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Archive for October, 2008

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #20

Posted: October 31st, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted July 2004)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

I’m fluctuating wildly these days between my usual lifestyle of drinking too much, not eating enough and not getting enough decent sleep and a New Thing of not drinking, trying to eat well and generally trying to keep myself together. I’m getting tired of continually dealing with health and psychological issues, and think that the latter of the two lifestyles mentioned above might be just what I need to sort myself out.

So, let me know if you notice a newly confident and healthy glow about this column. And forgive me my regular trips to refill my reviewer’s bottle of water – I am well into water at the moment, and convinced that it is a cure for pretty much everything. A serious delusion, perhaps, but I’m all for the placebo effect if it works.

Anyway, on to some music. It’s what I’m here for.

The new Jet Johnson CD single, Death Song, is a languorous, soft-edged and sweet pop song with odd subject matter – it’s about a woman losing the top of her head during a train crash, and about some of the many ways there are to die. Jet Johnson are masters of indie pop with a dark edge – beautiful melodies, understated guitar lines and dreamy vocals. It’s the delightful singing voice of Caroline Nesbø which, for me, propels the band into real They Should Be Famous territory. Half Björk, half Nina Persson, it’s an individual and charming voice which combines with nicely laid-back songwriting to create an idiosyncratic pop band, the likes of which seem to be few and far between these days. The CD, as well as three more tracks, also features a Death Song video, which is a relatively lo-fi, scratchy and intriguing animated affair by Ebba Erikzon.

Jet Johnson also appear on Moo Sick, a budget-priced CD album sampler from their label Seriously Groovy and a fine introduction to that label’s good work. It also features Emetrex (smooth-edged, soft-centred indie rock), Econoline (fizzing good-time noisy/reflective pop music) and Mother Goose (weird, vaguely hypnotic power pop sort of stuff). All good stuff. But I really dislike the cover artwork. But then, who am I?

Next, I’ve got a couple of things here in my little review pile from some other bands which I’ve mentioned in the past.

Continue reading »

Shameless Self-Promotion ALERT: Dead or American & Souvaris @ The Captain’s Rest, Glasgow on Sat 1st Nov

Posted: October 30th, 2008, by Dave Stockwell

Apologies for this, but seeing as Souvaris has been an ongoing concern for over 8 years now and have visited many strange and exciting lands (and venues) in our time, it’s always been a minor scandal that we have never ventured over the Scottish border. HOWEVER! This will change on Saturday, as we will be coming to Glasgow FOR THE FIRST TIME to help local heroes Dead or American to celebrate the release of their second album “Thaumaturgy” (that’s the art/science of miracle production, fact fans) on Predestination Records. With only two bands, it’s going to be a proper PARTY and hopefully both bands will get the chance to stretch out a bit and let loose. When your songs are as long as ours, it can only be a good thing. IT’S GOING TO BE A DOOZY!

So that’s £4 in, doors at 8pm and it’s at the Captain’s Rest. See you there?




Audioscope 2008

Posted: October 28th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

The days might be getting shorter and winter may be on its way but at least it’s almost time for this year’s Audioscope. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Audioscope is an annual musical extravaganza organised by diskant’s own Simon and Stu in aid of homeless charity Shelter. This year it takes place at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford on Saturday 15th November with a seriously good line-up including KID606, BOXCUTTER, THAT FUCKING TANK, SOEZA, HEY COLOSSUS and of course SUNNYVALE NOISE SUB-ELEMENT. There’s also a couple of warm-up gigs in the next two weeks including DON CABALLERO, ooh.

Sadly I cannot make it this year (sob!) so I hope you’ll all get yourselves along and report back on the fun. If you want a taste of just how much fun it can be, have a look-see at all this from the diskant archives:
My review of Audioscope 2006
Chris Summerlin on Audioscope 2004
Me again on Audioscope 2003
Stu’s diary of Audioscope 2002
Simon’s column on Audioscope 02
Review of the Audioscope CD compilation

Tickets are available RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW and all the info on the bands, Shelter and all that gubbins at the lovely Audioscope website.

