful unencumbered view of the stage from pretty much any seat. I had planned on getting there early to catch Psychic Ills, who aren’t one of my favourite bands, but I’ve seen them twice before (once was fantastic and the other was kind of a disaster). I don’t have their newest release, but I do have their other three (I like ‘Dins’ and ‘Hazed Dream’ well enough). They came out as a five piece and played a thoroughly decent set of more laid back psych. The emphasis was more on structured songs than before (the disastrous time that I saw them they did a completely improvised set of meandering experimental drone and it just didn’t quite land on its feet)—granted their songs are still very drone-based, but it was a nice change and I thought that it worked well. Their mix wasn’t the greatest, but it was better than some sets I’ve witnessed at the Vic. Plus they played 'Electric Life' from 'Dins' which was always a favourite of mine by them. They started 15 minutes late and when they were done at nine Mazzy Star’s crew set to work quickly on making the stage look nice for them—candles were lit and perched on every amp. Some sort of shower caddy/cupcake stand looking apparatus was set up next to Hope Sandoval’s microphone—it had four different surfaces that each had lit candles, a tambourine, a harmonica or three, what I assume were some kind of monitor controls and a sampler that Sandoval used to pipe ambient music out to the crowd between songs so as to maintain an atmosphere throughout the evening.

The houselights crept down lower and lower over the course of a half-hour and then the band came out and played a beautiful version of ‘Look on Down From the Bridge’ under soft blue and orange lights—a sunrise projected behind them. The projections, the candles, the dim lighting and the music made for a very immersive and ambient experience that was difficult not to get lost in. I was shocked at the clarity of the mix and the beauty of the entire thing. It’s one of my favourite songs of theirs for a start and I’ve always wanted to hear it performed live. Dave Roback’s guitar playing was careful and delicate—each note so deliberate and graceful, the perfect counterpoint to Sandoval’s soft vocals as well as the drums and the keyboards. The crowd was dead silent through the entire thing erupting into applause right after the song ended. I’ve seen Sandoval’s solo show twice—both occasions some of my most fondly remembered concert experiences—but Mazzy Star left both of those concerts in the dust. It was one of those concerts where you are aware that you’ve gotten your money’s worth three songs in (the last time this happened to me was when Neko Case played ‘Favorite’ at the Park West in 2007). The set ramped up slightly from the somber and elegant beginning when ‘In the Kingdom,’ the first song from their new album ‘Seasons of Your Day,’ made it’s appearance. I couldn’t believe how quiet everyone was, how great the mix sounded, how powerfully captivating the songs and ambience were or that I was actually there. Gem after gem after gem. The highlight of the show for me was when they played a dynamic version of ‘Does Someone Have Your Baby Now?’ with each band member entering the mix subtly as the song went on which went into ‘Ride it On’ and then into the long dormant ‘Into Dust’ which I wasn’t expecting to hear. After howling at the beginning of the song the audience snapped to attention—it was one of those times where you’re in a giant room full of people hanging on a performer’s every word. At one point I could hear the hand dryer in the women’s room out in the hallway it was so quiet. Talk about captivating.

There was a lot of yelling ‘I love you, Hope!’ ‘Hope you’re beautiful!’ going on, which normally isn’t received well by the band. It made me a bit worried as the night went on, but Sandoval thanked the crowd after nearly every song (which is atypical from what I’ve heard on bootlegs). The band played a perfect version of ‘Halah’ and ‘Fade Into You’ that sent me back to 1994 when I first heard both and then ended with ‘Blue Flower’ and ‘Disappear.’ They came back for two encores ('California,' 'So Tonight That I Might See' and 'I've Been Let Down')—which was incredibly and wonderfully unexpected bringing their playing time to a very generous hour-and-a-half.

Were there songs of theirs I wanted to hear and didn’t get to? Of course, but this is a band who I would want to hear every song in their discography played live, so expecting to hear all of my favourites in one evening seems kind of foolish. I’d rate this as the best show I’ve ever seen at the Vic—even better than Sigur Rós in 2001 and Godspeed You! Black Emporer in 2010. It was the polar opposite of the Black Rebel Motorcyle Club earlier in the year, which was marred by a douchey crowd and a rather muddy mix. This was one of those evenings that was absolutely blessed that I will always remember as one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

shalloboi- 'deprivation'

So here's the new shalloboi album. I wanted to release it on vinyl, but since we're in the middle of releasing the 'field of flowers' singles it was apparent that releasing this album on vinyl wouldn't be possible for quite a long time. Everything about this record has been so spontaneous and effortless- probably the only time I've made a record that wasn't planned ahead of time at all- that putting it on a shelf for an indeterminate amount of time seemed impossible. It started out with '14.2.12' as a possible 7" release. '14.2.12' was the first song I'd written in quite a long time- from May of 2011 to January 2012. So much went down in 2011 that really knocked the wind out of our sails- so much drama in the band. So much that I not only thought about calling it quits completely, but briefly announced the last strings show as being the band's last show. Initially all we were going to do in 2011 was take a year off from releasing anything, but after all of the drama, the struggle, the heartache and the inevitable end of that phase of the band (which ended up being a bit messy) we were so drained and depleted that it took a really long time to get going again. We're still trying to get back into the habit of playing live regularly.

