Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh Silent Night: An Agnostic Carroll. Part 2.

OK, so, picking up where I left off...

What I hadn't realized about the traditional (i.e. "Christian") end of the Christmas music spectrum, listening again for, for all intents and purposes, the first time since I've been old enough to know better, was how incredibly complicated what's actually being SAID in the songs is with any eye at all to current affairs, global-culture, international politics, religious wars, etc.

Listen to the lyrics of conventional carols... "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Oh Holy Night," "What Child is This," etc. etc.... you know, any of the countless that depict the creche or nativity-scene. Imagine what would happen if a child was born into poverty in a Middle-Eastern Gaza village now making such claims, representing, yet not representing, altering, and redefining one sect or another. It gets pretty messy, to say the least.

Maybe it was just because this sudden exposure to these songs directly followed a report from the BBC World Service that dealt with a lot of these sort of issues. Who knows. Either way, it's troubling, to put it mildly.... especially since the ideological struggles so "peacefully" depicted in these songs represent (in the tangible, non-dogma-based world, free from indoctrinated anachronisms) so much very real bloodshed.

What bothered me the most, I think, was thinking about the sort of individuals earnestly singing these songs (probably without paying much attention to the lyrics, to be fair) at the same time spouting political agendas that take a far more simplistic and narrow tack on such issues (ie, the awkward irony of the American "evangelical-ethics" voter who is also in favor of nationalist/ patriotic imperialism... but there are a ton of other examples as well). There's a "choosing sides" element at work in these songs, when placed in a modern context (that dates back problematically to the same time-period that they depict, and even earlier) that makes me deeply uncomfortable. The idea prevalent in all of these songs that this child in the stable "brings peace" seems particularly awkward, considering the actual history that chronologically follows (and, in some cases, results from) his arrival. Apparently the Christian carolers's definition of "peace" is different (and far more sectarian) than mine.

To boil it down, then... These holiday songs offer a caricature-ish depiction of how the people who most violently advocate waging war against impoverished, radical, sectarian Middle-Eastern peoples also happen to WORSHIP an impoverished, radical, sectarian Middle-Easterner.

Anyway, my intention here wasn't to be a holiday downer. I just figured I'd offer my take on a partial answer to the questions I've been hearing more and more every year (and this year it's like an epidemic); Why does no one seem terribly "festive," and why are many of us becoming increasingly irritated by those who are, because the festivity seems out of place or fake? I think this might be part of the answer... our collective world-view is more and more global each year, and both the capitalist- and religious- mythos involved with the elements that make up the "spirit of the season" seem increasingly disingenuous to the real-life complications of the world that we live in.


The "moral," then? Make the holidays that you celebrate your own. Be "festive," in your own way, for yourself and the people that you care about. Any other reason for celebration becomes far too problematic, and might just leave you advocating something that you may not otherwise, opening a can of worms that has too many angles to effectively "celebrate."

Like I said in the first installment, I'm not exactly your average Bah-Humbug type. Here's a photo of how Sara and I got festive on our own terms at the Swords We Swallow Studios in Dover-



And here's a bit of a "Holiday gift" from me to all of you out there in the interwebz. I dropped about 20 minutes of live improvised electronic music to video the other night... I know, I know, it's wicked long... but I was just jamming and experimenting, so wasn't really keeping track of the time. Bear with the length, and enjoy what you can of it. (unfortunately, some of my favorite moments are closer to the end.)


Wolf, Are You Ready?

Bernard P. Provencher LeVautour | MySpace Video


Because some people were asking when I initially shared this elsewhere, here's the rig I was using for this particular jam-



Let's see... there's a customized toy piano, an odd stringed "harp" thing that I made out of a broken door-chime, a toy record player (for this track I was spinning a record called "Songs Children Sing in France"), an iTouch running some synth and sequencer apps, an old radio-shack mixer, a Zoom Rythmtrak 234, a halloween toy for vocal effects, an old electro-voice ceramic mic, a Sure vocal mic, a Macbook Pro running garage-band synth-pads, some Bose speakers and a beat-up Gorilla bass-amp.

Out of curiosity, if I were to put together some sort of a show doing this sort of thing, with a collection of guest-collaborators (most likely somewhere in New England), would anyone come out to see it?

Oh, and if you like this sort of thing, keep your eyes peeled. I definitely hope to drop at least a couple more before classes start again in January... but hope to not be the only one making noise (hint hint... interested collaborators be in touch.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oh Silent Night: An Agnostic Carroll. Part 1.

While driving home from finishing up my holiday shopping this evening, I reluctantly allowed myself to leave the radio on “the folk show” on NHPR. Not that this would usually be reluctant... but they were playing Christmas music.

Now, I don’t think I’m exactly your run-of-the-mill anti-social bah-humbug type. I tend to think that my usual objection to consciously subjecting myself to holiday tunes is a bit more nuanced and complicated than that, for a few reasons. First, (and probably most pressingly), until my “real” career starts actually paying me, I wait tables. Which means that I’m subjected to the most banal and commercialized version of consumer Christmas music on a daily basis, starting the moment the restaurant opens on Black Friday, straight up until new years. Second, I’m an agnostic, and I don’t exactly believe in the traditionally-assumed benefits of the American style of capitalist consumerism... which puts me in a bit of a dicey situation when it comes to holidays that are based on nothing but a combination of religion and material-consumption. Third, I don’t have, like, want, or understand children. Not to mention, I’m a “recovered Catholic” (about 11 years of parochial education under my belt), raised in a house where, after Thanksgiving, all music HAD to be season-specific. Call it jingle-bell-burn-out. Call it jaded cultural nihilism. Call it whatever you want.

But, now... Christmas is less than a week a way, I have just finished my shopping, in one form or another I still “celebrate” the holiday (for one reason or another that I’d have a pretty hard time trying to rationalize), snow is on the ground... yet I don’t feel terribly “festive,” though for some reason I feel like I should. God knows, I’ve spent enough money that it seems like I SHOULD find a reason to feel “in the spirit” to make it all worth while, right? So... when I get back in my car and, over the course of time I was in the store, public-radio has transitioned from news to Christmas music that falls on the “classier” (or “less-tacky”?) end of the spectrum, this seems to be an adequate compromise between my internal opposites that are annually active during this season.

Problem is... it’s been a long time since I’ve actually LISTENED to Christmas music. I mean, actually paid attention to it.

The last few years, when I was wrapping gifts, or doing something else that required at least the facsimile of festivity, I had a few standby albums that FELT warm and festive, but had enough complications to make their holiday sentiments less-than-deadpan, and thus more comfortable for me. Miles Davis- Kind of Blue. This one’s easy. It’s not even a Christmas record. But it just FEELS like the perfect record for a cold, comfortable night by the fire. No internal compromise required. Jethro Tull- A Christmas Album. I think most of this band is pagan, and nearly all of these tunes have the smirk of such an irony shining through them. Yet there’s a Celtic warmth to the record that makes it somehow appropriately “Christmasy.” Other than that... The Squirrel Nut Zippers, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole... just because I truly enjoy torch-jazz, no matter what season it happens to be.

None of these, however, allows me the opportunity of regularly observing what Christmas music is traditionally “supposed” to be.

And the Frosty’s and Rudolph’s in the restaurants only expressed the consumer end of the equation.

(...to be continued...)

Friday, November 6, 2009

“Sounds like someone recorded their drunk grandpa singing along to a Christmas cd in the bathroom.”

It seems that everyone’s talking about this years’ release of Bob Dylan’s attempt at a Christmas record. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground on this one. Journalists seem to love it (with caveats about irony and refreshing awkwardness) or hate it. I’m not going to throw my words onto the pig-pile and write an actual review... but merely muse on the concept a bit. Just take it as a given that my personal opinion of what I’ve heard of the record (I have to be upfront and admit I haven’t heard all of it, but browsing streamed snippets, internet bootlegs and the clips played on various NPR segments have been MORE than enough) falls on the more negative side of the heap. I tend to agree with Phoenix-based musician Brian Kelly (The Twilight Showdown, Borachio, etc.) that “Bob Dylan's ‘Christmas in the Heart’ sounds like someone recorded their drunk grandpa singing along to a Christmas cd in the bathroom.” (via Facebook.) If I thought it SOUNDED like a bad idea, I never would have guessed that it could be WORSE than I expected. But it is.

I have to confess, as a music-snob, that I’ve always been embarrassingly indifferent about Bob Dylan. In general, I have quite a bit of respect for him and like quite a bit of his material, but in small doses. I would never describe myself as a “fan.”

Let’s face it, there’s a heap of musicians out there that are better at writing songs than playing those songs. These are artists whose true value shines best when you hear their songs covered and performed by artists other than themselves. Dylan’s on that list for me... along with Leonard Cohen, Leadbelly (as much as I might personally enjoy both), and Weezer (first two albums only; everything after is garbage when played by anyone). For one reason or another, I tend to even prefer other people knocking-off Dylan’s SOUND and STYLE than hearing Dylan’s original rendition. Sure, I’ll admit to the sacrilege; I would far rather sit down and listen to Conor Oberst blatantly ripping Dylan-isms than cue up an actual Dylan record. And I don’t think that has all that much to do with my age. I just think for some song-writers like Dylan, it sometimes takes the ideas and instruments of others to iron out the kinks, to pull the pearl from the muddy oyster.

Dylan, for me, is a songwriter. And he’s brilliant and influential enough at it that the aspects of his records that I find hard to actually LISTEN to can be taken with a grain of salt most of the time.

