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2010 catch-up: Fanzines & Magazines

Posted: January 4th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Fire & Knives
I have been eyeing up this independent literary food magazine for a while, but at £9.50 an issue it’s not exactly an impulse buy. I finally picked up a copy of #4 at the ace Analogue Books in Edinburgh and realised it’s well worth the money. Proper interesting articles plus nice illustration and photography in a handy sized package. What more do you really want? Subscription now ordered. (Marceline Smith)

I’ve been reading Newsweek quite a bit this year – it’s better than Time. Also The New Yorker is bloody brilliant. (Stu Fowkes)

Does anyone read paper magazines any more?  Here in the US they’re not much more than expensive advertisement-delivery tools anyway.  I did buy a copy of The Wire a few weeks ago, though.  Wanky as ever, I still kinda love it. (Alex McChesney)

Treasures of Sky Mall by Gemma Correll
I bought a lot of zines in 2010 (check out Etsy’s Zine section) but this was possibly my favourite. Anyone who’s ever spent time happily ridiculing catalogues like Sky Mall and Innovations will love this – some of the funniest/stupidest products as drawn in Gemma’s own style. Of course she goes mostly for the pet related items which makes things even funnier with her trademark cats and dogs looking slightly bemused by the madness. Seems to be sold out but check her shop for new zines. (Marceline Smith)

2010 catch-up: Books

Posted: January 4th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Our favourite books of the year.

Tara Rodgers’ Pink Noises
A collection of interviews with women working in experimental / electronic music (I think based off of a website of the same name). It’s become an important correction to a problem I hadn’t thought existed – not just the under-representation of women artists (I expect that, without accepting it), but the way that the whole way of talking about electronic music has erased them. I’ve learned a lot even from the names on the Contents page. The interviews can be approachable, technical, gossipy and always interesting. The book shouldn’t have to exist, but I’m glad it does. (Stan Tontas)

Music, Society, Education – Christopher Small
Very dull title for a very interesting book. Singing in choirs makes me realise how ridiculously elevated you’re positioned in concerts, how incredibly formal the end-product of friendly weekly rehearsals aspires to be, and the depressingly frequent conversations with people who think they “could never sing”. An encouraging book for anyone interested in music’s role in education and the average person’s capabilities. (Pascal Ansell)

At one stage around October it felt like Jonathan Ames was everywhere I looked. It was listening to an interview with him on the highly recommended WTF podcast that really exposed me to what the man is about which appears to be David Sedaris crossed with Charles Bukowski via Woody Allen. Obviously being a writer he has been an alcoholic and after skimming through a couple of his short stories books this graphic novel of his boozy experiences really proved an incredible piece of work that left me in mixed minds but wholly in love with the guy. Of course Ames is currently best known for being behind HBO series Bored To Death which brings a life affirming fantasy life to being a writer. (JGRAM)

Stephen Batchelor – Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
A buddhist monk for many years, Batchelor became gradually disillusioned with the mystical aspects of the religion, and set out to strip the teachings on which it was based from the dogma they had accumulated over the centuries.  Equal parts memoir, travelogue and philosophical archaeology. (Alex McChesney)

A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin
I got this for Christmas and it was all I could do not to sit sit down and read the whole thing from cover to cover, enormous though it is. As previously established, I’ve been a space nut since I was very small (wait, I am still very small) and this book is just a joy. It describes NASA’s Apollo program in great detail, going through each mission from the disastrous beginnings through to the six Moon landings. While sometimes bogged down by technical language and military customs, it does a great job of explaining how it all succeeded and introducing all the people who made it happen. The actual moon landings are exhilarating to read about and each mission comes with so many problems overcome that you can understand why we’ve never been back, though reading about NASA’s plans at the time for moon bases and manned missions to Mars makes me so sad. The book is also the source material for HBO’s rather great TV series From the Earth to the Moon, which is well worth checking out. My only disappointment is that Chaikin hasn’t yet done a book about the Shuttle missions – come on man, get to it! (Marceline Smith)