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #19

Posted: October 28th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted April 2004)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Benevolent good egg David J Stockwell gave me a pile of stuff from Narnack Records, after informing me that he had two copies of the Sonic Youth/Erase Errata split which they’ve released. I was convinced that fate had decided that I would never own that record, after ordering it direct from the label and twice being foiled by the postal system. However, nothing is free, and I was given the Narnack records and CDs on the understanding that I mention them in my column. So…

My new Narnack Records things (some new, some old)

Firstly, the Sonic Youth/Erase Errata split. It’s a seven inch on lovely white vinyl, with some kind of Mariah Carey theme running through it: “Mariah Carey is funny and everyone knows it!” as the insert states. SY’s side is great, a frenetic Kim Gordon-led burst of tension with the chaos and growling guitars which seem so rare on Sonic Youth records nowadays. It fair reaffirms my belief in them as a Great Band, so it does. EE are also pretty crazed on their side, with their reassuringly choppy guitar stabs and vocal yelps mixing it up to a stomping drumbeat and a one-step-from-collapse structure. Their song ends like the end is unexpected – and that’s in no way a criticism.

Continue reading »

The Caretaker, Citizens Theatre

Posted: October 27th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

If you win the Nobel Prize for Literature, you generally have to be pretty good at writing (this is not the case with the Peace Prize). The 3 novels I’ve read by Prize winners have all been pretty good but poetry and theatre aren’t so much my thing. Harold Pinter was the 2005 Laureate and his The Caretaker is currently running at the Citizens Theatre.

It’s a good production but I was left feeling cold. Never having seen any Pinter before, it still seemed quite familiar, perhaps showing the large influence his work has had in the nearly 50 years since this play launched him. The words aren’t really dialogue; often it seems that the characters on stage are talking to themselves more than each other. The 3 performances are affecting and funny by turns, so why was I so unmoved?

I think there’s a lack of humanity in the play.

I get the feeling that Harold Pinter just doesn’t like people very much. I’m not arguing for unrealistic, Hollywood-ised views of relationships, but making things look bleak is no more realistic than making them look bright. You can find a chink of light as easily as a shadow in any scenario. I’m not interested in being made to feel that human contact and friendship is impossible, that hell is other people, or any of that nihilistic, existentialist “angry young man” stuff that seems common in post-WW2 theatre. If you want to eavesdrop on misery, that’s what Eastenders is for. I came away feeling like I had been manipulated into feeling bad. And not in a good way, but in a “no sympathy between people” way.

The humour seems to come from mocking the characters’ aspirations. When we’re told about the shed that clearly isn’t likely to get built, are we being invited to mock that character’s failure to achieve even that modest ambition? No thanks. That’s on the level of forum trolling.

So yeah: performances excellent, obviously an important and influential play, but did I enjoy it? No.

a good band: The French Quarter

Posted: October 26th, 2008, by Simon Minter

Sorta post-rock, sorta like Appliance, they sound warm and uplifting:

The French Quarter Myspace page

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #18

Posted: October 24th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted February 2004)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Looks like it might be time for another column – all the signs are falling into place: a parcel of review goodies turned up from the boss this morning, I’ve got the day off work, and it is currently blizzarding outside to an extent that makes me think not only that there’s no way I’m leaving my house at the moment, but also that I may never leave the house again. So here I sit in my warm reviewing chamber, cup of coffee before me, with a pile of stuff to tell you about. This column’s theme? Here’s a load of records and CDs which I’ve bought and which I’ve been sent to review. What a concept, eh?

