Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Fond of Tigers with Mats Gustafsson Thursday at the Biltmore
You may have read my brief interview with Stephen Lyons of Fond of Tigers in The Skinny, and/or Mats Gustafsson's little sidebar about his enthusiasm for vinyl. The Fond of Tigers/ Mats gig is on Thursday at the Biltmore, with the Secret Mommy Quartet opening; it's highly recommended. I've seen Mats in combination with a few different people, both from Vancouver and elsewhere. I greatly enjoyed his show with Robots On Fire a couple of years ago at the Cobalt, for one (pictured below); but I have often found him such a powerhouse as to steal the show a little bit. (I mean, he even gave Italian thrash jazz monsters Zu a run for their money).Though it was fun to see him squaring off, as the leader of Team Sweden, against at least one member of Fond of Tigers - the always interesting Jesse Zubot - during the hockey game on Sunday, and though I was secretly kinda (truth be known) pleased that Sweden ultimately won (since they actually produced more cohesive and attention-grabbing music and appeared more attentive to their team leader's conducting - tho' it was Mats skill with toy hockey games that proved decisive), I really want Mats to go away impressed with our scene, and have tried, during my dealings with him, to turn him on to all sorts of cool local music, from Al Neil to Slow. (So far he seemed most impressed with the New Creation!). Fond of Tigers definitely have it in them to kick ass live, but I wonder how "the beast" (as Stephen Lyons refers to him in that interview, above) will fit with their ambitious, but very varied and sometimes quite delicate music...? To wit, maybe they won't be so fond of tigers after actually playing with one? After the relative theatre/comedy of the improv power play event, with rowdy audience members booing every penalty against team Canada as called by ref Fred Lonberg-Holm and chortling when Swedes got penalties - this is where the real hockey game begins, for me...
Before he arrived last week, I asked Mats to comment on his experiences in the city via email. He replied that the "food is great and even fantastic," and that the "vinyl shopping is top class!" (He's a big fan of Dandelion Records, especially, though Femke, Dave and I also dragged him to Zulu, Neptoon, and Audiopile when showing him around the city, and I hooked him up in one way or another with Scratch, Noize To Go, and Otis Music; we have yet to get him to Red Cat, however, which he really should see). "Seriously," he continues, "Vancouver is a town I freakin' love coming back to. Means a huge bunch to me....after my first visit in '94, it has always been rockin! And the younger noise/improv scene is really interesting and alive!"
Mats with Robots on Fire at the Cobalt, photo by Femke van Delft; not to be used without permission
While talking with Fond of Tigers founder/guitarist Lyons, I happened to ask him, as a point of curiousity, about the quasi-Christian-themed covers of their first two CDs, the art for which he designed. A Thing to Live With features a female angel smoking three cigarettes, held by a man’s hand. Release The Saviours includes a preacher, pilgrims, and fish, and, inside, another angel brandishing a handgun (again, with male appendages to aid her). “It’s funny," he answered. "You know, you’re the only person, out of all the interviews I’ve ever done, to zone in on that. Which I'm quite surprised by, because you put out an album called Release The Saviours," with a cover such as it is, "and you'd figure someone would ask. But nobody said a peep. I don’t know what you have to do. Maybe if there was some picture of anal rape with a crucifix - it has to be like that, it has to be blood and gore - somebody would go, ‘hey, you seem to have something going on here,’” he laughs. “When we put out Release The Saviours, I was starting to prepare - people are going to ask about these things. And that was awhile back, and nobody said anything. It’s like I’ve been cramming for a biology quiz and I walk in and am told the quiz is off and we’re just going to watch a movie. ‘Oh, okay.’ And then three years later, I go to order a sandwich, and someone’s like - ‘here’s that biology quiz.’ I’m no longer prepared for this question!"
While he never did answer that particular question, then - and I'm more than happy, having called attention to these matters, to leave the actual explanation up to the reader's imagination - Stephen did relate a story pertaining to the possible effects of his dabbling in religious iconography. "It was funny: we were coming back from a show in Kelowna. We have to have two vans, so there's four of us in one and three in the other, and as we're driving, everything is clicking. We're understanding the links between the iconography, some of the song titles, some of our thoughts about the role of religion in society, and we're starting to have" - he pauses - "multiple epiphanies" (And here I must note that I rather like his choice of words, since it seems to riff off the idea of the multiple orgasm. I wonder if one can have epiphanies that squirt?). " And then the cell phone rings and the other van has broken down - it's on the side of the road, it's steaming, it's on fire. And then we haven't spoken of it since. Maybe that was a light smoting," Lyons chuckles.
