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May 10, 2004 - Image 9

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2004-05-10

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michigandaily.com/arts A R T S

MONDAY
MAY 10, 2004

DESTROYER FRONTMAN SINGS THE 'BLUES'

By Alexandra Jones
Daily Arts Editor
CO NC ERT REVI EW
Touring in support of an album that represents a
drastic departure from an artist's usual form is
always a little scary. Dan Bejar has done some-
thing even more remarkable: He's combined songs
from his ethereal, half-synthesized 2004 release,
Your Blues, with the stark, crashing barrage of
sound let loose by opening
act/backup band Frog Eyes. s.
This improbable combination Destroyer
of Canadians took their hybrid Wednesday, May 5
of noise-rock and delicate
songwriting on the road, stop- At Stormy Records
ping in Dearborn last Wednes-
day.
The tour began in Edmonton, Alberta; both
Bejar and Frog Eyes hail from British Columbia.
"This is only the second tour I've ever done," said
Bejar. "We played some good ones. There ware
some duds ... There are some places where lots of
people come out and see us, and there are some
where there's not really anyone there."
Teaming up with a band whose typical sound
consists of thick organ chords and clanging guitars
may seem odd for Bejar, considerirg Your Blues'
swooping string lines and meticulous construction,
but he doesn't see it that way.
"So much has to do with who I'm working with,
whether it's the people recording or the band I'm
playing with," Bejar related. "My musical vision is
super scattered ... It depends on who shows up.
It's surprising - you never know what's gonna
end up on tape or onstage." And after exploring
uncharted territory - working with MIDI, experi-
menting with synthesizers to simulate wind and

tion and City of Daughters, Bejar sought to evoke
a sense of place - his hometown of Vancouver.
But Your Blues conveys less of a concrete setting.
"If I were to place it somewhere, it would be like a
fictional European setting - someplace really
pretty but dilapidated as well, and the orchestrated
MIDI stuff plays into that," he mused.
To get a sense of how to concoct and present the
songs on Your Blues, Bejar looked to favorites like
Scott Walker and former Velvet Underground
member John Cale. "(I listened to) people who've
used classical instrumentation and what they do,
and then (listened) to certain '80s records to see
how MIDI pops up in those. I was trying to use
synthesizers in an assuredly non-New Wave way,
more like a New Age way, which is even more dis-
tasteful, butI thought I'd give ita shot," he related.
If Your Blues sounds occasionally theatrical,
that's because, at times, it is. "I think that's how
people respond when there's 101 violins swelling
in the background, like it's Broadway," Bejar
explained, "There's the fact that some of the songs
were written for a play. But there's no narrative, I
can't write that way ... Maybe in these songs,
compared to other Destroyer songs, there's more
voice, one single distinct voice at work instead of
schizophrenic voices chattering at the same time."
As carefully constructed as Your Blues is, Bejar
didn't always hear what he expected during record-
ing. "The way the record strayed for me from how
I initially saw it was that it ended up way more
melodious and poppy, I guess ... I do like it, but
it's not what I first had in mind. I kinda wanted a
stark, phoned-in-from-the-sanitarium-style record,
but the songs I showed up with didn't really suit
the concept ... you usually end up with something
different, and it's good - it means that something
happened in the studio instead of you laying down
something that's completely mapped out."

I'm too cool for hair products.
string instruments and arranging parts for the first
time - he was ready for a grounding rock 'n' roll
force.
Abandoning synthesized flutes, cellos and brass
for over-the-top guitar, drums and wide keyboard
swaths supplied by Frog Eyes, Bejar took the stage
at Stormy Records ready to show the audience the
product of their weird union. Despite a broken
kick drum halfway through the set, the combina-
tion was a success: Frog Eyes vocalist Carey Mer-
cer doubled Bejar's nasal croon with his own
tense, delicate screech, and the band created the

same emotional impacts made by Your Blues'
baroque instrumentation.
In addition to modifying songs from Your Blues
for live performance, Bejar had to compromise in
the studio. "(The lack of resources and training)
wasn't really a hindrance in the process of making
it. I realized it's really hard to make a Nelson Rid-
dle record or write arrangements that you'd hear
people croon over way back whenever," he con-
fessed. "I think there's some kind of science to it
as well as just melodic flair."
With earlier albums like Streethawk: A Seduc-

Wu vet returns to form on new album

By Evan McGarvey
Daily Arts Writer

The Wu-Tang Clan, now splintered
into a loosely tied group of MCs, has
given rap music
some of its most Ghostface
dynamic and mem-
orable figures. The Pretty
Sadly, the group's Toney Album
most able member, Def Jam
Ghostface Killah,
usually falls under the radar, dwarfed by
the drug-addled messiah persona of Ol'
Dirty Bastard (now Dirt McGirt) or the
camera-ready Method Man.
With a shortened name, Ghostface
has created the most complete, organic
rap album of his career. The Pretty
Toney Album is layered with classic soul
samples and earthy percussion all aided
by Ghostface's urgent, perpetually fam-
ished flow. With no hip, glossy produc-
ers like Just Blaze or the Neptunes,
Ghostface, fellow Wu-vet RZA and a
group of relative unknowns handle the
arrangements and do so admirably. The

Well-appointed guest appearances
show a welcome sense of restraint in the
modern age of rap excess. On "Run,"
Jadakiss and Ghostface weld their ath-
letic and desperate verses together in a
spectacular gangland chase scene. And
though his collaborators are skilled,
some cameos from his Wu-Tang co-con-
spirators would have been welcome, as
they bring out the best in Ghostface.
Ghostface's humanity makes each
word of every song indispensable. His
eventual pleas for redemption in the face
of his mistakes don't sound like the
deathbed repentances of his contempo-
raries. Album closer "Love," Ghostface
shines a light through the hazy fog of
drugs and urban decay he spent an entire
album articulating in fine detail.
After stumbling together on album
misfires, the members of the Wu-Tang
clan are finally getting back on track:
RZA has received heaps of praise for
his work on the soundtrack for "Kill
Bill" and Dirt McGirt seems revitalized
after a lengthy prison term. Here's to
hoping Ghostface's remarkable
achievement on this disc can spark a
Shaolin renaissance.

Courtesy of Def m
Just how many do-rags am I wearing?
natural spirit of the samples and the
pulse of the horns isn't flooded under a
sea of digital flourishes; the sound is
closer to the true spirit of rhythm and
blues than anything else in modern rap
music. The desperate love of "Tooken
Back" and the verbal awakening of
"Beat The Clock" have flawed, human
storytelling that shakes the listener.

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