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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.

Oxes

Bilge Pump

Pascal Ansell

The Caretaker, Citizens Theatre

Posted: October 27th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

If you win the Nobel Prize for Literature, you generally have to be pretty good at writing (this is not the case with the Peace Prize). The 3 novels I’ve read by Prize winners have all been pretty good but poetry and theatre aren’t so much my thing. Harold Pinter was the 2005 Laureate and his The Caretaker is currently running at the Citizens Theatre.

It’s a good production but I was left feeling cold. Never having seen any Pinter before, it still seemed quite familiar, perhaps showing the large influence his work has had in the nearly 50 years since this play launched him. The words aren’t really dialogue; often it seems that the characters on stage are talking to themselves more than each other. The 3 performances are affecting and funny by turns, so why was I so unmoved?

I think there’s a lack of humanity in the play.

I get the feeling that Harold Pinter just doesn’t like people very much. I’m not arguing for unrealistic, Hollywood-ised views of relationships, but making things look bleak is no more realistic than making them look bright. You can find a chink of light as easily as a shadow in any scenario. I’m not interested in being made to feel that human contact and friendship is impossible, that hell is other people, or any of that nihilistic, existentialist “angry young man” stuff that seems common in post-WW2 theatre. If you want to eavesdrop on misery, that’s what Eastenders is for. I came away feeling like I had been manipulated into feeling bad. And not in a good way, but in a “no sympathy between people” way.

The humour seems to come from mocking the characters’ aspirations. When we’re told about the shed that clearly isn’t likely to get built, are we being invited to mock that character’s failure to achieve even that modest ambition? No thanks. That’s on the level of forum trolling.

So yeah: performances excellent, obviously an important and influential play, but did I enjoy it? No.

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

Daedalus

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.

http://www.myspace.com/mapsandatlases

Pascal Ansell

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #9

Posted: September 23rd, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted July 2002)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

It’s a real American sitcom thing to start a sentence with ‘So,’ don’t you think? As in ‘So, I was in the coffee shop and that girl I like spilt her mochachino all over my Danish’ and all that. I prefer using ‘Anyway,’ as in ‘Anyway, I went blind momentarily and ended up in the dock on a handling stolen goods charge!’. The intricacies of our fair language, eh?

So anyway, I saw SONIC YOUTH play live the other night and woooo I was excited about the prospect. They’ve been my #1 favourite band (if it’s not too teenage to have a favourite band) for over ten years now, and I only ever saw them play live once before, when they performed a Birmingham date of their ‘Goo’ tour for my acid-addled brain. It’s a bit strange how I felt about it this time, though, as I travelled home afterwards – and it got me thinking about how I actually feel about them as a band. I’ve not bought ‘Murray Street’ yet, and I didn’t buy ‘NYC Ghosts and Flowers’ yet either, which must be some kind of insight into something or other. I used to rush out and buy everything I could get my hands on by them. I still do, in fact, quite happily shell out for rare bootleg live albums from ebay or vinyl versions of their albums I already own on CD. Maybe it’s something to do with the music I grew up with, or the number of times I’ve listened to some music, but I’m much more comfortable with ‘Sister’ or ‘Daydream Nation’ than their more recent LPs. I’m not saying I don’t like the recent LPs, it’s just that I seem to like the older ones (especially that mid-to-late-80s-phase) a whole lot more. This would lead you to think that perhaps I’d have been super-happy about the split of songs played at their recent live show being pretty much 50/50 old/new material. And I was, to a degree, but I kept thinking “why are they letting me off easily like this? shouldn’t they be forcing me to appreciate and experience their new music, rather than treating me to a fanboy’s set of ‘the classics’?” It’s an odd situation. While I hear that their ‘Goodbye 20th Century’-style show at ATP a couple of years ago was excruciating to the point of delerium, I think I’d still like to have been there, forcing myself to accept the challenge of listening to music I wouldn’t normally experience. Sonic Youth have this role as ‘musical pioneers’, and that’s what I always want them to be – never a greatest-hits-played-for-solely-Goo-owning-dullards band.

So anyway, phew! They rocked on, regardless. And I dug them severely. They even played ‘Making the nature scene’.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #2

Posted: August 29th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted December 2001)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Today’s lesson begins with some ramblings about an ACTUAL, REAL BOOK with words in it and everything. Because oh yes, I do more than just listen to records, I live a fulfilling and exciting life which occasionally involves reading and watching the telly. Anyway, this ‘ere book is called ‘The Creation Records Story’ and is a great big eight-hundred page mutha of a tome, covering the, er, Creation Records Story from shambolic beginnings in the early 80s up to becoming The Record Label Of Oasis. And along the way, of course, we meet all kinds of crazy pop kids such as The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, The House Of Love and Teenage Fanclub. It’s an interesting story not just because any sane music fan will and must own many of the records mentioned along the way, but also because in a proper in-depth kinda way it takes in the surrounding independent music scene which grew up from punk days, through the eighties, up to today, when ‘indie’ means something entirely different to the pop man in the street. It’s packed full of juicy little anecdotes and revealing insights into the machinations of the evil big business side of music, it if nothing else it’ll make you dig out some of those old 7″s in wraparound sleeves to remind yourself of times gone by.

