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quint magazine | issue 5 | March - April 2011


PHOTO BY MARIEL CLAYTON

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CONTENTS MASTHEAD EDITOR’S NOTE CONTRIBUTOR HIGHLIGHTS NEWS DESIGN ON DESIGN OBSERVERS AND (DESIGN) BULLSHIT FEATURED DESIGNER - DRUNK PARK FEATURED ILLUSTRATOR - SOPHIA MIROEDOVA MUSIC&DESIGN - RITCHIE PHOTOGRAPHY FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - MARIEL CLAYTON NEW YORK STREET ART - GYULA DEAK CHINA PROJECT - PRATHA & SATY FILM IT’S DOWN TO THE WIRE - PRANK MOODY MUSIC TRIO AFIUM ALBUM REVIEW - THE MARS VOLTA 50 BEST RECORDS OF 2010 - PART 2 PLAYLIST - EDEM AGBOTUI - ME, MIDNIGHT & MUISC LITERATURE OF MOODS AND SENTENCE LENGTH RESPONSIBILITY, RITUAL AND RENAISSANCE... AN ORDINARY DAY POEMS READING LIST EVENTS TEDx RAMALLAH PECHA KUCHA SNEAKER SUMMIT LAST CALL DUBAI

4 6 8 10 12 14 30 50 56 78 118 144 148 152 154 182 184 186 196 198 204 206 208 209 210


PHOTO BY GYULA DEAK - NYC


quint magazine | issue 5 | March - April 2011 Editor in Chief Zaina Shreidi zaina@quintmagazine.com Design | Illustration | Art Directon Gyula Deรกk gyula@quintdubai.com Designers Ritu Arya, Azim Al Ghussein Photographers Mariel Clayton, Pratha&Saty, Gyula Deak Contributors Prank Moody, Trevor Bundus, Mohamed El Amin, Fares BouNassif, Edem Agbotui, Pascale G. Moussawbah, Anna Maria Aoun, Dana Dajani, Seb Godfrey, Sophia Miroedova This production and its entire contents are protected by copyright. No use or reprint (including disclosure) may be made of all or any part of this publication in any manner or form whatsoever without the prior written consent quint. Views expressed in quint do not necessarily represent the opinions of the editors or parent company. quint is a trademark of Spirit Consulting FZE. Contact hi@quintdubai.com


EDITOR’S NOTE A FEW MONTHS INTO THE NEW YEAR AND WE ARE INSPIRED, WIRED, AND READY FOR MORE. QUINT TRAVELED TO NYC, (CHECK OUT GYULA’S PICTURES OF STREET ART AROUND THE GRAND CITY), EXCITING PLANS ARE UNDERWAY FOR THE NEAR FUTURE, AND NEW IDEAS ARE SPRINGING UP EVERY DAY ABOUT HOW WE CAN GIVE YOU MORE OF WHAT WE DO BEST – OBSESS, RANT, RAVE, DISSECT, AND DISCUSS ALL FORMS OF ART. THIS YEAR STARTED OUT, AS THEY SAY, WITH A BANG, AND SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED ALREADY. SO MUCH NEW TALENT IS SPRINGING UP WITH SO MUCH ABSOLUTELY MIND-BLOWING ART, NEW BANDS ARE FORMING, UNDERGROUND BANDS ARE PEEKING ABOVE GROUND, PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE PUSHING JUST ABOUT EVERY BOUNDARY EVER CONCEIVED, AND THEY ARE ALL DOING SO WITH SUCH FINESSE IT’S HARD TO COMPREHEND. DESIGNERS ARE TAKING IT ALL IN AND CREATING STUNNING WORK IN JUST ABOUT EVERY CONCEIVABLE MEDIUM. THE CLOSER WE ALL GET (WHAT WITH THE INTERNET AND ALL) THE MORE THESE ARTISTS ARE FINDING WAYS TO SHOW THE WORLD JUST WHAT THEY’RE MADE OF. SUFFICE IT TO SAY THAT THIS YEAR SEEMS LIKE IT WILL PROVIDE US WITH NOTHING LESS THAN A WORLDWIDE PARADE, A MARCH, A PROCESSION OF ARTISTS WHOSE WEAPON OF CHOICE IS SELF-EXPRESSION, REINTERPRETATION, IMPROVISATION. SOAK IT ALL IN, AND PREPARE YOURSELF FOR A YEAR THAT IS SURE TO BE RIFE WITH THE CONTINUING EMERGENCE OF RAW, UNADULTERATED TALENT. ZAINA SHREIDI 6


QUINT STICKER ON BROOKLYN BRIDGE, NYC - PHOTO BY GYULA DEAK


Saty + Pratha: Saty Namvar and Pratha Samyrajah are photographers based in London. They work primarily in the fields of fashion and advertising, but have a great affinity for documentary photography. They are curious about the way people live their lives, are generally optimistic, and try never to turn down travel-related work.

Dana is an international performance artist, born in Jordan but Palestinian in origin, she is currently in Chicago bringing Baghdad back with her Adventure Stage Chicago cast & crew in Sinbad: The Untold Tale. Dana recently returned from Dubai where her theater & film production company, The Human Spirit Project, collaborated with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund for a performance & documentary called Hope is A Memory of the Future. More details at: www.bidayat.org/en/projects/433/the-human-spirit-project Visit portfolio.colum.edu/danadajani for more information.

Pascale is passionate about many things. One of those is the need to convey the human condition in all its forms. She is curious about mass media and hates television sets, people who talk like they’re barking, & inflated egos. Deeply perceptive, she expresses her thoughts through all forms of art. She believes that change is manifested through mere expression no matter how small it is. Poetry and activism therefore, feed from one another; that’s why she writes.

UAE based visual communicator. Art director by day and a blogger by night, obsessed with research and constantly on the lookout for new trends in art, design, architecture, fashion, photography and the works! Founder and editor of Anna-Likes.net, a creative archive dedicated to spreading inspiration across the art community.

Azim is a dubai-based designer with a child-like love for illustrations, bright colours and epic tales. He just wants to hear, tell, and draw stories. Azim likes nothing more than combining his design training with his self-developed illustrations. He finds inspiration in the work of James Jean, Neil Gaiman, Tarsem Singh and Dita Von Teese.

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news! Radiohead

ww.radiohead.com The Extraordinary Ordinary Life Of José Gonzàlez José Gonzàlez transcends musical talent. He is beyond skilled. José weaves the surreal soundscapes, especially in live concerts, and he does it with the modesty and raw energy of a true artist. And now one of the most elusive, secretive and truly one of the greatest musicians around today is the subject of his very own documentary: The Extraordinary Ordinary Life Of José Gonzàlez. Directors Mikel Cee Karlsson and Fredrik Egerstrand use video diaries, surveillance cameras, concert footage, tour documentation and animation “follow his everyday reflections. Thoughts on the photons way from the sun to our eyes, Darwinism, the struggle to write songs”. Whether you are a diehard fan or haven’t heard of him (which is really the only excuse for not being a diehard fan) this is a documentary worth watching.

www.josegonzalezthefilm.com

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So, in case you haven’t heard, Radiohead released a new album. Yep, out of nowhere! It’s been anticipated for quite a while. No idea what we’re talking about? Then you must exist on another planet. Everyone who is anyone is downloading, watching, discussing, jamming to, writing about or otherwise immersing themselves in the new album King of Limbs since it was released in both digital and “newspaper” form on Valentine’s Day. EVERYONE. With over 5,722,751 Youtube views in just a week since the “Lotus Flower” video was released, and thousands upon thousands acquiring the long awaited new album, everywhere you turn it’s all about Radiohead. Tweets, status updates, endless debates, hundreds of reviews, and much more in just a couple weeks prove that Radiohead are just as they’ve always been, unexpected, controversial, surprising and above all so incredibly talented, it’s no wonder they have one of the most loyal and vocal fanbases in music today.


Howling For You

www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxU36Dootb8

Sneaker Speakers Alex Nash (aka Nash Money/Nash) has taken his obsession with sneakers to a whole new level. And fellow sneaker aficionados around the world will rejoice. His addiction has taken the much-loved Nike Air Force 1’s and recreated it into sneakers that jam just has hard as you do. Sneaker speakers. Yeah, we can hardly believe it either. This is part of the Inspired Ingenuity competition by Havana Club. A winner is picked every month and the overall winner will win a trip to Cuba. Our bet is on Nash.

www.nashmoney.com

So, Zaina Shreidi, editor in chief of quint magazine, absolutely adores The Black Keys. She’s obsessed and it’s unhealthy, but she loves it. Despite their transgressions of late with she who must not be named, The Black Keys gushing and raving hasn’t slowed a bit. In fact, it has grown to a crescendo upon her discovery that they will be acting in Howling For You, a film named after their song (one of her favourites). The film stars Tricia Helfer as a badass in leather who is best known as Caprica Six from Battlestar Galactica (thanks Prank). Action, chicks wielding guns and killing jerks, and THE BLACK KEYS. quint likes, very very much.


DESIGN

On Design Observers and (Design)

Bullshit Fares Bounassif

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THIS PAST MONTH HAS BEEN VERY PARTICULAR FOR ME; MY FOCUS HAS SHIFTED FROM ALL THINGS VISUAL TO SUMMARISING, COMPREHENDING, AND THEORISING GRAPHIC DESIGN AS AN ENTITY SEPARATE BUT SIMILAR TO THE ‘ARTS’. I’VE SPENT A WHILE TRYING TO WRAP MY HEAD AROUND WHY IT WAS ALWAYS SEEN DISTINCTIVELY. Then, a few days ago, I ran across an old article by Michael Bierut on Design Observer. In it, he discussed a film that (it seems) everyone but me has seen, a documentary about the construction of the Los Angeles Getty Centre called Concert of Wills. The article, entitled On (Design) Bullshit, can be – somewhat – summarised by Bierut’s statement right after he was done elaborating on the Concert of Wills: “It follows that every design presentation is inevitably, at least in part, an exercise in bullshit. The design process always combines the pursuit of functional goals with countless intuitive, even irrational decisions.” He admits, from the start, that the design process is part logical/ functional and part intuitive/irrational, which in many ways is an unavoidable truth. Still, the smart talk factor needed to explain irrationality cannot be avoided: Clnt: Why pick green for that logo? Dsgnr: Because there are elements of green that work for the general image we are trying to represent. Clnt: What elements? Dsgnr: Well, there’s the environmentaliality of the colour, the natural feel, the... Clnt: Yes yes. But that’s also true about that green, or even some yellows. Why this one in particular? Dsgnr: Because... well... you see... because... it fits. And that’s where bullshit comes along. Clients don’t always accept ‘it fits’ as a response to why, just like why not is, unfortunately, not always enough of a reason to do things. When you want to sell an idea, you need to create a mood, a setting, a feel, that directs your ‘consumer’ towards the invisible necessaries that make it the right idea. Like when Gap changed its logo (thankfully only temporarily) last year. Whoever was able to convince them they needed to must

have been a brilliant bullshitter. But to be able to do it requires more than just basic, standard bullshit. It requires an aesthetic, visual, theoretical, and critical background and foundation for such playfulness and trickery/ manipulation. That is what it is. Manipulation. You have an art piece, or a designed graphic element (as opposed to the purely functional fashion item, chair, or some-such). To have somebody appreciate it is to explain it adequately; impressively. For that to succeed, a sound commitment to intellectualism, to theory, to aesthetics, and to smart talking (aka bullshitting) is essential. Rick Poynor replied back to Bierut, in the comments on the article. He wasn’t the only one, but let’s focus on him as the other extreme (the one that most fervently rejected bullshit as integral to design practice): “not every reason and justification is necessarily bullshit. Michael seems here to be dismissing every conceivable variety of visual theory and saying that it all comes down to subjective preference.” It is true. Not every justification is bullshit, and dismissing visual theory is invalid. So let us not dismiss visual theory. Let us discuss visual theory, critical theory, aesthetics, and all that can be compounded on Baudrillard, Derrida, Barthes, and Deleuze. First, a quick look into philosophy. To simplify it (drastically), I will begin by stating that philosophy is, practically, smart talk. To philosophise, in vernacular [Levantine] Arabic, is to ‘tfalsaf’ (or close enough). The word ‘tfalsaf’ is a dismissive word used by many to refer to somebody who (besides philosophising) is bullshitting. English gives each of these two words distinct meaning, but vernacular Arabic does not. To most Arabs the two are one and the same, primarily because philosophy is but an accepted, pseudo academic variation of the other. Poynor is correct in his criticism of Bierut, especially from the perspective of a strong advocate of the establishment of a critical culture around Graphic Design: there cannot be a solid framework of design culture without a strong culture of design theory. It is through a mechanism and system of analysis, evaluation, and crit that graphic design can evolve as an artistic discipline. That there is a visual theory that supports most good design, and

dismantles more poor design, is obvious. The distinction been good and poor design is tangible, and poor design cannot be sold through good smart talk – it has to be good design for it to make its way as worthwhile. Still, critical theory is philosophy, and philosophy is essentially synonymous to bullshit. So when you theorise the reasons behind particular choices, you find a methodology that allows you to defend your work that is largely accepted as rational while being a modification of the known philosophies of the client so as to manipulate that client to agree on something that is otherwise against her initial desires: convincing the buyer does not imply that the buyer understands why he is convinced, only that there is a logical process behind the work involved, which is satisfaction enough for a person that generally knows nothing about how you do what you do. That is, in Bierut’s words, design bullshit. Poynor disapproves, but only because of – my favourite source of miscommunication in discourse – semantic confusion. Poynor is fine with designers justifying their work to non-design-conscious creatures that base their entire business structure on selling their work in exactly the same way: smart talk. His issue, and mine, comes when designers use it to justify their work to themselves. The element of smart talk exists and cannot be avoided in our new universe, but there is a basis, a fundamental framework, that must be understood by the talker to ensure that the cleverness is not a lie, but a truly acceptable and reasonable conceptualisation of a work. Even if that concept came about after the fact. Just make sure it fits, and it will sell. For theory to expand its reach among designers, there needs be a grounding force that pushes designers into critical analysis and research – the cleverness required for smart talk to function. Such a network of ideas, of collaboration, and of dedication is difficult when designers find that their task is to create pure art without any functional justification for it. It is that disregard for justifiable work that allows Robert Irwin to call out “bullshit”.


DESIGN

Originally a warehouse skate park and art studio above the Drunken Admiral Seafood Restaurant in Hobart (Australia), from ’97 to ’99, Drunk Park aka ‘Drunken Admiral Skate Park’ was a hub of creativity. Founded by Seb Godfrey and cohort Rob Cordiner (www.cordiner. com.au), they used the space to skate and create, with natural progression then shifting their attention towards contemporary design and illustration. Drunk Park is now the solo alias of Graphic Designer and Illustrator, Seb Godfrey. With clients spanning from Sydney to San Fran, Beijing to Berlin or London to LA, the Drunk Park studio has created artwork for numerous record and clothing labels, music festivals, global brands, collaborative art projects and has even dabbled in the occasional live art battle. With a distinct visual style carving out a niche in today’s music scene, Seb has gone on to have his artwork featured internationally in a host of books, magazines, media and exhibitions. Seb currently works between Melbourne and London as a freelance designer and illustrator, and is always interested in hearing about any projects that may need the Drunk Park touch. Seb Godfrey | Drunk Park. Design & Illustration

www.drunkpark.com

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DESIGN KAMILLE EVIL – PERSONAL, 2009, JUNE PORTRAIT OF KAMILLE SHARAPODINOV, PERSONAL WORK. INSPIRED BY BEING HIS FRIEND.

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I was born and lived for 18 years in an old ancient Russian town called Vladimir. My parents are openminded and passionate about music, with a huge range of interests that they shared with me while I was growing up. They did everything to bring up a girl that is anything but ordinary. So, when I finished school, I left my small city. I moved to Moscow for a year and then to Saint Petersburg, where I’m living now. My first forays into illustration began with The Grand Astoria piece. I drew and painted a lot before, but the comics and the album cover for this band were what birthed my current style today. The leader of the collective, Kamille Sharapodinov, was a good friend of mine at the time. I worked on design and animation for the previous group he played with, Neversmile; however my illustrating career really started when he gathered his own group and asked me to draw some artwork for the band. He granted me never-ending freedom for my imagination to work out any extraordinary shapes I could produce. So, the first album cover with a comic about a bullscull-headed cowboy named Ugly Billy gave way for me to develop my own illustration style. That is what freedom can do for an artist, especially when their work is needed. This made me understand that illustration, not design, is the most exiting, breathtaking and fascinating work I can do. So, I began producing pictures. One illustration

a day. I drew a lot during that time, finding inspiration in all the things I love: music, literature and my own life experience. In a couple months I produced enough to fill my portfolio. Though that was not the first step. As I mentioned before, I was painting, and I still am. It helps me to create several different styles of my illustrations. Every time starting a project I aspire to do something absolutely new. Anything I haven’t done before. And life helps me with it. It must be mentioned that a huge part of a successful artwork development depends on inspiration.Therefore, I must look for it everywhere. Still my drug of choice is music. I have a great jazz, rock and blues collection – this addiction is in my blood – when I need to get in the mood to work I just take it there. I turn on the song I need and my mind starts transforming sounds into shapes. And my hands quickly draw them – that’s the thing they do best. All these forms and ideas simply accumulate in my head throughout my whole life – books I read, people I met, films I saw, places I visited, stories I heard. They’re sleeping in my mind, and when I need them, they awake. That’s the way my illustration appears. (as told to quint magazine)


MEN’S HEALTH LETTERS FROM SPB, 2010, MARCH MAGAZINE ILLUSTRATION.

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JACK WHITE – PERSONAL, 2010, JANUARY PERSONAL ILLUSTRATION INSPIRED BY JACK WHITE PROJECTS


GROW UR BEARD – STICKER – TGA, 2010, DECEMBER SET OF ILLUSTRATIONS WORKED OUT FOR THE GRAND ASTORIA TOUR STICKERS.


SNOB SITE – PAPERNYI, 2010, JULY ILLUSTRATION FOR VLADIMIR PAPERNYI POST ON SNOB PROJECT.

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BR’ER FOX – PERSONAL, 2009, SEPTEMBER PERSONAL ILLUSTRATION INSPIRED BY BROTHER FOX OF “UNCLE REMUS TALES” BY J.C. HARRIS.


COMICS UGLY BILLY STORIES – COVER, 2010, FEBRUARY COVER FOR COMICS STORY FOR THE GRAND ASTORIA ARTWORK.


II TGA – COVER, 2010, MARCH PANORAMA-ILLUSTRATION FOR THE SECOND STUDIO THE GRAND ASTORIA ALBUM

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BICYCLE – PERSONAL, 2009, DECEMBER PERSONAL ILLUSTRATION INSPIRED BY FILM ‘AMELIE’.

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MOJITO MACHINE, 2010, AUGUST ILLUSTRATIONS FOR ADVERTISEMENT OF THE NEW BRAND, PRODUCING AUTOMATIC MOJITO-MACHINES


ARK OF PASSAGE – COVER, 2010, NOVEMBER ILLUSTRATION FOR THE EP ALBUM COVER OF THE RUSSIAN UNDERGROUND BAND ARK OF PASSAGE

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FISH HEART – PERSONAL, 2010, MAY + 6. FROG ROCK – PERSONAL, 2010, MAY SET OF PERSONAL ILLUSTRATIONS BASED ON PARALLELS BETWEEN HUMAN AND ANIMAL NATURE.

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PSYCHEDELIC EVENING – POSTER TGA, 2010, NOVEMBER THE GRAND ASTORIA ARTWORK, USED AS SHOW-POSTER.


TGA POSTER, 2010, FEBRUARY POSTER ILLUSTRATION FOR THE GRAND ASTORIA SHOW.


DESIGN

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of the golden era. 15 Lebanese designers and visual artists were commissioned to produce posters that incorporated the new Khatt fonts. Venue: Art Lounge http://www.khtt.net/page/2353/en

MUSIC&DESIGN

THE WORLD OF

RITCHIE

OUR MUSIC SECTION IS USUALLY ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY, THE GROUND-BREAKING. BUT WHEN YOU JUST FOCUS ON THE WEIRD, YOU TEND TO DISREGARD THE GOOD ENOUGH; THE ARTISTS THAT MAKE IT IN THE EVERYDAY. THE ONES WE ALL ENJOY PARTYING TO (OR SHOULD I SAY WITH?).


