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

THE BROWN BOOK – Thirty Nothing (CD, self-released)

Posted: May 20th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

The Brown Book are a noise rock band from near Boston, USA. They’ve been going for nigh-on 5 years and this is their latest release, currently being sold in handmade self-released versions. If anyone wants to put out an “official” release for them, that would be just fine.

An experimental rock-based band, The Brown Book take the standard template of 2 guitars+bass+drums, get a shitload of heaviness on board and then set their sights for the stars. It’s so refreshing to hear a band revelling in huge lumpen chunks of volume who actually have more than one change of gear in their setup -opener “Deer Heads” starts with nothing more than the beauteous feeding back of guitars merging melodies…  until the drums and bass come piling onto the mix with a wickedly fast lurch that finally turns into some kind of a twisted groove. It’s a complex rhythm and structure that also is interesting and pleasurable to listen to – a rare combination when it comes to experimental music.

More combinations and experiments with tempo and rhythm continue with “Family Outing”, which starts out with spare drums and a slow looming chord progression, both of which slowly fill out further and further until around the halfway mark, they shift matters into top gear and  everything starts going absolutely batshit. There’s a pause for  a few seconds, more madness, then another side-shift to a different, bobbing rhythm that would completely do your neck in if you tried to tried to headbang along. I’d love to see audiences get totally blown away but confused by this shit.

It’s not just the ideas that are impressive, it’s the sheer intensity of their application that mark out The Brown Book for me – they know exactly when to play it cool, when to totally go for it, and when to grind to sudden halts to keep you on your toes. They play a really nice mix of so-called “math rock” grooves,  drones, heavyheavy riffs and total shredding insanity. There’s even some lighter textures on the deceptively melodious mid-album track “Jumping The Shark” (winner of the prestigious Best Song Title I’ve Heard In A While award) that offer welcome respite from the exhausting flurry of ideas, rhythms, textures and walloping noise that fill out the rest of the album. That said, it still manages to turn into a surprisingly anthemic stadium-filler halfway through.

If I were to have one criticism of The Brown Book, I’d say that though the recording and mastering here have been done by some established names (Keith Souza (Battles, Lightning Bolt), Alan Douches (Animal Collective, Don Caballero)) their sound could really benefit from a little clarity – easing off a little on the distortion to give a really nastily hard-hitting cleanliness to their guitars, and backing off the reverb/delay that muddies some of the more frantic playing could give The Brown Book one hell of a smack-in-the-mouth sucker punch of a sound.

Overall though, if any of this sounds remotely interesting you should definitely check this band out – a bunch of guys totally into making music that interests and excites them as much as pleasing an audience, and really doing a fine thing making their music available to people without waiting around for someone with some cash to pull their thumb our of their ass and release this rather fine record. Do it.

The Brown Book website

The Brown Book myspace

CASTROVALVA – s/t (CD/Download, Brew Records)

Posted: April 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Castrovalva. What’s that name all about? I don’t know. They’re a new band from Leeds, a duo who play totally ripped bass through loads of effects and hammering drums. Yeah yeah, just another band that worships at the feet of Lightning Bolt. Aren’t they about (at least) 3 years late? That’s a bit harsh, to be fair. How long have Magma been throwing out brain-frying bass/drums mayhem?

Castrovalva have been together since mid-2007 and this is their first “proper” release, a short 8 track mini-album. Despite the total LB-aping  totally-distorting-bass-hits-pounding-drums sound, they’ve got more in the closet than you might think. Mashing up the usual low end throbbing attack with hints of disco influence, classic rock riffs, blast beats, a generally twisted sense of humour and even a bizarre guest vocal on one song, this duo manage to display a fair range in the 20-odd minutes of music in this release.