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
The field of evolutionary psychology has taken a largely dark look at the biological roots of modern man’s behavior.  Why do men sleep around?  Because sleeping with 250 floozies does more to ensure the propagation of their genes than having a nurturing wholesome relationship with one woman.  Why are humans violent?  Because we’ve been programmed towards aggression by a millennia of survival of the fittest evolution. “Sex at Dawn,” by authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, takes an alternate look at the school of evolutionary psychology.  They argue that for much of man’s history, hunter/gatherers lived relatively pleasant lives of limited threats, plentiful food and lots of lots of sex! It was the advent of agriculture, 10,000 years ago, that bloodied man’s behavior. And their arguments — based on historical studies, analysis of other primate cultures and the fact that there are observable hunter/gatherers still around — make a lot of sense! It should be said that “Sex at Dawn” is not simply a starry eyed laudation of the noble savage at the expense of modern man.  Hunter/gatherers had plenty of flaws, and their egalitarianism was more the result of environment than inner virtue.  But the book — easily approachable by nonscientific types — provides plenty to think about. I interviewed one of the authors for Acid Logic (Wil Forbis)

Been re-reading older stuff this year, so things like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Outsider by Albert Camus have been lighting my fire, as it were. (Stuart Fowkes)

The third edition of Jeffery Zeldman’s ‘Designing With Web Standards’. It totally nails the point of creating websites in the correct way. It also explains things in a way that will convince people whodon’t see the point. (Exciting stuff, no?) (Simon Minter)

Karen Armstrong – A History of God
Interested in Sky Fairies? Ya psycho! Perhaps best read in long stretches – incredible introduction to one of the most problematic words I can imagine, and how culture has made God their own. (Pascal Ansell)

Mountaineering Holiday by JS Smythe
This year I have mostly been reading expedition and travel books, preferably rambling monologues by over-privileged English Gentlemen. This one is from 1939, just days before WW2 broke out and describes a, well, mountaineering holiday in the French/Italian Alps where Mr Smythe climbs various mountains and describes them pleasantly with breaks to pontificate on the horrors of motor cars, war, tourists, foreigners, people who climb too slowly, people who walk too fast and women in breeches. I especially enjoyed the parts where he describes other less experienced climbers they encounter and basically says, well, they’re going to die if the weather changes. Nice. Might look him up and see if someone eventually pushed him into a crevasse. It also contains an anecdote about a man caught smuggling drugs through customs under his top hat. You don’t get that kind of thing these days. (Marceline Smith)

2010 catch-up: Television

Posted: January 3rd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Doctor Who has been great ever since new showrunner Steven Moffat brought on a younger, more eccentric Doctor.  And the idea of stranding him on Earth, a-la the Jon Pertwee years, and requiring him to save the day using only his wits and the help of his new companion (Martin Freeman) has genuinely invigorated the show.  (Did you see what I did there?  Did you?) (Alex McChesney)

Wonders of the Solar System
My Twitter friends spent a good deal of time this year debating the general hotness of Prof. Brian Cox without bothering to mention that he was presenting a TV show about the Solar System! Priorities, people! I love the Solar System, having been one of those kids who wants to be an astronaut. I have a telescope and everything. Anyway, having immediately caught up on iPlayer, this was awesome, and definitely my favourite find of the year. He gets to travel all over the world to weird and wonderful places that help explain some of the amazing details of our solar system, from Saturn’s rings of ice to Titan’s liquid methane seas. He even gets to fly up to the very edge of the atmosphere. And Saturn is still my favourite planet if you’re interested – it’s totally got the best moons. (Marceline Smith)

An emotional attachment to Coronation Street has snuck up on me this year. I realised this when they brought back Vera for Jack’s death scene. Trailed in advance, crudely shot and crassly sentimental but the force of 25 years’ casual exposure to these 2 characters won me over. Was I weeping because for them, or for the lost years of my childhood they represent? (Stan Tontas)

Northern Exposure
I’ve been watching all of the DVD box sets. Love it. Heart-warming! (Simon Minter)

If you weren’t aware, and if you live outside the US you probably aren’t, there was a whole new series of Futurama in 2010. Bringing back a canceled show is a bit risky but this is pretty much brilliant – a few clunker episodes at the beginning but also some of the best Futurama episodes ever. Go find! (Marceline Smith)

I haven’t really watched any TV programmes this year, so my default vote goes to Columbo, which is the best thing ever to have been on telly. (Stu Fowkes)

