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Sunday, January 29, 2012

WWW of Spin Turlock #33.3 Spin Picks the Hits!

Our guest columnist for this issue is well-known layabout, Spin Turlock. A raconteur, bon vivant, a Man of The World, if you will, Spin is perhaps best known for writing the insightful essay that graces the CD sleeve of Ted Hawkins, “Music For 2:47 A.M". (an excellent collection, by the way, of jay-uzz n' blooze interpretations, available whenever Ted plays out in public). He's also been linked to the Canadian micro-indie recording act, The Kewpies, but he has never publicly admitted this.
"That would be tantamount to admitting you wallow in your own vomit," quips the Spin-ster, and really, who could blame him?

The rest of the column is his story...

Reviews

People like reviews, because they are essentially opinions, which form the basis of a good argument. They can be educated, heartfelt, stirring or - more often than not - rewritten press releases passing for news copy, but they are still opinions. No more and no less.
My drinking buddy Glen Nott, a sport section writher and lay-out jockey @ The Hamilton Speculator, used to tell me: "make 'em mad, sad, or glad, kid." He told me this years ago, when I was a freelance advertorial writer there, writing descriptive copy for ladies undergarment ads. That was before the lightbulb turned on, and I realized a) there was more money to be made out in Beaverlodge, Alberta and b) "kid???!!"...he's younger than me fer chrissakes!
I digress..


We're going to review Don Pyle's "Trouble In The Camera Club" It's a book, a physical book, one with 297 printed pages that came into my possession. I don't know how that translates to Kindle-bytes, but hopefully people of all ages can appreciate the time I took to read this coffee-table sized tome.

If you're thinking of doing something similar in the future, may I offer some advice? First of all, pick a title with lots of pictures. It helps buffer all that print, which can get claustrophobic. As the title implies, there are many photos to be had here. Second of all, pick a topic that people have an interest in, but very little actual first-hand experience with. The Toronto punk scene of 77/78 qualifies for that in spades. The number of that scene's participants could fit quite comfortably into a modest Latvian social Club- and only then if you counted the imports from Hamilton/London/et al.
Thing is, there's a rose-coloured mystique about that era and milieu – ‘scuse my French - that young people seem to enjoy reading - and writing - about.

Look at Liz Worth, for example. A seemingly bright, young person who has made a name for herself writing about the long-ago and far away exploits of middle-aged folk with saggy butts and expanding waistlines.
Thing is, she correctly sensed “Punk” was the source, the ground Zero of her generation's current DIY MO. It started there, and others built on it, albeit to the point where the current edifice bears little resemblance to the original foundation. That’s the way it goes

Pyle - who I think I may have met once or twice on the carny circuit - goes further with this book, though. He is perhaps best known as the drummist of the Toranna instrumental trio, Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. As it turns out, he was also one of those few people who both actively participated AND documented his activities with sometimes grainy, sometimes blurred, but always accurate photographs of such Punk rock pioneers as the Ramones, Iggy Pop, The Viletones & Teenage Head.

The photos do the talking here, the first-person commentary provides the context, and there are some good stories told here. To use an example: if one ever wanted to know how punk rock "works" in a media vacuum, read how Freddie Pompeii of the Viletones initiated the sequence of events that led to the formation of Crash Kills Five which begat the Shadowy guys, and so on and so on and they told two friends. There's also personal slant offered up here: tales of cheap vinyl finds & hard contact lens use, both of which I can, like, relate to.
Full disclosure: Pyle is my age, separated by only one year. Whereas he was able to public transit it to gigs in Toranna, I could only wing it in Wingham some 200 klics away, or read about the thing second hand in the pages of the Toronto Star.( And lemme tell you, you got looks when you bought Ramones or Sex Pistols vinyl in a small-town furniture store "back in the day"...)
I'm digressing again.
The point I'm making here is the combo of words and pictures in the book brings it all home, even to young people. With any luck, they should walk away with a tangible sense of what those old farts actually accomplished & experienced before they started sagging - and staggering - toward Sheol.

Fug me, this is depressing. Let’s talk about living. I got this cassette tape (the cheap-o medium of the 20th century – ask your parents) in the mail from a Brantford, ON. outfit called Plant Magic, the bandonym of one Katie Iarocci.
She sings and plays an assortment of instruments seemingly selected, I swear, by the Ghost of Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones. We have harpsichords, sitars, and other period effects galore here (although I don’t think Jones ever got around to jamming on the bul bul taraang), that period being roughly defined as somewhere between the buttons of Baroque Stones and early progressive rock. That kind of thinking eventually led to the stylistic impasse the people described in Pyle’s book worked against, but here, in its most guile-less flowering, it works as an out-of-time, almost otherworldly, artefact. Part of the levitation effect comes from the neo-communal bliss invoked in the songs and part of it comes from the tea-cozy, homemade sound quality of the recordings.
And speaking of tea cozies, a word about the cassette packaging. The recording comes in a wee flour sack, much like the copy of King Biscuit Boy’s “Good Uns” LP. Since I don’t currently own a cassette playback machine, I resorted to downloading the MP3s. I guess I’m just a modern guy..
Plant Magic share a split release with Eiyn Sof, the bandonym of Melissa Boraski. ES has its own strange quirk-ness and charm: low-tech pop/rock with lyrics about The Big Hurt. Enjoyable, but I prefer the Magic side. Perhaps the suggestion of that great escape to the commune in Paris…Ontario is what’s working here. It’s just my opinion, man, but I would buy it. Straight from the source..