But now, with this excruciating Christmas record, he’s taken what he’s good at out of the picture and left us with the rest; we get the muddy oyster-shell, and someone’s already stolen the pearl. This is a SONGWRITER releasing an entire record of covers, standards, classics. Think of how painful the reverse-scenario is... a classic-rock cover-band making the mistake of, after decades banging out recognizable radio-fare, debuting a couple of new “originals” to the drunk crowd that they entertain at the biker-dive. Let’s be realistic; NO ONE wants to hear flat-line, uninspired knock-offs of Credence songs (devoid of the catchy hooks) sandwiched between “I Want to Rock and Roll All Night” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”... and yet that’s what these attempts always inevitably sound like. And the lines at the rest-room and the bar suddenly lengthen at the expense of the dance-floor. Shock.

I don’t honestly know, in retrospect, why I expected this record (which I didn’t even expect to like) to be a bit better than it actually is. When I try to fathom how Bob Dylan doing Christmas songs could possibly NOT suck, the sound in my head sounds more like a Nick Cave or Tom Waits Christmas album than one that Dylan could ever do.

Now THOSE would be records that I would actually want to hear. Sure, they would be just as guaranteed to have their share of queasy, questionable, and cheesy moments... but I have the feeling they would be a whole lot more entertaining.... and at least a bit less painful.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ealain Ar Son Ealaine (anachronistic credos to reconstruct the creative "now")

(For a variety of confusing, conflicted, and convoluted reasons that I'll spare you from here, several of my recent research endeavors have been bringing this poem that I wrote a couple of years ago to my mind a lot lately. I thought that I had posted it somewhere shortly after it was written, but a cursory search of google says that I'm mistaken. This piece was one of a pair (drastically different from each other) that I wrote for anonymous submission to an academic poetry journal that I was working for at the time. In keeping with my initial guess, this one was rejected in favor of the other, which was said to be more realistic, grounded, and relatable... which provided further proof of the point that I was trying to make with this one in an appropriately ironic way... which I was obviously greatly amused by.)


The breeze blows in
The experimental surreal
The swirl of my pipe-smoke
The mingling, crumbling,
Crushing of crumpled, living
Leaves, to sway and swing in
Non-notes, artificial harmonics,
To add texture to the silence.

None of this is more real or
Pertinent than the
Dream that I had last
Night... something about
Espionage, switched ID's
In the restaurant where I
Work, in big-backed
Red-vinyl booths with
Pernod bottles on the
Shelves, "Anisette," a smaller,
Softer version, a more
"Truthful" femininity,
Something far more "real,"
If "reality" and "truth"
Could be given more
False "faith." But from that
Draught they've drank enough.

When your footing fails,
And your senses are seen to be
No more than merely what
You sense, "Construction" and
"Conceptualism" render
"Content" entirely inconsequent.

Activity falls to the
Dagger of intellect;
All disciplines would quake and
Cower if they realized that
The ones that prove their
Umbrella could make their
"Important" findings obsolete.

Empirical studies suggest,
Based on what we understand,
The best of the research-
Methods that I have no
More than anyone else,
Or less, the plinking,
Plopping, fizzing, bubbling,
Test-tubes of all the
Chemical concoctions we can
Understand (which are none),
Besides what happens in
Our own heads, concludes,
That this is all that matters.

A false construction
In a dead language,
Of a nineteenth-century
Slogan, fitted around a
"Real life" growling version
Of a giant plaster lion
At the front of an emerald
Building in a city
Built for the construction
Of fabricated grime
Demonstrates this well.

When the activist "realities"
That Gautier and Poe spoke
Out against are demonstrated
By our daily lives to
Not exist, their credos adopt
More fervent strength and meaning.

Anachronistically, of course.
I am well aware of my
Ironies and contradictions,
And these themselves will prove my point.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dirty Jobs; a retooling of the term for the stay-at-home-circus-set.

“That’s a pretty
Dirty job, isn’t it?”
I heard a woman a-
Cross the way with a
Vicious case of
Couch-ass say to
The mover as he
Hoisted her hideous
Blue-leather sofa
From a second-story
Slider... And it made me
Think.

What has a “dirty job”
Become? I mean, it
Could be argued that,
In the present condition of
American Capitalism, any time
Green paper or false credit
Changes hands a job is
Being done that is, on
Both ends of the exchange,
Inherently “dirty”...
But that’s an argument for
Another debate, and I will
Thus leave it, for now, in the
Periphery...

As I was overhearing
This, I was knee-deep in
A critical-essay dense with
Requisite references, realizing
That I was about to
Engage in a career as a
Professional Name-Dropper.
Realizing it is apparently rather
Uncouth to begin a piece of
Writing without the required,
However unrelated and irrelevant,
Quotes from Greenblatt, Jameson,
Frye...

I was in the middle of
Thinking aloud, “What the
HELL does that quote have to
Do with this essay?!?” when
My speakers shuffled to a
Song from one of my own recent
Records; that someone had
Lately described as reminding
Him of the cacophony, the
Layers and spirals of sounds,
Of standing in the middle of
An airport tarmac, without earplugs.
(I think it was intended, and
Thus taken, as a compliment.)
And I recalled my meticulous attention
To the texture of the dirt on the
Beat, the cloudy veil to
Mask my voice, and remembered
That this was “dirty” on
Purpose. I had worked hard
To make it such. Ok, then, let’s
Break it down a
Bit.

We work with... words,
And noise, and visual
Images (both tangible,
For their own sake, and
The combined construction of
All or parts of these thing...)
We’ve become, of
Course, compulsive
Multi-taskers, obsessive
Interdisciplinarians...
We are expected, at the
Same time that we,
Even more, expect
Ourselves to be,
Minutely specialized,
While being, at the
Same time, back-
Breakingly diverse...
We all become
Jacks of all
Trades though
Masters of one
Miniscule detail of
How to pull all of those
Together, to
Construct from it
Our individual
Microscopically
Diverse
Niche.

In most cases, our
Parents weren’t circus
Performers. Even when
They might have
Been artists, critics,
Musicians, whatever,
They would never have
Thought to jump
Through the flaming
Hoops we douse
With oil and light
Ourselves.

Can you look at me with
An “honest” twenty-first-century
Face (whatever that might
Mean) and tell me that
These aren’t “Pretty Dirty
Jobs?”

The difference I see,
However, between this and
How that term was used
In the past is that,
Unlike, for instance, the
Garbage-man (except, of course,
That rare yet somehow
Commonplace specimen that
Takes such perverse pride in
The beat-to-shit and disregarded
Stuffed-animals that he tacks to
The grill of his truck)
Is that we REVEL
In the dirt, it’s rather
WHY we do the jobs,
Instead of a hinderance
From holding them, as it
Might be for perspective
Garbage-men.

“Isn’t that a pretty
Dirty job?” the
Woman with the
Couch-ass said to
The mover, as they
Watched me sitting
On my patio, rabidly
Scribbling in the
Margins of my copy of
A cumbersome anthology
Of the complete works of
Milton...


Bernard P. Provencher LeVautour (w/ S.W.S.)- Dirty Jobs (poem)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Summers end, Semesters start... A synopsis, of sorts.

I realized how long it's been since I posted last by watching the video that was tacked onto the end of my last entry, and recalled that the evening we filmed it, we had spent most of the day at the beach. Now, the leaves on the tree directly opposite my desk have turned red (almost even past the prime of their foliage.)

My first few weeks of grad.school have been very busy. Which I thoroughly enjoy. It feels great to be finally back in school, my limbo-period finally over.

Today, then, between my scouring of critical essays on Milton, I'll just post a brief and scattered laundry-list of assorted topics.

First... in regards to my last entry (about Alan Kirby's "The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond")... apparently the ideas expressed in that essay have morphed, in the years following its publication, from "pseudo-modernism" to "digimodernism." These ideas have expanded quite a bit, and, I'm pleased to say, seem to have rectified many of my concerns with them over that time (as I found out from the author himself, who learned of my posts via Google Alerts [which seems fitting, due to his subject-matter])... He has a new book out called Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture that I'm actually rather excited to read at some point... whenever I might get time to. You can find information on this, and links to the current evolution of these thoughts on his blog, at his website.

In other news... this seems like an appropriate time to look over my list of "things to do before school starts," and see how much of it I accomplished... Or rather, maybe it's easier to start with the things that I didn't, as the list tended to evolve as items were removed from it over the course of several months. So, I never did "get into good exercise habits" as I told myself to do. I never did submit any of my poetry or short-fiction for publication. Although I completed recording records with both Tipsy Cougar and Swords We Swallow, I have yet to package and make available either record as I had planned to. I haven't written the first-drafts to the two pieces of short fiction that I have mapped-out and outlined in my notebook. And I still have 10+ pages of fragments in the "ideas" section of my notebook that I planned to work through and complete (blog-entries, poetry, fiction, essays, visual-art, etc.) that I have yet to.

Obviously being in school again after a couple of years off involves an adjustment... and, partly, that involves adjusting to the idea that most of these things aren't going to get done (or even thought about) until my next break from classes. I'm trying to negotiate with my own mind a bit in terms of creative ways to still get what I need to out by way of music, art, and creative writing... but this early in the semester, I think it's a bit too early to tell how that will work. I'll keep you posted, I'm sure.

In terms of things that I DID end up getting crossed off of the list...

