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Archive for December, 2008

diskant rewind: Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS #2

Posted: December 30th, 2008, by Dave Stockwell

(Originally posted April 2003)

Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS by Dave Stockwell

[Cue: shift from bright-eyed enthusiasm of a spazzy debut column to world-weary sighs for this month’s disorganised heap of inconsequential rubbish.]

I’m sure you’ll be incredibly grateful to find out that since I moved into my current bedroom there’s always been this great stack of records that resides somewhere around me feet whenever I dint to use this pathetic excuse for a personal computing machine. Usually comprising of the stuff I’ve most recently bought/received/borrowed/stolen, it lives perpetually piled up against my stereo’s speakers. And though the vinyl and CDs (occasionally abetted by tapes and minidiscs) are in a constant state of cycle, some occasionally get clogged up in the stack for months and months. The Dischord box-set is still there (something to do with 73 songs to listen to), as is The Polyphonic Spree’s album, for some bizarre reason (probably because I’m never cheerful enough to trust myself to put it on). A bunch of CDs by Rob Crow’s bands have just found their way into there, and I can’t see them leaving for a while: Heavy Vegetable/Thingy/Pinback are just all too endearingly good for a day to go by where listening to at least one of them isn’t required. All of this is fascinating, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Anyway, top of this heap for the last month has been Sole‘s second album, Selling Live Water. Not long after I first discovered Anticon through cLOUDDEAD (much like everyone else, then), I heard lots of intriguing things about Sole… he was an original co-founder of the collective, and a rap prodigy at 14, only to ‘lose it’ and disappear for the best part of a decade. This is his second album on Anticon (I haven’t found his first in 18-odd months of looking), and a fine creation it is too. As an MC, Sole’s scathing wit and coruscating delivery often verges on brilliance, and he scores points over his similarly talented label-mate Sage Francis (an amazing live performer and freestyler, if you get the chance to see him) by avoiding gauche cartoons of self-flagellation – neatly reducing the Marshall Mathers comparisons. Instead you get a nice sticker on the front, screaming about David Koresh meets G.G. Allin, or something (I wish), which is partly a lie, but at least gives you a warning that Sole’s well aware of the troubles in the world/his soul, and he’s not gonna let up until you’ve heard all about them too. So, right, like; the album’s really good and everything, and there are some great words and some decent loops and beats and shit, but I’m starting to worry. I now own the best part of a dozen Anticon LPs, and they’re all starting to sound the same. I’ve seen the press release for this one talking shit about “a bomb squad of a production team,” or some such rot, which just means that again all these friends in Anticon are making ‘guest appearances’ on eachother’s albums. Predictions begin here that within six months all Anticon output will become as depressingly and numbingly monotonous in its consistency of sound/output as Morr Music managed last year. This album is definitely going to be the last Anticon record I buy unless persuaded otherwise by several positive reviews – admittedly because it’s probably as close as you’re going to get to a definitive MC’s record from these guys. (If you’re thinking of doing the same, make sure you get cLOUDDEAD, Boom Bip & DoseOne, and either Alias or Sage Francis before you pack it in. Actually, anything with Dose One is bound to be good).

Continue reading »

Fortuna Pop! Records: a few words…

Posted: December 29th, 2008, by Simon Minter

A few words about Fortuna Pop! Records, who have been happily doing their own thing as a label for the past fifteen years, and who recently sent me a few CDs for review, and in doing so created a rare and momentous occasion – actually receiving unsolicited stuff in the mail that I enjoy listening to, and that appeals to my musical sensibilities rather than being an obvious, desparate push as part of a scattershot PR campaign in order to raise the profile of yet another identikit, no-mark, faceless, bland musical puppet in the thrall of yet another misplaced record company advance.

Anyway, I digress. Fortuna Pop!’s output, in the main, seems transparently influenced by the work of Belle & Sebastian and Sarah Records in the past, along with a variety of twee/indie-pop/C86 labels and bands. But that stuff goes on forever, and despite any trends and turns taken by independent music, always seems to exist. Simple tunes, kind-hearted intent, and a relentless exploration of human relationships: what went right, what went wrong, and how it was affected by it being winter or summer (in general). Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS #1

Posted: December 26th, 2008, by Dave Stockwell

(Originally posted February 2003)

Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS by Dave Stockwell

Introductions? Pah! You’ll get no introductions here. Or explanations, for that matter.

