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A Sailor's Rest: Celebrating Canada Day and the music of Stan Rogers

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, July 1, 2010 11:07am | Post a Comment

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Like 100% Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup draped over a high stack of hot cakes, Canada is a hot mess. Blame Canada. Blame them for killing the Las Vegas showgirl with Cirque du Soleil and Celine Dion. Blame their precious Prince Edward Island for every time a little girl cries for a dress with puffed sleeves after viewing the Anne of Green Gables saga for the thousandth time. Blame them for the trainwreck of visual torture/pleasure known as the TV Carnage series, blame them for making you afraid to utter the words "I don't know" lest you be drenched in green slime. Blame Canada for Alanis, Avril and Mike Myers: schwing! Happy Canada Day, everybody! While all us dumb 'Mericans below you scramble to prime our potato salads and 100% all beef patties for the Fourth of July celebration this weekend, I want to write a little something in honor of one of my favorite Canadians, a man I'd like to bless Canada for on this, her supposed "birthday", a man who inspired many in his time and continues to inspire those with burgeoning nautical fetishes and a preference for salty folk songs that spin irresistible yarns -- Mr. Stan Rogers.stan rogers sings fogarty's cove

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Sandy Babes: The Sandwitches play Duck Duck Goose!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, June 30, 2010 03:50pm | Post a Comment
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There are many things to love about The Sandwitches and their latest release, the Duck Duck Goose! EP (on Empty Cellar/Secret Seven Records), serves as further proof that these ladies are not only gilding a most devastatingly alluring and emotional totem pole of a discography, but they are also among the very sagest of storytellers, which is, when you think about it, just about as artistically primal as witch's tit in a brass bra. It takes courage to create an album this dark for kids, yet it's not clear if the wee ones are really who the Sandwitches are lulling here. If storytelling, besides being the earliest of mediums in that it's the way cultural and familial values are communicated, parent to child, grants us a means by which we may overcome and deal with overpowering fears --- fear of the dark, fear of the unknown --- then there is nothing cowardly or immature about the eerie compositions that permeate this limited run, one-sided vinyl 12". Clearly the Sandwitches are not about to soften their punches, no matter how bewitchingly thrown.
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Duck Duck Goose! begins with the cooing, protracted "Stardust" --- a lush and dreamy original number that at once lives up to the descriptive "heartbreaking acoustic lullabies" label affixed to the record sleeve. In fact, it is a lullaby so heartbreaking that it seems meant to comfort a terminally ill child fearlessly into eternal sleep: "nothing to fear going into darkness/ we'll be nearer to each other." What follows is the first of two aural vignettes (the reprise closing out the recording, accordingly) wherein the echos of ghostly rounds of duck duck goose are played against the sound of nursery rhymes tapped hastily on a distant spectral piano, thus upping the spook-factor enshrouding the sessions captured for this EP, achieving an overall don't-even-think-of-exploring-that-abandoned-school-house vibe. Then "Rock of Gibraltar," a haunting cover of a Tim Cohen song that appeared as a bonus track to the excellent Two Sides of Tim Cohen album, segues into a impressionistic rendition of the bravest little Disney tear-jerker of all time, the Oscar nominated "Baby Mine" (check out the video below) . If you haven't settled down snugly into the darkness by now, or at least stopped the record to call your mom for love's sake, the Sandwitches' own "Song of Songs," another sweet 'n' simple ballad (yet less heavy than the preceding pieces), lights the night with its own slow burning wax and wick. It's enough to remind one of what it feels like to be a child, a young person guided though his or her terror by comforting voices and lilting melody. And when the ghosts appear again the heart is less anxious, the mind less afraid.sandwitches cat album cover jason faulkner artwork how to make ambient sadcake deput lp vinyl

Aux Catacombes: Documenting Art in the Belly of Paris

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, June 17, 2010 08:20pm | Post a Comment
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If it can be said that the freshest of the fresh artistic creations bubble up from "underground," then it should come as no surprise that the vast network of tunnels that comprise the coiled entrails of Paris' infamous catacombs has long served as a place where creative Parisians bent on escaping the trappings of society, hemmed in by signs and signifiers girding the city's surface, retreat to the "freedom" of the damp and hard-cut, cramped lawlessness that thrives beneath the streets, expressing themselves with dim-lit abandon. Veteran graffiti artist Psyckoze has spent more than 25 years traversing, tagging, sculpting and mapping the catacombs beneath Paris, a perilous proclivity that makes the documentary Dead Space infinitely watchable.


The Parisian catacombs have always held a certain fascination, whether it be a fear of the dark-generated late night creepshow vibe (must be because of all those skulls 'n' things down in there) or a more sensationalist ghost-hunters of "reality" television programming feel, the mere mention of the mdead space documentary dvd paris catacombs psychoze art artist graffiti undergroundysterious, bone littered underworld beneath the French capitol always stirs the imagination. In following Psyckoze on several adventures throughout the underground maze, documentary film-makers Marielle Quesney and Jean Labourdette nearly destroy their camera (they claim it was held together by duct tape by the end of shooting) and find themselves lost on more than one occasion while Pyschoze, or Psy, encounters graffiti and scrawls of years (sometimes hundreds of years) gone by, often stopping to update his own tags with the fresh designs of his evolved artistic style, and discovers a myriad of threats and claims laid bydead space documentary paris catacombs feature psyckoze psy art artist graffiti sculpture relief freehand candles stone various catacomb clans, gangs (like the Rats, who were prominent in the eighties) and wanderers who have at one time or another called the catacombs home. There is even a faction of preservationist catacombers who seek to stop taggers like Psy, arguing that the tunnels should be cleaned and restored to their natural sandstone tones (which is not unreasonable, really, when you consider the quarry origins of the catacombs, which were once used to mine and transport building materials as far back as 1000 years).

