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

Archive for April, 2009

CASTROVALVA – s/t (CD/Download, Brew Records)

Posted: April 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Castrovalva. What’s that name all about? I don’t know. They’re a new band from Leeds, a duo who play totally ripped bass through loads of effects and hammering drums. Yeah yeah, just another band that worships at the feet of Lightning Bolt. Aren’t they about (at least) 3 years late? That’s a bit harsh, to be fair. How long have Magma been throwing out brain-frying bass/drums mayhem?

Castrovalva have been together since mid-2007 and this is their first “proper” release, a short 8 track mini-album. Despite the total LB-aping  totally-distorting-bass-hits-pounding-drums sound, they’ve got more in the closet than you might think. Mashing up the usual low end throbbing attack with hints of disco influence, classic rock riffs, blast beats, a generally twisted sense of humour and even a bizarre guest vocal on one song, this duo manage to display a fair range in the 20-odd minutes of music in this release.

The sound on this recording is pretty dandy too. Producer Ross Halden has done an exceptional job of capturing a punishing low end from the bass whilst retaining real punch and dynamics from the drums, all of which serves extremely well to show off the tightness and interplay between the two musicians. Castrovalva are a tight outfit and their chops are not to be sneezed at. Thankfully, neither are a lot of their riffs and melodies, which stay just the right sides of inventiveness and head-banging familiarity. One weak note is the ambient track “London Kills Me” – a welcome change of pace it may be, but it doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose and is pretty irritating to be honest. Apart from that, it’s a bracing and entertaining listen overall.

Castrovalva – s/t is released on Tuesday 4th May 2009.

Castrovalva myspace

Brew Records

DEAN McPHEE / CHAPTERS – Split (7″, World in Winter)

Posted: April 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

World in Winter are the kind of label I like a lot – interested in unusual or experimental music, but consistently finding stuff that is familiar enough to make listening an easy thing. It may sound obvious, but it’s a hard balance to strike as consistently and as well as WiW do. This, their latest release, is a split 7″ between solo guitarist Dean McPhee and the band Chapters, who I reviewed a while back.

This would appear to be the debut release by Dean McPhee, a man who marries a melodic fingerpicking style to unusual guitar tunings and chords, backing them up with subtle effects to increase the otherwordly atmosphere. You can listen to his contribution to this 7″, a song called “Water Burial”, at last.fm. A smoothly echoing series of variations on a raga-like theme, it’s a beguiling and soothing listen. Personally, I can do without the vibrato effect on the guitar, but that’s probably what gave the song its name – the sound is akin to ripples of water spreading out from a slowly sinking object – say, a coffin? Overall it’s nice stuff and should be a decent precursor to a debut fell-length album later this year.

Chapters are an experimental group who tend towards the more ambient than the crashing crescendo side of rock. Their song “The Whiteness of the Whale” is a further development from ‘EP1’ and a triumph of sparse beauty. A heavily tremeloed guitar starts the track, joined by a droning moog organ and muted drum machine beat. These three elements intertwine and then ebb and flow from each other as further layers of muted keyboards, guitar and electronics are added to the mix. It’s a a subtle and slowly unfurling beauty of a track, and hands down the best thing I’ve heard by Chapters to date.

Overall all then, this is a tasty listen and well worth tracking down. It’s been out a wee while, so head on over to the World in Winter website to hear some previews and find out where you can sort yourself a copy.

Dean McPhee


Issho Taiko Drummers, Alasdair Roberts & Peter Nicholson @ Stills Gallery

Posted: April 28th, 2009, by Stan Tontas

Very pleased I made the effort to go to this, one of Edinburgh’s few experimental music events. The music was varied, all non-amplified, and high quality and it sparked off loads of ideas in my head. The range of sounds attainable from fully-unplugged instruments reminds me that there’s no need for a lack of electricity to mean a lack of adventure.

First was a cellist (Peter Nicholson?), with 2 songs separated by some strong free playing. I can listen to stringed instruments being taken to extremes forever. This was human enough to be engaging and alien enough to be interesting too.

Next was Alasdair Roberts with solo guitar and beautifully performed folksongs and a rare joy in hearing lyrics that aren’t shit (though he mischaracterises the politics of the Luddites as wanting “barbarism” – at the time they were around this was synonymous with “North African” – I don’t think this is going to bother anybody other than me).