Instead, I’ll break into full-flow about a rather dandy 7″ EP by Fonda 500, entitled ‘The Colours and the Birdsongs.’ Though it’s a donkey-flogging second single from their third album, it’s another engagingly quirky and mildly endearing release from the band. Which is always nice. Like a particularly lively Attention Deficit Disorder-suffering infant, it wobbles and gurgles all over the place, rarely stopping on one idea for more than thirty seconds. All mildly silly instrumentation and occasionally indecipherable vocals, there’s identifiably an ‘indie band’ hidden beneath the plethora of vocoders, Casio keyboards and crappy drum machines, but don’t let that put you off. Moreover, there’s seven “tracks” in the space of fourteen minutes, so little room for baggage on this decidedly rickety yet incredibly comfortable and familiar cart. Decidedly lovable then, all wibble-and-burble-y, and it all far from outstays its welcome. The words woo and yay are rarely more appropriate in such a cutesy setting.

Continuing the “damn you all to hell, we like stupidity and we like it pop” ethos, Grandpa Records‘ own Stars of Aviation (okay, so it’s their own label) are looking for someone to release their music, you insensitive tripe. They used to be called Florence y’see, under which banner they got played by the John Peel man who dares spin records on airwaves reserved for music you’ve already heard a thousand times, and also released an EP too. For some inexplicable reason, they decided to abandon all that momentum and become another band with stars in their name (see Stars on the Water, Stars of the Lid, Trembling Blue Stars, Planes mistaken for Stars, yawn…)… and for what reason? We know not. Oh well, names matter little when you’ve discovered the magic Grandaddy trick of arpeggiated keyboard chords, which instantly makes any song a heady mix of lovely pop lullaby and heart-aching slow depression. Just as well that they’ve got a whole bunch of other good things in their little bags of songsmithery to keep you distracted.

Continue reading »

Postcrossing: Like bookcrossing but with postcards

Posted: December 24th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

This is a cute idea. Seems like the only things sent through the post now are bills, court summonses, junk mail and things that you’ve paid for. Postcrossing has the potential to turn picking up your mail back into a pleasure. The idea is that you send a postcard to an address randomly selected from their database. Then some random from elsewhere in the world posts one to you. Lots of potential for warm fuzzy niceness, or at least helping you to decorate a spare wall.

Not really the time of year to sign up to anything, especially since I sent precisely zero Xmas cards (“merry xmas diskanteers!” and all that), but I’m going to try it out in the new year and will let you know how it goes.

Some Christmas gifts for YOU

Posted: December 24th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

I hoped to have the albums and films of the year articles well on their way by now but the diskant writers are being as obscurist as ever and even my skills at massaging the votes is not getting us ten records that more than one person likes. Hmm. While I ponder a solution, please enjoy the following:

– A new set of columns from our past! I have just been scheduling up the first few columns by Dave Stockwell of Souvaris and Bologna Pony fame. The first one will be up on Boxing Day and then every Tuesday and Friday following until they’re finished. They mostly consist of exuberant record reviews but there’s also a cool Southern Lord special and of course, a hilarious review of the Metallica documentary. Enjoy!

Some links for you:

– Layla Gibbons disappeared off my radar after making excellent zines and records with Skinned Teen and Petty Crime, but she is apparently writing regularly for Maximum Rock’n’Roll (who knew THAT was still going?) and has all her columns available in blog form right here. Lots of good reading there.

– Layla is also still making zines and the latest issue of Chimps is available from Ooga Booga in Los Angeles. I’m guessing the postage might be a killer here but it’s v tempting. They also have a ton of cool zines, books, records and stuff on sale so have a browse.

– Via Popjustice, help Patrick Wolf raise some cash to self-release his new album on Bandstocks, or indeed give your money to Martin Carr or anyone else you like on there. Is this the new Myspace?

