Song(s) of the Day: Cross Record – Licorice, PYSOL My Castle

Posted on by Gary in Song of the Day | Leave a comment

 
Cross Record is a project from the Austin, TX artist Emily Cross. To call her new self-titled album experimental would be besides the point. It seems more a visual and psychological demonstration than musical exploration. Cross seems determined and resigned all at once: determined to stick with nearly monotonic trajectories, and resigned to the fact that her determination is the far stronger demon than any other on her shoulder. It makes the odd flourishes of the music almost joyous, even though you consciously recognize that they too are short and seemingly prosaic.

This artificially created contrast seems a consistent theme in her new video: “PYSOL (put your shoes on leave) My Castle” literally has Emily crawl into a sensory deprivation chamber. Yes, one of those contraptions that 4 kids from an ’80s monster show managed to replicate so they could dim out this miserly plane of existence to have a seance with aliens. I care not whether this was a purposeful design – it really does work. “Licorice” is a particularly good example of the heightened senses one acquires when the baseline is nearly a flat line. At 2:54, it doesn’t bore you with repetitions of the same idea. It is a surprisingly wonderful test flight. Now that this piece is done, IYDM I am going back to solitary.

Cross Record is out now on Ba Da Bing Records.


Song of the Day: My Morning Jacket – I Will Be There When You Die

Posted on by Gary in Everything | Leave a comment

 
New and old are highly relative terms. The Earth is likely not old compared to the atoms in that egg you ate this morning. But regardless of how you look at it, My Morning Jacket has news: it’s the 20th Anniversary of The Tennessee Fire and the band has reissued the album for the occasion.

I still cannot believe how people could qualify this as “alternative” country. Unless one uses “alternative” as a code for cynical, it is not country music. It is just heartfelt and honest, and if what radio stations have been paddling as country in the past decade is anything to go by, honest country would be an oxymoron.

The Tennessee Fire is a sprawling 16 track mass going in many different but mostly playfully calming directions. From a 30 second guitar solos in the 3:00 long “Evelyn Is Not Real” to the oddly retrospectively mature sound of the first track “Heartbreakin Man” to the starkly poetic “I Will Be There When You Die”, My Morning Jacket never ceases to surprise you at the variety of possible musical and melodic dimensions that you COULD find enjoyable.

The Tennessee Fire is an antithesis to the formulaic AI music catalog of the Bender persuasion. And it’s always worth a revisit, or 20. Below you can listen to a live version of “I Will Be There When You Die”. Keep a straight face and carry on.

P.S. This post is not related in theme to Paul’s Dido concert review.

Travel Review: Gorilla Trekking, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Posted on by Ricky in Everything | Leave a comment

Day 10 - Gorilla Trekking

I recently went to Kenya and Uganda for vacation. Part of the trip was to check out the great plains of Africa by sampling the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. The second part, and the greater objective, was to go see the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda. Having seen the movie King Kong once, this was a thrill of a lifetime. Also, they are highly endangered creatures and I thought it would be cool to see them before their inevitable extinction because humans are garbage.

I’ve seen a few guides as to what to do, and what to expect, so I figure I might as well add to this. Let’s tackle this from a Q and A perspective.

Why see the Gorillas?
The mountain gorilla is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. They live primarily in one particular mountain area in Eastern Africa. This area is comprised of three countries – Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. The gorillas usually live in families of some number and are led by the silverback. These silverbacks are super strong and will definitely fuck you up if you piss them off. Anyways, the gorillas are highly endangered with roughly 800 or so living today. That’s a Bon Iver concert.

You might have heard of these animals in:
– The Netflix documentary Virunga
Gorillas in the Mist
– BBC Nature docs (David Attenborough’s encounters with Gorillas in 1978’s Life on Earth is an iconic moment)

Where can you see them?
Realistically, your best options are either Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (best name ever) or in Rwanda. DRC isn’t terribly safe right now, but neither is the US, so I guess pick your poison. Anyways, I chose Bwindi Impenetrable NP, and did it as part of a tour. When in Africa, it’s usually easier to just book a tour that will do all the work for you, leaving you with all the time to look for animals. I used Nomad Adventures and I enjoyed the services they provided, it’s my second time using them and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again. Typically you will land in either Kampala or Nairobi and make your way there. This park isn’t really in a very reachable location so prepare for a lot of driving. It’s all pretty driving though.

Is it expensive?
Yes – a permit to see the Gorillas for 1 hour is about 750 USD. On top of that, you will have to fly to East Africa, book a trip of some sort, get equipment and then yellow fever vaccinations. It all adds up but it’s the memories that are priceless (actually a few grand).

What actually happens on the trek
Here is a general itenary of what happens. The timings depend on where you stay. Most people will stay outside the national park near Lake Bunyonyi, which has nice lodges to chill out in while you are waiting your turn. If that is the case, as it was mine, here is your schedule:

The night before: You are assigned a Gorilla family – there are 13 families in the park that are used to humans, each family is assigned around 8-10 guests.

4:30 AM – You wake up and eat
5:00 AM or 5:30 AM – you get in your transport to go to the park
7:30 or 8:00 AM – you arrive at your designated launching spot
8:30 AM – you are briefed and meet your guide and then two other guys in the back with guns to protect you from elephants. you can also hire a porter for around 15-20 USD to carry your stuff. It’s good for the locals so if you have a heavy backpack you might want to consider this.
9:00 AM – ???? you hike.