The sound on this recording is pretty dandy too. Producer Ross Halden has done an exceptional job of capturing a punishing low end from the bass whilst retaining real punch and dynamics from the drums, all of which serves extremely well to show off the tightness and interplay between the two musicians. Castrovalva are a tight outfit and their chops are not to be sneezed at. Thankfully, neither are a lot of their riffs and melodies, which stay just the right sides of inventiveness and head-banging familiarity. One weak note is the ambient track “London Kills Me” – a welcome change of pace it may be, but it doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose and is pretty irritating to be honest. Apart from that, it’s a bracing and entertaining listen overall.

Castrovalva – s/t is released on Tuesday 4th May 2009.

Castrovalva myspace

Brew Records

DEAN McPHEE / CHAPTERS – Split (7″, World in Winter)

Posted: April 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

World in Winter are the kind of label I like a lot – interested in unusual or experimental music, but consistently finding stuff that is familiar enough to make listening an easy thing. It may sound obvious, but it’s a hard balance to strike as consistently and as well as WiW do. This, their latest release, is a split 7″ between solo guitarist Dean McPhee and the band Chapters, who I reviewed a while back.

This would appear to be the debut release by Dean McPhee, a man who marries a melodic fingerpicking style to unusual guitar tunings and chords, backing them up with subtle effects to increase the otherwordly atmosphere. You can listen to his contribution to this 7″, a song called “Water Burial”, at last.fm. A smoothly echoing series of variations on a raga-like theme, it’s a beguiling and soothing listen. Personally, I can do without the vibrato effect on the guitar, but that’s probably what gave the song its name – the sound is akin to ripples of water spreading out from a slowly sinking object – say, a coffin? Overall it’s nice stuff and should be a decent precursor to a debut fell-length album later this year.

Chapters are an experimental group who tend towards the more ambient than the crashing crescendo side of rock. Their song “The Whiteness of the Whale” is a further development from ‘EP1’ and a triumph of sparse beauty. A heavily tremeloed guitar starts the track, joined by a droning moog organ and muted drum machine beat. These three elements intertwine and then ebb and flow from each other as further layers of muted keyboards, guitar and electronics are added to the mix. It’s a a subtle and slowly unfurling beauty of a track, and hands down the best thing I’ve heard by Chapters to date.

Overall all then, this is a tasty listen and well worth tracking down. It’s been out a wee while, so head on over to the World in Winter website to hear some previews and find out where you can sort yourself a copy.

Dean McPhee


CHARLIE PARR – Roustabout (CD/LP, Misplaced Music)

Posted: February 14th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

It’s been almost four years since bluegrass boy Charlie Parr hit paydirt and considerable acclaim with his fourth album “Rooster”, but it’s not like he’s been sitting on his hands ever since; “Roustabout” is his seventh full-length release, and the first to be released by Bristol-based label, the highly excellent Misplaced Music. Misplaced are celebrating this by making it  first ever long playing record they’ve ever released – vinyl limited to 500 copies, though you can get it on plain ol’ CD too if needs be.

Charlie’s sound, rooted in the crackling ’20s and a’30s recordings of Smithsonian Folkways and discoveries by Harry Smith, can hardly be charged to have ‘progressed’ since his first album 8 years ago, but then that would be beside the point. Fingerpicked resonator, 12-string guitar and banjo accompany his unique gravelly voice as he works his way through twelve songs, three of which are covers – not that you’d know it, to his eternal credit.

“Authenticity” is a word that has been misused for so long that it seems an awful tar to brush someone with, but by God Charlie deserves to reclaim it for the realms of respectability. He’s not some godawful “roots” act wishing that it’s still the (original) Great Depression and we all live in mud huts in Virginia – Charlie sings about the world around him without pretense or irony. There’s no hint of cynicism about him. To that I can say only one word: HURRAH!

Speaking plainly, if you heard and liked “Rooster”, you should get this. If you haven’t heard Charlie Parr before, you should go to his myspace page, listen to him, and buy this. Alright?

