Open mic night

Jack P. hosted open mic at the Kaffe last night. He seems to bring out the loud in me… it was a good time. Here’s a little clip, shot by someone in the audience leaning over 90º…

Eddies of activity

I went through a recent spurt of musical activity – the results of which are now posted on the backwaters of our website over at the Chumpend Songs. That’s the spot where I post half-finished musical ideas and experiments with recording and production. I have also now added almost an hour’s-worth of what I’ll term (with more distinction than it deserves) “archival recordings” from my university days. The songs were recorded on some pretty simple equipment, one or two steps down from a cassette 4-track, but at least a step up from a standard cassette deck with built-in mic (did we really call them “ghetto blasters” back then?). They are posted on a page all their own, over at the Unearthed tapes.

While a release of Nick Drake’s early recordings kept things close to the original “lo fi” beauty (which I really appreciate a lot – I’ll have to write about that here sometime) – I took a different approach, using my digital music editing software to manipulate the old songs into what I thought were slightly more palatable offerings (or at least less embarrassing for me). Still for sure (very) lo fi – but there’s a layer of digital tinkering smoothed over the top of many of the tracks.

The music includes sounds from my friends as well, and listening to all this over the last couple of weeks has brought back many warm memories of those hungry days in downtown Winnipeg, when it was more important to spend our time creating (e.g. noise, music, or both at once) than it was to spend our time consuming (e.g. television, or food for that matter). Ahhh, those were the days!

The Vinyl Records: Mary Margaret O’Hara, Miss America

Artist: Mary Margaret O’Hara
Album: Miss America
Label: Virgin Records Ltd.
Year: 1988
Cat.: VL 2559

A while back Judith sent me a link to a video on the internet. It was a live recording of “When you know when you’re happy.” That recording blew my mind. I didn’t know so-called popular music sounded like that back in the 1980s. And by a Canadian, yet! And by the sister of a famous Canadian comedian! Well, I had to know more.

The more I learned, the more I wanted to hear this album. The single solitary LP recorded by Mary Margaret O’Hara in Toronto back in 1984, ’85, ’86, ’87, and who knows maybe ’88 also. There is still a lot of mystery about the making of this album. You can look up the scant details elsewhere on the vast expanse of the internet.  I will just talk about how the music sounds to me.

Right off the bat, it becomes clear that this is not a typical 80s pop album. O’Hara’s voice is just so beautiful, so different, so versatile. Her singing is very deep, by which I mean that the notes she sings, and the words she sings them to seem to come from deep inside without any mediating filters – like an artesian well flowing fresh and clear and ready to drink.

The opening track (“To cry about”) features nothing but the spaced out voice of M2O’H, accompanied by three spaced out guitars (one of them is even called an “infinite guitar”). Other highlights from the first side include “Body’s in trouble” and the aforementioned “When you know…”

The B-side runs through a diversity of musical styles – mellow, rocky, some kinda country. Somehow, though, with O’Hara’s voice and her careful arrangements, the whole thing makes sense.

I learned later that Toronto’s avant garde pop music scene was a pretty happenin’ place – with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno hanging out with The Spoons and Michael Brook (and his infinite guitar, which would find its way into the hands of The Edge on “With or without you”). I don’t know – it just seems to me like a pretty exciting time. It’s too bad that other album Mary Margaret O’Hara was supposed to record never was recorded… we can only imagine.