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!

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THE $HIT – Lock Up Your Ghettoblasters!!! (Shit Music)

Posted: October 27th, 2006, by Andrew Bryers

They don’t mince words, the $hit. Listen to this from their press release: “Lock Up Your Ghettoblasters!!! delivers the urgent technicolor pop chaos that your cynical post-modern soul needs… it’s time to forget everything you’ve been told by MTV and let your miserable ears get shafted by the $hit’s rasping pico-pico rock ‘n’ roll”. Their ambition, it seems, is matched only by their willingness to abuse punctuation.

Now, I’m a not-quite-rehabilitated Manics fan. I have a weak spot for bands who utilise ridiculous hyperbolic over-statements to sell themselves. I’m intrigued…

…and by the end of the first track, I’m grinning like a loon. Gobby punk rock, casio-raping beatmongery, robotic rapping and a full-on 80s hip hop breakdown so cheesy it could only be carried off by true maniacs. This band is totally out-of step with what’s hip right now, they look like complete weirdos, and they’re definitely more fun than whatever you’re doing right now.

The album continues at breakneck speed, blending some of the silliest bits of hip hop, electro pop and punk with a brutal wit and a general disdain for the mainstream. Goddam it, I find myself thinking, they’re right to lambast the current generation of scruffy-haired songsmiths. We have bought into this James Bluntesque serious craftsmanship bollocks, at the cost of the cheap primal thrills that made us like music in the first place. This is what we need.

Several listens later, and just before I become a true believer, it occurs to me that they sound just a little bit like a British Bloodhound Gang. But then, most of the problems with the Bloodhound Gang would be fixed by being British – better influences (at times, the $hit sound like the bastard techno children of the Stranglers), and a sense of humour that extends beyond the female anatomy. And anyway, in order to pen the previous observation I had to pause the music and stop jumping round my room chanting “Smoking crack!/Bombing Iraq!”, so who really has the last laugh?


MUSE – Black Holes And Revelations

Posted: August 31st, 2006, by Andrew Bryers

Not so much a review this, as an admission of befuddlement. Also maybe a little mainstream for Diskant, but if Alasdair can get away with gushing all over Rachel Stevens (so to speak) then I’m sure I can discuss Muse with impunity.I have been living, somewhat uncomfortably, with Black Holes and Revelations for more than a month now. I bought it reluctantly, deterred by the overt prog-ness of both title and cover artwork, and by an instant dislike of the first single Supermassive Black Hole. I concluded that Muse, who had always dallied perilously close to their own anus had finally taken up permanent residence therein.

But see it gaze at me every time I went into Fopp, i began to soften. I mean, I love Muse. I love them for their weirdness, their willfully absurdity, their refusal to embrace indie cool, punk-ethic lo-fi or any other restriction on their BIG GRAND (daft) ideas. Of course they’re silly, but in these days when a Simon Amstell haircut and some big soulful eyes do an indie band make, don’t we need Matt Bellamy’s demented stare more than ever?

So anyway, the album. I’d read that they’d given up any pretence of being able to play the songs live and was half expecting over-produced mush, so opener “Take a Bow” – a pointless three minutes of of loops, arpeggios and grand build-up to nothing – came as no surprise. Elsewhere we hear new influences – Morricone movie scores and Arabic-sounding strings – creeping in alongside such such classic Muse album tracks as the big neo-romantic piano melodrama wank-off (here, Hoodoo). Results are mixed: Hoodoo’s a hoot, while their take on barbershop easy listening (Soldier’s Poem) falls a bit flat. Starlight’s a pretty tune marred by a shockingly banal chorus. It’s a mark of how much conviction they play with that, on repeated listening, Supermassive Black Hole for all its Darkness-esque “ooh baby” falsetto vocals and cheesiest use of vocoder since S Club Seven’s “Don’t Stop Moving” almost begins to work. Back at Rachel Stevens. How did that happen?

