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Archive for June, 2007

BIG NURSE – American Waste (LP, High Density Headache Records)

Posted: June 10th, 2007, by JGRAM

This was a random LP/twelve inch that was just sent to my flat addressed to No Pictures last summer, something which I have to admit freaked me out because I have no idea as to just where they got my current address from. Hmmm……..

Big Nurse are something of a terrifying proposition, a pulsing and repetitive excretion of sheet metal white noise all in the name of ferocity. Upon first listen a person could be forgiven for dismissing this as just noise and they would be right but it is also so much more.

The sounds coming from stereo (people please send me vinyl and more of it!) reminds me of recent acts I have seen such as Chris Corsano and Rocket No 9, improv infused monsters looking to push boundaries further and further with each onslaught and performance. This music comes straight out of the heart of Sun Ra whilst being conceived and performed by/from standards set out by punk. As the first side of the record comes to an end sound akin to the din made by a cutlery drawer falling down several flights of stairs of a council building, I make myself a cup of tea and ask God “just what else can I expect from this act now?”

I think American Waste is the perfect title for this record; the heady din is very industrial, like a factory in the middle of nowhere producing the middle of nothing, a pointless industry that can seemingly only be found in downsized America and the broken working classes. The pain I feel from this record is akin to the latest worker to miss a meal through failing to have employment. The whistles on the record say it all.

Side two begins with more drilling and a relentless patter exhibiting much more energy than the previous slab – imagine Lightning Bolt covering “Revolution” by Spaceman 3 and suddenly we are live from Planet Load Records. Out the blocks however, the “tune” does not sustain and again the assault becomes overwhelming and difficult to live with, which is exactly the kind of response you suspect Big Nurse wish to treat you with on a big scale. As a Dick Dale sound-alike subtly invades the “song” towards the close it all ends with a painful crash and I am able to go back to my life (and watching “How To Look Good Naked”). If you need a party cleared soon, this is the record to do it with.

I will never play this record ever again.

Thesaurus moment: throbbing.

Big Nurse
High Density Headache Records

LDN IS A VICTIM – LDN Is A Victim (seven inch, Happy Shopper Records)

Posted: June 10th, 2007, by JGRAM

This is a vindictive little record aiming true at the current crop of “indie” acts buzzing around London A&R circles. And equally I feel quite the victim myself as I hand over my hard earned fiver at Rough Trade’s Talbot Road shop for a copy on “limited” pink vinyl which keeps skipping, over and over and over (piece of shit).

Having created something of a buzz in itself on Myspace, the targets in question are perhaps the first wave/generation of Myspace acts to transfer from the computer screen onto the big screen (whatever that is).

Of the acts assaulted some deserve it and some don’t (well, no one is really innocent) but it is hard to fault anyone to who refers to Miss LDN herself as “Lily Keith Allen”. It’s snotty and cynical but you can’t help but laugh at the cattiness of it all because in actuality it is generally pretty spot on in its statements.

I think I have had a taster of the “scene” addressed here first hand as I have sat and watched at work for a year a young lad that looks like Alex Zane act as A&R in the publishing department where I toil, displaying neither any real musical taste/knowledge or with any hope in hell of actually getting anything signed. He may be mates with The Kooks but in reality the fact he just spent all day staring at one particular website earned him the name “Myspace Boy.” I say “spent” as in the past tense because he has fucked off now as the publishing function has now been downsized to next to nothing. “Bye bye A&R you’re not needed here any more.”

Musically the track, complete with Nathan Barley sample at the close (point made), consists of pretty standard beats relying on witty snipes by it’s inventors and whilst it is hardly likely to change the course of music history I certainly feel it gives a good lesson.

For what it’s worth it sounds like the work of Peckham’s DJ Rubbish to me.

Thesaurus moment: cocky.

LDN Is A Victim

LORI STEELE – Lori Steele (CD, self released)

Posted: June 10th, 2007, by JGRAM

Packaging wise this is an interesting CD as it has a barcode but doesn’t actually have any kind of record label attached to it, it would seem. Is this where the industry is apparently heading – where bands/acts are now self released brands and record labels have been made unnecessary and redundant. Regardless though the cover artwork looks fantastic, like some kind of explosion taken from a Golden Age Marvel or DC comic.

Initially the record reminds me a lot of a long lost band called Letters To Cleo although the occasional vocal quirk does suggest a penchant towards Alanis Morissette combined with a chorus that could be straight out of The Corrs back catalogue.

For a girl (soft) rocker there feels a distinct lack of a rebellious edge, this is all so horribly well adjusted, agonised but in that soft victim way. Comparisons aside, judged on its own merits the songs are very clean and competently created but not really pushing any boundaries.