2010 catch-up: Films

Posted: January 3rd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

The best films we watched in 2010.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Hate me now, if you must.  In a universe almost but not exactly identical to ours, I’m disgusted at someone else for liking this film.  Well, I call it a film, but it’s not much more than two hours of rapidly-edited geek wish-fulfillment fantasy.  It cynically manipulated me, and I fucking loved it. (Alex McChesney)

My jaw literally hit the floor several times over one Friday night when I found myself subjected to Enter The Void. I went in expecting to see something that might blow my socks off but I was expecting to have a headache within a minute after experiencing the most intense opening credits of any movie ever. From here the visuals of the piece stunned me as the main character drifts above the streets of Tokyo for two and a half hours revisiting his life and of those around him and seeing where life is taking everyone. This was transgression to the max via lots of neon lights, bad taste and negative suggestion in a combination of the David Lynch sensibilities of Inland Empire crossed with Peep Show set in Tokyo with plenty of sexy time, an Eraserhead element ultimately looking towards a 2001: A Space Odyssey pay off and finale via copious amounts of hallucinogenic drugs. A film that recurringly smacks the viewer over the head there genuinely were moments in this movie that I never expected to see on screen including a “no he just didn’t” ultimate temptation. The film certainly put me off ever visiting Tokyo. After the viewing I attended director Gaspar Noe did a Q&A where he appeared wholly amused by our shell-shocked expressions. My other favourite movie moment was seeing a double bill of The Warriors and Repo Man at the Prince Charles cinema. (JGRAM)

Another Year by Mike Leigh is a beautiful film. It’s classic Leigh in that it’s slow-moving, nothing happens, it’s full of shots of grim bits of Britain, but it’s got great characters that have time to breathe and develop, and the most amazing undercurrent of sadness running through the whole thing. (Stu Fowkes)

Rinco’s Restaurant
I went back to Japan this year and amongst all the usual kind of blockbuster movies on the flight, I discovered this gem. It’s a Japanese film about a girl called Rinco who loses her voice and starts a restaurant in her mum’s shed, and all the meals she makes change peoples’ lives for the better. That could of course be terrible (the trailer is not entirely awesome) but it’s all very Japanese and charming and very twee. It also has some great stop-motion animation and songs and a flying pig. Do see it if you get the chance! (Marceline Smith)

Land of the Lost
I’ve long been rather frustrated with what I’ve termed the curse of Saturday Night Live: comedians are hilarious on the long-running comedy show and then go on to star in feature films that are complete and utter drivel.  Adam Sandler, for example, was featured in a number of terrific, almost Dada-esque sketches on SNL, then went on to find success with drek like “The Waterboy.” I’ve largely avoided the films of Will Ferrell for this very reason.  And the previews for most of his recent films haven’t really enticed me.  But I did come across the campy remake of classic kids television series “Land of the Lost” recently and you know what?  It wasn’t bad.  Ferrell’s playing his standard character — an overconfident idiot — but he can still mine the archetype for plenty of laughs.  Danny McBride, one of the best things to happen Hollywood comedies, is also along for the ride.  And the movie’s sarcastic sendup of science fiction clichés is solid entertainment.  Plus, “Land of the Lost” has one of the best uses of banjo in a movie theme song ever, surpassing even “Deliverance.” (Wil Forbis)

American Splendor
Cleveland’s Harvey Pekar, writer of bittersweet-mundane comics, died earlier this year. This film about his existentially-challenged 70 years could easily get carried away trying to stuff in persistent meta- perspectives (like the guilty Synecdoche New York) as it involves everyone significant in Harvey’s life as well as actors playing them. Luckily things don’t get too clever for their own good. A moving account of cancer, banality and dissing David Letterman on air. (Pascal Ansell)

I hate you Disney. While Ghibli’s latest animated film came out in the summer of 2008 in Japan, and a year later in the USA, we had to wait until February 2010 for a cinema release. And they wonder why piracy is such a big issue these days! There was also no option to see the original subtitled version but the dubbing was mostly fine (certainly nowhere in the league of Valley Girl Princess Mononoke). As with all the Ghibli movies, I was pretty much sucked in from the start – there’s not a huge amount of plot but it’s all so fun with some glorious scenes like Ponyo running over the waves made by giant fish, and a great mix of the everyday and the unexpected. I suppose it’s a cross between Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle which is alright by me. (Marceline Smith)

2010 catch-up: Singles & Songs

Posted: January 2nd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Our favourite singles and songs of 2010.

