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Archive for February, 2009

diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #5

Posted: February 27th, 2009, by Stuart Fowkes

(Originally posted November 2002)

Freedom From Excessive Noise by Stuart Fowkes

An encyclopedic spread of bands from across the UK this month, and across the alphabet, as Ann Arbor and Zebedee Numchuck allow me to present what is, quite literally, an A to Z of some of the best new British bands you might want to go and have a listen to.

A is for…
Starting off like the theme from the advert for Smash instant mashed potato (the one with all those pre-Metal Mickey look-at-us-we’re-covered-in-tin-foil-aren’t we futuristic tin Steven Hawkingseses), Leicester’s Ann Arbor hereafter turn their hand to the genre known henceforth as GRAAAAAARGHcore. Take away the fact that the main riff to ‘Tensed Up’ sounds more than a little bit like ‘Selling Jesus’ by Skunk Anansie, and you’ve got a Big Black-fuelled noise party for all the family. It’s stripped down the bare essentials (there are only two members: guitar, programming and bass), and loud enough and good enough to make you honestly expect Steve Albini to pop up shouting about crows or squirrels any minute. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Ann Arbor perform live, and it took my ears two days to recover from their atomizing songs about fucking then. I’m looking forward to many more happy hours of deafness from this ‘ere demo.

G is for…
God_Only_Knows – another band combining electronics and guitars, you might think. What to expect? Only too often, bands can end up thinking they’re some kind of Renaissance men (or women), simply by the introduction of a bit of kit with ‘Roland’ stamped on the front. Refreshing then that God_Only_Knows (complete with underscores, natch) don’t drown their music under squeals, breakbeats or vocal samples, instead weaving a spacious and pretty mesmerising twist on standard post-rock fare that sets them apart nicely from the pack, thank you very much. The opening track (the fantastically-titled ‘Ailsa Stewart’) starts off promisingly, but ultimately weighs in about two minutes under its proper fighting weight, coming to a close before it’s really got going. Unlike ‘Reflections In Natural History’, seven minutes of swooping, sweeping and bleeping that genuinely gives the impression it’s got something to say for itself. It’s not all plain sailing – ‘Plane/plain’ does suffer from too many inconsequential beeps and not enough ideas, leaning rather self-consciously towards Autechre territory without committing fully to it, but on balance a offering that varies from substantial and worthwhile to flamin’ beeptastic, mate. No Beach Boys covers, either.

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JAMES REID – Tales Between the Tides (Autumn Ferment)

Posted: February 25th, 2009, by Pascal Ansell

Here we have some more slow-burning folk from Scotland’s Autumn Ferment label. This limited edition 7″ vinyl is by James Reid, a resident Fifer, and the sea is very well captured with serene swells and wispy electronics.

The first track ‘She waits by the Shore” is fantastic if the sound is really turned up – the room throbs with a mesmerising synth line. The mix is layered with warm electronics, decorated by clear and crisp acoustic guitar, with Reid’s voice resting somewhere in the middle. Some very minimal beat-work compliments Reid’s dark and mellow voice.

The music doesn’t quite ‘lift-off’ as you’d like it too, but then again personal expectations are nothing to be relied upon. This seems to be a ‘stop-off’ single from Reid (the songs are not intended to be on any album) so I look forward to a full release!

James Reid

Pascal Ansell

diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #4

Posted: February 24th, 2009, by Stuart Fowkes

(Originally posted July 2002)

Freedom From Excessive Noise by Stuart Fowkes

If you, like me, have been watching VH1 every day almost constantly in the hope of seeing
that Enrique Iglesias video where he gets off with Anna Kournikova, it’s probably time you, well, got out more frankly. And while you’re out of the house, you might want to go and buy some new music. Maybe even some of
this new music.

