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Archive for November, 2006


Posted: November 10th, 2006, by Maxwell Williams

Now, I’m a fucking huge Maher Shalal Hash Baz fan, so forgive me if I nerd out about their new record L’Autre Cap for a minute. Tori Kudo and his shambolic followers make perfectly visceral, charmingly elemental folk-pop that literally falters at every step, jingles and bounces just enough to stay alive, pauses for a minute to let you catch the breath you never lost, then falls apart while staying the single most cohesive idea in pop music today – the desire to stay naïve about music, yet create something so beautiful it hurts to listen to. It’s cute and sad; it’s minimalist, yet complex beyond belief. And the true test? It never grows old, and never will.

I’ve been paying attention to Maher since their days with the legendary Org Records in early ’90s Japan. And while Jagjaguwar snapped up Org-mate Nagisa Ni Te, Maher opted for the more community-based Scottish label Geographic, where they released their sprawling epic, the 41-track Blues du Jour, easily one of my favorite records of all time. Alas, I cheat when I say “sprawling epic.” Everything Maher does is sprawling and epic. L’Autre Cap is no exception. Over 27 tracks, there are parts where the music is basically non-existent. There are jumpy pop numbers that evoke a broken marching band as sung by a lost weekend-era Harry Nilsson were he from Tokyo. There are doomsaying instrumental dirges. There are actual blues riffs. There are randomly blown horns offset by Tuvan throat singing. By the 19th song, where a swirling crescendo finishes “Dove,” you half believe the record doesn’t exist because there’s no way so many musical ideas can be pushed into a record that sounds so distinctive and unique, yet so much like one band.

The thing that ties it all together – other than the perfectly imperfect and spontaneous musicianship – is Kudo’s voice. Not his actual singing voice, though his not-quite-fluent-English warble is inviting like a friendly practicing foreigner. No, it’s his vaguely holy, heartfelt parables. But the crazy thing is, sometimes you can’t even hear what he’s saying. But you think you do, so you make up your own stories. “I might project you,” he sings, “as a chaste virgin.” But he might’ve said protect. Then he breaks into Japanese.

Recorded for K Records in Olympia, Washington with Old Time Relijun’s Arrington de Dionyso (the aforementioned throat singer) and Tori Kudo’s American counterpart Calvin Johnson, L’Autre Cap is a perfect invocation for Maher into the DIY world of the American Northwest. Basically L’Autre Cap picks up where Blues du Jour left off, which is just fine with me. This record makes me happy.

– Maxwell Williams

K Records

THE SNOWDROPS – Sleepydust ep (CDEP, Matinée)

Posted: November 10th, 2006, by Maxwell Williams

Blueboy and Trembling Blue Stars were always the Sarah Records bands that weren’t afraid to put Casiotones at the front of their songs. It’s no surprise then that the new limited edition CD single Sleepydust from Keith Blueboy’s new band The Snowdrops places a sweetly descending synth line bridge in between some mushroomy beats and stutterstep faux-handclaps and Keith-sung lyrics about Diana Ross and “eyes like signals.” Gives the whole thing a rather Trembling Blue Stars feel actually, like an updated version of “Doo-wop Music,” without such ringing guitars.

The b-side is really awesome too. The vocals are handled by longtime collaborator Dick Preece, who’s worked with Keith in the beloved Matinée band Lovejoy. “The Boy with the Hummingbird Eyes” is a whispery ode to a boy who’s flitting his eyes to stop from crying… or maybe one of Douglas Coupland’s Gen-Xers’… I think. Regardless, it’s very pretty and blissed out.

The extended remix of the single that’s tagged on at the end is notable for the added intro vocals from the (indie-pop) legendary Pam Berry, who always sounds like she’s singing in 1986 Paisley in a polka-dot dress with a cocktail in her hand.

This is perfect for sullen afternoons thinking about someone you miss.

– Maxwell Williams


ANIMAL COLLECTIVE – Grass (Single, FatCat)

Posted: November 10th, 2006, by Pascal Ansell

Drugs are bad, of course, but for the immense potential creativity it yields we have another band to thank the acid/LSD club: Animal Collective’s Grass is a stunning release off the sublime ‘Feels’ album. Nostalgic memories of warm summers wash over to the intro of the title track, in comes the perpetual tribal drumming and distinctive Beach Boys-esque harmonies. ‘Grass’ bounces along like the show-off hare from the tortoise race fame, jolly and rambunctious. Alien electronics and strange Arabic bagpipe rasps fill the atmospheric ‘Must Be a Treeman’ while ‘Fickle Cycle’ does even more to impress: drummer snaps fill out trance pulses and tremelo’d guitars, Avey Tare & co shouting polyphonic harmonies from dense treetops.

