Thursday, January 27, 2011

Scandirock: Efterklang & The Concretes

I recently ranked Efterklang's Magic Chairs as one of my favourite albums of 2010. However, it wasn't their music that first attracted me, it was the appearance of this Danish 8-piece in French filmmaker Vincent Moon's An Island. A nomadic, solitary director obsessed with fusing music and documentary film, Moon (alias for the much more French sounding Mathieu Saura) decided to make a movie in August of 2010 based entirely upon Magic Chairs. The film runs for the exact length of the album, and - like a good nerd should - I wanted to familiarize myself with the music before watching the movie.

I loved the album right away, and noticed that there was some element within Magic Chairs that reminded me of another group. I dug through my iTunes and CD collection to finally discover that this group reminded me of another Scandinavian indie ensemble, The Concretes. I have come to the conclusion that there is definitely a Scandinavian indie rock sound. Like The Concretes, PB&J, and Bodebrixen, Efterklang (which, btw, is Danish for "Remembrance") follows the tenets of twee but is substantiated by catchy, acute percussion. This genre, as a whole, can be identified through the use of oddly-constructed English lyrics, multi-instrumentalism, and innocent melodies that are as charming as Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina. The disturbingly blond pride and joy of Sweden, The Concretes, will be at Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret on March 1st. I always think of The Concretes as a Nordic Belle and Sebastian. Tickets are only $15...kykkeliky!

Efterklang has come through Vancouver twice now, that I know of, so be sure to catch them next time they are here. The following clip from Moon's film will whet your appetite, like sampling some smørdejgssnitter before the skinkefars:

AN ISLAND - 3rd TEASER - Vincent Moon & Efterklang from Rumraket on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mandala Iki: Boo For Fusion

For many people, myself included, the food category "fusion" conjures up disturbing images of vindaloo xiaolongbao and miso-glazed New York strips. A concept that exploded in the Eighties, fusion cuisine is now passé and sets off gastronomical warning bells for most foodies. This is not to say that the combination of ingredients and flavours from dissimilar cultures cannot result in creative and enjoyable dishes, but the term "fusion" has been tarnished by many culinary experiments gone awry.

I recently dined Mandala Iki Asian Bistro, at 2394 West 4th Avenue, with co-workers and was totally disturbed by the dishes served and the inattentive service. Mandala is popular because it serves brown rice sushi (which I find disturbing in and of itself!), but it also serves a slew of fusion disasters and pan-Asian classics such as sate and chow mein. To give Mandala a break, it does not market itself as a fusion restaurant. Having said this, I cannot think of anything that this establishment is doing well. Our large group of ten ordered everything from pad thai to fried rice, and every single person stated that their meal was bland and sloppily prepared. I was the poor soul who ordered the ketchup-laden, octopus-packed pad thai. This single dish has turned me off Thai food for the time being, and I freakin' love Thai food. The fried rice wasn't fried, and the Chinese dishes were wet with cornstarch slurry.

Mandala is trying to offer a menu similar to those found at the Red Door and the Flying Tiger (which is actually just a few blocks west). These two restaurants serve pan-Asian fare as well,  in addition to the occasional "fusion dish", but the chefs at these two restaurants clearly know how cook within each culinary tradition.

I found the above picture on the web and thought it visually demonstrated how bad fusion can get: motoyaki escargot!

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins Vancouver", "Sushi Vancouver"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Daphne Odjig Stamps

In February of 2011, Canada Post will be releasing three stamps using works by acclaimed First Nations artist, Daphne Odjig. This Art Canada stamp issuing includes three paintings representative of her powerful style: Pow-wow Dancer (1978, acrylic on canvas), Spiritual Renewal (1984, acrylic on canvas) and Pow-wow (1969, acrylic on board).  

A Canadian artist of Aboriginal ancestry, Daphne Odjig was born September 11, 1919, and raised on the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron), Ontario. Her father, Dominic Odjig, and her grandfather, Chief Jonas Odjig, were Potawatomi, descended from the great Chief Black Partridge. Her mother, Joyce Peachy, was an English war bride. Her family migrated north and settled in Wikwemikong after the War of 1812. Odjig moved to her current home of Anglemont, British Columbia in 1976. It was at this time that she really hit her stride as a painter. She went on to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Laurentian University in 1982, an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Toronto in 1985, and an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Nipissing University in 1997. In 2007, Odjig received the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.  

According to Canada Post, the decision to create three stamps for this edition of the series was made for both aesthetic and practical reasons. In addition to providing collectors with three unique examples of Native Canadian art on stamps, the U.S. and International stamps fulfilled necessary operational requirements.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cafe Bica in the Armoury District

As the most recent addition to the newly-established 'Armoury District' in Kits, Cafe Bica is a welcome addition to this emerging neighbourhood that is growing between Fir and Burrard, bordered by 4th Avenue. There are several business and land owners in this area, including the proprietors of East India Carpets, who are making a huge effort to transform this sleepy section of Vancouver into a hub for interior design and architectural services. Have you ever wondered what enables those architects and contractors to work on projects for 16 hours a day? Coffee! This is where Bica comes in.

About two years ago, a small cafe at 1st and Fir opened called the More Please Cafe. I knew the owner, and I blogged about it, but it only stayed open for 16 months due to poor walk-in traffic and an unfortunate tenancy battle. I live and work in this area, and I absolutely detest having to rely upon the local Starbucks for my daily caffeine fix. You can imagine how happy I was to hear that a new cafe would be opening up in tha hood by 2011.

Offering sandwiches, a wide variety of beverages, and freedom from those pesky corporate coffee chains, Cafe Bica is sleek and simple. Next time you head down to Granville Island, take some time to wander around this new and trendy neighbourhood. Two of my favourite stores are in this area already: Lattimer Gallery and Les Amis du Fromage. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better!