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Archive for January, 2007

YELLOW FEVER – S/T (Self-Released)

Posted: January 19th, 2007, by Maxwell Williams

Why is it that minimalist pop music seems to find a way to sound as, if not more, impactful than its wall of sound counterparts? I could ponder all day as to why I think Yellow Fever is one of the best things I’ve heard all year, with their deconstructively simple (the first half of “Donald” is a single repeated snare) drum beats, single note rubbery bass and their one word choruses. Even the songs each have one-word titles. They’re like an indie-pop version of the Young Marble Giants, except there’s two like-voiced Alison Statton’s intertwining their vocals into thick melodies that reach above the strangled guitars and crash down with a foggy hiss on top of the unhit cymbals.

The best songs on the self-titled/self-released EP come backloaded: the charming “Alice” marches into the enigmatic (and least minimal) “Psychedelic” which gives way to the a cappella closer “iMac.” It’s “Psychedelic,” though, that truly stands out. It features a cascading chorus that goes: “Why won’t you recognize how psychedelic I am, and love me?” And in the second verse when lead singer Isabel Martin sings, “I see your eyes/they’re higher than mine/pinecones will shimmer and cross timber lines” with that big voice of hers, I get so giddy that someone could come up with such clever lyrics and pair them with such lovely music.

-Maxwell Williams

Yellow Fever on MySpace

Is January dead?

Posted: January 18th, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Is there NOTHING exciting happening this month? Normally we highlight an upcoming exciting event on the homepage but we have had nothing since mid-December since no-one has emailed me about anything noteworthy and nothing has caught me eye during my daily trawling of the web.

So, what I am saying is tell us about your events. Whether it’s a music all-dayer, a film festival, an art show, a craft fair, whatever – if you think our readers would be interested in it then maybe we’ll feature it.

Two things to note:
1. we’re talking EVENTS here, not just your average gig.
2. give me a bit of notice. I’m not going to spend time writing a blurb and finding an image for something that I can only put on the site for a couple of days.

Got anything? Email me at diskant-overlord AT diskant.net. You can email me stuff that’s happening after January too, of course.

UPDATE: FatCat‘s upcoming 10 year anniversary shows have fixed this problem for the immediate future but keep your event suggestions coming. As commented below, the Chinchilla Fest 07 is looking awesome.

THE REVELATIONS – album sampler (CD, Crazy Dancer Records)

Posted: January 16th, 2007, by Simon Minter

You may not realise this, but at the heart of diskant is a pop-loving indie kid, who hasn’t yet shaken off their fascination with the glossy sheen of Girls Aloud, the ramshackle sweetness of Sha La La flexidiscs or the confident jangle of Spector’s girl groups.

So while I know that The Revelations, on the basis of this five track album sampler, sound utterly contrived, totally manufactured and relentlessly bouncy, the songs here still twang at some long-forgotten heartstring. I know that ‘You’re the loser’ is one step removed from B*Witched, dammit. I know that ‘Don’t let him go’ is the musical cousin of Madonna’s ‘True blue’. But in the moment of listening to the songs, I really don’t care.

Naturally, in more pretentious company I’d never let on that I’ve listened to this CD five times today. Cynicism being the worldbeating force it is these days, I’d scoff with everybody else at the simplicity of a Ronettes/Bangles template twisted into modern bubblegum with some shiny recording skill. Maybe I’m having a day of relenting, but at the moment, this music does something basic and life-affirming for me.

Even up against the current vogue for the likes of the Long Blondes and the Pipettes, this sounds lightweight. It’s nothing special; the songs are cliched and predictable; the performances utterly free of chaos and dirt. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe there’s enough white noise and black-hearted moodiness out there, and The Revelations are existing in their own space and time, and in doing so showing more spirit and individuality than they’ll ever realise.

The Revelations

From the desk of the diskant Overlord – January 16th

Posted: January 16th, 2007, by Marceline Smith

How is your 2007 going so far? Weather-wise, this has been an atrocious year for me so far (although it has just started snowing, yay!) Luckily things were brightened up by what is already my gig of the year – Joanna Newsom and the Northern Sinfonia at the City Halls, viewed from row B right in front of her pretty little face (and amazing shoes). She was perfect in every way and I started regretting giving up my cello for art and normal teenagerdom. I loved playing in an orchestra. If anyone has a spare cello please send it my way….

