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Archive for August, 2006

MUSE – Black Holes And Revelations

Posted: August 31st, 2006, by Andrew Bryers

Not so much a review this, as an admission of befuddlement. Also maybe a little mainstream for Diskant, but if Alasdair can get away with gushing all over Rachel Stevens (so to speak) then I’m sure I can discuss Muse with impunity.I have been living, somewhat uncomfortably, with Black Holes and Revelations for more than a month now. I bought it reluctantly, deterred by the overt prog-ness of both title and cover artwork, and by an instant dislike of the first single Supermassive Black Hole. I concluded that Muse, who had always dallied perilously close to their own anus had finally taken up permanent residence therein.

But see it gaze at me every time I went into Fopp, i began to soften. I mean, I love Muse. I love them for their weirdness, their willfully absurdity, their refusal to embrace indie cool, punk-ethic lo-fi or any other restriction on their BIG GRAND (daft) ideas. Of course they’re silly, but in these days when a Simon Amstell haircut and some big soulful eyes do an indie band make, don’t we need Matt Bellamy’s demented stare more than ever?

So anyway, the album. I’d read that they’d given up any pretence of being able to play the songs live and was half expecting over-produced mush, so opener “Take a Bow” – a pointless three minutes of of loops, arpeggios and grand build-up to nothing – came as no surprise. Elsewhere we hear new influences – Morricone movie scores and Arabic-sounding strings – creeping in alongside such such classic Muse album tracks as the big neo-romantic piano melodrama wank-off (here, Hoodoo). Results are mixed: Hoodoo’s a hoot, while their take on barbershop easy listening (Soldier’s Poem) falls a bit flat. Starlight’s a pretty tune marred by a shockingly banal chorus. It’s a mark of how much conviction they play with that, on repeated listening, Supermassive Black Hole for all its Darkness-esque “ooh baby” falsetto vocals and cheesiest use of vocoder since S Club Seven’s “Don’t Stop Moving” almost begins to work. Back at Rachel Stevens. How did that happen?

Maybe they’re best when they just all-out rock, as they do very effectively on “Assassin” and “Exo-Politics”. But then, just as you’re opting for the “great rock band ruined by over-production” version of events (let’s call it the Smashing Pumpkins theory), you hear Knights of Cydonia without doubt the most ridiculously over-the-top and best track on the album. Like Pink Floyd in a spaghetti western with a riff outta hell and Queen-style three-part vocal harmonies (and I hate Queen), it embodies everything you’ve got to love about Muse, the sheer shouldn’t-work-but-does-ness of them. It’s cool the way space is cool when you’re a kid.

So what’s going on? Are Muse too preposterous or not preposterous enough? Hmm, might have to get back to you on that one…

SEVEN DAYS AWAKE – Look at You (RJ Records CD)

Posted: August 28th, 2006, by Simon Minter

More in the endless stream of middling independent-hoping-for-majordom music that I seem to get sent for review at the moment. Seven Days Awake are deftly running the marketing treadmill before they walk the fanbase-building walk, with a nifty/’edgy’ Flash website, street team and the ubiqitous Myspace page with ‘adds’ ahoy. There used to be a time when a band would make its ‘brand’ known by building a fanbase through regular gigging and carefully put together demos, sent in hope to reviewers and promoters. These days, with a few mouseclicks, a band can make themselves look entirely established when they’ve only been together five minutes and have only released one CD single.

Not that I’m levelling accusations of audience-hoodwinking at Seven Days Awake in particular; their familiar-as-old-socks take on a polished hard rock/emo/nu-metal style is at least passably musical, well put together and pushes the right buttons. Smoothly-produced, buzzing riffs tie together the vocal histrionics to result in four songs here that may well be ‘for real’ and from a band that ‘means it’. It’s just hard to tell, as they’ve been presented as such a finished product. It’s nice to make your own mind up about a band, rather than to have it polluted with marketing schtick and a supposed slick professionalism that should develop naturally, not be created prior to an initial release.

Good luck to ’em, but when a band positions and markets itself in the same way that 1,000 similar bands are doing at the same time, it’s hard to distinguish the individuality or creativity; traits that unfortunately seem to come at the back of the queue in the current musical landscape.

Seven Days Awake

Introducing the diskant team #2 – Chris Summerlin

Posted: August 26th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Chris Summerlin is, without a doubt, our most infamous contributor. I’ve met many people who have told me Chris is the main reason they read diskant and a few who have said Chris’ writing is the only thing they don’t like about diskant. Personally I think Chris is one of the best, and most entertaining, music writers around and only his unwillingness to put up with the constraints of editors has stopped him from making a career out of it. All the better for us though as we get things like his interview with Zoot Horn Rollo of the Magic Band and the lengthy article on the Blues.