“Roustabout” is available from all good shops from Monday 17th February. Charlie’s currently in tour in Ireland andthe UK until the end of the month. Go check him out.



diskant rewind: Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS #8

Posted: January 27th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

(Originally posted January 2005)

Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS by Dave Stockwell

Records that were good in 2004

That time of year has wound around again, and everyone who’s got an opportunity to make themselves heard (and this being t’internet, that means a lot of people) has compiled inevitable endless lists of what they liked about the previous 12 months. You may have noticed that diskant towers itself plays host to such humdrum marvels – though I have to be a back-slapping sonuvabitch and say that I’ve always enjoyed reading our lists and bolshy arguments far more than yer average boring coolometer measurements on all those other boring sites…

Annnnnyway, it was when I started thinking about what candidates I would be putting forward as my nominees for the diskant team top few musical recordings of the year that it slowly dawned on me: there’s only the tiniest chance that more than a couple of my favourite records of 2004 would receive a single vote from anyone else. Why do I know this? Because I’m a fucking obscurist cuntbag. As mentioned in the last time I shat one of these incubi out I’ve developed a worrying affection for/interest in tiny CDR labels dealing in obscurer-than-thou artists and miniscule print runs (you know Davenport have got a tape coming out in an edition of 11? Bastards!). So, is this gross arrogance and patronising behaviour on the most disgusting scale? Fuck knows. But honestly, there’s no posturing here: the records I’m going to blather about are genuinely far more interesting and exciting to me than pretty much any of the ‘properly’ released records you’ll find us arguing over in our annual records round-up. As the mainstream “industry” stagnates, and independents are increasingly either swallowed up or bankrupted, why shouldn’t music released on CDR format be considered ‘valid’ or ‘proper’? I’m not directing this at you, good reader, for I am sure you are pure of heart and clear of head, but alas others are more ignorant and prejudiced, whether they realise it or not. Obviously, this argument also dates back to tape labels, but with no discernable quality difference between a ‘proper’ CD that was produced by the thousand in a pressing plant and a ‘homemade’ CDR that was burnt at home, the case for considering all this music is ever more pressing. Whatever.

“C’mon Dave,” you might want to say to me, “could you not at least talk about how great the latest Sonic Youth LP is?”

NO!” I would knock back like a cancer-ridden Bill Hicks preaching to the unconverted, “It’s a disgraceful half-asleep assortment of soft-rock songs knocked out between too many arty side-projects, and it’s the worst fucking thing they’ve done in years!”


Honestly, that’s my genuine opinion. 2004 was the year I fell out with the Youth. It’s pretty sad really. Almost made me cry.

Ahem. Anyway. Now with you suitably hushed (and no doubt wondering exactly what kind of delusion I am suffering from this year), please allow me to begin detailing precisely why I’d choose a bunch of no-budget recorded-in-a-shed lowlifes over a particularly turgid offering by a band that (admittedly after 20-odd years of being mostly incredible) sound like they’re lost the central idea about why music is such a beautiful thing to get excited about in the first places.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS #7

Posted: January 23rd, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

(Originally posted November 2004)

Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS by Dave Stockwell

DAVENPORT: A minor love letter

Dear beloved,

Let me introduce you to my favourite band of 2004. Personally speaking, these past twelve months have been pretty thin on the ground for ‘proper’ releases by bands on ‘proper’ CDs and vinyl, and slowly but surely I have found myself increasingly immersed within the ever-burgeoning world of ‘free’ music and homemade CDR labels. Thanks variously to the element of random chance and a couple of excellent UK-based distro kids (namely Melody Boa and Shoryobuni), I bought my first Davenport record a few months into this year, and was instantly smitten. Being the voracious music-consuming monster I can be (when meagre finances allow), I knew I had to seek out everything I could by this mysterious group. The problem was, as soon as I thought I’d managed to get everything I could, something new would pop up. Here’s a list of Davenport’s discography, as of 25 October 2004:

