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A Concert in the Floral Hall; The Shadow Falls Across the Fridge, Hank

August 16, 2008

August the 28th: A CONCERT IN THE FLORAL HALL.
Lovely scenic effects. Gorgeous costumes. A feast of fun and beauty.

I’m especially excited about the two shows I have coming up, having recently seen performances by artists I’ll be playing with on each night.

I was aware that Olenka’s music was an ace mix of multilingual orchestral song, Eastern-European folk, exuberant waltzes. Since I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since I was about fifteen (a minor fact which in itself might end up being the subject of another post, another time) I especially rely on a good waltz to make me dizzy and sentimental. Something that struck me at Olenka’s recent Rancho Relaxo show, though, is the fineness and exactness of the arrangements. Her band, the Autumn Lovers, are busy with strings and glockenspiel and accordion and the marvellous mellophone; all of which are arranged with enough taste to appeal to the delicate aesthetes in and amongst all the giddiness.

Here’s one of Olenka’s quieter (and Frencher) songs, probably recorded in her hometown of London, Ontario:


August the 22nd: A MORALITY-FARCE IN THE FRONT ROOM

Improving for all involved.

Before the show at the Drake, though, I’ll be playing in the front-roomy lounge at the Tranzac with Hank Pine, who I saw play at Sneaky Dee’s recently as half of Hank and Lily. These two are doing the rounds in this part of the country, on an extended visit from Canada’s West Coast, and they’ve arrived in the form of a saw-playing, drum-pounding forest-fawn and a masked blues-player wearing only metal and leather and the not very subtle implication of apocalypse.

Some of the recordings on their Myspace page have a lot else going on musically, but for the majority of their Sneaky Dee’s show, Hank and Lily were a grotesque exaggeration of a boy-girl guitar-drums duo. The value, then, is in the grotesquerie. I would even say that plain rock music can only have any point at all if it’s to be sung through a faltering altering mask and played like vaudeville smashed by a bluesman with bad secrets.

And what do I have to do with all this? Across these two shows, I’ll be previewing lots of new material written in the electronic-pastoral mode. I’ve been returning to and reworking unfinished projects that I left (imaginatively at least) in England — inspired to do so, in part, by my re-reading of WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood’s The Dog Beneath The Skin or Where Is Francis?
In this collaborative Anglified-Brechtian play (which clearly has more than a shade of the cabaret in its make-up) Auden and Isherwood indulge in all manner of slapstick and nonsense but they emphatically do not feel even slightly silly about lecturing the spirit of England as a unified entity. For some reason, on re-reading, the ease of movement between doggerel and dogma (the final line, spoken by a Chorus: “To each his need: from each his power”) now seems stranger than ever. Here’s that very British-1930s dream of Communism that would feed the entire nation to the violence of Surrealism’s ill-logic in order to remodel a shared Utopia. There’s something similarly national about the subject of some of my newest songs, but the nation in question is always in the thrall of bloody farce.

Another big inspiration is the medieval morality or mystery play and the untouchable strangeness of these plays (the Second Shepherd’s Play, from the Wakefield Cycle, is a good example). This in turn would explain why my songs are now so full of sheep, as well as horses.

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