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Archive for November, 2006

From the desk of the diskant Overlord – November 29th

Posted: November 29th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

I seem to have been far too busy lately to be updating this, for which I apologise. Some of it is diskant-related though as begin the annual attempt to coax the diskant contributors into sending in their top ten albums and films of the year. Only a trickle of votes in so far but there’s already a few things with multiple votes, thankfully.

So, what have I been doing? A trip Up North to visit my relatives since I will be working over Christmas, a weekend in Newcastle which I enjoyed enormously and much pre-Christmas crafting. I have been making big efforts to give mostly handmade gifts this year, whether made by myself or by others and I’ve been receiving so many beautiful things in the post that I shall have a hard time giving them away.

Those of you who live in Newcastle, you are very lucky. We did a craft fair in The Cluny which was an awesome pub/venue/cafe crammed full of lovely people on a Sunday morning and plastered with posters for excellent shows. We also had an amazing Japanese teppan-yaki meal at Hanahana and made a quick visit to The Baltic which had well-timed exhibitions of Japanese and urban art. I recommend both and will definitely be returning.

>We’re all off to ATP in a couple of weeks so do come and say hello if you see us. We’ll be the ones eating pie, and shivering.

And don’t forget to join the diskant newsletter if you haven’t already. The next one goes out on the 30th and includes an exclusive competition. See the weblog for more information.

SNAKES SAY HISSS! – s/t (Famous Class)

Posted: November 29th, 2006, by Maxwell Williams

I couldn’t figure it out, and the music nerd inside me was taunting my lack of recall. We nerds are supposed to be able to sniff out a Memphis Minnie cover or an Ennio Morricone sample from a mile out. It was driving me nuts. I passed the CD over my cubicle to my co-worker.

“What does this sound like… Something ’80s, right?”

He put his headphones on. He agreed with me that it was something ’80s “or something.” I listened again and then called over another co-worker. A few hours (and a 2am phone call to the obligatory ’80s dance music aficionado friend) later we had deduced that the melody to the 7th track on Snakes Say Hisss!’s self-titled debut record sounded like the chorus to Taylor Dayne’s dance pop mega-hit “Tell It To My Heart.”

The point is, Snakes Say Hisss! essentially make dance pop in the vein of Taylor Dayne if she used filthy big synth loops and glitched out drum machines and sang mawkish near-emo Pavement-isms. And were underproduced. And, well… okay the Taylor Dayne comparison is a stretch. But that one song sort of sounds like her. I swear.

Bonus: Snakes Say Hisss! comes lovingly packaged in a beautiful screen-printed zine.

Double Bonus: They hail from the remote little village of Potsdam, New York, a town whose ice hockey team we beat the snot out of every time we played them.

-Maxwell Williams

Famous Class

NEW RHODES – Songs From The Lodge (CD, Salty Cat Records)

Posted: November 28th, 2006, by Simon Minter

I breathed a slight breath of disappointment to myself upon hearing the all-too-familiar uptight-cymbal-and-bass introduction to the first track on Songs From The Lodge. Here comes another in the seemingly endless production line of Hot New Bands with their stylistic feet plonked squarely in the new wave cliches of the ’80s, I muttered to myself, like the grouchy killjoy that I doubtlessly am.

Well, maybe I need to stop judging albums on their first opening seconds quite so much, as whilst New Rhodes owe something of a debt to the mini-epics of Echo and The Bunnymen and their ilk, they certainly give it enough of their own personality and lightness to stand them in fine stead. Their twinkling guitar melodies and tightly-controlled, complex-of-bassline songs certainly remind of such fine bands as McCarthy or even The Smiths, but the twelve songs here ooze charm, excitement and a cynicism-free sense of joy that’s lost in the music of many of their recent contemporaries.

I think that there are two reasons that New Rhodes can’t help but connect. Firstly, the vocals are delivered with such a fine sense of diction and poise, as they athletically wander across an impressive range, each line ending with a vibrato wiggle, often backed up with Ronettes-gone-city-centre backing harmonies. Secondly, the songs are so damned perky, with high-speed, bright guitar thrum tying itself up with nifty melodies into clean structures that don’t stay beyond their welcome.

