Music Archive

1

Music Preview: Takes Time by Jim Guthrie

You may not have heard of Jim Guthrie, but chances are you’ve heard his music.

Perhaps it was his soundtrack work for docs like Indie Game: The Movie, or The Bodybuilder and I . Or maybe it was while playing the indie game Sword & Sworcery. Or maybe you, like me, have been following his career since he was playing with some of the best bands in Canadian indie music like Guelph’s Royal City and Montreal’s Islands.

Or, like most people, maybe you just heard this commercial?

Hands In My Pocket was one of the most popular jingles so far this millennium, but this little ear-worm is just the start of what Jim Guthrie has to offer. His 2013 Polaris Prize longlisted album Takes Time is a much more rewarding listen, and it should be: it took ten years to piece together.

In a few days, we will be posting a full review of Takes Time. But to help us properly introduce Jim Guthrie, I sent him a few questions and he sent back a few answers.

What follows is the Preview for Jim Guthrie’s Takes Time.

I started writing the album years and years ago and it is only being put out in 2013.  It’s like an expired package of hotdogs that time traveled to the future trying to pass itself off as something “fresh”.

Jim Guthrie’s music is in many ways, like Time. At first glance it seems simple and tidy. It’s rhythms are consistent, it’s volume never rises to catch your attention. But if you pause and consider it a little closer, if you question it, you can occasionally get the sense of staring at what it means to exist.

I first got this feeling in 2003 when Jim Guthrie came out with Now, More Than Ever. Over the years the album steadily worked its way up to dessert-island status in my collection. Every song strikes a strong balance between Guthrie’s folky guitar, Owen Pallet’s subtle but haunting strings (his performance on this record is rumoured to have helped him land his gig in the Arcade Fire), and lyrics that read like backwards riddles.

The course that Time has set out for Mr. Guthrie is not that of the typical critically lauded artist. He neither burst onto a larger stage, nor faded away into obscurity. Instead he got really into video games. They, along with film scores, have provided with a means to write and record music everyday.

I’m stunned by the fact that I’m still making music and making a living at it. I’ve far surpassed anything I ever set out to do and that was to simply strum a few chords.

It’s hard to make a living putting out an album once every ten years. Yet in this he’s not alone. This past year saw new (and great) albums from reclusive artists like Daft Punk (8 years between proper albums), and My Bloody Valentine (22 years). In all three cases it was worth the wait.

Guthrie may sing that he’s “futuristically out of date”, but Takes Time stands as a good reflection of the increasingly diverse stories behind independent music, and musicians, in 2013.

Time moved very slow for me when I was a kid. I guess one of my first clues was seeing old people and being told they use to be young like me.

As the title suggests, Takes Time still finds Guthrie digging into old questions. But, like anything that has passed the test of time, the songs still feel relevant. As we all sit around waiting for one George RR Martin to get on with it already, the album provides a unique glimpse into why, sometimes, it takes a decade to make something meaningful.

Now I have to answer a million emails and feed the cats, take out the garbage, watch a crappy TV show I feel nothing for followed up with watching a ton of Youtube videos I feel nothing for before I actually get around to making music. Sad but true.

Every moment is a competition for our attention, and that was before GTA V came out (Guthrie calls it “insane”). His album serves as a quiet antidote to these endless temptations, urging the pleasure of the slow, of putting in as much as you take away, of trying and failing.“I’ve tried to move around/ Go underground/ Here’s what I found/ It takes heart/ To fall apart”, he sings on Don’t Be Torn. His lyrics carry a little extra when you consider that Guthrie’s decade-long delay was fueled, in part, by struggles with writer’s block and self-confidence.

Just write and work through it even when you don’t trust yourself or aren’t feeling it.  I’ve learned that it’s more of a crime to not try at all than to write something that “sucks”.  You can never know what’s good or not at the time of writing.  Only time will tell but it’s not even the point.  The point is to do whatever makes you happy and if music makes you happy then you should get over yourself and make it…

The album ends with of Turn Me On, a song popularized by Nina Simone. And so I thought it’d be fitting to end the Preview with Gurthrie’s choice of one other Simone song he loves. Here then, is his reasoning behind his choice of Feeling Good.

