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

Author Archive

LEVENSHULME BICYCLE ORCHESTRA – “Nine Doors” (Concrete Moniker, CD/Download)

Posted: June 27th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

Nine Doors cover

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. That’s gotta be one of he best band names of all time. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. It’s so satisfying to say. It’s almost as satisfying to type out, time and again. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. The best thing about the name is that it’s wholly accurate: Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra are a troop of musicians  based in a certain district of Manchester who come together to make music from all kinds of instruments, including bicycles. They’ve been a going concern for a few years now, but this is their debut release; a full-length CD album (or download if you’re so inclined) capturing nine of their collective improvisations for posterity and general confusion.

“Marlon. Marlon Brando are you the famous film star?”

And he says, “yes I’m afraid I am.”

“Why aren’t you happy with your existence?”

“Well that’s the question isn’t it?”

Confusion? Yes. It’s not like they don’t warn you: open up the beautifully packaged CD, pull out the bonkers fold-out poster and look on the back; you’re confronted with what reads like the ramblings of an insane man and a small disclaimer: “All lyrics improvised at time of recording and sung by Zeke S Clough”. Pity the fool that volunteered to transcribe them.

Zeke S. Clough (voice, synthesizer, percussion), perhaps better known for his insane artwork for Skull Disco that also adorns this release,  is just one of the quartet of fearless improvisers that make up Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. Huw T. Wahl (bicycle percussion, clarinet, piano, voice), David M. (for Magnus) Birchall (bass, small instruments, percussion, voice) and Josh J. Kopecek (synthesizer, piano, flugelhorn) are the other constituent parts that make up this glorious whole.

So what is the sound of confusion? The album opens up with some typically deranged moans from Zeke, before some clattering of bicycle percussion, fizzing pedals and rhythmic random percussion. This builds up to a point of tension before Zeke begins his first sermon, quickly accompanied by bass thrums and other assorted layers before it all collapses into the next song. “Starved Dog” features a piano accompanying what sounds like someone playing a bass guitar with a slide, a kazoo and god knows what else. “Oily Film” features what sounds like the ghost of crazed organist playing the soundtrack to Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, accompanied by creaks, groans and moans and the odd whoop here and there. “Whale in a Duckpond” almost sounds like an actual, recognisable song at various points, with some welcome musicality as David plays the bass like an upright and Zeke croons in his best Geno Washington impersonation. Then it all goes wrong; maggots start crawling over the windows and hell gradually breaks loose. “Marlon Brando”? Well, you know how that one goes. Everything starts falling apart by the time we reach “Primate Engineer” and Huw’s clarinet starts wailing over the top of abstract piano phrases, phased bass rumbles and some beatboxing. Eventually it all comes to a crashing, triumphant halt with final track “Nine Doors”, which runs a full 20 minutes and encapsulates virtually everything that precedes it, mutating from broken-down church organ jam to skeletal percussion workout to bizarre melody hopscotch, all held together by another bizarre, nonsensical story. A glorious hymn to the power of collective free improvisation, it’s probably the finest moment on this fantastically cock-eyed album.

“Nine Doors” is the sound of what happens when you lock four like-minded musical voyagers in a room for 2 days and distill their inevitable improvisations down to something that approaches the coherent “music” your lazy brain desires. Live, Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra must sprawl all over the place as they take different paths towards collective enlightenment. On record, you’re served the mere highlights of their wanderings, jumbled-up and thrown together to create this mind-flaying assemblage of sounds, textures, noises, words and song. Running nicely over an hour, it might be too much to take in at one sitting, but keep listening and it’s the collective inspiration that frazzles your mind. Awesomely inspired and dazzlingly weird, simply nothing sounds like Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra.

