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Archive for August, 2008

The Arches is in trouble

Posted: August 30th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

After a complaint about punters shagging at the Arches‘ “Burly” gay club night, the venue has been told to shut for the next 6 weeks.

Could have serious consequences for the Arches, which is 85% self financing and shows some of the most innovative work in Glasgow, including hosting the Instal festival for most / all of its time.

It’s not all bleak though, this story about an orgy in a nightclub does include a policeman saying “Lest the chief constable’s position be misinterpreted”…

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #2

Posted: August 29th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted December 2001)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Today’s lesson begins with some ramblings about an ACTUAL, REAL BOOK with words in it and everything. Because oh yes, I do more than just listen to records, I live a fulfilling and exciting life which occasionally involves reading and watching the telly. Anyway, this ‘ere book is called ‘The Creation Records Story’ and is a great big eight-hundred page mutha of a tome, covering the, er, Creation Records Story from shambolic beginnings in the early 80s up to becoming The Record Label Of Oasis. And along the way, of course, we meet all kinds of crazy pop kids such as The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, The House Of Love and Teenage Fanclub. It’s an interesting story not just because any sane music fan will and must own many of the records mentioned along the way, but also because in a proper in-depth kinda way it takes in the surrounding independent music scene which grew up from punk days, through the eighties, up to today, when ‘indie’ means something entirely different to the pop man in the street. It’s packed full of juicy little anecdotes and revealing insights into the machinations of the evil big business side of music, it if nothing else it’ll make you dig out some of those old 7″s in wraparound sleeves to remind yourself of times gone by.

But, no time for reading? Then let’s get on with talking about some records. Or CDs. (Much as I hate CDs, they don’t seem to be going away).

Continue reading »

THE CHAP – Proper Rock (Lo Recordings)

Posted: August 26th, 2008, by Stuart Fowkes

It’s a rare band indeed that can play the irony card without coming across as just plain irritating, and sadly for them, The Chap fall well short of that dubious gold standard. This latest 7”, out this week, offers up two examples of the kind of music that it’s impossible to enjoy without the application of a liberal dose of irony to one’s own critical faculties to mask all the self-congratulatory whimsy. It’s crammed to the gills with falsetto-ridden, over-enunciated globs of lyrical smugness that nudge you in the ribs, raise their eyebrows and demand that you acknowledge how clever they’ve just been. ‘Massive tunes, put them on your ‘pod, Rod / Proper songs about girls and clubbing’ – tailor-made drivel for new media tools to jig themselves into a froth over.

It’s a shame, really, because when they put their foot down towards the end, drop the frolicsome archness for a few seconds, there’s actually some deft guitar work on display here, with some neat high-end figures building over an undercarriage of bubbling synth tones. That doesn’t, however, prevent this from being a really annoying piece of music that I want nothing more to do with.

The B-side does little to improve my mood – a half-arsed, teeth-grindingly pointless cover of Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, in which the singer can’t hold his deadpan spoken-word drawl together and bursts into peals of laughter at how clever it all is. It’s a sad day when you’re aching for the proper rock delivery that only Tina Turner can provide.

The Chap website

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #1

Posted: August 26th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted October 2001)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Hey kids. I’ve just been listening to the 14 Iced Bears, and if you don’t remember them, then that’s not entirely important (although it’s quite important, as they were REALLY RATHER GOOD). The point is, where is all the good music these days? Why do I fill my time with all these old records, when surely I should be listening to the hip sounds of youth and getting down to where it’s at in the scene. I can barely get it together to buy anything even vaguely new any more, my shopping habits are erratic to say the least and leave me clutching weird armfuls of records from all over the place and from random years and people. Such is the delightful nature of aimlessly shambling through one’s musical life. Still, this isn’t a confession, it’s an excuse to pad out some space before I get started on a paltry selection of reviews of the only half-recent records I’ve got lying around here right now. Sit down comfortably, this won’t take too long…

First up is a 7″ split single featuring V/VM and PORTAL, on the simply marvellous Earworm Records, which upon first impressions looks a bit dull, sitting as it does in a generic Earworm company sleeve and having as it does no labels on the record to speak of, just an area of white. this does mean it’s difficult to tell which side is which, but you’ll know soon enough by listening to the damn record, fool. Portal’s two tracks are on the sinister side of relaxed, with super-repeated, super-barren frightening child’s story style melodies burrowing into your head and fiddling around with stuff, like the more melodic, more unnerving parts of the Aphex Twin‘s ‘Volume II’ in one way, and like stripped-down versions of an old David Cronenberg film soundtrack in another way. pretty cold-sounding, but atmospheric to the point of suffocation. V/VM, on the other hand, are clearly disturbed in several ways, and proffer some kind of twisted happy house tune which has been fed backwards through a sharp blender and brought up on a diet of sampling and knowing glances at people with worse record collections than itself. Strangely enough, for all its cut-up oddity and scratched record (in the traditional sense) charm, it manages to be simultaneously respectful and damning of the ten or so old tunes it’s sellotaped together with. You can’t say they’re not originals.