I realise all of a sudden that New Rhodes take me back to the heady independent pop days of yore, simultaneously sounding naive and confident and betraying a love of performance and purity that hasn’t yet been marketed or produced out of existence. I was all set to dissect this album with reason and cynicism, but as the album went by I found it impossible to find it in myself to do so.

New Rhodes
Salty Cat Records

Win diskant!

Posted: November 28th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

This is diskant. He likes Takoyaki, amusement parks and ‘Now’ compilations and dislikes Microsoft Word, Emo and geese. He has been made of felt and buttons by the wonderful Miso Funky and we are giving him away on the diskant newsletter. To be in with a chance of winning you need to be signed up before Thursday, so GO JOIN NOW. You’ll also get updated on what’s new at diskant and what you might have missed. Imagine the excitement awaiting you on Thursday!

MÚM – The Peel Session (Fat Cat)

Posted: November 27th, 2006, by Alex McChesney

For all that the late John Peel gave music, it’s the Peel Sessions that will stand the test of time long after anecdotes about taping his show onto C90s as a teenager and queuing up to hand him a demo tape that one time he DJed at your student union have grown even duller than they already are. At their best they were a chance for a band to experiment and try out new material in the studio. At their worst an invitation to a few point-missing acts to replay their songs note-for-note, though this was, thankfully, a rare occurrence. This EP, consisting of the four tracks from Múm’s lone session recorded in 2002, falls somewhere in-between those two camps. Three songs from their 2000 album “Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK”, and one from 2002’s “Finally We Are No One” are offered up, and while there are no radical departures to be had, the necessary compression of time and budget imposed by a radio session, along with the opportunity for post-album tinkering, has had a pleasing effect on them.

Scratched Bicycle and Smell Memory, for example, both gain extra glitchy beats, and feel less fussy more skittish than their official counterparts, but despite the odd electronic edition or momentary meander, it’s the the uncluttered production that truly benefits the songs and grants them a general intimacy where once they might have felt a little too fragile and distant for comfort.

Hardly an essential purchase for the Múm-curious, then, but not without merit for those feeling starved of their gentle Icelandic tinklings.

Fat Cat


Posted: November 25th, 2006, by Alex McChesney

In August of last year I gushed about Green Pheasant’s eponymous debut album – a handful of songs originally recorded at home on a four-track for demo purposes, but which so impressed Fat Cat that they chose to release it with hardly any modification. I did, however, have one reservation: much as I loved its woozy, dream-like quality, I did wonder how much of that was down to the circumstances of its recording. The low-fi, distant qualities of cassette tape suits gentle acoustica more than any other genre you might attempt to commit to it, and the production on that album, consisting largely of turning the “reverb” dial all the way to eleven, could easily have been a response to the weaknesses of the format as much as a deliberate attempt to gently obfuscate. Would the larger budget that signing would inevitably bring result in a more obvious, less charmingly obscure sophomore album?

Thankfully, I needn’t have worried. Aerial Days sees Duncan Sumpner reject the temptations of the studio and continue recording at home, albeit having splashed out on some slightly more modern recording equipment, resulting in an album that’s more an appropriate and carefully judged step forward than a baby-and-bathwater-discarding act of self indulgence. As before the songs have a hallucinatory quality, but the hints of a folkier past have been toned down a little, a some new-found freedom has been exercised in terms of instrumentation, with friends adding recorder and trumpet to the bedroom guitar-and-drum-machine setup.

The only mis-step being a slightly-too-twee cover of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, Aerial Days enriches the sound of its predecessor with care, and its creator deserves credit for restraint alone.

Fat Cat

THE MAYBES? – Olympia (CD single, Xtra Mile Recordings)

Posted: November 22nd, 2006, by Simon Minter

On the basis of this four-song first single, Liverpool upstarts The Maybes? (and yes, that is an annoying question mark of theirs) present themselves as a solid, if somewhat unexciting, take on the combined sounds of The La’s, The Jam and – like so many others – The Beatles. Theirs is a stoned world of rock and roll, livin’ it up and tight male-bonding hugs on drunken nights out to see Oasis.