I first heard that song almost 20 years ago and it literally had me sobbing by the end of it… you also have to listen to it at a good volume in order to get the full “emotional destroyer” effect it had on me.

Stay tuned for the upcoming review of Takes Time. Until then check out jimguthrie.org.


0

Essential Genre Music Volume 2

That’s right, it’s time for “Essential Genre Music Volume 2”.

I’ve pulled together fifteen (mostly instrumental) selections from television, movies, games, and anime for this ultra nerdy “what if” CD.

So without further ado, let’s get right into some tunes.

The title track – Icarus – Deus Ex Human Revolution Soundtrack – Michael McCann – 2011

McCann’s work on the Deus Ex: HR soundtrack earned him “best in music” nominations in the Canadian Video Game Awards and the BAFTA’s Video Game Awards. It’s a haunting and powerful piece of music that serves as the perfect complement to Eidos Montreal’s recent post-human masterpiece.

Track 2 – Terran Suite #2 – Starcraft soundtrack – Derek Duke and Glen Stafford – 1998

Why this particular piece? Because every time I set out to build something from Ikea, this is the tune that starts playing through my head. More than iconic, the Terran Suite is a touchstone to the very roots of Starcraft’s success as a piece of contemporary mythology.

Track 3 – Tank – The Seatbelts – 1998

If I had to guess, “Tank” is probably second to the Space Battleship Yamato anthem as the most remixed/covered song to emerge from an anime series. It’s also the benchmark for any saxophone players who want to prove their musical chops while simultaneously establishing their nerd cred.

Track 4 – Blade Runner’s End Theme – Vangelis – 1982

I don’t know why I didn’t think to put this on the first volume of essential genre music. In the thirty years since the song was first heard by human ears, it has become the godfather of music to all things cyberpunk.

Track 5 – Inner Universe – Origa – 2002

Perhaps not as iconic as “Making of a Cyborg”, the title track to 1995’s Ghost in the Shell, Inner Universe, from the 2002′s Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, has always stood out in my mind as a fascinating song. Setting aside the fact that the lyrics are in Russian, Latin, and English, I’m told the range required to hit all the notes is quite challenging.

Track 6 – Doomsday – Murray Gold – 2006

Yes yes, the actual Doctor Who theme song is awesome. But there’s more to the musical history of the recent series than various takes on a fifty year old tune. As performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, “Doomsday” is tied with “Vale Decem” as the musical high point of David Tennant’s time in the TARDIS.

Track 7 – Audi Famam Illius – Nobuo Uematsu – 2006

Famed Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu lent his talents to “Audi Famam Illius”, the theme song to Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Too bad the game is nowhere near as epic (it’s actually very pointless) as the music.

Track 8 – Prelude to War – Bear McCreary – 2005

The rebooted Battlestar Galactica reached its zenith with the second season cliff-hanger “Pegasus”. There, I said it, and I don’t care how much fan rage it gets me. After Admiral Cain died it was all downhill, albeit at a gentle gradient. This song, which built to an epic crescendo during Adama and Cain’s camera-pan face off, accompanies not only the best moment of the series, but arguably one the finest moments in television this side of the 20th century.

Track 9 – Enterprising Young Men – Michael Giacchino – 2009

Giacchino made a bold decision when he abandoned Alexander Courage’s influence in crafting a new Star Trek theme. Though Courage’s score would be remixed into the ending credits, “Enterprising Young Men” became the headline refrain for Trek’s alternate timeline. Like it or not, it’s here now.

Track 10 – S’il Vous Plait – Fantastic Plastic Machine – 1997

You may not recognize the name, but fans of the British series Spaced will know the song. It’s a song to be played in moments of pure, unrivaled joy. Such moments include getting around giving notice at a job by telling your boss that Babylon 5 is shit (not actually true) so that he fires you.

Track 11 – Bishop’s Countdown – Aliens Soundtrack – James Horner – 1986

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that one track on this album is superior to another. Consider that I haven’t watched Aliens in a couple of years, but I could tell you exactly what scene accompanies each piece of music on this CD. If that’s not the mark of a brilliant piece of musical accompaniment, I don’t know what is.

What’s that? You want me to name the scene where this track plays? Fah, child’s play.