DESIGN

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OF BEIRUT

RITCHIE IS ONE OF THOSE RARE DJS WHO MAKE YOU MOVE, WHO KNOWS WHAT TO PLAY, WHEN TO PLAY IT, AND HOW TO – AND PARTIES WITH YOU. HE’S ALSO ONE OF THE MANY DJS WHO IS NOT JUST A MUSICIAN. RITCHIE BRINGS DESIGN PRACTICE INTO HIS MUSIC, WITHOUT ALLOWING ONE TO EXCLUSIVELY INFLUENCE THE OTHER: “YOU COULD SAY MY APPROACH TO DESIGN IS SIMILAR TO HOW I PLAY MUSIC: INDEPENDENT, A LITTLE QUEER, A TOUCH OF ARABIC, PLAYFUL KITSCH AND A WHOLE LOT OF PERSONAL AND EMOTIONAL INPUT. FUNNY ENOUGH IT ALSO GOES WITH ‘SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE’.”

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Graduating from the American University of Beirut as a graphic designer in 2006, just before the July war, he found himself “rebelling against ... what the country has to offer to designers and what designers offer to other countries (patriotism and such).” It was then that he joined a series of emerging indie DJs, while still holding on to his other “creative outlet”, graphic design.

That same desire to contribute to his community of artists and to enhance and expose what affects the local and regional artist manifests itself in his designs. From posters for alternative and indie musical events (Road to Kfifan, Al Rakisa WalTabbal), to corporate identities for the noncorporate (Bokja, Eve & Yves, Egg, Alya Hibri), and a multitude of diverse creations (Khatt Foundation, lomography, Future News), he continues to experiment: his visual Almost five years later, it is more artwork comprises a tour de force of than rare to walk into a place where Lebanese kitsch and contemporary he is spinning and find a quiet crowd. Arabism, encompassing graphic and spatial design. Having worked His music is not of a genre. It could on everything from traditional arts be electronic one night, and poppy and music events (and production), the other. That’s not the point. He to restaurants and entertainment plays according to a crowd, and design, as well as the occasional according to his unusual and twisted corporate jobs, Ritchie finds he can’t sounds. And that’s why people flock sustain himself in what he calls FINAL YEAR PROJECT to those places where they could ‘professional design choices’. Art stumble into hisBook sound. But it is in his approach to A sound that modifies and self-initiated Mixed media,even loosethe leaf,commissioned A3 music of whoever he is spinning work that reflects his distinctive with on that givenMEnight, it of style: “Graphic designers are “SHOW LOVE,since a journey disillusionments is not unlikely that he has another problem solvers. When it comes to vol.1 my brother & other stories” playing by his side. From his partners commissioned work, we become the photographer Hibri and I amAyla an illusionist. Wefriend all are. intermediary between the client and Georges Khawam, to a multitude the chasing, final outcome. tricky taming part is and aban We spend our entire life building, catching,The touching, of other musical sions. fanatics that have guiding the client into what we think found a place themselves the serves and aesthetics We for weave them, get in entangled in themfunctionality and attempt to catch others in the nets Beirut musical scene, Ritchie finds a the best, while simultaneously illusions. We recycle them, and just when we think that we’ve tasted disillusion way to infuse hislikely ownwe’ve melodies into reaching a middle more built ourselves yet another illusion.ground between the tunes of everyone that mixes our taste and the clients’. Naturally This is a journal, an attempt to archive major illusions I constructed and which r with him. constructed me, a glimpse at my with self-initiated work there is a lot journey so far. I am an illusionist. We all are. more ‘creative freedom’ at play.” What’s astounding is his devotion to his other craft: a graphic designer The focal point of his creative of considerable skill, he seems to output remaining that of music define himself through the music he since he began his career as a chooses to encourage. designer, Ritchie’s spatial design was something that he evolved In his subtle way of being a little out of himself: “I believe that bit of everything and expanding graphic design is, as a practice, his creative horizons, Ritchie joined complementary to a lot of other his friends and musical partners at design disciplines such as product Behind the Green Door (where they design, fashion design, furniture are the resident DJs on Saturdays) design etc. The collaboration. I Ayla and Georges in creating the am experimental by nature so to Beirut Chicago Express, a blog, delve and collaborate with other as a medium to perpetuate and practices is always as exciting as it promote indie music in the region, is fruitful. I always learn a lot when after Ayla left to Chicago. It covers in joint ventures.” their thoughts on the arts, while consistently showcasing their And it is that vision of collaboration favourite music from around that aptly defines what Ritchie does Lebanon and the Middle East. and why he does it: a medley and Through the blog you see a a mischievous cry out to society different dimension of the ever- that reminds everyone that he’s playful designer spotting work that always around to make yet another inspires him. statement, in complete contrast with his quiet, observant exterior. uibol!zpvt

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On Beirut “Ardi Mish Lal Bei3” by Richard Kahwagi (poster + postcard)

“Typographic Matchmaking Project”: Book launch and art exhibition.

Design Concept: Beirut as an under-developed foetus, stuck in a time machine reminiscent of the golden era. 15 Lebanese designers and visual artists were commissioned to produce posters that incorporated the new Khatt fonts.

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Venue: Art Lounge http://www.khtt.net/page/2353/en

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“I’M A DOLL PHOTOGRAPHER WITH A SUBVERSIVE SENSE OF HUMOUR. I BELIEVE THAT LIFE IS A HYSTERICALLY MESSED UP PLACE, AND IF WE DON’T LAUGH AT IT, WE’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND IT. I DIDN’T HAVE A HARD CHILDHOOD, I WAS NEVER ABUSED, I’M NOT AN ‘EVIL, DARK OR PSYCHOLOGICALLY SCARRED’ PERSON. I JUST THINK WHAT I DO IS DAMN FREAKING FUNNY – AND I LIKE TO SHARE THE HUMOUR WITH PEOPLE.” Mariel claims to be a very boring person, however the travel agent by day harbours a mind and talent that can be classified as just about anything but boring. Her selfdescribed “penchant for doll destruction” has shot the Canadian photographer to fame amongst the creative community. We can’t tear our eyes away from each image she produces, and they are revisited over and over as we notice new things every time we hungrily pour over her intense, playful, and thoroughly disturbing (yet undeniably humorous) scenes of destruction, chaos and fake plastic smiles.   Check out more decadent dolls, beautiful historical reinterpretations and more at WWW.THEPHOTOGRAPHYMARIELCLAYTON.COM


DE MELKMEID


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KILL KEN MORE


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PRANK MOODY

IT'S DOWN TO

The Game will never be the same

To define our generation’s cultural output as schizophrenic would be an understatement of epic of proportions, as oxymoronic as describing an understatement as epic. On the one hand we are dangerously close to being labelled as the “Reality TV” generation. I would rather be labelled as a member of the Kenny G fan club (we are dealing in a hypothetical here, I am not a Kenny G fan, although his Audi Super Bowl ad was brilliant) than a proponent of the “Reality TV” movement. On the other hand, the last twenty years

has been the most prolific in quality television programming that the Human Race has ever witnessed. That is a bold statement,

so we’ve emboldened the font size and type to reflect the boldness of cette statement. I paid an underwhelming tribute to HBO in my previous article when I shamelessly fawned over The Larry Sanders Show. I do plan to write an allglorifying groupie article on why HBO should be declared a saint by the Pope in a subsequent issue. St. HBO has definitely done more for the world than Mother Theresa. Anyone can help homeless people and lepers but can anyone give us consistent quality programming? The answer is no, so I think the Pope missed a trick on that one. Each time you watch an HBO show you wonder how could they possibly surpass it, and what do they do? They surpass it by light years. However HBO reached the pinnacle of their creative output when they along with David Simon gave us (cue… dramatic music) THE WIRE. As someone who is not averse to controversy, I would go as far to say that

THE WIRE IS THE GREATEST TELEVISION SHOW THAT HAS EVER BEEN MADE, EVEN BETTER THAN THE SOPRANOS.


FILM

(PLEASE TAKE A MINUTE TO ABSORB THE MAGNITUDE OF THE STATEMENT ABOVE. WALK AROUND, OBTAIN A REFRESHING BEVERAGE, SQUEEZE STRESS BALL QUICKLY IN RAPID SUCCESSION, LISTEN TO THE SOUND STYLINGS OF KENNY G? GOOD, YOU SLOWLY FEEL THE RAGE, HURT AND CONFUSION SUBSIDE AND LEAVE YOUR BODY LIKE PASSED GAS… YOU ARE NOW READY TO CONTINUE AS I STATE MY CASE). Those of you who have been privileged enough to be a part of David Simon Opus Magnus know the aforementioned claim of greatness is justified and is not far from the truth. Whether it is better than The Sopranos comes down to matters of subjectivity but objectively The Wire is a better show, fact! I started watching The Wire when I was in Edinburgh at grad school, it was a rainy December 3rd and by January 5th I was finished. I had watched 65 hours of The Wire in the space of a month that was littered with papers, Christmas, learning how to ski and travelling. I could not get enough and by January 20th I had submitted my thesis proposal “Realism in The Wire.” Do not fear I will not use this forum to reiterate 19th and 20th century literary conventions of realism and how they apply to The Wire but this little timeline illustrates the swiftness of my wholehearted love affair with The Wire. So what is The Wire? It is more than a simple crime story; it is an epic story of a city, the city of Baltimore. David Simon (the creator) and his writing partner Ed Burns use their personal experiences to craft a socio political and economic critique of urban America. Simon used to be a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and Ed Burns was a homicide detective. Simon even spent a year embedded with the homicide squad, which led to his seminal book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets that was the source material for his holistic chronicling of the afflictions of Baltimore. It paved the way for the critically acclaimed Homicide: Life on the Streets, the mini-series The Corner and then finally The Wire. The Wire is his most accomplished show because he was afforded the

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freedom by HBO to cultivate his stark vision of the Baltimore that he knows. The story of Baltimore is told with a prophetic rage that attacks the institutional failings that have crippled the inhabitants of this urban space. The Wire is best described as a visual novel, where each episode is a chapter; such is the level of detail and character development on the show. We see the regression of McNulty (the closest thing to a lead character) from passionate detective to obsessive vigilante. We see the young “hopper” Body from impetuous youth to level headed street dealer. We watch Bubbles the good-natured sage of the streets as he struggles to battle his own personal demons and addiction to crack. We can’t help but admire the ever-smooth Stringer Bell as well as his boyhood partner in crime Avon Barksdale who ‘runs dem streets.’ We see the cold brutality of Marlo, Chris and Snoop (probably one of the most terrifying sociopaths seen on screen. The opening scene of season 4 is reminiscent of Javier Bardem’s brilliant turn in No Country for Old Men). I could sit here and sing praises of each and every character and I am tempted to do so but I want you to cultivate your own relationship with them. However I cannot in good conscience stop talking about characters without mentioning Omar. Omar is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating characters ever seen on television. This hustler, trying to survive the game, with his code, smoking his Newpotes and contrary to everyone around him never uses profanity. There is poetic lyrical romanticism that embodies Omar and serves as the perfect foil to the gritty, harsh cynical world that he inhabits. Every time “Omar be Coming” your face will light up because you cannot get enough. Michael K Williams’ portrayal of Omar has rightfully carved himself a place in television history and folklore. Expertly integrated with all these brilliant performances are nonprofessional actors, i.e. real people such as Ed Burns himself, ex crack dealers, ex murderers (Snoop) all playing various characters on the show. They all use the show to help in their personal redemption by showing

us the reality of institutional failings of the modern American city and how it failed them or how it exploited them. Over the course of five seasons we engage with every avenue, institution and corner that Baltimore houses, ranging from the crack trade, the port unions, the schooling system, radical drug reform, the state political institutions and the media. No stone


towards any narrative resolutions; stories are not resolved necessarily at the end of each season. Stories that are seeded in season 1 germinate during the course of two seasons before it bears the fruit of narrative resolution (I’m quite pleased with that last metaphor. It is my effort to be greener). This deliberate temporal pacing only enhances the realism that Simon so painfully strives to recreate. Visually Simon depicts a stark, gritty, grainy urban landscape that is devoid of colour and with constant camera movement that adheres to the documentary style of filming. The show is punctuated by beautiful slow pensive long takes more in line with the classical 70s New American Wave (Scorcese, Altman, Coppola and Cassavettes who were all heavily influenced by European film making in the 60s, i.e. Nouvelle Vague, and collectively they produced America’s best decade of cinematic achievement) and of European film making, rather than the conventional hectic editing orgy that defines contemporary television.

is left unturned as Simon ensures that he tells the whole story and does not spare anyone or anything from his scathing critical eye. There is a narrative complexity that counters the conventions of prime time television drama, i.e. The CSIs, The Bones, The Gossip Girls and The Glees. There is no mini-resolution at the end of each episode. Simon does not rush

Additionally what makes this show brilliant is that Simon has effectively managed to find perfect harmony between realism and dramatic television. This is a show where the actual police work which is more paper work and taking pictures than chasing down suspects and gun fights on the streets, exciting and engaging. In fact the police never actually fire their guns on the show. Simon has managed to make the art of determining the paper trail exciting television. The political wheeling and dealing, committee hearings, monitoring phone calls are as adrenalin pumping as Gene Hackman’s famous car chase in The French Connection (please feel free to insert your own cinematic reference that induces an adrenalin rush for you). One gets totally immersed into Simon’s Baltimore; the emotional investment in the characters, their lives, their stories is complete and uncompromising. You will feel a void, an overt emptiness once you have finished the show because television as you know it will have changed for you permanently. No hyperbole here. The best and only way to watch the show is buying the box set, but be warned once you start watching your social productivity will experience a

sharp decline for the duration of the entire series. There is always a danger in hype, anyone who reads this article might be a little sceptical at the amount of lavish praise that I have been so generous with. I can guarantee you there is no fear of The Wire disappointing. Ask anyone who has ever seen it in its entirety and they will gush over it like with cultish obsession and if you meet someone who does not absolutely swear by The Wire (I have not yet) then that person is a fucking moron, no jokes, stop being friends with them and if it is a family member or your parents, emancipate yourself immediately because they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. I would like to end by saying that this particular piece was hard for me to write, I find it excruciatingly difficult to limit my discussion on The Wire and I would have readily asked Zaina and Gyula for a Wire only issue. After all I wrote a 50 page Masters’ thesis on this very subject matter. However it did dawn upon me that you all need to discover it for yourself and then we can dork out over it like young girls gush over Bieber. My aim was not to convince you that The Wire is the greatest television show of all time, once you watch it you will come to that conclusion yourself. My aim was simply to get you interested enough to watch it. To be honest The Wire transcends television, it should have won a Pulitzer, a Nobel Prize of Literature and I can confidently say that there is a new addition to the canon of great literary cities. Along with Dicken’s London, Blazac’s Paris, Tolstoy’s Moscow we can now welcome Simon’s Baltimore. Finally I would just like to say that I am so fucking glad that The Wire can be claimed as part of our generation because it might be the one silver lining that saves our generation from being defined as Generation Kardashian Idol Shore.


MUSIC

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Dubai’s music scene is slowly, but surely, growing, and a testament to this is the arrival of a jazz trio upon our sandy shores. Trio Afium is made up of the incredibly talented Máté Lachegyi on piano, Péter Baksa on double bass and Balázs Krommer on drums. They improvise, compose, and groove their way through the freshest covers and most inspiring improvised numbers I’ve personally heard live in quite a while. And I’m not the only one. Trio Afium hop between Dubai and Hungary, laying aural masterpieces upon their eager listeners.


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WITH A PASSION FOR JAZZ AND THE CREATIVITY, TALENT AND CONFIDENCE TO BUILD UPON CLASSIC PIECES AS WELL AS CREATE THEIR OWN, TRIO AFIUM HAVE THAT WHICH MANY MUSICIANS STRIVE FOR BUT FEW ACHIEVE – THE ABILITY TO INSPIRE, ENTERTAIN AND IMPRESS AUDIENCES AS DIVERSE AS THEIR MUSICAL REPERTOIRE. WE HAD A CHAT WITH BALÁZS KROMMER ABOUT THE BAND’S UNIQUE STYLE, THEIR INSPIRATIONS, AND WHERE TRIO AFIUM IS HEADED IN THE FUTURE. HOW WOULD YOU CLASSIFY YOUR MUSIC? YOU ARE A JAZZ TRIO, BUT DO YOU ALSO EXPLORE OTHER GENRES OR STYLES? Basically we play jazz, which is a very broad and open style. It includes classical swing melodies that people know very well all around the world (these are the so-called jazz standards played and re-interpreted by many great musicians). We also play Latin styles such as Bossa Nova and Samba; sometimes we even give the hits a slight Afro-Cuban twist. Then there are the really soft and soulful jazz ballads we play which the audience really enjoys. We also keep some reinterpreted jazzy pop songs on the repertoire: these give the people the experience of some kind of musical ’déja vu’ when recognizing, let’s say, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” behind a jazz tune. This is when we regularly play at a bar or a smaller venue. When it comes to a jazz concert, in addition to all these styles we also come up with more modern, contemporary jazz pieces with freer improvisation and some compositions on our own. That is the place for the maximum creativity. YOU RECENTLY PLAYED FOR A FEW MONTHS IN DUBAI, IS IT THE FIRST TIME YOU TRAVEL AS A TRIO? WHERE ELSE HAVE YOU PLAYED TOGETHER?

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Since this trio is quite new, we haven’t had a chance to play together outside our home country before this recent trip to Dubai. We played in Hungary in many cities including my hometown Pécs which, being the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2010, provided us with many great chances to play jazz all around. We also played in Budapest and Máté’s hometown, Vác. This summer we will be playing concerts in Austria, Germany and Sweden as well.

can’t just copy others or follow the lines. You create your own melodies, rhythms and alterations for a given piece. It is always something we work on together, sometimes we do it ahead of time, during rehearsals, sometimes it is simply a chance that a certain musical moment offers you – you grab it and the others will follow. You don’t really think at that instance, you just do what the music calls for. This is the spirit of jazz and improvisation.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR INSPIRATIONS?

YOUR IMPROVISATIONS DO FLOW BRILLIANTLY; DOES THIS COME FROM YEARS OF PRACTICE? HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO JUST COMPOSE ON THE SPOT AND STILL SOUND SO GREAT?