LBO are out in the mainland of Europe right now blowing minds night after night. If you’re anywhere near anywhere they’re playing, I suggest you take a trip and check them out:

28th June – Basel @ Obst & Gemuse
29th June – Dornbirn @ TIK
30th June – Geneva @ Cave 12
1st July – Grenoble @ Le 102
2nd July – Stuttgart @ FFUS
3rd July – Prague @ Final Club
4th July – Leipzig @ Conne Island
5th July – Berlin @ Madame Claude
6th July – Hamburg @ Golden Pudel
7th July – Mainz @ Walpoldenakademie
8th July – Amsterdam @ Delicatessen

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra website

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra on Myspace

Concrete Moniker website

DEATHPODAL – “Exu__Wow” (Electropapknit Records, CDEP/Download)

Posted: June 7th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

Death Podal

Deathpodal are otherwise known as Alistair Chivers, a resident of Glasgow and a veritable one-man band. “Exu__Wow” is his debut EP, consisting of six tracks and a refreshingly huge bundle of ideas. Released earlier this year on Electropapknit Records, this is a total DIY job with bits of songs recorded all over the place; at home, at university, in a portaloo, etc – you get the picture. With contributions from members of Copy Haho and Project Ven Hell, it’s a tasty morsel that I thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into. I’m going to review this one track-by-track, as each is unique and deserving of its own attention:

Opening track “Robert” starts with understated guitar motifs and gorgeous clarinet breaths that wind their way around each for half the song, before beautifully blossoming into a lovely melodic instrumental downer of a jam that makes me think of prime-“A Thousand Leaves”-era Sonic Youth. Aye, it’s almost ‘post rock’, but only in that classic sense of every added layer of instrumentation (including some really nice subtle synth) adding depth and texture to the sound as the song progresses.

“Squirrel and the Fox” starts similarly quietly, but adds vocals and elements of musical tension that recall the quiet moments of Guy Picciotto’s songs for Fugazi in the best possible way. Again, the song takes an abrupt departure at the halfway point, breaking down into a quick squall of various off-key reeds  and squeeze box that flare up and die down before allowing a reprise of the original refrain.

“Every Superstition Shall Be Removed” starts with some scrappy guitar scratching before numerous layers kick in with an aggressive hardcore riff and strident vocals – ratcheting the tension levels up a billion degrees and sounding like almost a completely different ‘band’ to the previous songs. Screamed choruses reveal an impassioned frustration at god knows what, but it’s pretty damned exciting. My only minor quibble is that the drums are mixed too low to give the song the real sense of momentum it needs. A harsh howl of a solo brings everything back into focus for one final flourish before the whole song collapses into itself, leaving guitars flailing around a black hole of frustration.

“Sycamore” is a brief experimental diversion into processed sounds revolving around the reverberations of a select few piano chords. It’s atmospheric and a welcome pause before we make the final ascent.

Closer “There Is A Diagram For This” builds on the promise of all preceding songs by creating a mini-epic of murky, brittle guitars and cello that build up into an inevitable climax of a chorus, (with screamed vocals that bring old diskant friends Cat on From to mind) via a breakdown that also functions as a lovely Slint homage. From this impossible peaks the song quickly collapses into abstraction, clutched notes, ringing dischords, piano stabs and assorted other sounds. This devolution continues into snatches of vocal snippets and a final, anguished cry of pain.

This is a mildly fantastic and deeply heartening release – it’s refreshing to hear someone bursting with so many ideas whilst retaining a discipline and sense of musical aesthetic to make a coherent songs. Deathpodal covers more ground in these six songs than I’ve heard in other bands’ careers, but almost all of it sticks,and convincingly so. I can’t wait to hear where Deathpodal goes from here.

“Exu__Wow” is available as a CD in a full colour digipak with 300 gsm textured finish card, and artwork by independent publisher / designers Sing Statistics. Or you can download it from the usual places (Amazing Tunes, Amazon and iTunes. Deathpodal advises you to get it from Bandcamp, it’s the cheapest for you, it’s ethical and the money doesn’t go to third parties!). Support DIY! Buy! Buy! Buy!

