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Archive for April, 2007

JILL CUNNIFF – City Beach (CD, The Militia Group)

Posted: April 7th, 2007, by JGRAM

I feel this summer our indie world is primed for something of a Grand Royal revival to counteract the grime, geekiness and general lack of fun that appears to be prevailing circa now. Money Mark has a new record out, Deerhoof fit the mold of exotic experiemental cool and a new Beastie Boys record itself is on its way along with an Ad-Rock produced Bad Brains record as a bonus. And to capture the summer breeze, Jill Cunniff is back from motherhood with her first solo record to accompany (and promote) a greatest hits compilation for Luscious Jackson (they had hits?). And by the end of the year, there may even be the threatened nursery rhyme/lullaby Luscious Jackson record itself.

It should come as no surprise that this record sounds very similar to the sparkly bright sounds that used to be Luscious Jackson. Also though, as I write this today the first solo efforts of Mutya Buena have also been unveiled and I have to say listening to those tracks and these, often the dynamics and general form of the songs are rather interchangeable even if the separate looks and personas appear to be from different planets.

The album flows into full swing with the lead promo track (which formerly would have been a first single but are now known as MP3 samples) “Lazy Girls”. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a track from the Luscious Jackson compilation (or their last album) itself as it glides smoothly. The pace sadly does not maintain as the songs flounder between slow tempo trip hop attempts onto funk lite pop songs and efforts that resemble both the best and worst (more so the latter) of female pop songs. The low point comes with “Future Call” and stomping cheesy guitars that sound straight out of an Atari ST being delivered by the cheesiest of one hit girl bands, a sound several light years from the band sound of Luscious Jackson.

Jill Cunniff still has the sweetest of voices and harmonies to die for but this album has neither the hooks nor the songs. Maybe by the end of the summer the potential breezy charm will have me captivated but for the moment I’m just not feeling it. I’m not really sure what audience this record is being aimed at and neither who is actually going to buy it. A real missed opportunity.

Thesaurus moment: unaccompanied.

Jill Cunniff
The Militia Group

THE HELLPHONES – This Is How (CD, Sheer Music)

Posted: April 7th, 2007, by JGRAM

In an alternative universal, lets say South Africa, here is a band that could possibly be seen in a similar light to The Hold Steady. This music is unabashed straight ahead rock by people with silly names who dress like The Hives. If there is any originality in this CD, I am determined to squeeze it out in an attempt to prove my very own self worth.

There is no lack in confidence in the delivery and you can most definitely imagine the vocalist, a chap by the sole name of “Fredriguez” (just like Pele) moving about a stage with a lot of gusto and charisma, something of an accomplishment for a person when they so resemble Justin Lee Collins. In these troubled times however of sexual diseases, such advances and ego are somewhat frowned upon where there is the merest of hints that the persona is being delivered without even the slightest hint of irony, such as with here. By three tracks in I’m confused, trying to work out what kind of Elvis Costello/Bruce Springsteen hybrid I am listening to.

Although I enjoy the artwork I don’t like the music. A short story: I currently work with a person that featured on Big Brother in South Africa and the sheer unphased confidence I experience from her I find worryingly echoes in what I hear here. That old chestnut and stereotype of hard rocking and bigotry is hinted at in such song titles as “Amsterdam Bang”, “Stealing The Feeling”, “Dirty Minds”, “Sick Leave” and “Shake It” all seemingly delivered without a shred of humour (yeah, that’ll tell ’em Granddad).

With a name that suggests a direct line to blaspheme, a desired musical jihad might sensibly be angled in their direction as the music very much represents the kind that might be played through my telephone if a most hateful cleric put me on hold.

Thesaurus moment: gauche.

The Hellphones
Sheer Music

B.C. CAMPLIGHT – Blink of a Nihilist (CD, One Little Indian)

Posted: April 5th, 2007, by Simon Minter

Brian Christianzio, aka B.C. Camplight, makes quirky and perky pop tunes with a rich array of instrumentation and orchestration. Like Grandaddy, recent Flaming Lips and the just-mentioned-on-these-pages Dr. Dog, this is easier on guitars than us indie kids might be comfortable with; it’s full of plinking piano, plonking trumpet and all kinds of other things thrown into the mix.

It’s more show-tunes than tortured soul music: for the majority of Blink of a Nihilist, lyrics of love and confusion are swamped in a heady brew of arrangement and relentlessly melodic and tuneful experimentation. At times it gets too much; the odd second or two of trumpet or strings dropped into tracks like ‘Soy Tonto!’ and ‘The Hip and the Homeless’ seems forced, whilst the waltz or bossanova rhythms employed by tracks like ‘Werewolf Waltz’ suggest a half-hearted stab at Beck’s Tropicalia-infused Mutations.