This starts playing as Ripley emerges from the service elevator in LV 426’s fusion plant. With Newt in tow she yells out, “God damn you, Bishop,” suspecting that the synthetic has taken the Sulaco’s remaining dropship and fled. Ripley turns around to see the other service elevator, presumably containing the xenomorph queen, rising up. Low on ammo, she tells Newt to “Close your eyes, baby.” At the last second Bishop flies the dropship into the frame, allowing Ripley and Newt to escape. As the ship tries to break atmo, a computerized voice counts down to zero before the fusion plant explodes.

Track 12 – The Elder Scrolls Themes – Jeremy Soule – 2002, 2006, 2011

Since 2002, Jeremy Soule has been the composer on the hugely popular Elder Scrolls series of video games (Morrowwind, Oblivion, and Skyrim). I suppose I could have just used the Morrowwind theme since the other two are built upon its back, but listening to the evolution of ten years worth of work is just too fantastic to pass up. Also, the Skyrim bit makes me want to drink a lot of mead and pick a fight with somebody weaker than me, preferably in the East coast of England.

Track 13 – Still Alive – Jonathan Coulton – 2007

Unlike the cake, this song is not a lie.

Track 14 – Il dolce suono/The Diva Dance – Gaetano Donizetti, Salvadore Cammarano, and Eric Serra – 1997

Fun fact: The voice of Albanian opera-singer Inva Mula was dubbed over that of the actress playing the Diva in The Fifth Element. Luc Besson’s movies might not be the smartest thing out there, but it takes a certain kind of something to integrate opera into beating the piss out of aliens.

I know I promised a fifteenth track for this piece, but the chances are good that I’ve missed something that you think is absolutely essential. Therefore, track 15 is up to the readers. Leave a comment and telling the world what you think is absolutely essential genre listening.


0

Activate Interlocks! Announcing the First (Almost) Live Page of Reviews Podcast

I’ve had this idea rolling around my head for the last few weeks. It’s an idea that involves me hooking up my mixer board, launching a G+ hangout, and recording a (mostly) live podcast where anybody can just show up. People could shamelessly promote their projects, pick a fight with me over a matter of nerd trivia, or just chat like we’re at the pub. Did I mention that everybody has a drink in their hand while this whole thing is going on? No? Well they should, that is fundamental.

In a perfect world, it would be like the Ricky Gervais Show, only without Ricky, Steve, Karl, a budget, proper editing, those fun animations…okay it would be nothing like the Ricky Gervais Show. But it would still be fun. So why not do it tonight, after work, I thought to myself.

““Because,” began a voice in my head that sounded nothing like my 10th grade football coach, “If you do it tonight, nobody is going to show up and it will be like one of those first three pathetic podcasts that you did all by yourself.”

The voice had a point. It would probably make sense to give people a bit of notice, do some advertising, post about it here, offer a sacrifice to Gozer to see if Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day would come on the show: all the usual stuff that goes into producing a podcast. Also The Hunger Games opens tonight and I won’t lie, I kind of want to see it.

So how about this, on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7:00PM EST I’m going to do the first ever almost live Page of Reviews podcast via a Google+ hangout. Whoever you are, whatever your project, come on in and chat about it. Or don’t and watch me tap dance for an hour as I talk to myself. Really, it’s a win / win scenario.

Webcams won’t be necessary as the finished version of the podcast is audio only. Maybe one day when I have a better computer and an actual budget I’ll try to pull off a screen cast.

If you know right now that you want to get in on this, feel free to email me at adam@pageofreviews.com. Let me know when during the hour you plan on showing up, and we can go from there. Otherwise you can follow me on G+ for further details.


2

The Daily Shaft: The anti-Love Day Voltron

Ah, Valentine’s Day. It’s the one day of the year that we stop to ponder on the acts of the martyred Saint Valentinus whose deeds, birthday, and reason for being killed remain debated and largely unrecognized within the church. It’s also the day that a certain subset of romantically coupled people make everybody else on the planet, single or paired, feel absolutely inadequate.

To combat this most artificial non-holiday, I have assembled my Voltron of Anti-Love Day sentiment. I do this not to ridicule the institutionalization of the human mating drive. But to bring us all together in the common purpose of laughter on a day that sees so many people asking, “Why did Jenkins from marketing have to spring for the string quartet? Now I look bad.”

