Pierrot Lunaire – Exercise in Futility

Pierrot Lunaire – Qarin by semata

Pierrot Lunaire – lone New Jersey slash California bedroom artist John DeNizio, not the ’70s Italian experimental band – had a Myspace page for a while but deleted it because he “felt vain.” As modesty – perceivably devastating – becomes extinct in an age where artists have more online real estate than they can keep track of, DeNizio’s restraint mirrors his careful music. Through saxophone, tape loops, samples and vocals, Pierrot Lunaire crafts moving lo-fi recordings that are majestic yet never overwhelming; ambiguous yet deeply emotional. This is noise for listeners who find noise aggravating, and drone for those who find drone tedious. Exercise in Futility, like Pierrot’s namesake clown, channels a playfulness, melancholy, and reclusive wisdom which so many of its perma-stoned, redundant psych cassette-contemporaries lack. Pierrot’s originality shimmers in the seamless slices of audio samples that he choses, and the biotic pacing of his compositions as they flit between noise and ambiance. DeNizio’s voice sounds a lot like Jad Fair locked in a dream, and he’s playing a saxophone, so I can’t help but indulge and imagine to myself that this is a Half Japanese record from some other dimension. Detail oriented and strongly cohesive, Exercise in Futility is one of many mysterious tapes and records Pierrot will quietly release this year.
Pierrot Lunaire will hit Winnipeg sometime later this September. Watch closely for it. (Semata Productions, www.semataproductions.com) Kristel Jax

Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania

Oh, Oh Sees, how I love you. The first of two announced Oh Sees albums for 2011, Castlemania is the mellow summer record (sounding more like Dog Poison than Help!, if that gives you any idea). For the most part, it’s just Dwyer on everything with a guest here and there, making sunny budget-pop. The “throw every instrument into the backyard and hit ‘record’” feeling is strong, and while every song sounds upbeat, Dwyer throws in some darker, death-dealing lyrics. You know what you’re getting. They round out the end of the album with three covers: “I Won’t Hurt You” by West Coast Pop Experimental Band is spare and kind of spooky during the verses. It sounds like it was recorded on a steam-powered train. Their cover of Californian folk singer Norma Tanega’s “What Are We Craving?” manages to get the feeling of the ’60s grass-stained feet and flowers-in-their-hair down well. Their cover of Big Wheel’s “If I Stay Too Long” is sloppy, shimmering and pretty, and your ears will perk up in recognition when you hear it. If you’re into Thee Oh Sees’ thrashy-spastic brand of rock, there should be enough here to tide you over to the fall (you’ve been warned). For the Dwyer-faithful, you’ll gobble this right up. (In The Red, www.intheredrecords.com) Patrick Michalishyn

Booker T. Jones – The Road From Memphis

It’s safe to say everyone loves legendary organist Booker T. His records with the M.G.’s have always been catchy, fun, groovy funk. If there is any criticism about his records (not his live performances) it’s often because his early sound is too clean and too safe. I guess we had to wait until Booker T. got old. Coming off the heels of 2009’s Potato Hole, The Road from Memphis is Booker T. Jones at his finest, rawest and most badass. I guess it helps to have the Roots as your back-up band. His latest solo effort is incredible with the only exception of a forgettable cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” which has Booker T. adding a little flavor from the original. His version of Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is Everything,” on the other hand, is off the chain, featuring Jones playfully hammering at the organ with unbelievable precision towards a climaxing conclusion. Producer Gabe Roth (Sharon Jones, Amy Winehouse) manages to make most cuts sound timeless, vintage and yet ultramodern at the same time. Songs like the super-sonic “Hive” perfectly exemplifies this quality while “Down in Memphis” shows off Jones’ time-honored soulful voice. While the album features powerhouse collaborators the likes of Jim James (My Morning Jacket), soul-singing phenomenon Sharon Jones and even Lou Reed, it’s Jones’ quick hands that’s centre stage here. It’s safe to say that Booker T. has aged like wine and his albums will most definitely continue to impress. (Anti, www.bookert.com) Kent Davies

