Sunday, October 26, 2008

Decahedron - Disconnection Imminent

Decahedron - Disconnection Imminent

In the aftermath of Frodus, its members went on to a number of other projects. Nathan Burke, Frodus’ latest in a long line of bassists, went on to form The Out Circuit, where he still resides today. Shelby Cinca formed steampunk band The Cassettes, moving in a number of more experimental directions past even what was hinted with And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, as well as playing briefly in the band Mancake, alongside Frodus drummer Jason Hamacher. But eventually, Cinca went back to his post-hardcore roots, again enlisting Hamacher on drums as well as former Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, and together they created Decahedron, a socially conscious outfit that lived by the mantra of “Delete False Culture”. Decahedron only released one album, Disconnection Imminent, but it signalled a spiritual return to the protest-punk of Frodus, as well as a musical progression that combined the angry, dissonant hardcore they were known for, with Cinca’s growing experimentation with ambience and electronics (a couple years afterward, Cinca would put out a solo album based entirely around this concept). The result was an original and unsettling album, which contrasted sci-fi bleakness with a very real and disconcerting look at modern society.

As mentioned above, the music feels like a noticeable progression from And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea-era Frodus; by which I mean you can make comparisons between Decahedron and Frodus easily (and I have), as the underlying form seems obviously influenced by Cinca and Hamacher’s former project, but there is also a natural evolution on display here. As such, Decahedron feels like a spiritual successor to Frodus, and not just in the phylogeny of the band itself. The angular raspiness of the guitar is more than familiar to the listener, and the way in which the smoothness of the bass plays off the guitar in intertwining fashions is again exhibited, but the way electronics have been integrated keeps any sense of derivativeness at bay. Interludes such as “Dislocation” showcase the way in which the band manages to insert abject dissonance into their tracks, and while this may become grating within the parameters of an instrumental song, it works well in giving an even greater sense of desolation to calm, brooding epics like “Every City is a Prison”. Indeed, feedback is used constantly throughout this album, as the ominous cries of what sounds like industrial machinery audibly rusting on the spot are injected and pumped into the backgrounds for mood. This works to varying degrees in terms of listenability, but what can’t be denied is how it communicates the isolation of the music in a very direct way.

As far as the vocals go, Cinca remains more austere than usual here, generally finding himself content to passively croon along to the despondent flow of the music, but he still has his moments to shine. The chorus of “Burning Lights” is a definite highlight here; after a very menacing passage leads to quiet, Cinca’s obstructed screams of “Drowning into yourself/turning against your will to live” manage to come off as fierce as ever. “Lt. Col. Questions Himself” provides another prominent example of Cinca’s ragged intensity, shouting his lines just as loudly as the music can drown them out. The way Cinca screams so wholeheartedly and forcefully has always been a highlight of Frodus for me, as he always conveys an emotional passion and intensity that can rarely be matched, making it something of a shame that he doesn’t do it more often here. The result is an album that is less focused on anger (despite the virulence of the lyrics), and more focused on detachment. A great example of this is in “No Carrier”; when Cinca screams about disconnection during the chorus, the message is transmitted with all the accuracy of a drive-thru order, cutting out and obscuring the words from full recognition.

All in all, Disconnection Imminent is a strongly atmospheric post-hardcore album that, while not quite matching the greatness of Frodus’ work before it, manages to impress. Experimental without being impenetrable, smooth while still keeping an edge to it, Disconnection Imminent remains a gem in the catalogue of three men with much bigger claims to fame.

DELETE: False_Culture

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Conglomerate's Tendrils Are Spread Throughout Many Sinister Soups

Also: they know you. And they think that you and they should meet.

This is either delightfully absurd, or decidedly retarded, depending on how you look at it. I fall into the former group.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Frodus - And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea

Frodus - And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea

Frodus was formed in 1993 and dissembled in 1999, issuing two full-length albums and a number of other releases while together and recording a third just before breaking up. Their exceptional blend of mathy, D.C.-style post-hardcore has earned them praise from, and given inspiration to countless followers. The band reached their pinnacle on what was regrettably their third and last album, the post-humous And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, experimenting with a number of different esthetics to add to the noisy, jumpy punk (affectionately deemed “spazzcore”) they originated with.

Like nearly all D.C. post-hardcore bands that came about in the 90’s, Frodus takes a number of cues from the godfathers of post-hardcore themselves, Fugazi. Fugazi helped shape the landscape for post-hardcore with their aggressive, discordant sound, as well as their desire to experiment beyond the traditional means and limits set out for them, two things Frodus had going for them as well. An analogy between the two wouldn’t be hard to follow; both D.C. bands, both playing styles of angular, occasionally abrasive post-hardcore, and both considered to be among the best at what they do.