The artwork is a vivid collection of tie-dyed faces and quavers popping out of static air. Videos of the singles and also ‘Who Could Win a Rabbit’ from the equally impressive ‘Sung Tongs’ LP come on the bonus DVD and prove a charming and a perfect visual representation of Animal Collective’s blurry genius.

This CD makes you want to stop taking baths, start growing your hair, renounce your detox life and instead take up daily bouts of flower painting and costume making. Animal Collective work in sudden layers, falling denser and deeper – an immense effort to produce surely and one that will always remind me of a blissful, carefree childhood.


VARIOUS ARTISTS – Illegitimate Spawn: The Fuzztones Tribute Album (2CD, Sin Records)

Posted: November 9th, 2006, by Simon Minter

The Fuzztones have been ploughing their determined furrow through the, uh, fields of 60s-styled garage punk since the early eighties. It’s fitting that this tribute is in the form of a compilation, as so much of the freakbeat, psychedelia and caveman-stomp garage that will have influenced them will, I’m sure, have been filtered down to them by way of countless other compilations. Nuggets, the Pebbles and Rubble series, and so many more in an endless stream of collected musical ‘artyfacts’ have brought an avalanche of once-unknown acts to new audiences.

And so it is here across these two CDs . Whilst there are some better known (nay, legendary) carriers of the garage flame on here – Jayne County, Plasticland, The Morlochs and Nikki Sudden, for example – they’re mixed in with a pile of other, less familiar names. The original 60s compilations were inevitably uneven in parts, with varying levels of songwriting skill, recording quality and experiment, and this is also true of Illegitimate Spawn. However, the 42 tracks here are shot true with an irresistible spirit and unwavering adherence to a world of psychedelic mini-skirts, whacked-out organ licks and drug-damaged mayhem.

There are many highlights for me across the two CDs. Mad Juana’s ‘Idol Chatter’ is a raga-drenched foray into mystery and stoned eastern vibes, a style continued with tracks from Gondolieri and Special Agents. There’s freaked-out punk and keyboard-heavy madness with Fuzz Faces, She Wolves and The Sextress. There’s even authentic horror-style desperation (in the vein of The Monks, The Sonics and early Seeds) from Staggers, Blues So Bad and Ravens.

There are artists from around the world featured here – representing France, Brazil, Austria, Italy, USA, England, Argentina, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Germany, Finland and Peru – and it’s impressive to know that there are so many likeminded groups still out there. This is a great compilation, and the highest praise I can give it is to say that it lines up totally comfortably alongside my Pebbles, my Rubble and my Chocolate Soup For Diabetics records. These bands are totally out of step with modern music, and they’re all the better for it.

Sin Records/The Fuzztones

Freaked-out MP3s

Posted: November 9th, 2006, by Simon Minter

I’ve mentioned a couple of Northern Star Records-related things on diskant.net before (here and here). They’re a weirdo experimental/psychedelia/nuthouse label with connections to and releases from The Telescopes, Stevenson Ranch Davidians, Silver Apples and Brian Jonestown Massacre, so it’s good to know that on 15 November they’ll be launching an MP3 shop so that all you heads can get your lysergic hits in a download style.

Find out more here.

SHIT AND SHINE – Jealous of Shit and Shine (Riot Season)

Posted: November 9th, 2006, by Graeme Williams

After listening to this album by the London bass and drums duo Shit and Shine (think Merzbeat, not Lightning Bolt) a few times, I can say the following about it: Jealous of Shit and Shine contains a one-riff, thirty minute long cover version of “Practicing To Be A Doctor” by the Strangulated Beatoffs.Sure, this is obvious to anyone looking at the track listing on the CD, but this fact alone tells you pretty much all you need to know about what you’re about to hear. About ten minutes into that song I wanted it to be over; by the end of it, I thought it ended too soon. There’s a fuckedness here that only rarely makes it to record.It makes me think of the VU on “Sister Ray”, the band barely managing to keep it together but the song working precisely because of this, or perhaps the sheer pill-induced audacity of Dylan Carson and Dave Harwell letting a single chord ring out for half an hour at the end of Earth 2, or maybe the monotonous riffery of Skullflower’s Exquisite Fucking Boredom. Not that Shit and Shine sound like any of these bands, but they share the same mentality as them.It’s sloppy, it’s dirty, it’s probably completely unlistenable to most sane people, it certainly doesn’t belong in polite society, but somehow, buried somewhere deep within there, there is the pure essence of rock n roll in all its retarded glory.