One of the things that had sat daunting me on such long-term lists the longest (if you haven't figured out yet, I'm one of those weirdos who lives and dies by my to-do-lists) was the idea of getting more of my acoustic-tracks recorded. Looking at that list the week before classes started, I didn't have the motivation to deal with the hassles of audio-recording (my thoughts on that process have become increasingly self-contradictory and problematic in the last couple years... it's a love/hate sort of thing, at this point)... so I decided instead to just run video and jam out some songs... and, in one way or another, I had accomplished that particular bullet-point.

So, then... here are a couple video-clips that I recorded in the process. Enjoy.

Bernard P. Provencher LeVautour- Peepers (acoustic)


Bernard P. Provencher LeVautour- Rusted Tricycle's "Cherry Coke"

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Death of “Pseudo-Modernism” and Beyond; A Return From “Critical Realism.”

(I spent some time tossing around ideas about which of the numerous potential angles I should approach this from… and eventually threw up my hands and started writing, deciding to just run at it bull-in-china-shop style. So, if you’re interested in this debate, please bear with the length of this post, my occasional use of literary/ theory jargon, the possible failures of my attempt to keep this from devolving into a rant at times… etc. If any of this inspires a rebuttal, or ideas of any sort continuing the dialogue, I would LOVE to post them here. So, if you have something to say on this topic, be in touch .)

Ihab Hassan ended his 1987 essay “Toward the Concept of Postmodernism” by saying “One may wonder: Is some decisive historical mutation- involving art and science, high and low culture, the male and female principles, parts and wholes, involving the One and the Many- as pre-Socratics used to say- active in our midst? Or does the dismemberment of Orpheus prove no more than the mind’s need to make but one more construction of life’s mutabilities and human morality? And what construction lies beyond, behind, within, that construction?”

Contrasting these thoughts (which were presented as part of an attempt to define present and future parameters for the term “postmodernism”) with those suggested by Dr. Alan Kirby’s 2006 essay “The Death of Postemodernism and Beyond” that I linked in my last entry, suggests a rather troubling disconnect.

Frankly, the problem becomes that, as much as his cynical observations are often apt, the conclusions that Dr. Kirby draws from these conflict vastly with the prior works of Hassan and his critical peers that defined and refined the genre/ movement that Kirby so bombastically attempts to declare the death of.

The problem is, none of the observations that Kirby makes sit outside, as the changing cultural forces that he insists that they are, of the general parameters of the movement that he’s using them as validation for the disavowal and decease of.

Most solid theories of “postmodern thought” that I have read (including several of those that Kirby cites, in parts that he understandably yet problematically overlooks) leave plenty of room (and even often foresee) the cultural changes that Kirby asserts have rung its death-knoll.

As Hassan says, “Postmodernism implies a movement toward pervasive procedures, ubiquitous interactions, immanent codes, media, languages.” Oddly, if boiled into essential categories, these are all of the things that Kirby asserts as proof that contemporary culture is NOT a postmodern one.

Sure, I understand that there’s a bit of a time-period disconnect here as well. Kirby seems to be extremely willing to admit that our contemporary culture morphs astoundingly quickly, and unfortunately, this quickness proves the larger-scale undoing of his own points. The article that I’m referring to, “The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond,” was published in 2006, and by his own standards, a lot has changed culturally in the three years since then.

Perhaps the most telling demonstration of the changes that those three years have made (particularly in terms of making his own conclusions seem cynical, short-sighted, self-defeating, and, in general, off-putting) comes from his own references to ‘living in a post-9/11 world’ (“pseudo-modernism was not born on 11 September 2001, but postmodernism was interred in it’s rubble,” etc).

In 2006, it was FAR more acceptable (although barely… I’m pretty sure this was pretty close to the final throws of this cultural excuse) to write-off paranoia, surface-level-thinking, abhorrence of abstraction of any sort, over-moralizing, and ‘buckle-down-and-focus-on-“reality”’ sort of thought than it is to admit these sort of sentiments in civilized print (I.e. PhilosophyNow magazine, where the article initially ran) in mid-2009. I’m pretty sure it’s not taboo to think anymore… It’s acceptable again to not sit paranoid that any ideas that seem on the surface-level to lack relevance to day-to-day ethical/ easily perceived trivialities (I.e. the shortsighted assumption that the pop-culture dictates and guides thought, as Kirby is asserting, which is almost entirely negated by observations of any other past philosophical/ critical/ artistic movement… though that’s a whole different can of critical worms) might somehow appear disrespectful to those directly effected by the events of 2001 and the wars that followed, or that the “market economics” that Kirby correctly observes to have become such a cultural and intellectual focal point have dictated that any philosophical or ideological discussion about the relevance, value, or true possibility of “capitalist democracy” is somehow a betrayal to those who have fallen under the tires of the system and are struggling to make ends meet (Did you catch that, too? There’s an odd double-speak that reads between the lines of Kirby’s cynicism… his overall thesis seems laden with this cumbersome implication that it’s doing some grand disrespect to those that have been beat down and silenced by the system to speak out against it or attempt to step outside of it… he’s telling us to sit down and shut up, because that’s what our cultural-moment warrants. This strikes me as typical “post-9/11 world”-style fear-mongering… which of course makes all Kirby’s references to “Big Brother” (the TV show) deeply ironic due to the title of that program’s source-text.)

(Of course, the biggest irony in these claims is that, if the conclusions about our contemporary thought-processes that Kirby’s drawing were true, why would anyone have bothered to read his article?)

In fact, it seems that Kirby’s conclusions present, ironically, a death of this “post-9/11 world” mentality to a greater extent than a “death of postmodernism”… mostly because so shortly after, these ideas seem extremely dated by the various paranoia’s of that (thankfully) short epoch of slammed-shutter thought that litter the text.

I’m not doubting for a moment that there was a brief several-year time-period post 9/11 when we put on the intellectual brakes to focus on the “real”… and Kirby’s article strikes me as a final spasm of that method of thinking. But I feel that that era is over, and artists and critics have seemed to resume progressive/ abstract thinking where the word “real” once again REQUIRES those quotation-marks (as I was attempting to demonstrate with my post on Lady GaGa that inspired this analysis), once again WITHIN the postmodern mindset, rather than in opposition to it, utilizing and toying with the observations that Kirby makes, rather than allowing themselves to be trampled by them into cultural submission.

To be fair, Kirby himself leaves space in his text for the possibility of this transition. “Although we may grow so used to the new terms that we can adopt them for meaningful artistic expression (and then the pejorative label I have given pseudo-modernism may no longer be appropriate), for now we are confronted by a storm of human activity producing almost nothing of any lasting or even reproducible cultural value.” Most present-tense observers tapped into any sort of network of creative thinkers would, I feel, be able to assert in mid-2009 that the “for now” that he refers to here was merely a nasty bout of societal growing-pains which are finally starting to pass. So then would have to be passing the “pseudo-modern” era that Kirby refers to, by his own admission that the term would in this case nullify itself by its own definition. Kirby’s “pseudo-modernism” was intended as a full-stop in the present-tense progress of ideas, but he left open the possibility for it to merge into something more like a semi-colon… with a bit of time, even that device of pause has softened into a set of brackets containing an independent clause, after which we must return to the sentence, the advancement of critical thought, already in progress before this anecdotal interruption.

Each movement is noted by its counterpoint to its predecessor, right? Then Postmodernism (as an always-admittedly loosely-defined and ambiguous phenomenon, as most “movements” are, most particularly in the present-tense) is most easily defined and grappled with in reference to Modernism. Many attribute-lists and sets of comparative points have been critically assembled… to return to Hassan, for instance, and swipe a few examples off of his diagram of this sort, Modernism is represented by “Form (conjunctive, closed)” as Postmodernism by “Antiform (disjunctive, open),” M. by “Purpose” to P.M.’s “Play,” M. by “Design” to P.M.’s “Chance,” “Art Object/ Finished Work” to “Process/ Performance/ Happening,” “Interpretation/ Reading” to “Against Interpretation/ Misreading,” “Genital/ Phallic” to “Polymorphous/ Androgynous,” “God the Father” to “The Holy Ghost,” Modernism’s “Metaphysics” to PostMod’s “Irony,” and, of course, the ever-confusing yet oft-quoted standby, “Signified” vs. “Signifier.”

Contrasting these counterpoints, and then re-observing Kirby’s observations and assertions, it seems to me that nearly all of Hassan’s characteristic examples on the Postmodern side of the chart sound an AWFUL lot like most of the very characteristics that Kirby is citing as the reasons that Postmod is dead and buried. By Hassan’s definitions, therefore, it seems that what Kirby calls the “pseudo-modern” is merely a facet and development of postmodernism, merely one that Kirby (and perhaps much of the culture at the time of his writing) hadn’t quite figured out how to constructively adjust to yet.

Maybe it’s because my vantage-point sits too close to the line Kirby draws in the sand as a “generation gap” (1980). Maybe my age-bracket, those of us right on the cusp of this transition, whose outlooks feature bits and pieces of BOTH generations and can often rationalize aspects of BOTH of the philosophies that he lays out (without contradicting ourselves any more than his own essay does), that I have a hard time viewing his assessments of the way that our contemporary culture has developed as the philosophy-shattering end-game that Kirby sees it as. Who knows. But whether or not Kirby’s stance was pertinent in 2006 or not, between the far more “contemporary” pivotal post-modern texts that he conveniently overlooked in his claim that these are the thoughts of our parents’ generation, his “good-old-days” lamenting about how short “the kids’” attention-span is these days, his assumptions that if corporate pop-media isn’t producing viable thought-products than neither is anyone else, etc, in 2009 I definitely don’t buy it.