We learned a lot from the masters of our instruments: Máté’s most important inspiration is the pianist Keith Jarrett, but he also likes Scandinavian jazz (for instance Jan Garbarek), Peter is inspired by some great bassists (Christian Mcbride, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Marco Panaschia, Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen) and I can mention many drummers: Art Blakey and Max Roach from the old days, and Jeff ’Tain’ Watts, Bill Stewart and Brian Blade as for contemporary drummers. But we listen to many different styles and genres (rock, Afro-Cuban, drum’n’bass , classical music) and they all have their influence on us. WHAT IS YOUR STYLE OF COMPOSITION? AND WHAT ROLE DOES YOUR OWN INTERPRETATION PLAY? When we play jazz standards (which we don’t compose literally), we try to present them in our way: it is important to have a strong vision of a given piece – that is the most important part of the process. If you have it, you will know what to do to a piece, how to touch it, how to make it really yours. Unlike in pop music, you are quite free here: the music sheet you have is just a draft or a sketch. Interpretation is a must in jazz, you

Yes, we can say we compose on the spot and this definitely comes from the years of practice, when you sharpen your musical reflexes and chisel you technique, which is necessary for flowing with the music and making fast, almost unconscious decisions. WERE YOU TRAINED MUSICALLY IN SCHOOL? Yes, we all had musical training and education. Máté graduated at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music of Budapest, in 2009, Peter graduated at the University of Pécs and I attended the Engressy Béni Conservatoire in Budapest. HOW DID YOU ALL MEET AND START TO PLAY TOGETHER? Peter and I have been playing together for six years now, so it is already kind of a musical marriage between us. We play together not only in Trio Afium, but we serve the groove together in some other bands as well. About a year ago we decided to form a more versatile trio that is open to different layers and styles of jazz and which we can build up from the zero. That’s when we started looking for a


good, well-trained pianist, and finally we found Máté. SOME PEOPLE THINK OF MILES DAVIS OR JOHN COLTRANE WHEN THEY THINK OF JAZZ, AND IT TENDS TO BE PREFERRED BY AN OLDER CROWD. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THESE STEREOTYPES? Well, as long as these names are mentioned, we are really happy about it. These guys were pioneers and the forefathers of contemporary jazz. But jazz is very colorful: John Coltrane is jazz, Frank Sinatra is jazz and Louis Armstrong is jazz, still they can’t be mistaken for each other. As for the stereotypes: there are always such things about music and arts in general: rockers are longhaired guys wearing black t-shirts. Jazz aficionados are older people. These stereotypes have their validity to a certain extent, but what can I say seeing those twentysomething cats coming to listen to us at the bar and asking for real, ‘old’ jazz standards? They have a really good time. Jazz is for everyone, and we believe there always will be people from all generations to love it. Believe it or not, our youngest fan from Dubai is a three years old boy ‘hooked’ by his jazz-lover mum! MOST PEOPLE ARE USED TO SINGING ALONG, OR RECOGNISING THE WORDS TO A SONG...BUT WITH JAZZ IT›S PURELY INSTRUMENTAL. DO YOU THINK THIS INTRIGUES PEOPLE BECAUSE IT›S DIFFERENT TO MOST OTHER GENRES? There are different levels of enjoying music. Being instrumental doesn’t take the thing out of it. Going to a classical piano concert is a thing, singing along to a pop song is another thing, and listening to jazz is different again. And as for jazz: we can see many ways, lots of reactions: some people just sit and listen – if they stay, it is great. It should mean that they enjoy the music. Some other people move: if there is swing, you should move, even if you only tap with your feet or nod your head. This is dancing – right? Some others are literally dancing, and sometimes they just go crazy over it. Your reactions to music depend on many things, mood, atmosphere, taste, as is the case with music in general. Jazz isn’t different, it is just music. HOW DO YOU KEEP THINGS INTERESTING WITHOUT VOCALS? This is a question that comes up very often in different contexts. We have to accept that jazz is not a purely vocal genre anymore. There was a certain point in jazz history in the 40s and 50s when the instruments like piano, saxophone and even drums became emancipated. In the 21st century, it is a matter of choice whether you accompany a jazz singer or you play instrumental music, and as a matter of fact, most of the bands go the latter

way. This doesn’t mean of course that we never play with singers, all of us actually do in different bands. It also depends on the gig or event you have – sometimes a singer just fits, sometimes not that much. And we have also considered inlcuding a singer in Trio Afium, making it Quartet Afium, in the future for certain gigs. You also have to be creative when it’s a trio: you can use your instrument many ways – for instance, a drummer has lots of ways to make the drums and cymbals give a sound. You can use different sticks, brushes, you can use your hands tapping the surfaces and so on. In jazz, you make use of all these possibilities. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR SONGS ARE UPLIFTING OR MORE MELANCHOLY? There are basic tendencies for certain songs, but it doesn’t always work that way. For example, once we played a very sad Hungarian ballad called Gloomy Sunday at the bar. This song is famous for making so many people commit suicide listening to it in the 1930’s that it was banned from the radio until the end of World War II. So it must be sad and melancholic. So we played this song for a lady who was sad because of some recent loss in her life. After maybe 20 seconds she burst into tears. When we finished she came to us and thanked us warmheartedly adding that this was one of the most uplifting moments in her life. A song being melancholic or uplifting is not necessarily different, it is rather cathartic. That is the very maximum you can do here. Otherwise we try to adapt to the audience and play the

right song in the right moment. Most of the time we manage to figure out if they want to be lifted or laid back a bit while enjoying music. HOW HAS THE REACTION BEEN HERE IN DUBAI? Great. We love it here and people loved us being around. These months were priceless for us; we met nice people and we played our music in front of a great audience. This we appreciate a lot, and we’ll be back soon. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE? ARE YOU RELEASING AN ALBUM? Preparations are underway for us to record an album this summer and we will go on playing, that is for sure. We came back home in January, and already have some concerts booked, but we would also like to come back to the UAE when it is possible. Recently we recorded a demo that you can check out on the web: www.myspace.com/trioafium If you’re interested in booking Trio Afium or finding out more about this very talented jazz trio please contact them at trioafium@gmail.com or krommerb@gmail.com. You can also contact Zaina Shreidi at zaina@quintdubai.com for more information and copies of their DVD demo. Copies are also available at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Al Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai.


MUSIC Once upon a dark and dreamy time, there stood two opiate induced artists the likes of which the music world has not seen since the combination of Roger Waters and David Gilmore. Yes, I am 100% confident in grouping them in there right along-side our friends from Pink Floyd. This crazed pair set about to change the way music is grouped together and to how people perceive music as a free flowing art form. These two Latin gents are more commonly known as Omar and Cedric, or the two hot tamales of the progressive genre group, The Mars Volta. Musical taste is like food and as many people have had the (mis)fortune of finding out, South American food can provide some of the most interesting combinations in ingredients and spice. However, some people like to eat sandwiches and listen to Britney Spears shove bland regurgitated songs down their throat to satiate, while others like to try something much more interesting and flavourful. Now, I’ve got nothing against a couple days of peanut butter and jelly, but when one decides to get a little creative in the kitchen and start mixing Spanish olives, spinach, mayonnaise, and hot sauce atop some German Summer Sausage, I get a bit more interested: This is living. Why can’t we make a mix and match of juicy treats to delight the senses a little. Much is the same with The Mars Volta. If you haven’t tasted their delicious compositions I suggest you get out there and start exploring. Anyone who likes Latino Influenced, Jazz Based, Punk Rock mixed with the most obscure storytelling lyrics, should find what they are looking for in The Mars Volta. Deloused in the Comatoruim sets out to accomplish just that. In case you missed my misguided attempt at humour, I decided to begin this article with a common story telling phrase. The reason behind that is that in order to review this Mars Volta album, we have to explain first that each Volta is a concept album, whereby each song is a musical lyrical journey ultimately telling a story. I happen to personally think that the musical styles that are chosen to match the crazed lyrics of Deloused in the Comatorium are an absolute heavenly match that take the listener exactly through the psychotic coma induced suicide to which the protagonist experiences. There is a book that can be purchased alongside the album. Yet, there are claims that the album story is loosely based around a friend of the band members, who attempted to commit suicide but only exceeded in putting himself in a coma. Upon awaking, their friend Julio cannot accept living in the real world. His ultimate ending comes

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as he throws himself off the bridge into rush-hour traffic. The album’s songs, their titles, and their artist lyrics all heavily reference themselves to the story, and transport the listener through the drug-induced coma and death of the subject named Cerpin Taxt. It’s absolutely amazing, enough said! 1. “Son Et Lumiere”: An instrumental opening that conjures images of falling through some sort of a deep dark spiralling disaster, or drug-induced coma. Apparently, the subject, Cerpin Taxt, has fallen so deep into depression that he’s been trying to commit suicide via injecting rat poison into his arm. Believe it or not he fails and as mentioned prior puts himself into a coma. Oh is that all that happens when you inject rat poison? Who needs a night out amongst friends when we have our old friend Warfarin to hang out with. 2. “Inertiatic ESP”: Inertia as we know it suggests the falling of the conscious state further into his coma or the lack of movement. ESP or Ectopic Shapeshifting Penance-Propulsion is just one of the many confusing wordplays from our old friends Omar and Cedric. Aren’t we all just a little bit lost after all?:

CAVEAT EMPTOR... TO ALL THAT ENTER HERE.... EXOSKELETAL JUNCTION AT THE RAILROAD DELAYED After some time a strange creature sneaks upon Cerpin and attacks him, beginning the violent train ride through his Comatorium existence. There are suggestions of Cerpin awaking comforted inside his mother’s arms. Let the nightmare begin. This is honestly better than Stephen King.

the Mars Volta

DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM

NOW I’M LOST DOLLS WRECK THE MINCED MEAT OF PUPILS CAST IN OBLONG ARMS LENGTH THE HOOKS HAD BEEN PICKING THEIR SCABS WHERE WOLVES HIDE IN THE COMPANY OF MEN IT SAID I’M LOST I’M LOST 3. “The Haunt of Roulette Dares”: This is where the story begins to take shape. The Subject Cerpin Taxt awakens inside of his coma in a train yard, as he realises he is in some sort of strange cocoon, presumably describing his conscious existence within his now barely breathing subconscious. After an encounter with some vagrants, they dare Cerpin to sleep inside a haunted train called the “Roulette Dares.” As the lyrics hint of foreboding doom to all that enter the “Roulette Dares”:

TRANSIENT JET LAG ECTO MIMED BISON THIS IS THE HAUNT OF ROULETTE DARES RUSE OF METACARPI

4. “Tira Me A Las Aranas (Throw me to the Spiders)”: Another psychotic coma induced spider-esque transition to the next portion of the story. I can only guess that this is some reference to the chemical side effects undertaking both the mind and body, where recovering addicts often claim that they feel spiders crawling all over their skin, tormenting their very existence. 5. “Drunkship of Lanterns”: Cerpin awakes from the comforting visions of his mother, presumably by the incessant spiders, in the middle of a


vast sea, surrounded by broken ghost ships, pinned to a small raft. After crying out in sheer terror, the boats begin to crowd him bumping into him as only looming ghost ships can do in a poison induced coma trip. Are you turning on the lights from sheer fear? The music does an excellent job joining train imagery with a desolate sea setting:

IS ANYBODY THERE (SPINES IN A ROW) THESE CRAFT ONLY MULTIPLY

6. “Eriatarka”: So far Cerpin has gone through haunted trains, spiders crawling and entering his body, and lonely seas full of ghost ships. That’s about enough nightmares to make any human being lose his mind. That’s exactly where we find our subject in Eriatarka. The only place left to hide is deep within a space of his subconscious. To add to the horror of the trip, we are encountered by giant dog guides leading Cerpin to the Eriatarka house of facial and muscular correction. Presumably, to fix his mangled rat poison infested arm. Here he meets a Dr. Wolfram Tarant described as having dogs for arms, you know, likely to transform the arm with their ever so surgical incisors.

NOW THERE ARE THOSE WHO FIND COMFORT IN THE BREATHING WRONG-IS IT WRONG IT HOUSES THE WATCHFUL EYES THEY’RE PANTING IN A PATTERN IN DROVES ARE THEY GONE HAPPENED ON A RESPIRATOR IN THE BASEMENTS IS IT GONE ARE THEY GONE 7. “In Cicatriz ESP”: The next stage of this mental journey takes Cerpin to the barren desert where he realises that the excellent work presumably of Dr. Wolfram has transformed him into a new form that cannot speak, only click and grunt, and can pass solid objects through his body. He also soon realises that he’s undergone a gender change and what was once meat and veg, is now hot dog bun and melons. Cerpin is now referred to as Clavietika Tresojos. I guess the boys from The Mars Volta prefer Eastern Europeans as subjects.

TREVOR BUNDUS (SPINE AS AN ARROW) AT THE NAPE OF RUINS RUST PROPELLERS AWAIT NO NOBODY IS HEARD COMPASS WILTING IN THE WIND I have to make one more point about the music, and that is the unity between the bass and the drums, they paint the imagery just perfectly and are the hidden drive to the entire album. Pay close attention and your ears will be rewarded.

8. “In This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed”: As the dead carcass lies in the empty desert, a few giants from the city “Topiltzen” transport the body back to the town, lead by an obese brainwashing boar. All the town’s citizens are thus brainwashed into believing that they must sacrifice their children to save their souls from some mysterious destruction. Of course like every good Glutton, the boar lies and consumes all the children in front of their eyes to the feigned belief that the city is saved. Oh, those tricky hogs! 9. “Televators”: Back in the conscious reality of Earth, Cerpin attempts to tell everyone that he is leaving, that he plans to succumb to the coma and take his own life. He is further tormented by

other apparitions of his subconscious convincing him to end his own life and forever spend his time with all the wild creatures of the Comatorium. As Cerpin’s body hits the ground he is suddenly transported back into the ESP, thus ending his subconscious nightmare of a story and his journeys through the Comatorium. 10. “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt”: The conclusion to this maniacal story brings home the theme represented by the protagonist. Basically Cerpin feels he is a recluse to the corrupt society that would rather make a spectacle of a suicide victim by taking pictures instead of helping that person overcome the demons that are driving his vices. The theme is prevalent throughout the journey, where subjects of loneliness, childhood comforts, brainwashed societies and harmful advice drive each human being through his or her daily torments. Is this album about a martyr to the ills of society, or just a crazed opiate induced art rock album about a friend suffering through life and eventually ending his own life? Well actually it’s both. Their friend Julio did suffer from a coma for years and eventually ended up jumping off a bridge, and so does his album protagonist, Cerpin Taxt. I absolutely love how the use of a crazed story, conjoined with jazz infused, latino punk rock can tell such a horrifying tale of the destruction of chemicals on the mind. I suppose I am not the only one who thinks that The Mars Volta is an absolute gem, as it is well known that the majority of the driving bass lines were performed by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with John Frusciante (a known recovered heroin addict) adding in his guitar styling on certain songs. If the Red Hots endorse the music of this band, I must not be the only one foaming at the mouth over this album. As far as I’m concerned this is what Art and Musical Art Form is all about. Go and immerse yourself in this album, you will not be one bit sorry for your efforts from start to finish. You’ll come out feeling strange but that is what art is all about. The lyrics are far too poetic to be direct, but their metaphorical references are nothing short of genius. The inspiration provided to any artist by this album is long lasting and vast. This has got to be one of my favourite albums of all time, start to finish it’s better than a magic carpet ride.


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50 BEST RECORDS OF 2010 PART 2 BY MOHAMED EL AMIN

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ARCADE FIRE THE SUBURBS Indie Rock

Everyone knows the Arcade Fire, unless you’re a regular viewer of the Grammys. But to people who actually know music from crap, AF have now managed to progress to a half life point of critical mass, only comparable mainstream wise by the likes of Radiohead, where every album is preceded by a wave of anticipation and aspiration, where every album must contain a big, sweeping concept. It’s the byproduct of producing two of the greatest indie records weaved in the past two decades, and not just great records with critical acclaim, but commercial success as well, whilst your original fans are deeply passionate about your music, and getting more fans into your band, in a fashion that hasn’t changed since the days of the band’s underground niche core appeal. So it’s nice that the band decided to go the other route entirely. The Suburbs is inherently a small concept, shared by millions of people throughout America. It’s your neighborhood, and for the most part, 18 years of one’s life. To many it’s a stale existence, so

leave it to Arcade Fire to spark life and wonder to it. For all the aching and longing in the words and the shaking bluster in the music, it all just feels like home.  Relate that back to the concept of the album, and you’d have to say that the band would consider that a great success, but there’s something deeper to it.  This is such an inviting world, such a familiar-feeling one that loving it just happens before I realise it because it’s so easy.  And now that I think about it, that’s pretty much always been the case with these guys. “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)”, “Crown of Love,  “My Body is a Cage”, I could go on and on. And certainly yes, it’s hardly a vast departure from the stellar Neon Bible, it’s not as expansive or diverse, but it doesn’t aim for that. It is, however, a great deal more consistent, and thus considerably a finer record for it. A good number of people told me there were no stand out tracks in the album, but I believe that’s more a plus than a negative, the fact you have to embrace the

entirety of a record is a good thing, a masterful thing at that, and Win Butler and Co. know how to do it, and with profound ease at that. The song craftsmanship is consistent through the 64 minutes gem of an indie album. Arcade Fire continues to assert themselves in a manner that has established itself since Funeral. The Suburbs simply cements Arcade Fire as a rare example of a band whose sound is so good that even when I cannot relate to the back-story of the music, it remains incredibly effortless and spectacular to listen.


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CARIBOU SWIM

Electronic

Since popping out of nowhere with his alter ego Manitoba, Dan Snaith, just like his follow comrade in arms Four Tet, has created a discography of work that for all intent and purpose, revolves around transition, and the exploration of new sounds and genres, forming a body of work, that at its worst, is considerably fantastic. Up In Flame, his 2003 outing under the Manitoba guise was a testament to the full power and scope of the growing folktronica movement. Soon following was a name change to Caribou, and his first release The Milk of Human Kindness, which saw him explore the brittle soundscape of krautrock and to a certain subtle extent, shoegaze. Electro wise, it was hardly accessible, but a rewarding experience nonetheless. Follow up Andorra showed another 180 turn

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into the realms of indie pop. And with Swim, (again, like his comrade Four Tet), Dan rides on the forefront of the new IDM movement, except you can actually dance to this. The unique and alarmingly fantastic aspect here is the manner which Dan formulates this record. Inspired greatly by visionary musicians such as Arthur Russell, he crafts an intimate and venerable discomeet-house record, one that is not gimmicky and drawn out, but one that booms and shudders with the bombastic nature of house music, but lacking any of the superficial qualities derailing the genre and almost always hindering it. And it all comes down to the arrangements of the tracks. For example, “Odessa”.The minimal techno sensibilities are fully

exploited without being too bare or too overwhelming by distracting harmonies and his voice adds such dimension and scope to all the music, creating a continuously engaging experience. It’s quite surprising how effortless this album is, because it’s simply put, an avant garde record. Being able to achieve that, whilst still making it a record full of music capable of making you wiggle your backside, is remarkable beyond my ability to describe. Simply put, Dan continues a now almost legendary legacy of creating continuously changing albums that are always all time classics


DEATHSPELL OMEGA PARACLETUS Black Metal Deathspell Omega is an odd band. There are more secretive than the pentagon (bordering on The Residents-level of secrecy), live shows are scarce, with releases usually only out on the most obscure of metal labels. The band has 22 side projects, every release is prolific and since they began recording in 2000, they have 15 releases to their name (6 LPs, 4 Eps & 5 Splits). Frankly, saying that they are incredibly creative with a ridiculous work rate is kind of stupid. And you could easily ignore them altogether, if it weren’t for the fact everything they release is magnificent. Intense bursts of chaos, unconfined derangement and pure barbaric growls are the core of the record, blast beats shake you and demonesque

vocals engulf you. Every aspect of the music screams out in dissonance as the band’s distorted noise and ear raping drum work to fashion a hugely disorienting and perception altering creature. Volume as not an option, it’s a necessity. What’s unique however, is how all this apocalyptic chaos goes from shapeless into establishing a physical, tangible form. The sharply changing changes that bombard your ears revolve in a nigh infinite fashion that consistently keeps you in the edge of your chair as their unpredictable density of sound evolves with the passion of every second. There is a whirlwind of concepts and ideas here that are almost impossible to document. Paracletus is, if we could sum it

up, a continuation of the band’s evolving sound that they have been crafting for decade. Abstract and progressive themes, a quality that gained them such wide fanfare in the underground circuits remain a staple of their sound, as they condense their formula into their shortest release to date (clocking @ 42 minutes, inherently short in metal-land). This is an intense burst of chaos, confined and refined to sound perfect. DSO’s new magnum opus is a shrilling, ear raping, demonic slice of beauty. Transcending the limitations of Black Metal, utterly devoid of filler instances and operating on an entirely different dominion than the rest of their counterparts. Genre bending and genre defying.


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DEERHUNTER HALCYON DIGEST Indie Rock Ambition and Deerhunter go hand in hand. For a decade now Bradford Cox and Co. have formulated some of the darkest and most bombastic shoegaze Indie music that actually is sustained by impeccable songwriting. Nothing personified this more their 08 Microcastle/Weird Era Cont., a double LP that rocketed Deerhunter’s capacity for creation to incomparable heights to a degree that I actually admitted to my friend my hopes that they will break up and go separate ways. There was simply no conceivable way that any record by this powerhouse could encapsulate their former outing, but, in an increasing fashion of bands proving me wrong in 2010, they just did. Halcyon Digest is a record that benefits infinitely from its production qualities, ranging from greatly powerfully concentrated bass and dynamic percussion. Deerhunter

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has always been a shoegaze band at heart, and that spaced/droned out sound still remains, but it’s the production (courtesy of wonder man Ben Allen, the same producer that helped Animal Collective craft their most concrete effort Merriweather Post Pavilion) that really allows the core sound to roam ever so freely. Just listen to it on a good pair of headphones, every instrument is remarkably visible, able to create its own space and yet unanimous in the fashion it all merges together. “Earthquake”, the album opener, is the clearest example, the ambience merges with the distinct electronic percussion that becomes even more punctuated by the Slowdive-like constellation synth and washed out electric guitars that continue to grow and grow as Cox gently asks if you remember waking up on that dirty couch in the gray fog.

Bradford often describes his lyrics as a ‘stream-of-consciousness’; and when asked what the album’s title meant he stated that it’s a reference to collection of fond memories and even invented ones, the way that we all write and rewrite and edit our memories to be a digest version of what we want to remember. That is remarkably sad and happy all at once, a unique quality that is accentuated with the music and free flowing lyricism. Halcyon Digest is the band’s finest outing to date, surpassing even their perfect former recordings. It balances out all the elements so familiar by the band while allowing nigh limitless freedom to explore. It’s astoundingly inventing and jaw dropping in quality. The best indie record of the year, hands down.