It might not sound like a long time, but seven months without writing a single song was a first for me in my songwriting life. While it's true that I've been working from a backlog of about 60 songs for the past three years it was still alarming to have gone that long without writing a single new song. What kickstarted the process was being able to play a few shows as a duo the way that we had back when we were playing in support of 'down to sleep.' Without three other people to consider we could play as loudly as we wanted to again. As a bonus we were able to explore our more spontaneous side more fully like we had in those days. I'd never thought it had that much value, being able to go off on a musical tangent without warning, but when we started practicing for those shows it became apparent very quickly what we'd been missing since. Since it'd been so difficult to get everyone together and keep them all focused towards the end and having so many things to consider when picking out the songs to play the release of all of that external stress was a nice reminder of how much we enjoy what we do. It's a shame that bands get so bogged down with so much external nonsense that seems so important and can't be overcome- I'd always thought that was kind of a cop-out, but now that I've lived through it it's not as easy to ignore.

By the time we had our third show booked for April of last year half of our set was made up of entirely new songs and as I worked on them more and more came. The recordings were done quickly and were incredibly enjoyable- there wasn't a moment of stress present in the creation of these songs. I was able to figure out new approaches to my recording style and I was able to pull things off that I'd never thought possible. Suddenly the record was done. Even the mixing was brief, which normally is the longest part of the process. The immediacy burned and I wanted to get these tracks mastered as soon as possible, but since we're working on paying down our back taxes there simply isn't extra money to spend on mastering, even at the low rate we've had at Magneto Mastering for years. I started messing around with the tracks in Adobe Audition and figured out something that achieved what I was after. I'd meant to sit on these mastered versions for a while longer, but one day I was out and about listening to it on my iPod and comparing it to records that had a similar sound that I was after and I realized that the record was done. Almost completely by accident. Since the overarching goal is to one day press it to vinyl and since I would have to pay for that to be done professionally it seemed natural to try it myself for the digital release, since it won't be coming out in any other digital form (except for some CDr promos). Plus the idea of playing these songs live for a year (possibly two) without being able to point people in their direction seemed so out-of-sync with the spirit of the whole thing. Plus there are other releases waiting in the wings and it's getting to the point where I need to start cranking this stuff out so I can move on from some of it (I have a double record that I've been working on since 2006- I'd like to get that monkey off my back). Plus, we'll have to figure out where we're going next, because for the first time ever I have no idea. Since this record came together without any planning it seems that not knowing where we're going is something to be excited about.

Monday, November 4, 2013

review: my bloody valentine at the aragon ballroom 11.3.13

Despite a few technical hiccups and the miserably awful sound at the Aragon Ballroom my bloody valentine turned in an absolutely blinding performance last night. How many bands get to kick off a magical evening with a song as beautiful and amazing as ‘Sometimes’ off of an album as unique as ‘Loveless’? I was at the band’s last appearance at the Aragon in 2008 and while that previous appearance had better sound (relatively speaking), last night featured a better mix and a more assured, solid performance. The band has been touring non-stop since before the release of their third album (and the crown jewel new release of the year as far as I’m concerned) ‘m b v’ and it definitely shows. During their previous stop I was delighted to hear ‘Come in Alone’ off of ‘Loveless’ as it had been a rarity live up until that tour, but it was bogged down and sluggish and rife with technical issues. Tonight when they played it the song flowed beautifully and bounced with an energy it lacks on record. ‘Sometimes’ was a song I’d been secretly hoping to hear, but wasn’t counting on so as not be disappointed. When they opened with it I took it as a sign that it was alright to expect the evening to be magical.

A few other key differences—the band have recruited a fifth member to flesh out their new songs live by filling in on an extra guitar, keyboards and some backing vocals. Also, the mix was much richer and more diverse. The emphasis was still on volume (I wore the earplugs and my ears are still ringing a bit) but Shields’ guitar was not the dominant ingredient in the mix like it was last time—for one I could hear Bilinda Butcher’s guitar playing without having to strain at all. Then there’s the obvious—the four new songs in the set, which sounded spectacular and were probably the strongest-sounding gems of the night. ‘New you’ sounded clear and taut and featured bassist Debbie Googe on backing vocals replicating Butcher’s overdubbed maze of cooing on the album version. ‘Only tomorrow’ could’ve gone on forever as far as I was concerned—the three-guitar attack that closed it out was breathtaking. Then there was ‘wonder 2’—which was dynamic, complex and impressive to watch anyone pull off successfully in a live environment. How all five of them played interlocked guitars along to its clipped rhythm and flanged jungle beat was beyond me. The song seems to have a billion chords that change almost at random. They also played a fierce version of ‘Tremolo’ EP highlight ‘Honey Power’ where the fullness of the mix really came to life—those three overlapped guitars during the intro and the breaks were perfect.

While there was a lot repeated from their previous outing none of the songs sounded tired or uninspired. Highlights from the older stuff for me were ‘Cigarette in Your Bed,’ ‘Only Shallow,’ ‘Soon,’ and ‘To Here Knows When’ all sounding more invigorated than they had in 2008. ‘I Only Said,’ ‘You Never Should’ and ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ were the only casualties of the impenetrable wading pool of bassy mush. Then, of course, there was ‘You Made me Realise’ and it’s ‘holocaust section.’ Somehow, no matter how obligatory or expected it is it never fails to deliver as the overwhelming sensory-deprivation experience it is always hyped to be—truly beautiful. During the show I kept pushing my earplugs all the way into my ears as I would get a brief glimpse of how truly loud it was in the room while they expanded back into place. Every atom of air surrounding me quaked like a million tuning forks during the impenetrable wall of noise. It was amazing. I closed my eyes and let the whole thing push me back and forth as it saw fit. Complete surrender. When they broke back into the song it sounded like a soft whisper in contrast. It was a bit truncated at only 12 minutes, which is as good a note as any to end on—how many bands do you hear any such sentence applied to them?