Shot on a shoestring budget over the course of two years, Dead Space follows Psy as he conducts a surprisingly cohesive tour of the catacombs below Paris (clad in his habitual rubber boots and mining helmet catacomb gear), stopping here and there to highlight several of the more famous subterranean hang-outs like "the Beach" (a large, sandy chamber with a huge painting of a wave --- styled after Hokusai's famous woodblock print --- where parties often rage underground for days) and revealing Psy's personal secret hideaways, including his "castle" --- a sprawling freehand relief sculpture of breasts, faces, battlements and turrets comprising what has to be Psy's ultimate psychedelic masterpiece, laden with personal significance (example: Psy carved a turret in the castle for paris catacombs dead space documentary psyckoze psy bones candle graffiti art every year his good friend and fellow catacomber spent locked up in a Thai jail, nine altogether). However, it is clear that most folks who venture down into the catacombs have something other than artistic creation and personal reflection in mind.
It would seem that those crazy enough to descend to navigate the dank and muddy tunnels of the catacombs have serious partying in mind and, apparently, those who do go down there to indulge in dark and lawless soirees get so completely wrecked that they usually lose track of when and where they are. In one room Psy laughs gleefully when he discovers a block of severely dried hash, speculating, while he makes ready to smoke it, how completely high and disoriented the owner who left it behind must have been. After all, there are but a few maps of the catacombs and it would seem that the ones that exist aren't that reliable. Perhaps that accounts for Psy creating his own map, or Plan des Catacombes. Even still, Psy himself often gets turned around and has, in his longest stint underground, spent over 72 hours in the maze.
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It was really lucky for Psy to find a thick, if aged, stash of weed in his underground haunt, because there are so many more unsavory things to be found in the vast blackness of the Parisian catacombs. The makers of Dead Space discovered and captured on film Psy encountering all manner of human elements from lost, sleeping and partying catacombers (and subsequent piles of puke) to tunnels riddled with the tea-stained remains of Parisians of years gone by. The "bone room" sequences of Dead Space are so jaw-dropping that this viewer could barely keep her trap shut. The image of Psy as he crawls carefully, stopping every six feet or so to light a candle and plant it in a skull or fixture of bones, through a tunnel way so stacked with human remains that he can barely fit though the open spaces is burned into my brain forever. This may look like Goonies, kids, but this is the real shit.

7" Fix: The Cairo Gang "Holy Clover"

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, May 28, 2010 10:08am | Post a Comment
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Will Oldham, or Bonnie "Prince" Billy, as he often styles himself onstage and on wax, seems to have naturally great taste when it comes to singer-songwriter types native to or otherwise rambling through the backwoods and beachheads of Northern California. Of his latest collaborations I've taken a shine to the Cairo Gang or, more specifically, the vocals and guitar styling of one Emmett Kelly & co. --- lending a little of this and that to a handful of recent BPB albums as well as offering gentle listeners something on the side with the release of their 7" EP Holy Clover (out now on Empty Cellar Records).

Each of the four songs captured here recall proper feelings of seasonal impermanence and the sort of wisdom-beyond-one's-years that many modern singer-songwriters attempt to brew but seem to have trouble getting just right. Kelly (besides having a fabulous name) is blessed with a voice that not only pairs remarkably well with Oldham's wood-smoked yet crystal-fragile vocals but suits the well-crafted folk/rock vibes his band lays down (I've always thought Oldham's voice, while folksy, was more country than rock), especially when he lets loose in "Get's Me Back" on side B --- a jam with stellar guitars (Kelly is joined here by Chris Rodahaffer) sounding something like America high-fiving Neil Young with an echo of Kyle Field's (a.k.a. Little Wings) sentimental Soft Pow'r glowing 'round the edges. On the whole this little gem plays languid and pale in a light what shines one of the best of Bonnie Billy's partners in crime. Below is a little clip of Emmet Kelly and Will Oldham performing "Midday" (the A side to the 7" that accompanies the Bonnie "Prince" Billy & the Cairo Gang Wonder Show of the World CD and LP) --- their "Afternoon Delight," as it were --- in a Brooklyn basement.

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Nothing Mean About These Reds: GWAR meets Joan Rivers!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, April 25, 2010 01:54am | Post a Comment
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GWAR
or Joan Rivers, at the moment I don't know who I love more. GWAR has always been near and dear to my heart as hometown RVA homeboys, familial connections notwithstanding, and as general criminal art-students against society, popularizing songs with lyrics like "this is your ass/ and I'm in it" and proliferating blood-stained concert tees as "you had to be there" tour souvenirs (including, ladies, your white undergarments which will forever be a faded shade of pinkish-red a.k.a. your "GWAR bra"). Like the fiercest of Drag Queens wielding a gaudy bauble of accessories, milady Joan Rivers, on the other hand, never fails to hypnotize me with her keen wit, fathomless fashion sense, talk show know-how and Dot Matrix/lady-robot realness in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs; I'm pretty sure I've loved her my whole life. But what happens when Gwar meets Joan Rivers? The answer is: everyone wins! Don't you just love that she thanks God for GWAR's Scumdogs of the Universe CD release and that she dressed from head to panty-hosed toe in rich reds. This is how I prefer to spend my Sundays, ya'll. Check it out:

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