Oriol – Spiral
Beauty! Gilles Peterson needs to sort out his playlists – this was hard to find after listening to his outstanding Worldwide show on Vienna’s FM4. This is a pretty daring four and a half minutes of tidy electro-funk. Wait for the sublime little breakdown; more of a collapse, tumbling down into glittering cement clouds. (Pascal Ansell)

Pet Shop Boys – 1986 Remixes
Despite the fact that Pet Shop Boys are still releasing great music, I can’t stop listening to these remixes. Taken from some dodgy megamix CD in their pre-fame Bobby O days, these versions are so bombastically 80s, they’ve come full circle and sound totally 2010. I guarantee this version of West End Girls would fill any dancefloor. Literally amazing. (Marceline Smith)

Even though the second Grinderman record was at times patchy the majestic Kitchenette was a wonderfully lumbering piece of nasty that served to both belittle the advances of a competitor while engineering equally willful and pathetically visceral gestures. As a swirling cacophony of driven distortion it lends an erratic and disorientating frame to proceedings as it was the lines “what’s the husband of yours ever given you, Oprah Winfrey on a plasma screen and a brood of jug-eared, bucktooth imbeciles, the ugliest kids I’ve ever seen” that suddenly captured me as I stood on a packed Central Line glaring at a battered family with a father figure who plainly had been something in his time but now only had a studded earring remaining from his rebellious era. Perhaps I’m just too bitter. Elsewhere I came really close to choosing Infinity Guitars by Sleigh Bells (Royal Trux done on an iPhone), Runaway by Kanye West (a celebration of misanthropy) or Rainbow In The Dark by Das Racist (an ethnic Beastie Boys via Kool Keith/Dr Octagon). (JGRAM)

Staff Benda Bilili – Poliomyelite
Memories of WOMAD festival and working on the Oxfam clothes stall. I whisked myself off to the main stage for a quick peep and was delighted by this moving song about polio, of which the band members suffer. (Pascal Ansell)


Posted: January 2nd, 2011, by Marceline Smith


2010 Catchup

Posted: January 1st, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Happy New Year, diskant readers! I know there are at least 5 of you out there.

2010 was a very quiet year for diskant – we’ve all been involved in other projects, from blogs, bands and labels to organising festivals and running our own businesses, not to mention jobs, kids and moving countries. You can always see what we’re up to individually by clicking those author links on the right sidebar.

However, we have made the effort to bring you a catch-up of all our favourite things from the last twelve months – our best albums will be up tomorrow, followed by books, films, zines, TV, gigs, events and more.

And we’re not planning on going anywhere – if you do enjoy diskant then make sure you subscribe to our RSS feed to get the latest posts whenever they appear.


Posted: June 28th, 2010, by Marceline Smith

So, I just had a bit of a minor rage incident and finally deleted all the contents of the Genre field for all my music in iTunes. It was someone marking a track’s genre as ‘Other’ that finally pushed me over the edge but it’s been a long time coming. It’s partly the endless rows of ‘Rock’, ‘Pop’ and, ugh, ‘Alternative’ that make my music collection look so much more boring than it actually is, and partly the thought that someone might think I myself chose some of the more cringeworthy genres – AlternRock anyone?

In some ways it’s an eye-opener, a peek into the life of people whose music collections are so tedious they put Mogwai and Tortoise in a genre of Unclassifiable, or people so rockist they think Saint Etienne are Classic Rock. For all that, there have been some great moments – Christmas Song by Mogwai marked as ‘Holiday Music’, The Pastels as ‘Twee’, a live Joanna Newsom track simply as ‘Awesome’ (I disagree but applaud the enthusiasm) and The Teardrop Explodes as ‘Pop-Psicodelico’ (um).

I’m thinking of doing as many have and re-using the Genre field for record labels unless anyone has any better suggestions? And please share any moronic/hilarious genres you’ve come across yourself.