For all its (admittedly minor) faults, this is constantly interesting and diverting listening. Near the end of the album, on ‘I’ve Got A Bad Cold’, Christianzio/Camplight suddenly reigns in the weirdness and offers Brian-Wilson-all-over multi-part harmonies; seemingly his own teenage symphony to God, and at last a chance for emotion to come to the surface. It’s this track that makes me think there’s more to this guy than what could seem to be shallow exercises in form over function. For that, I have listened again to the album with renewed belief and interest in an out-there, but definitely real songwriter.

B.C. Camplight
One Little Indian

THESE NEW PURITANS – Now! Pluvial EP (Angular)

Posted: April 4th, 2007, by JGRAM

I discovered this band by accident last year as the sound of their Myspace page came ear bleedingly pounding up from downstairs in the publishing department of my workplace. My gut reaction was that this was the sound of The Jesus Lizard jamming and crashing into Einsturzende Neubauten, I had not heard a better band in five years. Apparently.

With further inspection of these true children of the Myspace age I found more delight in the fact that these kids hail from Southend in Essex (my heart my Essex) and their photo shots just make them look ugly, reminding me visually of My Bloody Valentine at their best/worst. This truly looked the perfect package. Whether long term parking will see such a buzz maintain is another question but for now I am happy to feast on what I think I have found, I have found like.

Correct me if I am wrong but this is their first venture into a proper release and obviously it is on the most defiant of formats: the seven inch single. I wish I could say releasing records on vinyl was the sure fire method of keeping your tracks off Soulseek but I have to admit before I had bought this single, I had downloaded the tracks as MP3s. Even today when I put this release into an Ebay search to see how much of an investment the record has become, all I find it a “DJ copy” – aka a plain CD of these three tracks.

And these are three tracks of a purposely awkward kind. Who can fault a band whose opening track is called “Elvis” and features distorted vocals Mark E. Smith would be impressed by. The bass led ritual is as dirty as middle class kids can afford to come, distorting the truth of their apparent dysfunction, there is a lot of solace to be taken from these times. “C16th” follows as a typically difficultly titled song tapping into the post-punk jerk sound that has maintained its hype over the past few years, the redeeming difference here being the way the drums manage to dictate proceedings. Track BB “En Papier” is the death defying song that originally captured my attention with it’s end of the world exploits as it plainly just sounds like kids being tortured and kicked to death by musical instruments in the most angular and disorientating fashion of recent memory whilst still remaining coherent. If this is the kind of intensity and inventiveness the band can maintain we have a major new band to admire.

Thesaurus moment: convincing.

These New Puritans
Angular Records

VARIOUS – Fritz The Cat & Heavy Traffic Original Soundtrack Recordings (CD, Fantasy Records)

Posted: April 4th, 2007, by JGRAM

At the risk of fawning too much (and falling into commercial promotion) I really have made some exciting finds for just £5 in the extensive Fopp soundtracks section in recent months. I have to admit these days more and more I find myself buying DVDs instead of CDs and soundtracks instead of albums.

If anyone remembers the feature length cartoon Fritz The Cat, they will probably recall an over-reaching attempt at greatness, a narrative with many messages that unfortunately often fall wide of the mark rather than making their point. After watching the movie it comes as no surprise when you discover that R Crumb disowned the movie. At the same time however it is not a bad experience by any means, visually fun if not arresting and mildly informative if not educating. And it was always one of those movies to which there were amazing songs I wish I was able to own.

The backdrop of the movie is the political spectrum of sixties America where people were acting as if they had invented politic and protest but by the end of the period the savvy were becoming cynical while many were clinging onto the final threads of the lifestyle as the wise became resigned to having accomplished little change. As a result there is something of a beaten tone to the community which is heavily reflected in the sounds emitting from my stereo as this album plays. If you remember from the movie, Fritz The Cat was to some extent rallying against the heavy themes of the movie, being playful with his winning charade. In amongst the level headed themes around this score, often darting in is such a devilish influence/element. This was a truly great era for music.

The CD spreads over 27 tracks, 13 for Fritz The Cat and 14 for Heavy Traffic and if I’m honest I only stick around for the Fritz tunes. And in amongst the suave instrumentals of heavy Hammond organ that is the kind of music Bukowski would drink, some real heavyweights feature in the form of Bo Diddley and Billie Holiday chip in with cuts. Indeed Billie Holiday’s “Yesterdays” is the kind of song that could stop traffic, a track that thoroughly captures the pain of nostalgia and longing for the past. And juxtaposed next to that track comes righteous gospel celebrations from the Watson Sisters, quite probably an act that I will never hear a song by for the remainder of my days. The music generally is the kind that you would play poker too, genuine lounge than reminds me of output from such alt rock heroes as Golden and the Denison Kimball Trio. Indeed by the second you are faced by literal funk, utilising percussion in ways that Tortoise could only dream of, seldom does the xylophone being used as a lead instrument sound so good. For me, this is just the stuff of genuine greatness.

