Saturday, November 21, 2009
The past two years have easily been the best years of my life. I've made lots of very close friends, traveled lots of ground, and made large leaps artistically. The biggest part of my life for the past two years has easily been my musical project Omon Ra, formed with who would become my closest and best friend, Daniel Miller. I think that our friendship transcends into the recordings and the music and art we created is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. We moved through many styles from quiet psych-folk, to psych-punk blowouts, to free improvisations and drone worship; we both grew tremendously as people and as musicians.
But alas, for some reason I have moved to a different city. I needed to grow, I was feeling claustrophobic and frustrated within Halifax, the sleepy little coastal town, and I needed to leave. I miss it a lot, I think about going back, but I can't not now, maybe never, who knows. Me and Dan had hopes of keeping the band going, traveling to France in the new year. But due to financial circumstances, aka the difficulty of finding proper employment in Montreal, and the fact that our growing ideas needed to leave the abstract, we began playing and recording with different groups, all with mutual friends however. Dan teamed up with the members of the Ether and Friendly Dimension, to form his new group "OmmaCobba and The East Side Marijuana Band." And I teamed up with fellow east coast ex-pats Matthew Wilson and Chris D'eon, as well as my good friend Emily Robb, to form what I have called (in tribute to Krautrock band Amon Düül II), Omon Ra II. These new formations have yielded new musical directions and the old Omon Ra is no longer. For the mean time we will focus on our respective groups until sometime in the future, when perhaps, hopefully, me and Dan will collaborate again, and who knows how that project will take shape.
We would like to thank all the people that supported that group and hope you will continue to support our new endeavors, as they are both sonic continuations of the creative-embryo that was Omon Ra.
In celebration I have uploaded one of the two, last Omon Ra records we hoped to release, The Spirit of Jerry Garcia Playing the Rolling Stones. This record was recorded over fall to spring last year, it was our longest time spent recording an album. We acquired some new technology when recording and is easily our best sounding most ambitious record. Most of the songs are Daniel's and I would try to do my best to add some tasty licks, keyboard tricks, and harmonies to the wonderful pieces. My only contributions other than the collaborative tracks, were "Children of the Alien Avatar" and "Eurydice". There are many good moments to this record and we arranged it to really fit the flow the music; to help the listener get in the world of the record. This album gives a good idea of where Dan is taking his music with his new group. The art was kindly done by our friend Andrew McCgregor. One of our last shows was a freely improvised collaborative set with Gown, Andrew's project.
Album artwork by Andrew McCgregor aka Gown
Daniel jamming his new project. Photo by Jennica Lounsbury.
Speaking of his new group, Dan kindly sent me a song from their upcoming album, Faster Acid Sun, Burn Burn. There are a lot of bands doing the whole Spacemen 3, krautrock, homage thing right now, but this is easily one of the best I have heard. I have posted the epic title track, clocking in over 12 minutes, which features bass, drums, guitars, chants, clarinets, and saxes. The piece moves through Warlock-esq rock n' roll with Contortions approved horn squeaks and skonks over top, to spacey Cluster-like ambiance, to Boredoms friendly drum jams. This is some very promising music. I understand the record will be available soon with artwork from Ether front-man Luke Corrigan. They are also playing a couple of shows in Halifax back to back in early December, the first on 11th at the Khyber Club with Rich Aucoin, and the 13th at Reflections with the Friendly Dimension. Check out the track!
In the next couple days I will post some more Omon Ra material, please check back!
Here's the album.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Great blog! Ryan has some very interesting muses and points. A multifaceted musician and writer, Kirk creates music centered around mythology and is an avid drone-practitioner. Kirk can play many instruments including french horn, trumpet, guitar, and piano. He is a very interesting, thoughtful, and thorough writer of both prose and music. Please enjoy this wonderful essay he posted! Thanks for sharing Ryan!
