Category Archives: News

An Update on the Remaining Members of Women

The Calgary based noisy experimental band Women released two of my favorite albums of the past 10 years. Their 2nd album, Public Strain, stands as one of the most interesting, challenging and intricate albums that I have ever heard. The attention to detail and Chad Vangaalen’s production, which added grit and depth in unique ways to each of the tracks, proved Public Strain to be the perfect realization of what the band was capable of.

On October 29, 2010, a fight on stage between band members in a Victoria, BC venue, quickly followed by the cancellation of the remainder of their tour, put the future of Women into question. Sadly, they never played another gig before guitarist Chris Reimer tragically died on February 21, 2012. Passing due to complications from a heart condition, the entire indie rock community in Canada mourned the loss of their friend and guitarist, and any hopes of Women carrying on were dashed.

The dissolution of Women finds the remaining 3 members – guitarist and singer Pat Flegel, bassist Matt Flegel, and drummer Mike Wallace – forming two different bands that take wholly different approaches to making music. Pat formed a band called Cindy Lee, while Matt and Mike got together in Viet Cong.

Viet Cong finds Matt and Mike, together with Scott Munro of Lab Coast and Danny Christiansen of Sharp Ends. The band performs a mix of post-punk and brightly colored new wave that sounds strangely English. Synth sounds and hypnotic bass lines underscore jagged guitar parts, shifting meters and subtly echoed vocals. They released a cassette on Bandcamp with virtually (read: actually) no promotion or advertisement. The only way that I found it was by chance, cruising the shoutbox for Women. At the time that I found the Bandcamp page for Viet Cong it consisted of only one track. A live version of a song called “Quality Arrangement.” On September 5th “Quality Arrangement” disappeared and was replaced with the 6 tracks totaling about 25 minutes of music, sitting somewhere between EP and LP. The release is titled “Cassette” on Bandcamp, and I’ve yet to figure out if that is the name of the release, or if there are actual cassette copies of this floating around somewhere. Currently $5 CAD will only buy you an instant download of the album.

The songs retain the overall ambient nature of some of Women’s less noisy material, and the guitar work does seem to take its cues from friend and former bandmate Chris Reimer. “Oxygen Feed” is an ultra-catchy, upbeat guitar driven track that could be released as a single on an album that is chock full of great melodies and moody vocals. The acoustic guitar of “Static Wall” starts out by sounding like Buffalo Springfield before morphing into something completely different. “Structureless Design” amps up the buzzing synth sound and new wave elements set behind mechanical singing along with guitar and bass locked into a steady groove. The track then descends into a wild, noisy guitar freak out, taking an unexpected turn that grows more chaotic as the song comes to a close.

Chaos is also a good word to describe Pat Flegel’s new project Cindy Lee. The album Tatlashea could not be any more different from Viet Cong if it tried. This recording will doubtless provide a completely different listening experience than most people, including the most dedicated fans of Women, are ready to handle. Each track is a nearly formless, anarchic maelstrom of loud bursts of atonal, distorted guitar with vocals buried deep in the mix. Songs sound like they were recorded instantly, as the ideas seem to form out of nothing, allowing each track to document the journey of the process of writing itself. Album opener “Fuck Myself Stupid,” the title alone giving the listener at least some inkling of the kind of rough, antagonistic sound that is explored throughout, finds Flegel’s de-tuned guitar strings bending in and out of focus with a timbre reminiscent of the early drumsticks-jammed-under-guitar-strings sound of Sonic Youth.

The more one listens to Tatlashea the more that the recording begins to come into focus. Little bits of tunes start grabbing your attention. For example, there is something even resembling a chorus in “Find Another Man” somewhere before the drummer goes insane on the cymbals and the guitar follows suit, also descending into madness. It even comes back before the end. And, there is something that is truly intriguing and satisfying to my love for new sounds in Flegel’s out of tune electric guitar over the acoustic strummed rhythm. The closing of “Find Another Man” takes noise and feedback to a whole other level, squealing and screeching at an unbridled volume and even going so far as to mess with the recording, tapping on the microphone over the course of its 10 minutes.

Overall the sound of Tatlashea is incredibly dark, possibly recorded in a cave or some dark, empty club. Despite it sounding like it is somewhere between improvised and barely rehearsed, there are a few songs that not only hold themselves together, but manage to hold the entire recording together as well. Right in the middle of the album “Holding the Devil’s Hand” throws in some 60’s ballad, falsetto singing and arpeggiated guitar with a quick verse and chorus while “Assassination Reality” brings in some honest, thrashing rock. Where Viet Cong is flexing their new wave muscles, Cindy Lee is placing themselves squarely into no wave territory. The album was released on cassette, but is currently sold out. Like Viet Cong, though, it is still available for download on Bandcamp for $2 CAD.