Merry Christmas!

CHILD BITE – Fantastic Gusts of Blood (Suburban Sprawl Music)

Posted: December 24th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

The press release for Child Bite’s brilliantly-titled second album is refreshingly modest. None of this ‘landmark album’ rubbish, just a sigh of annoyance at the pointless “‘post-post-post’ suffixes” that have been slapped upon them. A heck of a lot of music I find interesting is notoriously difficult to label, but personally that’s what makes it worthwhile listening.

Child Bite hail from Detroit, Michigan and I’d say they don’t sound unlike the various ‘spastic’ and ‘abrasive’ epithets used to describe them. You wouldn’t be wrong in noting punchy keyboard and guitar riffs with twisting melodies and eerie yelps. Songs are intricately written and put together but never sound contrived or self-consciously clever.

There is a general feel of a horrorshow to Fantastic Gusts of Blood – due to the jarringly high guitar lines and freaky shrieks from singer Shawn Knight. The vocals can get a tad annoying but the ridiculous yelps are mostly bearable. The song Banana Gorgon sees Child Bite at their most impressive. A winding riffs rips its way through an utterly infectious song and gains from the repeat button. Other efforts on the album come close to this brilliance but not close enough.

Not only has this got my favourite album title for a good stretch but the cover art is brilliant. The fold-out sleeves reveal primal scrawls, naked ladies and snakes… Cool!

This is hardly a spectacular album but it commits no crimes against humanity: unoriginality, tedium or triteness fail to present themselves into a single bar in these decent ten tracks. Their difficulty with overeager journalists (and their often being misunderstood) just means Child Bite are running a particularly individualistic streak.

Child Bite

Pascal Ansell


Posted: December 20th, 2008, by Simon Minter

Polymath, published writer, Renaissance Man – and regular diskant.net contributor – Wil Forbis is now an official recording artist. Shadey’s Jukebox, released a little while back on Rank Outsider Records, is a collection of ten tunes with Forbis on vocal, guitar, mandolin and banjo duty, backed up by a collection of what sound like good ol’ boys on a variety of American Class Rock instrumentation choices.

Anybody familiar with Forbis’ writing, myself included, would expect this album to be a mix of authentic punk rock, piss-taking hair metal and comic-book japery. But it seems that he’s gone so far into the heart of weirdsville Americana in the past that he’s come out as a very straight-laced, by-the-book, normal musician and songwriter. The music here is a combination of swingin’ croon, hick bluegrass and country twang – I guess that nothing could really be more American, and its poker-faced normalcy is more bizarre than any ‘joke’ recordings would ever have been.

Sure, there’s a sense of humour at play – songs called ‘Let’s Get High on Jesus’ and ‘Where There’s a Wil There’s A Way’, goddammit, they’re never going to be humourless. This still sounds authentic however, like Forbis means it – and I severely hope he does, and that it’s not some elaborate art prank. Some of these songs are actually pretty tender and touching. In the context of a world full of knowing, clever-clever music and musicians, this album succeeds by doing things simple: have some ideas, write some words, get some tunes to back them up, and there you go. I expect a tour of whisky bars and shacks across middle America to be forthcoming.

Rank Outsider Records

Wil Forbis

Sony BMG vies with Sony BMG for the Xmas No. 1!!!!!!1!

Posted: December 17th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

If I watched TV I might have felt my blood pressure rise at the thought of a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah by whichever indentured servant of a pop puppet wins the year’s holiday from shelf stacking that is the X Factor.

But I don’t and haven’t heard any of them, so the whole “get Buckley’s version in the chart” thing had passed me by till this article in the Guardian (how old does that make me?). All very laudable, reminds people how good Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley are and probably shows up the soulessness of the X Factor process.

Until you get to this quote at the bottom of the article:

“A spokesman for Sony BMG, which counts Cohen, Buckley and Burke among its artists,”

They own all 3 of the versions. The record industry is terminally ill from lack of innovation, and the best story that can be manufactured about the Xmas No 1 (remember when that felt like it mattered?) is an interdepartmental pissing match between execs at one of the 3 multi-billion dollar dinosaurs that stumble along, choking, after the p2p meteor strike which set them towards extinction.