But, no time for reading? Then let’s get on with talking about some records. Or CDs. (Much as I hate CDs, they don’t seem to be going away).

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Ed Hamell – RANT & ROLL (DVD, Righteous Babe Records)

Posted: August 21st, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

“Hamell is Bill Hicks, Hunter S. Thompson and Joe Strummer all rolled into one sweaty, snarling, pugnacious pit bull of a man.” Well, the press release is half right. You could just as easily say this rasping American comedian is one very angry bastard – you would be if you were brought up in a horrendously conservative American family in horrendously conservative America in the 70s.

There is one gem of a story involving a mother’s dead body and her son’s extremely inappropriate humour. The whole DVD is worth just this story, and I won’t ruin it for you. Hamell says his excuse for divulging in his friends’ most private of stories is, with an irresistible shrug: “well, if you’re my friend and you tell me these stories…”There’s also a horrifying satirical song about ‘The Trough’, an ultra-modern restaurant of Hamell’s invention which advertises “our friendly immigrant staff will even chew the food for you… you know, doing those jobs us Americans don’t wanna do.” Despite the unattractive aspects of ‘Rant and Roll’ there are some pretty clever cracks (e.g. Hamell visits “a crack bar from ‘Cheers’”, whatever a crack bar is) and without being patronising his memory for lines is astonishing.

Footage from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival seldom tickles the un-PC ribs; a great deal of his material can be lazily vulgar and extremely irreverent. This is just a personal thing, but I’m not massively comfortable when drugs are glamorized. Luckily for Hamell he doesn’t exactly do this, yet he looks on his drug-fuelled days (we’re talking crack, here, ho bloody ho) with undisguised nostalgia. A lesser prude would probably love the spaced-out tales more than I do – going to church on acid and being horrified by ‘eating the body of Christ’ is a good one, admittedly.

The incessant verbal attacks, the angry ramblings get a bit too much towards even the half hour mark, but if you think you can stomach some seriously crude material, then give ‘Rant and Roll’ and spin and I think you’d enjoy his “wicked sense of humour” more than I did.

www.hamellontrial.com

Pascal Ansell

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #10

Posted: August 19th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted April 2004)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

OK. I need to redeem myself and write something worthwhile, so how’s about some bands I’ve seen play recently?

Let’s start with Three Piece Xylophone Quintet which is actually just one man – Chris Tree – and whatever he feels like playing. Comparisons are redundant, Chris just makes music every day for his own amusement (in about a thousand different styles), and when it comes to a gig he tries to compress the whole history of his musical endeavours into one 30-minute portion. Of course, he doesn’t succeed in being totally representative of the vast range of music he’s made, but what he ends up with is a truly bizarre version of the modern folk singer – in that he plays acoustic guitar and sings – but his arrangements owe more to free jazz and Beefheart than to Bob Dylan. Every gig he’s done seems to be different too. An A&R man’s nightmare, but it makes for interesting stuff. Last time I saw him he had a Minidisc of himself talking going through the PA while he played, oblivious to it, or seemingly so.

Sneaking Fog are based in Norwich and I had the pleasure of playing with them in Lords. Because of their style and their locale it would be easy to dismiss them as a second generation The Darkness. But this is Metal. Not Rock. The singer is an aural spit of Brian Johnson of AC/DC and the band play ripping 80s style metal, like the best bits of Motley Crüe (which are obviously very good indeed). The guitarist blows any idea of them being ironic out of the water, and the singer spent at least 50% of the gig grabbing his crotch.

Charalambides have been mentioned before. I got to see a slimmed down version of them play at ATP. I make ambient guitar music, and I admit that most of the genre is boring as hell. Stars Of The Lid especially – well, most of their records. But Charalambides made a hushed drone that is still super-exciting. I think it’s because the guitar dude doesn’t use a delay FX pedal, which means he has to constantly create the sound and he can’t sit back and wallow in what he’s done by allowing the box to play it back for him. He has to stay on top of it, which gives a live performance some real tension. Combine that with his female counterpart washing quite fast strummed guitar over the top, perfectly countering each other, and you get a wash of sound. Their set at ATP was like getting a guitar master-class, it was great.

