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2008, yum yum

Posted: January 14th, 2009, by Pascal Ansell

– – ALBUMS – –


Flying Lotus – Los Angeles. Real headphone hip hop. Massive beats and dirty samples – it’s rare to call a rap album beautiful but this sets the yardstick. Yum Yum Flying Lotus.

Volcano – Paperwork. Read my review!

Flake Brown – Help the Overdog – ditto. Good old, peculiar folk.

Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna. Wildy danceable – a dizzying 11 tracks. Grime track Princes surprised the hell out of me but is the album’s best.

Not Too Shabby:

Bjork – Volta. Good tunes but where the hell were Chris Corsano or Brian Chippendale ?

Jonquil – Lions

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Gushpanka – Gushpanka

– – GIGS – –

Brudenell Social Club = my new home:

Acid Mothers Temple,

Oxes + Bilge Pump,



Dalek + Zach Hill


Charlottefield – Wheatsheaf, Oxford, 12th Jan (last gig??)

Volcano! – The Library, Leeds

DJ Yoda’s Magic Cinema Show – Oxford Academy

– – 3 GOOD THINGS – –



Flying Lotus

– – 3 BAD THINGS – –

Damon Che – Drums,

Gene Doyle – Guitar,

Jason Jouver – Bass

(WHAT are Don Cab doing???!?!)

Desert: Delia Smith’s How to Cook Book 1, singing Dream of Gerontious, Thame Choral Society and the Bernwode Singers, an England-free World Cup = great and unbiased viewing, Sweden, Czech Republic: teaching English + tasty Czech beer, Leeds Uni, interviewing Zach Hill, Leeds Festival Chorus, Oxfam Headingley, Room 237, Scandinavian Soc, North Hill Court, Samba and Reggaeton, Exodus at the West Indian Centre, Leeds University Union Music Library, Reggae Reggae Cookbook, Moscow Philharmonic + sardines at Leeds Town Hall, meeting Judith Bingham (blog here), Viva Cuba’s house band, BBC Manchester, Poulenc: Gloria

CHILD BITE – Fantastic Gusts of Blood (Suburban Sprawl Music)

Posted: December 24th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

The press release for Child Bite’s brilliantly-titled second album is refreshingly modest. None of this ‘landmark album’ rubbish, just a sigh of annoyance at the pointless “‘post-post-post’ suffixes” that have been slapped upon them. A heck of a lot of music I find interesting is notoriously difficult to label, but personally that’s what makes it worthwhile listening.

Child Bite hail from Detroit, Michigan and I’d say they don’t sound unlike the various ‘spastic’ and ‘abrasive’ epithets used to describe them. You wouldn’t be wrong in noting punchy keyboard and guitar riffs with twisting melodies and eerie yelps. Songs are intricately written and put together but never sound contrived or self-consciously clever.

There is a general feel of a horrorshow to Fantastic Gusts of Blood – due to the jarringly high guitar lines and freaky shrieks from singer Shawn Knight. The vocals can get a tad annoying but the ridiculous yelps are mostly bearable. The song Banana Gorgon sees Child Bite at their most impressive. A winding riffs rips its way through an utterly infectious song and gains from the repeat button. Other efforts on the album come close to this brilliance but not close enough.

Not only has this got my favourite album title for a good stretch but the cover art is brilliant. The fold-out sleeves reveal primal scrawls, naked ladies and snakes… Cool!

This is hardly a spectacular album but it commits no crimes against humanity: unoriginality, tedium or triteness fail to present themselves into a single bar in these decent ten tracks. Their difficulty with overeager journalists (and their often being misunderstood) just means Child Bite are running a particularly individualistic streak.

Child Bite

Pascal Ansell

VOLCANO! + CASS McCOMBS + TIGERS! – The Library, Leeds, 18th November 08

Posted: November 20th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

After 2005’s stunning debut album, a two-year break and another spectacular album (review here) Chicago’s finest trio, Volcano!, land upon the shores of Old Blighty exhausted but enthusing about the general British friendliness. Hurrah.

