Friday, April 30, 2010

Land of the Rising Sound

The Great Riff War of 2010 has hastened into its indie phase, which means this Beagle has docked at the guitar Galapagos. As I mentioned before, most even vaguely indie bands that I enjoy don't really do riffs - at least in conventional terms. "I Can See It (But I Can't Feel It)"? Not a riff. "Kissability" or "Eric's Trip"? Not riffs. But Reynolds brought up the rusted barbed-wire stylings of Captain Beefheart fairly early in the conversation, and once Big Flame is in play, then fuck yes this is a goddamn riff!

In the interest of furthering Carl's (or perhaps ネッビルさん) cultural integration, there's plenty of good riffs that Japan has produced. It actually suffers a surfeit of riffs, thanks to an inherent insecurity that makes Japanese rock musicians feel the need to measure up to - and thus adopt - foreign (i.e. American) standards. Ergo, every imaginable subspecies & splinter cell of "lock 'n' loll" is present here in Japan, from the most brain-numbing, derivative banality to the borderline-unlistenable. (Well, for a lotta folks, but personally I think "Psycho Buddha" is Acid Mother Temple's absolute apex.)

Japan has been been accused over the past century of having "bought their entire civilization from other people's hand-me-downs," as A.A. Gill put it. And yes, as an island nation, Japan didn't just spontaneously self-generate; everything had to come from somewhere else. But when Gill argues that Japan's adoptive pastiche of an identity is essentially void, that "you can't put on the suit and not the beliefs that went into tailoring it," he's not only missing the point but clearly didn't spend enough time here to argue with anyone wearing an SS uniform "for fun" around Yoyogi park. Will Ferguson, tell 'em how it is:
Nothing has ever come out of Japan that has ever revolutionized the world, for better or for worse. ...It all depends on how you define creativity. In Japan, it's seen in terms of problem-solving, a new approach to an old puzzle. This type of creativity encourages group effort and fuzzy logic. For Westerners, it is the rugged individual with the sudden light of inspiration. The first is practical creativity; the other, romantic. Neither view is superior, but the one is often baffled by - or even contemptuous of - the other.
So rock music is essentially an unending Year Zero project in Japan. The difference is that in the west, what is ripped up is abandoned as we start again; in Japan, what is ripped up is then gathered & painstakingly pieced back together in a new form.

If it is indeed wearing the West's suit, Japan has custom-tailored the jacket to fit no one else. Everything is a step or two beyond. An American's hobby is a Japanese's lifestyle. If an American would set something on fire, a Japanese would strap C4 to it and blow it up. Pop appeal appears like a weed, almost by accident, amidst askew sonics, instead of the other way round. Occasionally the differences are merely sartorial, but just as often there's something genuinely baffling & unutterably subversive.

Lest I be accused of painting Japan (as it is too often painted) as irredeemably weird, there's actually a lot of solid rock bands. Post-hardcore is a particular area in which Japanese bands excel - perhaps since it requires above-average instrumental skill (and the Japanese are nothing if not technically studious) while providing the catharsis that is scarcely found in daily life. Bloodthirsty Butchers are probably the only O.G. post-hardcore band still currently active; they're too often laconically midtempo for my taste, but they've written a real barnburner or two. Mo'some Tonebender are better when they lean more towards the Jesus Lizard than AC/DC (as they did too much on their last couple of releases). More recently, I wasn't too taken with Lostage's first few releases, but having shed their second guitarist has made them lean & mean as anything by Drive Like Jehu or mid-period Fugazi.

(I've also got to admit a personal bias towards those guys. How could you not like any band with whom you can spend an evening drinking Scotch & listening to old Karp singles?)

But the best of the bunch has gotta be Number Girl. Though the band broke up eight years ago, I've yet to hear another Japanese band whose crowd-pleasing arena anthems could still strip the paint of your fuckin' car. Okay, so they steered too far into post-punk "reggae des blancs" on their last record, Num-heavymetallic, but up until that point their output was without blemish - especially Schoolgirl Distortional Addict. Every song on that album absolutely slays.

Oh, and before I wrap up: if Carl's a keen fan of the Ron Johnson catalogue, then there is only one band in Japan that he absolutely, desperately needs to hear: Oshiri Penpens (オシリペンペンズ, a.k.a. "The Ass-Slaps").

