"Don't be a dink, click on this link"

Thursday, July 17, 2014

WWW of Spin Turlock #42: We Spin Your Mail!

People keep sending me music stuff in the mail. I admit, it’s kind of groovy getting a package delivered to the Middle of Nowhere here. It’s especially far out getting stuff from people you thought had fallen off the face of the earth.

 Iconoclast has spent the last 25 years or so consistently falling between the genre cracks of Western Music. Neither fish nor fowl, they do their own thing on a consistent basis. That enough people get what they do is a small miracle in itself. You can pick out bits of jazz, orchestral bits from the past three centuries, speed metal, kitsch exploitation soundtrack music, and all sorts of stuff in their musical make-up if you’re clever. Mainly though, they do inner film music: the sort of private soundtrack your head plays back to you when faced with certain adrenaline-charged situations – pro AND con - in life.

Don’t believe me? Read the titles of Naked Rapture, the group’s tenth – and latest recording: How Fast Is Evil?, Fragile Summer, No Time to feel Good, The Ruin of the Pure. Don’t deny it, I saw you in my mind’s eye, you were at those movies, wearing a trenchcoat. So was I…

The group works in a foreshortened duo format. Julie Joslyn plays saxophone, percussive violin, percussive percussion, and horror-inflected vocals. Sometimes she uses live electronics to doctor the results. Sometimes she just lets go pure, naked sound.

Leo Ciesa is the other half of the act. Imagine a hard-hitting, free-flowing “free jazz” drummer, unconstrained by the niceties of key and chorus structure. Then imagine said musico going all out PUNK on you. Rashied Ali, as raised by speedmetal wolves. He sings rubby chorus pieces occasionally and effectively, too: far more convincingly than Tom Waits ever did (does?). He also tinkles the keys when the occasion calls for it. This speaks well of him.

Both of them write their own material.

I first saw them in November of  1990 in a loft on the now-trendy James Street North strip. Hamilton Artist Inc. put on the show for all 15 of us gathered, and I was suitably impressed. They were a smart drink before the term existed and they had physical oomph, which set them apart  from the majority of the loft generation.
Naked Rapture is the name of their new recording, their tenth in more than 25 years. It has all those titles I mentioned before, plus 18 other big and small (the duo has a way with short - one minute and under - pieces) Iconoclast hits, plus their renditions of Night in Tunisia and The Revolutionary Etude. Neither Dizzy Gillespie or Chopin could be reached for comment, but I feel safe in saying the authors never imagined their work done up like that. Get it here

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

WWW of Spin Turlock #41: More Kendra Steiner/ The Programmatic Genius of Bill Shute

I always enjoy getting stuff from Kendra Steiner Editions. Small press, stapled chapbooks of poetry. Numbered edition CDRs of stuff with "no commercial potential". Mix tape CDRs culled from digitized flea market vinyl finds .

The last bunch I received was no exception. We start with the red herring first: "Polymorphous Urban poems for Lou Reed". I like the writing styles of ALL the participants involved (inc. the publisher Bill Shute) but I think's the idea of Lou Reed celebrated here, rather than any specific thing Reed did per se. Meaning: don't buy a Reed/Metallica collaboration based on this, or any other, tome.

A more enjoyable work is Someplace on Anywhere Road , which ostensibly starts out w/Texas references, but , as the title states, ends up in anywhere. Which is a good place. Shute has a personable style, a tough thing to pull off when metaphysics is a major element in your work. If I had to recommend a starting point for novices, "Anywhere" is as good as it gets.

KSE also does music/poetry sound collaborations.#271 features Shute teaming up with Hamilton, ON.'s second or third greatest musical export, Fossils. The results are awesome, if not exactly easy listening fodder. Fossils has a knack for finding the correct amounts of skronk and whirrrrrr, and "plays well with others", as they used to say in our Kindergarten report cards. These things are music -related , but sound artists (hello, Victoria Fenner!) should find these sets interesting, too.

Finally, if you throw in a few extra books, maybe Bill will share some of those mix tape Thrift Store CDRS. Sample titles include: "One Sided Cumulous Cakeshop Kittens" , which included a Jowe Head re-work of Swell Maps "Cake Shop Girls" ...and I was just listening to the Swell ones,  "Jane From Occupied Europe"!.
 I haven't listened to the Massimo set yet, but I assume it's good. The link at the top of this article will take you there.

Shirley graduated from University . She is now Shirley B. Comm. I am still hawking TVs and hi-fis. Life is good in Northern Alberta. Thanks for asking.