ATP: Nightmare Before Christmas Tickets

Posted: November 7th, 2006, by Alex McChesney

Yes, I know this is supposed to be an arts and culture blog and not some sort of hipster’s dating service, but basically we (being myself and my good lady wife) have booked a four-person chalet at this year’s ATP:Nightmare Before Christmas festival in Minehead on the 8th, 9th and 10th of December, and are in need of a couple of nice, friendly, preferably non-sociopathic persons to fill the other two bunks. Tickets are £135 a head and have sold out, so if you left it a wee bit too late, now’s your chance.

If you’re interested, do drop me a line at alex.mcchesney@gmail.com Cheers!

Update (01-12-06): After having a few offers that came to naught, these tickets are still available, so it’s not too late!

LIBRARY TAPES – Feelings For Something Lost (CD, Resonant)

Posted: November 6th, 2006, by Simon Minter

Following on very much in the style established on their previous album Alone In The Bright Lights Of A Shattered Life, this new set from Library Tapes is outstandingly bleak, minimal and intimate. I imagine that Library Tapes’ David Wenngren and Per Jardsell have never heard the theme from Oliver Postgate’s Bagpuss, but the twelve tracks here share its childlike, eerie sense of atmospherics, of loss and of glimmers of hope.

In terms of developing the musical themes from the first album, there is nothing revolutionary or particularly new at work here – both albums are made up of brief glimpses of melody; circular, echoing piano lines laid simply and effectively over a variety of scratchy, time-worn found sounds. But as part of a continuing meditation on the purity of melody, it’s hard not to be affected by these scribbles of music. At worst, the tracks pass by and leave me with nothing more than a melody hanging in my mind. At best – on the sinister, piano-less swells of sound of ‘Departures (Burning Saints For Your Own Sins)’ for example, sounding like an offcut from Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, Volume Two, and the beautifully chilly ‘Feelings For Something Lost (pt. 2)’, Library Tapes are almost unbearably heartbreaking and effective.

This is true winter music in the same way that Rachel’s and Hood are winter music – lonely, emotional sounds that reverberate deep within. I don’t know what’s in the water at Library Tapes HQ, but it brings out some of the most honest and heartfelt, yet simple, music I’ve heard in some time.

Library Tapes

From the desk of the diskant Overlord – November 4th

Posted: November 4th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Well, it is a whole new month and this year continues to zip past at the speed of light. Audioscope is over for another year and I have posted about it on the weblog.

My thoughts are now turning to the end of year poll and wondering if this will be the year we don’t manage to agree on even ten records. Thinking back myself, it’s been a pretty darn great year for music, especially locally, but I’m not sure how good a year for albums it has been. Possibly that’s the fault of my iPod as I hardly ever seem to listen to full albums anymore since it’s so easy to pick out the immediately good songs and put them in a playlist of marvellousness.

I’m also going to have a similar problem with voting for films as I have only seen about 3 films at the cinema this year. I have, however, seen more films this year than any previous year thanks to my Amazon DVD rental subscription. And with my Freeview box I can tape all the TV I want and watch it later. I fear I will never randomly discover anything again, I’m so busy selecting out just the things I know I want to hear or see. Maybe I will make 2007 the year of Random.

Anyway, the first NEW diskant newsletter went out with only minor hiccups so if you haven’t received it, you’re not subscribed. Go sort that out here or you won’t get the next one either.

I know l ast time I promised some reading recommendations but I filled the space writing about just 2 books and there’s tons more so I will post them on the blog soon instead.

Current listening: Squarepusher, Trail of Dead, Dananananaykroyd, Mogwai, Piano Magic, Joanna Newsom.

diskant interview slackness stats: Interviewees: 4, Me: 3