’03/04/02. Michael injures his lungs. 03/04/02. Bass’s nut broken in sword fight. 20/04/02. Michael blows the output tubes on his amp.’ Wisconsin’s New Blind Nationals don’t have photos or a list of influences on their website like mimsy indie rock hopefuls. Theirs is a list of damage – and what’s more, ROCK damage. Onstage lung wounds notwithstanding, opening track ‘Used Up’ proclaims ‘rock ‘n’ roll is pretty lame’ with the conviction of an English oak wardrobe being dropped onto the Hives’ collection of IKEA fake pinewood furniture, to labour the metaphor. In fact, by the time I’ve finished typing said metaphor, ‘Sturtevant By Night’ (Sturtevant? Free copy of the album to anyone who tells me what this means) has already pissed on my shoes and run away laughing. Four of the tracks here are terrific and make The Vines sound like the sub-GCSE Nirvana covers band they are, swelling and cracking their way out of the speakers as if they were recorded through blown amps using instruments nicked from the skip outside …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s house (which they may have been, given the band’s apparent propensity for BREAKING STUFF). Vaguely grungey, and garagey in neither the Strokes nor the Genius Kru sense, the nearest reference points that fling themselves from the shelves of HMV are Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge-era Mudhoney and the much-touted second coming of grunge, The Catheters. Unfortunately for the New Blind Nationals, calling a song ‘End Of The Good Songs’ only works if it’s a storming rock anthem direct from the toilet bowl where AC/DC got rid of their last curry, rather than actually being the end of the good songs. To be fair, it’s not that bad, but the final three plod along with a few inconsequential keyboard sounds, as if the band are being (slowly) pursued up the road by a lame Moog, until the screaming finale of ‘In Armed Decision’ sticks a few drumsticks where the sun doesn’t shine and reminds me why this would be the demo of the month, were such a spurious award to exist.

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Light – A Million Dead Beneath The Ice (CD, self released)

Posted: February 23rd, 2009, by Justin Snow

Light are some tricky fellows. First of all, their name is Light. And they packaged their CD entirely in white with lots of folded paper, making the whole thing look quite delicate. You might be thinking you’re in for some ambient drone, right? But then they smear some (supposed) menstrual blood on the disc itself. What kind of drone band does that? I’m not sure but it’s definitely not Light. Because Light makes black metal.

I have a hard time describing A Million Dead Beneath The Ice because I think my brain isn’t synching up with my ears. I hear Light and I hear black metal. Slow moving, buzzing guitars, demon vocals, the whole nine badass yards. But there’s something that’s telling me this isn’t your momma’s black metal. Maybe it’s more like gray metal. Take out the doom organ and the growling hell spawn and you would have some really awesome ambient music. Yeah, it might be kinda scary ambient, but ambient nonetheless. And there’s some Midwestern Americana hiding in there, too. I just know it.

But I keep going back and forth. Do I just think this is gray metal because of the band’s name and the CD packaging? Is this really just some straight up black metal? Or is there something more to Light than the hordes of other BM bands.

I think I’m just going to ignore this slight conundrum in my brain and enjoy A Million Dead for what it is. It’s really some intensely doomish black metal that may be a bit rough on the surface (like all black metal) but is actually quite beautiful. Especially on “When The Flood Waters Come Rushing In” with the mournful guitar that’s right up front, paired with the oh so sad and angry vocals. Whatever sub-genre you decide to throw Light into, know that this is some truly special black metal.


diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #3

Posted: February 20th, 2009, by Stuart Fowkes

(Originally posted May 2002)

Freedom From Excessive Noise by Stuart Fowkes

Press releases are funny things. Like a CV, you can spend days honing phrases like ‘a smorgasbord of honey-dripped ballads in sharp contrast to the coruscating hardcore on display elsewhere’ until you (or your publicist/manager/label whore) have made the band in question sound like the greatest, most essential new band of the decade. That is, until the reviewer/A & R person puts the CD into the player and your music undoes all the good work your flowery prose did in five seconds.

A good press release, like a good CV, should be clean, to the point and no more than two sides of A4. It should only tell you what you need to know: where you’re from, what you’ve done, what you sound like, how to get in touch with you. So let’s take a look at the peculiar phenomenon of press release hype.

