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Temporary Resurrection

Posted: December 13th, 2011, by Simon Proffitt

Hi! Just thought I’d check in to see what was going on over in diskantland, and since it’s mid-December, and since no-one’s written much for a while, I thought I’d add a quick year-end thingmie in case anyone’s still reading.

2011 was the year in which I finally alienated myself from all my friends (by being unable – for reasons that are still unclear to me – to keep in touch with anyone), in which I took up recreational trespassing, and in which I realised that I’m getting old. One of the musical avenues that I’ve always tried to travel down has been the one marked ‘extreme’. I’ve always seemed to be searching for harder, louder, more visceral, or conversely more minimal, quieter, slower – regardless of genre, I’ve wanted to hear the things that are testing the limits. Finding out what these things are and how to get them hasn’t always been straightforward, especially in the days before the internet (as information resource and as lending library), and along the way there have been miss-steps and disappointments, especially in hindsight: reading all about Cabaret Voltaire and the surrounding hype as a wide-eyed teen and then my first purchase of theirs being their pretty embarrassingly lame house LP Groovy, Laidback and Nasty being a notable example. But then this year I’ve realised that a surprising amount of so-called extreme music is actually total crap, and some of it that isn’t crap, that is actually still very good, I just don’t have the patience for any more. I think I think this because I’m getting old and my melody gland is starting to swell up. So this year I’ve found myself rejecting the kind of discordant, confrontational, improvised music that I’ve previously championed, and instead enjoying a lot of music of the kind that might get played on Radio 2. Stuff with nice harmonies, proper tunes you can whistle. Pop music. Good old fashion rock. One of the best tracks I heard all year, for instance (even though it’s from 2007) was Feist’s The Water. It’s devastating! I even bought the last Smoke Fairies album. On vinyl! With real money. This is not something that’s been easy to admit to myself or to the general public, but then I’m not really interested in impressing people with how cool I am, so I’ll just state it as fact.

So whereas my favourite albums of 2011 might once have looked like this:

1. .#: oooooooooooooooooooooooooO
2. Jean-Pierre Cockbingo & Mbandu Mbandu Mbandu: Those Barren Assemblies Vol.3
3. -|-\/\//\-t-: _/////wITTcH___////////___
4. Some 12 year old Hoxton tit improvising on an electro-acoustic beetroot: Live in Williamsburg

Here are my actual favourite albums of the year:

1. The Psychic Paramount: II

2. Snowman: Absence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDmvNruK_0A

3. Still Corners: Creatures of an Hour

4. Thee Oh Sees: Carrion Crawler/The Dream

5. Surgeon: Breaking the Frame
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdB6EcmNy7s

6. The Twilight Sad: Acoustic EP
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrQRG9fKGUk

7. Wild Beasts: Smother

8. The Advisory Circle: As The Crow Flies
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuckyVN5dsQ

9. Radiohead: The King of Limbs

10. Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

11. Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica

12: The Beach Boys: Smile

Merry Christmas!

DEERHOOF – Deerhoof vs. Evil (Joyful Noise)

Posted: March 6th, 2011, by Pascal Ansell

You heard Deerhoof? Yeah they’re really great. Here’s a picture:

Really great. You heard new album Evil?

San Francisco’s finest are back with buckets of anti-Evil vengeance. With no outside engineery-type help Deerhoof are a self-recording/self-producing force this time round. Released by Joyful Noise (among others) on cassette, packed with handbaked editing goodness, a collection with all varieties of nonsensical twinkly sonic innovation. Over the duration of several weeks each track was cannily leaked by the band over different sites, and after a good bout of surfing you can access them all from their hub.

Straight off we’re treated to a flabbergasting range of sounds squeezed from guitars which sound like overworked (and underpaid) machines. Six strings act as cash registers and angry hair dryers, doing well to resemble anything but guitars on the glimmering opening track, sung in Catalan.

The Merry Barracks is a sweet droplet of a Deerhoof tune and the album’s standout track. An inexplicably crude bassline begins while the rest of the band plain ignore it to proceed bashing out one of Deerhoof’s most perfect songs to date. Addictive hook, sweet harmony, free noise guitar solo – just perfect. And served up right after is another superlative: probably their sweetest, most heart-wrenching tun;, acoustic guitars a-winding, faint vocals, tender percussion… it’s here.

Midway through we’re treated with a vicious cover of the theme tune to a dusty old Greek film whose name you won’t know and don’t need to. A shrieking, glittering delight, perfect clear guitar chimes a pierced line, chasing an abrasive riff. The album’s last third sees Deerhoof doing their best to write some convention into the tunes, with some beautiful instances of pinching a tight harmony at the ends of phrases.