By the close of the record ultimately I just cannot judge nor decide as to whether the true leanings sway towards alternative rock or full on pop. Certainly at times I am reminded of The Cranberries and very much an Irish Alanis Morissette (with a dab of Avril Lavigne) but having made such trite comparisons I would really hate to come to release that I am acting listening to (dealing with) some haggard old punk trying to play it straight.

There is a lot in this record for people to take and enjoy, those people just happen to be either elderly and/or very dull.

Thesaurus moment: duplicity.

Lori Steele

Free Beatnik Filmstars EP

Posted: June 10th, 2007, by Simon Minter

For the next few months the Beatnik Filmstars are offering a free EP (a real, physical EP, none of your daft digital download nonsense) to anyone who answers a few BF-related questions. See here. All you pay for is the postage. Free noisy indie-pop music! FREE!

DAN DEACON – Spiderman of the Rings (CD/LP, Carpark Records)

Posted: June 9th, 2007, by Alasdair R

Hello people. I haven’t reviewed anything in a while but I have been taking a break from reality and hiding from the real world. In other words I have been watching far too much TV and trying my hardest not to think too much, if at all.

In one of my more lucid moments I agreed to help Marceline by sorting through the CDs that come through the diskant door. In doing so I am exposed to some appalling artwork and press releases but I also get to pick out stuff that looks interesting. Dan Deacon’s Spiderman of the Rings was one such find and I am hugely glad it caught my eye.

It is brilliant. I put it on expecting mildly pretentious, but potentially entertaining, sample heavy electro-noodling only to be entirely blown away. This is great fun mutant cartoon electric funk rock with fantastic tunes. If I realised reality could sound this good I would not have stayed away so long.

Dan Deacon’s website
Carpark Records’ website

LINE – They Took Great Proud In Their Work (CD, Super-Fi Records)

Posted: June 7th, 2007, by Dave Stockwell

Despite being unfathomably fantastic, Soe’za are not the most prolific of bands. They’ve been going nigh-on a decade and have thus-far delivered two full-length albums and one EP (third album due later this year!). Amongst their ranks is Chris Cole of Manyfingers/Movietone/Matt Elliott infamy, who obviously has a few other things on the go. But what do the others do in their convalescence?

Soe’za’s principal male singer Ben Owen started Line back in 2002 along with some friends as a vehicle for his own songwriting recipes and “They Took Great Proud In Their Work” is their second Extended Play offering. This particular meal’s 25 minutes long and has 6 songs to get your teeth into, with an extremely nutritious diet of acoustic and electric guitars, drums, keyboard, occasional horns and some real, human voices in there too. Cooked up and preapred in just one day last August, it’s a particularly fulsome, yet delicately-flavoured dish, comprehensively stuffed with melodic joy and invention.

If you hadn’t guessed, this is really, really lovely stuff. Light as a souffle, tasty as salsa-enhanced salad, satisfying as a three-course all-you-can-eat buffet, this EP is as pleasant a listen as you cold hope for – all twinkling melodies, carefully arranged musical textures and imaginative arrangements. There’s even some super harmonised humming towards the end of penultimate track “Two Coats Colder” that makes me break into an unconscious smile whenever I hear it. I can’t remember the last time a record made me do that. And then you get some awesome whooping and hollering in final track “Love In The Trenches,” which cracks the grin as wide as my face. And I certainly can’t recall the last time a record made me do that. Can you?

Music as wistful and carefree-sounding as this has obviously had some real craft go into it, and it’s a credit to Line’s arrangements that each track flows effortlessly, sounding like a stream of masterful pop songs… if only we lived in an alternate universe where mostly instrumental wide-eyed acoustic music like this could be viewed as viable marketable materiel by the major label suits. Whatever the case, Line should take a bow for an excellent accompaniment to the encroachment of the summer weather. Thanks, chaps.


THE MOCK HEROIC – Dignified Exits (CD, Super-Fi Records)

Posted: June 7th, 2007, by Dave Stockwell

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you wonder if you’re finally losing touch with youth. For me, it came about 30 seconds into this debut album from crack post-emo/screamo-power-violence outfit The Mock Heroic. This album delivers 11 songs in the space of 23 minutes, which may not be much on the likes of The Locust, but these 4 lads from Norwich deliver some incredibly intricate music that splatters all over the place but is also amazingly technical. And I’m glad it’s not any longer, because I feel wholly inadequate to appreciate it fully.