Next next next. This is a three 7″ box set from Rocket Racer records, and it looks fantastic – minimal yet a delight to open and treasure. As the insert says, ‘it’s been a while since i’ve seen a 7″ box set’, and i couldn’t agree more, it’s great to see effort being made to produce this kind of artefact, so much attention to detail, and so much belief in the music contained within. and the music? well, there’s more PORTAL, this time they seem to have cheered up somewhat and give us a skippy light breakbeat mixed with ominous synth sounds and quiet echo-heavy vocals. respect. the other side has THE AND/ORS who take the more traditional guitar band route and use it to good effect, with a lazy and plaintive song that sounds like an old Sarah Records band existing nowadays, operating at a slower speed, and with a slightly warped edge. The second record kicks off with YELLOW 6. I say kicks, but it’s more of a slow shuffle, with lulling, shifting sounds intermingling amongst pleasant acoustic guitar, like certain areas of Godspeed You Black Emperor! or even Aerial M. It’s bee-eautiful. LACKLUSTER bring things weird to the flip, with what some might pretentiously say is a ‘soundscape’, but what I pretentiously like to call ‘a bad-dreamy passing of noise’ which recalls cold winds on miserable evenings and drifting lost at sea. or at least recalls ideas like those. like Portal’s stuff on the earworm record, it’s certainly unnerving, and definitely memorable. STYROFOAM, next, sound the most electronic of the folks in this box, with a tune which could have been produced in the early 1980s on 1970s equipment. But recorded in the 1990s. It builds and builds, piano sound over synth sound over drum machine sound, not really going anywhere, but never getting dull. TANK round off this superb selection of talent, and stay true to their flawless form with a Neu! style urgent repetition, sounding utterly meaningful without the need for lyrics. They have it going on, or off, or something.

And there I will end. Only two reviews, you cry? Well, quality beats quantity every time. And those two releases are of The Quality which should make all you dear readers go form a band, or release a record, or write something, or produce something worthwhile. As Add N To X would say, ‘you must create’.

Go on then.

Mmmm white diamonds lovely

Posted: August 24th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Some ideas people come up with make no sense but they don’t see it.

I appreciate that there are 2 ways to increase profit from a product. You sell more, or you sell more expensively. So any ridiculous item is made to seem luxurious, from bog roll to fabric softener.

But I think some kind of limit has been reached with White Diamond & Lotus Flower-scented washing powder. As far as I know, lotus flowers were the ancient Greeks’ version of heroin and diamonds are solid lumps of carbon that don’t emit chemicals and can therefore have no smell.

I decided to investigate.

I thought that perhaps there’d been a printing error and that it wasn’t the smell of white diamonds, but the smell of the jakey’s favourite £3 tipple White Lightning. (Cider is, after all, pretty trendy these days.)

Alas no. I had a sniff in the supermarket this afternoon and can exclusively reveal that what White Diamond & Lotus Flowers smells like is… Continue reading »

ELITE BARBARIAN – It’s Only When You Get To The End That It All Makes Sense (CD, Front And Follow)

Posted: August 24th, 2008, by JGRAM

One of the strongest electronic beep records you will ever hear, the new record from Elite Barbarian achieves a certain kind of ambience ordinarily/usually harboured by the most strung out and sensitive of electronic acts without using such barbed sonics. 

Tickling like the insides of a ZX Spectrum and playing out like the soundtrack of several Atari 2600 games; over the course of 58 minutes the album takes the listener on a journey of unexplored confines electronic beats/beeps often coupled with crazed sick piano licks. 

The author of the album is Ben Page who as a member of both Rothko and Rocket No.9 is a seasoned and accomplished composer of modern ambient extracts often emerging from improvisation and instinctive desires and trajectories.

The real strength of this record is the manner in which it achieves being both relentless and relaxed at the same time, tempered and tenacious in its brute meditation.  As the atmospherics grow so does the intensity as sonic layers reminiscent of raindrops, pulses and bubbling machinery scour your consciousness almost feeling transient as it interrupts the flow of your immediate activities.

Listened to as a whole the album merges into one great body of work not strictly to be swallowed whole but to accompany any mindset or duty that requires a holding hand to assist concentration and clarity.