Chris also holds the dubious honour of being the only contributor to have been interviewed 3 times for diskant – twice with Reynolds (this interview was the first time we met in person) and once with Lords (four times if you include the time Chris interviewed himself about Sonic Youth). Currently unemployed, Chris is putting his efforts into cataloguing his entire life on Flickr. He also designs posters and puts on gigs as part of Damn You! as well as making music as Last of the Real Hardmen and as part of Lords and Felix.

Where do you live and what do you like about it?
Nottingham. I like it because its violent

What have you been listening to/reading/watching/playing recently?
Listening to: Groundhogs, Loren Connors, Stooges, Sonic Youth live bootlegs, Sonny Sharrock, Bilge Pump, Sailors.
Reading: ‘Billy F Gibbons: Rock N Roll Gearhead’ By Billy Gibbons.
Watching: Hollyoaks.
Playing: Guitar

Tell us about your favourite local bands.
What’s to know? I like a few. Spin Spin The Dogs were the best, they broke up, their new thing Kingdom Time is coming together. The mighty Steve Charlesworth has reunited with Kalv from Heresy for new action that will be pant-shitting. My housemate Gareth Hardwick is coming into his own as a solo drone man. There’s some interesting free improv noise stuff happening. Everyone’s bashing that out. The Good Anna are a force to be reckoned with in that area. Designer Babies are always a total head fuck also.

What are you planning on writing about next for diskant?
I am planning on filling the blogs with personal ads and putting reviews in the wrong section. I have a murder conspiracy piece written but I found out lots of people I am friends with think the idea is mental and so publishing it may make them think I am too.

What are your favourite articles/interviews on diskant?
I like my review of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I always like Jason Graham’s end-of-year summaries and Ross McGivern’s politico-activity.

What are you looking forward to this year?
Playing more gigs.

What have you learned during your time at diskant?
No one really cares about music. It’s just shorthand notes and signifiers to get fanny/cock.

LOVE IS LOVE

Posted: August 21st, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

Marceline has been hassling me (and all the diskant crew) to do some more music reviews and I kept putting off answering until finally I had to admit that I’m not that into music anymore. Or rather I’m not that interested in new music or listening to things that are put in my lap.
However, I am hugely into music and about 99% of it at the moment is Lungfish.
When I first got into Dischord Records, Lungfish were a total oddity among the deep back catalogue of the label that I was investigating (they still are in a lot of respects). It wasn’t an instant conversion by any means, in fact I didn’t really like them. I remember talking with someone who knows the Dischord people and he spoke incredulously of the excitement shown by Ian MacKaye when the final mix of the new Lungfish record was delivered to him. I remember we laughed.
Then I got a tape of The Unanimous Hour LP about 5 years ago maybe. I remember clearly driving in my car with a girl I had just started seeing and putting the tape in and saying to her:
“I don’t know if I like this album, I just can’t stop listening to it” like I was apologising. I don’t know why I did that but I think it was because if there’s one thing Lungfish isn’t, it’s ‘now’ music or ‘music of the moment’. It isn’t stylistically current. And when you’re impressing a lady I think it’s important to be current right?
The thing is Lungfish songs (or the later ones at any rate) don’t have any changes. For someone digging math rock and every weird time signature shit I could put my hands on in 2001, having no changes was as revolutionary and mind blowing as hearing Trout Mask Replica for the first time.
I think during the approximately 365 baths I took in 2001, I probably listened to that tape for at least 300 of them, still not really sure why. I just found, increasingly (and still so) that when I stare at all my records it tends to be Lungfish that jumps out.
There’s something really all-encompassing about the music they make. It’s for all times. It’s not like putting on AC/DC on a Saturday because you feel hyped or listening to Smog because you want to wallow in bad feeling or listening to Brian Eno to go to sleep. It seems to serve all purposes and be the right thing at all times. Again, I can’t fathom this.
I also can’t fathom what Daniel Higgs is singing about. I think the ambiguity is a big part of the band and their power in that he sings about things that, from time to time, really strike within me like it’s something I’ve heard before or I know already. It’s powerful but yet it has no feeling of lecture. The symbolism he uses rings bells in my head about bizarre cultish practise, the cosmos, power balances and religion but it’s never direct.
When I was in Australia in 2003 I was really down when I found out the band were playing Nottingham in my absence.
I asked Phil what it was like. He said he went to soundcheck and the sound engineer went through the drums and bass etc and then finally asked for guitar. Phil said as soon as the guitarist Asa played a chord it became Lungfish and he remembered why he was there. How many bands can you say that about?
I got lucky when they were added to the 2004 ATP festival. Looking across the front row I think I knew maybe 9 out of 10 of the people clutching the barrier. Live they were bizarre, requiring a certain amount of submission on the part of the listener, i.e. you had to go with it. I love bands like that and I loved them.
I had the bizarre experience of watching the sea with Higgs, Steve from Unit Ama, Neil, bassist Sean Meadows and my girlfriend later that night and I had no idea what to say to them or how to chat to them about anything which sounds completely corny but I’m not usually lost for words or freaked out by people.
Anyway, I’m not even sure what’s going on with them at the moment. Their last LP Feral Hymns is mighty. I heard they may not be operational right now, I know Higgs is playing solo shows.
The reason for writing this is that I stumbled across what might well be Dan Higgs’ only radio interview and it’s a real piece of work. Listen and enjoy!