The question is, where are the funny looking, nimble mammals scampering through the undergrowth and how long do have to wait for them to take over?

KONG – Leather Penny (CD, Brew Records)

Posted: December 9th, 2008, by Dave Stockwell

Manchester-based misanthropes Kong return with their second single, this time on CD and everything. “Leather Penny” is another track from a forthcoming-in-2009 debut album called ‘Snake Magnet’ and is backed by two versions of a song called “Count Too Nine” featuring special guest vocalists from bands The Bronx and Future of the Left that I can’t tell you about because there’s just the one track on my promo copy.

So then, first single “Blood of a Dove” showcased a band weaned on the sharp edges and heavy weight of early ’90s Chicago-based rock bands such as The Jesus Lizard and Shellac (I know, both are still going in one manner or another…), with an admirable feeling of dread looming over the disjointed riffs and malformed chords. It sounded pretty great too.

“Leather Penny” continues in much the same vein of skullfuckery, featuring another killer riff that hooks itself to your brain and refuses to budge, despite the song lurching all over the place rhythmically. The bass and guitar woomph and screech appropriately, whilst the drums do the inevitable pounding on your cortex. Dramatic pauses to emphasise the weight of the band’s attack mean the vocals take a full minute to come in, and it’s no bad thing because they’re spat out in a manner so venemous it would make Johnny Rotten proud (and, hopefully, ashamed of hawking butter on television). Frankly, I really don’t like the sound of the guy’s voice much, but that’s almost a boon to this type of music.

I haven’t got a clue what the fuck the lyrics are about because I couldn’t understand a word of them. It’s not really an issue because what Kong are all about is SOUND. Sheer fucking brutality of juddering rock ballast slamming against your earlobes SOUND. Running a blunt knife down the back of your knife and boxing your ears for a laugh SOUND. The vocals are just another part of the arsenal they employ to onslaught your ears. They’d be a great band to see live.

Just two singles into their life, Kong are still a young band, even if their members have apparently been around the musical block once or twice. Their sound is pretty great and they have cool riffs seemingly coming out of their ears. At this stage, originality isn’t their strongest suit, but I, for one, will be watching with interest to see where they go next.

Kong Myspace page

Brew Records website

“Leather Penny” official video

“Leather Penny” live video on YouTube

Some things to read

Posted: December 9th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Hi! I write you from my own personal shipping warehouse. It feels like I have done nothing but package orders and make stock and print labels and run to the post box for weeks now. If you’re still on the lookout for Christmas gifts then feel free to send your money my way. I’m at Asking For Trouble and Super Cute Kawaii!

Okay, advert over. This will all be over soon and I will schedule up some more columns for you to enjoy over Christmas. We’re also currently thinking up our top ten albums and films of the year for our annual except-when-BT-break-my internets features. I also have some interviews sitting here that should have gone up ages ago. While you wait for that, here’s a few interesting things to read instead.

Verbal Rocket is a new/old webzine, that is a new webzine of old interviews from the height of the zine scene. I read about 4 lines before having one of those ‘OH GOD remember Ikara Colt/Disco Pistol/Tampasm dear lord’ moments and having to stop. There is some great stuff here though – interviews with Trail of Dead, Fugazi, Sebadoh, Part Chimp and many more, plus photos and things. Go pretend it’s still 1998.

Sweeping The Nation is much more prepared than us and already counting down their Top 50 Albums of 2008 one at a time. Considering I’m struggling to think of ten records I’ve actually heard all the way through, I am more than impressed.

Alistair Fitchett is also being festively prolific with an advent calendar of his 25 favourite songs of the year. This I could probably manage, if I did one a month.

Um, there might have been more but I can’t remember now. Feel free to add your links to stuff we should be reading in the comments. Not if your idea of good reading is Cialis and Snuggle Blankets (WITH SLEEVES) though – I’ve heard enough.