stereolab. les bons bons des raisons.

saw Stereolab last thursday, whatever date that was, at the Commodore.
summary: lots of shoe-gazing, mod youth, bopping heads in time.

summary of the performance: shoe-gazing, head-bopping tunes. the lead singer plays trombone, moog, and sings. quite a stunning performer. if only i could have heard her over the drums.

they played some classics (the remixed stuff from Emperor Tomato Ketchup kicked ass), a bunch from Cobra, among others.

whatever way you slice it, Stereolab spells f-u-n. if i could have heard the singing better, it would have been sublime.

ok, they did seem to be lacking a certain oomph, but i write that off to the fact that some of their shit must be difficult to emulate live.

it is great to see bands – at least i had the next day off. methinks i’m getting too old for this.

this is illustrated by the fact it is halloween and i have long since retired from any kind of seasonal activity. sigh.

hussain vs. shankar

Zakir Hussain, Shankar, T.H. Vinayakram, Gingger at the Vogue theatre in Vancouver. after hearing their work on recordings, i wasn’t sure how it would come across live. it was amazing, naturally. we ordered our tickets online and ended up with front row, left centre seating. we had a really great view of Hussain and Vinayakram, but couldn’t see Shankar or Gingger as well. although Shankar is a consumate performer and Gingger is quite the looker, i really went to see Hussain. it worked out well.

here is a scene from the performance:

a high-pitched sound comes out of the monitor. it visibly annoys Hussain.

Hussain: please turn the monitor off.

continues playing. monitor continues to buzz.

Hussain: (louder) please turn the monitor off.

continues playing. monitor continues to buzz. Hussain bats the microphone out of his way in frustration. he plays for only a few minutes before Shankar comes over to move the microphone back in front of the tablas.

Shankar: (smiling nervously) they can’t hear you.

Hussain: yes they can. it sounds better this way.

Shankar: no, no, they can’t hear you.

Hussain: it sounds better this way!

they push the microphone around a bit until Hussain gives in and continues playing. some time later he tries to nonchalantly push the microphone a little further away.

in Hussain’s defense, the tablas sounded great with minimal amplification.

in the end, few things stand up to a 10+ minute ghatam solo by Vinayakram. what an intense little man.

Gingger looked nervous and out of place. it was interesting watch her watching the chemistry between the other players. she was too shy to take a solo, even as Shankar prodded her to do so. Gingger appears to be trying to learn more about improvised playing even as she takes part in the performance. it would be freaky as hell trying to improvise with players who have decades of experience together.

our brief eternity

attended a performance of ‘Our Brief Eternity’ by the Holy Body Tattoo group in vancouver the other day. it was written in 1996, and does betray its age. some of the movement by the group is stunning. the repetition of daily actions and struggles becomes a blur until the final spasms of closure.

the text, projected onto a screen behind the performers, was a drifting poem. like the stuff you expect to read in ctheory. postmodern stuff about time and flesh and being. nothing terribly profound, but still entertaining.

the soundtrack to this piece sounds like Trent Reznor doing a Merzbow impersonation. which is to say it was very loud and intense, full of repetitive, mechanical noise. quite nice, but my ears rang for twenty minutes afterward. i almost feel sorry for the performers.

the most incredible part was how the three performers lashed their heads around. can we say neck injury and massive brain cell loss? what some people do for art.

i’d certainly like to see their more recent stuff.

in transit: the divine invasion of houellebecq

transiting 2-plus hours a day gives one a lot of reading time. after putting down a lot of crap i came into a bunch of good ones.

Michel Houellebecq is amazing. his book Atomised is one of the best books i’ve read, period. the ending is absolutely incredible, taking the book in an unexpected direction. kind of like the ending to A.I.. at first you question this incredible leap, but then you buy into it. when taking that risk pays off, it pays off big time.

Houellebecq’s whatever is good, but nowhere near as good as Atomised. it reminded me of Camus in some ways (i can’t remember how, it’s already been a few weeks since i read it and i have a notoriously lousy memory). check out this quote, partially blurbed on the book cover – the main character is discussing his experiences with his therapist:

…From time to time he glances at his wristwatch (fawn leather strap, rectangular gold-plated face); I get the feeling of not overly interesting him. I ask myself if he keeps a revolver in his drawer, for patients in a state of violent crisis. At the end of an hour he pronounces a few phrases of general import on periods of blankness, extends my leave of absence and increases my dosage of medication. He also reveals that my condition has a name: it’s a depression. Officially, then, I’m in a depression. The formula seems a happy one to me. It’s not that I feel tremendously low; it’s rather that the world around me appears high.

also thoroughly enjoyed Lawrence Sutin’s Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. Sutin used a few too many cliched phrases, but this was his first stab at a book, so he may be forgiven. his editor, however, should be persecuted to the full extent of literary law (in which i believe being ‘booked’ rather than ‘stoned’ is the ultimate sentence).

Phil Dick is a wacky cat, and his attempts to further understand the nature of reality and meaning leave me in awe. in a way it is no more amazing than how everyone else seems to buy into their own realities. Phil just struggled with his version of things a bit more. not to trivialize him. his excursions are simply incredible, whereas most people are mundane and rather boring. if only everyone questioned themselves so heavily.

the other best read lately was Ted Anton’s Eros, Magic, and the Murder of Professor Culianu, which could have turned out to be nothing more than pulp crap but was actually intriguing. Anton makes a bit much of certain aspects (Culianu’s dabbling in the occult), but does a decent job of giving a brief overview of Romanian political history. i’m not sure if Culianu was everything he’s made out to be, but he comes across as a powerful mind that was turned off far too soon.

other than these good reads, transit sucks shit. it makes my day long. really, though, Translink, and this fucking strike in general, are killing the poor, disabled, and elderly. like i really have anything to complain about compared to that.