What are we releasing the saviours from?, I replied. "I guess there's the sort of double meaning of releasing them from their obligations as particular leaders of different ideals and faiths," Lyons tells me. "Like saying, 'y'know what, you've had a good run, but we're going to do a little restructuring, here. Thanks for all your work, saviour; you've run a good faith, but we have to let you go. We're going to try a different approach for awhile'... But then there's also the more violent notion of 'release the saviours,' like 'release the hounds,' with the saviours setting upon the world and kind of destroying it. It exists on both those levels, for me."
Lyons had a whole lot more to say about his band and their music, but duties elsewhere call me from my blog; perhaps the opportunity will arise to sneak in a few more quotes at a later date (someone really does need to make Lyons' fondness for Kenny Rogers public). Meantime, if you're interested in an ambitious, unusual Vancouver avant-jazz band - one that combines elements of driving post-rock, American minimalism, abstracted ethereal space-solos, raunchy skronk, and (early) Mahavishnu Orchestra-like tension/release workouts, this will likely prove to be a show worth your while.
Fond of Tigers at 1067, photo by Femke van Delft, not to be used without permission
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Error! Error! The Hockey Game is Tonight!
Also: Joelle Leandre is playing Performance Works, not the Performance Centre. Sorry - without a printed jazzfest program, I appear to be a bit lost.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
In which we belatedly recognize the ongoing jazz festival
NOTE: THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THIS PIECE WAS FULL OF ERRORS. I have corrected it, including those that apply to events already finished, for vanity's sake alone.
Beyond that, folks, you're on your own!
Cure is a must-see. Drop everything and go tonight.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A brief pause while we recalibrate
By the way, I have nothing to say about the deaths of Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett... but did you realize that Sky Saxon, former Seeds singer and Source Family member (connected to Yahowha 13) died on the same day? Just for the record.
Read my movie review below!
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata and Cure
I'd admired the craft of The Guard from Underground (1992), a stylishly shot, restrained, and atmospheric Japanese "office slasher" film that happened to be the first of his films I stumbled across, but I found the story so drearily by-the-book as to wonder why the horror community was making such a big deal about him.
I was utterly stunned by the next film I saw by him, however, which demonstrated his abilities in spades: Kairo (2001), also known as Pulse, is one of those Japanese horror films that has served as the basis for a Hollywood adaptation, but I assume the remake has nothing on the original. It starts as what seems a more-or-less conventional, but extremely creepy ghost story, revolving around a suicide, then gets increasingly surreal, philosophically-minded and ambitious, audaciously wandering away from its apparent initial genre story to become a meditation on loneliness, isolation and alienation - a condition which it connects with computer technology and life in cities, which are gradually shown to be deserted, as more and more people become mere virtual ghosts, unreal to each other and even to themselves. The film is quite insidious in making its point, and one feels so unsettled by it at times -- I even found myself literally shivering at certain images, and I'm a hardcore horror film fan from way back -- that it must be onto something. Though it's not perfect - there are moments when it is a little too overt in articulating its theme, and the transition from ghost story to philosophical apocalypse film has more than a few "what the fuck is he doing now?" moments - it's one of the most ambitious, most serious-minded, and most disturbing horror films I've seen from any country, and perhaps my favourite Japanese horror film (unless we call Battle Royale a horror film; I'm very fond of that movie, though it's a very different animal indeed from Kairo). (A more detailed review of the film can be read here).
Convinced I'd found proof that Kurosawa - Kiyoshi, not Akira; there's no relation - was a major figure in Japanese cinema, I rushed out to find the next film of his I could get my hands on; it turned out to be 2003's Doppleganger, an incoherent SF/comedy - I think - involving a scientist, his double, a woman, a robotic chair, and a roadtrip. My feeling at the time was that it was an empty mess of a film of no interest to any serious cinephile; I have no desire to revisit it to elaborate further on that judgment. I didn't make it through 1999's Charisma, my next attempt to take on Kurosawa's cinema - another apocalyptic SF film, I'm told, revolving around a symbolically significant tree - but, though it wasn't to my taste, it seemed at least far richer in its ideas and more coherent than Doppleganger. (Presumably the fact that the tree has symbolic weight is why some dumbfuck mentioned on Wikipedia compares Kiyoshi Kurosawa to Tarkovsky, thinking, I guess, of The Sacrifice; this is by far the stupidest Tarkovsky comparison I've seen -- and there are some doozies out there. Kurosawa's films, while carefully lit and shot and often featuring very striking compositions, look like nothing so much as very good mainstream commercial Japanese cinema, tho' we gather he cites American cinema of the 1970's as an influence). I resolved to hold back on exploring the rest of Kurosawa's films unless I had some assurance, on a film-by-film basis, that they were worth watching.