Volcano! play loose, twitchy alternative rock which provides the pastry base for the spicy mincemeat that are their other meanderings: glorious and ecstatic chaos, improvised gibberish and half-minute noise-ridden catastrophes. Volcano!’s vast musical blending and genre-bending just shouldn’t work. This is one thing many listeners emphasize but miraculously it does and it takes a bunch of very switched-on, very talented songwriters to achieve this. Tonight’s bands are respectively connected with Volcano! in ways of ‘wacky’ spelling and a shared hometown, thus fulfilling a fantastically tenuous line-of-thought to run through my review.

You’ve got to be pretty mental to have an exclamation mark in your name – step aside:

Godspeed You! Black Wussies,
You Slut!,
Panic! at the Disco,
Los Camposinos!,
The Go! Team,
Capeman! (this is just getting silly)
¡Forward, Russia! etc.

but pointless lists aside, the Leeds hardcore outfit Tigers! are tomfoolery-loving jokers and funnily enough the music’s good enough to stand for itself. Melt Banana and all the other grimecore lot have a HEAVY influence (pun central!) but Tigers! are infinitely more listenable than the bands mentioned. Like The Locust for the family, akin to listening a mad cartoon. Definitely worth seeing if just for the comedy wrestling costumes, the horseplay, the banter and ‘strong man’ muscle-pumping displayed at the triumphant finish of songs.

Cass McCombs has appeared on a variety of very impressive labels: 4AD, Moniter and Domini can’t be argued with. He and his Chicago-based band start off with a nice, lazy instrumental on the surf-guitar side of ‘50s rock and roll. Laid-back and bare, each song shuffles along with slight changes to the general theme; a gradual development progresses in its own sweet time (i.e. very bloody slowly!). This is well-executed and straightforward rock, Cass’ guitar playing comparable to the delicacy of Buddy Holly – soft and unobtrusive, a gratifying listen.

They may be at the end of a mammoth European tour, but never mind how physically-drained they appear before playing, Volcano! are just as explosive live as on record. Things get so loose and free that it’s best to simply stop trying to follow the (wonderfully frayed and ragged) thread of the music and instead lose yourself in its amazing disarray. The number of gadgets on bassist/electronics dude Mark Cartwright’s desk is phenomenal. He blows a wind piano, draws on a squishy electronic pad-thing while tapping a laptop and a couple of keyboards moments later. Pretty impressive as he doesn’t budge his multifarious sounds into too prominent a part of the mix. Sam Scranton is a magnificent jazz/rock drummer to watch – the collective channelling between beats and all-out improv is captivating. Stellar performance. Shame we’ll have to look forward to seeing them in a couple of years I expect.


Cass McCombs


Pascal Ansell

DON CABALLERO + VESSELS – Brudenell Social Club, 11th Nov 08

Posted: November 13th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

After an absolute travesty of a latest album (I can’t even say it…) Punkgasm, yes, Punkgasm, Don Caballero return as an even more cannibalised cover band of their original 1990s heyday. Until the turn of the millenium, Don Cab produced exciting and challenging instrumental rock unheard of before, inventing, whether they liked it or not, the genre now dubiously labelled ‘math-rock’.

It all went rather fishy in 2003. After the group supposedly ‘disbanded’, drummer Damon Che surprised fans by resurrecting a faux-Don Cab with the muppet members of one of their many imitation bands, Creta Bourzia. World Class Listening Problem was the resulting album – a decent effort but a portent of the disaster to come. The problem that Don Caballero now find themselves in is they’re imitating their previous style: Don Cab are trying to sound like Don Cab.

Terrific support comes in the form of Leeds-based four-piece Vessels. They start off with a good strain of Tortoise running through: revolving riffs matched with pleasant guitar chimes, like a plane running buoyantly close to the horizon. There’s a great deal of instrument-swapping going on, and it just escapes from being gratuitous. Two drummers (when it’s done) can often sound a bit crap, or doesn’t sound like two drummers at all. Vessels have the initiative enough to employ an interesting dialogue and switching patterns, with nicely scattered snare hits.