If size really did matter, then Dustbyte might possibly be bigger than U2, offering up a seven-page behemoth of a press release, detailing every bit of press the band have ever had (including about a page’s worth of gig listings from two years ago), every review and possibly some guff about how they all like fish fingers, except the singer, who’s allergic to them. But as we’ve established, a long press release is almost as bad as one that’s too short, and kind of gives the impression that the band are trying to make themselves out to be one of Britain’s biggest bands. It’s like reading through the guitarist’s mum’s scrapbook of the band, and half expecting to see a baby photo over the page.

And the music? Live, the influence of the Jesus Lizard and the Pixies on Dustbyte is clear enough in their pleasing squealy guitar noise and infectious (not in the disease sense, don’t worry) stage presence. Here, though, first track ‘Priscilla’ sounds like Hüsker Dü being played through jam while Brian Eno juggles bits of keyboard in the background with the help of a few of the Clangers. The chorus, rather than being spiky and catchy in the way that good choruseseses in this sort of music are wont to be, is actually pretty irritating. ‘The Misadventures of the Great Red Shark’ is much more like it, bounding along like an excited teenager on the way to his first Frank Black and the Catholics gig.

Muleskinner Jones (Terrible Stories EP) make the mistake of not actually putting their name on the press release, but it does take the form of a hand-signed, typed letter asking for ‘any feedback/criticism/abuse’. There are no biographical details at all, though, so I’m going to have to make them up. ‘Muleskinner Jones were formed in late 1953 in Mid-West America and raised on a diet of cowboy movies, trips to the American Adventure theme park and Mary Poppins. They moved on to Ireland sometime in the early 1980s, where they listened to the Pogues and took acid for 22 years.’

This would go some way towards explaining the finished product of their output. First song ‘How Come That Blood On Your Coat Sleeve?’ genuinely sounds like a cross between Kirsty McColl and Shane MacGowan’s hit pop song and something from Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, as sung by Kirsty Gallagher off Sky TV and ‘top’ impressionario Alistair MacGowan. I honestly can’t tell if this utterly bizarre countrified duet about murder and bloodstains is taking the piss or not. It’s Nick Cave if he’d been brought up by Cletus and Dwayne, the only inbred gay couple in all of Arkansas. And I mean that as a compliment, really I do. Traditional songs recorded on an Apple Powerbook by an insane genius with straw between his teeth – Muleskinner Jones, we salute you, because we don’t know what else to do.

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diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #2

Posted: February 17th, 2009, by Stuart Fowkes

(Originally posted April 2002)

Freedom From Excessive Noise by Stuart Fowkes

So this is a column designed to shout about a few new bands you might want to check out, but you’ve got to have a system, right? You get a huge pile of miscellaneous tapes, CDs and records to pick and choose from, and like a magpie trapped in a giant box of Quality Street, the nice shiny things catch your eye first. So I’m going to review these bad boys in order of how nice they look from the outside, even if they end up tasting like those horrible coffee creams that make you gag every Christmas. Send me pretty things. I like pretty things. Mind you don’t send anything that sounds like the Pretty Things, though.

First up is West Wales’ Jarcrew, whose press release takes the form of a bit of A4 with some scrawl on it in black felt pen, which is a nice personal touch. It does, however, promise the bribe of several – several, mind – Kit Kats, none of which I’m yet to see, so words will have to be had [sorry, I steal all the bribes – overlord]. The CD’s a fantastic home made package covered in brown parcel tape, black cardboard and that silver pen that only the pretty art teacher at primary school gets to use. Quite apart from the quality packaging, they also have things like ‘kill all musos’ and ‘sex ‘n’ hugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll’ written all over it, which puts me in a good mood straight off. First track ‘Deemo’ is 30 seconds long: drums, bass, weird keyboard flid-outs and a man who has reverb in his mouth shouting ‘deemodeemodeemo’ over and over. I’m not sure what ‘Deemo’ is, but I like it. ‘Deth Car’ is one and a half minutes of dirty garage rock and distorted vocals that I entirely agree with – it’d ace to drive round, pull up next to a load of girls and invite them to get in my deth car for a ride. And if I did, this would be the soundtrack. ‘Boy Wonder’ is more expansive and instrumental, and gets going just when you think it’s just a mimsy instrumental to link tracks together. The most disappointing track is ‘Opakow’, if anything because it’s the most straightforward, after the band have set themselves the (high) standard of being wilfully strange. More please.