Twin – In All Truth

Photo by Brynna Stefanson

By Taylor Burgess
“Their life was so rooted and so land-based,” said David Fort about some Hutterite farmers who they had come across during last year’s Assiniboine River Music Armada. This is the second year that Twin will be embarking on the tour, departing down the Assiniboine from Brandon, canoeing with their instruments and playing everyone along the river, regardless of who’s living or staying there.
“Remember that one gal,” Fort said. “After we asked they had said, ‘Oh, we have so much food.’”
Leslie Brown, Fort’s partner and fiddle player, chimed in, “We were talking about how we had taken some corn from the field, and she said, ‘Oh, did you see our garden? We wouldn’t have even noticed if you took it.’”
David Enns, who also plays guitar in Twin, said, “She just started listing all the things that were in season that would have been good to take.”
And on cue, singer and percussionist Ally Leenhouts erupted into her jubilant laugh which regularly echoed in the plant room of the Oikos Co-Op while I spent time with the full band and, from the sounds of it, is a regular occurrence with her roommates and bandmates, members of the latest band to uphold the lineage of reputable bands that have come from the so-called “Mansion.”
These four individuals make up the newest and most solidified line-up of Twin, which began as the solo acoustic project for David Fort, who’s better known as a writing force behind Absent Sound. He has played under his acoustic pseudonym for five years, but the line-up only solidified last year. “Really, I had an acoustic guitar long before an electric one. You could say it’s about time.”
Together they recorded a number of tracks of Sharing Secrets with Strangers, an EP which strikes at the core of human experiences and eschews timely references  to string together proverbial tunes about life, death and love. Outwardly, the EP is a departure from Absent Sound’s recordings with its traditional folk instrumentations, yet it’s still totally enlightened by untraditional chord voicings and progressions. “In terms of the guitar-work goes, I’ll spend a lot of time on the mood,” says Fort. “I like to create a visual landscape— I’m getting pretty obsessed with things that don’t need to be there.” Lyrically, he says that his inspiration comes from internalizing characters, and take bits and pieces from his life and rearrange them.  “To create a dreamscape that is a lot closer to reality than the dream realm, if that makes any sense.”
Before Dave Fort and Rob Menard played together in the Absent Sound, they kept crossing paths in Flin Flon and Saskatchewan. In Flin Flon, Fort says that he grabbed inspiration from whatever music was around, like music videos and TV documentaries about musicians, as well as taking trips to Winnipeg and Saskatchewan and blowing 200 bucks at record stores.
“Flin Flon was interesting enough that we would all appear at shows in community centres, little outdoor festivals, you know, shows at your high school. Flin Flon is a funny town. It wasn’t overly restrictive, not like when I hear about other some other small towns.”
Dave Fort had been canoeing since he was a kid, “fortunate to go to a camp with canoe trips.” But Fort probably wouldn’t have guessed that canoeing (alongside his music) would lead him to the L.A. River, and land him in a heap of trouble. But despite giving me the basic details of what happened to Twin on the L.A. River, Fort wanted to steer away from that in our interviews—there was much written about the event in California already and, as he pointed out, some reports had reduced the event so much that Twin wasn’t mentioned as a musical group so much as they were bulleted as a group of Canadian rabble-rousers.
What did happen was that Twin, with an L.A. filmmaker and his band, embarked on the recently declared “navigable” L.A. River, much in the same fashion as the Assiniboine River Music Armada, playing shows as they canoed down the river. “I was overwhelmed how beautiful the river was,” says Fort. “You would see these high cliffs that are falling into the river, or a tree growing with its roots sticking out. Then you’d turn a corner and run into 50 cows in the water. It was a really lazy river.”
The filmmaker, Danny Louangxay, had creative control to capture the trip as he saw fit, and Fort plans to soon screen the documentary here in Winnipeg. “He got great super 8 of the L.A. River, I’d say of about eight different micro-climates.” Without hesitation, Fort invited Louangxay to bring his band, Tiny Little, and they too joined Twin on the Armada. However, the documentary isn’t all nature-and-harmony, as their trip was stopped short by officials.
The group had canoed 15 of the river’s 51 miles and then were singled out by a police helicopter, which told the bands to get out of the river. They were given citations for loitering on the riverbed, which were written by two seemingly reluctant police officers, according to the band. All of this came despite the reason that Fort wanted to canoe on the L.A. River in the first place—that it was recently declared navigable by the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing people to swim and fish in the river once again.
“The initial inspiration for the canoe concept was finding the unifying factor for humans, which are life and clean water. You can’t argue with that. The essence of the idea being, having people around clean water, and how much more do you need?”
The band is set to appear in court again, but in the meantime, they’re focusing on the positive and going to be embarking on the Assiniboine. They’re inviting anyone who’s interested to join in on the trip, promising unforgettable sights and nothing but hospitality from wonderful Manitobans.
The departure happens on Friday, August 5 in Trees Blood Farm at Brandon, with stops in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Fairholme Colony, Long Plains First Nation, and Portage La Prairie’s Island Park before landing in Winnipeg on Sunday August 14 at the Winnipeg Graffiti Gallery for 8 p.m. For more information, contact Twin at [email protected] or find updates at Twin’s Facebook page.