This is the news

Posted: January 19th, 2010, by Marceline Smith

– Our first interview of 2010 is up, as Pascal interviews no less than Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt. Hurrah! Read it here.

– We’re down to the last 10ish copies of the diskant 10 year anniversary zine so don’t miss out – get yours now! Once it sells out, I may consider doing a new diskant-related zine.

– For those of you who read the Christmas catch-up articles, I would like to say that the Al Burian zine/mini-book was indeed fantastic but just made me want a new proper long book. At least he has a blog too. Also that I never made it to the Yummy Fur reunion after managing to be ill from about December 4th to present. Bahhhhh. By all accounts, it was a nostalgia fest / Glasgow indie reunion of the highest order. Oh well.

– And finally, if you’re on Twitter, then you can follow the whole diskant team in one fell swoop by perusing the diskanteers list. Or, if you’re holding out from joining because it’s too “trendy” then you can RSS it instead and no-one will ever know. Enjoy!

Christmas Catch-up: Events & Places

Posted: January 2nd, 2010, by Marceline Smith

AC/DC at Wembley Stadium
Every song brought something new. They understand that watching a band with 90000 other people requires a lot of attention-getting so every 5 mins you were treated to something extra be it video screens, fireworks, a fucking great big train crashing through the stage and then being ridden by a 100ft high inflatable woman, Angus emerging in the middle of the crowd on a flashing podium etc etc etc. Absolutely value for money. (Chris Summerlin)

Ophibre; Nature; Hunted Creatures; Peace, Loving at Church (Boston, MA)
This was one of the best drone shows I went to all year. It was the first night of a monthly event at Church put on by The Whitehaus. Sadly, they didn’t keep it up for too long. It was great while it lasted though. Review. (Justin Snow)

Lightning Bolt at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Being at the front for the whole of their set was a personal achievement, one for grandkids I think. Breaking your phone pales into insignificance at such immensity – I got to speak to Brian Chippendale afterwards – lovely chap! Watch this space. (Pascal Ansell)

Spending three weeks travelling around Japan was amazing. I am in love with the place. The details are too many to go into, but it was endlessly fascinating, enjoyable, welcoming and intriguing. It’s one of those places where everybody says ‘Ooh, I’d love to go…’ and I’d urge everybody to actually do it. You won’t regret it. (Simon Minter)

You know, I don’t think I went to a single gig or festival this year. Finances and far too much work left me a bit of a hermit in 2009. I finally gave in to the reforming bands of my youth craze and have a ticket for the Yummy Fur in a few days, which I hope will be awesome, or at least awesomely nostalgic. So, my event of the year was going to Oban for my dad’s birthday in the summer. Family events are not supposed to be this much fun – we spent a week going on ferries and boats and miniature trains to tiny islands and ruined castles, seeing seals and puffins and otters and eating more cake than even I would think is necessary. Good times. Photos here, if you like THE SEA. (Marceline Smith)

Mark Eitzel, St. Giles Church, London, 7 October
I am Jack’s total lack of surprise at this hugely predictable number one. What’s remarkable is that I went into the church thinking this would be the show of the year, and it actually lived up to my own personal brain-hype. I have never seen a performer with the same intensity as Mark Eitzel. He lives every note of his songs, but he’s also wickedly funny and self-deprecating. And to see him accompanied on piano, on his knees in the aisle of a beautiful church singing ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’ was the best five minutes of music of 2009. (Stuart Fowkes)

We moved to Texas from Glasgow in February.  I feel like we only arrived last week.  Adjustment is slow but ongoing… er… y’all. (Alex McChesney)

4 weeks trotting around Europe
Finding out family history and couchsurfing. Visited the city I’ll be living in next year: Berlin!! You can find my every footstep in this blog hyaaa. (Pascal Ansell)

Lord & Karlheinz, Audrey Chen & ID M Theftable, Jajuno Trio at The Piano Factory (Boston, MA)
One of the many truly fantastic shows put on by Semata Productions at The Piano Factory. Lord & Karlheinz fucking destroyed the room with epic noise, Chen & Theftable were just batshit insane, and Jajuno Trio was about as minimal as you can get without copying Cage’s 4’33”. Review (Justin Snow)