Link to interview

ECHO IS YOUR LOVE – Humansize (Run Out Records CD)

Posted: August 20th, 2006, by Simon Minter

I do love a good vocal accent in music, and Finland’s Echo Is Your Love have a delightfully strange one in their lead singer, which immediately propels their music into the realms of the odd. Like the combined shoutings of Liliput, Huggy Bear and Babes in Toyland, the lyrics are yelped, screamed and crooned with a beautifully out-of-kilter range and phrasing. Combine this with some top-notch gliding indie guitar noise and the result is charmingly aggressive, and aggressively charming. In the same way that the Breeders, Veruca Salt, Velocity Girl and Magnapop took indie guitar rock and twisted it into odd shapes using out-there dynamics and a delicate musical style that is quick to snap and lash out, Echo Is Your Love have taken traditional guitar band elements and reinforced them with real depth and emotion. At times bordering on intense noise or there’s-nothing-there quietness, on this album they never forget to include melody and tunes. This is what makes them repeatedly listenable and admirably strange.

Echo Is Your Love
Run Out Records

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Psychedelica Volume One (Northern Star 2CD)

Posted: August 20th, 2006, by Simon Minter

Billing itself as ‘The Third Wave of Psychedelia’, this excellent compilation isn’t purely a collection of soundalike bands referring directly to their ’68- or ’88-centred influences; it’s more a cross-section of new music made by bands who’ve obviously listened to and dabbled with psychedelia to a variety of extents. This means a variety of styles from Beatle-booted blissout, through indiepop and postpunk to fuzzy soundscaping.

So whilst it does feature bands that wouldn’t be out of place on a new Pebbles or Nuggets compilation – the sitar-tinged S.F. Sorrow-styled dreamy pop of Lovetones, the fuzz guitar drawl of The Black Angels and the brilliant stoned drone of Brian Jonestown Massacre, for example – it quickly moves in different directions. Calling your band Black Nite Crash suggests an obvious Ride influence, and the sound of Ride, Stone Roses and the shoegazers of the early 90s pervades the tracks from Black Nite Crash themselves along with Pioneer 4 and The Otherside. The Electric Mainline and The High Dials, amongst others, bring to mind the what-was-once-dubbed ‘perfect pop’ of the releases of Sarah Records or Slumberland – jaunty, bright guitar lines over dreamy vocal lines and simple compositions.

Where this compilation gets most interesting for me is the point at which bands spin off on their own trajectories. For example, Dedelectric offer a bizarre, jerky 80 seconds of attitude that’s like Liliput gone very weird; The Telescopes provide a dense, threatening slice of echoes, mournful trumpet, quietly chanted vocal and static noise; and Say Jansfield produce an example of the kind of odd combination of folk and electronica that’s so damn hip at the moment.

Hopefully there will be further volumes of the self-styled Psychedelica ‘revolution’ – on the basis of this example, there are a lot of bands making a lot of interesting music out there. Like the many indiepop compilation tapes of yore, I’m glad that people are still collecting together music like this – there may not be many big names on here, but it’s nice to have the work done for you when looking for some new bands to investigate!

The full lineup for the compilation is: The Lovetones, Dolly Rocker Movement, The Black Angels, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians, Brian Joneston Massacre, HeadQuarters, Black Nite Crash, The Hiss, Daydream Nation, The Future Kings of England, The Shrills, The Otherside, The Vandelles, Floorian, Pioneer 4, The Electric Mainline, Snowdonnas, The High Dials, Say Jansfield, The Bleeding Hearts, The Bavarian Druglords, The Telescopes, The Lazily Spun, Spacegarden, Fuxa, Dedelectric, On Holiday, Dabenport, God is an Astronaut, Silvertone, The Fuzztones, Silver Apples and Electric Prunes. (And in the case of those last three bands – yes, it is those bands, not three cheekily-stolen band names).

Northern Star Records

The best websites in the world… ever!

Posted: August 16th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

It seems to be that time again, whether coincidentally or no, as we have Time’s 50 Coolest Websites and The Observer’s Websites That Changed the World this week. Time’s makes for good reading, full of links and giving props to our awesome pals The Morning News. The Observer’s is a little dull as it’s stuck with regurgitating info on the big names (Google, eBay, Amazon etc.) like those Best Albums Ever lists that are full of The Beatles. I did find it interesting to read some of the history of sites like Blogger and Myspace. My brain has started ticking though – maybe we should do a diskant version?