Personally, my ears find it heard to deal with this kind of music. With so many rhythm and tempo changes and not so much in the way of a melodic hook, repetition or any kind of inviting texture to the lean, punchy sound, the music feels like a purely technical workout of quickfire bouts of aggression. I can just imagine the drummer counting off the amount of times he plays one riff before he goes to the next, and because there’s no groove, no grace, no goofing off, no solos, no humour – absolutely no letting up in any way – to me it becomes like a lesson in pure musicianship rather than an enjoyable experience. And where’s the fun in that?

But it’s a remarkably assured and aggressive debut for a young band, and if you have any interest in where the trails blazed by post-hardcore and screamo have reached in this day and age, you should really check them out. Similarly, the fuss around people like “underground” band Enter Shikari or even “technical metal” bands like Sikth (or even Eden Maine) makes me laugh when you compare them to The Mock Heroic. For me, the closest musical equivalent to this band I can think of (outside of 31G bands) would probably be Orthrelm – stunning in terms of individual musicianship, but punishing to such an extent that it can leave you dazed. As someone who counts himself as a Kevin Drumm fan, I thought I knew all about finding pleasure in pain in music, but – like Mick Barr’s outfit – The Mock Heroic’s approach to songwriting just gives me a headache.

It would also be very easy to joke about or dismiss the earnestness behind this music. There’s no so much of a whiff of humour in the full set of lyrics and explanatory notes for each song printed in the jacket, but it would be missing the point to expect any, or to accuse the band of being preachy (even if there is a song about the horror of vivisection). The Mock Heroic’s music is all about teenage angst winding up so tight that you explode with anger and outrage, and it is their musical precision and technicality that is the devastating blow. With such controlled bursts of aggression, there’s no catharsis, which just makes you tighter and tighter. And this is why I feel old – kids go nuts for this stuff these days, and The Mock Heroic are as good as any band of this ilk that I’ve heard. In fact, for me they blow people like Orthrelm or latter-day Hella out of the water in terms of sheer listenability and the idea of playing as a band. There are certainly no discernable egos on display here, which must be praised in a band so obviously full of talented musicians. But I struggle to find pleasure in music devoid of any catharsis – Morton Feldman would struggle to ratchet up more tension than is on ‘Dignified Exits’ – and chock-full of angst about things like the importance of being true to yourself and not subsuming your personality with excessive admiration of others (this is all spelled out in the liner notes in case you don’t follow the incoherent screaming). For me, listening to this album is exhausting. You young pups may well enjoy it a lot more.

One last aside: as a nice addition to the crisp recording and mastering, the CD’s gatefold slipcover features some nice artwork of a naked man courtesy Brighton-based artist Karen Constance (who also plays in Blood Stereo), whose artwork was last seen on the cover of [Thurston Moore/Paul Flaherty/Chris Corsano/etc project] Dream Aktion Unit’s debut album. Good work!


ANGELA VALID – This Book’s On Fire (CD, World In Winter Recordings)

Posted: June 7th, 2007, by Dave Stockwell

A promising EP recorded in a London church hall (with a nice view of HM Holloway) by a Sheffield-based duo who otherwise go by the names Iain Chambers and Alex Jones. After splitting a The Wire-acclaimed 7″ with a band called Asbourne’s Strongest Man, this is an opportunity to experience in full their flourishing vision of sparse, electronically-affected experimental rock music.

Beginning with a basic improvising set-up of drums and guitar, a lot of post-production, editing, manipulation and experimentation has obviously gone into the 4 tracks presented here, as well as some guest instrumentation and assistance from Pedro member James Rutledge. Though their press release references Tortoise, Wolf Eyes and the Constellation label, the music here takes me much further back to the approach of the masterful This Heat, who pioneered many ideas on display here almost 3 decades ago. Heavy editing and stitching together of seemingly disparate takes and ideas, “non-musicianship” utilised as a spontaneous source for textures, electronically-effected drums (the opening buzzing of a delayed drumkit sounds remarkably like ’24 Track Loop’) and dizzying layers of sound sources creating a disorientating and uncertain soundworld are all techniques that Angela Valid employ in deference to their progenitors. This is hardly a criticism though, as few bands have successfully taken the template established by This Heat and done anything interesting with it (Laddio Bolocko are just about the only people I can think of), and Angela Valid at least shower a small roman candle of idea-sparks that dazzle in comparison to yer average (and increasingly conservative) ‘post-rock’ band or braindead (and increasingly tiresome) ‘free-improvising’ dirge unit.