Next, it’s disoma from Southampton, whose tape package must have taken longer than the songs to put together. Every line of text is individually cut out on separate bits of paper and stuck to the tape sleeve, hopefully not with Pritt Stick but with industrial strength atom-bonding glue they guzzled between takes. ‘Squeal, squeal, squeal – DAH DAH DAH’ would be my answer if I were asked, for example in an oral examination to pass my GCSE in math rock, ‘how would you describe disoma’s music using only the medium of onomatopoeia?’ And I like to think I’d get at least a ‘B’ for that. ‘I Like Me, You Like Me, Let’s Be Friends’ stops, starts, stops, then chugs off in all the right places, punctuated by one of the young scamps shouting ‘BLAAAR’ (the Emo Noise(r)). So far a cracking tune, until it goes into a hilarious sub-solo that sounds like it might have sounded funny turned up dead loud in the practice room. It’s not funny, at all. In fact, it’s rubbish. Second track ‘God vs. Prog’ does pretty much the same thing, only without Joe Satriani turning up in clown shoes, so it wins the day in my book. ‘Ollie’s Dead Too’ does the quiet/loud thing, but not half as interestingly as the rather splendidly-titled ‘Providence Exotic Fish’, which builds up ‘Yes I Am A Long Way From Home’ style like the world’s biggest sandcastle made by a busload of kids with attention deficit disorder. I bet they’re ace live. I’d go and see them. ‘Have you ever been so low that you cried?’ What kind of a lyric is this, please? It’s like ‘have you ever found something so funny that you laughed?’

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CHAPTER XIII – Valentine (CDS, Levelsound Music)

Posted: February 16th, 2009, by JGRAM

There is a subtle amount of responsibility that comes with reviewing music that no one else is willing to touch. To heavily criticise such a piece of music and slag it off at ground zero is a heinous act akin to kicking the crutches away from a cripple. Sometimes however it feels like a necessary evil.

This two track CD single (I think) is released to coincide with the most frightful of Hallmark holidays (along with the commercialisation of Eid) “Valentine” is a tepid and gloomy offering confusing the most quizzical parts of my brain (if I have one) and causing me to stroke my chin and wonder just who is going to listen to this.

For such a commercially orientated release, the sound really stands out as being muddy and cheap sounding. There is no bite or purpose to this record it just sounds like grown ups trying to play music they don’t understand from a tab book purchased in a bad music shop.

Referring to the press release, the boast of “full on percussion” really is not the most salient of points and where the “harmonious venom” just quite is, is something of a Baker Street mystery to me, Baker Street that would probably actually embrace this release for all its big ties (major label distribution apparently) and business acumen. It is all built on sand.

I have to concede at this point that when I was sent the email asking me if I wanted a copy I was drunk.

Thesaurus moment: devoid.
Chapter xiii
Levelsound Music

CHARLIE PARR – Roustabout (CD/LP, Misplaced Music)

Posted: February 14th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

It’s been almost four years since bluegrass boy Charlie Parr hit paydirt and considerable acclaim with his fourth album “Rooster”, but it’s not like he’s been sitting on his hands ever since; “Roustabout” is his seventh full-length release, and the first to be released by Bristol-based label, the highly excellent Misplaced Music. Misplaced are celebrating this by making it  first ever long playing record they’ve ever released – vinyl limited to 500 copies, though you can get it on plain ol’ CD too if needs be.

Charlie’s sound, rooted in the crackling ’20s and a’30s recordings of Smithsonian Folkways and discoveries by Harry Smith, can hardly be charged to have ‘progressed’ since his first album 8 years ago, but then that would be beside the point. Fingerpicked resonator, 12-string guitar and banjo accompany his unique gravelly voice as he works his way through twelve songs, three of which are covers – not that you’d know it, to his eternal credit.