It would be easy for a band playing music of such a moody nature to mope around the stage, po-faced. Yet, anticipating the most Granny Comment of the review, it’s always nice seeing a band SMILE! In other words they’re not pretending to perform music straight from the gods. Lovely chaps.

Well we’ve had our thrills for the night because a decidedly solemn Don Cab has decided to rip through three godawful songs off the new album (it’s seriously called Punkgasm). Damon Che used to be one of the most interesting and skilful drummers around, but his performance seems filtered down into a toned-down, digestible version of his previous work.

Unfortunately Don Cabarubbish (see what I did there!) can’t even play their old songs with conviction. It all sounds hollow and contained – they were at least skilful to pull it off two years ago at the London Scala but this is just abysmal. There’s not the slightest bit of interaction between the musicians – it seems pretty clear that Che hates his bandmates. I don’t blame him. It’s by the time I have Che’s big sweaty, hairy manboob flapping in my field of vision I realise Don Cab have reached embarrassing lows – they really aren’t worth the effort any more.


Don Caballero

Don Fanallero – great fansite

Pascal Ansell

Room 237 presents: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE + STEARICA + ASTRAL SOCIAL CLUB, Brudenell Social Club, 9th November 2008

Posted: November 11th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

The Japanese Psychadelic band Acid Mothers Temple are, apparently, a very mixed bag when it comes to playing live. Due to their prodigious record-releasing ethic (69 records in 13 years, give or take a few) and ever-changing line-up, you can’t always bank on a thrilling gig with AMT.

Ex Vibracathedral Orchestra man Neil Campbell plunges the night into action with his latest noise band, Astral Social Club. Vast clouds of sound morph seamlessly into the next. Or do they? The one problem with is it all develops at such a slow pace as not to keep the attention ticking. Obviously, it depends how you listen to it, and drone lovers don’t exactly listen or play to a stopwatch. His defence is: “I’ve stopped trying to present things as finished and stopped worrying if the whole thing doesn’t run together as a completely smooth whole.” Even so you can’t help feeling his general spread of disparate noise goes nowhere.

Tired, overused rock beats and ambient guitar lines are pretty much all that Stearica deal in. The Italian trio have little ear for distinctive melody, and like a good few similar bands they get stuck at the arse-end of the post-rock trail. On the surface the quality of music can’t be denied, but a murky, tuneless limbo is where they’re really trapped.

Acid Mothers Temple begin their set with bassist Tsuyama Atsushi indulging in Mongolian and Tibetan throat singing. Vowels are chopped and changed by gyrating jaw shapes, then the lips seeks out eerie harmonics by gradually closing the mouth. Truly incredible singing.

The AMT modus operandi consists of float around on one lumbering idea for a leisurely fifteen minutes, speed the pace up, add an outrageous guitar solo and then they’re done. It’s a mystery how AMT keep things interesting with such little material. Songs progress at such a snail pace that it’s a wonder they’re not an incredibly dull live act. What makes them so special is that they’re the polar opposite. We’ve caught them on a good night.

Astral Social Club


Acid Mothers Temple

Pascal Ansell

Room 237 presents: OXES + BILGE PUMP + MONSTER KILLED BY LASER + BEE STUNG LIPS, Brudenell Social Club, 26th October 2008

Posted: November 10th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

There’s often the tendency in a wannabe writer’s life to overthink what’s not needed. Baltimore’s gung-ho instrumental-rock heroes Oxes are in danger of suffering this. It would seem unnecessary to slice, dice and chuck under the microscope a band so fun and unpretentious. But then again…

The trademark Oxes sound steals the scratchy, metallic guitar tone of Shellac and couples it with he-e-e-e-avy riffs and general rowdiness. Tunes like ‘Panda Strong’ and ‘Half and Half and Half’ have a generous spoonful of humour added to the mix – false starts, hesitant lines and surprise entrances.