Addendum: Mr. Reynolds wants us to get more taxonomically specific - hey, yo, Simon, you link to my post but don't read it? What's up, man?

Well, to reiterate, I'm going with Carl's definition of a "lick": the minimum possible unit in a cunnilingual encounter, or as I rephrased, a quick tickle or cocktease. Meanwhile, chord progressions are easily the majority of all rock music (embarrassingly so). A vamp is something rock cribbed from funk & soul: too few chords to be called a progression, a harmonically minimal rhythmic mood-setter. Vamps can come slow or fast. Motifs or vibes are the most diffuse, amoebic structures rock can affect, a la doom or shoegaze.

As for the riff itself, for now I think we're all tacking to the ol' Supreme Court opinion on pornography: I know it when I hear it!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Riff Rabble

A quick word of warning: we are entering the unforgiving realm of Total Rockism on this one.

It's only been a couple of days, but so thick is the bombardment that the opening salvos of the Great Riff War of 2010 already seem like a distant memory. I'm just glad that Carl's opened up a conversation I had with a friend a few months back: whatever happened to good guitar riffs?

Think about it. How many songs from the past decade do you recall primarily, let alone exclusively, for a good ol' meathook of a guitar riff? Two? Maybe. Odds are one of 'em is by Queens of the Stone Age and the other's by the White Stripes, which is a sorry goddamn state of affairs when such derivative throwback pablum is the only populist statement a guitarist can make.

The retreat of the guitar to textural support is thanks to a two-pronged attack by (1) too-clever indie kids, and (2) an ever-retarding mainstream. After grunge had re-democratized the instrument and made underachieving mediocrity cool, the underground (as always) circled the wagons. Some guitarists took their cues from the '80s most progressive players - Moore & Ranaldo, Shields, Haino - and began pushing the instrument into more abstract & impressionist realms. (See: Fennesz, Nadja, etc.) Others, like U.S. Maple, Polvo, and Shellac, went deconstructionist, piecing rock back together Frankenstein-style into fractal, schizophrenic, and deliberately anti-cathartic forms. But what most stripped the guitar of populist appeal was indie's own bebop movement: math rock. Emotionally obtuse and indifferent to audience expectations, it was first a reaction against the earnest simplicity of the post-grunge glut. But moreover it was a wry reclamation of skill from onanist shred-heads. This swiftly became a war of attrition amongst who could most cleverly subdivide a single beat, reaching its endgame in 1999 with the impossibly dense finger-sports marathon Calculating Infinity by the Dillinger Escape Plan.

Meanwhile, things were going from bad to worse in the mainstream. Once flannel & greasy hair had fallen from favour, grunge's longest-lasting contribution to pop culture was its mawkish alienation. So when bands equally enamoured of Pantera and N.W.A. began appearing, their lyrics read as much like a high school alcoholic's diary as the prelude to an ass-whuppin'. As this "new" (or ) metal's currency grew, it sacrificed any iconoclasm or cleverness it might have brought with it from the underground metal & hardcore scenes - neither of which were particularly dedicated to crafting earworm guitar work in the first place. As the culture machine serves only to sand off features, eventually nu-metal's angularity & dissonance were completely shorn, abdicating the rock Top 40 to sensitive rednecks blasting the same ol' bar chords through Marshall stacks.

Now, the musical centrality of the guitar both above- & underground waxes & wanes as quickly as the moon, so it's not as though the past decade has been riff-free by any stretch. Hell, in the mix below, the Aughts are better represented than the '60s. (Just a matter of taste... and avoiding the dead-horse obvious like Zeppelin.) So a better conundrum to tackle would be... what exactly is a riff?

Carl's already been parsing the taxonomy, splitting hairs between "riffs", "licks", and "vibes". I like his idea that a "lick... impl[ies] everything from a painterly, Fine Art flick of the wrist to the minimum possible unit in a cunnilingual encounter." The latter part is especially relevant: guitar licks, like the hook to "Layla", are generally spry, dexterous single-note runs that convey sensual melody - a quick tickle or cocktease, as opposed to the clenched-fist masturbation of, say, anything by Yngwie Malmsteen.