DESSA A BADLY BROKEN CODE Hip Hop Female emcees. The rarest of rare breeds in music. Put a gun to my head and I’ll only be able to mention two others: Apani (from Vicktor Vaughn and Polyrhythm Addicts) and Jean Grae. That’s it. At the threat of death, I can’t name even 5. How sad is that? I’m sure more female musicians with exceptional talents exist, but they are buried beneath such a layer of talentless vagina waving sluts that it’s quite literary impossible to wade through it all to find them. So when I do find one that is worthy, I tend to be overtly and unbashful in my passion for her, case and point: Dessa. A Badly Broken Code is a tapestry

of emotions and styles ranging from soulful ballads to upbeat anthems that combine exceptional production (courtesy of the Doomtree collective) and sharp writing. The only possible negative that can be aimed at Dessa is the album swirls into a great number of directions, meaning, while every song is well crafted, it doesn’t flow as naturally throughout the record with cohesive structure. But that variety is precisely the reason to enjoy the record even more. Dessa manages to exhibit dynamic range of sounds that showcase a creative woman with the capacity to create anything and do it in a nigh perfect fashion at that, incorporating obscure

sampling with effortless backing of a live band to a great extent Dessa deserves all the acclaim that sadly, Lady Gaga and the rest of the whore brigade monopolize. In a world curiously nearing public music sterility, good hip-hop records are diamonds, and a female fronted good hip-hop record is even more reason for jubilation.


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ENSLAVED AXIOMA ETHICA ODINI Black Metal

Black Metal and Norway. It’s as distinct a pairing as Jazz and New Orleans. It’s also an incredibly easy one to understand, just as New Orleans is a flurry of scents, foods, architecture and culture, a quality that is sharply reflected in its music, Norway, for a better portion of half a year is a cold, frigid, bleak and entirely grey/white landscape. Of course metal rises from that Nordic darkness, just as jazz would flourish in New Orleans’ light. And when it comes to viking-esque black metal, three kings reign, and hail, predictably, from Norway. Those kings where Arcturus, Emperor, and Enslaved, and with Emperor’s demise back in 2001 and later on Arcturus in

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2007, Enslaved now has held their rule for 20 years. (15 if you don’t count the demos). Again, it’s incredibly easy for one to understand, Enslaved have consistently crafted some of the most hellish and brutal metal with each of their 14 releases and they continue to push the boundaries of black metal with a mature and progressive sound. Axioma Ethica Odini‘s sound is heavily organic, mid-paced, and chuggy with the occasional flurry of speed and blasts that indicate the band’s history. With a far looser structure, Enslaved moves further from their prog metal later sounds back into their black/Viking metal origins, the raw yet encompassing power unleashed by the band is

undeniable. Almost throughout the entirety of the record, you are witnessing otherworldly and colossal sound structures that combine both melodic death metal and the fury of black metal in singular formation. It’s astonishing that in a field where a black metal band is probably born every hour, that Enslaved remains the only band from the original core of black metal that’s still producing innovative music that puts even the new generation to shame.


KNO DEATH IS SILENT Hip Hop “There are two things in this world. Wonderful, visceral, sexy sex. And death. Horrible, boring death. Now I’m gonna go off and have some sex before I die.” Kno, better known as producer for the south’s most underrated hip-hop outfit Cunninlynguists, is incredibly well renowned in the underground hip-hop circles. Primarily for his incalculable talent of not merely making great records, but a great experience. A Piece of Strange, easily Cunninlynguists’ best effort to date, was a momentous concept record that owed a great deal to Kno’s vision as a musician and producer, as he propelled the entire album with a singular sound that was fully cinematic in every instance. Death Is Silent, his first solo

recording, never faced questioning in its production aspects of this album from the moment it was announced, but for the fact Kno would also MC. Well, no worries here at all. Each tune manages to slip you a sort of diluted intensity that hits hard with the absolutely striking lyrics and verbose delivery. What’s appealing is the fact the verbal exercise gives you the lavish time to intake the full worth and magnitude of their emotional impact, not merely quick-penned lyrics crafting a generic chorus. What’s even more impressive is that, while the concept is evident, sex and death, both are treated in a subtle manner and with profound sense of respect and exquisite gallows humor at time. Both allow for the concept to grow and flourish to an almost

unnoticeable fashion. Youth vs. Death and as Death continues to creep into the music, the clinging to Youth grows more vital, and inversely, less frightening, less driving of a force as the prime circle of life. To put it mildly, Death is Silent is hip-hop’s response to Arcade Fire’s Funeral, except infinitely more hard hitting. It’s complex, sincere, and immaculate in writing, production and delivery. One of the finest hiphop records ever crafted, and one that would make anyone who thinks Kanye West produced the best record of the year (something that it is not, for reasons I’ll discuss in a future scathing article of Kanye) rethink their thoughts.


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MAX RICHTER INFRA

Ambient/Neo Classical When Max’ first record Memoryhouse (an album recorded for BBC’s Late Junction) was released almost a decade ago, no one expected the neo classical revivalist from the school of Philip Glass, Arvo Part and Steve Reich (whose compositions he has performed in his six-pianist ensemble Piano Circus) would ever manage to capture the imaginations of the public masses to such a degree. Composer and pianist Max Richter presented an intimate retelling of classical music by combining the aesthetics of orchestration with the use of Electronica and field recordings, laboring to weave a subtle melancholic soundtrack to life in the modern world. Alienation and longing became trademarks of Max’s sound, a continuous query of “where does one go?” which is a striking and continuous element of his music to this day.

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In Infra, Max Richter’s explores the themes of human emotion through a strikingly simplistic concept, the daily commute (at least, that’s my theory, strengthened by the album cover). I’m digressing for an instance, but bear with me: Have you ever been alone? Truly alone? Have you ever felt horrified entering public transportation or the tube, surrounded by hundreds of people who you will quite possibly never see again, never able to communicate with, form bonds with, even slightly, momentarily. Have you ever walked down the street, passing by someone, and had the simple sight of them shake you to the core, with questions of “that could’ve been the one”? Max Richter is crippled by those emotions, and he portrays them through somber melodies, that while inherently minimalist and inherently

empty of any frivolities, simply compound the sensation of solitude to crippling degrees. The abstract ambience adds layer upon layer of texture and depth in the background of the instrumentation, creating a structure that is both dense with emotional impact as wells as visually cinematic in nature. Falling in love with Max Richter’s music is dangerously easy. The music flows with such compounded sincerity more akin to lucid dreams, and despite the use of Electronica in portions, it feels inherently organic and natural. The pulses of piano flutter and linger using simple melodic lines to weave somber tones that unravel aged memories and lays waste to your sub consciousness. Infra is a collection of music that can crush and tear at your core, and yet you’ll never want it to stop.


MICE PARADE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE LEFTHANDED Indie Pop It’s been quite the journey for NY based Adam Pierce, former member of the Dylan Group. Since he released his first outing back in 1998 with The True Meaning of Boodleybaye, he’s traveled into some peculiar and numerous sonic adventures with his solo project (which has rapidly evolved into an entire collective), going from folk to post rock to Indie/ electro to glitch pop (basically, you name it, he’s done it) with a work output and release offerings that have always ranged between the very good to the incredibly sublime. But Adam’s talent are his ambition and inability to find a limit, which is paired up with the variety of sounds and compositions that are consistently different yet constant due

to his remarkably familiar deadpan vocal delivery. This aspect makes What It Means To Be Left-Handed both instantly distinguishable yet impossible to define. It’s certainly pop without a doubt about it, regardless of the template Adam uses, his lyrical and melodic foray are exhibited in such a heartwarming fashion while inviting several drastically different musicians to join his corps, from West Africa to Iceland. Mice parade’s immaculate drum work, fuzzy pop akin to Yo La Tengo, and droned out synth form a unique hybrid when the flamenco-centric and shoe gaze laced guitar work comes into play. And it works to a mindboggling degree when the ideas

and sounds remain ever expanding, even when doing a superb cover of the Lemonhead’s Mallo Cup being a resounding manic clash of styles that works on every possible level. Adam crafts an astoundingly lush masterpiece. The deft fashion with which he weaves his past recordings with an even more adventurous chamber pop sound just serves to add an even more enigmatic poignant layer to the man’s bolstering resume, one that is continuously adapting, morphing and evolving every day for twelve years, and if this record is any indication, many years more.


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MIKE PATTON MONDO CANE Pop

Let it be noted that, there is no musician more versatile than Mike Patton. The man is quite literary the walking embodiment of music in physical form. Avantgarde troupe in the form of Fantamos? Check. Alt. Rock band in the form of Tomahawk? Check. Trip Hop/Downtempo in the form of Lovage? Check. Experimental Rock in the shape of Mr. Bungle? Check. Electronic noodling in the one man band Peeping Tom? Metal/Punk as leader of the glorious outfit Faith No More? Check. There is nothing this man can do, with a vocal range that goes from death metal growls to 60s swing crooning, and a mastery of no less than 10 instruments and production/mixing skills to boot, he is literary the Frank Zappa of our times. So when it was announced that his next solo project was an album of traditional Italian pop songs I was not shocked, I was simply dying to get my hands on it. There was simply no way this was not going to be phenomenal. Mondo Cane consists of orchestral and avant-garde interpretations of the classics of Italian folk and pop

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music from the 50s and 60s. From Gino Paoli’s “Il cielo in una stanza” to Fred Bongusto’s “Ore D’Amor” and Nico Fidenco’s “L’Uomo Che Non Sapeva Amare”, Mike showcases a depth of vocal verbose and an unparalleled compositional talent and orchestral command in the manner of both song choices and technical arrangements. Far from a simple covers, Mike and his backing 30 piece orchestra approach the project with overwhelming passion to the source material, a fact that is fairly evident in every moment through-out the record. But despite 30 other people being involved, Mike Patton is clearly the champion, the manner in which he dabbles in long forgotten ballads of passion, betrayal and love is both refreshing and endearing. His vocal range soars through each track and rightfully recreates all the emotions of the originals and shapes them into fresh moments for new listeners. This is a display of vocal range and talent unlike any other. The highlight, however, is closer to “Senza Fine”, a rendering of Gion Paoli’s most classic of songs, a whimsical recreation that slithers, hums, tugs and dances with

the strings of your heart switching suddenly from its familiar ballad form into an all out 30 man orchestra jazz jam session. I don’t think I’ve heard a more romantic or thrilling song this entire year. Mike has built a career eclectic projects that are equally as brilliant as they are diverse, and his fascination with Italy is well documented. Mondo Cane showcases Patton in a light never seen before, which is amusing considering this is his most approachable project to date. His talent in constructing various bands and project with sheer enthusiasm and dedication is truly inspiring. He has the curiosity to constantly sample new sounds, the desire to create them, the craftsmanship to master it, and the sheer genius to make it his own.


MOTORPSYCHO

HEAVY METAL FRUIT Alternative Rock Remember all the fuffing about regarding Norway? Well, it doesn’t end there folks. Hailing from Trondheim, Motorpsycho grew from the thriving alternative rock scene that was overtaking Norway at in the late 80s. The band’s first release in 1991 Lobotomizer fell on deaf ears, despite being one of the most interesting Scandinavian records from the period. 13 LPs and 18 EPs later (craaaaaaaaaaaazy), Motorpsycho are still at it, with the release of their latest effort Heavy Metal Fruit Let me put it this way, this record is (and there will never be another instance that I will make this comparison of ever again) is the sonic manifestation of The Grateful Dead playing a duet with King Crimson. It’s that. Damn.

GOOD. The band’s obsession with psychedelic rock, jazz, metal and prog rock literary leaks from the LP. See, Motorpsycho doesn’t quite understand what the term “musical limitations” is. And as such lays their great talent, equal parts metal, psychedelic rock, hardcore punk and straight up rock and roll…all in the SAME SONG “Gullible’s Travails (Pt14)”. It’s quite literary jaw dropping. One of the most diversified albums I’ve ever listened to and it reflects the versatility of Motorpsycho and their discography very well. While it’s musical mayhem from start to finish with radical stylistics shifts, there is not a second when the band loses their cohesion. The greatest merit of Motorpsycho is that although the songs are very

drawn out, they never sound slightly boring. They remain as fresh and energetic as they were back when their major hit record Demon Box was released. It’s quite criminal that this band has been spitting out some of the best rock records since 1989 without any critical acclaim outside their nation (and even there they aren’t that huge…). Furthermore, it’s insane that they’ve been doing it for so long and still manage to switch the formula around, and sounding more fresh and distinct every time they do it. Heavy Metal Fruit is a rock masterpiece that is truly perfect from 00:00:01 till 01:02:04.


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NEST RETOLD Ambient/Neo Classical It’s so easy to get a following when you can sing a song. Lyrics and a twangy guitar can make matters so much easier. But managing to evoke a whirlwind of emotion with mere ambience? Not so many people can claim the can succeed in that, or manage to create a soundscape so engrossing, captivating a listener to sit down and absorb it. But when you do, when you have that magic combination, the flurry of emotions dealt can change a soul forever Nest is a project by Otto Totland, half of dark ambient duo Deaf Center (the other half is Erik Skodvin aka Svarte Greiner), a band unanimously hailed in the underground ambient circles as the hailed as the spiritual continuation of Norwegian Helge

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Sten aka Deathprod’s explorations into ambience. Nest is music of seasons, of the morning after a roaring storm plagued the land, and no sign of destruction can be found, merely fields upon fields of white snow that simply cleansed all there is to see.The concept and execution is so deeply drenched in evoking atmosphere, employing the bare minimum to paint lush scenery. “Wheatstone” is perhaps, the finest example of the record. Horns beckon and transform your surroundings, whilst simple rising drone waves fostered within by brittle piano tampering. Almost immediately you are curled up in a warm and contemplative isolated experience, taking in the entire

enormity of the entire landscape, the chill of the wind grazing your face, the inexplicable sheer magnitude of silence that has actually come alive. Nest’s music is as tender as it is heartbreaking, and it’s quite perplexing how he manages to evoke such opposite emotions within the same instance. You’re instantly filled with both a sense of familiarity and longing. This is not merely music to listen to; this is music that requires that you give it its due, that you allow it to immerse you in its cinematic tones and structures. And if you actually do give it a try, you will ultimately be rewarded by a record that transcends a mere ambient album, you’ll be rewarded with a soundtrack for your life.


NICK CAVE AND WARREN ELLIS THE ROAD (OST) Film Score

The Road, a movie adaptation of one of my most fav books in recent memory, a Pulitzer Prize winner by the same title, follows the tale of an unnamed father and son through a post-apocalyptic America (whose cause is also unnamed), as they attempt to endure the harrowing solitude, and even more so, the harrowing rare encounters with humans. It’s an ash covered tale of survival in the worst of conditions, heartbreaking from start to end, and the only semblance of light and warmth arrives in the form of its soundtrack, composed by giants Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, better known from their work and collaboration on Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Grinderman and Dirty Three and for those unfamiliar with their scoring work, composed the excellent soundtrack for The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. As the malnourished Viggo Mortensen and his frightened son endure the utterly unfamiliar and

unforgiving desolate landscape, the duo conceive a soundtrack that joins them in their journey, minimal, faint, mournful and for the most part, utterly bone chilling every time the spaced piano and disorientated violin pair to create an oppressive melancholy atmosphere that rarely let up. Just spin the title track “The Road”, a simplistic piano leitmotif that I could honestly listen to for hours at end, perfectly matching the never-ending father and son march. However, for all its doom and calamity, the brightest moments come from the uninhibited love of both father and son, as the duality of cello and violin gently break through the oppression and mire. It needs to be said, some movies simply do not need any scores. It’s a gripe I particularly have with horror movies, whose crescendos and lack of subtleness completely destroy even the best of films. In particular, a movie covering a post apocalypse movie should ideally have no score; the lack of music would simply

accompany the cinematography. So it’s truly a testament to Nick and Warren’s talent as composers, as their neo classical work not simply adequate for the movie, but actually enhances it as mirrors the imagery of the novel page for page (notably the use of the economical song titles), and thus the movie to a perfect extent.


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ORPHANED LAND THE NEVERENDING WAY OF ORWARRIOR Prog Rock/Metal

So your band wants to make an album. Fantastic. A Prog rock album, even better! Oh, and it’s going to be progressive doom metal record with heavy religious undertones. Okay. Chances are you’ve immediately turned off everyone just by saying that. Let’s face it; merging music with religious beliefs is treading on thin ice. You automatically risk alienating 90% of all listeners, and unless your Sufjan Stevens, chances are you just won’t get it right at all. So imagine now an Israeli band, describing the religious background and implications of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, via the medium of metal. Boy, you’re carving yourself quite a niche market there. Orphaned Land is a unique band. Singing in English, Hebrew and Arabic, the group enters ethnic elements into his music with a creative richness that impresses. The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR is the fifth album of the sextet formed by Kobi Farhi (vocals), Shlomit Levi (vocals), Yossi Sassi (guitar, piano and strings), Matti Svatitzki (guitar),

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Uri Zelcha (bass) and Matan Shmuely (drums), is another excellent and unique chapter in that history. Produced by Steven Wilson, the genius of Porcupine Tree (the man truly has the Midas touch), the album is a masterpiece unquestionable and unequivocal. Its fifteen tracks are fifteen musical gems are rich in detail that take elements from many different genres of heavy metal and unite them as pieces of Lego to build a sound catchy and full of personality. The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR speaks of the eternal struggle between light and darkness (“ORwarriOR” means “Warrior of Light”). As with everything in Prog Rock, it’s a concept album, an overarching theme of the unity and common ground of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. How they manage to pull religious without off-putting is a wonder onto itself. But even more so than that, the band creates sounds that are both epic and grounded, balancing death metal riffs and growls with spiraling post rock/prog rock instrumentations against folky

klezmer sounding pieces and huge sweeping orchestration which use unison violins to imitate old Lawrence of Arabia style movie soundtracks. Honestly, it’s jaw dropping to say the least. Orphaned Land’s body of work showcases a band that is utterly free from genre limitation and a creative impulse that utilises anything and everything to capture the sounds in their minds. It’s a monumental piece of work covering well over an hour, and not a second of it is weak. One of the finest pieces of music in all of metal, and in a genre where lifealtering albums are quite literary dime a dozen, saying this is easily one of the top 10 albums doesn’t even begin to give it the justice it deserves.


PANTHA DU PRINCE BLACK NOISE Minimal Techno I loathe Techno music. Of all the subgenres of electronic, it’s the most sterile and lackluster of the family. Save for a handful of musicians, it’s an utterly hopeless derivative of constitute loops, and not the good kind either. So I really don’t try to hide how much I love and appreciate Pantha du Prince, whose work since debut Diamond Daze and follow-up This Bliss, completely changed my perspective on the genre as a whole, and I’m honestly hard pressed to name another producer in the world whose got the chops this man has. Despite using a fairly conventional and simplistic composition formula in the form of bell chimes + bass, the man manages to create some of the most addictive spacious music, almost as if it’s Martians playing electro. Black Noise simply affirms his status as the world’s finest techno musician.

His knack for crafting slowly metamorphosing melodies that manage to combine cold synthetic beats and warm organic tones is truly uncanny. Paired with the fact they don’t simply ride a wave and/or build up in a stereotypical dance track, and you’ve got a track that would have been an otherwise a repetitive track in the hands of any other producer, into an oddly structured melodic masterpiece. Take “The Splendour” for example. This isn’t just simple add-on of layers on Fruity Loops. He transforms very basic drum/bells into so much more, incorporating oddly structured time signatures, glitch sensibilities and a radical departure in regards to what constructs a dance track. The music gradually shift into daring directions, infinitely blurring the dividing lines of minimal techno and ambient, and while it may be advertised

as minimal, it’s certainly anything but what the label might imply. While such a daring track would be otherwise split throughout a whole album by other musicians, Pantha du Prince combines all the elements into a seamlessly flowing tune. And with regards to being catchy, look no further than the collab with Panda Bear (Half of Animal Collective), a song so effectively memorable and groovy despite it’s psychedelic overtones. PdP’s brilliance as a conductor is honed with every outing. His distinct attention to the most basic sonic aspects of his music and the way he manipulates the subtle shifts in harmony really set him in a class of his own. It’s an absolute joy listening to this man’s discography back to back, or as standalone records and make for an utterly engrossing experience.