Friday, May 2, 2014

WWW of Spin Turlock #40 : Read any books lately?

Gods Of the Hammer: The Teenage Head Story
Geoff Pevere
Coach House Press

My past keeps coming back to haunt me: you can take the guy out of the Hammer - Hamilton, ON. - but you can't take the Hammer out of the guy. Not without forceps, anyway...

Case in point: this wee book (136 pages) which landed in my distant outpost, tells the story of Hamilton's most notorious musical export to date. . Teenage Head was the most successful band to come out of the Toronto punk milieu of the late '70s, possibly because a) they were from Hamilton and b) there was more to it than "punk" per se. The Head mixed rockabilly, punk, garage-rock and pop sensibilities in a way that has never been successfully replicated. Moreover, they evangelized their efforts by touring across the country repeatedly over a period of 30+ years, until the death of lead singer, Francis Hannah Kerr, aka Frankie Venom, on Oct. 15th, 2008. With the addition of new singer, Pete MacAuley, they may very well continue for another 30 years.

The book is written from the vantage point of a fan, and objectivity be damned, Think of the book as a very big fanzine, comparable in heft to an old print issue of Next Big Thing. Which is not to say it's lacking in analysis: there is a very good breakdown of the Head process. Pevere, who is best known for his writing in The Globe & Mail, concentrates mainly on the Glory Years (roughly, 1977 to 1982). He does, however, articulate how, - in the band's infancy - the combination of the individual members musical and social backgrounds merged into one collective Head.  An advantage Hamilton, ON. had at that particular point in time was that it was NOT a major media centre: you could woodshed and hone your craft before getting distracted by Image and the neighbours. By the time the Head hit Toronto, it had the extra edge of said experience. These days, I don't think that would be possible: you would have to hail from, oh say, Grande Prairie, Alberta, to produce a similar sitch.

Conversely, Pevere does a good , if cursory, job of how and why the Head unraveled, and re-raveled (is that a word? It is now..) in the 1980's. You get an insider's take on the management woes, the car accident in 1980 that put the brakes on the band's momentum, and the internal dynamics that saw the band split into competing organisms and then recombine at the end of the 1980's, like some chemistry project gone awry. You also get a front-row seat to the group's most infamous performance: the June 2nd , 1980 Ontario Place show, which made front page news in Canadian newspapers when the fans who got turned away from the show started overturning cop cars and such.

Pevere gets points for giving the Head's long-suffering original manager, Paul "Kash" Kobak, his due in print. Points are deducted, however, for leaving out a mention of Brian Baird aka "Slash Booze" the band's "Inspiration”; name-checked on virtually every Teenage Head LP sleeve. Where does Slash fit in the book? Come in Ralph Alfonso Pg. 59: "Whoever was feeding Teenage Head...their choice of covers was brilliant;" That would be Slash...a paragraph or two would have sufficed.
Had it been my tome, I would've added an entire chapter about the gallery of misfits, colourful characters, and technicolourful hanger-ons surrounding the Head. Their lighting tech, Stewart Pollock, for example, runs a well-known Toronto art gallery now. Rob Sikora of Volume should've been in there: he did the original, hand-crafted picture sleeves for the Picture My Face 45 and has a whack of great photos from those early days. And yes, Virginia, there really was (and still is? she was last spotted in Caledonia, ON...) a "Lucy Potato".

I can't complain too much, though: it's a decent enough tome, and worthy of a few bucks.

The e-Mail Diaries: Letters From Hell
By “D” & “P”
Smashwords Press

The electronic age has brought us many mixed blessings. E-Publishing, for instance. The good news is anyone can now write and publish a book. The bad news is anyone can now write and publish a book. This e-book is a testimony to that two-edged sword of truth.
This is a longer book than the first book reviewed. Technically, it is 256 pages, but a few of those are pages with pictures and those epigrammatic pages ,you know,  like one paragraph for the whole page.
It reads like a barfly’s feckless rambling, unedited, unfettered correspondence to his buddy back home: a dive bar raconteur recalling his low-life exploits in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Mainland China. Brothels, bars, STDs, tropical diseases, Immigration woes, and gold-hued fecal matter play major roles here. Suffice to say, it's not for the squeamish.
. The ultimate objective here…who knows? For $1.68 – that’s less than a half-pint of suds in a Canuck dive bar – you get to share the authors advanced state of degeneracy and possible brain rot.

( P.S. I can’t find locate it anymore on the Smashwords site)

An aside: is NOT what you think it is....
Next issue: we review more good, good offerings from Bill Shute and Kendra Steiner Editions