"Vibe", of course, suggests ambiance - which is generally what the guitar drifts into once the tempos ascend past or fall below a certain threshold. Most doom & sludge fall well below a b.p.m. you could comfortable bang your head to. On the other hand, as Carl explains, excessive speed isn't what's wanted either:
I think it’s probably why speed and thrash metal are such boring genres... too fast on one level but not so fast that it blurs into ambience a la black or death metal. It's more akin to a series of rapid-fire quips... that just leave you feeling slightly puzzled, there’s nothing to savour.
This reminded me of when David Yow explained why he was never terribly taken with hardcore punk (I'm paraphrasing): it just flies by like a bird trapped indoors; once the tempo slows down, the music becomes more tactile, visceral, "like being in a fistfight."

But then, what to call all the stuff guitarists do that aren't riffs? There are the obvious non-riffs: chord progressions, fingerstyle. But most of my favourite guitar bands are surprisingly riff-free. The closest to a riff that My Bloody Valentine have ever come is "Feed Me With Your Kiss", but that's still more a Big Black-like series of face-slaps than a proper riff. Do the Fall or Sonic Youth really traffic in riffs? I feel like they're more into motifs, and the obvious exceptions prove the rule. And what about Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, Spacemen 3, or the Butthole Surfers?

The word "riff" itself has a lupine growl, and suggests something base, feral. A hoarse, rhythmic breath. This suggests to me a possible expansion beyond the bounds of pentatonic, palm-muted chopping: there are times when the bass supplants the guitar as the spine of the song. The Fall and the Jesus Lizard are excellent examples of this, where the bass is the music's inky outline with the guitar adding accents & colour.

Of course, am I just using this notion to excuse the inclusion of the Birthday Party in the mix below? Maybe. Click on the title to download.

Riff Raffle

1. AC/DC - "Let There Be Rock"
2. Flied Egg - "Rolling Down the Broadway" (Live)
3. Focus - "Hocus Pocus" (Live)
4. Sir Lord Baltimore - "Master Heartache"
5. The Birthday Party - "Nick the Stripper"
6. Lungfish - "Searchlight"
7. OXES - "Dear Spirit, I'm In France"
8. Shellac - "My Black Ass"
9. Karp - "Bacon Industry"
10. Rye Coalition - "Stairway To The Free Bird On The Way To The Smokey Water"
11. Melvins - "Hooch"
12. Mayyors - "Metro"
13. Metallica - "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
14. The Jesus Lizard - "Mouthbreather"
15. Sleep - "Dopesmoker" (Part 5)
16. Sleep - "Dopesmoker" (Part 6)

Addendum: Yes, the above is all rather North Americentric, but only because I'm not about to make sweeping generalisations about Britain over the past twenty years - least of all in the company of Messrs. Reynolds, Ingram, and Carl. I'll go so far as to say that Britpop was a provincial, conservative revival, and the guitar's been a backwards-looking instrument in England ever since the ascension of the Stone Roses. The closest the UK's come to having a six-string visionary since Kevin Shields is perhaps Graham Coxon or Johnny Greenwood - but of course the former's overshadowed but that twat up front, the latter is a tad too advanced to be content with such a quotidian instrument.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Requisite Expression of Knee-Jerk Apoplexy

Staring at the above photo, I can only fantasize about placing a loaded Desert Eagle into her hand and watching her pull the trigger.

Thank you, M.I.A., for raping one of my all-time favourite songs, you politically disingenuous, sub-GaGa, bafflingly untalented, conceited, C.R.E.A.M. of the crap, signifier-flexing Socialite of the Spectacle. May the pomo cultural feedback loop be your noose.

Update (Monday April 26th): And already there's the compulsorily "shocking" snuff film to accompany the songs! I ain't linking to it, because M.I.A. isn't winning any click-throughs from me, but the video is at least crassly spectacular enough to distract from what an outrageous bit of mafioso appropriation the song is. It's directed by Romain Gavras, the French director who specializes in faux-documentary exploitation flicks with all the sociologial depth of a Dixie Cup. This time out, he's ripping off one "park" - Punishment Park - but alas, his brilliant twist-premise was scooped by another - South Park.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why I Won't Live In New York

No, no, no, not this time. Irresistible as it is to swing at fashion victims, dilettantes, subcultural sycophants, narcissists, obsessive self-documentarians, trust-fund-diapered fauxhemians, post-modernist dullards, nostalgia-wracked romantics, obscurantist one-upsmen, and practitioners of a sad, perfunctory hedonism... I'm not doing that today. After all, you can find all manner of these loathsome parasitic specimen in any urban locus larger than 100,000 people. Yes, there are dense concentrations of them in the Big Apple, but where aren't they in the western world now? Baltimore? Winnipeg? Blackpool? Maybe Dundee...

