vendredi, octobre 13, 2006

Canadian Techno & Galleries Lafayette

The day started rather gently, thank goodness. Friday is usually my day off from the Centre, so I got to sleep in a bit. Not too much, though, because I had arranged to visit the room of a student between 10am and 11am to fix her network connection. By the time I got there, the problem had sort of resolved itself, but I didn't let that stop me from messing with the settings to see if there was anything to prevent it from happening again.

As I was heading out, I was told (again) that the cleaning staff had skipped a couple of rooms because they weren't orderly enough to be cleaned. Both of the students this time were kids that I didn't expect to be messy (based on the times that I've been in their rooms), so I began to wonder if the cleaning staff are using unreasonable standards for orderliness. I chatted with the front desk folks about it, and they've started a policy of actually going to see those rooms that the cleaning staff deem uncleanable. In the meanwhile, I sent emails to those two students, carefully wording my email to make it clear that the blame wasn't presumably on them. Later that day, I got emails from both of them with discriptions of the state of their rooms that day. From the sounds of things, they had both done a good job cleaning up; their only sin was that they left dirty dishes in the sink. Hardly a reason to skip the room entirely. Ah well, we'll see what comes of this as the front desk folks start inspecting the "offending" rooms. Either way, I don't want to be sending out "you're too messy" emails without good reason. In the end, I'm the one that looks like a jerk if they're constantly telling me that the rooms are unacceptable. Meh.

I had a lunch date at one of my colleague's place; the plan was that I would bring my leftover ají de gallina (of which I still had TONS) and we'd have lunch there. Her appartment building has this beautiful garden courtyard (not really a yard, more a path or alley) and her apartment is all exposed beams and ancient masonry. Anyway, I prepared some garlic rice to go with the ají, and arrived there to find that she had made rice too! At least she made a different kind of rice (white basmati), so we some of each with the ají. My garlic rice was prepared with a medium grain rice from the Camargue area of France (South coast, between Nice and Perpignan), in a pilaf-style preparation that left a glossy coating of butter and garlic. Her rice was light-jasmine basmati with a drier, grainy finish. She had prepared shredded carrots with lemon juice as an entree (shredded carrots is a popular "light" entree here) followed by the rice and ají as the main plat. Instead of dessert we had a cheese course (ah, France!) and some great coffee.

I had heard that Galeries Lafayette, the department store to end all department stores, was having a crazy weekend sale, so I decided to go check it out. I totally thought that G-L was along the Seine near Châtelet, so I took the métro to Hôtel de Ville and started walking west along the river. I passed another department store called La Samaritaine that was closed for renovations, but nothing until I hit the Louvre. Undeterred, I looped up to rue Rivoli and headed back east, expecting to see the buildings for G-L. Instead, I saw more buildings for Samaritaine, although they had obviously been sub-letted to other businesses:

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I continued down rue Rivoli, bounced up to Les Halles, across to Centre Pompidou and through the gay "strip" of the Marais (rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie) and down rue Veille du Temple. Still no Galeries Lafayette. Maybe I had mixed up my directions and they were east of Châtelet. So off I went, ambling east along the Seine. Along the way, I found these amusing spots:

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Of course, closed for a union break.

I ended up near Ile Saint-Louis, so I headed onto the island for a quick stop at Berthillon. Good God, are their ice creams ever amazing. Actually, the sorbets are by far the best. I continued along the island to an olive specialty shop called Oliver & Co. They always have amazing Olive varieties available here. I picked up soame green pincholine olives (which are AMAZING) and some green bouteillan olives (which I haven't tried yet). The pincholines are not too salty and very meaty and firm. I also picked up a small bottle of olive oil infused with herbal mint. Instant pasta seasoning! It's also great over rice, I've discovered.

Anyway, I asked the store clerk for directions to Galeries Lafayette, and they said it was near the Garnier Opéra house. Ahhhhh. I was totally in the wrong district. So, off I went to the nearest métro station and over to the Galeries. The Galeries is actually three separate buildings with several floors of retail space. The main building has 8 floors (if you count the rooftop terrace) and this amazing 1912 glass-and-steel dome.

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I went up to the rooftop terrace thinking to get a bit to eat at their "brasserie," but it was more a bare-bones drink stop with food service that ends halfway through the day. Also, the service was horrible. If you're ever at G-L, I'd suggest going up to the roof for the view, and then walking down one floor to the main food court area for better grub. The view isn't worth the 4€ coffee and crap service.

In the men's building (yes, menswear has its own 4-storey building) I found a really nice scarf for 30€ (it was normally twice as much) and a Pierre Cardin shirt for 55€ (normally 80€). I also found a zillion things that I will never be able to afford. G-L includes a grandes marques section in both their men's and women's sections that provides floorspace for some of the big fashion houses. So you can shop for Dior, Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and more in the same space.