“You are the text, there is no-one else, no ‘author;’ there is nowhere else, no other time or place. You are free: you are the text: the text is superseded.”


These last lines of Kirby’s article strike me as humorously RIFE with exactly the sort of post-modern “elusiveness of meaning and knowledge,” “ironic self-awareness,” and “disbelief in grand narratives” that are the same phenomena he’s attempting to say that we no longer participate in.

Maybe Kirby’s text ITSELF is intended as an ironic post-modern meta-text, a game of subversive idea-play INTENDED to undo itself? If so, “The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond” would have made Beckett, Borges, and Nabokov EXTREMELY proud.

(Whew. Ok… I would like to thank IMMENSELY any of you that made it all the way through that one. If you did, you deserve a cookie. By “cookie,” I mean a brand new Swords We Swallow video. Thanks for reading… Enjoy.)

Swords We Swallow- A Broken Note

Friday, July 31, 2009

Welcome to the Intellectual Apocalypse; "Pseudo-Modernism" and Dr. Alan Kirby's Assertions That We're All Irrelevant Now.

In a comment to my last entry, C. Charles ("xian") Dyer left a link to this fascinating article. Thank you, Mr. Dyer.

It's by Dr. Alan Kirby, from a 2006 issue of Philosophy Now magazine. Dr. Kirby asserted that post-modernism is dead, and that the way that contemporary pop-culture, technology, commerce, and social-dynamics operate have made any thought that goes beyond observational/ critical realism outdated and irrelevant.

I'm well aware that this article is 3 years outdated. But, it's new to me... and now that I'm familiar with Kirby's idea of "pseudo-modernism," three-years-out seems like a pretty good juncture to take a look and assess his predictions, especially since many of his claims are intrinsic upon the idea of how rapidly-changing, ephemeral and transient our culture has become.

For more on this debate on "what comes after post-modernity," I've actually found that (surprisingly) the Wikipedia entry for "post-postmodernism" actually provides a helpful overview (Dr. Kirby's article and nomenclature is mentioned here as well.) I've personally been partial to the ideas of "reconstructionism" for some time, but I tend to view this as an extension and development of postmodern thought, rather than a replacement of or rebuttal to it.

Since my next entry will feature my own response, reaction, and reflection on Dr. Kirby's article, I figured that I should probably post the link before-hand so that anyone who wants to know what I'm talking about can get a jump-start on reading it.

Overall, it's a really interesting read... I understand and agree with many of Dr. Kirby's observations, but I have some definite questions and reservations about the conclusions that he draws from them. (As I scribble all over the copy that I printed out, I'm also starting to get the impression that his own line of reasoning invalidates and contradicts some of the points that he's making [not to mention the fact that anyone's reading it]... but don't we all sometimes.)

What do you think?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lady GaGa as Post-Modern Identity-Art.

When we speak of post-modern art, it is commonly understood that elements of pop-culture play an important role. What this role typically involves when we say this is that artists (who are typically functioning (or attempting to function) in certain ways OUTSIDE of the pop-culture, utilize elements of mainstream cultural trends within their work, as components of the pastiche that they employ. Think of pop-culture as a shade of fluorescent paint, not the painting itself that the pigment is utilized to make.

As my girlfriend was recently reading elements to me of the Wikipedia bio for the current ironic pop-princess Lady GaGa, it struck me that a bit of role-reversal within these conventions may be finally coming into play. From what I can piece together from the wiki and some further digging into similar info available on the internet, here’s a brief synopsis, and my analysis of how and why it works-



“Lady GaGa,” A.K.A. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, is first-and-foremost an Artist (and not in the same way that we might off-handedly refer to Britney Spears as a “recording-artist,” rather in the “Fine Art”/ “Conceptual Project” sort of way) She’s trained at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and maintains a “collective” (“Haus of GaGa”- of which she claims “this is my own creative team, modeled on Warhol's Factory. Everyone is under 26 and we do everything together.”) This is decidedly NOT the resume of someone who (like most of her peers) signed themselves away to a talent-agent with a hysterical (and hysterically naive) cry of “Whatever it takes to make me a staaaaar!”

In her own words, rather; "I consider what I do to be more of an Andy Warhol concept: pop performance art, multimedia, fashion, technology, video, film. And it's all coming together, and it's going to be traveling museum show."


For a couple of weeks I had near-constant exposure to “The Fame” and streamed videos of the songs from the GaGa record… not exactly of my own volition, but not quite in a “kicking and screaming” sort of way either… I honestly don’t mind this stuff nearly as much as I feel that I probably should. From the first time that I heard it, the record struck me as conventional, clichéd, saccharine, girly pop (albeit with better-produced dance-beats and glammed-up electro than most of that ilk) of a sort that I don’t usually like…but somehow, this one felt… DIFFERENT. That difference, I believe, is IRONY. By this point I feel like I could write an entire book analyzing the double-entendres in each song and the mixed metaphors and tongue-in-cheek references in each video… but I’ll spare the close-read for now. Suffice it to say, there isn’t a single song on the record or official video released that doesn’t have an undertone or possible translation that doesn’t suggest the sort of pastiche that I’m speaking of. This is something a bit too artistically-serious to be called “spoof,” but a bit too ironic to be taken serious in the context that it’s presented… which presents another layer of irony- this pastiche is far more serious and legitimate than the genre that it takes as it’s subject. Think the way that Don Delilo, Salman Rushdie, Andy Warhol (a name you might have noticed GaGa herself seems quick to drop), or Sheppard Fairey repurpose pop-culture as a facet of their art. This is basically the same idea, but the formula has been cleverly inverted.

The nearest I can gather, “Lady GaGa’s” current public persona was created as a performance-art stunt. She seems to have taken the current media-driven pop-music market as her canvas, and decided that on it she would paint a construction of herself, an intentionally fabricated pop-star.

Let’s face it. They’re ALL fabricated. That’s part of the deal; the entirety of what currently “sells” in that realm. It’s about time that an Artist stepped up and made themself and their identity into the canvas itself, dedicated themself to creating their own identity into a “pop-star” in order to achieve, in a more extreme and all-encompassing way, the points that nearly all dedicated post-modernists, “pop-artists,” and post-post-modernists are intending to make about the world that we live in and the fleeting natures of “truth” and “reality,” by merely referencing or lifting elements of pop-culture, rather than diving right in, as Lady GaGa has.

Pop-culture is no longer merely a shade of paint dabbed on for effect or to make a point. Pop-culture IS the point, but the post-modern point remains the same. The identity is still the canvas, the artist becomes that canvas, the paint is both the artist and pop-culture itself. Lady GaGa seems on a crash course to prove that artists can BECOME the very thing that they’re critiquing (without devolving completely to satire), and this may prove to be the most extreme and compelling way of making this point to date.

That is, if anyone bothers to take notice that, regardless of the surface-level similarities, there’s something decisively DIFFERENT between Lady GaGa and Christina Aguilera.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What IS LeVautourChronique? ( A Mission-Statement, Expanded Scope, and Updated Aesthetics…)

As my readership begins to gradually diversify a bit, I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been fielding more questions about what the theme and purpose of this website is. I’m aware that it’s not always completely evident from one entry to the next what, if any, is the connection between them…. So, this is probably a good time to establish the ground-rules…

My theme with LeVautourChronique is intentionally and by its nature pliable, but there are definite guidelines, and I feel that thus far I’ve adhered to them fairly consistently. Basically, this is an Arts and Culture blog dedicated to the Poetics and Politics of Identity. Critically, I’m of the belief that all Artists and public figures (and most individuals in general, whether consciously aware of it or not) are actively engaged in a project (or projects) of Identity-Construction, and that for artists this often even goes so far as being a facet of their catalog, one of their primary artistic creations (sometimes even their master-work, the larger piece that all of their other works are merely elements of… I’ve done academic work attempting to assert this about Walt Whitman, for instance.) Therefore, on this site, critique of nearly any element of art, culture, society, myself, my projects, daily life, etc is and has been fair game, as long as it is viewed, observed, and analyzed through this lens.

Now then, over seventy entries in and with those parameters finally clarified, I want to also make it clear that, when I started this site, I never intended to be the sole contributing writer to it in the long-run. My ideas for this site and reasons for establishing it, like most projects, seemed to require to be done in stages, and I think that it’s time to move a small step up that ladder.

So, from this point forward, consider this an open call. Keep in mind the theme just discussed (to reiterate, in a nutshell: An Arts and Culture blog dedicated to the Poetics and Politics of Identity and Identity Construction), let your mind spin, and send me some essays, reviews, musings, guerilla-journalism, poetry, abstract creative writing, whatever. I want it to be known, too, that I’m not only speaking of or to my close friends or frequent collaborators here; this is open to ANYONE if I think that your ideas fit well with what we’re trying to do and say on this site (…although part of me would like to start off with a couple contributions from artists/ writers in my own inner circle that I know and trust, just to test the water a bit [wink wink, get at me, kids.]…)

To get a few potential F.A.Q.’s on the subject out of the way…

Will you get paid for contributing your writing to LeVautourChronique? Yes and no. You will get paid in the same way that I get paid for maintaining the site. For the time-being, therefore, your compensation comes in the form of promotion, readership, networking, the free exchange of creative ideas, etc.