No, I fear what mutation New York would trigger within me over an extended period. Time seems to be unusually cruel towards New Yorkers (especially adoptive ones) who neither succeed nor have the good sense to leave. This spiritual deformity stems partly from the incessant shoulder-bumping between classes. Outside of police states, nowhere else is so little heat generated by the constant friction between the poor & the powerful, thanks to a détente predicated upon two paradoxical conceits:
  1. The ruling class are, and shall forever be, the ruling class. Kiss the ring, bitch!
  2. The American Dream: any schlub on the street can capitalize on his/her potential to become one of the ruling class. Horatio Alger, suck my dust!
Thus, whether you're looking up or down the socioeconomic ladder, those you see at the other end serve as evidence of these axioms. Of course, both are false and highly corrosive to dignity & compassion. But most pathetic is when someone past the crest of their youth & enthusiasm clings so desperately to the second factoid - someone who never got the brass ring, the corner office, the record deal, the sitcom pitch, the movie rights, the solo exhibition still despondently dry-humping the striated husk of their adolescent ambition because they never realized, as George Carlin did, "it's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." It reminds me, most witheringly, of Armando Iannucci's reality check to the aged & developmentally arrested:
The past is a distant yacht. What you haven't done now, you'll never get done. Possibility is a private party to which you are no longer invited.
You see, over at Ads Without Products, some poor schmuck who happens to share a name with one of British blogdom's most esteemed thinkers felt the need not only to make his own existence known, but to claim dominion over his name in- and outside his own idiom and to request the offending post be removed. Perhaps his argument would have been better made if he hadn't tried crassly to Google-bomb himself, with what appears to be a 10-year-old Russian peasant's grasp of the English language.

(AWP sensibly did not remove the post, especially given that Mark Fisher stumbled upon it five months after the fact.)

This behavior is all too typical of folks over 40 I've met who've tried to take a bite out of the Big Apple and were themselves chewed up & spit out. They ooze a clammy insistence of their own importance, their self-promotional monologues pinballing schizophrenically between their achievements, their (poorly feigned) comfort with obscurity, and David Icke-class theories of how their rivals/corporate America/"the fuckers" have conspired to suffocate their career. They're often depressingly humourless, hyper-sensitive, and pepper their speech with more profanity than a sailor on shore leave. Consequently, they're unreasonably hard to follow in conversation (and even moreso in written missives).

This isn't to say that they haven't produced works worthy of admiration, or that they can be very pleasant & interesting people. But ceaseless nagging by the sad resentment that I never got my due isn't a fate I'd wish on anyone - least of all upon myself.

Speaking of assholes in New York City... allow me to dogpile atop the South Park/Mohammed controversy by basically reiterating what Jon Stewart said last night. If the threats of violence came from some shadowy fundamentalist cabal overseas, okay, Trey Parker & Matt Stone should probably lay aside any planned North African or Middle Eastern excursions, but that's where the danger would end. But these threats came from some baker's-dozen of lunatics based in Manhattan - where, mere miles from Ground Zero, they can praise Bin Laden, celebrate the anniversary of 9/11, and make intimidating pronouncements against South Park because they, the fundamentalist shitbirds, enjoy protection under the First motherfuckin' Amendment. And yet, with the full wrath of a vengeful god behind them, these self-righteous cowards haven't even the strength of their own convictions, offering some mewling mitigation that they were "helpfully" pointing to the historical precedent of Theo Van Gogh to "warn" Parker & Stone.

Quoth Mr. Stewart, to all those who would threaten violence based upon religious or political ideology: Go fuck yourselves. Two times.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let me tell you how it will be...

In honour of American tax day, here's a mix of tunes dedicated to the motley association of resentful, politically simplistic, tacitly racist, historically ignorant, isolationist, millenarian, militia-forming, science-doubting confederates known as the Tea Party. Choke on that credit you get from The Recovery Act, you rubes.