Viet Cong and Cindy Lee take the different elements toward distilling the sound of Women, exposing the influence that each of the members had on the overall sound of their former band. If you’d like to read a bit more about Viet Cong or Cindy Lee there are a few interviews with Matt and Pat available that provide at least some insight into the direction that these guys are headed. Viet Cong have been touring fairly extensively across the US and Canada, though it appears as though they only have one more date listed for October 20 in Edmonton at Wunderbar. (editor’s note: edited and posted much later than post was submitted) There are currently no tour dates listed for Cindy Lee.

[opinion] The Value of Good Writing

If you’re in tune with the ceaseless chatter that makes up Twitter, you may have run across the most recent item to get everyone worked into a lather: the fact that The Atlantic asked a writer to repurpose a story of his for their website, and do it for free. That writer subsequently took to his own blog to regale his readership (and now the masses) with the unfortunate story, and The Atlantic has since pushed back in their own way, issuing semi-apologies and justification for the fact that they, indeed, asked someone to work for free.

Now, I freelance, but to the tune of $350 for the year, and only for a single publication. I don’t do it because I need the money, and I don’t often write more than a hundred words. My posts for this blog are generally double the length of what I write for City Newspaper. That being the case, I don’t have much of a dog in this fight. I think it’s unfortunate on both sides – that Nate Thayer was asked to work for free, and that The Atlantic has apparently fallen so far that they need to ask someone to do just that. But I do think that good writing – particularly writing that’s recognized by individuals at The Atlantic as having merit – needs to be rewarded with more than vague promises of exposure.

On the wholly opposite end of the spectrum is the strange case of another music blog called Indie, Bikes, and Beer, who have run a now-successful Kickstarter campaign for $12,500 in order to further their blog’s design and reach. If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been rather vocal about my disdain for the blog itself, and for the fact that they had the audacity to even ask for money at all. I reduced the affair to mean-spirited jokes and hashtags, but the question is this: why do I even care? Why does it matter that another music blogger asked for, and subsequently received, a large sum of money from individuals he may or may not know? In reality, that blog doesn’t affect me on a personal level, and it doesn’t diminish what remains of our blog’s readership, and it doesn’t negatively affect any other blog(ger) that we happen to like (which is an admittedly small number).

I don’t have a good answer to those questions. It’s possible that, in some sense, receiving $12,500 to write a music blog that has been in existence for less than six months is an affront – and not to me per se, but to the other bloggers that do a better job of it than I could hope to, and who have grinded out their blogs for years without any significant monetary compensation.

It’s possible that my hackles are raised from the thought that a music blog that is centered in Boston displayed an utter lack of regard for all the other bloggers located in the same city – blogs that have been combining beer and music for much longer, blogs that already have their own acoustic shows, blogs that are already sponsoring SxSW showcases. That sum of money could bring everyone up, and the inclusion of other blogs would have undoubtedly made the project more worthwhile.

It’s possible that I’m annoyed because asking for $12,500 to write a music blog smacks of an inflated sense of how important that “job” really is. Writing a blog has always demanded a balance between self and band promotion. Sure, we want to be read, and commented on, and respected among our peers. But more important than that is the fact that these bands we love, who entrust their creative output to us, are really the ones who should be promoted, and asking for money to get your own name out there before the bands you’re promoting seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse.

It’s probable that I’m annoyed because $12,500 could do a lot of good for a lot of bands who deserve that money more than any blogger does. That kind of funding, used wisely, could fund the next best album we’ve ever heard. Or it could let a band tour outside of their home city, or fund a 7″ release, or any number of things that have more tangible value than any blog does.

And it’s also possible that I’m angry because I never thought to ask for money to do this. Perhaps it’s always been that easy, and I never needed to fund this endeavor out of my own pocket.

But really, there’s not a “right” or “magic” way to start a music blog. Whether or not the trio at Indie, Bikes, and Beer is $12,500 richer doesn’t negate the fact that there have always been – and will continue to be – outlets writing about music that are doing it for what we’d all consider to be the right reasons, and not simply to inflate their own brand. And it doesn’t force me to navigate to the site to support their endeavors.

In the end, whether Thayer goes unpaid by The Atlantic or Indie, Bikes, and Beer has $12,500 to produce carelessly worded and poorly edited reviews, both seem to me to be about the same issue: good writing, like any good art, has value, and when the least common denominator is rewarded, it’s discouraging.

