Thursday, March 31, 2005

controller.controller - Terminal City

Paper Bag Progress
The backlit bravado of Toronto's controller.controller

Mar, 31 2005

Hey Canada, we have the makings of a pretty serious indie scene in our country. Last night I ripped the Rapture pins off my Members Only jacket, hung my Chucks, burning, over a telephone wire, and danced up and down on my collection of rare British post-punk ‘45s. Thumping over this mess came the sound of controller.controller, a five-piece based in Toronto, who, since 2002, have been making rock music we can dance to. Surfacing prior to the (near) popularity of the dancepunk genre, controller.controller is founded on the disparate influences of members Nirmala Basnayake (vocals), Ronnie Morris (bass), Scott Kaija (guitar), Colwyn Llewellyn-Thomas (guitar) and Jeff Scheven (drums). Rather than formulating a contrived, conscious effort to create a genre-defining sound, controller.controller play music they stand behind, artistically – backlit with red spotlights, and propelling the raw emotion of Joy Division through a serious disco rhythm; dark, and punctuated by visceral female vocals. “We all listened to harder music,” says Scott Kaija of their influences.

Signed to Toronto’s Paper Bag Records, the band has now inked distribution deals through the States, and Australia. Following a series of UK shows supporting friends Death From Above 1979, and New York’s The Fever, controller.controller returned to Toronto briefly, before heading out - again with DFA1979 - for their current North American tour. Sold out shows have helped the band gain recognition in preparation for the fall release of their first full album.

History, controller.controller’s debut EP, was well received by the music press. With an excellent 8.3/10 from indie-rock’s famously jaded Pitchfork Media webzine, and glowing reviews in the UK from high-profile outlets like The NME, the band recognizes they have a lot to prove with the upcoming album.

When prodded about the trendy dancepunk genre pigeonhole – a question I hate asking these bands, but love hearing the answer to – Scott elucidated his thoughts on rock music. He brought up the fact that rock and roll was, in essence, a form of dance music, and that the purportedly “revolutionary” concept of (gasp) mixing dance and rock which came about a few years ago, is, in fact, nothing new. Agreed -- and supported by the recent revival of post-punk (dance?) legends Gang of Four. I suppose we could also bring up Elvis and The Beatles, but it seems the entire history of music is currently being dated back no further than 1981.

Live shows are dominated by – according to the band’s press release – the aforementioned “dark red backlight” which “shields them from view, [and] lends them a quiet confidence.” With an unusual tendency – unlike many of their musical brethren - to NOT mention things like guestlists and club lineups, offer fashion tips, or talk about burning some club/bar/house down (although a city does burn up and there is a disco blackout), controller.controller singer Nirmala Basnayake is known for strong vocal delivery and understated presence. “Audiences choose to participate,” intones the press release again, and if past shows on this tour are something by which to measure success, it seems to be just the way it works.

Controller.controller aren’t alone in Toronto; their local contemporaries (DFA1979 included) are also producing solid music, and developing a strong, dance-friendly indie music scene. Paper Bag’s roster alone is impressive, including Magneta Lane, and the techno-rock outfit Uncut. With bands like The Two Koreas, and No Dynamics also making an impression on the city, the normally stoic Toronto crowds are starting to hit the indie-rock dancefloor. This will be the first time Vancouver gets to see what it’s all about.


Controller.controller play two shows in Vancouver supporting Death From Above 1979. Catch them on Friday April 1st at The Red Room, and on Saturday April 2nd at Mesa Luna for an all-ages matinee performance. Locals Elizabeth will be opening the shows, and continuing on the tour to Victoria.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

And ten years have passed

This turned up at one of my email accounts a few days ago. Completely blew me away... it's essentially a dissertation on me, based on my blogs.

I'm posting both for the benefit of those who read what I write, and (probably moreso) for my own benefit. It's interesting -- to me, because it's about me, but also because it has some fascinating insight into someone's view on life.


Hi Greg,

I came across your blog yesterday, and found it a fascinating read. This is my first time reading a blog of somebody I knew.

I wrestled in my mind as to whether I should write to you, since I'm pretty sure you don't remember who I am. Also, I wasn't sure whether you would appreciate being contacted by an old mate. But, because it's easy to write emails I'm going ahead with this anyways - and part of me thinks that maybe you might be interested in hearing what I thought about your blog. My hope is that my little notes here are not seen as critiques or judgements, but as Sunday-morning coffee-deprived meanderings.