We Don't Go To Their Parties

1. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - "Skunk"
2. Alex Chilton - "All I Really Want Is Money"
3. The Stranglers - "Bitching"
4. Shellac - "This Is a Picture"
5. Brian Eno - "Driving Me Backwards"
6. Pissed Jeans - "Half Idiot"
7. Todd Tamanend Clark - "Mathematics Don't Mean a Thing"
8. Big Flame - "Let's Rewrite the American Constitution"
9. The Stabs - "The Patriot Song"
10. The Fall - "Who Makes the Nazis?"
11. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "City of Refuge"
12. Lungfish - "Jonah"
13. Nation of Ulysses - "Maniac Dragstrip"
14. David Bowie - "It's No Game (Part 2)"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Making Jesters Into Kings

Readers my own age may vaguely recall the name Jesse Camp. Folks older likely won't, since they had better things to do in the late '90s than watch daytime basic cable; folks younger won't because they hadn't yet been trained to care about the culture machine's wet farts. So, to put us all on the same page: a recap.

The 1990s were tumultuous times for MTV. After its Faustian dalliance with the semi-disinterested, ironically-distanced grunge/alternative audience, the network (like everyone else) was desperate to fill the Kurt Cobain-shaped hole left in the popular consciousness. Various ugly, ill-fitting hats were tried on: ska, electronica, swing. Before long, this pre-millenial tension & post-modernist introspection congealed into catharsis through wanton aggression, and self-parodic celebration of artifice through unmitigated consumption - manifested respectively by "nü-metal" bands and the resurgence of prefab boy bands & pop princesses.

MTV had hit the jackpot. Acts like Limp Bizkit and Slipknot allowed the network to court a nominally hostile & overwhelmingly male audience that fancied itself "transgressive" and "anti-establishment"; meanwhile, the legion bleached-blond teases from Florida captured the hearts of tweens, teen girls, middle-American prudes, and pedophiles alike. Best of all, MTV could pit these two camps against each other, a culture war between the minions of Light and Darkness for the soul of America with all the depth & stagecraft of pro wrestling.

The true masterstroke, though, was when MTV fully embraced the dawning information age's ethos of interactivity. A forum was crafted upon which the epic battle of the saccharine V. the sinister could unfold in realtime, with each side's footsoldiers beating back the other via telephonic vote. It was called Total Request Live.

Total Request Live (or TRL, as it rebranded itself in text-and-Twitter-era Newspeak) was the last of MTV's programs that dealt explicitly with music to become a pop-cultural touchstone. Ironically, its success also ushered in the "reality TV" format that ultimately eclipsed it in the mid-Aughts. TRL's emphasis on audience participation (both at home & in the studio) conditioned viewers to be entertained by - and want to be - shrieking, inarticulate narcissists pulled right off the street.

The most important erasure of the line separating MTV's on-air personalities & its audience came in 1998, with the inaugural Wanna Be a VJ? contest. Participants were pulled from the throng surrounding MTV's Time Square studio and vetted according to their music knowledge & on-screen charisma. Whereas candidates for MTV's first "reality" flagship The Real World were selected exclusively by the show's producers, the VJ-wannabes were eliminated by phone-in & online vote. Eventually, the contest was whittled down to two candidates: former college radio host & music geek Dave Holmes and trashionista space-cadet Jesse Camp.

Despite Holmes' experience & skill in front of the camera, Camp was voted the victor thanks to his dynamic personality & his populist persona as gutter-punk everyman (despite his plush prep-school background). There were, however, allegations of ballot-stuffing, an earlier incarnation of the "Vote For the Worst" culturejamming campaign that upset the sixth season of American Idol. Possibly in response to this, MTV hired Holmes as well, entrusting him with celebrity interviews while limiting wild-card Camp's onscreen responsibilities to occasional colour-commentary on TRL.

His popularity couldn't compensate for his obvious incompetence, and Jesse Camp unceremoniously left MTV after barely a year - a full two years less than Dave Holmes' tenure on the network.