Well, that’s more than 1000 words, not counting the overlong intro by the editor, who owes me a bottle of Forty Creek’s finest.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

WWW of Spin Turlock #32: A Few Words about Miss Christine Leakey's Modern Folk Exotica

See, I received a CD copy of Christine Leakey's new collection of songs, "Tapping Trees in A Trinket Box of Treasures".
And it's rare for me these days to receive anything in the mail. When I moved to Alberta two years ago, I deliberately cut myself off of mailing lists, social media lists, gig boards, i.e any ties to my former life. Which is not to say I stopped listening to music..I just stopped being part of the process.
Back in the day, the early 90's to be exact, I knew Ms Leakey from her garage-rock group, The Double Feature Creatures. I covered their antics in the pages of the Hamilton Spectator. During the final broadcast seasons of my radio show at CFMU-FM, she was a semi-regular on my show, I heard early versions of some of the tracks.

Nothing prepared me for this, though. Musically, this is a long way from garage, rock, or any current pop sound out there. There's a number of source thread materials running through here, all of which sound based somewhere between the West Coast, The Thousand Islands, & Aldebaran.

Mainly,though, I hear essentialist folk music, the kind of which is rarely programmed at folk festivals these days. (Which also neatly explains why I avoid said festivals.) More's the pity, because I also hear lounge, real &  faux ethnic musics, torch & just a touch of hippie, the latter in it's most idealistic, pleasant, and panty-less guise. I call it modern day exotica, a fleshier version of what such retro-essentialists as The Shangs do.

The choice of instrumentation re-inforces my genre tag: an authentic Chamberlin proto-synth turns up on a regular basis, as do the kalimba, & the kanun, & - note to Byron Coley - a lot of Bansuri flute bandied about here.At some point, I must give a shout out to the jay-uzz inflected drumming & exotique percussion work of the Great Bob Scott, who helps the songs scoot along quite nicely.


Track by track, it breaks down like this:

The Marching Song is exactly that: film music for an off-beat march of pink elephants. The instrumentation here is tape loop derived.

Lovely
follows, and it is the best, most fully realized track on the CD. Leakey's voice runs through several octaves to great effect: from deep, throaty swells to high-end skylark trills. The song structure has the most development of anything on the disc, with a descending bridge pattern to offset the folk-cha verses. Harp string,alto sax and other non-rote samples are swirled about, and everybody goes home with flowers in their hair. Very nice. Is it ok to reference Minnie Ripperton AND Don Glen Vliet in the same song review? Sure.

Here I Stand is a modern torch ballad, with a simpler structure designed to hypnotize prospective listeners into her lair. Again, non-rote instrumentation and Leakey's alternately breathy and deep vocals give it the feel of something you'd find played at the Bachelor Den At The End of the Universe. or maybe in the unreleased soundtracks of David Lynch's sole stab at TV, Twin Peaks.

Be You is a folk derived meditative piece. Like a lot of Leakey's pieces. it's a template for her own brand of musical impressionism. The few, simple structural strokes, are frames to showcase the breathing arrangements and textures.

Tipsy is another of those miniature instrumentals, resplendent with the kind of sound collages suggested by the title.

The Man With The Golden Heart is a folk lament/celebration of Leakey's late uncle, John. Simple, direct, and completely unaffected.

Miss Betty Grable is a hypno-folk drone, kind of like the Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties, but with a torch delivery. The lyrics suggest a crime story: Colonel Mustard, in the drawing room, with a lead pipe. Dave Byers would get jealous if he heard this!

Shine My Tarnished Sheen sounds dreamy, wildly romantic and has unusual chord voicings. You would have to be a Nathaniel, someone with absolutely no guile to sing lines like "the Sun shines within my heart, so let me dance upon the meadow floor", and get away with it.

Lullabies & Apple Pies has some interesting twists and turns in the structure & makes the vital connection between food and romance. I like the way Leakey goes "mmmmmmm". One of my fave tracks on the disc

The Day My Flower Died sounds as it's spelled , with the help of a vintage Arp2600 synth. They really DON'T write things like this anymore
.
Tap Dancers & Gloom Chime are the two tracks on the disc that didn't do anything for me, possibly because the structures just weren't substantial enough to support the impressionist impulses behind them...even with Great Bob Scott hoofing it on the former! The one Francophone cover that follows it on the disc, Quand Tu Dors, however is essential. Claudine Longet need never perform again: there's no need for her anymore. Trinket, another winsome instrumental, rounds out the CD.

Overall, it's pretty good . I'd give it 3 stars *** and points for attractive and thoughtful packaging. The alluring illustration below has the contact deets:



I had a rare weekend off , and spent it w/Shirley. We watched - and enjoyed - such recent Hollywood escapist film fare as Rise of the Planet of The Apes & Cowboys & Aliens. And speaking of old radio regulars: Kelly Grrl was in town & visited us in Grande Prairie.