Have you broken your resolutions? I am still slacking terribly on the review front though I did tackle the overflowing diskant review box so I could hand a few piles out to our reviewers. Quite a few things that have been sitting in there for months got binned as well so if you sent something before October-ish and we haven’t reviewed it then we probably didn’t like it, one way or another. As anyone who has the misfortune to be within shouting distance of me when I rummage in the review box will know, my one tip for sending us CDs is BUT WHAT DO YOU SOUND LIKE? I don’t care where you met your drummer or whether you’re tipped as the next big thing, I want some way of figuring out which reviewer might like your record. Okay, I’ll calm down now.

Other than reviews, diskant is a little quiet just now. I’m mostly working on stuff behind the scenes including wrestling with the new version of Blogger, trying to tidy up long-neglected areas and getting the diskant robot back to work. I have also set up an Amazon aStore for diskant so you can buy some of the things we write about. More information about that is on the weblog

Don’t forget the special double issue of the diskant newsletter will be going out at the end of the month so join up now.

Current listening: Joanna Newsom, Cat Power, Shigeru Umebayashi, Fugazi, Deerhoof.

ROSE KEMP – Violence (Single, One Little Indian)

Posted: January 15th, 2007, by Pascal Ansell

Rose Kemp has a lovely voice, and she is pretty. And she has a band. That’s all I know about her and that’s all I’m worrying about for the time being. Her single, ‘Violence’ was released late last year, and since then she’s been touring like a mad(wo)man. ‘Violence’ doesn’t start off too well, it sounds like any generic ‘dark’ indie song, but soon an onslaught of distortion kicks in and I know I’m in good territory. The choruses don’t have vocals, just blistering noise, and you have to wait another four minutes before it gets interesting again: an unsettling riff set to a perfectly danceable beat which then fades out way too soon. The second and last song, ‘Fire in the Garden’ picks up form instantly, with Rose’s elegiac crooning looped over and over, much like the beginning of Björk’s sublime ‘Medúlla’ LP. ‘Fire in the Garden’ defines Kemp’s unusual experimentation, and it’s when she is daring enough to turn a song on its head that her real forte is revealed.

Pascal Ansell

Buy stuff

Posted: January 15th, 2007, by Marceline Smith

I have set up an Amazon aStore for diskant so that you can buy some of the things we go on about on here. Obviously we’d recommend you use your local independent store but if you’re going to use Amazon then at least a tiny proportion of the cash is coming back to us. At present we have our favourite albums and films of 2006 and a bunch of personal recommendations from your own diskant Overlord. Hopefully some of the other diskanteers will do their own recommendation sections but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Do rest assured that I will not be plastering ads all over diskant – the shop is completely seperate to diskant and will only be linked by text in a few relevant places. I also guarantee that all profits made will be spent by me on great things which I will subsequently write about on diskant. At present I personally pay all the hosting and domain registration costs for diskant out of my own pocket. The day diskant ever starts to cover its costs we will decide what to do with the money (free pie for everyone of course).

HAUSCHKA – Room To Expand (Fat Cat)

Posted: January 13th, 2007, by Pascal Ansell

The piano is undoubtedly the king of all instruments. It’s extremely versatile, has a huge range and it is probably the easiest instrument to express oneself on, and that’s not to mention the extensive timbres accessible through the push of a pedal. ‘Room to Expand’ from Fat Cat’s latest artist, Hauschka (Volker Bertelmann to his mum) furthers my point. This Düsseldorf-based pianist decided that, in the same vein as minimalist maverick John Cage, he’d chuck a bunch of screws inside a piano and then see what happens. Well, not quite. He ‘prepared’ the piano: clamping wedges of leather, felt or rubber between the strings, weaving guitar strings around the piano’s gut, that sort of thing. The result is fantastic: the album collates various clicks, pangs, scrapes and modified notes in layer upon layer of texture into a lovely multifaceted listen.

‘Paddington’ is a sprightly bundle of timbres and knockings, and it swells with tiers of assorted piano clatters, which is the idea running through ‘Room To Expand’. The ingeniously titled ‘Watercolour Milk’ slowly builds up one chord with sundry embellishments and one driving knock, and ends with echoing string scrapings. The serene beauty of ‘Sweet Spring Come’ is the album’s standout track – rather poignant considering the dismal English weather of late. It’s lead by a clever piano plonk acting as a snare, then minutes after a florid piano line, in comes a delicate bassline and a ethereal strum on the piano’s strings.