[stream] Deerhoof // The Trouble With Candyhands

Everyone’s favorite San Francisco based fun-time art-pop band, Deerhoof, are preparing to release a follow up to 2011’s Deerhoof Vs. Evil with Breakup Song due in stores on September 4th via Polyvinyl.

They have released a typically quirkily named track, “The Trouble With Candyhands” on the Polyvinyl Soundcloud page that provides us with a short glimpse of their ever evolving sound. The addition of staccato brass adds a bit of a danceable salsa flair to the typically frenetic sound of the band. The guitars are dialed back significantly but Greg Saunier continues to carve intricate, shifting rhythms right through the heart of the song with Satomi’s high falsetto soaring sweetly above the foundation. You can hear snippets from the entire album by popping a token in the Jingletron. Based on this first listen it sounds like Deerhoof are placing a little more emphasis on their electronic leanings that started to show a bit more on Deerhoof Vs. Evil.

With a new album comes a new tour and Deerhoof are ferocious live, so check them out when they come to a town near you. And if you are in Portland, OR for their show (with the equally amazing Buke and Gase opening) I’ll let you buy me a few beers.

Deerhoof // Tour | Facebook

[memoriam] On Losing My iPod

I had my iPod stolen out of my car this past weekend; it was a four year old, 80G Classic, which was perfect for me since it held a lot of music (though I had long since filled it) and didn’t have a bunch of space wasting apps. Looking beyond the fact that I failed to lock my car overnight (my fault, totally), and the idea of basic human decency that should govern people (which the thief obviously does not share with me), the incident got me thinking about the role music plays in my own life.

In the immediate, the loss of my iPod created a need for a different way to transport my music; this was not a huge deal, since I have an iPhone, but it did force me to consider what exactly was most important to have with me at all times. I went in a couple of different directions; what I’ve found is this: when limiting myself to only what I consider to be essential at the time, I’ve no time for the bullshit that the bloglife often forces upon me. There are three distinct types of albums that now reside on my iPhone.

  1. Brand New: This category is reserved for albums that have come out in the past one or two weeks that I need to listen to; I have an iPod dock that I utilize while at work, and it serves a key role in my listening habits. Albums on my phone right now that fit this description include: Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, DIIV’s Oshin
  2. New Favorites: This should be fairly self-explanatory. Vying for some contention in my most played, these albums include the likes of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock (duh), Cruiser’s self-titled EP, The Walkmen’s Heaven, Father John Misty’s Fear Fun
  3. Essentials: These albums defy any specific date; they’re timeless favorites of mine, and can be from any time period. Right now, this (revolving) list includes Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue

In essence, these lists will change from week to week, and possibly on a daily basis depending on my own mood. Losing my iPod means that I don’t have a need to bring my entire music collection with me wherever I go; in fact, that seems rather foolish, as I often found myself paralyzed by the fact that I could listen to everything all the time. Maybe I won’t need a new iPod at all. Maybe I can make do with a more curated sensibility. Maybe that would give me the ability to really focus on the album I’m listening to and not running at the first sign of boredom, since I now don’t have a large safety net of music to distract me.

[mp3] Chelsea Light Moving // Burroughs

As the resident Sonic Youth obsessive on the tympanogram staff, I take it as my duty to inform everyone that Thurston has formed another new project. The name of this new venture is Chelsea Light Moving and they popped up out of nowhere late last week on the Matador Matablog.

Thankfully the band sounds like they are interested in more of the late Sonic Youth aesthetic than they are in the solo Thurston Moore sound. The track, “Burroughs,” comes off sounding like a B-side for The Eternal or Rather Ripped, with an upbeat and noisy verse, sharp guitar stabs, and an extended exploratory coda. This track captures the energy that I believe is missing from Thurston’s Demolished Thoughts effort. It sounds raw, exciting, and it doesn’t even matter to me that this is probably the millionth track Moore has penned and attributed to the influence of William S. Burroughs.

The band is rounded out by Keith Wood on guitar, Samara Lubelski on bass, and drummer John Maloney. According to the Matador press release the track was recorded and mixed May 18-20, 2012, by Justin Pizzoferrato at Sonelab, Easthampton, MA. And there are some (very few) dates posted for Thurston, with no mention if it is him appearing with solo material or with new Chelsea Light Moving tracks. We are promised another track in a week though, so be sure to check back and grab that one as well.

Connect with Chelsea Light Moving // Blog

Chelsea Light Moving // Burroughs [mp3]