  • self titled CDR – limited to 20 copies (sold out on 23 Productions)*
  • Springtime on Saturnalia 3″ CDR (on PseudoArcana)
  • self titled c60 cassette – limited to 23 copies (sold out on 23 Productions)
  • Little Howling Jubilee 3″ CDR (on 267-Lattajjaa)
  • Loki’s War 4.6.04 – limited to 18 copies CDR (sold out on 23 Productions)
  • Free Country CDR – limited to 93 copies (sold out on Foxglove)
  • Sun Your Open Mouth 5.18.04 CDR – limited to 41 copies (sold out on 23 Productions)
  • split w/ Maths Balance Volumes CDR (sold out on 23 Productions)
  • split w/ Son of Earth CDR (out now on 23 Productions)
  • O, too high Ditty for my Simple Rhyme CDR – limited to 100 copies (sold out on Time-Lag)
  • Owl Movement CDR (sold out on 23 Productions)
  • split w/ Seen Through CDR (on Haamumaa)

I’m pretty sure all this came out this year. And then there’re at least a dozen more releases in the works. They might even squeeze out a couple of new CDRs before the end of the year. I certainly wouldn’t bet against it: there’s a whole two months to go just yet.

So who the fuck are these pricks? And how the hell have they managed to release so much material? And why do it in such ridiculously small quantities? Here’s the official bio from their website:

“Davenport was started in Madison, in the Summer of 2002. It was originally a vehicle for folk song experiments by Clay Ruby. By Fall [otherwise known as Autumn] of 2003 many others had been invited to participate in improvisations, rituals, and recordings with Davenport. Since then there has been a surge in activity and output.”

What this means is that Davenport is a loose collective with a rotating cast that revolves around Clay Ruby. Some releases have only a couple of contributors; others feature a massed army of new-psych pseudo-folk avant-dreamers, wielding anything they can get their hands on: guitars, organs, drums, kongas, vocals, all kinds of percussion, and an awful lot of stuff you can’t readily identify, which they probably picked up from the street on their way to practice. Inevitably, there’s a whole lotta on-the-spot experimenting and improvising going on. Davenport apparently record live pretty much every single one of their get-togethers and performances, and then pick the cream of the crop for release. What is so breathtaking is the range and sheer quality of the crop. Don’t get me wrong, Davenport aren’t some awful ‘genre-straddling’ bunch of electrotwats or Jamie Cullum or whatever his name is; it’s the depth of mood, feel and texture that they generate which allows for some fantastic diversity between recordings. Here’s a reverse-chronology guide (call it a whimsy) to a few selected highlights of the Davenport 2004 oeuvre (and roll on the new stuff, which I’m told is even better)…

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS #6

Posted: January 20th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

(Originally posted September 2004)

Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS by Dave Stockwell

[Before I begin ranting, let me just clarify that I am in no way a Metallica fan, and nor was I ever one. But…]

Fuck! I think I’ve finally found a film that I can safely say YOU HAVE TO FUCKING WATCH THIS about for 2004. It’s the Metallica documentary, Some Kind of Monster. I tell you, it’s the new This Is Spinal Tap.

No, seriously. You know how Tap was just crammed full of classic, unbelievable moments, hilarious quotes, and godawful haircuts? You know how there’re moments where you find yourself exclaiming out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, and then there’s others where you’re howling in painful laughter? Well, SkoM probably matches it in all of these regards. It’s so much more than I was expecting. This thing was made during the recording of their new album, just after bassist Jason Newsted quit, and saw the entire band go into therapy, James Hetfield check in and out of rehab, and an awful lot of squabbling, sulking, repressed anger, and an insane amount of money spent on doing nothing.