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SAILORS WITH WAX WINGS SAILORS WITH WAX WINGS Shoegaze

Shoegaze made even slower with stoner rock. Branching out from Pyramids, Sailors with Wax Wings is easily the most daring and unconventional treatment of the shoegaze formula. Combine effect pedals with shoegaze guitars, dreamy vocals and metal drumming. It sound so remarkable simple and appealing and even more remarkable being pulled off so majestically. There isn’t much I can actually say but that. It’s 5 am and I’m on sleeping meds and drowned out of my head. And I honestly couldn’t ask for a better musical accompaniment but this. It’s heavily ambient with intense focus on the abstract, whilst never losing it’s ethereal touch, despite the

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metal-ish intensity there is such a surreal unruliness to the entire affair, vocals humming away as if coming through a wormhole that leads to another universe, it’s the galactic in sound and scope And while My Bloody Valentine comparisons are inevitable whenever you simply mention shoegaze, the band actually lends its root much more in Japanese psychedelic rock, with its blasting guitars and noisedriven jams. But what defines them is how they balance both branches while incorporating them, the shoegaze portions are not overtly shoegaze, and the noise/metal bits are never too noise/metal. The end result is a sound with so many angels

and immense depth that simple soars and lifts you to entire new planes of existence without falling into any of the clichés rife in either genres. Sailors with Wax Wings are just as the title implies, travelers into new domains, and just as their namesake Icarus, they are at a disadvantage. And instead of running away from the doomed challenge, they take it on without fear and with bullheaded focus, because within the journey lays the experience, not the final result.


SHAD TSOL Hip Hop Nigerian/Canadian MC Shad has a lot of good things going for him. His sophomore record was hailed as the return of conscious hip-hop to mainstream radio, sold out shows around the world, and a nifty little Mercury Prize nomination for The Old Prince gave him the critical and public acclaim he so surely deserves. And finally 3 years later, the follow up TSOL is here, and it’s quite literary everything you would ever want from a hip-hop record. Assisted in production by some fairly notable musicians (Brendan Canning and Lisa Lobsinger of Broken Social Scene fame, no less), Shad continues his blending of indie rock meets soulful hip-hop, with an exquisite display rhythmical talent, humour, and lyrical creativity. To get similarities out of the way, Shad certainly brings to mind ChiTown Common’ (when he had Sense) early hallmark recordings. Blending of jazz sampling/instrumentation and Soul/R&B inspired socially conscious styling’s fills the record and comparable to some of the finest

works Resurrection and Like Water for Chocolate. One of the finest qualities of Shad’s music is his completely shameless display of spirituality and faith in his rhymes. Let’s put it this way, mixing religion with your music tends to be the most off putting process in the world, because musicians tend to end up shoving your faith down your throat, rather than incorporate it as a medium of exploration. A lot of artists try it, and fail miserably (one of the few who succeed is Sufjan Stevens with his Christian themed album Seven Swans). Shad pulls it off miraculously, without sounding preachy at any instance. He doesn’t tell you about his faith; he uses his faith to tell you about him. Just spin the immaculate “Good Name”, where he draws the biblical roots of his name and how it defines him as a person. Unlike many mcs, Shad’s distinctive in two qualities: his humour, and his indie inspirations. Regardless of how serious the issue is, he always knows how to ease matters. Just spin

“We, Myself and I”. When you realise a guitar riff on a hip-hop record is actually more rock and roll than half the records that came out this year, you know there’s something special going on. But fusion aside, this is a hip-hop record from start to finish, a supreme one at that. Shad’s flow is easy going and his lyrics are as humorous as they intellectual. The production is tight and invigorating, showcasing a musician who lacks no creativity. Shad is set to change how you perceive hip-hop, provided you actually give me a chance.


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SHINING BLACKJAZZ Avant Garde

Honestly, I don’t know how these darn Norwegians manage to do it. The continuously release a stream of bands and records on a yearly basis that seems to be made just for me. Take Shining for example. An Avant-garde, prog-metal, electro jazz quartet. Read that again, and maybe you’ll begin to understand how utterly in awe I am; an avant-garde, prog-metal, electro jazz quartet. Honestly, I could end the review at just that. You can’t possibly sell a perfect experimental record in this day and age. But damned if I don’t at least try. Since Avant-garde jazz outfit Shining released In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster all the way back in 2005, I always knew these guys had not even the slightest comprehension of genre-lines. They live solely to demolish them. And your ears. Every song is crafted with the intention of not sounding like anything else, ever, yet combining everything else, ever. “HEALTER SKELTER” encompasses this uncanny ability in 5 minute metal epic that manages to showcase all the sludge sensibilities of The Melvins incorporate late 60s free jazz

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compositions (which instantly brings to mind the explorations of saxophone pioneer Ornette Coleman), the most ruthless Merzbow-esque drone/noise and what I personally believe is the best display of Napalm Death like grindcore drumming skills this year. No contest. Torstein Lofthus sounds like he has an extra arm sawed onto him, and that arm has a drum machine sawed to it. The band really redefines the term everything and the kitchen sink. This is as bare-boned and experimental as metal has ever gotten. Rancid brutal vocals, abrasive guitar works, schizophrenic electro tampering and a brass section that ends up doing things all other saxophones are just too embarrassed to do. are more prominent and the riffs are angular and abrasive. Once in a while you’ll hear a saxophone doing completely inhumane things alongside some schizophrenic synthesizers. And as if it wasn’t enough, the band closes with the most daring unconventional choice of a cover of the legendary progressive rock forefathers King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”. I don’t think I’ve heard a more maddening cover

since Boris & Merzbow covered The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”. An utterly ear deafening, mind demolishing, turbulent flashes of thunder and lightning that will rearrange your gray matter forever as they go about raping your senses with the most intense 8 minute song in history. A grotesquely aggressive renderation that cracks apart the original like swift hammer blow on the head, as it dances remaining true to its conception. Blackjazz is a slut of an album. It throws itself all over you, uninhibited and so assured of its own capabilities, potential and dominance over you. And you love it for that. The most ingenious and electrifying release of the past year, if not the past 10.


SUFJAN STEVENS THE AGE OF ADZ (+ALL DELIGHTED PEOPLE E.P.) Indie

Easily the most anticipated record of the year. Sufjan Stevens has had a phenomenal decade, being hailed as our generations Bob Dylan, but with a better voice (a claim I firmly stand behind). So it is, in extremely predictable fashion, that he closes the decade with one of the finest records in it. What was unpredictable however, was the fashion he created the record. Last year, a friend of mine shared a live performance Sufjan Stevens at the famous Castaways in Ithaca, where Sufjan performed all new material, expected to feature in his new record. And we both agreed on something, that this new album will forever change the indie music landscape. It seems ridiculous to think that The Age of Adz and the All Delighted People E.P. (both featuring songs that clock past 10 minutes) are the most grounded yet expansive recordings by Sufjan. Nothing seems forced. Furthermore, the scope of the entire affair is fantastic. Every idea works, regardless of its ambition or format, despite the overwhelming risk of it being potentially a failure, which simply adds more spark to an already firework album. Be it the traditionally

folksy Nick Drake influenced opener “Fragile Devices” or the múm-esque glitchy meets Radiohead/Flying Lotus expansive travels into space 25-masterpiece finale “Impossible Soul”. Everything in this record has larger-than-life aspect to it, and it accomplishes it without being over the top or lackluster. I’ve always associated Sufjan Stevens with Joanna Newsom, both gender opposite stars of their shared genre, and that link constantly maintained itself. Just as Joanna Newsom’s latest record showcased her scaling new territory, so does this. Both artists have released altering and critically acclaimed albums, and instead of producing more of the same (which would’ve still garnered critical acclaim); they have taken a long breath, examined their previous efforts, evaluated it and themselves, and gone on to eradicate every single flaw and reconstruct their sound. It’s simply evolution at its finest. I’m personally shocked by the vocal disdain Sufjan fans give this effort, going as far as stating he’s lost the plot, a statement I’m entirely baffled by. Some say it’s the electronic

aspect, forgetting that Sufjan’s first effort was a full blown electronic album, Enjoy Your Rabbit, an aspect featured greatly as well in his The BQE composed soundtrack. Sufjan has not lost anything, but simply gained oh so much, both new focus and purpose, both qualities many worried would cause a downfall in his music due to the nigh-impossible 50 States project. The rules of the game have changed, but the heart is beating just hard as ever, if not more. This is such an impressive, groundbreaking feat that I don’t even need to rethink statement. The Age of Adz is no different from All Delighted People in that fashion, records that strongly hinted their presence, but never imagined would come to fruitarian in such a brilliant manner. This is Sufjan Steven’s best album, until the next album comes around.


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SWANS MY FATHER WILL GUIDE ME UP A ROPE TO THE SKY ...eh?

Comeback albums make for some extremely tricky affairs. Sadly, more often than not, the whole concept is simply a last ditch attempt at grabbing money that will pour out from fans wishing to re-live the past, and many artists come out sounding rusty or dated. However, this is Swans, and for almost anyone even relatively familiar with the underground music scene in the past 3 decades knows of the Swans and just how unpredictable and unconventional they are. So logically, it’s impossible for their latest effort to sound even slightly dated, because have consistently been ahead of their time throughout their career, and My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky is no different.  And I’m happy to find out that I’m still incapable of describing their music. No method of classification works, a Swans album from start to finish. They might have broken apart some 14 years ago, but it feels as if they never have, as this record picks up immediately from their last outing Soundtracks For The Blind. Swans’ early recordings were infamous maelstroms of harsh relentless noise, with their live performances living in infamy due to their set up of stadium level speakers in a tiny gig venue, creating unbearable volume levels

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mixed with the feral cries Gira. But with their later period, they moved away from their no-wave/industrial origins to focus more on folk-esque, introspective outings. And particular after Swans splitting, and Gira shifting all his energy on his Angels of Light project, he’s been able to focus more on the melodic aspect of his compositions, and that infiltrates this records. His riveting baritone and unforgiving pessimistic song writing is present as ever, but compared to the rest of the Swans discography, he’s never sounded like he’s been gladder to be singing about the morbid and the bleak.  The merger of contrasts continues through-out the album, opening track “No Word/No Thoughts” sounds like a funeral and a wake wrapped in one, with trademark early swans with its crushing drone guitar, Devendra Banhart lending his frail vocals to the brutal horn-driven industrial “You Fucking People Make Me Sick”. But no greater example of the inherent duality than “Jim”, a moody piece that alternates between the aggression and introspection that so defines Swans’ music. Gira’s voice is in control as he croons “Heaven will come and rise again”, a far cry from 1987, when he was howling “Let the light come in, damn you to hell. Now save your soul, damn you to

hell”. The manipulation of Christian imagery has always been a hallmark attribute in Gira’s brutally honest lyrics, but he clearly moved past the mere crisis and chaos of no-wave to a more controlled sound that fits the text better. This pressure and release continues to the end of the album, a borderline gothic western ballad, which closes with a nearly a minute of only Gira’s voice, the complete antithesis to the opener. As if from behind the bars of prison cell he hums, “May I find your arms around my neck, and may I find your little mouth inside of this bed.” The album is nearly flawless. Many a casual fan will find that they can actually spin this record in one sitting, unlike past Swans’ records. This is not because past efforts are subpar, but simply the fact they are crushing wave of unparalleled misanthropy and nihilistic violence. Some of the hardcore fans seem to have a gripe with that, but I personally think it’s a taming of their sound, but a clear sign of maturation. Paired with the artistic integrity My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky is certainly no mere comeback, it’s a core addition to a discography of records filled with behemoth efforts.


THE BESNARD LAKES THE BESNARD LAKES ARE THE ROARING NIGHT Indie Rock

Indie music innovation, at least this decade, can be said to exist primarily in Canada. Look no further than the Montreal super-band Broken Social Scene or Arcade Fire, both bands whose sound consistently evolves the realms of indie music, not merely with every album released, but with every track. The Besnard Lakes are in the same vein, though they are not copying the before mentioned bands, but creating their own distinct sound. A sound that blends the grandiose of tomorrow; acknowledges the wonder of yesterday and avoids the pomposity of the present; creating aural soundscapes that boldly demolish the linear divides between indie, shoegaze and post-rock and embracing them all as one living, breathing entity. One of the major reasons this trichotomy is so fluid is perhaps due to the fact the core of the band is the husband/ wife, guitar, bass/guitar/vocal tag-team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas. The union of their high falsetto/matte tones creates for vocal harmonies unlike any of their contemporaries,

propelling the entire recording into the universe of dazzling melodies. No clearer example of this can be made more apt than the 2 part opener “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent”. Fuzzy My Bloody Valentine and Led Zeppelin guitar work waltzes alongside emotive vocals on a vibrant, multi-layered backdrop that creates a distinct personality that never loses focus or lapses into numbing pretension despite the whopping nigh 9 minutes in length, a feature so prevalent in post-rock and/ or shoegaze recordings. (Funny story, my friend went to see the band play in Holland after I went on 2 hour rant about how awesome they were, and after the gig he hung out with Jace and mentioned my Led Zeppelin comment, only to note Jace’s shock as he stated they recorded the album on the same analog equipment used by LZ. How aces is that?) The imagination of the band and the scope of recording are incredibly (and breathtakingly) vast, and the band doesn’t shy away from the challenge of audio exploration. All aspects that; despite the plethora

of fantastic records that 2010 has so kindly shared with us; make The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night one my second favourite record of 2010.


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THE BLACK KEYS BROTHERS Blues Rock

As I type this, The Black Keys are the biggest band in the entire world. Brothers is at least in the top 10 of every major music publication (if not 1st), they are playing every major TV show, album just went gold, and for the most part, everyone in the universe loves the shit out of them. You have no idea how happy I am that I could type that out, and actually be sarcastic. It’s been a very long, long road since Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney first hung out together in 2001 and started a band whose first rehearsal was in Dan’s bathroom. From The Big Come Up in 2003 till their recent, these fellas have been chugging out the most raw and authentic straight up garage rock meets rocking blues like no one. And their new album is no different. It’s the same soulful blues blazing through, as Dan plugs his guitar to

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those amps and Pat takes his throne at the drum kit. You couldn’t get a simpler formula, but it’s a winning one at that. But there is something different, there is a blazing energy, and the band’s chemistry is even more soaring than ever before. There’s a certain magic in the air, and it might just be the fact they recorded this in the legendary Alabama studio, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Or maybe it’s just plain obvious these guys have been spinning an obscene amount of T. Rex while recording, because this as Glam Rock meets Blues Rock as it could possibly get, adding some much flair to an already fire like sound. But despite the instrumentation being second to none; those psychedelic keys, that twangy bass and the ever brilliant percussion-meets-guitar; this album is all about singing and song writing.

Never before has Dan’s immediately recognizable voice been so scintillating and they’re lyrics, though fairly upfront (just as their music is) manage to ring in a way that their previous albums just never had. The result? An unbelievably remarkable straight up traditional rock and roll record that is not traditional at all. With their latest effort, the duo has evolved into the perfect sound that they’ve been developing for ages. The presence of delicious keys and utterly bombastic bass certainly is a testament for that. The Black Keys went at it with goal to create their best record to date and the end result showcases a band that is at its absolute best recording with an anything goes mentality. If you don’t like this I don’t even want to know you. It’s that freaking good


THE NATIONAL HIGH VIOLET Indie

The National has developed into one of those bands you can simply count on. In a world chock filled with mediocre subpar indie rock bands that seem to pop out from every orifice, it’s so joyous to know you can trust on these lads to deliver a record that tours above the rest almost in every aspect. From their self-titled debut in the beginning of the decade to 2007 list topping Boxer, the five Ohio lads showed time and time again that they are truly cream of the crop. There is such thought and control evident throughout the entire album, and entire album it is, in a time where we are plagued with singles, it’s wonderful to find a mainstream

band actually sticking through to the concept of an album, where picking songs is simply not an option. Every song has its playing field, they stick with you without wearing off, and they all act like a warm wool coat during a late night winter walk. There is such attention to detail in the music, the drums in “sorrow”, the bass in “little faith”, the way the drums and guitar come in on “afraid of everyone”, the use of space and pauses throughout “vanderlyle crybaby geeks”, I could literary go on forever on how familiar the elements are here, but with further emphasis on instrumentation. A gut wrenching horn section here, a lamenting string section there, an exquisite display of musicianship that creates the band’s

most instrumentally driven record. High Violet seems one of the world’s best indie bands at the top of their game, delivering an onslaught of songs both drenched in super quality, optional songwriting and personal resonance. You couldn’t possibly ask for more. Urban alienation and social paranoia has never sounded so regal.


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THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH THE WILD HUNT Folk

Shallow Graves was no fluke. Oh no. It was not. Still armed with his trusty guitar and belting out some of the finest folk ballads with a voice so distinct and lyrics so dense, Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man on Earth, is without a doubt, the leading pure folk musician in our generation (which is really saying something with folk heavy weight contemporaries Bill Calhan and Will Oldham aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy aka Palace Music aka dude how many side projects do you have???). So why don’t we just get it right out of the way? Yes, he reminds me of Bob Dylan. He reminds everyone of Bob Dylan. But you’d forgive us all for even daring to compare this young man to Mr. Zimmerman one you hear his music. Esp. when you realize that distinction doesn’t come from him being a copycat, but because he exhibits all the traits in a great folk musician must have; invigoratingly original and, truly appreciative of his predeceasors. Kristian is unashamed in that aspect. Those nasal vocals, sparse arrangements, the superb guitar flicking. All similarities, but they all stop when you realize that Kristian’s

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guitar work is infinitely more complex and urgent. So are his lyrics. They are erratic, frantic, constantly jumping and pouncing, without any sense of control to the whole affair. He’s more akin to a feral creature, all heart and blood and guts, an unaware of the consequences of his lunges, but lunges he still does. And in that he manages to capture your senses and rattles you to your core. Like a boxer who has no comprehension of his own limits, continuously sticking in as the barrage of hooks keeps thrashing him. You are instinctively drawn to the spectacle, brutal as it maybe; you can’t keep your eyes away from him. It’s the beautiful struggle. This is what sets The Tallest Man on Earth apart from so many others in the genre currently, his songs, regardless of how hopeful; carry a lingering aspect to them. And more people are beginning to realize this. “Where Do My Bluebirds Fly” and “Honey, Won’t you let Me In”, off his freshman record Shallow Graves, were tear-your-heart-into-bits song, exemplifying his lyrically fragility and his all encompassing voice, and while those where the highlights of his old album, he has managed to

craft a record full to the brim with similar unflinching sincerity. And while he may be acoustic through and through, his incorporation of piano on “Kids on the Run”, simply showcases that there is a long way before inspiration in this well runs dry, while “King of Spain” is the most powerful songwriting effort since Sufjan Stevens “Casimir Pulaski Day” off Illinois. Kristian doesn’t make you think of Dylan because of how he sounds, but because of the way he tugs at your strings, making you tap your foot and join along in his songs. How wonderful it is to have a musician of that caliber again.


TITUS ANDRONICUS THE MONITOR Indie/Punk World, 2010 did not belong to indiepop Beach House revivalists, it did not belong to Kanye West, and it did not belong to obscenely and randomly collected group of symbols ushered by the twats in the Witchhouse movement. 2010 belonged to New Jersey, it belonged to Bruce Springsteen inspired Americana, belonged to The Gaslight Anthem and Titus Andronicus. Look at this cover, the crew of the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship ever built. Take in the grain and the muck, take in the sound of cannons firing in the background, the smell of gunpowder thick in the ear, take in the iron disposition of the

men in the image taking an instance of peace before a certain death. Take in the American Civil War with all its righteousness and horror. Take in The Monitor.

carve their personality and escape the confines and suffocations of their so-called “homes”, the desire to reach something more, to become something else.

This is an album of division; about military drumbeats and bagpipe lead tempos. It’s about songs about an America that has yet to recover from its initial divide. But even though that is a large aspect of the album, it merges the past with the present to a profound degree only comparable to Modest Mouse, the weariness of modern urban and the desire to move to the wild. The consistent struggle by thousands of tired youngsters attempting to

This is an album of 7+ minute songs, with multiple sound alterations throughout. It’s about drunken singalongs, be it in a pub or a night prior to the big push. It’s fast, wild, sloppy, cohesive, mad, passionate, angry, devastated, passionate, cathartic, and perfect. And I’m being perfectly objective here. This is as perfect as it gets.