Maybe they’re best when they just all-out rock, as they do very effectively on “Assassin” and “Exo-Politics”. But then, just as you’re opting for the “great rock band ruined by over-production” version of events (let’s call it the Smashing Pumpkins theory), you hear Knights of Cydonia without doubt the most ridiculously over-the-top and best track on the album. Like Pink Floyd in a spaghetti western with a riff outta hell and Queen-style three-part vocal harmonies (and I hate Queen), it embodies everything you’ve got to love about Muse, the sheer shouldn’t-work-but-does-ness of them. It’s cool the way space is cool when you’re a kid.

So what’s going on? Are Muse too preposterous or not preposterous enough? Hmm, might have to get back to you on that one…

JENIFEREVER – Choose A Bright Morning (Drowned in Sound)

Posted: June 8th, 2006, by Andrew Bryers

It is a curious thing that after three decades during which much of popular music has aspired to a posture of perfect cynicism, be it sneering (70s), aloof (80s), or bored (90s), that now in the mid-noughties (someone thyink of a better name for the decade, please!) a new breed of bands are making music that doesn’t so much want to spit in your face as put its arm around you and tell you at length how amaaazing the universe is. Maybe the ecstacy revolution has finally seeped into the collective consciousness. Maybe we’re just bored of being bored. Maybe (and this is my theory), youth culture and pop music, which are now getting towards sixty years old have got over the midlife crisis of the 80s and 90s and are now experiencing a second childhood through early onset dementia.

Whatever the reason, the latest band to attempt the Sigur Ros/Explosions in the Sky formula of taking the three seconds of orgasm and stretching them out to fill an album are five angular and interesting looking Swedes called Jeniferever. In common with the aforementioned Icelandic/Texan purveyors of wonderment, Jeniferever fashion long drawn-out bliss-fests out of echos, chimes, sparkly bits and Mogwai’s early classic Helicon 1 (given that the ‘gwai have been having far more fun indulging their darkside since then, this seems fair enough). In contrast, they ditch the no-vocals/
funny-falsetto-choirboy-vocals-in-made-up-language approach in favour of Kristofer Jonsen’s hushed breathy tones and even the occassional traditional song structure. The results are fucking great, songs that are light and airy but somehow rumblingly powerful, calling to mind many adjectives you can’t use in a music review without sounding like a twat: magical, bewitching, fluffy…

It might not hit you outright with the obviousness of your local emo band, but if you have the time, the inclination, and don’t mind being thought a bit of a pussy by your metaller mates, this record will richly rewards your efforts. Listened to in space, post-coitally on some kind of mid-strength hallucinogenic drugs, it would almost certainly cause you to explode in a shower of loveliness. My NASA application goes in this afternoon.

SONVER – SonVer (Disconnected)

Posted: May 20th, 2006, by Andrew Bryers

SonVer (yes that’s how they spell it) are Joanna Quail and Ben McLees. She plays cello, he plays guitar, they both do funny things with computers and they’ve played the Royal Albert Hall, apparently, which is frankly more impressive than anything I’ve ever done. In their publicity picture they look well moody.

This, their debut album, is a dense atmospheric, instrumental affair, using layer upon layer of gloomy acoustic and electric cello, chiming guitar, deft touches of electronica and the occasional skittery beat to conjure up images of dark forests and half-remembered nightmares. Sometimes abstract, atonal or ambient, always weirdly unsettling, the music at times recalls, the spooky bits in A Silver Mt Zion/Godspeed… tracks, and at others captures that instinctive sense of wrongness in Aphex Twin’s ambient stuff. There are touches of baroque and celtic, and moments of transcendental wonder, like when “Last Thursday” bursts forth into peals of jubilant melodic noise and you know that it’s doing that post rock thing of wiring directly into your emotional centres in a way that no skinny kid with an acoustic guitar ever could.

The other thing about this album is that it’s a unique opportunity to ascertain your own personal cello saturation threshold. Mine, alas, is about two thirds of the way through when I catch myself longing for an oboe or, well, anything to break the pattern. Nevertheless, this is an accomplished, enthralling and occasionally startling album. Go sit somewhere spooky, dim the lights, stick it on, and give yourself a weird-on.

SonVer’s Website

AKIRA – Patriot (Orison)

Posted: April 30th, 2006, by Andrew Bryers

It starts with a frail wispy a capella melody: “There’s a bug in my head/And it’s making me dead”.

“Ah!” thinks the listener. “This will be whimsical indie.”

