Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Undiscovered City: Binge Ninja

Go to: www.bingeninja.bandcamp.com for all Binge Ninja music and video links.

Author’s note: an asterisk (*) functions as a footnote because footnotes are not possible with this website.

 


Naturally, being a huge metropolis with endless suburbs, a place where concrete is the national flower and creative humans are left with nothing much else to do except experiment in their basements and apartments, especially in the frigid winter months, Toronto has a dearth of unique and eccentric artists. It’s the law of averages.

One of them is Binge Ninja and the band’s most recent project: a twenty song music video collection. Yes, each of the twenty songs have an accompanying music video to go with it.

Sound familiar?

Unless Beyonce spent some recent time downing pints in Parkdale pubs, it’s doubtful she has any idea who Binge Ninja is. I mean, how could the lady? Her time is filled with private jets, arena shows, Jay-Z, performing for dictators, and raising a young child, Blue Ivy.*

A few months before she released seventeen songs with accompanying music videos in late 2013--with no warning or media hype (the cynic in me thinks that type of move is essentially a stunt for someone of her popularity because it will draw media attention, )--Toronto’s own Binge Ninja beat the multi-talented hip-shaker to the punch and released a collection of twenty video-songs--also with no warning or media hype, but that‘s because there is no other way to do it. A few downtown shows and--Pow!--a twenty sack of Southern Ontario Gothic.

The bulk of the twenty music videos are comprised of songs from the album, The Dead Artisan, The New Artist (Self-Destruction For Re-Invention) with the other eight videos coming from a collaborative album, Kissing At Summer Camp with another fine local artist, The First Seed. The BN & TFS songs are like dropping napalm bombs on sonic boundaries. It’s visceral electronic noise that eschews conventional song structure and traditional singing. There’s a lot of “Fuck You” qualities to it. Fuck a three minute song with a sing-along chorus, sweet Beach Boys type harmonies,** and a seamless fade out. Been there, done that. Bo-ring. The fractious nature of the songs, the dissonant, atonal noises*** mirror an internal chaos, and the search for something new.

These songs comes from pain, anger, they lash out at you. It’s damn near impossible to walk away from any of the videos and songs with a “Meh--it was okay, I ‘sppose,” type attitude. It’s confronting and in-your-face. Outright hostility. BN & TFS sound like Atari Teenage Riot raping a boardroom full of plutocrats. They smash what it is to even have expectations about what a musical group should sound like.

Though BN’s twenty videos are a staggering feat--as is Beyonce’s, clearly--a collaborative vision seen through to completion, the songs that comprise Binge Ninja’s TDA, TNA (S-DFR-I) is the best stuff. The songs are eclectic and well written. Binge Ninja is such an enigmatic, difficult band to pin down, and that’s alrightwith me; I like it. Why do most go down the lonely side road of a specific genre? Fear, inability, loss of money? BN expertly genre-wanders through pop, punk rock and flat out screaming noise. But who fucking cares about these tired reference points? As Billy Joel says, “It’s still rock and roll to me.” Don't bother much with the pundits' classification systems.

It’s so tiring to see the same old artists doing the same old song and dance. Evolve already! Do something truly new and innovative instead of the same old bland lyrics and formulaic song structure. Break loose! You are free, my song bird! That’s how BN makes me feel. They are free to roam and take the listener along on sonic journeys. Take a camera, some instruments, and make some magic--that is what an artisan does, after all: use their hands to create. And BN weaves an intricate, multi-coloured tapestry.

Now, there aren’t any ooey-gooey love songs to gush over on TDA, TNA (S-DFR-I). Disintegration and death are everywhere. Obliteration. The lies and emptiness of our deadweight, pointless mass consumerist lives, and failed relationships. Throw in some drug/alcohol abuse to numb the pain, too. It’s dark shit, but the world isn’t all sunshine and butterflies. It feels like an exorcism when you're done listening, a purging of the person you once were.

Actually, I’m starting a cover band called Purge Ninja.