Twin has plans to write new material and record in the near future.
Some of this story takes notes from Long Beach Post’s “One Band, Two Canoes and Citations for Navigating the ‘Navigable’ L.A. River” by Greggory Moore, published February 28, 2011.

Secret Girls – In Hiding

Cole Peters, co-founder of Prairie Fire Tapes, has created a real minimal affair with this cassette. Really minimal—the intro to “Ivory, Ether and Blood” is reminiscent of György Ligeti’s eerily terse two-note piece in Eyes Wide Shut, and the rest of this song is a primordial cesspool of ambiguous morality. Such a minimal affair—she touches his wrist when he reaches for his drink, and they both come and die a little inside, never telling anyone—that minimal. Peters, who’s normally doing his HNW (harsh noise wall) thing as Gomeisa, takes his guitar drone project Secret Girls away from the apocalyptic, and more toward the mystical—extraterrestrial overlords keep watch, waiting for the signals to impart infinite knowledge. There’s much tension and peace beneath the surface of In Hiding, and it is up to your conflicting levels of psyche to unearth it all. (Prairie Fire Tapes, prairiefiretapes.com) Taylor Burgess

Burning Hell – Flux Capacitor

From the very personal introduction song, Flux Capacitor is a journey through frontman Mathias Kom’s life, realized via ukulele. Kom has been known for his infectious tongue-in-cheek songwriting, which often sarcastically lambastes historical moments like the Bretton Woods and Berlin conferences. This time around Kom takes on his own history with autobiographical tunes like “Report Card” and “Let Things Slip Away,” which highlight lessons learned throughout his life. The hilarious opus “Nostalgia” is laced with Weakerthans-style whimsy and B.A. Johnston-style ’80s pop culture references, while “Pirates” is a ridiculous satire on living with the Rob Ford-lovin’ immigrant-hating fear-mongers of the Toronto suburbs. On a sadder note “Kings of the Animal Kingdom” deals with having to put your dog down while struggling as a vegetarian orphan. Damn, it’s sad. Unlike the Burning Hell’s previous efforts, Flux Capacitor doesn’t take shots at our collective history but Kom’s own history, which resonates even deeper with everyone who hears it. By far this is Kom’s cleverest, most emotionally moving songwriting since his debut with Tick Tock. (weewerk, www.wearetheburninghell.com) Kent Davies