Deathpodal website

Electropapknit Records website

THESE MONSTERS – “Call Me Dragon” (CD/LP/Download, Brew Records/Function Records)

Posted: January 29th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

From the ever-fertile Leeds scene of slightly-fucked rock musics emerge These Monsters, a raging behemoth of a traditional power trio with added saxophonist (who also occasionally plays synths). And some very big amps.

The sum of their three years of existence so far, this 7 track album space the best part of 40 minutes of heavyheavy sax-addled space rock with the occasional shouted vocal sitting in the background. Quite simply, it’s exhausting.

Live, These Monsters are an intriguing proposition. Four very committed young men throwing themselves into some progtastic heavy rock abandon, they’re as likeable as they are freaked-out. The huge amps help pummel the killer riffs into your skull and everyone ends up smiling stupidly. You can’t but help have a good time.

So it’s my regret to report that I really had a hard time listening to this record. Yes, the band’s performances are great and they run breathlessly through more ideas than most other rock bands have in their entire careers. Unfortunately, the sound of the thing is simultaneously muted and wearing. It sounds like the band have turned their amps down and turned the compressor up in a bid to give their riffs and chops maximum clarity. It certainly shows their musicianship up nicely, but none of the overblown instruments that knock crowds for six in a live environment sound pleasing to the ear and the whole thing feels like the dynamics have been squashed out of it.

Yes, so many records of so-called “heavy” bands have suffered this treatment in the never-ending loudness war, but I can’t for the life of me see why a band of this ilk would feel the need to squish the life out of their enviable sound in a bid for their records to sound good on a shitty radio or MP3 player. Yes, this is a very personal complaint, but when such tactics render me unable to physically sit through an entire record of not disagreeable music, I’ve got to say so. And this is coming from a Kevin Drumm fan, so cut me some slack. Or just call me a an old fogey if you want, but all I can hope is that the LP sounds a hell of a lot easier on the ear than the CD I was sent.

What I did manage to tolerate (between breaks) sounded like a promising album, if one that’s monotonous sounds end up aggravating rather than stimulating. There’s a distinct lack of light and shade to These Monsters’ songs anyway, which is forgivable for rowdy and raucous live band, but is pretty hard to take in the comfort of your own home. A little more variation, more exploration of different sounds and tones, would have worked wonders for all the arse-kicking riffery that this record celebrates. And there was me thinking that the caterwauling sax would be the hardest thing to adjust to.

At the end of the day, These Monsters are an undeniably talented and intriguing band. I’d suggest you check ’em out in the live environment if possible, or mebbe just give the Youtube video below a listen and see what you think. But think hard whether you’d like to spend 40 minutes of your life pummeling your ears into a dull oblivion.

These Monsters on YouTube

These Monsters Myspace

Function Records
Brew Records

DEAN McPHEE – “Brown Bear” (LP, Hood Faire)

Posted: January 29th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

Back in April last year I reviewed a split 7″ between abstract post-rock explorers Chapters and solo electric guitarist Dean McPhee. Of the latter, I mentioned I was looking forward to a full-length from him, so look what turned up in the mail just before Christmas? A 3 track vinyl only offering, encompassing a good 20 minutes of reverb-laden plucking and twanging. Dunno if 20 minutes really constitutes a “full-length”, but it’s beautifully presented in a matt sleeve stuffed with a 180 gram record (limited to 500 copies), so I’m not complaining.

John Fahey has cast a hell of a long shadow over so many of the solo guitarists that have emerged in the last decade and the cult of Six Organs of Admittance has outdone them all, so it’s pleasure to review someone taking a different approach. McPhee’s sound is very simple and uncluttered; he takes his time establishing a feeling before delving further into explorations of melody and mood. The sound of his Telecaster run through a handful of discreet, selectively employed pedals (a little tremolo here, and dash of subtle delay there) into an amplifier is undeniably hi-fi and run through with the inimitable “Fender clean” sound. His finger picking and smooth hands make his songs ebb and flow as naturally as a stream wending its way through his home country of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s all admirably pleasant and a relaxing experience; McPhee has little time for building tension or pushing the limits of tonality. Instead, the listener experiences ragas quite unlike the endless Fahey knock-offs, and the two longer songs here offer diverting mental excursions without the leaden promise of over-wrought climax or denouement.