Since then, Camp has more or less been off the radar. (Holmes still works as a TV commentator & host.) In 2006, Camp was seen working at a Los Angeles pet shop and is currently rumoured to be on staff at a McDonald's franchise. It's a fate commonplace to flavour-of-the-month reality TV "stars". But in retrospect, Camp's case seems excessively unfair. Let's review the particulars: a charismatic but unqualified character is plucked from obscurity; obfuscating their inherited privilege, their sloganeering performance as a populist simpleton foments a popularity that eclipses their better-experienced colleague. Their general cluelessness & inexperience, however, mark them as a liability and they're effectively marginalised by the very powers that anointed them. Finally, their inordinate fame precipitates them to abandon their office to follow their "true" calling and achieve their "proper" potential - despite a total deprivation of apparent skill.

Why, with that kind of backstory, you'd expect Jesse Camp now to be treated as an esteemed expert in his field, to be the elected figurehead of a "grassroots" movement... to be a candidate in the 2012 presidential election.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Infotainment Scan

It's old hat to complain that the 24-hour news cycle is a morass of irrelevant tripe because more coverage doesn't guarantee there's anything more worth covering... but this is ridiculous: a Guardian blog post bemoaning the lack of stand-up rock drummers, written by someone who's obviously never attempted playing the drums standing up. Hey, if you can maintain bipedal balance with all four limbs a-flailin', more power to you! But seriously, there's not much an upright stick(wo)man can do beyond the rudimentary boom-bap of Moe Tucker.

I'm not saying every band needs Terry Bozzio behind the kit, but unless there's room for a Burundi-class platoon of drum-beaters, it's nice to go beyond bang-on-a-can primitivism, isn't it?

Friday, April 02, 2010

How The Other Half Gigs

This blog's been a bit light on content recently because I've been preoccupied with band activities. Not that playing in a band is particularly interesting in & of itself - what is interesting is what it's like playing in a Japanese band.

This isn't to be confused with what it's like playing in Japan as a foreign artist. Every band's vanity documentary has the perfunctory Japanese tour montage, with giggling high school girls and urban neon hallucinoscapes, underscored by sincere corroboration of Dave Chappelle's Nippon-in-a-nutshell:
I've never been treated so well by people. I'd say that I was both loved and feared.
Though a lot of the professional courtesy & pampering can be ascribed to Japan's famed decorum, it's also an investment by promoters who are all-too-aware of how much of a pain in the ass it is to get to Japan. Treat the band like rock gods (whether they are or not) and hopefully they'll be happy to return.

Of course, the view of the Japanese music industry from the trenches is considerably different. It is, as the country in general is, an inversion of its western analog, where virtues become vices and old problems arise as new ones are solved. For example, digital music is Japan's strong suit: 85% of the global share of legal downloads and a mere eighth of illegal downloads are made within Japan. But this is because the major labels were far more savvy than their western counterparts, and made early efforts to woo their customers with digital convenience. As the American music industry shits out 14% of its mass annually, corporate hegemony in Japan remains more or less intact, along with all the ensuing problems of the major-V-indie "Two State" antagonism.

On a much more micro level, the professionalism & courtesy of venue staff (no matter how scummy or inexalted the venue) is a real treat - especially for those of us who are used to hostile alcoholics working the mixing board in dive bars across North America. Lest ye forget they're being polite because you're paying them to be: until your notoriety includes rotation on MTV and front-rack placement in Tower Records, all your gigs are pay-to-play.

From start to finish, a gig is less bacchanal than business engagement: attending the official after-party (打ち上げ, or uchiage) is mandatory for band members, crew, promoters, and auxiliary staff. Not many folks would voluntarily skip an after-party anyway, but being thus compelled is a little grating. And it ain't simply hitting the closest bar for some beers and back-slapping. Tables are arranged, drink orders are placed, and seating is orchestrated according to unspoken political accords & rivalries. Unsipped beverage in hand, everyone reverently listens to a brief speech congratulating the assembled on their fine work & cockily recounting the number of paying customers at the show. Glasses are finally raised amidst a unison bellow of "Kampai!", and everyone suddenly ejects themselves from their seats and scrambles about the room, banging glasses with anyone in arm's reach.

From there, a more familiar form of dissolute, shit-talkin' revelry returns, but it's still the thinnest shadow of a night out with John Bonham.

Naturally, I'm barely scratching the surface of this uncanny realm, all of which is fodder for much more extensive inquiry. Once I have more to share, I most certainly will...