Behold, five robot lions internet videos that if nothing else will make you feel just the slightest bit more cheerful.

Form feet and legs!

Nothing says love like a deranged Spanish professor blackmailing two of his students into acts of homoeroticism.

Next time you don’t want to say it, don’t. Also a great source of calcium, because who wants to deal with osteoporosis and a broken heart.

Form the NSFW arms and body!

So much of Valentine’s day is about setting the mood for an inevitable romantic encounter. An encounter, that for some reason, a certain somebody expects to be just a little better than any other encounter. But it’s just so much pressure. And I’ve got this new boss at work who is yelling at me all the time. Stop looking at me that way, it happens to everybody…anyway here’s a song to set the mood.

Presented without comment, also NSFW.

And I’ll form the head! Hey, is it just me or does that part of Keith’s “form Voltron” speech sound a little…dirty?

Just in time for love day, the siblings Hewlett have released the second episode of their web series Assassidate. This one offers impressionist art, cyber terrorism, and witty wordplay. I’d say it’s almost certain to put a genuine smile on your face. Not like all those fake smiles that you’ve been using all day as you pretend to be excited about other people’s PDAs. In fact, the only way this episode wouldn’t work for you is if you’re newly divorced, spending Valentine’s Day with your mother, and your little sister has more game then you do. If that’s the case, you might want to call it a day with the Gentleman’s Rant.

Enjoy your love day. Rebecca and I will be doing what we always do on February 14th, eating pizza and drinking beer in our living room. We might also watch some Breaking Bad. Watching Bryan Cranston cook meth in his underwear is surprisingly romantic.


0

The Weekend Shaft: I Don’t Care About the Grammys, but…

I think it’s a little bit tacky to invite Chris Brown to perform at the same awards ceremony as the woman who three years ago he was convicted of assaulting.

Make no mistake, I don’t really care about Rihanna or Chris Brown as musicians. What I care about is the fact that a man assaulted a woman, was found guilty of that offense, and now the music industry is carrying on as if nothing happened. The cognitive dissonance borders on Kafkaesque.

Are the producers of the Grammys walking around back stage in the finest fashion of John Cleese, manically repeating to themselves “Don’t mention the war assault conviction. Don’t mention the war assault conviction.”

This is a man who during tonight’s shin-dig must be at least ten yards away from Rihanna, lest he violate the terms of his probation. Outside of industry events, Brown must maintain a fifty yard radius until 2014.

Acts of domestic abuse reflect poorly on all men everywhere. Ignoring the larger conversation because it might be a bit “icky” is just as bad.

We now return you to your usual Page of Reviews programming.


0

The Daily Shaft – Essential Genre Music Volume 1

““What sort of music do you like?” For as long as I can remember I’ve dreaded people asking me that question. So many dates with so many women went so terribly wrong as I struggled to find a convenient way to frame my rather eclectic musical tastes. Eventually, an education in classic rock gave me a socially acceptable answer to that oh so troublesome question. The reality, however, is that I’m a giant nerd, and appropriately I like nerdy music. To that end I have assembled a wish list album that I am going to call “Essential Genre Music Vol. 1”

Track 1 – Arrival on Earth, ”Steve Jablonski” – Transformers OST, 2007.

Though Michael Bay took some liberties with the Transformers mythology, Steve Jablonski’s soundtrack feels fitting to the grand nature of Cybertron’s war.

 

Track 2 – Hans Zimmer, “The Dream is Collapsing” – Inception OST, 2010

Save for the creation of the Inception “Bwangh”, Zimmer’s work on Inception is some of his best work, second only to the theme from Das Boot.

 

Track 3 – Clint Mansell, “Welcome to Lunar Industries” – Moon OST, 2009

Mansell’s soundtrack perfectly mirrors the dark, lonely, and hesitantly hopeful images captured in Ducan Jones’ masterpiece.

 

Track 4 – Norihiko Hibino and Harry Gregson-Williams as performed by Cynthia Harrell, “Snake Eater” – Metal Gear Solid 3 OST, 2004

Without a doubt, this song is as good as any Bond theme.

 

Track 5 – Chris Cornell, “You Know my Name” – Casino Royale Soundtrack, 2006

Having seen every Bond movie, I can safely say that Cornell’s 007 theme is the best.

