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diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #15

Posted: October 14th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted December 2002)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Ah, hello again everybody. I hope this finds you all in good health and in good spirits, and not with a sore thumb like I’ve got, after accidentally stabbing myself with a scalpel earlier on. So you’ll be expecting a column, I presume? Well, here you go. I’m going to break with convention this time and do one in the most straightforward way possible – yes, this is going to be a list of reviews, and nothing else besides! You see, I have a few things here which I am obliged or feel compelled to write about, and in either instance I know that I’ll feel bad if I don’t write about them. Being the logical creature that I am, I’ve put them in a pile in front of me and will be going through them one by one, reminding myself of each of them one by one, and telling you about them one by one. That is, if my damned CD player ever realises there’s a CD in it, rather than spinning aimlessly and forcing me to try out all kinds of stop/start/skip-track trickery in order to get it to play.

CD single
Not exactly sure what this is, as the (rather attractive) packaging has no mention of artist, songs, names, anything. It turned up with a note from Marceline along the lines of “the one with the nice packaging is Lemon Jelly, one of those electronic bands”. I suspected I heard the Lemon Jelly name before, and in the back of my mind seemed to remember them as a horrendously ‘accessible’ trip-hop-dance-lite kind of outfit. And lo, I was right! For shatter my knees if this isn’t a god-awful trio of tracks which in no way challenge, add to, upset, make you think about, or reinforce one’s interest in the musical landscape WHATSOEVER. Rather attractive packaging, though. Anybody want it? My CD player’s just refused to carry on playing it!

Full tar
CD single
A taster of what’s to come on their album (more of which later…), ‘Full tar’ is an Econoline pop song, with catchy melody lines dipping their toes in and out of grimier, noisier waters. Great drums too, sounding like they were recorded at the bottom of a giant oil drum. Like all good pop songs it’s over in around two and a half minutes, leaving you wanting more and – were it not for the aforementioned album – scrabbling around for old Superchunk and Boyracer records. The two other tracks here, I presume, showcase the ‘other sides of Econoline’, being a slower, slightly introspective sort of tune and a fuzzy lo-fi recorded-at-home alternative-version sort of tune (the latter being a bit too much along the Graham Coxon intentionally reduced quality line for me…)

Demo CD
This is a random stranger kind of band whose CD turned up out of the ether, arriving in post-rock looking sleeve (abstract, vaguely architectural looking shapes) with a letter stating “to find out if you like our sound listen to the enclosed CD” – genius! I’ll do just that. The first track ‘elek’ continues my post-rock suspicions with its title, but turns out to be a very very well recorded tune which reminded me of mid-to-recent period Depeche Mode; very solemn sounding vocals over minimal percussion, chiming, often distorted guitars and electronic noises. It’s not unpleasant. And as I said before, it’s very well recorded. Not that that really impresses me, it just makes me think that they’ve put some effort in here… Plus, a little bit of ‘elek’ reminds me of an electronic version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’, from ‘Live at Pompeii’, if you know it! Hurrah! Er. There’s two other tracks here which continue along the same lines – sort of dark electronica with a ROCKy edge (more Depeche Mode, more not-quite-Nine Inch Nails) of a vaguely pompous nature which makes me think GOTH GOTH GOTH in weaker moments, but which aren’t entirely unpleasant to listen to in a moment of quiet intensity or two. If you know what I mean.

Music is stupid
So, let’s continue with this month’s Econoline appreciation newsletter, for this is actually a very good album. Long awaited, long delayed, long everything, but actually worth the wait! It’s like a real, fully-formed, ‘proper’ album with a carefully sequenced selection of songs… starting off with the gentle, hypnotic ‘The C and the G’ which halfway through mutates into a fuzz-ridden, bitter-sounding pop song. It introduces all the elements you need to know about – melody, invention, odd changes in timing and tune, slightly strained sounding vocals – and the album continues to develop and unveil more aspects to all these elements like a carefully organised science project. In general, the vibe is that whole ‘noisy pop’ thing a la early Ash, Superchunk, Hüsker Dü, Velocity Girl, even Dinosaur Jr in places, with the odd twist of modern American underground rock music and indie pop here and there. Econoline have been playing billions of gigs over the past year or so, and seem to have arrived at that point at which they’re totally confident in what they’re doing. I used to think of them as a slightly ramshackle, friendly pop outfit, but they’ve just shot up in my estimations and I can see (or at least, I can hope) that this album will get them more of the attention they’re so deserving of.