Will contributions published here be limited exclusively to ideas and opinions that agree explicitly with my own? Absolutely not. In fact, a desire for differing ideas is one of the driving forces behind my interest in the inclusion of additional writers. Open dialogue is definitely one of my goals here. Contributions from authors other than myself will feature by-lines, and probably an introductory blurb so as not to confuse my own thoughts with those of others. I will not, however, publish here anything perceived as intolerant, ignorant, or unnecessarily negative, however well you might think that your writing with those traits might adhere to the blog’s theme.

Will I stop posting my own work here once I start accepting contributions? Absolutely not. This will still primarily be my blog, and primarily the online home of my own ideas, reviews, and essays. In fact, you will most likely notice that the next few posts are still my own, as I have a handful in the works and partially written… and that won’t mean in any way that I’ve dismissed the idea of accepting contributions, either.

How do I submit my contributions, or send additional questions, comments, or feedback? The best way is to email me, at bernard.levautour@yahoo.com.

With a newly-clarified mission-statement, and a widened scope for future entries on this site, I think that this is also as good a time as any to introduce a bit of a new look to L.V.C. I am therefore retiring the awkward/ outdated quasi-unintentionally phallic-looking B+W vulture logo (I’ll leave it up until the next post, in case you haven’t a clue what I’m referring to…) and replacing it with a brand new and far more appropriate-feeling logo(the aesthetic tone around here has evolved with the blog, I feel…)…




…which features an image from my portfolio of Miss Chloe Claustrophobia (herself a conceptual-art project pertaining to the theme of Identity-Construction) digitally modified in collaboration with Sara Jane of Alloy Images/ Swords We Swallow / Tipsy Cougar (who is also my wonderful and supportive girlfriend.).

So, stay tuned. Click the “Follow” link at the top of the page. Contribute your writing. Help this site become a home for active, constructive, and creative dialogue. In the meantime, enjoy my rants and rambles more thoroughly now that you hopefully have a better understanding of why I post them here.

Thanks for reading.


-Bernard P. Provencher LeVautour

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dissecting the Idea of “Journalism,” One Admitted Bias at a Time; Civil Vain’s New Retro Industrial.

Phoenix-based multi-instrumentalist/ Industrial conceptualist Wes Hopeless recently submitted to me a couple of tracks and videos from his current project, Civil Vain (a recent combination, or merger, of the material under that name and a prior outfit called Entropy 33) to take a look at and analyze a bit for him. These are demo-tracks that may eventually find their way onto an as-of-yet unplanned but speculated album project, and feature songs that will most definitely make their way into the project’s live-performance debut, tentatively slated for the fall of ‘09.



Bias alert- Wes is a frequent musical collaborator of mine. Together, we were the two primary halves of the Phoenix-based surreal doom-rock outfit The Green Sea, and since that project has been on hiatus per my relocation to the east coast, we have continued to frequently exchange tracks, ideas, bits-and-pieces, feedback, critique, etc. Therefore, keep this in mind, and take this review for what it is; a bit more informed and subjective than a blind listen, yet still striving to give the material its fair and honest due.

With that out of the way… first, a video.
La Femme Diabla

This song has evolved and been posted in various forms several times, and I’ve been keeping tabs on its progress. Wes’ current songwriting tactic seems to involve constructing gradually in sonic layers, like overlaying various screens over each other on an old-school overhead projector, and in the various versions of the song you can hear the colors and textures of each screen that’s been overlaid. What’s fascinating to me is that with each layer of sound and electronic chaos that Wes adds, the finished product seems to become somehow MORE coherent than the last, rather than less. This most recent video is therefore my favorite version thus far.

The latest recorded audio version of this track, unlike its live-video counterpart, features much more of a build-up, a crescendoed gradual layering; starting off almost sparse enough to recall early Depeche Mode or The Dead Milkmen’s “You’ll Dance to Anything” in an awkward-flashback sort of way, then building into the noisy Industrial electronic layering that the song has since evolved into. Of Civil Vain’s currently available audio material, the four newest tracks are definitely the stand-outs, as it’s obvious that Wes’ project has made great strides recently coming into its own in terms of arrangement, production, and songwriting. Of these four, two are original compositions (“Confession of a Killer” and “La Femme Diabla,” the song just discussed), and the other two are “covers” (“Electric Barbarella” by Duran Duran, and “Chalice,” originally by The Green Sea, which I wrote in collaboration with Wes. I‘ve never written a review of a cover of a song that I wrote before… this seems a bit awkward.).

For the two cover-songs, I’m trying to resist the urge to go back and listen to the original versions for comparison. I haven’t heard the Duran Duran song in long enough that I don’t remember what it sounds like, and it’s been a while since I sat down with the E.P. that we recorded with The Green Sea. More relevant, I think, is taking them in the context of the other two songs. Wes made a smart decision to choose two songs for Civil Vain to cover that sound little like his own writing-style in terms of melody and construction, as it frees him up to focus his attention on creating the interesting noise-landscapes that he does so well, and adding grit and creative production to songs that feature a style different from his own trademark. The way that the vocal-parts and song-structures are created on the original tracks smacks of old-school Industrial; There’s plenty of influence from the tried-and-trues here (Ministry, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, etc) and Wes’ vocal-style and instrumentation often reminds me of The Revolting Cocks. Civil Vain pulls this off extremely well, but the cover-songs demonstrate refreshingly that Mr. Hopeless’ arrangements are still viable when Al Jorgensen has left the building.

On a personal note, I’m extremely impressed by this solo-take on “Chalice;” Wes managed to accomplish a genre-shift without much more than minor tweaks such as toning down my original hair-metal-meets-doom over-played guitar-part (I think Wes even played it on bass on this version?), translating the vocal part from “dark” to “sinister, ” etc; The song has been transformed enough to fit well into a very different sounding set, while leaving its structural integrity intact.

I just realized that with this version of “Chalice” and Tipsy Cougar’s repurposing of “The Plea of Miss Claustrophobia” (“Miss Claustrophobia’s Revenge,” from the forthcoming “Immaculate Conceptions”), two out of the three songs on The Green Sea’s E.P. have been kept in circulation, which makes me seriously tempted to rework a version of “The Evasive Enigmatic” with Swords We Swallow. We’ll see.

Wes’ greatest achievement with this Civil Vain material, I’m well aware, sounds on the surface like a sideways compliment at best. Let’s face it; What we have here is a one-man electronic act, playing Industrial music peppered with unabashed throwbacks to that genre’s bygone heyday, performing songs that are littered with references to robots, vampires, and creepy, sexed-up murder scenarios. On paper, it seems that if there was ever a precise formula for “hard to take seriously,” this would be it; possibly even rivaling The Cruxshadows in that regard. But somehow, in my biased opinion, Civil Vain manages to steer clear of some of the seemingly inevitable cheesiness lurking in this sort of terrain. As for how he manages this…. Honestly, I’m not quite SURE why it works, but it does. Take a listen. Your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Scatter-Brained Notes, Notes From a Scattered Brain.....

If you read my last couple of entries, you might have noticed mention of a fairly full-slate of planned near-future entries. You may also be noticing that its been a little while since I posted those last entries. So, here's the deal...

Since I posted those last entries, Sara and I (and thus, Swords We Swallow) have moved into a new apartment/ studio-complex in Dover to get situated on the seacoast prior to starting grad.school at the University of New Hampshire in September. We've done alot of packing boxes, loading boxes, driving, unloading boxes, unpacking boxes, decorating, organizing, working to get the dog accustomed to the new surroundings (and in turn, getting myself accustomed to living with a small furry dog) and then trying to find time and patience to decompress after this. At the same time, I've been juggling two restaurant jobs in two different parts of the state (which means more driving...) and it's probably worth noting that the new one that I've started has caused a bit more anxiety than anticipated in several regards.

Basically, what this all boils down to... is that I have more than a bit of communication burn-out at the moment. I'm well aware that over the past few weeks I haven't been nearly as good at answering my phone, responding to emails, writing past-promised reviews, etc, as I would like to be, and I apologize. At the same time, however, I am trying to allow myself to get it out of my system while I can, before school starts.

I still have several entries partially written, and now that we're settled in to the new place, I plan to start regularly posting them again. Look for a Civil Vain review, a Lady Gaga critique, and possibly an entry on the imminent demise of the restaurant industry as we knew it, as well as several other tentatively slated pieces, in the very near future.

In the meantime, Tipsy Cougar finished the recording of our debut record, "Immaculate Conceptions," before Sara and I moved out of the Cougar Pad in Manchester... Here's a video of the last track that we completed for the record, "Manchester Song," that we filmed while recording.

Tipsy Cougar - Manchester Song


If you've been following the band at all, you probably know that we record completely live, with as few overdubs as we can manage. This particular track was recorded entirely on two-track cassette tape, with absolutely no addition tracks added... and I'm still incredibly happy with the way that it turned out; a personal goal of mine (the video's audio is from the camera's mic, not the album-version). I believe that the video was a recording of the take that we ended up using for the record.

We're currently working on brainstorming creative ways to package and distribute the record, bypassing the conventional music-industry as completely as possible.

Tipsy Cougar is now also on Facebook! Visit us, become a fan!

Swords We Swallow has set up our new studio in a room of our new apartment in Dover... We recorded an improvised track and video after we had set up the equipment, but we've decided not to make it available because, well... after a day off of unpacking, decorating, and setting up equipment, we'd had quite a bit of wine... and that's pretty evident in the quality of the material. We're currently debating about posting edited segments of the film, as it's marginally entertaining... but we're also working on turning the material that we improvised into an actual song and recording a better/ more complete/ less annoyingly "abstract" version.