Füxa We could be together (7″, The Great Pop Supplement gps06)
Kinski I guess I’m falling in love (7″, The Great Pop Supplement gps07)
The latest two releases from the wonderful Great Pop Supplement, the label dedicated to releasing beautifully packaged, carefully chosen, stupidly limited (111 copies per release) records. Füxa offer two mellow, melodic and warm dreampop songs, which almost sound like two halves of the same ‘piece’. A trumpet plays out vocal-style melodies over sleepy, pleasant backdrops, and the general feeling created, to place it in the current meteorological context, is one of a warm sweater and a log fire to counter the freezing conditions outside. Kinski’s record is wrapped in a hand-sprayed silver foil sleeve, which is most attractive. Strange tunes these ones; ‘I guess I’m falling in love’ is a low fidelity, simplistic and repetitive barre chord-workout which falls somewhere in between drone rock heaven and ‘first band’ nervousness. Like Stereolab, aged seventeen, playing Stooges covers in a rehearsal room. Or something. However, flipside ‘Hiding drugs in the temple’ is the sound of a warped tape playing at the wrong speed. Seriously – that’s it. Not meaning to sound old or out of touch, but is it supposed to sound like that?

Continue reading »

GRAMPALL JOOKABOX – Ropechain (Joyful Noise Recordings/Asthmatic Kitty Records)

Posted: October 22nd, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

A host of swirling echoes and schoolgirl voices jump from ear to ear. A proud and primal beat follows. Welcome to the jarringly entertaining world of Grampall Jookabox, Indiana’s prime beat master and tune churner.

Quite a bit of drama to this release. David Adamson, the man behind the moniker, was struck by inspiration, cancelled a weekend of gigs and sat in his basement to write and record ‘a string of songs that seemed to arise spontaneously’. A week later and here we have ‘Ropechain’, Adamson’s second release.

Grampall Jookabox could very easily be simplistic rather than attractively plain and simple. His ethos would appear to be fancy-free dirty pop tunes. It’s not easy to aim for interesting simplicity and skirt the border of being simplistic. Plenty of tracks have booming, rudimentary drums with one sizeable chunk of a beat sufficiently carrying the song along. Rather like how one hefty pasty carries the appetite through the day, no-nonsense – it just simply delivers.

‘Old Earth, Wash My Beat’ includes lush tropical chimes and tribal chants. It’s this and the ponderous drum, washed down with hits of excessively reverb’d vocals, that define Grampall Jookabox in all his wild idiosyncrasy. Iggy Pop certainly has some influence of Adamson’s loose, slurred vocal delivery but it does in no way try to mimic the Stooge’s ‘spat’ style.

What seems to be a rough treatment of a rather delicate subject turns out to be the opposite. In ‘The Girl Ain’t Preggers’ Adamson at first pines at the fact he might have impregnated some ‘girl’: “Ain’t got no money – I can’t pay for no baby”. But nearing the end of the song we see a true realisation that is pretty saddening: “I love the baby’s hands (tiny hands) I wanna wrap it round my finger”. Not exactly depressing on a Lou Reed scale but still a troubling and faintly tragic mourning for a child that was not to be.

‘Ropechain’ is well produced enough for the beats and bass to get underneath and shake to high-heaven that low, unlocatable part of the ear. It’s a solid album – not the most easy of listens nor a headache to get through. But the album’s beauty is that Adamson has left the core musical message to resemble what it is: a bare, un-polished and muddily proud bunch of rugged tunes.


Pascal Ansell

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #17

Posted: October 21st, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted October 2003)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter


Wow, hey, look at this great big pile of records and CDs I have before me, which I should have been listening to diligently and reviewing regularly. It’s almost like I haven’t written any reviews for ages, and like I’ve been neglecting my solemn duty to keep you informed of, er, musical things. Let me try and address this problem. Some of the things you read about below may be slightly out of date – but such is the nature of the internet. Anyway, how do I know that you’re not reading this in 2056?