One of my favourite moments in the whole experience was the men's underwear section. Clearly, French men have more "varied" tastes in underwear. The section itself was easily 4 times and the size of a corresponding American one, and there were less of the "traditional" boxers with plaid patterns, and far more g-strings, boxer briefs with a lot of "shaping" bright colours and sheer fabrics. There was even one pair of boxer briefs that had a see-through back (yes, think about it). What amazed/amused me the most, though, were the underwear mannequins. There was just no way to discreetly snap a picture, but they had these mannequins all over the department that extended from thighs to waist and had these incredibly muscular, defined butts and avocado-shaped genitalia. It was hilarious. It was also a bit ironic, since the vast majority of French men have skinny, skinny butts.

Once the crush of people overwhelmed my desire to shop, I headed home and got ready for my night of Canadian Techno. Woo!!

So, Batofar books two DJs from Toronto and Montréal (Jack Fairley and Mistress Barbara, respectively) and calls it a "Spéciale Canada." Note the image of a caribou on both sides of the flyer, just to underline the Canadianness of the evening. Of course, I couldn't miss it. Considering she isn't that far from Toronto, I've only seen Mistress Barbara a handful of times, and I've definitely enjoyed what I've heard of Jack Fairley while I was living in T.O., so I ate a late dinner, finished blogging my ají de gallina recipe, and headed out.

23h30-02h00 : Hervé AK

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Hervé's set sort of started a night-long progression from microhouse to tech-house to full-on techno. His set stood somewhere between the first two genres; there was microhouse's fine beadwork of treble- and mid-range percussion, as well as tech-house's resonant bass kicks and intense, full textures. In reference to the "episode" and "return" modalities that I had conjured up for Richie Hawtin's set last week, there was less of a feeling of "episode" or departures, and a more constant feeling of "return", "here." Hervé consistently selected tracks that had a dense, heavy tech-house texture, with few departures into lighter or more abstract fare; instead, he choreographed little moments of departure by stripping away the bass or messing with the EQ's only to bring it back a bit louder a few moments later.

I made friends with a guy standing next to me during the set who was doing his best to pop-lock in a very crowded space. At some point, he asked me if I had heard the Canadian DJ's before and I explained that I was actually from Toronto. He suddenly beamed, "You're Canadian?!" Suddenly, it was all hugs and soul-brother handshakes. Later that night, he offered me some of his drink when he noticed that I wasn't drinking (I was rationing my intake, since drinks are expensive). Of course, one good turn deserves another, so I went to the bar and bought two vodka-tonics: one for him and one for me. When I handed him the drink, he seemed genuinely surprised; a moment later he asked, "How long are you staying in Paris?" "10 months." "Gimme your phone number, then." See? It's not so hard to make friends in Paris.

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I love this shirt.

02h00-03h00 : Jack Fairley (live set)

Fairley's set seemed centered more over tech-house, with a sort of nod towards microhouse or glitch sounds. He played a live set (i.e., no vinyl, just sequencers and other gear), which used tech-house procedures with mostly microhouse materials. I find that there are two main differences between tech-house and microhouse:

  1. Microhouse creates its density in the upper registers, creating complex (if minimalistic) patterns of mid-to-high frequency samples over thin bass patterns; whereas tech-house finds its density towards the lower end of the register, and not just with complex bass patterns, but with resonant samples and thick textures.
  2. While tech-house mostly draws on the sampling material of "classic" techno (i.e., a mix of accoustic drum kit samples and drum-machine / synthesized samples), microhouse substitutes these sounds with a vocabulary of fuzzier, lighter, sharper/shorter, more granular samples drawn from a glitch / noise aesthetic.

So Fairley's set was consistently bass-heavy and dense and his upper-range textures were more sparse, but his sample-set drew more heavily from microhouse. Oh, and for the record, his shirt says "The 'Fun Ship' Ecstasy."

03h00-06h00 : Mistress Barbara

So, I first have to apologize to Mistress Barbara for this picture. I'm stunned by the violence that my camera has unleashed upon her countenance. Please rest assured that she looks great in person. The problem was that I was right up against the stage, so this was taken from a rather unflattering, nostril-enhancing angle.

Mistress Barbara's set was very much techno. The closest thing I heard to tech-house from her was Audion's (a.k.a. Matthew Dear) "Vegetables" from his Suckfish release. She kept the intensity at a pretty consistent high; unlike Hawtin's episodes and returns, M.B.'s moments of departure only really occured when she was managing the transition from one track to another. That much being said it was a great set, especially as a headliner: high intensity, loud resonant bass, and that audio sleight-of-hand that gives the impression that everything is always getting more intense.

I don't have much in specific to say about her set, because about an hour into the set I made friends with a cute boy from Galicia, who kept me distracted for the rest of the evening. (Yes, I got his name, and yes, I got his number; that's all the detail you get. =] )

06h00-08h00 : Brian Tuü

I definitely have a fuzzy memory for this set, largely due to some distractions (see above), but he continued with the intensity left by Mistress Barbara, but pushing more towards a minimal techno / glitchy sound. I left around 07h00, caught the metro back to my place, and fell into bed.

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