If I was to offer any criticism of McPhee’s song craft, it’s that he doesn’t take enough risks for my tastes. All these tracks are reportedly first takes and exhibit some signs of improvisations, but it’s rare that you get the feeling he is playing anywhere near the limits of his comfort zone – both in terms of technique, but also in explorations of how the notes he plays fit together. His laid-back, thoughtful style can’t be faulted in terms of precision, but there’s no sense of mess, of sparkling inspiration or epiphany here: I feel he could have knocked out a good hour’s worth of this stuff without breaking sweat. And without the sweat, that graft, it all just seems a little too easy, a little too much like the record you’d pull out to play your future mother-in-law to convince her that not all the music you like is a blasted racket without a tune.

Dean McPhee is obviously a very talented musician and a master of his own craft; I’d just like to see him push himself that little bit further – get right to the limits and find out where the real magic happens. Until then, this record is a lovely late-night slow-burner that you can settle into without having to commit any of yourself to. If McPhee can start putting some grit into his work and capture a little bit of that undefinable soul, I’d really start to prick my ears up and listen hard.

Dean McPhee on Myspace
Hood Faire

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Maximum Party, Volume 1 (DVD, Cops & Robbers)

Posted: October 20th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Cops & Robbers have listing the best bands at the best DIY gigs in Leeds, hands down, for a decade now. What do you mean you’ve never heard of them? They’ve even got a half-decent website now! Being a non-profit organisation, they do need to raise funds to cover overheads now and again – sometimes gigs, sometimes other means. Today, here’s a brilliant little DVD compilation of various Leeds-based bands and friends – and it’s only £3.99! Totally bargainous, eh? Put together by Claire from Printed Circuit and featuring some super-swanky artwork by Kathryn Cooper, I have no hesitation in recommending you buy one now. But hang on a minute, maybe you want to know what’s on it? Okay, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere goes…:

The finest live rock band in the land, Bilge Pump, open up proceedings with a rough video recording of their performance at the C&R 10th anniversary jamboree at the start of this year. Their song is the oft-quoted classic “Thank You Very Much”, and features even more giddily-excited call-and-response choruses from an ecstatic crowd than ever. A fantastic way to start.

Next up are the fabulously costumed Beards, who look like something out of Willy Wonka’s candy-addled nightmares and contribute a choppy and mildly deranged live track “Gold Medal”.

Executive Legs have a live version of “Monkey” recorded at an infamous Chinchillafest at the venerable Brudenell Social Club. Their track is bouncy, feisty, wonky fun fun funk.

Printed Circuit contribute a hilarious video of their future club-classic “My Butt Hurts”. It’s like Spike Jonze’s video for ‘Praise You’ re-imagined as a laugh down the pub after a few pints, and is all the better for it.

Cowtown‘s home-animated video for their classic “Kitty Runs Away From Garlic” features Mario, Pokemon and runs like Michel Gondry’s kid let loose with a video camera and a bunch of toys.

Yoko, Oh No!‘s video for “I Play Guitar” matches the ultra-glitched-up electro-pop against tweaked computer animation and an unexpected “cameo” by Mayhem, of all people.

Cleckhuddersfax do live track “Buses”, which sounds like Super Furry Animals on some particularly strong PCP and features some beautifully honky keyboard sounds.

a.P.A.t.T. serve up a music video for “The Face Of A Crow”, which looks and sounds like prime ’80s-era Prince funking it up with a broken Moog, and features some arsing about whilst dressed up as a crow from the old Kia-Ora adverts. Reassuringly weird.

Chops‘ completely bastardly broken rock-electro-noise is given a visual accompaniment with a distinctly home-made chop-up of archive video and bizarre staged rituals for their song “Ill-Eagle”. It’s very strange indeed.