In the meantime, here's a photo of our new set-up...



More such photos are available for your perusal on our Myspace and Facebook pages.


So, basically... stay tuned, peel your eyes. I plan to post more in coming days.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Swords We Swallow update.

A lot has been going on lately on the Swords We Swallow front. (for those that didn't catch past posts about this, Swords is new musical project that Sara and I have been working on.)





Our debut EP, "Bogside Beauty," is almost finished. All of the song-tracks are complete; we're planning to add some experimental noise sort of stuff, devise some creative packaging, and get a copy into your grubby hands.







We're online now in a couple of places. We have a page with audio-tracks for you to listen to on myspace. Head over, take a listen, add us to your friends. For a limited time only, you also have the opportunity to be the very first of our friends to leave us a fun comment.

Also, we have a page on Facebook. Search for us, become a fan, join or start a discussion on our board.

Here are also a couple of videos that we filmed while recording the EP. More of this sort of thing will be coming soon, including a video that we're currently devising for the song "Commodity Trader (This is NOT a bull market)" which you can take a listen to or download now at Myspace. Enjoy, stay tuned for more to come.

Swords we Swallow- Born-On-Date


Swords We Swallow- A Dandelion For Emily

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Message From Our Promotions Department...

You may have noticed, I added a new feature to my side-bar, with a very similar title to this entry.

Are you a musician, artist, or perfomer who would like to have their work reviewed? Are you looking for quotes for your press-kit? Would you like to find out what critics might think about your most recent work?

Email bernard.levautour@yahoo.com for questions about how to submit your work for review.

A quick perusal of my back-log will show you some examples of recent works of art that I have critiqued. If you think your art (and your promotions efforts) could benefit from such a treatment, let me know, pass the work along, and I'll give it an indepth analysis and be pretty honest about it. If you think that you (or your portfolio) could benefit from this, be in touch.

Obviously, this sort of thing benefits you at the same time that it benefits me. You get promotion, I get readership. I get readership, you get more promotion. Get it? "Readership" and "Promotion" become (and always are and were) overlapping and interchangeable terms. Who can lose?

Plus, I'm always on the look out for new and interesting art (and things to write about and wrap my head around).

Be in touch.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A bit of a personal update...

I have received my acceptances, weighed the options, narrowed the field, and eliminated some question-marks… I have decided to pursue the first phase of my graduate school education at the University of New Hampshire this fall.

I have registered for classes, and begin in Durham at the end of August, which means a relocation from Manchester (the home of Metro-grime) to the beautiful New Hampshire seacoast. Sara and I have been apartment-hunting, are coming daily closer to figuring out where to reside in the coming months, and will hopefully be moving from the Tipsy Cougar Pad into a new comfortable and creative Swords We Swallow Studios (presumably somewhere in the Dover area… we’re currently leaning toward a complex with an appropriately [if a bit cheesy] Literature-inspired name) by mid-June.

Needless to say, I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks, what with visits to campus offices, apartment-scoping, searching for a Portsmouth-area restaurant-job… but I’ve still had a couple of entries for this site in the works… one involves an update on Swords We Swallow, with a web-address, audio, release-information, and videos, which I’ve somehow still found some time to put together… and another that pertains to Lady Gaga (pop-music as post-modern performance- and identity- art).

So stay tuned.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nailing our Cultural Coffin, One Unquestioned Re-categorization and Ill-Assumption at a Time. (*Warning- overt doom-sayer over-dramatization follows*)

As much as its not a new thing (in fact it seems lately a bit over-observed and often a trite and empty buzz-phrase), it’s nevertheless been on my mind a lot that, in countless regards, we’re currently residing at a bizarre cultural turning-point. Decisions made and actions taken in regard to the social-structures of our current transitional society are guaranteed to, for better, worse, or just “different,” turn the world that we live in into a place that we wouldn’t have recognized or foreseen five or ten years ago. The current dilemmas and changes (economic, cultural, social, technological, commercial, etc.) that the world is facing could either force us to think more creatively and overhaul outdated systems, thoughts, and ways of functioning that are no longer viable, healthy, constructive, or pertinent… or they could force a tail-spin, as society-at-large continues to blindly rest on the laurels of failed old- and untested new- systems, from which the mass-populous eventually looks around and notices that we are deadlocked into a way of life that makes us irreparably miserable.

I know, I know… I can’t even write these sort of words without a bit of a cringe at the over-dramatization. I’m no doomsayer or garden-variety conspiracy theorist. But maybe it’s time that we consider a bit whether part of the reason that these sentiments make us a bit queasy is that what WOULD have seemed laughable and pompous not that long ago is uncomfortably close to being REALISTIC for the real-life drama-quotient of the present situation.

Whether appropriate or exaggerated, this possibility should prove fodder for our consideration. Increasing our mindfulness of how we live, what we support with our time and money, what information we intake, and how we filter that information into what views and opinions that we choose to subscribe to can be nothing but positive, particularly in a time like this, when nearly every aspect of our collective lives bears some sort of “what’s next?” element.

This is no time to criticize each other for over-analyzing things, for looking at too-broad of a picture, or to even mention the words “You think too much.” We live at a juncture when thinking critically about everyday situations is among the only ways to find possibilities of the positive in impending negativity. Analyzing why we do what we do MUST become a more constant and widespread phenomenon if we are to use trying times as learning experiences rather than long-term detriments. Even if the clichéd synopsis’ of our present situation are overblown, this sort of mindset certainly can’t cause us any harm.

Just one bizarre case in point: A recent Monday’s Boston-area newspapers featured a rather surreal media-squabble story that alarmed me quite a bit. It featured a local football-”hero” and a “super”-model, their henchmen (“security”), and a couple of working photo-journalists (relabeled “paparazzi” for the added drama and stock-image automatic vilification) in a South American jungle-nation. As this story is now about a week and a half old, I’ll just relay a cursory recap in case you didn’t catch it.

Basically, the photo-journalists were commissioned by their employer to take pictures of the quarterback and model’s “top-secret” second wedding ceremony (which was so “clandestine” and “private” that its only purpose was as a media-stunt for a different publication). When the photographers were “caught” doing so by the couple’s “security”/ henchmen, they were basically kidnapped onto the property that they had previously remained off-premise of, and were detained (or attempted to be) there until they surrendered their camera and film. When the photographers refused and escaped, the henchmen opened-fire at them, missing their heads by inches and shattering the windows of their vehicle. (I wish I had have thought up this scenario for fiction… but most workshopping groups would probably have told me it was far too preposterous to be compellingly realistic.)

As you can probably guess from the code-switching in this synopsis, for the purpose of this entry I’m most interested in the issues of semantics and linguistics at play in this story, and how those translate into cultural assumptions and a set of media-based (and consumer-digested) binary codes.

Let’s remove the character stereotypes from the scenario and replace them with other stock images. If the same situation had taken place in the middle-east, for instance, the celebrities and security would be labeled “terrorists.” If they were immigrants in a US city, the headline would have read “mafia-related.” But our current culture seems unwilling to be dissuaded from the general binary assumption that “celebrities= heroes, paparazzi= villains.”

To quote the British rapper Scroobious Pip (from 2008’s Strange Famous Records release “Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobious Pip- Angles”) “I always had the feelin’ I could never be the villain, ’cuz the villain in the films is always backlit.” (for more relevant quotes on similar issues of pivotal semantics, check out the title track to that record, “Angles.”)

The photo-journalists in this scenario were paid to do a job. That job facilitates the celebrities’ ability to do their own job (particularly in the case of the super-model), of which the principle occupation and exorbitant pay-checks are derived from having photos taken of them, and maintaining the public interest (their primary claim to job-stability and commercial viability) that only the media is capable of ensuring. Photo-journalists doing their job facilitate the jobs of celebrities, yet somehow that very same media expects us to believe (and it seems that much of the populace is all too willing to) that the facilitator is somehow (by way of the facilitation itself) oppressing and victimizing the facilitated?

Cue that “what’s next?” element here… If this sort of thing is any indication, those laurels we could choose to rest on are planted in quicksand.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Swords We Swallow; Transparency in Brainstorming.

In my last post, I mentioned that, per the requests of some participants in our poll to name "Swords We Swallow," I would post the complete list of choices from which the finalists where culled. You asked for it, you got it. I'm so sorry. Chalk this up once again to part of the project of making the art-process a facet of the art itself. A bit of transparency in brainstorming.

Although only one of these names could be selected as the title of the project, we still enjoy many of them that were eliminated early for reasons of logistics... expect to see some reappear in other parts of the endeavor.