Six different 7″ singles
I thought I’d cover these six releases on the Awkward Silence label at once, to continue the ultra-uniform theme introduced in their packaging – they all have the same basic layout with the individual details (names, song titles, picture in middle of sleeve front etc) being the only differences. Some would say this is a wry comment on modular living, where functionality rules. Some would say this is a slightly po-faced and pretentious walk up post-rock avenue. I’m not saying which of these I’d say. Anyway, I’ll go through them one by one: each is a split 7″…

LOWFISH and SCHENGEN: Woo! Back to the 1980s with Lowfish, who make plinky-plonky new romantic music, as played at the Robot School Disco, where the girl robots get frustrated because the boy robots are all too preoccupied with their synthesisers to let any emotions slip. Schengen here sound like Aphex Twin’s “On” played in a field six miles away, on a windy day.

ACCELERA DECK and SYBARITE: Accelera Deck cram four tracks onto their side of this 33rpm 7″, all of them being singer-songwriterly bits of acoustic guitar plus vocals kinds of things (in a coffee shop, my-soul-laid-bare way). Which is a real surprise, as other things I’ve heard from them have been quite beaty/electronicified. What, these electronica types like normal music, too? Ho ho. Sybarite give us a delicate, intoxicating, sad-sounding tune which manages to keep the glitchy beats and skitters low enough under the subtle keyboards and shifting sounds in the mix to maintain an emotional twang.

PAPA M and UNHOME: David Pajo is, like, proper famous! So that’s quite exciting. His tune in Papa M guise here is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mama you been on my mind”, performed in typically languid and dour mood by everybody’s favourite little ray of sunshine over an echoey, simplistic piano backing. Nice stuff. Unhome are an interesting choice to share this single, sounding as they do very much like Tortoise or Slint in their quieter moments, except slightly less inventive, with the addition of a somewhat annoying repeated vocal line.

LUSINE ICL and THE BUDDY SYSTEM: Reminding me of when I used to be into so-called ‘ambient music’, Lusine ICL are all hallucinogenic snatches of sound, waves of tone and mysterious underwater beats – always about to become something more, but (frustratingly) never quite making it. The Buddy System continue in a similar way, but in a more miserable direction, with ‘a song originally made as part of an audio letter to a loved one whom I was unable to visit during a time a visit was most needed’. Happy happy joy joy!

BAURI and NOVEL 23: Bauri are almost jaunty compared to a lot of the other artists on these singles, with a vaguely uptempo little number which, in some light, could almost sound like an abstract electronic remix of a Human League track. Novel 23 play straightahead electronica (whatever the hell I mean by that)… melodic, light, mid-pace synthesised sounds with a smooth, gliding edge and all the possibilities of rough corners and excited chaos removed.

CATHODE and OJN: Cathode are somewhat Kraftwerk-y in their sound, with an undercurrent of darkness which is what (for me) is so often lacking in these electronica ‘projects’. OJN is in fact John Brenton, who I used to write to (back in pre-internet days when the phrase ‘I used to write to you…’ was more meaningful!) during his time in Southville and Metrotone. If you’re out there, John, drop me a line! Anyway, enough of the Friends Reunited shit. OJN’s two tunes on here are sparse and serious-sounding, with ‘real’ sounding instruments (glockenspiel, piano, live bass) keeping the human feel apparent. Rather pleasant, I have to say.

Simon Minter

Simon joined diskant after falling on his head from a great height. A diskant legend in his own lifetime Simon has risen up the ranks through a mixture of foolhardiness and wit. When not breaking musical barriers with top pop combo Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element or releasing records in preposterously exciting packaging he relaxes by looking like Steve Albini.


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