“Authenticity” is a word that has been misused for so long that it seems an awful tar to brush someone with, but by God Charlie deserves to reclaim it for the realms of respectability. He’s not some godawful “roots” act wishing that it’s still the (original) Great Depression and we all live in mud huts in Virginia – Charlie sings about the world around him without pretense or irony. There’s no hint of cynicism about him. To that I can say only one word: HURRAH!

Speaking plainly, if you heard and liked “Rooster”, you should get this. If you haven’t heard Charlie Parr before, you should go to his myspace page, listen to him, and buy this. Alright?

“Roustabout” is available from all good shops from Monday 17th February. Charlie’s currently in tour in Ireland andthe UK until the end of the month. Go check him out.



Some NEWS about EVENTS

Posted: February 14th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Surely it’s too early for Festival season to be getting started? Well, here’s some info we’ve been sent.

Instal sets up in Glasgow again this March with their usual awesome/incomprehensible line-up of ‘brave new music’. If you’re quick, you can snap up an early bird weekend pass for just £20! I’d tell you the line-up but grr stupid Flash site and no copyable text. Insert your own joke about obscure music festival not letting you tell people about the line-up and then click over to the website for all the info.

All Tomorrow’s Parties have a bunch of events lined up for 2009. The UK gets two in Minehead in May. First up The Fans Strike Back featuring Devo, Sleep & Jesus Lizard  plus newly added diskant faves ERRORS and PARTS AND LABOR. Following that it’s curated by The Breeders and features Shellac, Throwing Muses, Holy Fuck, X and lots more. Both are on sale now. If you’re on the other side of the planet then there’s ATP New York in September curated by The Flaming Lips. More info on all of these at the ATP website.

And finally, if you’re in the North West of England over the next few months, make sure to check out UK DIY, a series of events, exhibitions and projects exploring DIY crafts across the UK. Opening this weekend at the Turnpike Gallery is an exhibition of zines including some by yours truly. Should be fun!

diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #1

Posted: February 13th, 2009, by Stuart Fowkes

(Originally posted February 2002)

Freedom From Excessive Noise by Stuart Fowkes

2001. A year in which one of the top selling albums was a compilation of classic lounge covers by Robbie Williams and The Strokes used the events of September 11 as a marketing opportunity (we’ll pull ‘New York City Cops’ from the album, in case any of you were worried. Go Team Strokes!). What else happened? I can’t really remember, but I expect it was good. You’ll have to make do with my vague top ten of 2001 – imagine it’s being excitedly presented by wee Gail Porter in a tiny top or something.

Starting at the top, the gold medal, bottle of champagne, scantily clad girl and place atop the winner’s rostrum goes to an EP called Morning One by a gentleman going under the assumed name of Aarktica (Ochre Records). The lead track of the three, ‘These Days Fail To Bring Me Near’, is the most involving piece of new music I’ve heard this year. It’s basically five minutes of ambient washes of noise, vocals you can barely make out and a really simple picked guitar part. And that’s it. The most pretentious thing about the EP is that it’s themed around soundtracking the moment when you wake up in the morning with your arms around someone you love (your mum doesn’t count) for the first time. Which would make me laugh in its face, apart from the fact that Jon only goes and pulls it off. The other two tracks (predictably) don’t rise to the same heights, but this has the first choice of biscuit from the Tesco Finest selection simply because I want ‘These Days Fail To Bring Me Near’ to be the last song I hear before I die, it’s that good.

No prizes for originality for choosing Confield by Autechre, but that’s not the point. Messrs. Booth and Brown have been making fantastic records for forty-nine years now, records consistently far better than anyone else in electronic music (yes, even Gary Numan). ‘VI scose poise’ starts the journey like the track Aphex Twin meant to write when he was messing about with ‘Bucephalus Bouncing Ball’, and by the time ‘lentic catachresis’ arrives, Autechre have actually smashed music to bits like petulant children with drum machines. Half of this record makes me want to sit down and write something even a quarter as good, and the other half makes me want to give up making music because Autechre are so far ahead of the game, it’s pointless anyone else even trying. As that German bloke might have said to Ned Nederlander in The Three Amigos, ‘Autechre are gods in my country.’

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