Sonny and the Sunsets – Hit After Hit

Going to the beach? Bring this CD with you. Going to the park? Bring this CD with you. Chilling in a sun-scorched back alley with your friends? Play this album! Sonny and the Sunsets deliver a great summer feel good, rock ’n’ roll album with Hit After Hit. This one is destined to get you dancing to rad ’60s rock n roll vibes and jams. If you are not up on your feet or at least swaying to the groove then your name is probably Professor Charles Francis Xavier. (The professor has no time for dancing.) Seriously though, I can’t sing enough praises here. Every last track has got it going on and the last song “Pretend You Love Me” makes clear the influences for this album. This song is a great ’60s pop rock throwback, a heart ache ballad. Check this one out, you won’t regret it! (Fat Possum, www.fatpossum.com) Kyra Leib

Local Filmmaker Torn over her Directoral Debut

By Dallas Kitchen

Local filmmaker Melissa Hiebert will see 16 months of late nights, stress and rewrites hit the screen when Torn premieres at Cinematheque, on July 28th.“I don’t think there was a moment during production when I wasn’t stressed. I’m a restless perfectionist,” admitted Hiebert as we sat in her backyard in the searing heat earlier this week.
centres on a young woman named Rachel, whose flaws and insecurity begin to dissolve her life and relationships around her. Hiebert explains to me that she began writing Torn as a modern adaptation of Beauty and The Beast, from the female’s perspective. With each rewrite she began investing more of her own feelings and thoughts into the main character of Rachel. Melissa is quick to point out however, that Torn is in no way autobiographical of her own life. “Torn is about choice. That internal struggle many of us face everyday. Love and hate for ourselves. It’s a very intense emotion being torn between two very grave decisions.”
The actual filming took all of two weeks in the summer of 2010, starting August 1, with the average day lasting 12 hours. “We had a super small crew and some of the cast members helped set up the sets.” she tells me. Keeping with the norm of an indie production, everyone helped with everything. Being a completely independent film, funding for Torn came directly out of Hiebert’s pocket which she hopes to recoup some of the cost through ticket sales for the premiere, as well as DVD sales.
As we continue to sit in the 35°C sun, Melissa offers subtle indicators of her overwhelming and anxious feelings toward the upcoming premiere and the film’s reception. She runs a hand through her hair to brush it out of her face and falls back into the large wicker patio chair before explaining to me what she hopes viewers will get from the film. “I hope it just gets people thinking. It really asks a lot more questions than it answers about human relationships,” she explains. “It’s a huge story about consequences and living with those consequences.”
Torn premieres at Cinematheque on Thursday July 28 at 7 p.m. and there is a second screening on August 2. Tickets are still available for second show and can be bought at the door for $10.

J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

J Mascis was long known for being one of the loudest dudes in indie rock, or ‘Alternative’, as it was called at the time. His signature Fender Jazzmaster caused many an eardrum to bust in his seminal band, Dinosaur Jr., but in the good way. So, knowing nothing of his solo works, I had the volume knob turned way, way down. I was waiting for the record to start, thinking there was some long, teasing intro before my ears were guitarsmashed into my head, but after tentatively turning up the volume to a reasonable level, I realized that J had gone quiet. This is as delicate and restrained a record as they come. Gently plucked acoustic guitar, lilting string arrangements, and even the electric guitar’s appearance quiet(ish). It reminds very much of fellow ’90s ear-basher Thurston Moore’s recent Trees at the Academy, the difference being that Moore’s roots are in noisy experimentalism (which he can’t shake), whereas Mascis’ lie in good old fashioned rock ’n’ roll in the vein of Neil Young. He is very much doing a reverse Neil Young here, switching gain-heavy distortion for intimate, acoustic-driven introspective pieces, which are okay but show more promise than anything else. A pleasant listen for Dinosaur Jr. fans who hold some sentimentality in J’s moany voice, or fans of nice stuff. It’s really nice. (Sub Pop, www.subpop.com) David Nowacki