I tell you, this film has got everything. I was going to reel off a list of highlights, but there’s just so goddamned many. I could write for hours. There’s the interview with Newsted, who’s hilariously candid about how he got bullied as ‘the new boy’ for a full ten years before he finally had enough; which is boosted by Hetfield saying that he’d driven him out because he felt threatened by Newsted’s desire to promote his other musical project, whilst merrily recalling that he never let the fella have any creative input at all into Metallica. There’s the bit whilst everyone sits around in the studio for A YEAR waiting for Hetfield to work up the botheredness to come back to work; during which Ulrich finds the time have a therapy session with Dave Mustaine, who breaks down in tears about how he considers himself an utter failure since he got sacked as Metallica guitarist back in ’82 (note: Mustaine has sold fifteen million albums in Megadeth). And when Hetfield deigns to come back, you get to see him sulking like a baby when the others dare to listen to tapes of sessions outside of the strict noon-’til-4pm schedule that he has to work by. Then there’s the band’s laughable attempts to work together on lyric-writing, which reaps some of the worst teenage poetry you’ll ever have the misfortune to hear outside of a GCSE English class populated by tragic Goths. Oh yeah, and there’s the awful lumpen riffs all over the place…

And this is just scratching the surface. There are just so many classic moments.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS #5

Posted: January 16th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

(Originally posted March 2004)

Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS by Dave Stockwell

It always feels awkward to launch straight into a bunch of barely-related rants masquerading as reviews for these column things, but how the hell do you introduce a series of moans about music as disparate as I’ve found fit to write about this time around?

I was wondering whether I should protest that my favourite film of 2003, All The Real Girls (enjoy the fucking waiting for anything to happen if you click on that link), didn’t even get a mention in diskant’s round-up of last year’s films, but it all seems a bit pointless now. Or earlier today I was wondering about the socio-political implications of Friendster on a community/scene, but that’s probably because almost all of diskant’s staff members have been mugged by this particular online popularity contest, and it’s hugely distracting when you’re trying to write shit like this. Plus, I get to count Will Oldham amongst my friends, so nerr. Ahem. Whatever.

Anyway, this Growing album, The Sky’s Run Into The Sea, on Kranky/Southern has been hanging around waiting for me to review since last October, so maybe now’s the time to actually get around to it. Fittingly, following January’s tribute to Sunn 0))), here’s another band mightily influenced by shotgun enthusiast Dylan Carson’s Earth project and its massively detuned guitars. A mysterious art trio, Growing comes across as much more of a minimalist art project than a band. Their ‘songs’ are drone pieces that shift from textured rumblings of electric guitars into cymbal crashes, or the occasional startling, scratchy melody. Sometimes, as the first track exemplifies, this works fantastically – we shift from an opening gambit of five minutes of soothing ambience into an appropriately stoned chugtastic* riff by a very loud guitar, which quickly fades out into the same riff played on an unplugged guitar. All very affecting. But there are some moments on the album that just grate – some of the textures of the distorted guitars are more annoyingly fuzzy than warm and entrancing, and the movement of the last song into a folk melody hazily sung by a few folks but dominated by a yowling guitar is actually not very good at all. I’m sure that the guitar is supposed to be reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s infamous shagging the Stars & Stripes up the arse, but to these ears it sounds like he was reincarnated as a stillborn baby that’s playing with someone else’s mucky shitter. Not good. Bad, bad. Which is a shame, because about half of this double LP is class.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS #4

Posted: January 13th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

(Originally posted January 2004)

Etch-a-Sketch Yr Fear of AIDS by Dave Stockwell


Metal’s shit, isn’t it?

I mean, it’s just a lot of ugly chest-beating and testosterone thrown around most of the time, and when it’s not, it’s this awful po-faced ‘serious evil’ bollocks. I mean, all that crap about hidden subliminal satanic messages being audible when you play Kiss’ ‘Destroyer’ album or Black Oak Arkansas backwards – what all the cultural commentators neglected to mention was that the only reason you’d play a metal record backwards was because it probably sounded better than going forwards.

And then you’ve got black metal – the prime exponents of such are generally held to be Dimmu Borgir, a band that was once described to me as ‘The Backstreet Boys of metal’. I mean, come on! I spent the entirety of the 90s taking the piss out of people into metal, and its newfound ‘credibility’ hasn’t changed my mind a bit – I still think that Slayer suck shit, despite any protestations from well-meaning friends.

