diskant is an independent music community based in Glasgow, Scotland and we have a whole team of people from all over the UK and beyond writing about independent music and culture, from interviews with new and established bands and labels to record and fanzine reviews and articles on art, festivals and politics. There's over ten years of content here so dig in!

 Subscribe in a reader

Recent Interviews

diskant Staff Sites

More Sites We Like

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).

Moving on to newer ground, I’ve only recently heard Asa Chang & Jun Ray, despite the release of a highly acclaimed debut album on Leaf last year. Ah well, I managed to catch their latest effort, a mini-LP called Tsu Gi Ne Pu, and it’s been extremely refreshing break from the guitars/glitches/drones/beats formula that generally makes up my listening habits. Music shop dilettantes all around the country have probably been trying to slip this record into ‘world fusion’ departments so that they don’t have to think too hard about what happens when a couple of guys take their dextrous tabla and drumming skills and throw a load of western instruments like guitar and trumpet into the mix, but it’s hardly a fair genre tag. They also make some intriguing vocal performances an integral part of the songs (they sometimes sound like they’ve been programmed rather than sung), and often sit back to allow the whole thing to breathe; which results in something like twenty-five minutes of heady and spacey music which sounds both intriguing and genuinely progressive (not as in prog rock, you fuck). Asa Chang & Jun Ray’s music is always diverting, and occasionally they manage to completely envelope you the wash of the sound they create, gently buffeting you with underlying currents of melody and samples, and generally allowing you to enjoy the depths of their creations. The only track I genuinely dislike on Tsu Gi Ne Pu is ‘Trumpet’, which features a vocal performance so mannered as to be teeth-clenchingly embarrassing. But hey, I’m an idiot. Don’t listen to me, go and find your own opportunity to hear this music, just so you can at least experience it.

Speaking of genuinely interesting, exciting music, there’s a band known as The Murder Of Rosa Luxembourg currently making something of a reputation for themselves, with a series of explosive live shows (none of which I’ve managed to attend yet), showcasing some extremely confrontational music made by seven teenagers clutching onto grinding guitars, gurgling keyboards and spazzmongous drums. Their singer yelps and shrieks like he wishes they were releasing records on Gravity, and they generally alternate between a guitar-led racket of furious energy and some truly cacophonous keyboard-driven whirligigs. If you’re wondering how I come to know this information, it’s because the band have self-released something like fifty copies of a debut 7″, which just happens to be pink/black, and plays four songs at 33rpm on one side only. A mighty impressive showcase of their demented activities, and well worth searching amongst distributors for, as the band has apparently sold all theirs. There’s an MP3 up at their website though, and they’re doing an increasing amount of live shows, so keep your eyes peeled.

Another young ‘n’ upcoming act from these shores are GodOnlyKnows. Stu talked about an older demo in his column last month, and they’ve had a diskant New Bands interview, but back the electronica-meets-guitar duo come with a brand new demo called 6, recorded but last month. Apparently now set on a collision course for the sun by stating a determination to explore “post and free jazz” (they’ve heard of John Zorn then), you’ve got to applaud GodOnlyKnows’ ambition for breaking out of your standard ‘IDM’ specifications and trying to map new ground. Unfortunately, because this means a lot of improvisation, a lot of their shortcomings are exposed. Jamming can create some amazing sounds and take you on incredible journeys, but when it doesn’t work you often find yourself swimming around increasingly frustrated in tepid waters, waiting for inspiration to hit. Without a sense of structure to back them up, a lot of these new songs seem to be short of a point to their existence. There’s little in the way of nudges to your emotions, and rarely do you feel that the music is heading somewhere interesting and/or exciting. It’s pretty indicative of the state of play when my CD player started skipping the third time through, and I enjoyed the breaking up of rhythms and tones generated from this far more than I was enjoying the pieces originally. The other problem GodOnlyKnows suffer from is purely the flat sound of the textures they use. All the instruments involved appear to be stuck on their boring presets, and sampling Nintendo music is hardly revolutionary activity (witness cLOUDDEAD and various artists on the surprisingly ace Nanoloop v1.0 album for mere starters). Maybe a live arena would be a better context for this music, and I’d definitely want to see these guys play if I had a chance, but on compact disc, a little more time spent crafting those sounds and sticking them together/breaking them apart is definitely required.

Let’s continue the shit-storm and talk about Hella‘s new 12″ EP, Bitches Ain’t Shit But Good People. Now anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to ever communicate with me about music will know that Zach & Spencer’s debut LP Hold Your Horse Is absolutely blew me away with its incredible blending of mathy spazzycore and a keen sense of melody and how to break it viciously over your knee. Following that, they released a self-titled 7″ which was wasn’t half as exciting, based as it was less around the pure interaction of guitar and drums, with programmed keyboards far more to the fore. Though I could appreciate that Hold Your Horse Is was probably as far as you could take the formula they had conjured up (witness Orthrelm for a step or two too far in that direction), I still felt let down by that 7″. So what of this brand new larks and gubbins? Well, there’re four tracks here, and I should probably tell you now that two are good and two are bad. The two good ones are like extended jams of the 7″ tracks, with lots of overdubbed wah-wah guitars and keyboards underpinned by some astonishing drumming. Both sound like electronic mantras to the joys of repetition, and will suck you in and hypnotise you if you’re not careful – they slowly draw you in and end up dragging you into their manic trance: far more diverting than I was expecting. Unfortunately, the intro track is an unaccompanied distorted keyboard/drum machine short, which beeps and burples away like a more broken brother from the intro to that LP. It’s incredibly throwaway, but is still far preferable to the EP’s last track, which is a lo-fi recording of D. Elkan wailing like an Emo trooper over album track Republic Of Rough And Ready. Supposedly, he’s singing, and the vocals probably mean something, but such is the awful delivery that I just felt disgusted – why ruin a perfectly good song with some over-emotive bluster which does nothing but get in the way of the original’s keen structure and texture and energy? You can hear a similar atrocity on their website, as they’ve uploaded an MP3 of Mr Elkan pissing all over 1-800-GHOST-DANCE here, the bastards. Okay, enough ranting. Don’t listen to my bullshit & bluster anyway. Instead, go back to your Beach Boys, and dig those double-tracked vocals by Mike Love (evil, evil), on Little Deuce Coup (good, good). Spooky, but in a good way. Yes.

This column’s “spazz” count = 3. [Next month’s cue: Lots of ranting about Lightning Bolt‘s third album, Wonderful Rainbow, which dropped through my door yesterday morning. Potential “spazz” count = off the limit]

Further Information
Asa Chang & Jun Ray
The Murder Of Rosa Luxembourg

Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


Comments are closed.