Mortar boards on? Good. What with bands like Slint and Mogwai (i.e. ‘post-rock’) coming in around the early ‘90s and making a mockery of the copious MACHO ROCK that preceded it, Oxes attack from within. The ridiculous gurning and high-testosterone riffage is an example of them “pounding on the corpse of rock” as another pasty scribbler had it.

Not much to say about first band Rampant Rabbit apart from it’s a pretty standard stoner-rock affair. Bee Stung Lips… (Ow! Can you imagine that?) Well, punk is dead yet BSL are comatose and as average as ever. More like a mildly annoying nettle sting to the thigh. Next, Monster Killed By Laser hit the stage like a mini-Mahavishnu Orchestra. A wispy mix of spaced-out synth lines and swirling guitar chords – good stuff.

Like Oxes, Bilge Pump are far more entertaining as a live band. A real local favourite – you’d be mad to live in Leeds for three years without seeing this tidy trio. Bilge Pump specialise in messy time signatures, repeated vocal yelps and mesmeric feedback. Neil Turpin is an absolutely prime drummer who manages to play everything that enters his imagination. A heavy jazz-style influence, fully lithe and pummelling. Golden!

Oxes are pretty much how they’ve always been, just a little hairier. The same intense guitar chugging, the same sloppy drum lines, gratuitous gurning and mock-macho posing, but maybe time for a good helping of new material? Oxes have little boxes to stand on and freely take the Michael from any band that takes themselves too seriously. Wireless guitars means unrestrained guitarists – the two of them tour the Brudenell’s interior and fully indulge in the gimmick. Guitars are heavily strung, reverberant bottom-ends chop through the PA, and the chug! Oxes steal the best aspect of metal – the addictive, rhythmic ecstasy that is a good old chug. Take one chord, add a fuss-free drum beat, and away we go.

Oxes, Brudenell Social Club

A pretty ‘organised’ bit of mayhem as expected – hopefully we’ll see them sometime next year with some new stuff and even more hilarious t-shirts.


Bilge Pump

Pascal Ansell

GRAMPALL JOOKABOX – Ropechain (Joyful Noise Recordings/Asthmatic Kitty Records)

Posted: October 22nd, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

A host of swirling echoes and schoolgirl voices jump from ear to ear. A proud and primal beat follows. Welcome to the jarringly entertaining world of Grampall Jookabox, Indiana’s prime beat master and tune churner.

Quite a bit of drama to this release. David Adamson, the man behind the moniker, was struck by inspiration, cancelled a weekend of gigs and sat in his basement to write and record ‘a string of songs that seemed to arise spontaneously’. A week later and here we have ‘Ropechain’, Adamson’s second release.

Grampall Jookabox could very easily be simplistic rather than attractively plain and simple. His ethos would appear to be fancy-free dirty pop tunes. It’s not easy to aim for interesting simplicity and skirt the border of being simplistic. Plenty of tracks have booming, rudimentary drums with one sizeable chunk of a beat sufficiently carrying the song along. Rather like how one hefty pasty carries the appetite through the day, no-nonsense – it just simply delivers.

‘Old Earth, Wash My Beat’ includes lush tropical chimes and tribal chants. It’s this and the ponderous drum, washed down with hits of excessively reverb’d vocals, that define Grampall Jookabox in all his wild idiosyncrasy. Iggy Pop certainly has some influence of Adamson’s loose, slurred vocal delivery but it does in no way try to mimic the Stooge’s ‘spat’ style.

What seems to be a rough treatment of a rather delicate subject turns out to be the opposite. In ‘The Girl Ain’t Preggers’ Adamson at first pines at the fact he might have impregnated some ‘girl’: “Ain’t got no money – I can’t pay for no baby”. But nearing the end of the song we see a true realisation that is pretty saddening: “I love the baby’s hands (tiny hands) I wanna wrap it round my finger”. Not exactly depressing on a Lou Reed scale but still a troubling and faintly tragic mourning for a child that was not to be.