As the 90’s went on, Fugazi became more and more experimental, and while this lead to them gaining a reputation as some of the premier pioneers in underground music, it also involved them losing much of the aggressiveness that made them great in the first place. Whether or not this was positive is irrelevant; the point is this pattern of development was not theirs alone. Near the end of their days, Frodus was going down a similar path, wherein they wanted to experiment with the boundaries of their already developed sound. The result is less chaotic and far more polished than, say, F-Letter, and has a feeling of maturation when compared to their previous releases, not unlike comparing The Argument to 13 Songs.

And this is where the analogy ends. Because unlike Fugazi, Frodus do not seem even the slightest bit tamed on And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, remaining just as angry and as vigilant against the mainstream culture that spawned them as ever. Sure, there’s the occasional ambient interlude, suggesting that the band just didn’t have anything left after writing this, but don’t let that fool you; cries like “Stupid human scum!” are only the most literal examples on an album full of cynicism and frustration. The aggression is most palpable on tracks like “The Awesome Machine” and “There Will Be No More Scum”, wherein the coarse power of the guitar and the screams of singer Shelby Cinca lend an incredible amount of intensity to the proceedings.

Yet there is a certain wistfulness to a lot of the songs as well; while the lyrics are as angry as ever, managing to be both veiled and direct in their vitriol, they also convey a very defeatist approach toward the topics taken on. For example, in “The Earth Isn’t Humming”, as the minimalism of the bass combines with Shelby’s resigned cries of “another one must fall down”, the listener is greeted with an overwhelming sense of despondence. This feeling of hopelessness engulfs much of the album, whether Frodus is working toward a frenzied, noisily cathartic climax, or constructing a slow, melodic instrumental piece. The contrast between the angrier and more aggressive songs, and that of the more despairing and gloomy songs do a great deal to suggest a level of exhaustion in the band, as if they just couldn’t keep up the same level of defiance anymore. This weariness also finds itself coming into play in the rest of their music too; the angular, mathiness of the band which could have previously been likened to a San Diego-style band like Drive Like Jehu, now sounds more relaxed, almost to the point of post-rock territory.

With their last album, Frodus created the monument for which, for better or for worse, they will be remembered for. And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea is a triumph of subversive, experimental music which manages to combine the sensibilities of math rock with the volatility of hardcore and come away a rousing success. Gloomy and ominous, it takes the bands’ pessimistic, wearied take on the modern world and translates it seamlessly into audio format. There may be more famous bands to come out of D.C. in the past 15 years, but there are few better.

Frodus Conglomerate Intl. thanks you for listening

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

conservatives win minority government!

$300 million spent, and no one got what they wanted.

ohhhh canadaaaa

Just figured I'd update the situation for all those people just dying out there for word of what happened in that all-important Canadian federal election.

...I'll get back to music stuff as soon as I can muster the composure to overcome this shocking development.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Joys of Voter Apathy

This is sort of a follow-up to my previous post. It's just a video I really liked featuring one of my favourite artists (probably my all-time favourite, but I'll play it safe), Matthew Good, discussing the perils of [cue 50's horror film voice] Western Voter Apathy.

Some background first: back in the day, Muchmusic (kind of the Canadian counterpart to MTV, only they sometimes played music videos - they don't anymore) would occasionally do these shorts in which they'd profess an interest in some kind of issue, and bring in someone to talk about it. For example, in the following video, the keyword was politics and finding some way to get young people to vote; in others, they would play to teaching media-consciousness, a vicious irony once you consider the source. Enter Matt Good, with his edgy brand of gen-X cynicism that was just bound to get the young peoples attentions. Or something. I remember seeing these videos at the time, and in the past couple years, upon discovering Youtube, managed to find a couple of them on there much to my delight.

I figure this is from the early 00's, during that brief period after Stockwell Day (see video) became relevant, but before he became a complete joke.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Frighteningly Glib Look at the Modern Canadian Political Atmosphere

Or: Everything You Wanted to Know About Canadian Politics but Were Too Apathetic to Ask

Oh, hello there. If I know you, right now you’re probably thinking about the upcoming American elections and how they will shape the coming national, as well as global landscape over the next four years. However, did you know that that’s not the only election occurring over the next month?

That’s right!