Tigers! pop up with a super-rough, super-rocked live track “Taipei”, which features glittery costumes, a guitarist dressed up like an Ewok and a completely distorted bass sounds that only adds to the feel. The “Oh yeah!” shouted when they stop the song on a dime makes everything feel fuzzy and warm.

Last up, non-Leeds-based Caifornians Kit do a soundcheck and 4 songs live at the Leeds Irish Centre as support to a Deerhoof gig, strutting their herk-a-jerk Shaggs-meets-Deerhoof-uptown-with-Huggy-Bear stuff. Sorry, it’s better than that, featuring a totally awesome headbanging drummer and the ugliest bass guitar you’ve ever seen.

So that’s it. Pretty bloody good for less than £4, eh? Plus, if enough copies of this are sold there’s promise of a second volume, featuring an entire Quack Quack gig! You can buy this DVD from the Maximum Party website for £3.99 postpaid anywhere in the world. Go! Buy! Go buy now!



CASTROVALVA – “Thug Poetry” (CD single, Brew Records)

Posted: October 19th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Seems like it was only 5 minutes ago that Leeds-based bass ‘n’ drums duo Castrovalva released their debut mini-album, but here they are, back with not only a new single, but a new sound! Well, kind of. Having apparently bolstered their ranks with a vocalist by the name of Leemun Smith, their addled-Lightning-Bolt noise rock has become more structured and generally poppy than ever. Not only that, but Leemun seems to have affected them all with a gansta rap obsession. Nice.

So anyway, how does this new combination work then? Well, the first song “Thuglife” begins with a good minute of rubbish samples and gun loading sounds before kicking into a fairly standard hyper-rockin’ riff, which sounds predictably great. And then the squeaky vocals start, with all sorts of whoopin’ and hollerin’ backing them up. The song then breaks into a half-time beatdown section, which carries on until the music fades out underneath the vocodered vocal line “my ghetto love song”. Weird.

Second song “Outlawz” starts off as another party anthem, spoiled by more bratty vocals. It soon devolves into a load of screaming and some cool bellowed vocals, but it all seems a bit half-cocked. Before you know it, there’s a final bout of riffery before the song grounds to a halt, and barely 6 minutes in the single has finished.

Castrovalva’s list of influences once consisted of Lightning Bolt, Hella, Death from Above 1979 and Oxes; now they include N.W.A., Notorious B.I.G. and Prince – you can definitely count on the latter for the vocals, and presumable B.I.G. for the half-arsed song construction. It’s an interesting attempt at doing something ‘new’ with a few disparate sounds, but I’m not convinced this isn’t much more than a novelty exercise at the moment. If this brief treat was a 7″ flexi-disc or something suitably natty I’d be convinced of its merits as a pit-stop on the way to something bold and new for Castrovalva. As it stands, the ‘ghetto’ aping/satirising/celebrating image they’ve gone for barely works for me, and I hope it serves merely as a pratfall they took 5 minutes out to get out of their system. Time will tell.

“Thug Poetry” by Castrovalva will be released in an edition of 500 CD singles and as digital download “from all major stores”. Coinciding with the release will be a series of free downloads for people who buy the single (let’s hope they’re a bit better).



ELECTRIC ASSEMBLY – White Splinter (Dream Driven Recordings, CDEP)

Posted: September 21st, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Electric Assembly are old school. Oooooold skoooooool. A post-rockin’ quartet fresh outta god knows where (probably London), they’ve been smacking out the jams for nigh-on five years, but this new EP could seriously have come out any time in the last fifteen years. Drones? Check. Shoegazing guitars through a million delay pedals? Check. Some ultra-simplistic chord changes and minimal drum patterns? Check. Electric Assembly describe themselves as “The Velvet Underground plays Boards Of Canada produced by Kevin Shields arranged by Sun Ra listened to by Syd Barrett”, but I think I can do it in one word: Spiritualized.