So here goes...I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I also admire your courage for putting yourself onto the web like that. Even though we all construct our past the way we want it to be remembered, I felt that you were very genuine in what you had written. At first I skimmed over the site, not really knowing why I was poking around. Then I realized that I was curious - here was a person who was revealing more to me in 10 minutes than I had ever understood or fathomed when meeting them in person. I felt like I was treading in territory totally new to me. I wanted to be cautious of what I read - since it revealed something that I could not interpret with the person. I could only read and "picture" you in my head. Even though thememory of your face was blurry - your words painted a new picture for me.

I was surprised and delighted - almost like an archaeologist feels when they uncover something new and unusual. I wanted to explore more. What I found was most fascinating - with you revealing ups, downs, turns, and many facets to yourself otherwise hidden.

My first impressions (please correct me if I'm wrong) after reading a few pages was that you may sometimes experience a little nihilistic angst that many 30 year-old men feel as they struggle to make meaning of and find a purpose to their lives.

As I read more I formed a picture in my head of a person and his friends who has the means (to live) but are still discovering or constructive themeaning (of why live or for what purpose).

Don't take this as some existentialist challenge thrown your way, but when I read through your posts I imagined a person who wants to make a difference in the world. For instance, you dream of being a mech or saving the world, or being a vampire. You try to sustain a "scene" and critique music with a solid sense that this is your purpose. But deeper down there may be a place where you're still searching for meaning in this harsh industrialized world.

Will you ever become the hero, the protagonist, who saves the world and gets the girl? Is that not what the myths, the mentors, the idolized idealistic future that all young men are imprinted with?

I don't know the answer - but I do know that success, happiness, pleasure, authentic relationships, are all by-products of a commitment to a purpose. In my world if I try make them the reason for living I find it impossible to bear suffering and pain.

As I read more I felt that your world was crying out for care - that you had suffered and were suffering. Where was the love, the light that brightens the heart? Where is your muse? In terms of suffering - you talked of having to do the grunt jobs, the "weeder" tasks that often weed out those who are less committed to the end goal. That takes courage, determination, andpersistence. You spoke of relationships - the pain of love, the backbiting,the constant interference that occurs as you negotiate the boundaries with ones you love, and realizing where your values differ from other people's. That showed me your values, your reflections, your soul. You've even lost friends who have given up to "meaninglessness" - overcome by addiction,aggression, or depression. That showed me your commitment to life, to art, and to creativity.

You've been through so much...building 3D environments for games, tons of art work, parties parties parties, and now music videos. These must take a lot of your precious time and energy - and obviously because it is your life they must have some meaning and value for you.

With such commitment and purpose why do I get an overall feeling that you're not content?

Even more importantly, why do I feel compelled to write these thoughts to you?

Maybe I'm the one who is not content and I'm projecting that onto you! Perhaps - and when I think about it I feel it's because I've missed your presence, and 10 years has flashed by in a blink of an eye. Maybe it will be another 10 years till we speak again - so why miss this opportunity to connect with somebody I've admired for their intelligence and warmth.

Well...enough of my babble for a Sunday morning. I just wanted to thank you for the experience of reading your thoughts and reminding me of who and where you are.

I will make a commitment to you. Wherever you are, whatever the cost, I will contact you again in 10 years - to see how you are doing, and ponder what adventures, stories, and wisdoms you may want to share.



Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Audio blogging

OK, this is a cool idea. It's not absolutely brand new undiscovered territory, but it's still pretty fresh:


This is a site which, using a plugin (compatible with both Winamp and iTunes), logs all of the songs you're listening to, compiles charts, and shares your songs with everyone else on the site. You can create networks of friends (who you can chat with), and neighbours (who's taste in music matches your own). Streaming audio is available based on both individual and neighbourhood music lists.

It's very indie in it's focus, and there are some great lists of music online. The streaming audio option makes it well worth the learning curve.

Audioscrobbler: MY PROFILE
Audioscrobbler: Pitchfork's profile


I wrote this in reponse to a review of M83's latest 12" release for "Don't Save Us From The Flames," off their album titled, "Before The Dawn Heals Us."

You can find the original review here:


M83 have the unfortunate distinction of being one of those bands who've been compared to My Bloody Valentine. This tends to be the kiss of death; such a comparison usually means someone is trying too hard (i.e. Guitar) to SOUND like MBV. Such isn't entirely the case with M83 -- even with the interesting rhyme between the (shortened) band names. Vee - three, three - vee. Get it?