Bristling with overloaded circuits, clattering percussion and murky layers of meandering melodic progression piled on top of electronic squiggles and musical echoes, this EP meanders through its 33 minute duration in a very pleasant fashion, occasionally turning your ear with a particularly inventive idea or sound. Nicely restrained, it never threatens to overload your stereo with any kind of bombast or noise assault, and even in its most minimal moments the band sounds confident and assured. They are exploring textures and spaces that have been addressed before, but it’s been a whle since anyone did so with such vim and vigour.

Apparently Angela Valid will have further releases this year, culminating in a debut full-length album before 2008 hits. I, for one, will be listening out for these, as well as further releases by World In winter, a new London-based collective/label as young and imaginative as this band. You can find out more about both by checking out these links:


Super Quick Primavera Roundup

Posted: June 7th, 2007, by Ollie

Chris S appears to have the proper-review-with-photos-and-everything side of things covered for last weekend’s Primavera Sound, which quite tidily leaves me a small window for a few thoughts (which at present is the best I can muster).

Arrive on Thursday, am reminded just how excellent Dirty Three are after many years of completely neglecting them. Warren Ellis has turned into an old man since last I saw them. Run off to catch Melvins play Houdini, which is absolutely joyous. Impossibly loud rhythm section. By the time they get to Going Blind, I am taking a severe pummeling to the kidneys from an assortment of idiots behind me, and slink down to catch the start of Slint. Third time I’ve seen them, just as great, and just as wrong as ever. Leave after Washer and miss the new song (?!) to catch Comets on Fire. They have started playing and roughly ten people are watching. By the end of The Bee and the Crackin’ Egg it is packed and they are melting eyeballs left right and centre. Various technical difficulties do not stop me having a one-man boogie against the barrier (oo-er). Completely miss Smashing Pumpkins who I was kind of looking forward to seeing, but do catch Mike Patton and Christian Fennesz being weird and loud and great. By this point I have drunk my body weight in Estrella Damm and am absolutely steaming. See the White Stripes play Hotel Yorba and Jolene and it is excellent. Get down the front for Justice, take one look at their stage setup and am reduced to a squealing adolescent. They provide bangers the likes of which I have never before known, and Girl Talk, and in fact the next 36 hours slides past me in a haze of broken sofa beds and apocalyptic headaches.

Forward to Saturday, when I am fully refreshed and generally feeling like a new man. Roll down early on the advice of my friend Barney to see Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, who are totally great. Always someone I’ve managed to overlook, but this is totally joyous, uplifting, classic indie rock with a Daft Punk cover, in the sun, with the ocean a few metres away and I am made up. See a bit of the Long Blondes but they’re not up to much. Likewise The Durutti Column. The sun goes down and Pelican are pretty good and play the first song from Australasia as I am hanging over a wall watching boats and things go past. Straight after them is Isis, who are somewhat surprisingly one of the best bands of the weekend. Or maybe even ever. The rubbish songs off the rubbish new album sound great, The Beginning and the End is so heavy I fear my eyes are about to get sucked out of my head, and my neck and shoulders are extremely painful for the next two days. Third time seeing Sonic Youth, absolute gash as always. Go and have a bit of a dance at the Vice stage to R Kelly and things. Is amazing. Thanks to a few one euro Jagermeisters I am once again completely buckled and am forced to have a bit of a sit down. Go to see Grizzly Bear, fall asleep on the grass at the side of the stage within 23 seconds of them starting. Wake up freezing but not needing to vomit nearly as much. Grizzly Bear have finished. Hang around and watch a bit of Mum who always seem to pop up at exactly the right time. Go and watch Battles who are boss. Dance to Atlas on my own at the back like a massive chump. Go and lie on some grass. See the start of Erol Alkan‘s set, and decide that the new stage layout, coupled with the fact that he appears to be exclusively playing extremely bland house, make the likelihood of a recreation of his slot last year seem impossible. Go get the metro.

A very excellent time indeed. Justice were worth the air fare alone. As if all this weren’t enough, I then spent a few rather massive days in the lovely, if stinky, city of Barcelona.

Had really forgotten just how dismal England is.


Posted: June 6th, 2007, by Marceline Smith

I’m always babbling on here about the new crafting revolution and its links to the indie DIY zine making community and I just found out someone is making a documentary about it all. Focusing on the USA craft community, Handmade Nation features a whole range of crafters including old hands like Nikki McClure and the Austin Craft Mafia and covers all the craft fairs, studios, art galleries, shops and other people involved in making it all happen. There’s a sneak preview up now on YouTube that shows the breadth of the topic and all the amazing things people are making. If we’d had the technology back then there would totally have been a film like this about zinemaking. Also so inspiring to see so many girls doing stuff! Sorry, I get so excited about all this – zines and DIY are what got me and diskant started and it’s all exploded in so many new ways over the last 15 years. Watch it!