The website Weird Canada was founded in 2009 in Edmonton, with the purpose of showcasing the obscure, “anomalous,” and experimental music being made across the country. Unexpectedly, in 2011, they were nominated as part of CBC Radio 3’s Searchlight competition for Best Canadian Music Website. The weirdest thing happened—they actually won.
For a site devoted to fringe music (anything from free jazz to lo-fi tropicalia to noise punk) to overcome heavyweight publications like Exclaim! is no mean feat, and the operators of Weird Canada didn’t take the honour lightly. Since winning the contest, Weird Canada has taken its mission statement—“to encourage, connect, and document creative expression across Canada”—and stretched as far as it can reach. In the last year, they’ve registered as a non-profit organization, recruited over 100 volunteers, including the translators necessary to present all the “hyperbolic nonsense” in French and English, and won a $50,000 grant to create a nationwide service called “WYRD DISTRO” that allows music fans everywhere to easily access and purchase physical releases from the bands streaming on the website. It may self-identify as “weird,” but WC has slowly, almost accidentally, become a very serious champion of the musical underdog and patron of open and accessible arts.
Fifty years ago, a gay, cross-dressing, black singer named Jackie Shane scored a surprise radio hit in what was then staid and uptight Toronto. A few years later, he disappeared. On Shane's legacy, and the under-appreciated gifts he gave to a sometimes self-congratulatory city.
Please Please Me is a mostly sweet and dull album that came out 50 years ago today or yesterday or tomorrow or whatever. It’s by the Beatles, so it’s fucking amazing.
I was born in the year 1985. Two of the Beatles are dead. There are 14 songs on Please Please Me: four of them are brilliant, two are great, and the rest are sweet and dull. This week I told a bunch of people I’m writing a thing about how Please Please Me came out 50 years ago and everybody acted so weirdly flabbergasted by it—they “absolutely” “couldn’t” “believe” Please Please Me’s turning 50. I wanted to ask them, “Have you listened to Please Please Me recently?”
After nearly two decades as duo and couple, Matmos have established a template of conceptualism you can dance to. Their 2001 album A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure transfigured surgical noises into avant-garde electronica. On The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast, the pair paid irreverent tribute to some queer heroes with fetishistically appropriate samples: sequins and steam for onetime bathhouse DJ Larry Levan, a chaotic simulated banquet for Bavaria’s King Ludwig II, squirming snails for Patricia Highsmith (she kept them as pets). Even the major exception to this rule, their most recent solo LP Supreme Balloon, produced an inadvertent theme; made using nothing but synthesizers, it’s completely, beautifully artificial.
The photographs assembled for Reggae or Not: The Birth of Dancehall Culture in Jamaica and Toronto, Beth Lesser’s new Gladstone Hotel exhibition, document the emergence of a genre, but part of their charm is that no one makes too much fuss about it. Taken mostly in the 1980s, when Lesser and her husband David “Lord Selector” Kingston were making regular Caribbean pilgrimages for their magazine Reggae Quarterly, the images seem casual, almost unposed: DJs cradle vinyl, recording engineers glance over their shoulders, singers grin in front of long-shuttered music stores and Jamaican landmarks like Volcano Corner. The launch party last Friday featured a temporary sound system by Lord Selector; in lieu of that, let these Youtubed cuts be your audio tour.
Scott Walker was once a pop star; he is now an artist whose albums—including Bish Bosch, which comes out today—are cryptic and immersive and terrifying. There are references to fascism, bestiality, disease, gastrointestinal workings. And they have either nothing or everything to do with Scott Walker the former pop star.
1. Get to the train station early and nab myself a window seat. A teenage boy asks if the seat next to me is taken. He’s at the age where boys speak in monotone because they think modulating your voice is for sissies. He farts throughout the entire trip and tries to hide it by arching his back as if he’s just stretching. That’s the great thing about VIA Rail economy class: it gets you out of your liberal urban enclave and expands your horizons.
2. Symposium, “A Radical Re-Imagination of Music in Canada: Engaged Audiences and Creative Possibilities”—which, featuring three Montreal music folks (musicians Tim Hecker and Caila Thompson-Hannant, aka Mozart’s Sister, as well as Constellation Records’ Ian Ilavsky), turns quickly into a symposium on what the Montreal music scene needs, turns quickly into an inner symposium on whether or not I should move here.
Rappers are easy protagonists. By nature of the genre’s genomic immodesty, odds are high—no, definite—that even the most run-of-the-mill rapper is uncommonly outsized. Who ever heard of a boring rapper? The answer is: nobody. Those guys don’t get heard. Boring...