Day 10 - Gorilla Trekking

Basically the trekking goes like this – in the morning before you have arrived, two trackers go out to find the gorilla families. They mostly know where the gorillas were the night before so they start from there. Once they find them, you basically go to where they are.

Hiking there involves a lot of hiking through thick vegetation up and down steepish mountains. The trails are mostly not so much trails as they are paths hacked by your guide as he takes the most direct path to the gorillas. It’s not terribly easy, but you will have a walking stick to help you and it’s kind of fun to trek like this. You’ll probably fall once or twice, but it’s generally a nice soft fall since you are going slow anyways.

Day 10 - Gorilla Trekking

The trek can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 6 hours depending on where your gorillas are.

Once you see the gorillas, you mostly follow them as they do the things for the next hour. You have strict instructions which you follow because the last thing you want is a pissed off silverback headed your way. These instructions are pretty simple

- do not eat or drink near the gorillas
– do not talk about the fight club
– do not have flash in the photos
– do not make prolonged eye contact with the silverback

When you reach the gorillas, it’s magical – you basically realize how tiny you are in this world and just marvel at these majestic animals as they go on about their daily lives. I mean, imagine if some random person flew halfway across the world, endured all kinds of shitty roads, woke up at the crack of dawn and hiked 5 hrs through a mountain and forest just to see you take a piss and watch Netflix. That’s essentially what we are doing, but it feels great.

Your hour ends pretty quickly and about 500 photos and crappy videos later, you hike back to camp.

What do I pack?
I’m going to skip what you need for a safari, instead, here I will put what is necessary.

- Water proof hiking boots
You are hiking in a mountainous rain forest, it’ll be wet and muddy, you definitely don’t want water in your shoes.

- Long socks
– Hiking pants that are light
– long sleeve UV protected hiking shirt

You are hiking through a dense forest with stinging plants and army ants. You need to expose as little skin as possible, as annoying it is, because it’s freaking hot. You are also in altitude so the sun is strong. Get UV protected clothes

- garden gloves
They will provide you with hiking stick, but you will be grabbing all the branches as you walk through mixed terrain. Sometimes you don’t even know where the bottom is, as all you see below you is vines. Grab a branch for balance. You want gloves in case you grab something that stings.

- sun hat
– sunglasses
– bandana (for sweat management)

- rain jacket
– rain pants
Don’t be dumb. It’ll rain if you don’t bring it, and you don’t want to be drenched for 7 hours.

- backpack to hold all that shit in.
It’ll be hot, get a real hiking backpack (with ventilation and pockets) and leave your Fjallraven backpack at home.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely. One of life’s most unique adventures, and an opportunity to see one of our closest relatives in our animal kingdom. I always tell anyone I can that travelling to different parts of Africa is the best thing you can do on your travels, and I stand by that – beautiful land, amazing nature and great people you meet along the way. Highly recommend.

Concert Review: Low Cut Connie, August 6, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

 
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It’s quite a big stretch to say that I’ve seen Low Cut Connie in concert before since my previous experience with the band probably amounts to a grand total of a song and a half this past March while I waited for our food order during SXSW. But I’m gonna say it counts, in that the band made some kind of impression on me and they certainly had the crowd at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in the palm of their hand that day so I made a mental note to check the band out in more of a proper concert setting when I got the chance. And on Monday night at the Horseshoe, I got that chance.

As it turns out, the chance to see the band in Toronto was not necessarily a given. Singer and pianist Adam Weiner noted early on in their set that the band hadn’t been to Canada in four years, later adding that they had considered the option of not returning to Canadian soil at all.

“I didn’t think we’d come back,” he said, explaining that they played a show once at the Drake Hotel where they couldn’t get the piano down the stairs as well as a show in Ottawa that he only described as “very strange” and a show in Kitchener (“wherever that is”) that also didn’t make a good impression on them. So while all of that could have added up to convincing the band never to cross the border again, luckily they changed their mind and came back. And despite the fact that Weiner described the crowd as “polite motherfuckers” early on when they didn’t respond quite enthusiastically enough, he repeatedly stated how much he loves Toronto throughout the night and even dedicated the song “Beverly” to the late Jackie Shane, who spent the bulk of her career in Toronto.

Weiner also mentioned another Canadian connection – the fact that he once lived in Montreal for two years, a time wherein he would often see Leonard Cohen walking around his neighbourhood and hoped that Cohen might come in to the cafe where he played piano and see “the other depressed Jewish boy in Montreal” play.

Leonard Cohen never did see him back then, but if he had, I’m sure it would have been much a much different performance than the kind of show that Low Cut Connie puts on – the band’s performance was a full on rock spectacle centred around Weiner’s over the top showmanship. Strutting about the stage, ruffling people’s hair, high-fiving, and standing on top of his piano at various points throughout their set, Weiner gave off a bit of a Jerry Lee Lewis meets WWE vibe. He started the set at pretty much 100% energy level and didn’t really let up aside from a couple of piano ballads later in the night. That’s entertainment.