The first two songs suggest, I hope, the direction that the band might go from here. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is more Cast than The La’s, with its workmanlike writing and adherence to a well-worn have-it-large ideal. ‘Actions’, however, is happily more The La’s than Cast, with more considered and delicately rocking guitar lines twisting through some light-hearted harmonic indie rock. This is all very nice and very listenable, but it’s the two other songs here that are a sticking point for me: ‘Get On The Resin’, The Maybes?’ ode to hashish, is painfully quirky funk rock which reminds too much of the good-time nonsense of Toploader; whilst ‘Supercharged’ is an admittedly excited/excitable chunk of high energy rock-out, which unfortunately falls rather short of the Led Zeppelin/Live At Leeds heights it seems to be aiming at.

If The Maybes? can isolate where it is their music lies, and refine what they’re doing to something that seems less of a rag-bag of influences used with varying degrees of success, they have it in them to – putting it in the most patronising terms possible – win the heart of the common man. At present they seem slightly lost; but this is the first single. They should lose that question mark, though…

The Maybes?
Xtra Mile Recordings

But that was MY idea

Posted: November 22nd, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Today, as part of my actual job, I have been researching add-ons, features and widgets people might like to add to their websites. In the course of this I have emailed eBay to tell them how aghast I am at their lack of web widgets and discovered that two of my long-held brilliant internet ideas have actually been realised by other people. Someone who actually had any ambition might be annoyed by this, I am just delighted they now exist.

GiftTagging have answered my frequent question of ‘Why isn’t there an Amazon Wish List but for EVERYTHING you can buy’ with a site that is something of a cross between del.icio.us and ThisNext. You can import your Amazon wishlist, add new gifts by hand or add them from any website with a toolbar button. You then tag them with handy descriptive words and your friends, family and random stalkers can buy you a present that you actually want. It’s a little clunky and basic at the moment but it looks great and has loads of potential.

Remember The Milk is the answer to my other daily trauma, two computer forgetfulness. I have all my best ideas at work and then forget them all by the time I get home and can do anything about them. Usually I resort to that utter patheticness – emailing myself reminders. Remember The Milk though, lets you set up a web-based to-do/task/reminder list which you can tag and split into seperate lists and, best of all, you can email reminders to it which it will automatically add. Put an RSS feed of it on your blog or RSS reader and you’ll never forget anything again.

Marvellous. I’m so glad there are so many clever people on the internet.

Introducing the diskant team #4 – David Stockwell

Posted: November 20th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Dave used to be diskant’s resident obscurist, guaranteed to fill his columns full of unpronounceable unlistenable music that he still managed to make sound amazing. Since then, we’ve recruited a few other mentalists to keep him company, so much so, that Dave actually turned out to be the diskanteer who’d heard the most out of our Top Ten Albums of 2005 and thus had the fun job of writing up the article*. He’s also given us the enormously helpful guide to getting gigs and the highly entertaining Souvaris European tour diary as well as profiling swathes of labels for Talentspotter.

By day Dave works as a Project Officer for Children’s Centres Services at Nottingham City Council working with children and families in Nottingham’s most disadvantaged areas. By night he makes “guitars chime, churn and occasionally howl” in Souvaris, “what’s generally regarded as horrific noise and drone” in Bologna Pony, “sporadically mucks around with homemade lo-fi ambient things”, helps out with DIY non-profit gig-organising collective Damn You! and sometimes even finds the time to write a few extra esoteric reviews for Foxy Digitalis. Blimey.

Where do you live and what do you like about it?
Sneinton, Nottingham. It’s just outside the centre of a medium-sized but comparatively lively (read as: violent) city and I can get out to green space or nice places outside the city limits with a short walk. I also live just around the corner from HQs for three record labels: Gringo, Low-Point and Fire. Convenient.

What have you been listening to/reading/watching/playing recently?

Oof, where to start?

Listening to: The news of Relapse reissuing Harvey Milk’s Courtesy and Goodwill To All Men had me dusting off my copy and remembering quite how wilfully absurd/strangely brilliant it is. Ditto the This Heat boxset, which has to be my purchase of the year. Steven R. Smith’s new LP on Important is really lovely and comes in a beautiful woodcut sleeve. MV & EE w/ The Bummer Road’s latest album on Time-Lag might possibly be the best/most maddening new music I’ve heard this year. Birchville Cat Motel’s 3xCD live document Curved Surface Destroyer is appropriately mindblowing. The new (Chris) Clark album Body Riddle sounds sumptuous. Erase Errata were tremendous when they played live recently, but their new album doesn’t sound half as raucous.

