Strange Ambience

Ventures in arts and culture that leave an effect.

  • RIP Joe Matt, you were kinder than you let on.

    Categories: news



    Peep Show by the late Joe Matt.

    Joe Matt laid bare his life in autobiographical comics to form a 'peep show' of sorts.

    I used to see Joe Matt, Chester Brown and Seth regularly at a coffee shop called Jet Fuel in the Cabbagetown district of Toronto. My initial thoughts were, "Who are these loud, arrogant people drowning out the conversations and thoughts of others with no concern?" Eventually, I got to know them as pioneering indy comic book artists and even wrote about one of them (Seth) for a magazine.

    While all three did interesting work, the one whose work I related most to was Joe Matt. His work is self-defacating, honest, funny, yet touching. I told him about how I used to buy Grendel comics (by Matt Wagner) as a kid (a series he worked on as colorist) and he squinted at me saying, "You don't look that old." I also asked about his predilection for watching, errr, 'nature films', and while he admitted he felt bad about his habit yet he also said he thought it, "great stuff." Joe Matt's addiction to 'nature films' is a recurring topic in his work and something he struggled with. Unlike most, he was humorous about this. But if you delve into Peepshow, you will also read of his struggles as a poor, broke artist intent on integrity, family issues and relationship troubles.

    Joe Matt was always a nice, approachable and gentle fellow. I could sit and chat with him at the coffee shop anytime I wanted, to discuss comics or other things. I liked to see him with the cool hipster young ladies he hung out with, including an electro-punk lead singer in a local band. I forget what they are called. But I was more interested in Joe Matt and his shy demeanor.

    I find his anthology, 'Peepshow' one of his finer works and it holds up well. Sadly, Joe Matt's work ethic dropped off in the latter 2000's and while there is a pending book about his move to Los Angeles, USA from Toronto, it is not completed. I suppose there was an underlying sense of guilt and overall sadness to him. A relationship that did not work out, a longing to find his 'other', and overwhelming loneliness. But I always saw a shy smile whenever I glanced his way. Rest in Peace, man.

  • 'Modulations: Cinema for the Ear', a favored electronic music documentary.

    Categories: technology





    DVD box cover for Modulations: Cinema for the Ear by Iara Lee and team

    DVD box cover for Modulations.

    This documentary played in local, non-mainstream film theatres during the late 1990's during (to me) the golden age of electronic music. A tsunami of electronic music washed over the mainstream world and outsold any other section of the record store. Compact discs and records were priced well out of range for most consumers. Learning and accessing the music was done through radio, mixed tapes, record shops, magazines, clubs, and peers. Internet accessibility was an issue for the populace and had yet to be adopted en masse. So when Modulations was screened, it was cathartic for fans to see the music scene and favourite artists of the time on the big screen, even if most of them had bad teeth. Some of the highlights of the film are interviews with Mixmaster Morris and Squarepusher speak, as well as watching artists Prototype 909 play live. Even if you are not a Throbbing Gristle fan, Genesis P-orridge is fascinating in this documentary, especially his clothes and hairstyle. Most of the music makers featured here produce from their bedroom and you can see most artists live modestly to practise their art. This documentary is not only about the music, predominantly during the 1990's, but the philosophies that inform various scenes and even touches on the origin of electronic music production.

    Film director, Iara Lee posted Modulations: Cinema for the Ear for free viewing on her Vimeo account through her Cultures of Resistance NGO channel. Iara Lee currently does documentaries on conflict zones throughout the world. While what she does is tremendously important, the docs on the more decadent sides of our society, i.e. music scenes, interest more. Here is the documentary below, play it LOUD.

    MODULATIONS from Cultures of Resistance Films on Vimeo.

  • Simon Crab and his Invisible Cities

    Categories: music


    Invisible Cities by Simon Crab album cover on Space Ritual

    Simon Crab and his Invisible Cities release.

    Recently conducted an interview with Simon Crab about his latest album, Invisible Cities for Chain D.L.K.. As always, Simon Crab makes interesting and enjoyable music where he deftly combines electronics and acoustic instrumental into musical narrative. The cover art for Invisible Cities is interesting too, instead of his usual typographically-driven stuff, like on After America and Demand Full Automation, he paradoxically achieves a more organic look with the decidedly inorganic AI approach. It is always fascinating to learn about Crab’s composition process and the ideas that inform the music. Specifically his ‘egalitarian’ approach to using accessible instruments and software synthesis. Learning about the life experiences that inform the music is also fun, like tapping into Crab's activist riot days. Read the interview and review and find out for your self. Better yet, hit play on the embed below.

  • Lisbon, Portugal's Walt Thisney.

    Categories: music

    Holothisc by Whalt (sic) Thisney album cover on Silent Flow

    Whalt (sic) Thisney and his Holothisc release.

    There is some confusion about the spelling of Walt Thisney (the label, Silent Flow, made an error and named him 'Whalt' Thisney), a prolific ambient/experimental music producer from Lisbon, Portugal who has produced one of my favorite ambient releases. Each listen like falling from a frozen lake surface into an icy immerse. Holothisc on the excellent Silent Flow netlabel is a gem on an otherwise gorgeous musical crown. Sure this album may not be new, but it is not always about that. Sometimes it is about whether something is actually any good.

    Am not sure who Walt Thisney is, but really enjoy this release. Do yourself a favor and hit the play button on the Creative Commons release.

    Even moreso, check out the most excellent and beautiful Moldova-based Silent Flow netlabel website. The album cover is consistently beautiful and the music, more often then not, is fantastic.