By the time it reaches the 16 minute climax “Let’s Go Back To Morse Code” you sense you are coming to the end of being subjected to some kind of subliminal intake and that it is actually quite possible that the beeps could well be pieced together Joe Bonham style to forge together some kind of alien message.  You’re unlikely to hear this record at parties, only funerals.

Thesaurus moment: static.

Elite Barbarian

Front And Follow

FLAKE BROWN – Help the Overdog (Autumn Ferment)

Posted: August 24th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

The fledgling Scottish label Autumn Ferment have done it again in sharing with the world another fantastically original folk artist. When not singing, Flake Brown is a father named Tony Ramsay, a folk-guitar fiddler fiddling his way around whirs of plucked strings and tastily surreal lyrics. Admittedly the combination of folk + odd voice + humour (albeit a slight, tasteful wit) does not immediately smack you of making an enjoyable listen. But his debut album ‘Help the Overdog’ is a real grower; his distinctive voice turns from strange to charming and you realise you’re in the company of a jolly good album.

Flake has a friendly bass-baritone voice which he shows off with terrific low humming. He’s the owner of what I would have assumed is a West Country croak, but Sussex is where he really hails so I’m a quite a few miles off at least.

There are some classic folk song-titles here: ‘Pilgrim Song’, ‘The Weathercatcher’ and ‘Eddie the Puss’, but nothing in the album suggests trite folk idioms. The latter song is wonderfully perplexing:

I am a mistress of fate,
I wait for you at the gate…
Staple my face to the hours…
Skate on the top of your breath,
Ride on the wings of desire,
Buy a house and then retire.
Be good to mum throughout life,
Go to the shops, buy a knife…

and includes some sinister chuckling and the two longest hums I’ve ever heard. ‘The Angry Courtyard’ hits you in the stomach with its sheer beauty, and is coupled with some spectacular lyrics: “Moon drips into the Angry Courtyard… I watch the life that dangled on your thigh”.

Flake is funny but never facetious and has a witty idiosyncrasy that makes comparison very tricky. Sadly, and this is very sadly, Flake’s guitar playing can be pretty scatty when trying to impress. Most of the album displays an original and reserved take on some very tricky folk fingerpicking, and this is when he performs best. His guitar playing is can be too ambitious towards the end of the album and songs are spoiled, but not ruined, by some pretty shoddy playing. He’s no Django and does at times attempt playing which only a virtuoso could pick, slide, hammer and pull off. This is, however, the only criticism I can (very reluctantly) find in such a fine, fine, grand, wonderful, humorous, comforting album – an album helped me find peace in a rush-hour, oh-shit-I’ve-lost-my-keys London. A must for metropophobes!

Flake Brown Myspace

Pascal Ansell

Informational Update

Posted: August 23rd, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Some things of note:

1. Yes, sorry, that was the last of the Chris Summerlin columns. You can still read all his other blog posts here, or how about a nice interview we did with Chris about Reynolds.

2. So, who’s up next? Simon Minter, that’s who. Simon was actually the editor of our columns section and did such a good job he even persuaded himself to write two columns, one about music and one about films. I’ll start posting these up as of next week. He also did all the cute column banners, did you know?

3. Don’t forget you can still buy our 10 year anniversary zine which has content not available on the website and can be read on the bus without the use of a fancy iPhone or whatever. It’s just one pound, people! Buy it here.

4. There’s something of a zine resurgence going on, have you noticed? This of course is A Good Thing and I will write more later.

5. And finally, PROOF that the diskant 08/08/08 party did actually happen thanks to this lovely video by Alice. Be amazed by the indie tombola, Findo Gask’s video projections and Sunnyvale driving a very long distance. Luckily for you, Alice didn’t document the part where we all got woken up at 8am by an orange march outside my house + torrential rain. Rock and Roll.

a long way to Glasgow from Alice Peapods on Vimeo.

Ed Hamell – RANT & ROLL (DVD, Righteous Babe Records)

Posted: August 21st, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

“Hamell is Bill Hicks, Hunter S. Thompson and Joe Strummer all rolled into one sweaty, snarling, pugnacious pit bull of a man.” Well, the press release is half right. You could just as easily say this rasping American comedian is one very angry bastard – you would be if you were brought up in a horrendously conservative American family in horrendously conservative America in the 70s.

There is one gem of a story involving a mother’s dead body and her son’s extremely inappropriate humour. The whole DVD is worth just this story, and I won’t ruin it for you. Hamell says his excuse for divulging in his friends’ most private of stories is, with an irresistible shrug: “well, if you’re my friend and you tell me these stories…”There’s also a horrifying satirical song about ‘The Trough’, an ultra-modern restaurant of Hamell’s invention which advertises “our friendly immigrant staff will even chew the food for you… you know, doing those jobs us Americans don’t wanna do.” Despite the unattractive aspects of ‘Rant and Roll’ there are some pretty clever cracks (e.g. Hamell visits “a crack bar from ‘Cheers’”, whatever a crack bar is) and without being patronising his memory for lines is astonishing.