I have to be honest with you. I have no recollection about where this first CD by Calamateur, called ‘Tiny pushes vol.1 (how to be childlike)’, came from. As good a place to start as any though, eh? Weirdly, although this is a CD, this whole collection is available to download for free here. Hey, don’t worry too much about big slow download times either, because the whole ten songs clock in altogether at only around seventeen minutes. It’s worth downloading the whole lot too, as some of the tracks individually are cut-up snippets and fragments of random samples and sounds, and so it’s best listened to as a whole – the more ‘song’-like tracks (which, even then, are only glimpses of ideas) being interspersed with passages of vaguely electronic, vaguely dreamlike strangeness. It’s hard to get a grip on where Calamateur are at, but from this selection, they seem to exist in a world of half-asleep-yet-heartfelt acoustic songs in a suitably lo-fi style. They remind me of tapes which people used to put out in the old indiepop/underground cassette days, ideas committed to magnetic tape before too much refinement comes into play. An interesting listen which makes me want to hear more – hopefully, their invention and reluctance to submit to traditional songwriting rules is carried throughout their other work.

Continue reading »

Room 237 presents: DAEDELUS + PAPER TIGERS + TWO MINUTRE NOODLES – Brudenell Social Club, 3rd Oct 2008

Posted: October 19th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

Two Minute Noodles display all the reasons why watching a duo can be great fun. Keys and drums face each other, interplaying and generally having a ball. This is well-formed and intense tunes, taking some influence from the thumping drive of Philadelphia’s Need New Body. Drummer ‘Moz’ (also in Chops and Quack Quack) swings his head round, tongue out, with a hard-hitting drive, obstinately forcing and thrusting the song onwards. He sounds a tad like John Stanier of Battles; mechanical and relentless at times, like a live drumming machine. The keyboard riffs could be a little more imaginative but the mind rarely wonders – a sure indication of an exciting live act.

An unexpected follow-up to minimal instrumental rock is Paper Tiger. The mean-looking seven-piece specialise in spaced out dub/hip hop with situational lyrics by an unnamed MC. Each musician is as interesting as they possibly could be, with a monolithic sub-bass, choppy guitar, chilled drums and scratch DJ delivering endless variety. Most notable is the saxophonist. He randomly taps his pedals, expertly squashing and looping his riffs – the inventiveness is impressive. One of the best things about Paper Tiger is that each instrument never rides over the other; you could listen to any of them and be entertained. Each tune seamlessly segues into the other at an unrushed pace, content where it’s staying but hinting at new horizons – brilliant viewing.

Time to get geeky. The monome is a wee box with a grid of flashing buttons. Each button yields a sample which the artist can chop and change at his/her own will, thereby banishing all boring laptop performances forever! Yeah!

Daedelus A.K.A. Alfred Darlington hails from LA with a good handful of electronic and hip hop samples and beats flying under his Victorian cape-thing. Seemingly because of the supposed ultra-pretention of the scene, Darlington was “totally disillusioned by the whole world of jazz” and so sought to produce his own composite brand of glitchy beats, folk & RnB (in the old sense) samples and live improvisation. With what I hear you ask? Well, if we observe the equation we have a pretty good evening in store: Daedelus + monomer = massive tunes.

The monomer makes the night. His passion is poured into this odd box for a very good reason as he points out that “most electronic music is a hidden process” or in other words, “cheating”. This is a perfect compromise between sophisticated electronic and live instrumentation. The songs’ foundations lie somewhere in his laptop but there’s a good deal of improvisation going on with the monomer; his modus operandi consisting of “sitting with the audience trying to figure out what they need or want… it doesn’t have to be an automatic throw-up of previous material… keep messing with it, messing with it, messing with it…” He then has a subsidiary monomer to the side, which squeezes the signal, rumbles it around then throws it back into the speakers. Samples from Nirvana, T2 and Aphex Twin make it a wonderfully diverse cut-and-paste affair, never palling. Incredibly good scouting from Room 237.

Two Minute Noodles

Paper Tiger


Pascal Ansell