Maybe it’s just the fourteen year old girl in me, but I am partial to the softer songs. I’m a sap for a nice falsetto voice and catchy chords like on The Bends era Radiohead and the latter half of Silverchair‘s output. I’m talking specifically about Fire Into The Dark, one of the best songs on the album.**** I find myself singing that one in the shower or while washing the dishes, as well as Why Do it Over?, another softer song.

That’s not to say that the distorted, screaming anthemic punk songs for the disturbed like One More Binge and Big Black Lies aren’t pulling their weight. Those ones are awesome, too. The videos, for the twenty songs are very DIY. They’re shaky, filmed on the streets of Toronto and the GTA with hand held cameras, but they’re gritty and edited together meticulously. Big Black Lies is all flash cut animation showing sketches and phrases whereas in Murdered, the band members are individually dressed up as Jokers-esque characters performing in the snow.

Where you won't see any of Binge Ninja's twenty music videos is MuchMusic. Fuck MuchMusic in the ass, anyways. There was some decent programming on the channel when I was sitting on the couch, stoned after school in the ‘90‘s. I can’t even imagine what kind of slop is on that sorry excuse for a channel nowadays; I fear a panic attack if I dared tune in. Perhaps I’m way off base because I don’t watch MuchMusic anymore, but I’d venture a guess that the station mirrors which current popular music makes the most money, like it always has. But because it’s harder and harder to make money creating and performing music, the only profitable choices are now, more than ever, of the lowest common denominator variety--dumbed down, highly sexualized, shameless, and douche-chillingly bad to appeal to as many ears and eyeballs as possible. That is where the double-edged sword of the internet steps in.***** Like all independent bands, Binge Ninja occupies a tiny corner of the world wide web, and like a far away star it distantly shines in the vast darkness. If you focus your telescope  just so, you can barely make it out. But it is there to see, at night, in your midnight hour.

Maybe Binge Ninja wouldn’t appreciate the comparison, but the band remind me in some ways of the late great Lou Reed (albeit with a wider vocal range). The way the music is so varied, occasionally leaking into darkly catchy pop songs, but only allowing a few on the album at most, preferring to indulge in other songs that are more intense, more difficult to penetrate. Both Binge and Lou have that genuine, this is what I’m doing and I don’t give a fuck what you think edge to their music. They don’t follow trends or buy into cheap thrills or endlessly simple chords, or smarmy, buttery lyrics.

A great writer once said, “Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted.” The same sentiment applies to Binge Ninja. Beyonce? Not so much.

 

 
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*Which, if you didn’t know, is Lucifer’s daughter’s name spelled backwards in Latin, and Ivy also quite possibly being an acronym for “Illuminati’s Very Youngest.”

**Chill out, I’m a big fan.

***Binge Ninja uses so many oddly shaped, atonal, off-kilter chords, when playing live the fingers of his left hand are often splayed, doing acrobatic splits, and dancing across the fret board like a spider freshly nailed with a spray of Raid! BN may be allergic to a simple E or C chord most of the time--but it works, and the melodies are there, clear, and nuanced.

****I’m aware that this is like being a Radiohead fan saying Creep is their favourite song, it’s the attention grabbing catchier pop tune that 'real' fans deride and only casual fans would favour, but it’s true, and say what you will, I'm not going to lie about it--Fire Into The Dark is my favourite, I don’t know what else to tell you.

*****Double-edged because the internet can both giveth and taketh away from artists. On the one hand, it provides a platform, a vehicle to expose yourself to a potentially vast audience for little to no cost, yet on the other hand, because nearly everyone has the same communistic chance to unleash their music on the masses, there is a white noise, near impossible to rise above. The irony here being that now, in our hyper-technologically advanced times where mass distribution is only a click away and high-tech recording equipment is at the tip of anyone's aspiring fingertips, it is now no easier to become successful than it was back when the only way to get an album made was a sprinkle of talent, a cigar chomping exec, and a dash of luck.

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic. Im writing a review of your book when it drops...

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    Replies
    1. Great. I'm hoping it is done in the next month.

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