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YOUTH PICTURES OF FLORENCE HENDERSON YOUTH PICTURES OF FLORENCE HENDERSON Indie/Post Rock

5 years agoYouth Pictures of Florence Henderson wowed my senses with their freshman effort “Unnoticeable in a Tiny Town, Invisible in the City” (which featured the greatest use of an audio sample, by Charles Manson no less, in the entire history of everything, sans Porcupine Tree’s Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It’s Recycled), and after that, they just disappeared. I seriously hated them. Nothing’s worse than a music tease. You cannot dangle the carrot of sweet sweet pleasure then remove it from my sight. What bastards. The feeling continued until I met the drummer Morten Samdal last year while stuffing my face with falafel at a Kabab shop in downtown Oslo after an Andrew Bird gig (yeah, I added the last bit just to rub it in), and after several minutes of attempting (and failing) to peel me off his person (I’m a groupie, there, I said it) he promised me that they will release a new album next year. I told him I’d stalk him if he were lying. He chuckled. I don’t think he understood how serious I was. Or maybe he did,

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because 3 months later, pow, new album. (Threats of physical violence work, folks). With their self titled release, the band sticks to it’s past formula, sinking it’s teeth in shimmering guitar that is so many find to be cliché in the post rock genre (I personally don’t think so, naysayers be damned) and they utilize it to such sonically gratifying degree. Surprisingly (for a post rock band, at least) the record features vocals! And while that could have very well been a reason to cower in sheer horror, the duality of Gjermund and Torbjørn distinctive wispy vocals instantly reminded of Death Cab For Cuties masterpiece We Have The Facts And We Are Voting Yes. The band laces it’s hallmark post rock formula with sparsely used electronic and string instrumentation which, in any other scenario, would’ve been ultimately predictable, if not for some surprisingly hardcore drum sensibility that creates a rather lucid effect, blending so effectively with their delicate melodic ballads to

create a captivating and rather heart breaking recording. An utterly unashamed pop post rock record. I never thought I’d live to see the day. Odin bless.


SO, THAT’S A WRAP: MOST IMPORTANT 50 ALBUMS OF 2010. I HOPE YOU LIKED THE REVIEWS ENOUGH TO GIVE SOME OF THESE ALBUMS A CHANCE AND SPUN THEM, AND I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THEM. I KNOW I SAID I’D GIVE MY PERSONAL RANKINGS FOR THE PAST YEAR, BUT NAH, POINTLESS ANYHOW, RIGHT? AFTER ALL, IT’S PERSONAL. IF YOU HAVE MUSIC THAT WAS RELEASED LAST YEAR THAT I DIDN’T FEATURE AND YOU THINK ARE WORTH LETTING OTHER PEOPLE ON, SEND US AN EMAIL AND LET ME KNOW. SHARING IS CARING, I’M ALWAYS UP FOR SOME NEW TUNES, AND PIMPING MUSIC IS THE CLASSIEST OF JOBS, FOLKS. 2011 IS GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR. AND I’LL BE TRYING TO BRING YOU THE BEST FROM IT AS WELL. HERE’S TO A GREAT YEAR IN MUSIC CLOSING, AND ONE THAT JUST STARTED TO ERUPT.


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12:00 am

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MAXIMUM BALLOON

DARWIN DEEZ

THE WHITEST BOY ALIVE

This track is off one of my favourite albums this year and being a massive fan of TV On The Radio it wasn't any surprise that I would absolutely love this David Sitek solo project. “Young Love” is one of many stand out tracks on this album and I chose it over the others purely on the fact that I had to pick just one!

It wasn't the first track of Darwin Deez that I intended to choose but I fell in love with it after seeing what was originally an unofficial video made for it by director Miles Crawford which captured the sentiments of this quirky little indie song so brilliantly.

I have to confess I do like my 'Scandipop' bands, so no surprises here. I recall dancing around my room at 3am when I first heard it. Erlend Øye has a knack of writing some catchy lyrics coupled with infectiously light and uncomplicated music.

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Young Love

http://www.maximumballoon.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lV3QM05Ja4

1:17 am

DNA

http://darwindeez.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQNJgVKE9UY

1:26 am

Courage

http://www.whitestboyalive.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjUrAJAl01I

1:39 am

LOCAL NATIVES

LITTLE DRAGON

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM

It trumps “Shape Shifter” off the album Gorilla Manor purely on the basis that it reminds me of Skype-ing with my daughters. This track is just beautiful and captures the emotion brilliantly, from the delicate guitar and rolling drums to the amazing heartfelt vocals and lyrics.

I'm a massive fan of the new musical direction taken by Little Dragon on their new album Dream Machine, which is epitomised with this track’s retro/ electronic feel and Yukimi Nagano's vocals are as always just perfect.

LCD Soundsystem never fail to deliver electronic gems and this is no exception. For me, this is the standout track off the album This Is Happening - it's on par with “Someone Great”. I love the momentum and build up of this track accompanied by James Murphy's very honest and brilliant songwriting.

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TRACK

TRACK

Cubism Dream

http://www.thelocalnatives.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVqNVB2HwAY

Looking Glass

http://www.little-dragon.se/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHv_Cr7zdxw

Home

http://lcdsoundsystem.com/main/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5gQidrzojU


Listening to music past midnight until the early hours of the morning is my favourite vice. I've done it for as long as I can remember - it's the time where I've discovered a lot of my music. The one thing I enjoy in equal measure is being able to sharing my discoveries with friends, so when I was initially asked to create a playlist I thought it would be a fairly straight-forward affair as it's something that I would relish, but once I started scrolling through my iPod I quickly realised it would become a more arduous task than I originally thought. It wasn't the possibility of listening to my favourite music over the past year but cutting it down to a playlist of only fifteen tracks. I've had to be very brutal in doing so but this playlist is an assortment of genres that reflect my eclectic taste, and in no particular order.

2:01 am

2:19 am

2:25 am

MASSIVE ATTACK

SUFJAN STEVENS

BEACH HOUSE

For me this is Massive Attack at their moody best and with Tunde Adebimpe on vocals, this track is simply phenomenal; original yet distinctively Massive Attack with beautifully haunting piano that fits brilliantly with the rolling drum beat like a tailored glove.

The Age of Adz is a very self-indulgent album, but that is what I love about it and this track is my favourite - Sufjan at his vulnerable best.

I absolutely love this band and feel they are massively slept on; why they aren't in more people's vocabulary remains a mystery to me. The album Teen Dream is fantastic, this was the first track I heard from it and remains my favourite with Zebra a very close second.

ARTIST

ARTIST

ARTIST

TRACK

TRACK

TRACK

Pray for Rain

http://www.massiveattack.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS8J_Oky5cw

2:44 am

I Walked

http://www.sufjan.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tghLxt9Qqo

2:52 am

Used to Me

http://www.beachhousebaltimore.com/index.cfm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXP3y1eH-M0

3:08 am

ARCADE FIRE

THE XX

AIR

I didn't think Arcade Fire would be able to surpass Neon Bible but The Suburbs is truly epic and eclipses their first offering, another one of my favourite albums of this year. This track is absolutely superb and there is something very reminiscent of Blondie and Talking Heads – which is a very good thing!

I didn't want get caught up in the hype over this band as there was a lot being bandied about. I personally wasn't convinced and still am not, but I do love this track.

Not a fan of lounge music like Zero 7, I find it all far too deliberate and a little naff, but these Parisians somehow manage to always produce some amazing music.

ARTIST

ARTIST

ARTIST

TRACK

TRACK

TRACK

3:12 am

3:29 am

Sprawl II

http:// www.arcadefire.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH_7_XRfTMs

Crystalized

http://thexx.info/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pib8eYDSFEI

African Velvet

http://en.aircheology.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IefOrXhw7BI

3:29 am

BILAL OLIVER

JAI PAUL

ISLAND, IS

Was absolutely blow away by this track for two reasons: firstly I couldn't see Bilal bring out any new material after his second album Love for Sale was shelved after being leaked on the net, and secondly it's just an amazing piece of neo-soul!

Absolutely love this tune; with its delicate little lyrics laid over some dirty warped synths that Madlib or Sa-Ra would be proud of. I don't know much about this artist, but I like what I'm hearing so far.

I'm a huge fan of Bon Iver, and Island, IS is a very experimental side project with “Volcano Choir” being the stand out track off Unmap. Can't pinpoint what I like about this song... I guess it's everything!

ARTIST

ARTIST

ARTIST

TRACK

TRACK

TRACK

Robots

http://www.myspace.com/bilaloliver http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaPPcaz1q6M

BTSTU

http://www.myspace.com/jaipaulmusic http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zphhx5KZZ_c

Volcano Choir

http://volcanochoir.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7Zs2vXxSUE


LITERATURE

I’ve spent the past two weeks reading novels by various writers, some badly written, others remarkable, and many mediocre. Writing, in literature, is about expressing not just ideas but state, emotion, and most importantly, mood. A certain character is determined almost entirely by the form of the sentences and their pace. Content tells their story, but the writer’s choice of syntax and tone defines the internal impulses of each individual. Hemingway has lead and influenced many with his journalistic, perfected, and iconic short sharp sentences. So much that, among American and foreign writers alike, many attempt to emulate those complete phrases and tend to occasionally abuse them. For him, they worked. They worked because he found pace, tone, and syntax that was distinct from sentence length. He was, arguably, a master of the short form.

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Others are not. Few, in fact, are. Rawi Hage is one of a series of writers selected for this issue’s reading list. In reading his book De Niro’s Game, I found him to be too similar to Hemingway for the first few chapters, until his writing developed and picked up into what is decidedly the tone and pace of his story and characters. Bassam is not a Hemingway character. He is not cold, sardonic, or anything that resembles the typical attitude of the legendary stories of the Jazz Age. Still, he comes off as such, and it is somewhat disorienting. It is disorienting because it stands alone, outside of the story being told, and seems to disconnect the reader from that is actually happening. Not until the story progress does the form and style of the writer begin to develop into the uniqueness that made

his book a success, a joyful exercise in egotistical literature and enjoyable narrative. Not until he finally found his own voice did the book take off and express a story that is simultaneously intriguing and exciting. This got me thinking about how I put my sentences together. When I read, I absorb a writer’s style and I try to anticipate why and how things are built by that writer to establish a final output equal to the calibre of great fiction. I ramble when I write. Some others do so as well, but it is rare to find rambles that can capture the essence of the characters involved and the attention of the readers. While having always admired Hemingway in his way of writing, I rarely found myself capable of sticking to short journalistic authorship: I have always preferred by verbosity, my ranting, and my pseudo-postmodern


OF MOODS AND SENTENCE LENGTH

FARES BOUNASSIF

WHO SAYS HEMINGWAY HAD TO BE RIGHT? WHAT OF FAULKNER? TOLKIEN? KAFKA AND SO MANY OTHERS? WHAT MAKES ONE RIGHT AND THE OTHER WRONG? literary form. It slowly became difficult for me to practice simplicity in my choice of sentences, and I could not get myself to write engagingly while maintaining short sentences. In that, Hemingway excels and I cannot participate. Still, writing has always been an inspired activity for me, that tends to force out a singular message through the plurality of the ideas it represents, limiting my capacity for rambling while continuing to create rants that develop into a coherent progression of thought. And it usually works for me. Back in high school, I was never limited to any particular school of thought when it came to writing of any kind. It was not until I began to subject my writings to the critical eyes of editors and publishers did I begin to receive

feedback on style and structure, and I learnt (early on) to take it well. However, never was it enough for me to be told my ‘sentences are too long’. Once, when I was still but a child, I was taught to keep my sentences short so as to avoid subtle grammatical errors that could lead to vagueness and confusion. Reading critical theorists like Foucault and Jameson, I subtly learnt that vagueness and long sentences help establish a message that is largely independent of the content of the text that can be very effective in driving the point home: it was then that mood and sentence length became a noticeable and useful factor in writing style; that the vagueness that could be achieved by protracted sentences can help create a specific attitude within the written word.

Long sentences are not easy to do well. Sometimes, shortness is key. Sharp words, just like sharp expressions, are naturally compact. It is what makes them powerful, and this is probably what Hemingway meant when he advocated an economical use of words. It is the mark of good writing to know when to do what; a sentence is truly efficacious when it is heard, not read, and so most writers read their work to themselves to ensure it ‘sounds right’. But that sound can also be wrong, and is most often so when sentence length is not considered. In other words, the amount of words a person uses to express an idea are as relevant to the point as the thought itself.


LITERATURE

The Untold Tale:

Responsibility, Ritual and Renaissance in the Arab World A Creative Non-fiction AUGMENTED Essay by Dana Dajani “Where the world ceases to be the scene of our personal hopes and wishes, where we face it as free beings admiring, asking and observing, there we enter the realms of Art and Science… All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.” - Albert Einstein Palm trees are mere matchsticks when standing next to gleaming giant towers and pristine marble minarets; elite automobiles streak bright colors down winding gray stretches while azure waters wash the coastline, and warm winds tickle the belly of a thriving metropolis built on the old stomping grounds of Bedouin tribes… I’m day-dreaming of Dubai again, frosty in the arctic-tundra temperatures of February in Chicago, where I have returned to act the part of Ittifaq in Adventure Stage Chicago’s production of Sinbad: The Untold Tale. I’m thinking of how much Dubai has grown in the past decade, and how beautiful progress is to behold. I’m thinking about how there, your field of vision is not only as high as the tallest building in the world but as vast as the desert, how you have a renewed sense that anything is achievable at each perfect and unrepeatable sunset. I’m thinking of how the roads really should have been built on a grid system... I’m thinking of my recent trip to Dubai, and how I missed Pecha Kucha-- a communal event that has roots in Japan. Presently, at one of the many Dubai Art Galleries, it has become a dais for impassioned individuals to express their ideas to other international creatives in a short amount of time-a flash forum, if you will. Much to my dismay I also missed the TEDx and Bold talks that were recently in Dubai. And though it simply thrills me to hear of so many innovative platforms for communication in the Middle East, I could not miss the opportunity to take the stage myself to perform the United States Premiere of an incredible new work. The tales of Sinbad, the courageous voyager, are rooted in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The Arab Canturburry Tales (but cooler!), they were passed down orally for centuries, possibly originating from the Persian folktales Hazarafsaneh. The adventures of Ali Baba and the strength of his 40 thieves, as well as the exotic romance of Ala’adin and his lamp, have been the subjects of a rich tradition of story telling which has infatuated many, and even inspired a few to record the tales. In 1858, after touring the Arab world to translate and transcribe the work (even dressing up as a Muslim so as to enter Mecca), Sir Richard Francis Burton completed “The Arabian Nights.” In the introduction he reminds us of a Middle East we have all but forgotten. “Then would appear the woolen tents, low and black, of the true Badawin-- mere dots

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in the boundless waste of lion tawny clays and gazelle brown gravels, and the camp fire dotting like a glow worm the village centre… and-o-most musical of musico the palmtrees answered the whispers of the night-breeze with the softest tones of falling water… The Shayks and ‘white-beards’ of the tribe gravely take their places… around the campfire, whilst I reward their hospitality and secure its continuance by reading or reciting a few pages of their favourite tales. The women and children stand motionless as silhouettes outside the ring; and all are breathless with attention; they seem to drink in the words with eyes and mouths as well as with ears.” The Arabs were well known for their own dramatic bent towards story-telling around a fire-- the nightly ritual which mothered modern performance. However before the advent of a stage and costumes, the elders, or hakawat, painted otherworlds on the desert darkness, and changed only their intricate Bedouin headgear to differentiate characters, leaving imagination to transport those listening on the adventure de la nuit. Accompanied by a poet’s viol, they chanted stories of their protagonists from memory, letting the rhythm and rapture of the Arabic language seduce and stir their souls. Very popular was Abu Zeid-- hero of the Arab Iliad. Like Odysseus, Jesus and other legendary characters, Sinbad is a notable archetype, for it is through his quest that he discovers who he truly is. Never just relying on destiny, Sinbad takes matters into his own hands, macgyvering solutions using only creativity, vigor and diplomacy of the blade. Sinbad: The Untold Tale takes place in Baghdad during the rule of Harun Al Rashid. Let me ground our story by creating a timeline anchored in something whole, or hollow-like a cipher. In 773 AD the concept of the number zero was introduced to the city of Baghdad. Two years later, Baghdad became the largest city in the world-- the capital of the Abassid Empire. About a decade later, Harun Al Rashid was appointed the 5th Caliph of the Abassids at the crisp age of twenty. His sovereignty was not without a nobility of style; although it characteristically possessed elements of grandeur, quality of living was far from being without a conscience. Situated ideally on the trade routes linking the east and west, in the 800’s Baghdad rivaled Constantinople as the “most flourishing city in the world.” The empire ruled by the Caliphs of modern day Iraq was greater in size than the domain of the Roman Cesar’s-- the product of an expansion, during which the Muslims embraced other people, customs, and cultures in a way they haven’t since. The Islamic state fed from the resources of the entire world and soon, an opulent and complex culture flourished on the Tigris and Euphrates. At an ideal crossroads with contact to three continents, Muslims could shuttle goods back and forth from the Orient to western Europe and from the Russia to central Africa, quite easily thanks to the absence of tariff barriers within the empire. The cosmopolitan bazaars of Baghdad, rich with goods from the farthest reaches of the known world, would give the kilometers of couture in Dubai malls a run for your money. One could anticipate an intricate sensory experience at the bazaar; enjoying spices and dyes from India; ogling gems and fabrics from Central Asia; indulging in honey and wax from Scandinavia and Russia, and reveling in the Ivory and gold dust from Africa. The local silk and muslin cotton textile industries prospered, and paper-making was a hit, while the steel of Damascus and glass of Syria gained international renown. Wheat was harvested from the Nile valley, cotton from North Africa, olives and wine from Spain and


LITERATURE

of course, the horses brought from Persia. The market was diverse and distinct, and Global Village pales in comparison. But it could be said (in fact it is my belief ) that new Dubai is our old Baghdad. When you talk about a myriad market, Dubai may be wrapped up in the commercialization of our age, but she is definitely reinforced by our spiffy new technology. Dubai has become a crossroads between the east and west, a supportive environment for both the traditional and the avant garde-- a symbiotic convergence of then and now. The ability to balance two polarities is a feature of Sinbad: The Untold Tale that sold me on the script. After reading it, I was decimated with the same feeling that struck me upon finishing Roald Dahl’s The Witches in my youth-- I was sad. But happy-sad, filled with so much love for the characters that, when the book concluded and I found myself still in this world without them, I naturally cried. But feelings are like chartered waters in the way that (even if you’ve already traversed the route) you won’t sail the same voyage twice, and for Sinbad: The Untold Tale I felt different; this story is closer to home. It is a magical piece of theater written for young audiences that features Arab heritage, in a positive light for a change! It is historically and culturally intense and accurate, without being outdated and unrelatable. It presents significant moral value (without backhanding you in the face with it), and the real selling point: it features a female heroine, Ittifaq, who Sin-bad the hero would be lost without. Sinbad: The Untold Tale is a modern twist on Sir Burton’s retelling of the tale of “Sinbad the Seaman and Sinbad the Landsman.” However, instead of the old Seaman dominating the play with depictions of his past journeys, he narrates the recent adventure of when he suddenly sends the young Porter Sinbad on his own escapade to save Baghdad. Ittifaq, old Sinbad’s diva daughter, stows away on the ship, determined to save her city and perilous thrills ensue. It is the thousand and second Arabian Night. Complete with magic carpet ride, two genies, and copious amounts of sword-fighting, Charles Way’s play, Sinbad: The Untold Tale, is a modern manifestation of a universal coming-of age story. Both Sinbad and Ittifaq begin their voyage with the defiance and attitude for which teens are notorious, but with a little trust (and a lot of chance,) along the way they embrace love, and through the experience they grow and are reborn. In 1258 AD Hualgu Khan’s Mongols battled the Abassids over Baghdad. As the dynasty was terminated, so was an irrigation system that had supported the land from the earliest spring of civilization. Iraq did not recover until modern times. The Middle East sat like that for ages, a lame duck on the global pond. But in the centuries to come, the west would acknowledge its debt to Arab scholarship in the fields of philosophy, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, geography, medicine, chemistry, alchemy and literature. Those very advancements may have even inspired the European Renaissance in the 14th century. That cultural movement featured a resurgence of learning based on classical sources, which eventually lead to widespread education reform. Here’s another fact: I am an etymology enthusiast—I love to study the origins of words (I also adore alliteration!), now briefly bear with me: ri- again, nascere, to be born. Like a phoenix from a flame, a renaissance is just what happens during a ritual or when a hero embarks on a journey. Most ritual can be dismantled into a 3-step process. First, separation: the individual is removed from their normal atmosphere, detached from the social structure at an early point on. Next, liminality: one is subjected to a process which rouses bewilderment or a state of confusion-- this is considered hazing in the fraternal orders. Lastly, reassimilation post-process: the subject is born again, a new person with a freshly found purpose, typically with a more positive and altruistic outlook on the world.