‘Ropechain’ is well produced enough for the beats and bass to get underneath and shake to high-heaven that low, unlocatable part of the ear. It’s a solid album – not the most easy of listens nor a headache to get through. But the album’s beauty is that Adamson has left the core musical message to resemble what it is: a bare, un-polished and muddily proud bunch of rugged tunes.


Pascal Ansell

Room 237 presents: DAEDELUS + PAPER TIGERS + TWO MINUTRE NOODLES – Brudenell Social Club, 3rd Oct 2008

Posted: October 19th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

Two Minute Noodles display all the reasons why watching a duo can be great fun. Keys and drums face each other, interplaying and generally having a ball. This is well-formed and intense tunes, taking some influence from the thumping drive of Philadelphia’s Need New Body. Drummer ‘Moz’ (also in Chops and Quack Quack) swings his head round, tongue out, with a hard-hitting drive, obstinately forcing and thrusting the song onwards. He sounds a tad like John Stanier of Battles; mechanical and relentless at times, like a live drumming machine. The keyboard riffs could be a little more imaginative but the mind rarely wonders – a sure indication of an exciting live act.

An unexpected follow-up to minimal instrumental rock is Paper Tiger. The mean-looking seven-piece specialise in spaced out dub/hip hop with situational lyrics by an unnamed MC. Each musician is as interesting as they possibly could be, with a monolithic sub-bass, choppy guitar, chilled drums and scratch DJ delivering endless variety. Most notable is the saxophonist. He randomly taps his pedals, expertly squashing and looping his riffs – the inventiveness is impressive. One of the best things about Paper Tiger is that each instrument never rides over the other; you could listen to any of them and be entertained. Each tune seamlessly segues into the other at an unrushed pace, content where it’s staying but hinting at new horizons – brilliant viewing.

Time to get geeky. The monome is a wee box with a grid of flashing buttons. Each button yields a sample which the artist can chop and change at his/her own will, thereby banishing all boring laptop performances forever! Yeah!

Daedelus A.K.A. Alfred Darlington hails from LA with a good handful of electronic and hip hop samples and beats flying under his Victorian cape-thing. Seemingly because of the supposed ultra-pretention of the scene, Darlington was “totally disillusioned by the whole world of jazz” and so sought to produce his own composite brand of glitchy beats, folk & RnB (in the old sense) samples and live improvisation. With what I hear you ask? Well, if we observe the equation we have a pretty good evening in store: Daedelus + monomer = massive tunes.

The monomer makes the night. His passion is poured into this odd box for a very good reason as he points out that “most electronic music is a hidden process” or in other words, “cheating”. This is a perfect compromise between sophisticated electronic and live instrumentation. The songs’ foundations lie somewhere in his laptop but there’s a good deal of improvisation going on with the monomer; his modus operandi consisting of “sitting with the audience trying to figure out what they need or want… it doesn’t have to be an automatic throw-up of previous material… keep messing with it, messing with it, messing with it…” He then has a subsidiary monomer to the side, which squeezes the signal, rumbles it around then throws it back into the speakers. Samples from Nirvana, T2 and Aphex Twin make it a wonderfully diverse cut-and-paste affair, never palling. Incredibly good scouting from Room 237.

Two Minute Noodles

Paper Tiger


Pascal Ansell

MAPS AND ATLASES – Mini Live Review + Wee Interview – Brudenell Social Club, 30th Oct 08

Posted: October 16th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

There’s always been a problem with bands trying to find a tuneful middle-ground between math-y technical instrumentation and vocals. Maps and Atlases provide a welcome solution to this problem – solving the other dilemma that is: sounding how you want to sound (even if this happens to be pretty technical and complicated) and not resembling a contrived mess.

Singer/guitarist Dave Davison has no problem with the term ‘math-rock’ in particular, but these pigeonholes will always be clumsy. It may be that when a band aims to sound like a pigeonhole that they trip over their pansy wee skinny jeans. May very well be.