‘Room To Expand’ largely resembles the masterful piano vignettes of Aphex Twin’s ‘Drukgs’ album, and a more condensed version of John Cage’s ‘Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano’, yet Hauschka’s effort will take many, many listens before it becomes tired or predictable. Through close listening over time, the album unravels – it’s possible to discover a new sound in each song with every listen. This already has to be a contender for the most outstanding, even unique, album of 2007.

Pascal Ansell
http://fat-cat.co.uk/fatcat/release.php?id=218

DAVID KARSTEN DANIELS – Sharp Teeth (Fat Cat)

Posted: January 11th, 2007, by Pascal Ansell

The North Carolina based singer/songwriter David Karsten Daniels likes a wee trick. Looking at the artwork from his latest release, you’d expect something awfully dark: the drawing of a naked man eating a woman’s intestines is cheekily deceiving. What is delivered through the speakers is a completely different picture: gentle acoustic pop with florid orchestral arrangements (courtesy of Polyphonic Spree violinist Daniel Hart) fill the airwaves, instead of the doom and gloom anticipated.

Opener ‘The Dream before the Ring That Woke Me’ is an instantly memorable journey through ones childhood, while the triumphant horns arrangement on ‘Scripts’ provide much needed variety. ‘Beast’ takes a hefty slice of inspiration pie from labelmates Amandine and Sigur Ros: lyrics whispered at double-slow speed influenced by the former and the epic clashing moments by the latter. It’s such a sweetly soporific effort that I nearly fell asleep on the bus and missed my stop.

Daniels’ voice is clear and crisp, not the most remarkable of voices even on the mighty Fat Cat label, but it’s pervasive and it heats the slightly lukewarm parts of the album well enough. A snail-paced tempo is fixed throughout the whole of ‘Sharp Teeth’, narrowly escaping the pecks of tedium of Larry Lag-behind Jaybird. There are some beautiful moments on this album, yet it’s just not lively or evocative enough to transform it from a decent to an outstanding album. Sharp Teeth? More like soft chew.

Pascal Ansell
http://fat-cat.co.uk/fatcat/release.php?id=215

2006 in pictures

Posted: January 11th, 2007, by Chris Summerlin

I couldn’t work out how to do that thing that Mar-C did where she made them all little neat thumbnails so you get bigger photos. Here’s 2006 in visuals…

Party in NottinghamOld, deaf men

My HouseGareth

Front RoomBedroom

Bunch of guys asleep in a carMarceline, Glasgow

Me

PurrTravis Bean

Spot the difference...Gibson ES135

TwatMorecambe & Wise

Lords - Lake StageCOME WITH ME

Team PhotoGringo Boss

TIM PARE – Trans-Siberian Express (CD, Mumbo Jumbo Records)

Posted: January 10th, 2007, by Simon Minter

Apparently Tim Pare jettisoned his past life in 2004, moved to China for a while and subsequently returned on the Trans-Siberian Express, swapping vodka for a guitar in order to write the six songs on this CD. So goes the story in the liner notes. Whether this is true or not is almost immaterial; the experiences gained with such travels don’t particularly inform these songs, which tell a familiar, yet always effective, boy-met-girl/boy-lost-girl story.

The music here is absolutely sparse, in the main. Pare’s clear, slightly breathy voice floats above simple guitar pickings and strummings. There are some subtle arrangements at work, though, with the addition of backing vocal harmonies, piano, cello and on ‘Losing My Touch’, a lovely female voice. The simplicity of the sound lays the songs bare, and it’s fortunate that they’re beautifully sung, carefully performed and affectingly heartfelt.

Tim Pare’s style leans more towards the singer-songwriter template of the Finn Brothers or (although I hate to say it) The Beautiful South at their quietest, but it retains an important sense of reality, purity and honesty that reflects the spiritual presence of Nick Drake and Crosby, Stills and Nash. It’s a frequently lovely listen, and one that captures moods of both hope and despair with deceptively effortless success.

Mumbo Jumbo Records
Tim Pare