Consider, if you will, your friendly neighbours to the North, the ones who control all the lumber and fresh drinking water. On Tuesday, October 14, they too will be having their own election to decide the leader of their free world.

“Well, golly!” I hear you saying to yourself now, “I had no idea! If only there was some handy guide wherein I could be told which Canadian political party is right for me!”

I had suspected you would say that. And now there is.

First, let us start with the basics. In Canadian government, unlike American government, there are no set designated periods for elections, so long as one is called within five years of the previous election. An election is instead called either whenever the ruling party wants there to be one (pretty much the only way during a Majority government), or on the account of a non-confidence vote in Parliament, in which the members of the opposition outvote the ruling party on any old issue (they don’t necessarily have to disagree, they just have to feel apathetic enough on the issue to throw it to the wolves). For example, for this election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament on Sep. 7, and the election is being held only a month later. This is in stark contrast to the American elections, wherein the long, laborious process has been going on for the better part of two years now. Since the run-up to the Canadian election is much shorter, this puts significantly less pressure on the media to waste the considerable time given with sensationalist news stories that have nothing to do with the political values of the candidates in question, and instead focus on the issues that matter.

Like which candidate cares more about their family: the upstanding, well-dressed, well-groomed, and quite frankly gorgeous incumbent (I get lost sometimes in his deep blue eyes), or the French guy who no one can understand and is probably a polygamist? Or whether the current Canadian Agriculture Minister should be fired for making what amounts to a bad pun? (There really should be laws against that kind of stuff)

So now that you know how Parliament is dismissed, why are they being dismissed? Namely, why is Canada having an election now? That’s a good question. There’s really no great political motivation for it; in all likeliness, the Conservatives will win another Minority government, and gain/lose very little power by doing so. My guess is they view it as “better sooner than later” proposition, wherein the Conservative government can only fuck up the situation from here on out. But that could just be me.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Canada runs on a Parliamentary system. Essentially, instead of directly voting for the Prime Minister, each voter votes for a local representative for their community who belongs to the same party as the candidate they want to choose (or vice versa). The idea being that each riding has an individual MP to report back to, rather than just a national party. There’s some other relevant stuff here too, but I won’t go into it, as the specifics bore me tremendously. Oh yeah, we also run a multi-party system. Which is exactly how it sounds.

So, dear reader, now that you have been acclimated to the basics of the Canadian political process, I hear you wondering now: what of the parties? When I hear that my leader is engaging in diplomacy with the Canadian Prime Minister, who do I want that Prime Minister to be?

What an excellent inquiry on your part! Luckily, I had prepared for such a circumstance.

The Conservative Party:

The current party in charge, lead by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who claimed power two years ago by capitalizing on a Liberal sponsorship scandal. For the past 15-20 years or so, in the aftermath of the horrific Mulroney (and even more horrific Campbell) government, the Conservatives have gone through a very tumultuous time. Much of this was because of a split in the party-base; during the 80’s, in which Alberta was practically bankrupted due to Liberal policies, Western (and by Western, I almost always mean Albertan) conservatives began to view the current system as not only non-representative of their goals, but as one which simply didn’t care about them. This begat the Reform Party in 1987, a religiously right-wing populist party which seeked to fix the inequalities in the system that favoured the Eastern provinces (i.e. Ontario and Quebec) and that thusly caused the main parties to do the same. This, in turn, decimated the vote totals for the Progressive Conservative Party, a far more centre-leaning party which had traditionally catered to its Eastern base. The Reform Party would eventually try to expand its base eastwards, in the hope of drawing away power from the PC’s, with varied amounts of success. This continued on throughout the 90’s, with the Liberal Party easily winning majority after majority government at the expense of the feuding conservatives. At the turn of the century, the Reform Party decided their problem wasn’t one of differentiating values, but one of image, and changed their name to the Canadian Alliance. With this, they overtook the PC’s, but still fell short to the Liberals in the 2000 Federal Election.

By 2003, the two parties put aside their differences and joined to form the Conservative Party of Canada, in hopes of finally gaining enough momentum to oust the Liberals. The current incarnation of the Conservatives is very Western-centric, as their strongest base resides in Alberta. They’re essentially the more moderate version of the American Republican Party in ideology, only with the intelligence and pragmatism to only stray as close to the Republicans as they think the voters will let them (For example, Stephen Harper is an evangelical Christian, the first evangelical Christian, in fact, in over 40 years to lead the country, and as such, has been quoted as being against same-sex marriage. Yet, despite leading a campaign against it early on as leader of the Conservatives, has ceased much of his efforts to do as Prime Minister, well aware that any effort would likely prove fruitless anyway, and would only kill his political career.) The greatest question surrounding the Conservatives at this point would likely revolve around whether they can keep power, or whether this was just a brief flirtation on the part of the Canadian populace, akin to being drunkenly exploited by a smooth-talking lothario who convinces you that the best way to get back at your cheating boyfriend is to have sex with someone else. And just who are they competing against?