"A game is an activity among two or more independent decision-makers seeking to achieve their objectives in some limiting context." (Clark C. Abt)
I have always been fascinated by games. Whether board, video, role-playing, abstract, or sport, games have always managed to suck me in and in many cases to distract me from other more pressing matters. I’ve been thinking about them quite a bit lately and so I’ve decided to share some of my experiences, observations, and ideas relating to games.
Games can be based around three different methods; skill, strategy, and chance. Although in practice most games somehow blend two or more of the above. Even a game as simple as dice, though it may appear to be all chance involves some kind of strategizing and decision-making. And games that appear on the surface level to be all about skill, like hockey or football actually involve a fair amount of strategy and large scale planning.
My own history interacting with games, and most likely yours, goes back to the earliest days of my childhood. Beginning with simple games like catch, musical chairs, and tag, children learn to interact with one another in specific social contexts. In a way games become social rituals for children that determine appropriate behaviours and modes of interaction and establish hierarchies and pecking orders. They also often encourage conditioning and development of the body and motor skills as well as encouraging a healthy psychological state by facilitating play and learning.
As well as those simple children’s games, I was also exposed to traditional boardgames in my home. We always played the staples, snakes and ladders, parchisi, checkers, and then when I was a bit older some of the more complicated ones like chess, Scrabble, and Risk. Risk was always my favourite. I was a typical kid and loved playing with army men and G.I. Joes and watching old war movies that would play on television during the day. So I guess the idea of controlling whole armies over continents and ultimately the world really appealed to me. I played all kinds of boardgames and cardgames throughout my childhood and they have a special place in my memories. But then videogames came onto the scene.
I got my first Gameboy for Christmas when I was six or seven. It came with Kirby and I was hooked from the start. From there I got a few other classics like Mario and Zelda and then a year or two later my brother and I got a Super Nintendo and a little colour TV to play it on for Christmas. Super Mario World consumed my childhood. I played it incessantly and even today I will once and awhile hook up the old Nintendo and it instantly takes me back to the countless hours I spent as a kid trying to reach %100.
From that point on videogames mostly dominated my gaming experiences. I tried my hand a few sports, but never really took to any of them, and unfortunately my obsession with videogames stopped my board gaming short. Which brings me to the downside of some forms of gaming, specifically videogaming. At certain points in my preteens and early teen years I became so obsessed with games that I would relegate school work, physical activity, and socializing just to get further ahead in the games. It wasn’t all bad, and some of my friends played videogames, so there were social times of playing together. Overall though I would say there were far more hours spent playing them alone in my room. There was also the frustration they posed. There would be points where instead of having fun I would get so angry I would throw the controller at the floor. Fortunately I grew out of that pretty fast. By the time I finished high school I was only playing videogames sporadically. I had found other activities that interested me more and used my time in more productive ways. I still don’t feel that videogames are bad, but they can become addictive in ways that I never experienced with social games or boardgames.
These days I’m pretty busy and don’t have much time for games. But when I do I tend to prefer boardgames and cardgames. I find that videogames are too time consuming. A boardgame can start and end in an hours time and it allows you to game in a social way. Whereas my experience with videogames tends to be that an hour just wets your appetite and that generally it’s more difficult to videogame socially. My favourite games these days are mostly strategy and abstract. Games like chess, checkers, backgammon, Risk, and Diplomacy. Diplomacy takes the interactive element of gaming to the extreme, I’ve only played it once but would love to try it again. I also enjoy a few cardgames; poker, cribbage, and crazy eights.
These days I also see elements of gaming and play in other activities I enjoy. One that rings especially true to me is music making. Although in many cases music exists as more than just a pastime or fun activity, it still involves elements that are shared by games. There are often multiple independent agents involved, and there is usually a common goal of some kind as well as a limiting context and the same elements of chance, strategy, and skill figure in. Take for example a symphony orchestra; the members are all working towards the goal of realizing the piece being performed, the conductor and performers use strategies to ensure a successful performance, the players need skill to actually perform the parts when they come up, and as far as chance, well things can always go wrong. It’s even plainer to see in improvisation.