Incidentally, if you haven’t noticed, I am adding new links regularly to the diskant homepage (bottom middle column) via the magic of del.icio.us. One day I will find the time to add them all to the links section.

Summer Catch-up and Flickr Fun

Posted: August 14th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

In case you haven’t noticed there’s a new article up with us going on about all the good stuff we’ve been listening to, playing and reading. It’s the diskant Summer Catch-up.

The article was getting a bit long so I left off a few bits and pieces including the following bunch of Flickr links from Chris Summerlin. Make sure you have a couple of hours spare…

Reptile House who, presumably, is some sort of guitar tech hence the gazillions of photos of bands’ equipment up close onstage. For a geek like me, it’s fascinating.They’re also beautiful pictures. Want to know what Franz Ferdinand play through? Want to know how Josh Homme gets his live sound?

Bruce who runs the Mike Watt fan site. He has endless photos of the 1980s SST era of bands like Minutemen, Dinosaur etc etc.

Alison from Southern Records who has some amazing old photos of stuff like The Jesus Lizard at Reading and the funny one of Nation Of Ulysses that I’ve linked…

Daniel Robert Chapman, a man who is always 5 steps behind Bilge Pump with a digital camera with frequently amazing results…

We even have a Damn You! page with lovely photos like this one.

DIRTY LITTLE FACES – Piccadilly/Lose Win Lose (Fierce Panda CD)

Posted: August 7th, 2006, by Simon Minter

I’m in the interesting-yet-unfortunate position of writing this review based on the memory of two listens to a CD which will no longer play for me. So cut me some slack as I do my best up against failing modern technology.

Dirty Little Faces seem, at least on the basis of their press release (which mentions influences such as The Who, The Jam, The Beatles and The Strokes) an uninvitingly straightforward prospect. However, as memory serves me, the two tracks on this single are pleasant enough mod-tinged indie stompers, that might be better received if not promoted through the citing of names so quick to turn off many potential listeners in the holier-than-though indie fraternity. The choppy guitars, uptight vocals and character-led lyrical lines were a pleasant diversion and provided a few minutes of head-nodding satisfaction; but within seconds of the CD ending, Dirty Little Faces had become in my mind just another generic indie guitar band. The quandary in the current musical climate is that there a lot of bands doing a lot of this music with equal competence. Individually they can knock out a good indie disco tune, a good iPod moment to propel you along, but collectively it’s just melodic noise with nothing to define or inspire. Is it a complaint that a lot of bands make serviceable, listenable, yet ultimately unoriginal music? Not really – the complaint is that the more regularly it happens, the more each band seems an uninspired retread of something that went by not ten minutes ago – regardless of merit.

Dirty Little Faces
Fierce Panda

From the desk of the diskant Overlord – August 4th

Posted: August 4th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

I was in Dublin last weekend which was fairly fun. Sadly I didn’t make it to the Botanic Gardens but I did wander round the city for hours and hours and hours managing to fit in Trinity College, Dublin Castle Gardens, the quite marvellous Chester Beatty Library which had some wonderful Chinese and Japanese printmaking on show, the Natural History Museum, St Stephens Gardens, shoe shopping, cake and much hotel lounging into less than two days. Oh yes, and playing a gig. Which was quite stressful but fun. I loved our support band Cap Pas Cap, a frenetic shouty angular band that made me think fondly of Park Attack and thus miss Glasgow. We also got paid and fed well which is always an enormous bonus. So, thanks Dublin. I’m not sure it was worth missing Hey You Get Off My Pavement though.

My next excursion is to London at the end of the month which happily coincides with the not at all bad line-up of the Cross Central festival at Kings Cross. If they could just move Errors and Annie over to the Saturday I’d be overjoyed. I expect they’re both DJing though so hopefully not too huge a loss. Saturday does look fun with Ladytron, Four Tet, 1990s, Animal Collective, Optimo, Ellen Allien etc. Looks better than ATP at the moment actually…

We’ve been doing the Visited Countries map at work this week and I lost miserably with my pathetic 5 countries visited. Now that I actually have some money, I intend to go see a little more of the world. China is top of the list, and I really should go to the USA sometime. I did, however, win the Visited UK Counties map so therefore I win, on an environmental level at least.
Anyway, to get back to diskant, you will be seeing some new content soon, I promise. First up I will be introducing you to the diskant team in a regular feature on the weblog so you can find out a little more about us as people which might also explain what the hell it is we spend all our time doing and thus neglecting diskant. First up, the one and only Simon Minter.

Current listening: The Pipettes, Findo Gask, Pet Shop Boys, The Organ, Ladytron.
diskant interview slackness stats: Interviewees: 2, Me: 2