Opener ‘Descent Pattern’ (iTunes likes to call it “Desent Pattern”, which I kinda prefer) is pretty much an intro that goes on for 4 minutes. A strummed guitar spends a while setting the scene, eventually joined by more guitar, drums and some lovely booming bass that lumbers in on the horizon like a nuclear bomber flying overhead. Reminds me quite a bit of when Six By Seven knocked out a couple of decent tunes back in ’97. Just when it’s reaching a peak it stops and meanders into the next song…

Second track “11:43” is actually 19 minutes and 22 seconds long and seems to take even longer to get going. All multi-delayed soaring guitars over laid back clean guitar strumming and a pretty slow four-on-the-floor backbeat, the first few minutes are pretty dull to be honest. It sounds like the lead guitarist is having a great time, but I can just imagine the bassist turning his eyes to the floor and wondering when something’s going to happen. I’m as much a fan as the delayed build-up as anyone (hey, the first Tarentel album was pretty much just a series of build-ups and crescendos, and  it’s got some real moments on it), but when the 11:43 mark finally hits and all that’s still happening is that the guitarist is still wanking off a hot one, I wonder if this track is anything more than a self-indulgent extended jam. Then I start wondering about vinegar strokes with guitar solos and it’s time to move on. That’s 20 minutes of my life I’d like back, please.

“Broken” starts out a little more promisingly, with some nice keyboard or processed guitar layers with the tone backed all the way off to make ’em sound more like Stars Of The Lid from back in the day. It’s complemented by some nice understated bass, and then some half-sung vocals and some slow arpeggiated guitar. It’s a nice contrast to the preceding track, even though it sounds not far off a drummerless cover of Joy Division’s circa “Atmosphere”. Obviously it’s not as good as that though. Pleasant as the vocals are, the guy singing ’em sure ain’t a vocalist, as some of the phrasing is awkward to say the least. A guitar starts feedbacking nicely towards the end to highlight the melodicism and treads a very fine line between ‘nice’ and ‘total cheese’.

“Wipe the sun off your shoes” is the final track and is another mantra of repeated chord sequences as the guitarist slowly gets his jig on again and starts soaring up, up and away. And that’s it. Five minutes of build-up and then it peters out again quite quickly. It’s quite a nice understated song for the most part, even if the drums sound like they’re sampled from ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’.

Overall, Electric Assembly are defiantly not following current fashion, which can only be applauded. However, they do seem to be defiantly following something that went out of fashion a few years ago. That’s not a bad thing either, but the thing is, there’s nothing here that I haven’t heard a few thousand times before, and usually done a fair bit better. I hate writing negative reviews but this is some seriously uninspiring shit right here: Must try harder.

Anyway, ‘White Splinter’ has been released in a limited edition of 100 CDs in swanky hardboard hand-painted covers and they’re a-running out already. Get yourself over the band’s website to hear some of this music and purchase a copy if you’re a more forgiving person than me:

Electric Assembly website

Electric Assembly Myspace

Dream Driven Records website

JOHN MULHEARN – “The Extraordinary Little Cough” (CD, self-released)

Posted: September 6th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Right. How the hell do I go about describing this? John Mulhearn is a Scottish musician, brought up touring around the highland games circuit as a solo piper of traditional folk music. He is also extremely interested in electronic and experimental music and has crafted an album combing these interests. Yes, that’s right, this is an album of experimental and electronic adaptation of traditional bagpipe music (with one exception).

What? Why are you running away?! This is ace, honest.

No seriously, it really is very good indeed. John has spent vast tracts of time to craft interesting textures and timbres as settings for traditional melodies, mucking around with their arrangements and styles to create an experimental electronic music album that manages to break new ground by looking at its distant past. There are bagpipes on here, but you’d barely notice them for the digital shudders, samples, MIDI pipes and horns.