Artists like John Zorn even explicitly compose game pieces. Where players can compete and there is a conductor who establishes rules and divides players into sub-ensembles or teams. In some cases there are even point systems. Free improvisation also incorporates a large component of game and play. Within the performances there can be room for competition and subversion. Music like John Cage’s Book of Changes draws explicitly on chance through the use of dice, a tool common to many games.
I find games interesting because they seem like such a natural human activity. Boardgames date from the earliest known civilizations in Mesopotamia, and in many cases are not that far off from contemporary games like chess. They’re a productive pastime that encourage socializing and stimulate your mind. Games can offer you an escape from the everyday world, yet in familiar and comfortable ways, either through simulating a situation or encouraging roleplaying. After all, who doesn’t want to conquer the world, especially when the leaders you’re competing with are all your best friends?
"Sleep Walk" has been draggin' around my head the last week. It's a beautiful instrumental ballad penned by the Italian-American brother duo of Santo and Johnny Farina. This track, reached number 1 on Billboard's Top 40 back in 1959. When was the last time an instrumental hit was a number one?
A bit about the brothers. The brothers came from Brooklyn and Santo was introduced into playing slide guitar from his father, who after being stationed in Oklahoma, heard the steel guitar and became entranced. He wanted his boys to learn this spooky-weepy instrument. Playing locally, the brothers played weddings, parties, and clubs, before they recorded a couple of demos and ended up signing a song writers contract with a publishing company. This led to them penning the track "Sleep Walk."
And what a dreamy track it is. Santo is an amazing slide guitar player, his slide guitar techniques are far ahead of any rock guitarist at the time. The haunting voice of the the steel guitar is in drenched reverb, with sparse-spacious accompaniments, allowing the beautiful melody to breath easily and gracefully. Santo is an incredibly tasteful player, using the full register of the steel guitar to create very textured weeps, giving the instrument a vocal, human like quality.
A pat on the back must go out to the producer and arranger of this record. The album has beautiful string arrangements that reference the likes of Ravel and Debussy. The dreamy-lethargic harmonies and rhythms of the impressionists, lends itself perfectly to the sounds of Santo. Highlights include, "Tenderly" and "Slave Girl," as well as the rendition of the Duke Ellington classic "Caravan." This whole record plays like a soundtrack, with the "Sleep Walk" theme coming in and out of songs. I wouldn't go as far to say this record is concept record, but the cohesiveness of it all is hard to ignore and is quite striking for a record from 1959; this whole record is like a dream and with the nostalgic sounds found, it is almost like stepping back in time, to a very familiar yet strange era, tapping into the depths of your subconscious. This music has a very strong visual affect!
I highly recommend this dreamy, fun, at times melancholy, record. Fans of kitsch, old American rock, the French impressionists, Hawaiian sounds, guitar heroes, and good music should not miss out on this classic!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Reposted from the WFMU blog
I've always coasted on symbolic ways of thinking, so I'll start with one such handy conceit: Mindless Corporate Technocracy vs. Punk Luddism, in which never the twain, being way past mutually-exclusive, shall meet. And yeah, while not necessarily the whole story, this cultural narrative, in which the scary technophiliac forces of the oppressor butt up against the raw spiritedness of a gnarly creative population, is, according to me, a fine one. It allows we brave folks on the side of the creators to, in short, keep going--creating, and facilitating creativity--for to falter in this battle is to let the monolithic Powers That Be take the advantage, and we surely can't let that happen.
But things change, yessir, and symbolic histories, invigorating though they may be, only get us so far. The FMA itself is, certainly, no tendril of a creeping corporate overlord, but it sure is technologically-oriented, and so fits nowhere in this one-or-the-other type of schema. Though its embrace of left-of-center human expression is quite in keeping with Ned Ludd, the largely mythical leader of the Industrial-Revolution-renouncing Luddites, smashing a bunch of stocking frames to protest society's increasing dehumanization, its technological basis flies in the face of that clan's organizing principle. So what's to be done?