Wheatears
Cainandabler
Muddle the Plan
Luck Before Wedlock
Tanner and the Make
Grant Owl’s Facktotem
Twelve Months Aristocrat
Awnt Yuke
The Pet Plagues
Archdukon Cabbanger
Last Past the Post
Firstnighter
Old Fruit
Bogside Beauty
York’s Porker
Moonface the Murderer
Midnight Sunburst
Tight Before Teatime
You’re Welcome to Waterfood
Lobsterpot Lardling
The Ace and Deuce of Paupering
He’s None of Me Causin’
Barebarean
Scuttle to Cover
Salary Grab
Sleeps with Feathers and Ropes
Swayed in his Falling
Vee Was a Vindner
Born Burst Feet Foremost
Easyathic Phallusaphist
Fast in the Barrel
Boawwll’s Alocutionist
Spring Peepers
Ealaine aire san Ealaine
The Immaculate Conceptions
Whose Wings
Swords We Swallow
Old Seabeastius’ Salvation
Saith a Sawyer til a Strame
Buy Birthplace for a Bite
The Crazier Letters
Groans of a Britoness
He Never Has the Hour
Ought We to Visit Him?
Placeat Vestrae
Gettle Nettie
Thrust Him Not
Oremunds Queue Visits Amen Mart
Twenty of Chambers
Weighty Ten Beds and a Wan Ceteroom
I Led the Life
The Following Fork
Drink to Him
I Ask You to Believe I Was His Mistress
He Can Explain
Da’s a Daisy so Guimea Your Handsel Too
Tank and Bonnbtail
Huskvy Admortal
What Jumbo Made to Jalice and What Anisette to Him
Ophelia’s Culpreints
Hear Hubty Hublin
My Old Dansh
Suppotes a Ventriloquist Merries a Corpse
Look to the Lady
Of the Two Ways of Opening the Mouth
Through a Lift in the Lude
Oldsire is Dead to the World
Inn the Gleam of Waherlow
Thee Steps Forward
Two Stops Back
In My Lord’s Bed
Mum It Is All Over
He’s Hue to Me Cry
A Boob was Weeping This Mower Was Reaping
Up From the Pit of My Stomach I Swish You the White of the Mourning
Gentlehomme’s Faut Pas
See the First Book of Jealesies Pessim
The Suspended Sentence
A Pretty Brick Story for Childsize Heroes
As Lo Our Sleep
The Fokes Family Interior
Seen Aples and Thin Dyed
Fine’s Fault was no Felon
His is the House That Malt Made
Divine Views From Back to the Front
Sounds and Compliments Libiduous
Seven Wives Awake Aweek
Buttbutterbust
Many-festoons For the Colleagues on the Green
As Tree is Quick and Stone is White So is My Washing Done by Night
The Honorary Mirsy Earwicker
Showing All the Unmentionability
Jaywalking Eyes
Ten Canons in the Skelterfugue
faunonfleetfoot

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Swords We Swallow; an introduction.

Spring is finally almost here, which means that it seems like an appropriate time to introduce a new medium-blurring art-project from the Asbjorn Arts Collective. Fresh air brings fresh ideas, right?

Swords We Swallow is predominantly a musical project, but with a definite visual-art component, and very possibly some performance-art facets.... and probably eventually also an eclectic DJ tag-team, once we get our unorthodox rigs situated. You all know how much I love to play games of "which part is the art" with my projects.

This little start-up began when Sara Jane and I were working on material for the noisy, experimental electro-rock outfit Tipsy Cougar that the two of us comprise half of. We found ourselves writing song material that didn't exactly fit in with the mission-statement of that outfit, but we liked the songs, and still wanted to put them to use. The music itself has thus-far been less noisy, yet more abstract. There are still electronic elements, but also alot more folk-ish stuff, and quite a bit less in-your-face spasm-danciness and attitude. We plan to record a limited-press E.P. soon... right now we're thinking three songs, five or six tracks. We plan to release these in hand-numbered, one-of-a-kind packaging. Of course, this is all hypothetical right now; we're still in the writing stage. (on that note, if anyone with some simple recording equipment wants to help us to track the E.P. in the coming weeks, please be in touch... an extra ear and someone to man the faders would be fun.)

Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while probably remembers that I have a bit of an ongoing/ recurring project that involves transparency in the art-process; that the process can be art itself. With that intention in mind, I'll submit here a couple such specimens related to Swords We Swallow, in its formative stages.

Some of you may have seen a video that I posted to my Myspace and Facebook pages over the last couple days, billed as a sort of Swords We Swallow trailer. Yes, it's very odd. I like to think of this video as a bit of "spontaneous art," a facet of the art-process-as-art project. This video had initially neither intention nor concept. We were merely trying to figure out how to use a webcam device and accompanying software-program. As we tossed different clips into the clips, we would tweak it to fit into "hey, this looks like..." sort of after-thoughts. We thought that it was amusing, and somehow perversely relevant to the project that we were working on. So, we decided to share. With that said, enjoy the chaos.



In other transparency-related aspects of the project, some of you may have seen a web poll that was floating around recently to help us try to name the new act. We gave you three options, and although all three received scattered votes, Swords We Swallow won by a decent margin (which is good, since that's the one that both Sara and I were pulling for anyway by the time the poll ended.)

Over the course of the polling-process, I had said that the three finalists had been culled from a lengthy list... and a couple people asked to see the rest of the options. I replied to them that most of the others were eliminated for fairly obvious logistical reasons, but that I might post the list at some point just for fun anyway. I think I might get to that in my next entry... the list serves a little bit like a very odd piece of spontaneous poetry.

In other related news, Tipsy Cougar is almost finished recording and compiling our debut demo, "Immaculate Conceptions." We plan to record two more tracks, and then figure out how to get this noisy piece of grimy, throbbing mess into your hands in the most perverse way possible.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Pair of Past-Related Reviews; Part 4; "You and I... walk by the... sea"; Conclusion.

While reviewing the new records from Jason Hebert and Cameron Audet, and musing on my own musical projects over the past few years, I noticed some interesting parallels between the body of work that our front-stage trio has collectively produced post-Rusted Tricycle. Both the similarities and differences between all of our musical trajectories are somehow coincidental, or somehow a part of the structure that we grappled off of separately after gaining our footing together with that band. Who knows.

Post-Tricycle, all three of us played in rock bands at one point in time or another that had a certain degree of “commercial viability,” and arguably (these comparisons are inevitably a bit subjective) achieved more of that sort of success than we did during our time with the Trike. After that, we have all recorded and performed with an acoustic project, and have all at least dabbled in one form or another of electronic music. I suppose that, musical trends being what they are (as discussed a bit within each of the reviews posted prior), these latter two could be claimed about most of our musical peers from the emo/ pop-punk scene of that time. I don’t really know. Nevertheless, these similarities seem noteworthy to me, considering how stylistically far-removed both of those formats are from the genre that Rusted Tricycle played.

Looking at the acoustic and electronic music that the three of us have produced independently of one another, it’s all very different, and we seem to all arrive at our influences and reasons for gravitating toward those sorts of music from very different junctures. These differences, however, remind me of a running joke that we had while R.T. was around.

I remember that we used to tease each other a bit that the front-stage trio of the band was accidentally similar in structure to a boy-band, where each member has a different “character,” stereotype, and demographic. Jason was the “indie/ emo” guy, with a flair for more serious and dramatic emotional songwriting and stage-presence. Cam reflected the “pop-punk” schtick, sentimental, light-hearted, and endearingly goofy. I was the “punk-rocker,” appearing onstage with liberty-spikes, Misfits tees, and a more rambunctious performance-demeanor.

As we’ve grown up, both musically and personally, in the time since R.T., the differences between all of our projects in both the electronic and acoustic formats are almost startlingly predictable when compared to an evolving and maturing version of our Rusted Tricycle “boy-band” stereotypes. Jason’s music has been consistently emotionally complicated, multi-layered, and dramatic, with almost epic tendencies at times. Cam has honed his pop songwriting skills, playing soft, catchy music with “pantie-melting” tendencies. My own music has usually veered toward the abstract and avant-garde, conceptually chaotic and intentionally inaccessible to most audiences even remotely “mainstream.”

I don’t want to get into too much of a “nature vs. nurture” argument about how much of both these similarities and differences were derived from our experiences with Rusted Tricycle all that time ago, and how much was just aspects of our personalities that inevitably came to similar conclusions that would have been reached regardless of the time with the Trike. I merely thought that these “Where Are We Now” parallels were interesting, and I figured that I’d share.

The next time you see one of us playing out somewhere, yell for a Rusted Tricycle song. It will either get a laugh, or a scowl with a “damn you, Bernie” attached, which would be amusing either way. Who knows, maybe we’ll actually remember how to play one (I know that I heard a recording of Cam doing a version of “Seashells” not that long ago, and I’ve been known to occasionally bust out “Cherry Coke” when playing acoustic… my favorite was an impromptu version once with cello and synth). Hell, yell for “Slit.” That would be REALLY funny.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Pair of Past-Related Reviews; Part 3; Armor & Rage.

Cameron Audet has completed a new acoustic record, which will soon be available under the name “Armor & Rage.” According to Cam, this project also has a full backing-band based out of Boston, and records with expanded instrumentation might very well be coming soon. The current record is called “Pantie Melting Love Songs,” and I don’t have information yet about how and when a physical copy can be procured, but I’m guessing that, if you’re interested, bugging Cam through the project’s Myspace page might do the trick.




I’m not sure that there has ever been a record-title that has so blatantly announced that this reviewer is not in the intended demographic of the music contained therein as “Pantie Melting Love Songs.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the title, and I think it fits the music on the record pretty well. But… as you may have guessed (let’s not make assumptions), I don’t wear panties, so there’s not much “melting” to be done on that front (if I DID, for some reason, wear panties every once in a while [no one‘s judging here] I still really doubt that Cam would want any part in making them melt.). Basically, the title makes it pretty obvious from the get-go that this record was not intended for a 26-year-old male who prefers vague, complicated metaphors to honest, sentimental professions of emotion. And he’s got it right. This is a record that is very obviously, and very thoroughly, intended for girls. Since I’m definitely not a young girl, this is, quite predictably, not a record that I could listen to every day for my own personal enjoyment. However, knowing up-front what I’m getting into, I can definitely appreciate it for what it is. As a sentimental record intended for a young female audience, this is a pretty solid collection of songs, and he seems to capture his intentions dead-on.