Good news for me, then (and for y'all, too): I've been told that of his horror films, 1997's Cure, like Kairo, is one to see, and there will be 11PM screenings of that film at the Vancity on Friday and Saturday, and one at 8:45 PM Saturday. The program guide, City Reels, says the subtext of the film is the Aum Shinrikyo nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subways, and given that - and the fact that, like Kairo, it's one of the films his reputation among horror buffs is founded on - it's likely to be a very interesting film indeed (and wow, the Vancity scored a 35mm print for us to see - for a mere three screenings! There's some generosity of spirit at hand here). It's kind of odd that it's likened in City Reels to both Seven and The X-Files - reference points I find rather dissimilar; I wonder how it yokes them together? (This review, with a few spoilers, appears to suggest the answer, but I don't want to read it too carefully).
Thursday, June 18, 2009
David M., The Nervous Fellas, Kafka
Not to be used without permission
Hey, that poster is wrong! It still reads The Ukrainian Hall! No, folks - it really is at The Rickshaw, trust me!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
A Gig I Wish I Could Go To
Drinking Cold Water On A Hot Day
I got to thinkin'... some time ago, I knew a Native American "spiritual teacher." (I don't want to call him a "medicine man" because I don't know if I'd be using the term correctly, frankly. He was a pipe-carrier and described himself as heyoka). He claimed that drinking cold water on a hot day actually affected the body temperature such that it had the ultimate effect of making you hotter. To help you feel cooler, he said, you should drink hot water on a hot day. (I'm pretty sure I've encountered this in popular culture somewhere, as well, though I forget).
Unwinding at home, I find this thread on the internet answering the question from a western medical point of view:
I am personally drinking cold water in today's heat, but for some time, I tried to take his advice. I begin to suspect he was wrong, as the reply to the above thread suggests.
I'd be curious if anyone else has encountered this notion.
Death Race 2000
Arthouse and repertory cinemas in town really should be considering running a David Carradine double bill, of this and Circle of Iron.
A signed copy of Dog Soldiers
Stone has inscribed it with a passage from the novel (don't try to read his handwriting:)
"In the end if the serious man is still bound to illusion, he selects the worthiest illusion and takes a stand."
Well, if I wanted to own a valuable book, that'd be the one...
Monday, June 08, 2009
Rockets Redglare, plus the Nancy Spungen murder revisited
Punks out there might have encountered Rockets Redglare's name in another context, mind you.
While I am all for justice being done, I really don't care that much about Sid and Nancy, frankly - "punk rock for the tabloids" - but it was interesting to think about Rockets Redglare tonight. Among other things, he really makes me want to lose weight. I suspect some of my readers would find their own value in this DVD, if they sought it out. Make sure to check out the Sundance Q&A with the director and Steve Buscemi in the extras; there are some fun stories therein.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
...And then, David Carradine
This does not immediately suggest a case of autoerotic asphyxia; men usually do not masturbate with their hands tied, be it above their head or behind their backs (both scenarios have been reported). If Carradine was into shibari or had some sort of extreme attraction to edgeplay, maybe it would be conceivable, but... that's a pretty significant level of kinkiness we're talking about. In fact, an ex-wife has come forward with stories that may support such theories. Meanwhile, Thai newspapers are catering to the desire to gawk by running pictures of his body. (The newspaper in question has a site, here, but I have yet to find a picture on it).
Perhaps even worse than the desire to gawk: there is a strong tendency to tease in such circumstances, even in the face of death - a very interesting article by Matt Mills, reprinted in the current Xtra West, about teasing, prudery, and sex (actually focusing more on the criminalization of relatively harmless sexual activity, but it's still apropos).
I really do want to know what happened. I hope there is a thorough investigation. I half-suspect that someone may have been involved in the transaction - it may still prove an accidental death, but there was talk of a mysterious footprint, at one point. (And now, I discover, rumours of secret kung fu societies that the actor was investigating. Seems like image-spin to me...).