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Writing from Prussia, in 1784-- the end of the Renaissance and dawn of illumination, Immanual Kant to the world posed an answer to the question, “What is(,) Enlightenment?” In his discourse he critiques the immaturity of man, who lacks courage to use his own understanding without guidance from another. Essentially out of laziness or cowardice, it has all but become the nature of man to shirk the responsibility to govern himself. With politicians to prescribe to your ailments, doctors to save your soul, and clergymen to decree your laws, why make a decision when you can pay someone to advise you? He urged man to call off the “yoke of immaturity” and spread the spirit of a “rational appreciation for your own worth and each persons calling to think for themselves.” The public can only attain enlightenment slowly, he warned, for to reform a matter of thinking radically will simply replace old prejudices with new ones. Enlightenment was eventual, he rationed, as long as man had the freedom to make public use of his reason. The “public” capacity Kant refers to is that of the private citizen in the bigger civilian entity, whereas the “private” capacity is one of office or line of duty in a system. He explains that, it is a mechanism of our society that citizens should “passively conduct their affairs so that through artificial unanimity the government may guide them towards, or prevent them from destroying, certain ends”. One should exercise their reason within reason, and not act contrary to civic duty (for neglecting to pay your taxes could eventuate widespread insubordination,) however, by taking on the role of the Scholar, one could address the public with constructive criticism of their guardians. Scholars would typically express their personal observations to the public in writing, and script became the means by which to share your unique perspective. But soon dawned radio, then film and television, and next: the wonderful world-wide web. And never so easily could one access such a colossal congregation so quickly, and never so thoroughly could judgment be homogenized; the truth was manufactured, marketed and sold. The western media became a weapon of mass destruction, scripting over a decade of corporate Crusades against Islam. Being an Arab- American post 9/11 was like tight rope walking in combat boots. My family and I were evacuated from Riyadh after surviving an Al Qaeda bombing of the compound on which we lived, in May of 2003. The next place we found ourselves was in the heart of the U.S.-- Kansas. I prayed that the topic of the Middle Eastern occupation would remain dormant in my Midwestern, white-dominated school, for fear of having to defend my nationality against the ruthless generalization of terrorism as an expressly Arab trait. In the years to follow, I witnessed many Arabs and Muslims distance themselves from their heritage so as not to be associated with a group of radicals who have no affiliation with the concept, or practice, of submission to the divine will of the creator. All of a sudden, by token of the same hasty action, Arabs became both the aggressor and the victim. Imagine what it is like to hear these two headlines in the same newscast as an Arab in America, “Prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib” and “Al Qaeda claims responsibility for attack.” How do you begin to express yourself when bound between those two realities? Scorned by people all over the world, Arabs and Muslims are actually jumping at the chance to express our humanity, to prove our ability and affinity for compassion and love, through Art. After years of keeping quiet and not stirring a scene that would land another


LITERATURE

Arabic name on the news, we are once again taking a role in public discourse. The reputation of Arabs and Muslims around the world is finally being resurrected from a multitude of socially debilitating media massacres. Ready to take charge of our own reputation and opinions, we now pass from eager listeners back to story-tellers. Theater is a public forum that can “show” you instead of tell you. It generally takes more than the work of one individual with enthusiasm to deliver a production (although such engagements have their own just merit); theatrical performance takes the careful construction of a crew of dedicated dramatists. It draws an audience ready to be engaged, willing to suspend their disbelief and fly away with fantasy. Fantasy is a source of encouragement for us to act in the future to achieve a desired goal. It can also lead us to become more realistic by pointing out the contradictions between what we hope for and what we are currently experiencing. Like a dream, the stage becomes a realm where one can play out alternate realities, exploring their faults and their facets with no fear of failure. Maybe if our political arenas were more like our theaters an increased amount of individuals would actively attend to our public duty, applying our past experiences and understandings to resurrect the plots of the future. Theater did not debut in the Middle East until the 1800’s, introduced to the Arabs by traveling troupes from France and Italy. One of the first Middle Eastern narratives that necessitated a physical, visual manifestation was the battle of the “Ring of Steel.” Town citizens became thespians for a day; showing up to the camel market dressed in armor and “bloody” sheets to commemorate when Umar Ibn Sa’d slayed Hussain-- an event that changed the history of the Muslim world by shifting the Umayyad caliphate from a religious institution to a dynastic one (heralding the Abassids). Members of the Shi’i’te sect of Islam performed this Arab passion play annually on the tenth day of Muharram. The play itself, ta’zya, only lasted a few hours but was preceded by a ten-day period of mourning and purification to honor the salvation of the Shi’ites through the sacrificial death of Husain on the Muslim New Year. Thankfully we no longer must travel to the camel market to celebrate our stories; there are many theaters committed to presenting modern Arab and Muslim plays. From the Freedom Theater in Palestine to the Noor Theater in New York, more and more venues are emerging which represent an international audience, like the Silk Road Theater Project of Chicago. PETRA: The Musical, a show originally produced in Amman about the Nabeteans, will begin its world tour this summer. Other tales recently on tour include Mary Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights, a magical production with a strong ensemble, which I saw at its premiere at the LookingGlass theater in Chicago two summers ago. Theatrical productions still chronicle the old Arab parables while wildly welcoming new ones. In the 1960’s a theatergoer in the Middle East could expect to encounter anyone from Moliere to Miller across the proscenium, alongside the works of local playwrights like Ahmed Shawld, Mahmud Taimur, or Ali Ahmed Bakthir, who’s first “play for the general education of Arab women”, was produced in Egypt in the 1940’s. Interestingly enough, many of today’s popular Arab playwrights are women like Leila Buck, Betty Shamieh, and Iraqi American Heather Raffo, who typically performs her groundbreaking play, The Nine Parts of Desire as a solo performance.

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If you’ve ever known an Arab, the chances are that you have sat audience as they recounted their day’s events, or told a joke or anecdote. It is likely that you have witnessed enthusiastic gestures and genuine facial expressions, you might even have been so gifted as to watch them perform an impression. A spontaneous theater was a natural outcome of these characteristics. When people get together and “just go” with a given situation as a framework for plot development, they can improvise dialogue sometimes for several hours. Improv comedy saw its revival in the United States in the second city of Chicago, home of The Second City. Until recently, however, spontaneous theater in the Middle East was a strictly private affair, only performed in the homes of the highly educated. Now, thanks to the “Godfather of stand up comedy in the Middle East”: Jamil Abu Wardeh, we can enjoy amusing Arabs, like those in the Axis of Evil, whenever and wherever we desire. When not touring with the Axis, Dean Obeidallah, one of the first Arab stand up comedians, hosts both the Amman Comedy Festival, as well as the New York Arab American Comedy festival. Jenna Jajeh, on the other hand, has made strides with her touring one-woman show, I heart Hamas. Arabs from all over the Middle East populate their performances, and one should not be surprised to find they have a strong American following as well. Most early Middle Eastern theatrics employed the entertaining dialects and accents of regional groups as an integral element of playing. Eccentricities and human foibles were common sources of humor, just as they have been all over the world throughout the ages. Rather than legitimate plays, a kind of vaudeville received great success, and the vaudeville actor Najib al Rihini became a national hero when he gained renown as the “Oriental Moliere.” Other popular shows would include the ancient shadow plays and puppet plays of the Middle East. Save for three manuscripts still in existant, written by the fourteenth-century Egyptian doctor Muhammad ibn Danyal, almost no shadow play scripts exist; so few were recorded as they were for the most part improvised. The Cairo Puppet Theater, however, was very well known for its ornate and animate productions. Egyptians have continued to embrace, even technologically enhance, entertainment from the black box. Egypt has a wildly popular television and film scene, producing as many pictures annually as the rest of the Middle Eastern countries combined. But the film fever is catching, and there are now festivals, as well as funds and commissions, in the cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Amman. The Karama Human Rights festival in Amman features many documentaries that explore humanitarian issues. While recently in Dubai and Amman, I took my position behind the camera for the first time and filmed a documentary, Hope is a Memory of the Future, which I am currently editing. It is the first film production of The Human Spirit Project, my mobile, international theater and film Production Company, and I hope to submit it to the Karama festival. For the Doc, I interviewed a handful of creative Arabs who are contributing to their local and global communities. One of these individuals is a Palestinian artist who utilizes both video and paint to explore and express her identity, Laila Masri. Her canvas work was recently displayed at the SUNY art fair in Amman, and her video art has been highlighted in the Parisian art festival circuit. Laila lives in Dubai and you can often find her at DIFC, the board-officemeets-art-exhibition business center of Dubai, enjoying artists like Safwan Dahoul at the Ayyam gallery. When appreciating contemporary Arab painters, we cannot fail to mention the Ismail Shammout, who portrays Palestinians in a style I would liken to the


LITERATURE

could-be prodigal lovechild of Frida Khalo and Vincent Van Gogh. And then there are those who are simply painters of words… There is a free-spirited and powerful poetry scene in Dubai. Headed by far-out filmmaker Hind Shoufani, the Poeticians are a group of language lovers who meet once a month to share their passion for penmanship and performance. They will be presenting at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai this March. Other literary linchpins from the Levant include novels like “Morning in Jenin,” which is becoming an international bestseller, and “The Kite Runner” which was produced as a film. Many Arabs write and perform in English—the global language, because it can be molded so meticulously and yet cascade so casually off the tongue. In the early 1900’s, Tewfik el Hakim resuscitated the ancient Arabic language-- the only acceptable and polite language for the literate, much like the verse of Shakespeare’s day. The literature and dialogue of Tewfik’s time were so remote from spoken language that they lacked spontaneity. El Hakim worked to close the rift between the dividing classes by writing dialogue in classical Arabic that sounded spontaneous, as though written in the colloquial. This third language received wide acceptance on and off-stage. From third language to third culture, young and old alike can both credit the Internet for its role in laying leapstones for all of humanity. We unanimously recognize the power of the web to weave lines of communication between different classes, genders, and ages of people who would never have had the opportunity to share ideas or engage in dialectic— Plato’s choice method of argument. The many Internet forums cater to a passive brand of dialectic, where multiple individuals holding differing views may exchange their viewpoints, while applying reason, to seek the truth. There are untold numbers of bloggers, tweeters and youtubers around the globe, and recently an Egyptian man event named is daughter after Facebook for the role it played in his country’s revolution. Emirati columnist Mishall Gergawi, creator of iamhere.ae, and Goatmilk blogger Wajahat Ali, both have a strong community of online supporters who subscribe to their public pontifications. Social networks are the life-pumping veins of the world-wide web. Sites like Bidayat.com that promote Arab entrepreneurs and philanthropists can help materialize dreams and goals. With websites like bayt.com today in the marketing age of the Middle East, it is a surprise that we have not more actively pursued this re-branding opportunity. The technological forum is creating more and more of a pan-Arabism effect, opening the flow of communication by connecting speaker to audiences they would not have once had an opportunity to reach. The 1700 Project: Mistaken for Muslim is an endeavor that should not be overlooked. People are using their public platforms to speak out against oppression. In the heat of the revolution I watched an Egyptian girl on youtube challenge humanity to take on its manhood, and fight for something worth fighting for. Tahrir Square all the while pulsing in the juice of (r)evolution and progress. Masr is Um adDunya after all. Alongside thousands of Arabs abroad, I sat around the light of my screen to hear Egypt tell a story it has been too long since man has told. We listened with hope like fire in our hearts, convinced that it only takes persistent belief in our potential to affect change to manifest an alternate reality. Om, the sound that created the universe, washed over me like a silent prayer when I heard of the power in perseverance for peace. It seems that the more committed hands attached to the desired aspiration, the more likely it is to be materialized. In Sinbad: The Untold Tale, the two protagonists would rather compete

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than collaborate and thusly find themselves in more than one fiasco. The traditional transformational journey of a Hero can be outlined as such: intro to the ordinary world, followed by a call to adventure. Refusal of the call is quelled by encouragement from a mentor. The hero crosses the first threshold, tests his allies and enemies, and approaches the inmost cave. A supreme ordeal follows before the reward is attained. On the road back, the hero experiences a resurrection, and returns with the elixir. Ittifaq mistakes Sinbad’s call to adventure as her own, and when her father refuses to send her on a journey despite her smarts and sword-fighting skills, Ittifaq is sure it is because she is a girl. She resents Sinbad at first, but eventually they learn to work together and trust each other. Through compassion they are able to defeat the evil serpent queen, Jan Shah. When they finally accept that they are on the same team, their power is multiplied. Like components of a ship, they only float when assembled together. The New Year has sparked the powerful political pull of the Internet, igniting the peaceful revolution of Egypt after Tunisia ousted their leader. These movements spread like fire to Amman, Bahrain, Iran and throughout the Middle East. Instead of embarking on these journeys alone, can the Arab world unite together? Northern Africa through to Iran, even Turkey is e-vited. Imagine, not only the United Arab Emirates, but a unified Arab alliance! We would proceed with caution of course, careful not to merge into United States of Arabia and trade our old shortcomings for new ones. If it would make Israel feel more included, could a unified Middle Eastern alliance possibly clear up a conflict that has been plaguing Palestinians for over half a century? Who knows, with a little help from facebook this could even instigate a global embrace by the public to actively reclaim our place in the self-imposed institute of governance. We might form localized groups that think as parts of a Gestaltian whole, then confer and compare new ideas. The Internet could be our automated agora, and people from all over the Middle East could cast their vote online… Imagine, The Unified Middle Eastern Alliance-- il UMEA. Like our ancestors the Umayaads and the Abassids, we are all born of a man and a woman, comprised of both the male and female essences. It is time we embrace the feminine qualities of sharing and caring. There is no more leeway to hide certain perspectives that society wishes to suppress, or paint them black like they don’t exist. We should work to encourage transparency in all aspects of Middle Eastern society, and in doing so we may motivate the west to do the same. A dear friend picked me up from rehearsal recently to go hear Remi Kanazi read from his new work, Poetic Injustice, at the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago in the south side, Hyde Park, is not the farthest south we’ve been together. Chicago’s southwest suburbs Bridgeview, Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn, Orland Park, and Burr Ridge are all predominantly Arab. I was introduced to Kanazi’s work two years ago at a fundraiser for Palestine on the north side of Chicago, where he performed alongside artists like Dead Pres. It was in the United States that I was first introduced to the mushrooming Palestinian hip hop scene. Shakespearean successors like Omar Offendum and the Narcyssist twist new-age sonnets trippingly on the tongue. Conversely other genres are just as popular among Arabs. Palestinian classical opera singer Zaina Barhoum also dabbles in Jazz. While Nahla Rifai prefers a more contemporary world music beat, and strives to sing “positive pop” in English, Arabic and French. Still yet, Boshra al Saadi’s upbeat tunes include a wide array of influence from other international musicians.


LITERATURE

Then there are Muslim African American musicians like Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def, who I saw in Take It To The Streets in Marquette Park, Chicago. The event yielded a turn out in the thousands to celebrate Muslim music, poetry, dance and culture. While in the Emirates I met a filmmaker who flew into Chicago just for the event. People want to be in a communal artistic environment, surrounded by such positive creative energy. The dedication is already there. Sadly, it turns out that I will even miss TEDxRamallah in April to perform in Sinbad: The Untold Tale, but if we in the Arab world can continue to cultivate more public forums and create a structure to activate these shared ideas, we may become a society of innovation and acceptance by developing the most essential of theatrical necessities—ensemble collaboration. You and I are actors in a great play (to reference the Bard), and I invite, no implore you—let’s write the script. Let us create a new language, like el Hakim. We should take advantage of our creativity in confabulation and improvise new solutions. Just a few days ago I received a bbm; a new word had permeated our collective conscience—Mubarak: (v) to stick something or glue something, (n) a psychotic ex, (adj) slow to learn or understand. In rehearsal for Sinbad the other day, we created our own magic vocabulary. In the style of Japanese Kubuki theater, we will be using Kokens to facilitate all the illusions we hope to conjure in our story. But even with Kokens, the magic will not have an effect unless one is willing to suspend their disbelief and cynicism, and use their imagination to co-create. Now, we have the innovative of our technology (the evolutionary daughter of alchemical incantations) to our advantage. From transportation to space exploration to international, real-time communication, nothing that we have invested our trust in has lead us to as much progress as rapidly as technology has. How can we take what we have learned and return to the basics-- the earth? We must start living with the land instead of just off it; there must be a balance. I would have loved to see an increase in Dubai’s use of eco-friendly biological housing and construction, like those of the Venus Project. It would have been a wise investment, though I hear of plans for a carbon-free city in Abu Dhabi. We’ve picked the fruit, let’s go back to the land. Maybe Adam picked the apple, and ate it up in the tree. When he fell and hit his head he blamed Eve, though she had only suggested that it might satiate him. Like the wisdom of Ittifaq and the action of Sinbad, perception and evaluation must work hand in hand. We have an unprecedented advantage; with unlimited experience as our resource why can’t we logically engineer and artistically calculate the new system? We must maximize efficiency, starting from the root of our problems-- not a lofty task to ask from the homeland of Al Jabr. We must go back to basics, cultivate a new essential, rename the 3 R’s and add a touch of T. RRRT. Art is a refined, intellectual, creative, easily accessible approach to politics. A truthful metaphor, art is a one-size-fits-all bridge between the heart and mind. For generations Arabs have raised their sheep to be doctors and engineers, looking down on other career choices for the sole reason that there is no stable income guaranteed. Finally we are seeing a reprise in the value in and support of the artist. Kevin Spacey is establishing an acting school in Dubai while Zaha Hadid is building a huge art’s facility in Abu Dhabi. These are just a few examples of the strong investments in, and additions to, the flourishing art scenes in the Middle East-places in which I would love to infuse my energy. I can not wait to see the artistic expression and innovative scholarship that comes from the cultivation of this thriving passion and pride. I am so excited to actively contribute to this

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revival and reclamation of responsibility, bestowed on us by our descendents from the Golden Age of the Arab empire with you. I portend a platinum future for our Middle East, and I am excited to return after my performance of Sinbad: The Untold Tale next month. In the meanwhile, I challenge you to be the hero of your own tale, to help me bring Baghdad back. Consider this your call to adventure. Author’s note: All bolded terms will be linked in the Augmented Essay published at http://danathescientist.blogspot.com Also, tell your kids, tell your wives, and tell your husband because we’re sharing with everybody up in here.

Illustration by Thomas Dalziel, from Dalziel’s illustrated Arabian nights’ entertainments


LITERATURE

to wash his face or shower to wake up. Otherwise he’d drop back into oblivion in minutes. He hit play on the Mac and Michael started slipping and moonwalking to his latest album, the one he had released postmortem, with the perfected tracks all over and his money flowing back in for his kids just in time for them to divide his estate and still manage to live pedophile free for the remaining years of their lives. Not that he was a pedophiliac. It just seemed like little kids would believe anything anyone told them to believe, even if they knew it wasn’t true, so that their parents could make a few million off a slanderous lawsuit.

Last Saturday night was awesome, he reminded himself. They ate fish, lots of fish. He loved fish. Only dead fish, but he still loved fish. A two hundred dollar dinner was not his idea of a good time, but it was definitely worth it. And the wine. And the cocktails. And the fresh, cool, salty water they swam in when they jumped into the bay under the stars next to the restaurant, with that Venezuelan woman stripping for everyone unannounced and unheeded, exposing her everything to the horned little pricks that surrounded her to the beat of the Latin music playing loud and hot in the summer night. It was wonderful. She even gave Loli her own personal strip show, as Hussein’s jaw locked and his drool collected on the inside of his lip, while Avi anxiously strutted across the beach trying to figure out a way for her to take the rest of her clothes off (the thin, silvery thong she kept on all night) for him behind the tree on the other side of the bay. Ian drank and swam with Loli, while the rest of the girls that were with them couldn’t stop laughing, meeting people, dancing, and having a jolly good time. It was a fun night. He hadn’t had a fun night of laughter and sheer bliss in a long time. And that dodgy hotel room. Loli. It was a great weekend.