Best of all were the Issho Taiko drummers, though. Having no amplification meant that they had to rein in their thunderous impulses to allow space for the accompanying guitar and drone. The playing was accomplished and the players were listening to each other, producing a surprisingly rich & varied experience. Drones and pounding rhythms that you thought could only be produced using electricity are coaxed out of acoustic instruments. This got me thinking of post- (and pre-)electric raves, thousands of years of sound placed into a secular warehouse party era. Dubstep on Aeolian harps, acid on kazoos, jungle on an air-conditioning duct.

My imaginings aside, this was excellent stuff. These constraints might have stifled the group but instead proved them to be a talented and coherent bunch, reworking (presumably) raucous pieces into an absorbing alternate direction.

MICACHU – Jewellery (CD, Accidental Records/Rough Trade)

Posted: April 28th, 2009, by JGRAM

With her backing band The Shapes the debut album from Micachu is a wretched mess of ideas and systematic hooks that sound autistic and extrovert.

Not very easy on the ear on first listen the fifteen tracks on display here display a sense of adventure not so common in modern (accepted) music and in many ways actually reminds me of those wonky early Pavement EPs that could often be rendered into nothing more than glorious noise.  Rather than hulking lo-fi guitars here Micachu exhibits a more eclectic arsenal of instruments in reckless abandon (many homemade and very unorthodox) suggesting a personal leaning and preference towards Beck and a poison combination of whitey folk hip hop.

In her voice Micachu displays something of a hybrid of Kimya Dawson and a drunken teenage Polly Harvey (especially on “Guts”) as the music drips in Bjork weirdness but in a favourably M.I.A. crossed with Captain Beefheart influenced manner.  That is not forgetting the Raincoat-esqe tone of sarcasm.

Produced by Matthew Herbert the rhythms hold surprisingly well considering what they are manufactured by as something of a paper thin version of legendary musical strangeness, sounding like a true outsider even if she is not necessarily one.  That said, the times the songs fall on their arse they do come with something of a passing resemblance to The Shaggs in delivery and mentality.

You can tell the young Micachu has listened to music all her life as she rips off the intro to The Champs “Tequila” on “Calculator” probably without even realising it.

The highlight of the piece is “Worst Bastard” with its genuine pop hooks and tasty sentiments that provide real attitude and a flow that energises.

Ultimately the results are mixed as songs begin to lose hooks in preference to extensive meandering and exploration making the album something of a patience tester but equally unique in execution and definitely something to search out in the name of adventure.

You may hate me for “recommending” this record.

Thesaurus moment: intrepid.


Accidental Records

Rough Trade

AN EXPERIMENT ON A BIRD IN THE AIR PUMP – These Sins EP (7″, Trouble Records)

Posted: April 27th, 2009, by JGRAM

For a while now there has been something of a subtle buzz regarding this band and in reality it all seems something of an exercise of style over substance but a style such as this, compared to the current defining fare, I am very happy to find myself being suckered in and lapping it up like a kitten licking milk.

I always wanted to date a reformed goth, a lady with a dark demeanour but obviously one that would not be laughed at in the street by teenagers.  My ideal goth lady would possess a finely tuned sense of humour in addition to a pretty good record collection including records by The Cure (the good ones and the bad ones).  Now if you added to this equation the lady being Asian, chunky and with a killer fringe you have something and someone I could get very excited about.  Suddenly you see how I (and not I alone) have been suckered in my An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump.

Musically there is a restrained, undistorted Jesus & Mary Chain feel to the band with primal Moe Tucker-esqe drum beats and patterns coupled with looping guitars and a tribal sounding delivery in both the vocals and lyrics that are goth in a Lydia Lunch kind of way, unashamedly taunting in content.

By the time we reach the cover version of “100%” by Sonic Youth a distinct No Wave tone appears to have found its way onto the b-side (named the “Inside” to the a-side’s “Outside”) followed by the most expressive song of this restrained release in “The Past Between Us”.

This band would have been a perfect goth band for 4AD in the eighties but now, I’m not so sure.  Here’s hoping for good things however.

Thesaurus moment: mode.