Irrelevance is on my mind. Explorations are interesting in themselves but it might give the impression of a breathless trip round an ingenious mini-golf club, a toy theme park and finally a sweet shop of red herrings. Did we fall into any catchy cobblestone steps on the way? You bet we did. What did we learn? Err, rhubarb and custard, liquorice… Plus a stomach full of smarties.

Deerhoof do their job though serving their trademark sweet and sour,  a dish delirious with saccharine rips of kitchen scourer. Disjointed, sloppy drum beats are the order of the day, the magic stick wizard Greg Saunier otherwise taking a back seat for songwriting to steer the album. All is in order but the deer and the hoof haven’t let go of their tedious habit of allowing an album to peter out as per usual in a weak mesh of synths and melodramatic vocals.

Apart from some questionable diversions, a truly first rate, top mark, 5 sticky gold stars to slap on their progress report – and a big smiley crayon face – I am truly in danger of gushing at every sparkly track and not letting it to yourselves; Just like that sweaty taxi driver who never lets you get out and see for yourself – arms obsession hairy. You should be happy that there’s too much sweet Deerhoofy goodness that I haven’t mentioned.

Joyful Noise

Pascal Ansell

Glaswegian Grand Prix

Posted: February 18th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJZQ9xBrkWo-A&w=500&h=311

I’m always impressed by Mogwai’s ability to celebrate Glasgow without it degenerating into patriotic flag-waving idiocy. Their video for Mexican Grand Prix is a case in point. I think anyone who’s ever spent even 24 hours in Glasgow can’t fail to enjoy this – if you actually live here, it’s even more awesome (plus you can play ‘spot my mate’). See also Findo Gask’s One Eight Zero video below for West Enders. Glasgow = THE BEST.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHFcX550G8o-A&w=500&h=405

2010 catch-up: Personal Highlights

Posted: January 7th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Two of my bands did their final ever shows. Sunnyvale, with diskant’s Mr Simon Minter, reformed for the tenth anniversary of our festival Audioscope, which was a total ball and a delight to play the songs again. And From Light To Sound collapsed after the entire rhythm section left, which felt a bit premature. Have a listen over here if you like, you can download all our stuff for free. Still, got a new band now called Listing Ships, which is kicking off with recording and gigs in January. So hopefully that’ll be my event of 2011… (Stu Fowkes)

Moving to Berlin and making a racket singing Brahms’ Requiem and joining a klezmer band. (Pascal Ansell)

2010 was a big year for me – my third year of self-employment and filled with great things. A few standouts were the release of my own signature line of welly boots courtesy of Plueys (for reals, people are walking around with my name on their footwear!), the Zine Workshop I organised in Glasgow and getting a fold-up bike just in time for Summer! But best of all was returning to Japan for an all too short 10 day trip. We spent some time getting to know Osaka, visited the inspiring Design Festa in Tokyo and I even got my photo taken with a giant pink dancing bunny. Doesn’t get any better than that. (Marceline Smith)

Because we hate sleep, personal freedom and not being covered in someone else’s urine, vomit and faeces, my wife and I had another child.  He’s awesome though, so it’s ok. (Alex McChesney)

There have been too many great things going on this year. My advice: try to do at least one interesting, chat-worthy thing each day. (Simon Minter)

My new year’s resolution was to do one cool thing a week and in the end I managed to meet this in fifty of the fifty two weeks. As part of this I became a member at both the Southbank Centre and BFI which has paid with highlights such as seeing talks by Slavoj Zizek, Bret Easton Ellis, John Waters, John Landis and Darren Aronofsky. Also the London Film Festival, London Literature Festival and London Word Festivals all provided major thrills. Probably the best event was taking dad to Wembley to see Millwall in the play off final for a second year running but this time we actually won! (JGRAM)

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

FOALS – Spanish Sahara (7″, Warner Music Ltd)

Posted: April 23rd, 2010, by JGRAM

I once saw Foals play live at Latitude Festival and unfortunately it was one of the most feeble sets I have ever witnessed from a band with such clout being pumped into and put behind them.

Its not all hate from me honestly I have genuinely liked a number of their singles but sometimes you just have to shrug and concede “I don’t get it.”  I remember when I worked at the studio and how the A&R (A&E) lady was raving about in the context of all this nu-rave gimmick stuff.  At this point I genuinely thought there was more to them.  Then Sub Pop signed them in the US so surely there must be something there to grab hold of.  So with nice looking artwork on Record Store Day as all the limited edition releases I actually want have gone to pushier individuals than myself here is me giving them another chance.