 

Track 6 – Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori, “One Final Effort” – Halo 3 OST, 2007

This song is the absolute embodiment of Halo’s aural aesthetic. Essential driving music if you ever find yourself alone on a country highway.

 

Track 7 – Nobuo Uematsu, “The Man With the Machine Gun” – Final Fantasy VIII OST, 1999

Although Uematsu’s Liberi Fatali has become a fixture of gaming albums and concerts, I’ve always found The Man With the Machine Gun to be the superior track.

 

Track 8 – John Barry, “Main Title from The Black Hole.” – The Black Hole OST, 1979

Not even Ernest Borgnine could save Disney’s attempt to make a sci-fi movie for grown-ups. The Black Hole is poorly paced, ham fisted, maudlin, and preachy. The soundtrack is just as bad, save for this one haunting song that immediately stirs images of a mad scientist and his killer German robot.

 

Track 9 – David Bowie, “New Angels of Promise” – Omikron: The Nomad Soul OST, 1999

If cyber punk dystopias were beers, Omikron would be Corona Light. It’s soundtrack, however, is a mythological oatmeal stout brewed by King Arthur, Henry V and William Shakespeare. Bowie would later re-release New Angles of Promise on his 1999 album, Hours.

 

Track 10 – Andrew Sega and Dan Grandpre, “The Traveller” – Crusader: No Regret OST, 1995

If I ever get into a protracted movie style bar fight, this is the song that I want playing in the background. End of line.

 

Track 11 – Frank Klepacki, “Act on Instinct” – Command and Conquer OST, 1995

In 2003, I did a 10k run listening to this song on repeat the entire time. It’s the perfect track for when you need to solider on.

 

Track 12 – Daft Punk, “Derezzed” – Tron Legacy OST, 2010

Arguably, Daft Punk’s soundtrack is the best thing about the sequel to 1982’s Tron. The fact that it didn’t get an Oscar nomination for best original score remains a crime against music.

 

Track 13 – Michael Tavera, “Exo-Squad Main Theme”, 1993

Whereas most contemporary TV shows cold open and then flash the title card to a five second jingle, Exo-Squad’s theme reminds us how music used to set the mood of an entire show.

 

Track 14 – Star One, “Intergalactic Space Crusader” – Space Metal, 2002

That’s right, the album is called Space Metal. Turn this up to 11 and enjoy. Spoiler Alert for anybody who hasn’t seen the BBC series Blake’s 7.

 

Track 15 – The Alfee, “Space Battleship Yamato,” – Yamato Rebirth OST, 2009

Hiroshi Miyagawa composition, along with Space Battleship Yamato itself, is one of anime’s most enduring icons. Though there have been countless covers of the proto-military march, the Alfee’s recent re-master for the 2009 Yamato animated movie is among the best.

 

And that is volume 1 of essential genre music. I’ll put volume 2 together for next month.


1

The Saturday Shaft: Syndicate’s Theme Song Sounds A Little….

Yeah, I’m writing on the weekend. The fact that I’m not drenched in Zerg blood by this point on a Saturday afternoon should give you some indication of the very serious nature of today’s post. I mean, as posts go, they don’t get much more poignant than this one. So here it is.

Several months ago EA announced they were making a first person shooter remake of Bullfrog’s cyberpunk classic Syndicate. The gaming community responded with much snark and incredulity. Who wants a FPS remake of an isometric strategy game? Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. No, this post is on the Manhattan Project’s order of magnitude of importance.

EA’s new trailer for Syndicate features a theme song composed by Flux Pavilion. As video game music goes, it’s not a bad tune. The song works with the classic Syndicate riff, adding in a bit of a post-apocalyptic synth vibe. But then I noticed something else. Throughout the song, and especially at 2:30 in, it sounds a little similar to another song. I’m not suggesting that the two are carbon copies of each other. I’m asserting that the songs share some tonal qualities that will make me think about Fashion Television each time I hear the new Syndicate theme. Yeah, that’s right. I think bits of Syndicate sound like Animotion’s 1984 single Obsession. Here, have a listen.

Remember how I compared the importance of this post to the Manhattan Project? I might have over sold things a bit.

Still, am I crazy or is anybody else hearing a few common qualities between the two songs? Also, how weird is that Obsession music video?