An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump

Trouble Records

diskant rewind: Asking For Trouble #10

Posted: April 21st, 2009, by Marceline Smith

(Originally posted September 2003)

Asking For Trouble by Marceline Smith

Some albums I have downloaded, loved momentarily and then tossed aside without a second thought, never to be listened to again.

The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium
To begin with, a brilliant sprawling wailing mess of crazy madness, twitching and staggering its way through a solidly pretentious concept. Boredom eventually sets in waiting for the damn songs to just, y’know, START. Someone should cut out all the good bits and stick them together to make the best 20 minute song ever.

The Faint – Danse Macabre
Always a sucker for bouncy keyboards, foghorn effects, bleepy noises and showing off, The Faint were bound to have some attraction for me. Their gigs the other year with Trail of Dead showed them to be boomingly loud eighties disco goth fun and thus, I assumed, tinny and crap on record. Luckily not though, and Agenda Suicide and Glass Danse (those titles!) in particular sound HUGE. Sooner or later though, it all feels so, so empty. Plus it’s EIGHTIES GOTH DISCO. What was I thinking?

The Postal Service – Give Up
Look! It’s the emo guy from Death Cab for Cutie singing his aww-ain’t-it-cute observational lyrics over some blip-blip bumpy electronica! What a fantastic idea! Well, apart from this song which is a bit lame. And, well, this one too. And, well, all of them except the spunky girl/boy duet. That’s pretty neat. Okay, sick of this now.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Asking For Trouble #9

Posted: April 17th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

(Originally posted February 2003)

Asking For Trouble by Marceline Smith

Righto. Another month, another …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead single to review. This month I have the European release of Another Morning Stoner [Interscope] which has the same tracklisting as the UK release but, get this, instead of three songs from the Peel session you get the same three songs but recorded for Dutch VPRO radio! What a stroke of marketing genius. I had to go to some lengths to get this, ordering online from a Swedish website. Nothing like entering your credit card details, skimming over some incomprehensible Swedish sentences and then clicking OK. Yes, I would like you to add three million kroner in Idiot Tax, thanks! So, is this a worthy addition to my stupidly excessive collection of TOD rarities bought for the express purpose of dragging out a column theme into a third year? Well, yes. Homage is riotous as ever with Jason screaming, wailing and drawling with his usual flailing abandon. Baudelaire I can never decide on. Some days it’s a great pop tune, other days it’s a just…there. This version sounds flat and the vocals hoarse and bored so it’s missing the spark. But don’t worry ‘cos we’ve still got Richter Scale Madness and it’s a topper of a version with Conrad rapping mid-song and some ferocious guitars. Not to mention an extended ending of squealing mentalism, crunched up disco drumming and the sound of broken equipment.

Continue reading »

Realax – Apollo Guise (CD, Little Fury Things)

Posted: April 14th, 2009, by Justin Snow

When I read the description of this CD on the Little Fury Things website, I thought to myself, “Oh, that sounds like it’ll be pretty good.” It’s ridiculous how naive I was at that point. Looking back at myself those few weeks ago, I see a sad young boy who thought he knew about good music. I see a boy who thought he knew what the words “dance” and “drone” meant. I see a boy waiting to have his life completely changed by a little record with a terrible name.

OK, so maybe that’s a little dramatic. But then again, chances are you haven’t heard Realax’s Apollo Guise either. And until you do, we can just pretend that that whole first paragraph is the total truth. I instantly fell for Apollo Guise as soon as I threw it on. I fell hard. It’s fuzzy (though not as fuzzy as the crazed out fuzzsters like Wavves or Vivian Girls) and it’s droney and it’s dancey. How could I not love this to death?

I think a solid comparison would be Usputuspud’s Disco tape and Fricara Pacchu’s Midnight Pyre. Apollo Guise has similar blown out, noisey elements like the ones found on Pyre but instead of being totally fucking crazy, it takes the chill drone approach and throws down some awesome beats like Disco. When you take two of my top 10 releases from last year and tell me there’s a new album that sounds like both of them put together, chances are I’m gonna get a little excited.

Even despite all of the song titles filled with silly wordplay (“X Or Size,” “Melonaire”), this record is definitely one of the best I’ve heard yet this year. Maybe I’m easy in that if you make anything dancey and droney I’m gonna fawn all over it, getting down on my knees and hailing it as the next best thing. But I like to think I have a least a little integrity and some standards. Either way, Apollo Guise is the next best thing.