Reading: Last things I’ve read have been Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle (lent by a friend) and Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H (on which everything you associate with that title was originally based). Next up is a Bukowski biography, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and at some point finally tackling Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States of America.

I don’t watch television, and I’ve barely had time or inclination to watch any new films recently. I did get The Parallax View and My Own Private Idaho on DVD for dirt cheap not that long ago though. Both classy films. Seeing stuff in the flesh, I went to the Sunday of the Barbican’s celebration of Steve Reich’s 70th birthday and it was mostly brilliant: Konono #1 played in a free gig in the hall; Reich’s new piece (entitled Daniel) managed to be both emotionally charged and beautiful; seeing Music For 18 Musicians performed in the flesh is an experience I’ll never forget. Especially when Steve started hitting loads of bum notes on his vibraphone halfway through.

Tell us about your favourite local bands
Nottingham’s a funny old place for music: there’s always a steady stream of interesting bands but few seem to stay together for more than a few months at a time (except the terrible ones that refuse to die). Lords have to be mentioned as a premier live attraction, but bring your earplugs because they’ve gotten unbearably loud since they got their new amps. Gareth Hardwick may have the misfortune to be in a band with me, but I still love his solo ambient stuff anyway, and it’s getting better with every release. Designer Babies seem to have been in a period of transition for a frustratingly long time since they lost their frontman, but I’m hoping for exciting things when they play soon. The inimitably unique Hellset Orchestra are always worth seeing and I really admire their wilful absurdity and Queenesque stage antics. Apparently Love Ends Disaster! live just around the corner but never seem to play here. Orchards are a new proposition from members of many established Nottingham bands that I really enjoyed when they played their second-ever gig recently. Lovely melodies alongside American Analog Set-style keyboard throbs – it can’t be beat. There are loads more, such as Lovvers and the new-look Exploits of Elaine, that I really need to get around to seeing soon.

What are you planning on writing about next for diskant?
At the start of the month I managed to buy about 50 LPs for a quid from a fleamarket. I got some amazing stuff, such as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, but also the first Dire Straits LP, The Fine Young Cannibals and a really fucked up Wagner sampler LP got in there too. I’m thinking about trying and write a two sentence review of every one.

What are your favourite articles/interviews on diskant?
I love Ollie’s infectious enthusiasm for anything absurd and/or highly offensive. Joe Luna has an incredible knack of writing about things that I was either thinking about buying or thinking about reviewing – keep it up Joe! And whatever Chris turns his hand to is inevitably going to be worth reading.

What are you looking forward to this year?
I really want to see Darren Aaronofsky’s The Fountain, which has been in development for about five years now and will hopefully hit the cinemas before the end of the year. I just hope it’s not the train wreck it could well turn out to be.

I’m also very much looking forward to Damn You! putting on Birchville Cat Motel early next year, and there are whispers about the possibility of Charles Hayward (This Heat, general drumming genius) coming up shortly after that have got me in a real spin.

Lastly, I’ll be excited on Friday because that day I have to post a completed mix of the long-awaited second Souvaris album (entitled “A Hat” for no particularly good reason) to Mr John Golden to unleash his mastering skills on. You’ll be able to listen to the results courtesy of Gringo Records early next year. Thank fuck!

What have you learned during your time at diskant?
That the advent of Web 2.0 means that you can no longer slag off a shit record with impunity. Someone’s opinion is always going to be more important than yours, especially if it’s the artist’s.

* Although I see I have actually credited the article to myself. Oops.

Americans! Buy me a bunny (please)

Posted: November 20th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

If anyone living in the US would like to buy me a white bunny radio from this site I will not only love you forever but will send you something of your choice in return (or the money if you want to be boring). It’s a bargainous $7 but the only international shipping option costs a quite unbelievable $300 and I don’t want one that much. Please?

(Yes, I know this is of no interest to 99% of diskant readers. I have more proper content to go up shortly).

UPDATE: My bunny woes are over, hurray!