The Liberal Party:

I don’t have the facts to back me up on this, but I’m pretty sure party leader Stephane Dion has it in his platform to end charisma once and for all. Jesus, why do the Liberals keep picking French people with only the most basic command of the English language? At least Chretien was entertaining. You know what? It’s fucking arrogant is what it is. Like they know the general population has no other choice of who to vote for if they don’t want Conservative, so they can throw the least electable candidate out there and you’ll have no fucking choice.

Liberal ’08: Nyah nah nyah nah nah nah.

Okay, to be fair to Dion and the Liberals, it’s not like there were great candidates just leaping onto the boat to get whacked by the oar. Being a Liberal Party candidate post-sponsorship scandal is like being lost in one big fucking desert. The party has been directionless, aimless, and completely resting on its laurels in the post-Chretien years. Their big idea to get back to the top? A carbon tax. In addition to practically spitting in Alberta’s face (“You’re not going to vote for us? No? WELL, FUCK YOU! Let’s see how you like living in Alberta once your economy collapses, fuckwads!”), it doesn’t exactly scream ‘out of the desert and back on course’. In fact, it’s more of a “These are my principles. And if you don’t like them, I have others” kind of deal.

Fun Fact: The Liberal catch phrase for many of the MP’s in this election has been “It’s time for a change.” And if I need to point out the irony in a party who has been in control of the government for 13 of the past 15 years pulling the “change” card, well…

The Libertarian Party:

Ha ha, just kidding. Nobody gives a fuck about them here either. I'm surprised I even found a logo.

The New Democratic Party:

I’ll keep this history lesson shorter than the Conservative one: Tommy Douglas was the Premier of Saskatchewan for 17 years. Tommy thought socialized medicine might improve things. The people agreed. When he left office in 1961, the NDP was born, eventually rallying enough support for the Liberal minority government to create Medicare in 1966. Ever since, the NDP has kind of been the designated third party, the socialist little brother who goes off to college and comes back with all kinds of ideas and dreams that no one else in the family ever pays attention to.

In this election, the NDP’s role has been that of an attack dog. Their ads actually seem more prominent than the Liberals (seriously, it’s almost as if the Liberals aren’t even trying), despite the much smaller stature of the party, and have focused almost entirely on attacking Harper and the Conservatives (“We need a new kind of strong.” Catchy shit). Of course, considering that the Conservatives and the NDP often aligned with one another in order to pass bills through a minority Conservative government, chances are that they aren’t too steadfast in their attacks. I wonder if Jack Layton will change his tune if (and likely when) we see yet another minority Conservative government emerge victorious?

The Bloc Quebecois:

Their power has waned since the go-go seperatist days of the 70's-90's, but they still exist to play their unique part in Canadian politics: that is, the role of the complete dicks whom everyone hates, but is afraid to say anything about for fear of offending Quebec's delicate cultural sensibilities. Ah, Jacques. If only you had done a better job of fixing the ballots, maybe you'd have your own country to hold hostage. Dare to dream.

Fun fact: In the 2006 election, the Bloc Quebecois received 10.5% of the popular vote. The NDP received 17.5%, and the Green Party received 4.5%. Both the NDP and Green Party are national parties, whereas the Bloc Quebecois runs only in Quebec. The Bloc ended up with 51 seats, compared to the NDP’s 29 and the Green Party’s ever-majestic zero. Furthermore, the Bloc was invited to the Federal debates, despite having no Federal policy and no desire to ever run the country. The Green Party was not.

Viva la democracie!

The Green Party:

Is probably pretty pissed off right now.

So those are your Canadian parties. Feeling confident and excited about which one you want to have a faint say in the governing of the free world? I hope so. Because nothing fights off political apathy like the facts of the matter. Like how, if you live in a district that votes overwhelmingly to one party, your vote doesn’t count in electing your chosen candidate. Or how, if you live in a Western province or, god forbid, one of the territories, your vote ultimately matters less than someone in Ontario or Quebec. That kind of stuff.