While I was listening to these tracks and jotting down my thoughts, I was amazed that every time I put my headphones down to step out for a bit, I had the chorus-hook from one song or another stuck in my head. “Pantie Melting Love Songs” turned out, with each listen, to be a FAR more incessantly catchy album than my first listen would have suggested. I’m pretty sure that my girlfriend thought I was losing my mind as I kept singing “I’m wanting to see you… You’re easy on the eye…” as we walked down aisles in the grocery store.

I was initially trying to think of how to write this review by somehow bypassing the almost inanely obvious Dashboard Confessional comparisons. After hearing the songs, my initial thought was that even MENTIONING the similarity would be trite, redundant, and do no one involved much of a service. Lets face it, the post-alternative music market is GLUTTED with former members of indie and emo bands’ acoustic side-projects, the reviews for which always and inevitably (and almost always accurately) contain phrases such as “like Chris Carraba at his whiniest and most melodramatic” or “like Chris Carraba at his most heartfelt and honest.” The Dashboard fan doesn’t ever gain anything from such reviews, because they’re tired of being inundated with knock-offs, and the Dashboard loather doesn’t gain anything from such reviews (besides the red-flag not to buy the record), because they weren’t a fan the first time around.

What I realized the more that I listened, however, was that avoiding this comparison would be just as disingenuous. Unlike many of its ilk, this record, rather than trying to downplay the influence as most of this sort of acts tend to try to do (i.e. let’s throw in a verse that sounds like Conor Oberst; lets toss in some Jets To Brazil-isms or an Eliot Smith rip to show that we’re ’keepin’ it real,’ etc.), Armor & Rage seems to make a conscious decision to fly headlong into this comparison, which seems somehow more respectable. There’s a certain “Yeah, I like Dashboard. So what?” aspect of the songwriting here that’s almost refreshing compared with many similar-sounding acts.

The recording of the record is lush and skillfully produced, at the same time that it is incredibly (and almost startlingly) intimate. The reverb on the vocal-harmonies (all of which are Cameron’s own, and well- composed) is shimmering, without being overwrought or cheesy. At the same time, the degree of sonic detail allowed within the mix is tangibly real, complete with the sort of sounds of fingers on strings and popping of breath that conjure images of the musician performing in a completely empty room of an abandoned old third-story New England apartment (which reminds me a bit of early Ani Difranco… in production only).

Where Cameron does tend to deviate (thankfully) from such unabashed Carraba-isms is in the way that his guitar-parts are constructed. The power-chords-on-acoustic strategy of Dashboard and other such post-indie acoustic “pantie-melting” holdovers is almost completely absent from these songs, leaving in its place moments when the listener might almost start to think he’s listening to an actual FOLK (or at least indie-folk) record. There are even a couple moments when the guitar-work (which is admirably far more attentive at most moments to rhythm and groove than to notes and chord sequence) almost reminds me of certain Dar Williams tracks.

In the song “Take Your Aim,” there’s a moment when a tidal-wave of added backing-vocals break through the mix, at a spot that doesn’t exactly seem to be a climax. Sitting in my apartment alone with noise-cancelling headphones on, the change was so abrupt and forceful that I jumped (physically) out of my seat, and thought that someone was behind me. The most surprising thing was, this continued to happen EVERY time the song came on. I have to admit, part of me enjoys this unexpected moment. If you’re drifting off a bit listening to these songs (which is completely feasible, but not totally a flaw, as Cameron’s sound and songwriting is soothingly consistent throughout), this is a bit of the record that will wake you up and force you to pay attention. I’m definitely personally a fan of aspects like these, but it strikes me as a bit out of sync with the otherwise apparent aim of accessibility evident throughout the record, and thus I get the feeling that it wasn’t quite intentional.

Overall, the stated goal of “Pantie Melting” of the new Armor and Rage record is admirably achieved. This is a stirring set of soft emotional songs, skillfully performed and recorded; a laid-back, listener-friendly pop record, with a ton of commercial potential as such. Cam’s chosen title for the record boldly asserts his awareness of the general truth that it is impossible to make a record that’s equally well-suited to every listener, and, with that in mind, this is most definitely an excellent release for its intended demographic, even if it may not be up my own personal alley.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Pair of Past-Related Reviews; Part 2; Action and the Red Baron

In my last post, I had said that I planned to review Cameron Audet’s new record, and then Jason Hebert’s record with “Action and the Red Baron.” I am, however, going to switch the order, and review the Action record today, and presumably tackle the Audet record next, as information-gathering for one entry has taken a bit longer than the other.




Action and the Red Baron is a collaboration between Jason Hebert (“The Red Baron”- vocals, guitar, tambourine, shaker) and Dan Custer (“Action Dan”- piano, bass, turntables, beatbox, programming). As I said before, Jason has previously played with and fronted several bands, including Rusted Tricycle and Theory of Regret. Action Dan produces quite good electronic music under his own name. They recently released a record called “A Dream Awakening,” which is available through CDBaby, iTunes, and Amazon.com.

It seems a requisite part of an indie-rock singer’s recording catalog at this juncture to team up with an electronics-guru at some point, to release a record of vaguely dancy/ vaguely atmospheric emotional techno tracks to cater to the rock-throwback song-structure-and-melody whims of the current electro-hipster crowd. While I have to admit a certain taste-based bias in favor of this format, I also have some critical reservations about the proficiency with which it is often executed, as with most flavor-of-the-minute recording whims that force us to call the motives of its perpetrators into question a bit. Although “A Dream Awakening,” in principle, fulfills many of these qualities, it proves to be a more concisely constructed, and at the same time more diverse, record than many other such experiments.

Throughout the record, one of the easiest things to note is how startlingly crisp the overall production is. I am amazed by how effortlessly the variety of sound-scapes used spin in, out, and around each other. The sonic depth of these songs is immense and cavernous, and the beats are well-varied, atmospheric, and unusually well-suited to the emotional contents of the songwriting.

Jason’s voice opens the track “Still Standing” in a solo tone that is organic enough for the emotional style of the delivery, yet appropriately processed enough to fit with the electronic format of the project (a balancing-act of production rarely achieved in electro-crossover projects). “I was standing at the top of the world when the news came in.” The melody sounds optimistic and downright poppy, until the beats kick in dramatically on the word “in,” proving immediately that Action’s instrumentation is not merely presented as backing-tracks for Jason’s voice, but as integral aspects of the way that the duo intends to convey the overall statement of the song, a theme that is evident throughout the record, and one of the elements that makes the album shine. As the “news” comes in, the mood is shifted on a dime from upbeat to darkly introspective. Even when a guitar part breaks into the mix that by itself sounds downright doom-esque and like it shouldn’t really work, because of the overall tonal coherency of the track, for one reason or another, it definitely does. Some of the vocal-breaks and refrain-repetitions verge closer to Chester Bennington terrain than I ever thought that I would hear Jason doing, but these work surprisingly well, even to those of us who aren’t exactly in Linkin Park’s stylistic demographic.

On the track “Talking Distant Variable,” Jason lets Action Dan take the foreground. With reverb-drenched piano-lines and textural beat-crescendos, there’s definitely a bit of an Air/ Thievery Corporation down tempo vibe going on. Things get a tad muddy when the vocals try to force harder-edged choruses from the depths of the over-arching chill-out-session, with the sudden addition of guitars that are well executed, but a bit over-played and over-stated in the mix.

Like most indie/electronic projects, this record is not lacking for a couple of dancier groove-based moments. The most thoroughly funky track, and the outfit’s most complete foray into indie-dance-electro, is “The Night is Alive,” which is driven by an infectious bass hook and googly-synth modulation, and features a refreshing tenderness that is not often tapped in this format. It reminds me a bit of something in between a more-organic Postal Service and a more-upbeat One AM Radio, with a melody hook that calls to mind the Folk Implosion’s “Natural One.”

“I Am Gone” sounds utterly lush and emotionally rich, in an extremely cinematic way, featuring string-pads that interplay well with piano tinkling and vocal harmonies adeptly manipulated to fade in and out of the bright, breezy (yet lonely) fields of orchestration. This is the track on which I can hear the most evident footprints of Portishead, the band that Action Dan cites first in his list of influences (a reference that I’m personally pleased with, as anyone who recalls related past reviews and fan-geekery I’ve posted may recall).

The record runs the mood-scape gamut. “Phase and Cancelled” features trippy sonic experimentation, and elements of Pink Floyd, Atari Teenage Riot, Collide, Ladytron, and Metropolis Records fodder all come to mind at various moments in the track. On the other end of the spectrum, “In the Distance“, begins with Jason playing a sentimental acoustic song over washes of nature-sounds, building into a solid groove with more of the lush orchestration and soothing vocal textures that these guys do so well, with a bit of a Death Cab For Cutie vibe.

Overall, I can see any of these songs working extremely well on a vast stylistic variety of film soundtracks, and in this regard the record reminds me a bit of Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine.” If for no other reason (as I can’t claim that it sounds terribly similar or bears the same sort of aesthetic) but that the songs off of that record fit in just as appropriately within the myriad of different sorts of films that employed them. As the cinematic nature of its overall sound would require, this record’s moody diversity manages to transcends the somewhat overplayed format that it otherwise might be perceived to fall within. “A Dream Awakening” reminds us of the original purpose of this collaborative trend; if indie-musicians and electro-wizards are doing really interesting things on their own, why wouldn’t a combination of the two prove interesting? On this record, it definitely does.