Well, it just so happens a handy new narrative is cropping up, a natural outgrowth of the FMA's propensity for highlighting new sounds: we're getting a fine number of tape labels--those bastions of the underground through which small runs of cassettes by great bands are produced, sell out, and are never heard from again--to upload their wares, for technologically perpetuity, to the Free Music Archive. While analog and digital are not exactly Luddism and Technocracy, the leap being taken is still a pretty big one, and it's real exciting. Two particularly rad small-run labels from Montreal typify these new FMA additions: Campaign for Infinity, whose FMA page boasts releases by an ever-increasing host of great bands (among them Grand Trine and The Pink Noise, both subjects of past FMA blog posts), and Pasalymany Tapes, which kindly provides us with releases from such bands as the venerable AIDS Wolf. Yeah, we've a new frontier on our hands, one in which the relentlessly truth-seeking creative component of the cultural equation is finding expression through the powerful means of technology all without losing an iota of humanity, as proven by the beautiful song by The Friendly Dimension reproduced below. Indeed, mindless monoliths had better look out, for the game's dimensions have changed.
chris d'eon - artificial jurisprudence
fingers inc - another side
clarence g (drexciya) - data transfer
metro - brownstone express
wajd - civic planning
chris d'eon -
loose ends - hangin' on a string
chris d'eon - the girl from köln is gone
s.o.s. band - even when you sleep
chris & cosey - hazey daze
unknown - tashi laso, at the top of lucky valley (bhutanese)
cabaret voltaire - arm of the lord
cabaret voltaire - james brown
wajd - ashqabat
zed bias - been here before
dem 2 - destiny
indo - r u sleeping (bump & flex vocal mix)
a.c. marias - just talk
chris d'eon - mix nov 2009 by wajd
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Chris was interviewed by Troy Richter. I have had the pleasure of working with Troy over the last couple of years, writing, recording, and performing with him on multiple occasions. Mostly helping with his Friendly Dimension project. He has earned himself a cult like status most notably for being the front man to the now defunct, minimal punk band Gilbert Switzer, whose influence may not be fully realized until later, as you can hear their signature sound ripple through the young bands of the punk underground of Montreal and beyond. Currently Troy reads and watches lots of movies, favorites include Argento horror movies, and then philosophizes about them in his poetry, which as he puts it tries to "unite the personal with the universal." Troy did this interview on his own free will and offered to donate it to Avant-Lard. And we are very grateful he did!
Making music, definitely. performing is secondary to actually making the music. The creation is the most important part of the musical process to me, and performing is only one of many ways to distribute that music.
2. Is your music strictly traditional? Do you ever mix your influences together?
I totally mix them together, but usually not intentionally. Generally when I start making a tune I think "okay, i'm going to make a ____ tune", whatever the style or aesthetic may be, but once I start putting the pieces together, the pieces seem to have come from all kinds of places, and by the time it's finished, it doesn't sound anything like what I wanted to make. A lot of the time the music that I was exposed to as a child seeps in subconsciously into the tunes I make, and sometimes the stuff I've learned in the past comes in without my noticing. So I'll try and write a pop song, but it comes out sounding like Kurdish music. I'd also like to mention that I really, really hate world fusion music.
3. Your Myspace wallpaper is really pretty, what is it?
Thanks-- I think it's an arabesque design from a really old book on interior design?
4. What's your favorite science fiction movie and why?
To be honest I don't know very much about movies, so I can't really think of that many science fiction movies that I know and like to begin with, but I did read lots of Isaac Asimov as a kid. The Foundation trilogy is really great, and of course the Robot stories. I really like science fiction that asks moral questions that will be applicable in the future. Especially now that we're starting to make frightening leaps in scientific progress like controlling rats' and monkeys' minds with microchips, and making computers that learn by themselves, some of the ethical issues raised in old science fiction like that are actually going to be totally relevant.
5. What's the biggest difference between Montreal and Halifax?
I don't completely know yet as I've lived here less than a year, but one difference is that drivers don't stop for any pedestrians here. Motorists are awful here, and they're allowed to turn right on a red light, so every time I try to cross the street there are cars coming at me from my right and left.