And if you still don’t see the reason to care about the upcoming Canadian election, and you’d rather spend your time on “Barack v. McCain: The Bloodening”, we won’t blame you. As a matter of fact, we feel the exact same way.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On The Multifarious Enigma That Is Dick Cheney

I'd like to think that the following comparison speaks for itself.

Friday, October 3, 2008

We Can't Stop Here; This is BATS Country!

BATS - Cruel Sea Scientist


Fuck you Kent
You’re fucking dangerous
And bats will destroy you
And bats will destroy you

Hey, quick question. Does Kent Hovind think Bats are birds or mammals?

(/yes, that’s kind of relevant.)

To answer Question #1 on your mind: Bats are a heavily progressive five-piece post-hardcore group from Ireland that blends all kinds of influences into their approach, from post-punk to metal. Offbeat and somewhat insane, the end result is a catchy and anthemic collection of songs that are both crushingly heavy and highly accessible. In late 2007, and again in early 2008 through the Richter Collective, they released their debut EP Cruel Sea Scientist.

Creationist Fun Fact: Did you know that Kent Hovind is currently serving a ten year prison sentence for tax-related crimes? He wasn't just convicted of one offense, mind you - he was convicted of 58!

The EP begins with a bang; the chants and screams of "Death to Kent Hovind" provide the listener with an infectious kind of revulsion, and introduces the listener to a main theme of the album: that is, that the group is heavily interested in biology and as such, have developed a very noticeable anti-Creationist agenda. From their myspace:

Formed in the early part of the Pliocene age by complex molecules, BATS (featuring ex-members of Martha Washington) have spent millions of years developing their sound from a series of intermittent bleeps to the sexy sonic bullets they create today. 4 out of 5 BATS hail from Ireland's alpha-smoke- Dublin, while the other crawled his way on bloody knuckles out of the haunted town of Carbury, Kildare in the mid 1600's. In early 2007 BATS began peddling their love around the island and have since played support to such acts as Gang Gang Dance, Down I Go, Horse the Band, Sebadoh, The Locust and Liars. December 2007 sees the release on independent label Armed Ambitions of their debut EP entitled 'Cruel Sea Scientist' and the frightening of some smaller children. Strong supporters of the Earth to space elevator and strong opposers of the plan to strip-mine the moon for Helium 3, BATS strive to disperse their audio seed into the ears and minds of as many receptive humans as possible. They do so with valiant gusto and in the face of a limited gene pool. A product of Natural Selection, a constant source of erection. BATS.

So, um, yeah. They're kind of dorks. But that's not important. What's important is the skill and precision with which these guys play, as well as their talent for creating versatile and highly enjoyable hardcore songs. The guitar work is varied tremendously between creating intricately catchy, jazzy rhythms, as seen in the opening of "These Ones Lay Eggs", and dense, metal-influenced audio suffocation that combines the strength of all four guitars into one throttling package. Equally impressive is the way they change back and forth between the two extremes; the transitions are both seamless and numerous. Using the previous example from "These Ones Lay Eggs", the song shows the band adding new chords and guitars as its original catchy riff chugs along, only to swerve into heavier territory and back again as singer Rupert Morris sings along in a falsetto as a collective arpeggio swirls around him. The song structures the band employs are often just as complex, never resting on a simple display of verse-chorus-repeat. It's rare that this kind of imagination and desire to experiment beyond the traditional hardcore landscape can be used so thrillingly, and with so little caution thrown to the wind.

Creationist Fun Fact: Fossil evidence? Not as empirical as you think!

Another enjoyable part of the band is the way vocals are used. Morris' vocals in many ways reflect the duality of the music that surrounds him, going from an almost sarcastic speaking voice delivery to ear-deafening screams that conjure up a surprising amount of intensity given the playful nature of the band. With lyrics like "I USED MY LASER VISION; I USED MY MICROSCOPE" you wouldn't expect a very serious tone, but Morris carries himself in a way where he communicates the message while still retaining a sense of gravity, wry though it may be.

BTW, does Kent Hovind have laser vision? Advantage: BATS

Creationist Fun Fact: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are Satanists. No, really.

With their debut EP, BATS create a surprisingly original and gripping collection of songs. Taking influence from hardcore, post-punk and metal alike, and infusing them with a jazzy and spastic style of song-writing. The band never takes itself too seriously, without suggesting that we shouldn't either; indeed, it's hard not to be drawn in by this debut, with all the promise it suggests. The only disappointment is that at only 16 minutes long, it's bound to leave the listener hungry for more.

(thanks to Gabba at Hardcore for Nerds for originally linking me to this)

the facts will destroy you
and BATS will destroy you