Unfortunately, Southern Lord has managed to blow my theory to pieces in the space of little over a year of exposure to their darkest manifestations. The primary source behind all this can be found in the output of SL’s finest, Sunn0))). Ostensibly SL gurus Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, Sunn0))) is in essence the sound of two massively detuned guitars playing Sabbath riffs at about 20 beats per minute. And that’s pretty much it on their second album ’00-Void’ (their first release ‘The Grimmrobe Demos’ is kind of hard to get hold of); there’re four songs, each around 15 minutes long. No hooks, no discernable versus and choruses, no goddamned drums! Just pure slow-crunching riffs submerged in low-end drones that seem to increase the density of the air in the room you’re in, if you turn the volume up high enough.

As they say themselves, ‘The Sunn0))) mission is to create trance-like soundscapes with the ultimate low end/bottom frequencies intended to massage the listener’s intestines into an act of defecation.’ Joking aside, the beauty of Sunn0))) is their dedication to taking the blueprint established by Dylan Carson’s legendary Earth project and pushing at the boundaries of what you can do with extreme low-end signals created by guitars. On last year’s ‘3: Flight of the Behemoth’, they perfected their guitar-only approach on the first two songs, then invited Merzbow to remix the next couple of tracks, and then put drums and even some vocals all over the climactic closer! Though Masami Akita’s piano samples occasionally sound a little clumsy over such refined noise, the rest of the album is little short of absolutely fabulous. Involving enough to demand your attention at all times, yet droning and repetitive enough to push you into some kind of meditative state, ‘Flight of the Behemoth’ is an hour of pretty much utter bliss if you’re in the mood for it.

Continue reading »


Posted: January 4th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Sorry for the lack of fun or looking back at 2008 in this post, but on New Year’s Day 2009, the following equipment was stolen from Souvaris’ gear storage space in Nottingham:

Fender Musicmaster

1 x 1978 Fender Musicmaster (serial number S811832) –  Original black finish sanded down to natural wood. Brand new black scratchplate with distinctive 2x white single coil pickups, 2 x white knobs and 1x white 3-way selector switch (all custom installed). Guitar has black Fender typeface on headstock and piece of silver gaffer tape on rear holding an allen key. Large gouge in back of neck from when I lobbed it across the stage at Toynbee Hall Arts Cafe when we supported Explosions in the Sky back in 2003. Neck has been sanded down from original gloss finish. In a black soft case bag.

1 x Black Ibanez Stratocaster-style guitar – All-black guitar, relatively new. 2 x black humbucker pickups. Black headstock. In a black soft case.

1 x Korg Triton Classic Keyboard – Silver – Large, with several signs of wear and tear. Couple of the knobs missing, a big fat scratch above the pitch bend, a cigarette burn over on the right hand side.

1 x Clavia Nord Lead Keyboard, Mark 1 – Red – Medium-sized with distinctive red body. Several keys do not make any sound and keyboard overall has to be “coaxed into life” to function properly.

1 x Behringer 4 track mixer

2 x guitar pedals (a boss overdrive and a blue delay pedal missing battery cover)

1 x Gator keyboard case

If you hear anything about any of this stuff, please let me know. Anything at all… we desperately need to get this stuff back. I’ve had the Musicmaster since 1999 and it has huge sentimental value (if no real actual value due to various homemade ‘customisations’). It’ is also tremendously unique due to the pickup/selector switch arrangement and sanded down neck.

Simmo has had his entire keyboard setup stolen, and we have no idea how to even begin to afford to replace it, let alone reproducing the unique sounds stored in the Triton that powered the vast majority of our music.

You can email us at ichbinsimmo at gmail dot com, or call Simmo on 07807 221082. Please pass info about the stolen stuff on to anyone you can think of (especially musicians in and around the Nottingham area), and feel free to repost this on message boards, etc.