6. What is your favorite memory from your trip to India last year?
I think the best decision I could have made was to move into the dip tse chok ling monastery. Every day for two months I woke up at 6am to the sound of monks reading sutras and guru pujas. The monastery is on the side of a mountain in the himalayan foothills so every morning I could look over the valley while the sun came up over the himalayas, and watch the monkeys run around the trees below. I think I needed that Isolation from the world for a while. A few months of peace and quiet in a far away place can really shake off any unwelcome djinn.
Chris D'eon somewhere in India.
Cute photo of Troy I cropped from a picture from facebook. I believe it's China O'brien's.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Check out Dan's new digs with some good friends of mine, Denis Kirens from Fascism, Matt Donnelly aka Dead Dog and drummer of The Ether, and eternal hipster Jacobo Garcia on the sax.
The songs continue in Dan's idiosyncratic song writing style with lush, spacious arrangements, reverbed vocals, and ad-hoc percussion jams. Drone on! Those in Halifax keep on the look out for them live!
FRIENDSHIP COVE, MONTREAL QUEBEC!
DOORS OPEN AT 8PM
PC WORSHIP - http://www.myspace.com/pcworshipp
(NYC - SHDWPLY records, members gary war + teeth mountain)
HOLY COBRAS - http://www.myspace.com/holycobras
(OTTAWA - Telephone Explosion, Campaign for Infinity)
TONSTARTSSBANDHT - http://www.myspace.com/tonstartssbandht
(MTL - Psychic Handshake, Dœs Are & Black Cheeks)
OMON RA - http://www.myspace.com/theyproject
(MTL - NEW LINEUP! - Fixture records, Divorce records, Campaign for Infinity)
w\ DJ BWAGG
DOORS @ 8PM
"PC Worship is the music making project of Justin Frye (Teeth Mountain, Gary War) who lives in Brooklyn, NY. This is a collection of recordings made between 2006-09 and represents an era of collective output with many other local musicians. This particular collection was recorded on a TEAC four-track reel-to-reel tape machine, a handheld cassette recorded and various computers. Although Frye spearheads this project, the live show can range from a solo performance to members in the double digits. The sound is all over the board, containing elements of free jazz, grunge, psychedelic punk and pop to create a wash of consonant and disorienting sound." - Insound description of "NYC STONE AGE"
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Myself and my friends and creative partners, Chris D'eon and Matt Wilson have decided to launch a tape label, since putting out music is so fun. Chris took it upon himself to make the first release, and what an epic release (some of the recordings are from when he was 7 years old!!!) that is perfectly matched for tape. Here's what I posted on the Numbers Station blog and check out the review!
Re-posted from Numbers Station
Wow our first very small release gets an amazing endorsement already! Good things are brewing for this winter! Congrats to Chris and his hard work, this release is truly amazing and unique. I doubt you find a release that synthesizes such desperate genres into a cohesive embryo. This release is best realized on tape. With the at times slack and jangly sounds of tape, it give this music a depth, character, and atmosphere that is just not possible on any other medium. Buy this record now, its a certified trip, but not the one you might expect!
Re-posted from Weird Canada
Chris d’eon’s debut cassette is an incredible 60-minute multi-genre psychedelic-meets-minimal-techno Tour de Force that will absolutely astonish, bewilder, and bewitch anyone curious enough to catch its spell. Weaving within currents of basemental panned-vocals, reverberated folk and Chicago-house-meets-Boards-of-Canada minimalia, wa al-’asr threatens all norms in genre synthesis and track sequencing. Chris d’eon has shown an incredible knack for branding every species of sound with his personal phantasms; every wavelength tinged with the unabashedly cosmic dark-age strata. As such, there is a brilliant vision ensconced inside wa al-’asr’s easter-folk and electro meanderings that is unquestionably rebellious; why try to push boundaries when committing every stream of consciousness to tape does the job for you. Let the world figure it out and they’ll fail miserably. Thankfully there are sadists like myself who enjoy trying. Amazing. Brilliant. Wonderful.