On that note I’ll be fucked if I know what they are doing on this single.  For starters it is so fucking quiet and subdued.  Why is this?  What point are they trying to make?  Is this them sounding mature?  Sounding as if operating on a knife edge?  Am I playing the record at the wrong speed again? (no to that last one).

So well done, once again the kids have been let down by a band claiming so much and delivering so little.  How the fuck can Warners be justified in supporting this?  Why are they wasting the earth’s resources on such dross?

Eventually the song crawls out of its stupor only to resemble some eighties sports television soundtrack.  Can the bar be actually lowered any further?

Thesaurus moment: spoon

Foals

Warners Music Ltd

POLAR BEAR – Peepers (The Leaf Label)

Posted: March 6th, 2010, by Pascal Ansell

Much of the album is distinctly without the dark artistry found in the British jazz quintet’s previous offerings. ‘Peepers’ find these arctic puppies far more careful in exposing mad technical skillz. They’re not bursting to restrain themselves either, things are well held back and content. A less twisty, tricky release: the gold is in the shrewd developments of ideas: form takes precedence here, placement rides high, especially in the title track (listen and listen again andlistenagain here). It’s one of the most cannily organised tunes I’ve heard for in yonks. Good on them! Mr Drummer, Seb Rochford, is on it as ever; impressively natty, inventive and slick jazz drumming.

With ‘Peepers’ everything seems more than ever on the BuMpY side – smooth riding is for the most part chucked out, along with the all-out disjointedness so familiar with PB. The opener ‘Happy For You’ instantly glistens with guitar chords, chiming in my head in an oddly ‘wistful’ way (funny to describe vibrating strings as wistful). ‘Peepers’ as a whole is irresistibly optimistic but I worry that it won’t last as long in my hifi than their earlier releases. All the same, it gave me meaning to a wonderful week of my life full of couchsurfing and weird chocolate cake. As I said, and will continue saying: Good on them!

http://www.myspace.com/sebastianrochford

Pascal Ansell

Woodchucker / Jonatan Nästesjö – Leaves Never Leave (Walk Through Records)

Posted: January 28th, 2010, by Pascal Ansell


“I wanted this album to be a story about the Swedish woods, seas and summer nights.”

I like Sweden, I really do, and so this review is seriously biased. Read at your peril!

So: I never, ever read press releases before listening to whatever that whoever’s just sent me. But you can’t beat a personal correspondence with the artist in all his humble and honest self. Prior to indulging in Jonatan’s bubbly warm electronica I read his handwritten note: “This record is about the Swedish woods, I like them very, very much”.

Talking about no track in particular, Jonatan bristles along the edges of sheer beauty throughout the album. He retains a great sense of tentativeness about these pieces, gently probing the subtle. Jonatan’s album smells of Sweden. It is terrifically evocative, blissfully busy in execution. Clips of the woods and birdsong teem with chiming guitars, sweeping about the shoreline. This record is really good, it’s really, really good; it makes me want to shake the rails, to bike ride, eat all the fridge and see my friends. In short, it’s heavily inspiring and heaving with inspiration.

What if Leaves… had nothing to do with Sweden, wasn’t designed with the characteristically understated beauty of Scandinavia? I’d like to think it would evoke something. I’m warming to an association, as we all do. It’s natural to pay more attention to the offshoots of the things that give us beauty and warm experiences. It may seem depressing, but an informed knowledge is a deeper knowledge, our way of getting ‘closer’. And so on, and sun on, and onwards.­

Jonatan commits a forgivable fluff in burning out a little early. This is a constant but by no means fully accomplished album. As for what’s next, I almost want him to “disappear behind the birds”. Which is silly of me. All I could ask him is to keep listening to nature, to keep his ears keen and canny. Yet laying expectation, in any way, is risky. I’ve thought about his upcoming stuff: will he do this, will it help to do that..? I’m aware all of this is smothered in my thorough recommendations. In many ways it’s useless – I should shut up and hope Jonatan will do whatever he frickin’ likes.

*The latest: He’s broken his old laptop. This is good news. New music is on the way.

Woodchucker / Jonatan Nästesjö

Pascal Ansell

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!

http://maximumparty.net

http://www.copsandrobbers.net

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).

http://www.myspace.com/castrovalvamusic

http://www.brewrecords.net