Footage from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival seldom tickles the un-PC ribs; a great deal of his material can be lazily vulgar and extremely irreverent. This is just a personal thing, but I’m not massively comfortable when drugs are glamorized. Luckily for Hamell he doesn’t exactly do this, yet he looks on his drug-fuelled days (we’re talking crack, here, ho bloody ho) with undisguised nostalgia. A lesser prude would probably love the spaced-out tales more than I do – going to church on acid and being horrified by ‘eating the body of Christ’ is a good one, admittedly.

The incessant verbal attacks, the angry ramblings get a bit too much towards even the half hour mark, but if you think you can stomach some seriously crude material, then give ‘Rant and Roll’ and spin and I think you’d enjoy his “wicked sense of humour” more than I did.


Pascal Ansell

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #10

Posted: August 19th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted April 2004)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

OK. I need to redeem myself and write something worthwhile, so how’s about some bands I’ve seen play recently?

Let’s start with Three Piece Xylophone Quintet which is actually just one man – Chris Tree – and whatever he feels like playing. Comparisons are redundant, Chris just makes music every day for his own amusement (in about a thousand different styles), and when it comes to a gig he tries to compress the whole history of his musical endeavours into one 30-minute portion. Of course, he doesn’t succeed in being totally representative of the vast range of music he’s made, but what he ends up with is a truly bizarre version of the modern folk singer – in that he plays acoustic guitar and sings – but his arrangements owe more to free jazz and Beefheart than to Bob Dylan. Every gig he’s done seems to be different too. An A&R man’s nightmare, but it makes for interesting stuff. Last time I saw him he had a Minidisc of himself talking going through the PA while he played, oblivious to it, or seemingly so.

Sneaking Fog are based in Norwich and I had the pleasure of playing with them in Lords. Because of their style and their locale it would be easy to dismiss them as a second generation The Darkness. But this is Metal. Not Rock. The singer is an aural spit of Brian Johnson of AC/DC and the band play ripping 80s style metal, like the best bits of Motley Crüe (which are obviously very good indeed). The guitarist blows any idea of them being ironic out of the water, and the singer spent at least 50% of the gig grabbing his crotch.

Charalambides have been mentioned before. I got to see a slimmed down version of them play at ATP. I make ambient guitar music, and I admit that most of the genre is boring as hell. Stars Of The Lid especially – well, most of their records. But Charalambides made a hushed drone that is still super-exciting. I think it’s because the guitar dude doesn’t use a delay FX pedal, which means he has to constantly create the sound and he can’t sit back and wallow in what he’s done by allowing the box to play it back for him. He has to stay on top of it, which gives a live performance some real tension. Combine that with his female counterpart washing quite fast strummed guitar over the top, perfectly countering each other, and you get a wash of sound. Their set at ATP was like getting a guitar master-class, it was great.

Aktion Unit, or whatever they were called, thrilled me too. Thurston Moore and Jim O’Rourke paired up with the most ferocious freeform drummer I’ve ever seen and a sax player that could blow a golfball through a hosepipe. The thing worth noting was that Moore and O’Rourke were the weakest link. As the pace stepped up, the only thing either of them could do was to thrash away at their guitars – or in Moore’s case, throw an amp around, which says more about the freedom of their bank balances than the freedom of their minds. This noise violence was great, don’t get me wrong, but in amongst this ferocity the subtle changes in pattern and tone of the sax and drums spoke volumes. When I say subtle, I mean the subtle change between beating a snare to death and beating a bass drum to death, if you see what I mean.

Lungfish are prophets. The weekend at ATP was over after they played. I missed them tour the UK when I was in Australia, and I was gutted. I know from listening to their records that this is a physical thing, and to witness it live would bring it all together in my brain, so when I heard I would have chance to see them I was beside myself. What I didn’t expect was for it to be a rock show comparable to any I’ve ever witnessed. So much is made of the workmanlike quality of Dischord bands but in Lungfish (and Fugazi and Ulysses before them) they have true entertainers. It might offend them to say this, but seriously, they ruled the big stage – the setting was completely correct. The sound was enormous and engulfing, with a wobbling swampy warmth, and Daniel Higgs as a performer was astonishing. I later went to the beach with them and drunkenly tried to articulate how much I love their band – and I suspect I failed. This week I have Lungfish’s Love Is Love on my stereo alarmed to come on and wake me up. I rise from bed every morning on time and leap into the day.

Continue reading »