Monday, March 17, 2014


They don't make 'em like this anymore.  Actually, I'm not sure they ever did.  They, being the beat poets, jazzers and folkies who tried matching poetry to music back in the coffee house days.  Certainly they didn't have sampling.  Usually, it was somebody in a goatee with a bongo player, if the stereotypes are correct.  This is not that.

What it is, well, the sum of its parts is harder to describe than the trio of elements in the mix.  First, you have the words and spoken performance of Canadian poet and author Brian Brett, a gritty and funny collection of earthy verse.  Then there's the music, created by producer Andy Meyers, largely weaved from samples of his early avant-punk Toronto band The Scenics, from the late 70's.  Thirdly, there's the performance of composer Susheela Dawne, who sings much of the Brett poetry, composing new melodies to the loops and such.  She often joins Brett in the songs, and their contrasting styles is one of the highlights here, his sonorous delivery and her haunting beauty.

Don't worry about the high-brow combo of all this, although it is quite an artistic feat.  It's quite entertaining, the poetry plain-spoken and full of laughs, never stuffy, with lots of word-play that adds to the aural experience.  Clothing Of My Youth is a tribute to bad fashion of an earlier time:  "The purple pants, skin tight, except for the flaring bell bottom, I wanna wear the clothes I wore when I thought I was beautiful."  Mostly Brett takes on the two big pillars, death and sex, neither one of them very pretty:  "This is the beauty of creatures like us, tomorrow we'll be dead, today we will be desire."  Take that, Cohen.

Meyers' music is more than just a bed, or sound for emphasis.  It drives the rhythm of the performance, the mood, and mirrors the emotion.  There's slippery fun, dream worlds, and tall tales all within the sounds.  Great White Whale is demented surf music to accompany the story of a near-drowning, repetitive in its loops as Brett's words repeat key phrases.  Hearing, of course, is a necessity here, and despite the unconventional nature, I think many would find this quite accessible.

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