But just as he reaches for his slippers and viola, the poor defenceless tune is jumped by savage feedback and pounding drums swathing it in sheets of noise. Then, it breaks down into a kind of deranged solo guitar sea shanty bit backed with eerie vocal harmonies, before morphing again into the kind of BIG ROCK RIFF that Faith No More used to carve out of solid granite. Finally the original melody resurfaces alongside an urgent hypnotic chant of “Blow yourself up/Set yourself free”, before the whole thing drowns in blissful screaming and noise.

Whimsical isn’t quite the word for it.

I like Akira a lot. They engage in a similar kind of noisemongering hi-jinks to the Test Icicles, but with a style and a way of mixing experimental structure and brutal noise with pure pop melodies that is all their own. They’re no one-trick pony either: the B-side “Atom” threads a yearning starry-eyed vocal through a junkyard of fractured cut-up guitars, ghostly squeals and other detritus that is somehow weirdly beautiful. And to show that they’re not studio-ridden boffins, there’s a bonus live track too. Nice one.


THE LEANO – Steps to Leanoland

Posted: April 19th, 2006, by Andrew Bryers

For a CD chosen at random from a box at a party, this did not bode well. The cover depicts the artist in the style of one of those rastaman cartoons that in poster form adorn the bedroom walls of adolescent boys between Jordan and “Take Me To Your Dealer”. There’s a track called “Ganjaholic”, for fuck sake.

So, to the Leano, Sri Lankan-origin, London-based MC whose debut album this is, I owe an apology of sorts: this shit ain’t bad. “Steps to Leanoland” is 13 tracks of fuzzy dub/hip-hop beats, nice stripped-down production and Mr. L himself rhyming away with brains and some panache on a variety of ISSUES. Musically, we’re paddling in the same murky waters as Roots Manuva, although what the Leano lacks in the former’s abstract and inventive wordplay he tries to make up in the breadth of his ideas. So on “Twisted Tongues”, he sensitively dissects the identity crisis of a second-generation immigrant, caught between a mother culture he can’t fully understand and an adopted country which keeps him at arms length. “Sex and Lies” uses a sweet little twisted piano loop to challenge media-created myths of male sexuality; which frankly isn’t a debate you’ll hear 50 Cent contributing to any time soon. In fact, sexual dysfunction runs like a thread right through the album from the almost scarily honest account of a paranoia-fuelled impotence attack on “They Don’t Know What We Know”, to the confession “Doctor, doctor I’ve got a psychological error/Every time I wank I see the same terror” on “Messing With My Mind”. The Leano may be in sore need of a couch and a detailed psychoanalysis of his childhood (or maybe just to lay off the smoke a little), but it sure as hell beats the kind of alpha-male fantasy willy-jousting that dominates so much of the genre.

Having said all this, the real problem with this album is the growing sense you get a few tracks in that it’s not really going anywhere, that the meandering pace and gentle musing is all there is. Our boy never really breaks a sweat throughout, even on the more up-tempo “Music We Love” which has a shot at jungle but can’t really muster up the energy. On “Rolling River”, a dirge about how we’re all part of the same, y’know, consciousness, he seems so dangerously close to the kind of Groove Armada coffee table chillerama that sells sports cars to junior managers, that you find yourself wanting to poke the lethargic bugger with a stick until he yelps and yodels like Ol’ Dirty “Captain Beefheart of Rap” Bastard. That might just be me though… And while the link between cannabis use and wooly, half-baked, slightly paranoid social analysis may not have been conclusively established, the references to TV “brainwashng” everyone and money turning us all into “robots” on this album will certainly give the researchers something to go on.

The Leano’s clearly got a lot to say and the brains to say it – even “Ganjaholic”, the source of my earlier misgivings, turns out to be a thoughtful little reggae ditty about the life of a homeless guy in Hull – but after a few tracks it all starts to seem a little pedestrian. I recommend a two-week boot camp at the Public Enemy school of political agitation to give the young man some direction. Still, as those familiar with my sense of humour will know, no album with a line like “I flow/ Like the faeces that flows from ma arse/Ya know ya know the smell when ya pass/Yes!” will be entirely wasted on me.