Davison sports the true mark of any dedicated and humble guitarist: massive nails on his right hand. Respect! If you get the chance to speak to him after a gig, test his English accent; pretty impressive considering M&A hail from Chicago. And that of course most Americans of course are thickos. Anybody would be pretty chuffed with a city that bears such names as Shellac, Wilco, The Smashing Pumpkins, Patti Smashing, Volcano and Fall Out Boy (…). The Big D believes that, like any other city, many bands never make much of an impression elsewhere and simply end up with a respectable fanbase in Chicago. There are probably a good handful of bands that don’t make it across the Atlantic that are kept in a little jar for the little Window City dwellers to feast upon. Probably.

M&A are an interesting – and relaxing – band to spy: chilled out and at ease, with the odd look homeward to the incredibly skilled drummer Chris Hainey. Like with Don Caballero, Hella and the many other ‘mathy’ bands that M&A draw influence from, drums are integral to their workings of this particular breed of band. There is a genuinely chuffed grin on Davison’s face as an encore is noisily suggested by a good chunk of the sweaty Brudenell regulars – and nono you’re right Mr Diskant surfingman, you just can’t beat that.


Pascal Ansell

VOLCANO! – Paperwork (The Leaf Label)

Posted: September 1st, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

There has never been a more fitting title for an album than Volcano’s debut Beautiful Seizure. The Chicago three-piece introduced to an unsuspecting few a world of swirling electronics, spasmodic guitars and rolling, charged semi-improvised drumming – it’s one of my favourite albums. There’s no band that comes close to sounding like Volcano – a hot delicious juicy musical lava to be readily engulfed in. Actually, they sound a little bit like Storm and Stress, just not shit.

What sets Volcano from other bands is the choice you have to listen to any respective musician in any song and be entertained – each consistently provide endlessly interesting melodic lines, chewy noise or rhythmic rolls. Aaron With’s guitar is a scratchy, plucky delight with an abrasive and raw tone. The synths, laptop and bass player Mark Cartwright is even more intriguing to listen to, playing atmospheric rumblings and fuzzy keys; winding lines of bass guitar to all-out delicious noise, and he seldom stays in one mode for long. I might have read this somewhere before, but a perfect description of Volcano’s drummer, Sam Scranton, is that he resembles a jazz drummer playing rock. Like many a jazz hitter he’s delicate and soft in his execution, but with a generous enough groove to back up his bandmates.

The expectations laid upon Paperwork couldn’t be higher, but it is so good because it sounds in parts a bit, well, wrong. In ‘Sweet Tooth’ instruments are played how they shouldn’t; the faintly jarring guitar and keyboard are slightly out of tune with each other, and With’s muted plucking is a definition of understated beauty. ‘Astronomer’s Ballad’ begins with a floating splendour and carries on with a wonderful chaos, bordering on the free-improv. This is Volcano’s trademark sound: loose, wobbly, partially improvised, but somehow they never sound self-indulgent – and this is where Storm and Stress often fall flat on their skinny pretentious arses.

Apparently, ‘Paperwork’ is infused with cynical political stabs and celebrity-bashing, but With’s lyrics are often hard to make out. No matter. He’s got a ripe falsetto, a tremendous wail that’s relatively Thom York-ish in a more upbeat, less suicidal strain.

I doubt there’s a higher compliment you can pay a band or artist than to say that they are never, not even for the slightest second, dull. Volcano are always gratifyingly pricking the ears with some odd keyboard blip here and huge cascading wave of beauty there; they are a consistently entertaining listen. It’s hardly a problem that Volcano’s latest album is not quite as breathtaking as Beautiful Seizure because it’s barely possible for it to be bettered. To look at it another way, Paperwork is a more ordered and coherent listen than their debut, and is generally easier to digest. And the great consolation is that it’s an album you can play at the odd shindig without too many people scratching their heads.


Pascal Ansell