Anyway, much like their French brethren Air, M83 albums tend to make an initial impact on their target audience and then fade quietly as the sound dates itself. OK, this is a bit of critical stretch - some of the music remains timely - but a valid criticism. Before The Dawn Heals Us is best when it's wearing it's Kevin Shields aspirations openly on it's sleeve. Save Me From The Flames is a great song, and on the 12", Superpitcher succeeds in creating a remix that isn't anywhere near as frustratingly ALMOST-good as his usual stuff.

From it's fairly strong opening, M83's latest slides into balladic yawn-inducing synth washes and over-long ambient bliss-outs. I said of their previous album that the best thing about the band was their website. This still stands. The site (much like the music) hasn't been updated in a couple years, aside from content additions. Go check it out.

Damnit, maybe I should move to France and start smoking dope again so I can get back into this stuff.

For a highly recommended alternative to M83, check out Khonnor. Amazing, and innovative.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

So it is -- tonight

I smell like smoke.

I only smoke when I'm drunk, or I'm particularly affected -- or both.

Tonight it was both.

I don't believe in horoscopes, but why is it that the only girls who have ever had any kind of pull on me are Aquarius? There are three of them. One I married, one left her husband as a result of me, and the other ... is the other.

On my desk in front of me are little buttons. The kind you pin on your collar or your bag, or (if you're like me, or Steven who I used to work with) the pocket of your jeans. They have on them names and tiled patterns representing all of the downtown subway stations in Toronto.

The subway is a place where I can lose myself in everything around me. I can listen to my music and imagine who all these people are, or imagine myself hiding in the dark corners of the tunnels between each stop. I am a werewolf, I am a vampire. I have incredible powers and I am outcast -- alone.

That's who I am tonight.

Outcast and alone, but powerful, and entirely myself. Entirely on my own.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Into the disco is where we will go

Wow. Your band is so NOW. Your sound is so cool. Your fans are so in touch with what it's all about today. They all read Vice and Nylon, they have multiple p2p file-sharing applications, they're hooked up on Friendster and Myspace, they love Lost in Translation and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. They know who Michel Gondry and Spoke Jonze are and they can list at least one movie directed by each. My leather jacket sits on it's hanger at the entrance to my apartment. I wash my jeans with the pins still on them because I don't want to bother removing them.

French Kicks
VHS or Beta
The Bravery
Maximo Park
Home Video
Dogs Die in Hot Cars
Bloc Party
LCD Soundsystem

They might not share a complete sound, but they do share something: They share a fan-base, and an image. They don't write amazing songs, they won't last longer than a few months or a year, but you're cool if you like them, and they represent a sense of self. If you were the first person to wear their pin, the first person to utter their name, or the first person to rip their leaked album from Soulseek and drop it into a set with your iPod, you score extra points. Your friends are impressed and they can't help but envy your ability to latch onto the next big thing (right NOW) before everyone else.

Who are the has-beens?

Radio 4
The Darkness
Electric Six
The Faint
Le Tigre

Why do we continue to keep these wheels turning? All of this input that results in -- what? Who exactly are you trying to impress? What? You hung out with who!? Oh. My. GOD!

And so the social circle grows, and so the elaborate dance continues. Because what's the point if Carlos D doesn't have herpies (and hey, my friend knows the guy who wrote the blog, so I know it's true -- and that's no joke). What's the point if I can't walk into a bar and watch someone whisper to someone else? What's the point if we have no DJs and we have no cool parties? What's the point if we have no pretentious artists making meaningless art?

Tom Vek's new single sounds like House of Jealous lovers without the soul. My wrists bleed on my keyboard, and make it so my shift key doesn't work so well anymore. Damnit, damnit, damnit!

Does anyone remember the Brit-Pop crash? When drum'n'bass wasn't cool anymore? I think I still have the same haircut. Will you be at the Gang of Four concert?

Saturday still looks good to me ;)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A Trillion Barnacle Lapse

After a couple good albums highlighted by great moments, A Trillion Barnacle Lapse recently completed three new songs which bring to light a sound which may give them the exposure they deserve. No longer focusing quite so heavily on the noise/experimental side of their sound, the band have hit on something that comes across as both unique and eminently catchy.

Tired of the glut of by-the-numbers post-punk being thrown our way? These new tracks align nicely with the best by bands like Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, and Chin Up Chin Up.

No strings attached -- they're free on their Myspace profile.