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He needed a great year. Anger! Hatred! Why was he so unlucky when he was in fact a very lucky guy? He needed a way out. He needed a great year. Bohemia oh sweet Bohemia. When Charles was King and Emperor and life was sweet and dirty. Poor old Lebanon was just another village town and the world hadn’t met the BlackBerry. When buildings looked good and when people worried about the loaf of bread they might not get at the end of the day. Ian loved the twenty first century. Damian and Ian both wanted to put technology in the back seat, so that maybe people could notice each other again. Maybe then Bohemia oh sweet Bohemia could come back to life, his family wouldn’t be so bad, and Loli could be happy. He went to sleep. Morning came and went, the sun rose and went back into hiding, his phone rang a few dozen times, and he eventually decided it was time to wake up from his slumber and answer the many calls from Loli. His mom had called more times than Loli did (obviously) but he was in no mood to talk to that now. He got up. Washed his face. He needed

Anyway, he washed his face and listened to Michael, then Across the Universe. He smiled. Brushed his teeth too, thinking he might as well. Picked up the phone and dialled. She knew he hadn’t felt so great the night before. “Morning!” Mumbles. “Hey baby, feeling better today?” “Yea, I guess.” “Did you sleep through the day.” “Hehe. Yea. Sort of. Sorry!” “No no it’s fine, I had a lot of work to do anyway. What you wanna do tonight? You wanna come over? Go out?” “I wanna kill a few things, but seeing you tops that a little. What do you feel like?” “I dunno. Come and we’ll decide.” “Okay. Ciao sexy!” “Bye baby.” He could hear her smile over the phone. Click. He hung up and stared at his naked self in the mirror. Maybe he’ll get lucky and her parents won’t be home. He put on a pair of his jeans. Flip flops or shoes? Flip flops. The black ones. Or he could spend whatever money he had left on getting them a hotel room. She’d have to pay for all the rest, but he liked paying for the hotel (even if that meant he couldn’t cover any of their other expenses, it felt good to him knowing that he’s supplying shelter. The chauvinism was hilarious, especially to him). Black polo? Black tee? White tee? Green polo! He was done getting dressed. Now he needed to pack. It was Friday and if the mood hit him he might not be home till


Sunday, especially with the newly oppressive rules and dis-friendliness of his home towards his woman. Swimming trunks, a fresh pair of socks, two other t-shirts, a pair of shorts. And he was wearing his favourite jeans. Ah, yes. Shoes with the flops he was wearing. Deo and cologne both in the bag already. iPod too. A book for the road, just in case there was any alone time waiting. He checked his pockets for the essentials, keys, phone, wallet, cigarettes, etc, walked out and into his car. He got into his car and kicked it into gear. Fuck it. He couldn’t wait to get away from this depressingly memorable building. Racing into the city, bitching at the traffic, getting cut off and sandwiched in at least once by cars around him every five minutes, by the time he got half way to her house, his car, as usual, had to slow down to a complete stop. He was now entering Beirut city and the mess of broken down Peugeots and smoky Mercedes from decades long gone choked him, while Infiniti and BMW four wheelers from last week’s edition tried to muscle him off the road. Literally. He never managed to make it to her place without at least a little road rage. It helped though: instead of venting at Loli, he’d vent at the other cars. And she had her assistant at the office. The poor kid had no way to defend herself from her constant battering. Still, Damian didn’t mind, and neither did Ian: it was better than him and her fighting all day long. Picked up his bag, hit the buzzer, took the old elevator up to her apartment, and crashed on the coach after saying hi to her mom and brother. She was still getting ready. He didn’t know they were going out, but he had learnt not to question things when they were unexpected and she was at her mommy’s place. She might have had a minor fit with them too. It was not highly unlikely. “Hey baby! I’ll be out in a minute. Just

changing!” From across the house in her room. “Okay, but should I change out of my flip flops? Where we going?” “Just Dany’s, you don’t have to change.” “Okay cool. Take your time.” He always added that. She hated feeling rushed and so he preferred to remind her that he’s not rushing her. Whenever he didn’t tell her to take her time, he knew she’d know to hurry. Made things a lot easier than telling her to hurry when need be. She could snap and that would make him go loose on her too. Not healthy. They’d figured out a few quirks about them keeping each other sane. Like how she doesn’t get mad anymore when he’s mad, unless she’s mad at him and him at her. Not to raise their voices, because that tended to just make them more agitated. Not telling her to hurry. Not bitching about his driving. Small things. Simple things. Like those. She was ready ten minutes later. They bid adieu to everyone and buggered off into the night. It was well into the night by now; he’d only woken up at eight in the evening anyway. His brother had been going through some shit lately. He couldn’t get that off his mind. “Morning baby.” Another smile and a light touch of his arm, she interrupted his thought patterns. It was a gorgeous interruption. He glanced at her, smiled, and turned back to look at the road. He was trying to drive to Dany’s. Wasn’t far now. Car stopped in front of him. He turned back to her, smiled, stared, and kissed her. “I’m sorry I was gone today. I had to lock myself up for a bit. I’ve been thinking.”

FARES BOUNASSIF


Trevor Bundus

LITERATURE

She’s crept into the room, a standing hallucination enwrapped with hidden meaning A living goddess only seen lurking in the shadows of the mind Crawling around in the deepest dreams waiting to pull you down When you least expected it, she’ll ruin your mind and your soul I watched her out of the corner of my sleeping eye, sweating, shivering, screaming If only she would move, if only she leave her indelible print behind Drawing in a single breath exhaling the pain through the inhalation frown What her sounds draw out of you, pressed down until you’ll boil

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Left alone you’ll crumble crack and whither, a tree without water in the sunlight gleaming A broken soul trapped within, left to its own devices, smelling its insecurities until blind Pouring the vitality down the widest cracks hoping to hide fears in the drown Why can’t the prison doors open, a life to be left filled with erratic rotten soil


Zarathustra taught me that: “God is dead!” however; as I sunk to sleep to your invariant breathing after you lead me towards the miracle I couldn’t help but think otherwise.


LITERATURE

Evolution & Some other Stuff

we’ve made it to mars our cars travel from 0 - 60 mph in less than 5.0 seconds an entire universe is created daily on the back of a 350 mm2 sized chip and most of the population is hooked on a series of 0’s and 1’s. we’ve even got our atlas mapped on a Mac. well; it seems we’ve got everything down to a science yet it still remains: our collective hell is ever as persisting raging and unchanging                   (behind our faces and between 4 walls) we all share similar trials and tribulations: women men god politics late night infomercials love no love            etc we’ve got everything: a history of fuck ups a present of mess ups a future of re-runs. You spend countless hours staring out of a 5th floor window into the frighteningly predictable night when suddenly the music of the ages (Mahler’s) immerses you and you realize something: the notes are still tender the words are still as illuminating the souls are still as vibrant the lion still sleeps in the Savannah while the wind still trickles his mane that it’s not a matter of good or bad luck when the fly escapes the web or when the spider manages to seize it that we’ve got everything: a tomorrow still ripe with possibilities.

Mohamed El Amin


Warren Ellis said: If you find someone you fancy tonight after we finish playing this show, leave with them. Else you’ll regret it 50 years from now if you don’t. as the hall emptied at 12 i passed a brunette, green eyes shimmering as she grinned. i smiled back and we went our separate ways i’m writing this while sitting on the pavement. Ellis was wrong; it only took 10 minutes


LITERATURE

It would have been simple If you were a copy of a copy of a copy Like my television set Delightful kitsch, I bet You’re not Theseus long awaited I have to face that Minotaur I got lost in your perplexing existence What was I in there for?

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You said you were Autumn An embryo for seeds A grower of new beginnings Of which flora feeds Fauna within me Prolific and mad Impatient Summer Vivaldi’s dance I’ve hardly Never But In your

ever needed Theseus got that urge I got lust colorful world

Gentle little clown Humble and unheard I wish you were Winter At least frost knows it’s cold But you remained Autumn Smothering the crop And every outlandish sonnet About to unfold Drop And drop And drop Disheartened plummeting leaf You have mastered Fall You’re not Theseus long awaited I am facing that Minotaur Anomie Smash that television set all you want But hold it Please stop Take out the seeds you planted Give me my void back Let me sob this over Drop By drop By drop


LITERATURE

FARES BOUNASSIF

READING LIST

READING FOR PLEASURE IS ALWAYS THE BEST FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT FOR ME, BUT – OCCASIONALLY – IT HELPS TO READ BOOKS THAT SIMPLY ‘SHOULD’ BE READ. AS AN ARAB WRITER AND LITERARY OBSERVER, I FIND IT IMPERATIVE TO BE AWARE OF THE MORE INFLUENTIAL, OR POTENTIALLY SO, NOVELS AND TEXTS DEVELOPED BY CURRENT AND DEVELOPING WRITERS. HERE IS A LIST OF SOME OF THE MORE INTRIGUING WRITERS ON ARAB SOCIETY, POLITICS, AND LIFE THAT HAVE BEEN MAKING AN IMPRESSION ON MANY. THEY’RE NOT ALL PERFECT, NOR COMPREHENSIVE, BUT THEY DEFINITELY SHED A LIGHT ON WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING ACROSS THE BOARD.

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BEIRUT, I LOVE YOU: A MEMOIR Zena el Khalil Zena el Khalil’s adventure into Lebanese choreography and geosociology, her persistent postmodern representation of her Beirut is a beauty to behold. Lacking linguistic finesse and maintaining an obviously unintentional superficiality in parts, while being driven by true and inspired emotion in others, Zena manages to make those that know Beirut both happy and nostalgic while driving home the desolate nature of a war-torn and corrupt Lebanon that constrains and frees its people through the many colours that govern its political landscape. A joy to read, it will reshape your vision of Lebanon while reminding you why Beirut continues to endure.

DE NIRO’S GAME Rawi Hage A widely successful debut novel, De Niro’s Game describes the life of one particular Lebanese man at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, and his experiences fleeing from the country. Rawi Hage shows us his deepest, darkest secrets while gradually building his own literary style and tone as the book develops. Clearly a wild attempt at letting out the suffering and disgust Rawi experienced throughout the war, this is possibly the most vivid, albeit fictional, piece of writing on the Lebanese War. Remarkable in its detailed and perverse narration of militia activities and the filthy corruption militiamen created and supported, and impressively displaying inhumanity and indifference in a person who, eventually, proves to be more humane than his passionate and caring childhood friends.

NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR LIFE Suad Amiry Most Arab writers choose that most controversial and sensitive of subjects to highlight when writing about local and regional concerns and issues, the ever-present Palestinian dilemma. Some are nonfictional, but Suad Amiry’s variation blends that genuinity of fact with a narrative form so delicate and endearing that you feel every last one of her experiences as she delves deep into occupied territories, disguised as a man, to experience what less fortunate Palestinians have to endure for to bring money home. An eighteen-hour journey from Ramallah across the Israeli border in an illegal attempt to make just enough in one day to feed families and sustain towns, Suad gives us a very personal and at times painful vision of what Palestine has become today. The one thought that keeps her going throughout the book is the memory that, like her fellow countrymen, she has “nothing to lose but her life”.

SWEET DATES IN BASRA Jessica Jiji A love story set in and around World War II, taking place in the Iraqi city of Basra, and impeccably written in the traditional style of nineteenth century English novelists, Jessica Jiji brings to life a conflict of religions, destructive imperialist ambitions, and the general strength of human faith and the unity of nationalism. An American of Iraqi descent, Jessica’s dis-attachment seems to make for more touching, more pointed prose that carries in it a longing for a world that she could not live in a country that she seems to love. Mixing religion and culture to show the solidarity that the Arabs of the post-Ottoman and pre-World War II valued so strongly, and showing the gradual deterioration of Arabism into mutual hatred.

LIPSTICK JIHAD Azadeh Moaveni With a reporter’s eye for objective detail and a novelist’s approach to character development, Azadeh Moaveni immerses us into a life that is a foreign rumour. Building on her life in California and the memories she has borrowed from her family, this ultimately non-fictional account of Azadeh’s experiences in the United States and her self-imposed estrangement and inability to assimilate completely, followed closely by her same detachment when she returned to what she expected was home, giving us an insider’s view of the underground lifestyles of the brewing, bursting Persian youths that cannot suppress themselves any longer. A book devoted to the idea of the outsider and intent on divulging the internals of émigré and domestic Persian-Iranian society, it is a must read, especially with today’s tumultuous Middle Eastern social fabric.


CALL FOR

ENTRIES PALESTINE STORIES ART & DESIGN COMPETITION

Photo Joumana al Jabri. Text Alice Howick. Design Polypod. Space courtesy of Hibr.

Ready. Aim. Inspire.

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Inspiring Story Number 5* ‘Music is the most important thing in my life. It gives me a feeling of freedom.’ And where Youssef Abu Eid, 12, lives, freedom is hard to find. Shatila refugee camp houses over 12,000 people in one square kilometer. In a place where it is difficult to escape from others, Youssef’s weekly violin lessons give him something else to concentrate on. ‘My violin is not just a friend—it is my best friend.’

Ramallah *For more inspiring stories come to TEDxRamallah in April 2011

www.tedxramallah.com


Ready. Aim. Inspire TEDxRamallah & quint announce, the Palestine Stories Art & Design Competition, designed to invite talented designers, illustrators, filmmakers and animators from all over the world to showcase their perspectives on our Palestine Stories embodied in visual context. Shortlisted artworks will be featured in quint magazine and showcased on the event. There will be one winner for each story. Winner’s work will be used as official artwork for Palestine Stories in various media.

SUBJECT

Palestine Stories - Download our stories from: www.palestinestories.com and choose one which inspires you most. Let your creativity free and visualize the story.

DEADLINE 20th March 2011

RULES

Artwork must emphasize the positive aspects of Palestine. There is beauty in Palestine. Let us show it ( Please refrain from gory images )

HOW TO ENTER

All competition entries are to be sent through email, except videos. Video files must be uploaded to Youtube or Vimeo and a link should be sent to palestinestories@tedxramallah.com. Before you begin the process of entering this competition, please have the following information and materials ready: x Your contact information (name, country, email, phone number with country code) for registration and notification. x Title of project

Entries can be submitted in the following formats Print Entries A3 size, landscape or portrait, RGB, JPG format, 300dpi Visual Entries Computer-based formats such as QuickTime or Flash should have a maximum screen size of 1024 x 768. All entrants grant TEDxRamallah & quint the right to reproduce selected work, on the TEDxRamallah & quint site and in materials used to promote the conference, the competition and/or future related promotions.

If you have any other questions please contact Joumana Al Jabri on joumana@tedxramallah.com


EVENTS

  

  

      Pecha Kucha’s 9th night in Dubai, held at The Third Line  Gallery, was a medley of  artistic and creative individuals                  and groups from around the city showcasing their   ideas and work to the community. Presenters included  Melina Mitri from s*uce who spoke about her penchant   for benches, musician Gayathri Krishnan and producer                  Reiner                Erlings who discussed their incredible project the                   Movement, as well as presenters from Tashkeel studio   and Abraaj Capital Art Prize. Pecha Kucha Night in Dubai               first tookplace in 2008 has  become “one of  the     and         largest gatherings for a mixed media arts event in the       region” .                 “Pecha Kucha follows a 20x20 format which allows each

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                                         of the evening’s presenters to showcase 20 images – each   shown for exactly 20 seconds. This gives the presenter 6    minutes and 40 seconds of much deserved fame before   switching over to the next participant. Originating in Japan, Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-chak-cha) is

   for     Japanese “chatter” and was  devised and shared by  Klein Dytham architecture.”                      

 

 

 

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ANNA MARIA AOUN

On Thursday February 24th, The Jamjar Gallery hosted the first Sneaker Summit in the UAE- SOLE DXB: Powered by PUMA! It is a platform through which sneaker enthusiasts all over the UAE can communicate, sharing opinions and inspirations and setting new trends in the region. Initiated by two PUMA Creative Factory ambassadors, Hussain Moloobhoy and Kris Balerite, and designer Joshua Cox, SOLE DXB is an event that explores elements that both influence and are influenced by sneaker culture, including music, skateboarding and photography. There were all types of people, from graffiti artists, skateboarders, sports enthusiasts, musicians, photographers... you name it! It was really a very energetic hub that brought all these artists together. Apart from that, it wasn’t just a display type of exhibit; you could actually purchase what was displayed. One of the coolest stores in Dubai, The Zoo Concept, was also there. There were installations of sneakers crawling all over the walls surrounded by fresh poster designs, photographs and illustrated work. The PUMA corner had the Creative Factory set up on iPads, an app initially launched in December. The application basically allows you to customcreate your own shoes and build your very own sneaker from an assortment of materials and fabric to make a one-of-a-kind pair. I tried it out, and I must say the Creative Factory is such a cool concept! Here’s a little preview of the night.

photos by Anna Maria Aoun


DUBAI Green castles on thick layers of dirt. But the castles are pretty and very well… conceived. I’m in Dubai you see. That grandiose city for the uninitiated. The one they keep trying to model my beloved Beirut on. It’s as if they don’t realise that, despite the madly destructed version of Beirut currently in existence, that city of ages is still more beautiful than this postmodern synthetic creation of illusive and illusionary fairytale life. Yet they’ve done it so well. There is such perfection in the plasticity of this creation of man that it leaves nothing to inspire the mind and curiosity. And it’s all big. No you can’t possibly understand. It’s huge. Everything. It’s like it was built by soaring giants and inhabited by meagre homo sapiens. There is no way humans can not feel dwarfed in this city. Buildings are all just too high. Irrationally too high, annoyingly too frequently. They stand in their desertcoloured stones and their chrome-infused

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structures building shadows (yes, building, because even their shades are unnatural) over tar and pavements. Passageways that are too broad. One 15 metre long bridgeway wider than it was long. And there were several of them, creating parallels across the space. And the columns. Almost each column in any of these immense structures is thicker than the fantastically large columns at Jupiter’s temple in Baalbeck. And they’re a tenth of the height, standing there like they don’t belong, like they were built for giants to walk through and around, not for smaller humans – it’s as if the architects were under the impression the inhabitants of this ‘city’ would inflate (like their cash reservoirs were expected to) until they could truly fill the space. What makes the whole scene more disturbing is the emptiness of the whole thing on any given weekday. You’re walking around the city during the day, when everyone’s at work, and it’s deserted. Huge spaces that belong in cities of millions left

free for the thousands that are there to exist in, to get lost in. Or maybe that’s just the part of the city I was in. Still, it was like walking around London when there’s nobody around you. And you’re a fraction of your actual size. And it’s daytime. But that’s not all of it. There’s also a stunning incapacity for inspiration. It’s not pretty. I walk into the food court at a mall, and everyone – everyone – has a look of absolute desolation on their faces. It’s as if ambition has been replaced by determination to not give up, the sullen desire to continue trying to pile up more and more money (and equate it with even more debt) until there is no life left in them, for them to eventually find a similarly devoid partner to spend a future of dejection with while raising children that might seem to grow into analogously vacant vessels of cultural stagnation.


PHOTO BY GYULA DEAK

I exaggerate. It’s not entirely dead, and some of the residents are happy, inspired, and otherwise motivated and ambitious. But, at times, it feels as if they’re not. Of course, the city tries. There was a Jazz Festival and other festivals while I was there, bringing acts from all over the world and brands like Amy Winehouse, Lifehouse, and Macy Gray into the city, in a deeper venture to create culture that is borrowed and adapted, censored (as it may) by the furthering of the limited mindscapes of its people. Even regional bands like Mashrou’ Leila (from Beirut), known for the avant-garde creativity and musical inclinations that could possibly mutate into a general death when censored, visit in the hope of lending the locals a hand in developing a uniquely Arab persona, or perhaps an inkling of some other persona that is theirs alone. The city tries by developing spaces that are designed for walking, and initiating

an infrastructure that facilitates it. But with towers so enormous, even that idea is thwarted. And the climate doesn’t help either. So they built a metro. The Dubai Metro map presumes to assist the tourist or traveller in navigating the ever so simple one-line system. The trains look like over-futurised rockets with seats that remind me of the Jetsons. And the metro stations themselves. Indescribable!!! Huge, of course. Something out of that low-budget hit movie, District 9, that looks much like an oversized alien snail. Or maybe a moth. They move slower than the cars on the highway that the passengers look onto from the windows of the overground metro trains. Still, it wasn’t all bad. Dubai’s bars and overall nightlife is still more enjoyable and expressive, more alive, than other Gulf states. A good drink among interesting strangers can happen, once you adapt yourself to the moods and modes of the

people there. At least, there, a life at night (of sorts) exists. It was even in the process of a boom, had the crash and international recession of two years ago not slowed it. The food can still be above par, and some places are mildly intriguing and impressively tasty. There could be said to be even more creativity and originality in their menus and concepts than almost anywhere else in the Middle East. Shopping, confined primarily to malls, is probably better than anywhere else in the Middle East, with stores that are custom tailored to the high-income groups that live in Dubai. And I met good people, had good company, and would visit again. But I’ll bring my inspiration with me, since it won’t be easy to stumble into it on a park bench.


quintdubai.com


quint magazine | issue 5  

The fifth issue of quint magazine

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