As the album slips onto the Heavy Traffic soundtrack there is a marked change in pace, not least represented by the reality that the first two tracks are variations on Scarborough Fair. Again the soundtrack is represented by some true heavyweights with Sergio Mendes, the Isley Brothers, Dave Brubek and Chuck Berry. Beyond an excruciatingly cringeworthy version of “Twist And Shout” by the Isley Brothers, a strange version of the ever reliable “Take Five” appears as the Heavy Traffic portion of the CD set provides its own worthy atmospherics.

There is nothing new nor necessarily cutting edge about this CD but it does serve as an example of a great hidden gem of a release that can be found in the most high street of stores with view to creating a perfect pseudo-boho ambience and a genuinely relaxing record.

Thesaurus moment: streetwise, urbane.

Fritz The Cat
Heavy Traffic
Fantasy Records

LOREN SCOTT – Secular Ethics (CD, Raising Agent)

Posted: April 4th, 2007, by JGRAM

With cheesy cover artwork, intended to shock and offend, and a cod political album title which both only serve to roll eyes and put a person off, before the CD is even slipped out of the packaging I find myself out of love with this release. And even when I get around to removing the disc, I find myself confronted in the inlay with the bare chest of Miss Scott I believe (complete with hefty tattoo on her arm). I can only ask myself, what have I been given to listen to? At this point, the only way I feel this record could be salvaged would be were Loren Scott a Muslim.

I brave listening to the CD to be confronted by subtle feedback and electronic beeps before a pulsing beat akin to an eighties moves the song forward until the more standard drum beat takes over and the expected lyrics sail in. There is a strange air of nonchalance coupled with trying too hard feel to this record. By track four the band (?) are singing how they “create a scene because I’ve never been seen”, something I find neither believable nor relieving. One song later and the band sound very similar to the current flavour of the month Ghosts so have perhaps tapped into something the music industry is currently buying into in its droves, if not those of us with something of a rebellious streak or musical taste buds for that matter. Likewise, imagine Richard Ashcroft if he were feminine sounding and The Verve actually could not play/write whilst leaning into Belle And Sebastian, perhaps this is something of a misleading description as it actually suggests something good.

The further I delve into the record, the more confused and disillusioned I find myself becoming. Gone are my judgements of the music as I return to the reality that this is a solo project and not a whole band’s efforts, more than ever do my efforts to find fruit and coherence feel pointless and futile. When I finally realise Loren Scott is just a butch female, Loren Scott ain’t Lauryn Hill, not that there is any suggestion she claims to be, just take that diss at face value. Having now squeezed out 300 words about this CD I decide I will never give it any thought ever again in the safe comfort zone of knowing that I don’t need to.

Thesaurus moment: Detritus.

Loren Scott

Guitar Heroes to form Rock Band

Posted: April 4th, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Wow. Everyone has wished this and now it has been announced that there will be a full band game from the Guitar Hero folks with a range of plastic instruments. Are we excited?

There seems to be lots of interesting gameplay going on including the ability to form bands ONLINE but thanks to my work’s monitoring software, I can’t access any of the articles. Reading about computer gaming is deemed as bad as viewing porn or doing some online gambling. Bah.

This is what I can read. Both have links out to stuff I can’t read.
Guardian Gamesblog post
Wonderland’s post

It’s almost enough to make you want a PS3, ahahahahahahaha. etc.

From the desk of the diskant Overlord – April 2nd

Posted: April 2nd, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Summer seems to have arrived at last and I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on anything of importance. Add to that my birthday, pretty much everyone else’s birthdays and two craft markets and I haven’t really achieved much this month except eating a lot of cake. Not that I’m complaining.

However, as part of my birthday celebrations I have made a list of 32 things to do while I’m 32. While this list includes things like going to the Falkirk Wheel, making a dress and catching a Tarantula in Animal Crossing, there are also some diskant-related ones including the long-discussed redesign and my pledge to write 32 record reviews for the Reviews Blog. I will keep you posted. The redesign has already begun and we hope to have something to show for it very soon. We’ll be doing it in stages as it’s all got to be done in our spare time, of which there is very little.

Remember, if you’d like to help us figure out The Future of diskant then do fill out the DISKANT READER SURVEY. We really appreciate your feedback and we’re already acting on it. It only takes a few minutes and there’s a great prize on offer!

Current listening: Margaret Berger, Trans Am, Errors, Findo Gask, The Yummy Fur.
diskant interview slackness stats: Interviewees: 0, Me: 1