All tracks are arranged, recorded, performed, mixed and produced by Mr Mulhearn, but he has numerous collaborators assisting with snare drums, french horns and other of their ilk. Undoubted highlights on this record come from the piobaireachd (go look it up) vocal contributions of Allan MacDonald on “Lament for Own Roe O’Niall” and “The Desperate Battle of the Birds”, the latter featuring some tenebrous horn drones, gorgeous plucked acoustic guitar and lilted (yes, lilted) pipes. It’s absolutely gorgeous and probably the best cut of the 9 tracks on offer here.

I was lucky enough to visit the Outer Hebrides this summer as part of a pilgrimage to some of the most desolate and beautiful countryside these isles have to offer, and every time I chanced upon an all-too-rare place to refuel with nutrition or culture they were playing fucking Runrig on the stereo. I should have brought a dozen copies of this with me and shoved them in the faces of everyone I encountered. This is true traditional music: embracing the present and looking to the future.

John Mulhearn at Myspace

CHICKENHAWK – A. Or Not? (CD single, Brew Records)

Posted: September 6th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

You gotta respect a band named after the heart-searing autobiography of a Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot. I assume that’s what they’re named after anyway, as any self-respecting band should be. Unless they’re Fucky Disease. Or Bathtub Shitter. I digress.

Chickenhawk are now 4 chaps, having been just 3 for their releases since their formation four years ago. Another Leeds band seemingly destined for great things, they specialise in making a terrific riff-tastic racket that now sounds nicely filled out with another guitar added to the mix. Another band who have the chops and aren’t afraid to show it, their songs veer all over the place between rhythms, tempos and timbres, generally with a lot of shouting and hollering over the top. I haven’t got a clue what they’re singing about on any of the 3 songs on offer here, but who cares?

First up is “I hate this, so you like it?”, 5 minutes of frantic rock madness that starts with some manic guitar shredding before evolving into a series of riffs and passages so complex that no man would dare write them down. Actually, it’s almost dancey during the verses, but the choruses do the half-time breakdown like all your favourite classic hardcore tracks. It’s a shame that the middle-eight suddenly devolves into that incredibly boring ner-ner, ner-ner, ner-ner, ner-ner cliche riff that all boring rock bands resort to when they can’t think of anything more interesting to do, because everything else adds up to a pretty sweet track.

Middle track “Son of Cern” has a similar mix of prog-tastic chops and changes, all the while retaining a totally rockin’ vibe throughout. I wonder if all Chickenhawk start going a bit batshit during the middle eight so that  any discernable song structure goes out of the window, as this one does stuff similar to the first one. It’s still great though, with some usefully horrible FX’d guitar “solos” thrown in for good measure.

Last track “NASA vs ESA”, seemingly about dreaming about being an astronaut but not knowing which space agency to go for, finishes up proceeds with some more dance-friendly riff-frenzies that veer about all over the shop in a very exciting manner indeed. Drumming in this band must be exhausting with all the rolls and cymbal work involve, let alone memorising all the changes, stops, starts and whatnot. Impressive stuff.

I’m told that Chickenhawk will be touring and playing one-off gigs all over the country between now and the end of the year and I’d definitely recommend checking them out if they’re playing anywhere near you – check out their October tourdates on their Myspace page below.

The ‘A. Or Not?’ EP is released on Wednesday 9th September 2009! Chickenhawk: Decent chops. Total rock mayhem. Oh, and here’s a zombie-themed music video for your delectation:



KONG – Snake Magnet (CD/DVD, Brew Records/White Drugs)

Posted: June 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

So, those kerrazy sick rock fucks KONG are back with a full-length debut album. Featuring the previous singles Blood of a Dove and Leather Penny, if you’ve already heard them you’ll know what to expect: twisted, brutal early-’90s Chicago-style punk rock with a Manchester accent. There’s no denying that the twin influences of The Jesus Lizard and Shellac reign high in their list of favourite bands, but Kong revel in showing their full range of sick spastic chops  over the space of these 45-odd minutes.