Aktion Unit, or whatever they were called, thrilled me too. Thurston Moore and Jim O’Rourke paired up with the most ferocious freeform drummer I’ve ever seen and a sax player that could blow a golfball through a hosepipe. The thing worth noting was that Moore and O’Rourke were the weakest link. As the pace stepped up, the only thing either of them could do was to thrash away at their guitars – or in Moore’s case, throw an amp around, which says more about the freedom of their bank balances than the freedom of their minds. This noise violence was great, don’t get me wrong, but in amongst this ferocity the subtle changes in pattern and tone of the sax and drums spoke volumes. When I say subtle, I mean the subtle change between beating a snare to death and beating a bass drum to death, if you see what I mean.

Lungfish are prophets. The weekend at ATP was over after they played. I missed them tour the UK when I was in Australia, and I was gutted. I know from listening to their records that this is a physical thing, and to witness it live would bring it all together in my brain, so when I heard I would have chance to see them I was beside myself. What I didn’t expect was for it to be a rock show comparable to any I’ve ever witnessed. So much is made of the workmanlike quality of Dischord bands but in Lungfish (and Fugazi and Ulysses before them) they have true entertainers. It might offend them to say this, but seriously, they ruled the big stage – the setting was completely correct. The sound was enormous and engulfing, with a wobbling swampy warmth, and Daniel Higgs as a performer was astonishing. I later went to the beach with them and drunkenly tried to articulate how much I love their band – and I suspect I failed. This week I have Lungfish’s Love Is Love on my stereo alarmed to come on and wake me up. I rise from bed every morning on time and leap into the day.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #4

Posted: July 29th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted July 2002)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

SHIT. New column time comes steaming around again and here I am under intense pressure from Marceline to deliver.

Sorry no column last time so it’s a double ended dong of an effort this time round.

After last months “I hate punk rock” columns all round (where Luke Y revealed he hates all his records which is cool because I hate all his records too) I see no reason to change a winning formula, except fuck it, I’m not in such a bad mood.

I’ll start with a whinge but it’ll get better so read on…

I was in the pub the other day and a good friend I was chatting to said she wasn’t going to see Fugazi because they’d sold out by playing Rock City (since postponed). Knowing a little about the organisation that went into booking the gig I know that’s total bullshit. Jimmy Eat World played there recently (more of which later) and it was nearly 14 quid to get in. Fugazi was £7.50. Add to that the fact it would have been the first gig at Rock City where over 14s can get in and I’m sure you can imagine how hard the set up of this gig was.

There is a far more eloquent response to this kind of criticism on the message board at www.nightwithnoname.com by the way.

The choice of supports for Fugazi was a weird one. The guy putting the show on in Nottingham is a very good friend of mine (not to mention the best independent promoter in the UK) and he mentioned some of the bands that would be playing on the tour. This is not a gripe and neither is it a big deal but it just got me thinking. The Fugazi support slot is something of an institution for smaller bands in that Fugazi occupy the unique position of being the only band big enough to pack out Rock City or Brixton Academy while remaining unaffected by managers, agents, label favours, tour packages etc. This means supporting Fugazi is the one opportunity for smaller bands to play to a packed house while remaining small, or put more crudely – without sucking anyone off to get there.

I think this is Fugazi’s intention and why, in the past, you’ve had bands like Marine Research or Pram playing on the bill or relatively small bands like The Tone or Hernandez opening up. Some of the bands mentioned this time around were odd though. One in particular got me thinking. I’m not going to go into details or even say the band’s name because this isn’t a criticism of them as a band (because they’re damn fine) or even a criticism of the way they handle themselves or Fugazi’s choice of support bands but more to do with some sort of mistaken identity.

Continue reading »

Stars of the Lid

Posted: July 1st, 2008, by Ollie

Just stumbled across these amazing snaps of an amazing gig I attended last month…

The gig was Texas/LA/Brussels duo Stars of the Lid at St. Giles-in-the-Fields church in London. Prior to this I was feeling pretty down on bands/live music in general, but I left the church on a cloud of delirium. Their set was like seeing your life flash before your eyes in the moment before you die, but stretched out over an hour and a half. Staggeringly beautiful.

What made the gig even more special was Lichens, the solo project of Rob Lowe of 90 Day Men. Real minimal vocal stuff with a bit of guitar that, over 30 minutes, whirled into a climax that left the whole crowd literally speechless as Lowe wandered down the center aisle and out of the door, still whispering his echoed mantra. Since this gig I haven’t been able to get enough of his recorded stuff, specifically Omns and The Psychic Nature of Being, both available from Kranky.

Opening the gig was the ever-wonderful James Blackshaw. He has a new album out on Tompkins Square which, if it’s half as good as the last one, will be a total belter. An incredible evening, and certainly the musical highlight of my year so far.

[Photos courtesy of Adrian Nettleship/Miles of Smiles]