Little Fury Things

diskant rewind: Asking For Trouble #8

Posted: April 14th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

(Originally posted November 2002)

Asking For Trouble by Marceline Smith

Hah. I went out specially and bought the new …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead single so I could review it in last month’s column and then it all got a bit hectic and I never managed to write my column. At the time I couldn’t believe I was spending FIVE POUNDS on a slab of weird looking picture disc containing two songs I don’t even like. I’m listening to it now to see if I’ve changed my mind. Relative Ways I liked at first but I am so bored of it. And particularly when there’s literally three better single type songs on View > Source Code, as the album’s not called. Hardly set the charts alight either did it Interscope? eh eh? Great video though. Blade Runner is still an overlong piece of instrumental arsing about. Apparently there’s good stuff on the CD version including Hot Roman Scandal Action but I was so horrified by the horrendous cover art that I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy it as yet.

Right, onwards with the new stuff I have been sent which has been providing me with some much-needed new listening material since I still don’t have a job or any money. Sob etc.

So, hurrah for Econoline and their new album Music Is Stupid [Seriously Groovy]. I get thanked in this which is always a nice surprise, especially when I’ve done nothing to deserve it and even more so when I get can one over Simon Minter. Haha etc. I like Econoline a lot. They’re refreshingly straightforward which sounds like an insult but when there’s so much twiddling post rock and clever-clever instruMetal around it does your heart good. Full of fuzzy/loud/jangly guitars, and tunes, you won’t likely find a better indie rock guitar album this year. From the fast thrills of I’m Plagued to the impassioned epic-ness of EmV to the quirky dynamics of Buddy Bradley it’s quality through and through. Somehow you get the feeling that the only reason the NME hasn’t gone mental for Econoline is because they haven’t got interesting enough hair.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Asking For Trouble #7

Posted: April 10th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

(Originally posted August 2002)

Asking For Trouble by Marceline Smith

This month’s Trail of Dead record is entitled Murray Street and damn great it is. Oh no, hang on, this is Sonic Youth. hohohoHO, I kill myself sometimes. Aye, so I haven’t bought any Trail of Dead records this month: no albums, laser discs, 8 track cartridges or 7″ biscuits. I haven’t bought a Sonic Youth album in years. Jet-Set Trash and No Star was the last one though I’ve got A Thousand Leaves on tape somewhere. You know why I stopped buying ’em. Yep, All Tomorrows Parties 2000. Sorry to harp on about this but it wasn’t even a studied decision. I didn’t come out of that set vowing never to buy a Sonic Youth record ever again. But maybe it was like aversion therapy. I reach out to pick up a Sonic Youth album and my instincts go ‘NOOOOOO!!’ and I stop short. So, whatever. I wanted this new record, I wanted to go see ’em play London. Money prevented both. Luckily Simon’s whining in his last column got us a copy and so here we are.

Murray Street, as you may have heard, is a return to form. And Sonic Youth really can’t win here. They play a set of avant-garde boundary pushing stuff and we all complain, they play all the hits and everyone digs it but kind of feels pandered to, wondering where the challenge is. Same with the records. We want a return to form, a stop to the Wire-adored side projects and collaborations. And when we get it we think, hey, this is Sonic Youth on auto-pilot. Where’s my challenge? But maybe we should quit complaining and just enjoy ‘cos this is the most fun straight up classic pop album you could want. There’ll be some avant stuff round the corner, take some time off for quick kicks. And, hey, if it’s Sonic Youth by numbers [which is isn’t really, but if it was] then it’s Sonic Youth by numbers. And it’s time to stare out those indie upstarts with a copy of Daydream Nation in one hand and Dirty in the other and say, yeah, Sonic Youth soundalikes? You wish! I’m not going to go through this album in detail – it’s got every cute little guitar trick you’d expect, all those heart-stopping quirks and sparks, the drawling and the sprawling and the tunes, the tunes! If you’ve not bought a Sonic Youth album in a while then go get this and get back in. If you’ve not got any Sonic Youth then here’s a damn good place to start. And next time Sonic Youth visit Scotland can they do a proper show instead of playing third on the bill of the little tent at the hell that is T in the Park? Why why why did they do that?

Continue reading »