Getting both the old a-side single tracks out of the way in reverse order, Kong immediately stop mucking about and start ripping any idea of a definition of a standard verse-chorus-verse song format with third track ‘Wet Your Knives’, primarily by aping the rhythmic interplay/pissing about that Shellac occasionally enjoy employing on occasion, with the bass and guitars playing in different meters, before evolving into a fully-fledged recognisable ‘song’ for a bit, only to then integrate the earlier rhythmic workout into the song proper.

‘Gwant’ follows, and is a special pleasure – especially the final minute or so, which is mostly just an incomprehensible phrase spat out time and time and again whilst the same riff hammers out as accompaniment. Unfortunately, this then segues into the album’s weakest track ‘Good Graphics’, which is obviously designed to give a break from the ‘standard’ rock songs by offering some pseudo-jammed drums and bass workout alongside manipulation of keyboards/electronics, but it’s pretty boring to be honest. Still, it probably beats having an acoustic track. Just.

The second half of the album kicks off with ‘Nih’, which doesn’t feature any knights, but does feature some good ol’ kick-ass riffing and shouting based around the classic diminished-third power chord (check ‘Black Sabbath‘ by Black Sabbath if you havent’ a clue what I’m talking about). ‘Sport’ continues in a similar vein, though features some guitar chords that made me wish they were going to break into This Heat’s ‘Makeshift Swahili‘ (one of the greatest, most upsetting songs ever written). Unfortunately they don’t, which is a damn shame, but the rest of Kong’s song is suitably brutal and intense anyway. Old b-side ‘Hint of a Rennit Innit’ follows, which you probably won’t recall was described as “exploring some atonal scale runs and off-kilter rhythmic changes” when I reviewed it last year. It still does, and is probably really fucking annoying if you’re not in the mood.  By this point, if Kong have completely got you in the mood, you might as well give up, because this song, possibly more than any other, revels in its complete and utter BASTARDNESS.

Two long songs run out the album: ‘Count To Nine’ starts with some distorted old recording of some people pissing about before kicking in with yet another rockin’ riff that Duane Denison would be proud of, before the whole thing becomes so slathered in distortion that everything just seems to get broken up and descend into feedback and random drum patters. It’s almost proudly shambolic and illustrates quite how effectively Kong can veer between tight technical workouts and total chaos within a few seconds. This segues into closer ‘K(l)ong’, which immediates winds everything down to a quiet guitar riff that repeats itself interminably against some restrained percussion for over 5 minutes with very little variation before everything suddenly kicks in for the last 3 minutes and Kong make one final attempt at ripping your head off. Yes, it’s like a low-rent mostly instrumental version of Shellac’s notorious marathon ‘Didn’t We Deserve a Look at You the Way You Really Are‘, but at least it’s got a slightly better payoff. Nasty.

A DVD featuring one hour of documented madness and a bunch of coverage of live shows will accompany the music CD of the album, but I can’t tell you anything about this because I haven’t seen it. With 3 hours of extra footage/music though, it seems like a bargain is to be had.

“Snake Magnet” will be released on Monday 13th July 2009.

Kong at Myspace

Preorder the album

Brew Records / White Drugs

Forthcoming live dates to promote said album:

15th Jul 2009 Mad Ferret Preston
16 Jul 2009 The Ruby Lounge Manchester
17 Jul 2009 Buffalo Bar Cardiff
18 Jul 2009 The Macbeth (Hoxton) London
19 Jul 2009 Freebutt Brighton
22 Jul 2009 The Flapper Birmingham
23 Jul 2009 Chameleon Cafe Bar Nottingham
24 Jul 2009 Brudenell Social Club Leeds
25 Jul 2009 The Tunnels Aberdeen
26 Jul 2009 Nice and Sleazy Glasgow
5 Sep 2009 Off The Cuff Festival Birmingham
10 Sep 2009 Artrocker New Blood tour! Fistful of Fandango NEW BLOOD ROOM @ 229 London
11 Sep 2009 Artrocker New Blood tour! Fistful NEW BLOOD Tour @ The Cavern Exeter