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

LEMANIS – The truth about a Push Me Pull You (CD, self-released)

Posted: May 10th, 2009, by Simon Minter

Plymouth’s Lemanis are a cottage industry Polyphonic Spree, a Flaming Lips tethered to the Earth, a schizophrenic Brian Wilson who hasn’t yet installed his sandpit. According to their blurb, they have a core of four members but install up to ten extra players when recording or playing live. “If stage size allows”. So, one might expect a certain richness and layering of sound here – as is almost unavoidable with that number of people, unless you’re talking Glenn Branca guitar orchestras or whatever – and that’s what this album is made up of, for the most part.

If an album’s first track is an introduction to the band, then here’s a band of many sides, and some considerable talent. ‘Museum’ opens with a repetitive guitar drone (oddly reminiscent of the old snooker theme tune), and a bit of early-Blur guitar twang. It then kicks into a slide guitar-led groove that’s all very much a laid-back West Coast thang, before introducing horns and dreamy shoegaze harmonies. Then comes some meta-Pretty Things SF Sorrow storytelling. Then comes the string section. It’s almost exhaustingly rich and complex.

And so continues the album, really. There’s very little let up from this constant switching of musical styles, vocal styles, tempo, mood and texture, save for a somewhat refreshingly dull few tracks from ‘Moon Song’ to ‘Loving Her Forest When’. Even during that section, ‘Rub It When It Hurts’ can’t help itself from flying off into a whacked-out country & western yeeha psuedo-majestic Riverdance session. Surrounding this part of the album, we’ve got Spiritualizedesque hymnal brass, slick MOR indie pop, fiddly-diddly Levellers nonsense and the Jesus And Mary Chain going Beach Boys. Finally, the album ends with three tracks blending in to one another, resulting in a pleasantly operatic, widescreen flourish. It’s like the modern psychedelia of Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev, but it avoids (as they do also) the trappings of a soundalike 1960s tribute band.

It seems that Lemanis’ skill can’t be underestimated, at least in terms of their constructing and playing of complex and measured music in any number of styles. If I have to suggest a concern, it would be that they’re trying to do too much: I’m not left feeling that I know them, after hearing this album. I’d find it difficult to explain their music to somebody without resorting to a stream-of-consciousness like you’ve just read. It’s up to you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not.


PROJEKT A-KO – Yoyodyne (CD, Milk Pie)

Posted: May 4th, 2009, by Simon Minter

Here’s the debut album from the new band of them what used to be in the fondly-missed Urusei Yatsura. It’s released on their own label and was apparently ‘three years in the making’; it’s pretty much Urusei Yatsura Mark II, as once you get beyond the strange opening minute of quiet feedback and static, you’re straight into that familiar UY territory of noisy, discordant dynamics, with all of its swooping guitar lines, dual vocals and up-for-it positive energy. They sound perhaps a little more grown up these days, there’s a slight lessening of the relentless sugared-pill rush of prime UY, but hey, everybody gets a bit older. They’ve still retained that infectious combination of lazy-sounding vocals, tight song structures and an underlying chaos that often bubbles over into periods of mess. They’ve got one foot in indie pop music, the other in discordant guitar noise, a la Sonic Youth circa Goo. To throw some more comparisons into the mix: the optimistic rush of Pavement; the cheeky melodic basslines of Pixies; the scratchy emotions of Graham Coxon; the almost random note patterns of Built To Spill. We even get a couple of heart-on-sleeve acoustic-based numbers to round off the album, which are pretty much the only time the style moves outside frantic tempo and the tone beyond ADD optimism; but hey, why mess with a template when it’s this charming and enjoyable?

This is ‘Nothing Works Twice’ from the album:

Projekt A-Ko website

It was sunny the other day…

Posted: March 2nd, 2009, by Simon Minter

…so here are some brief mentions of decent recent pop music to get you in the right frame of mind:

Various: The Wetherbeat Scene 1988-1991 (CD, 555 Recordings 555CD88) About as niche as compilations can get, this is a collection of 35 tracks by bands that were part of a tiny scene in the tiny town of Wetherby, Yorkshire, as the 80s became 90s. What that means is Hood, Boyracer and a variety of associated bands and pseudonyms.  Ramshackle as you like, it’s squarely aimed at listeners like me who used to exchange post with these people around the time of these recordings. Pure nostalgia, through a filter of noise, faltering voices and the occasional glimmering of greatness. 555 Recordings

The Bumblebees: EP (CD single, self-released) It’s just like the old days, getting a handwritten letter (replete with stickers and whatnot) in an envelope along with this CD. It doesn’t get more indie-pop than that, or than this music, which is super-perky and, I imagine, amazingly annoying if you’re not in the right frame of mind – it’s like somebody going ‘come on, chin up! chin up!’ repeatedly after you’ve just had a major trauma. Given that, it raises a smile for all its intentional messiness and simplicity, cutesy Casio melodies and relentless ba-ba-ba-ing. The Bumblebees

Shrag: Shrag (CD, Where It’s At Is Where You Are WIACD016) Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Prolapse, Huggy Bear, Bis, Johnny Foreigner, Shrag. Excellenté! Buy this and write your own description. Shrag

Merchandise: Listen Up! (7″, Cityscape CITY-S-009) Okay okay, this single is available on CD as well, but the CD doesn’t come on white vinyl, now does it? Regardless of the technical implications of pressing a CD on vinyl, you just don’t get 7″ diameter CDs. Merchandise are like Baby Bird’s cheerier brother, like the Badly Drawn Boy knock-off act it’s okay to like because they’re about fifty times better. They do accomplished, layered pop music with one foot in the ‘literate, dour Northerners’ camp and the other in the one that says ‘we’ve got beards, but we’re fun and approachable’.Merchandise

Sarandon: Other People’s Records (7″, Little Car MINI 1) Jerky, angular pop music that most refreshingly doesn’t sound like Oxes, American Football, Foals or any other band that everybody still mystifyingly wants to sound like. Sarandon have more of a grip on their history than that, and sound like they’re just enjoying themselves rather than worrying about their haircuts/tuning/tapping technique/etc. Why, it’s every bit the combination of mid-period Beatnik Filmstars and Big Flame. And if you know what that means, you’ll know whether you’ll like it or not… Sarandon


Posted: January 22nd, 2009, by Simon Minter

Broken Arm’s ‘Shields Mystical’ CD is worth picking up for its fantastic cover alone:

Broken Arm - Shields Mystical

What’s more, it’s printed onto nice rough card so it’s a tactile delight.

What’s more, the music is great and it’ll be directly up your street.

What’s more, the band features diskant.net alumnus Hugues Mouton. A man you can trust.

Broken Arm, yo.

THE ASTEROID NO.4 – These Flowers Of Ours (CD, The Committee To Keep Music Evil)

Posted: January 20th, 2009, by Simon Minter

More proof that there’s no real new music any more, just retreads and rethinkings of what’s gone before. Still, it’s not like that’s a new state of affairs I guess; but the arc of history seems to be getting ever shorter these days. The Asteroid No.4 are a shoegaze-jangler band, referencing those heady late 80s/early 90s days of Ride, Stone Roses, experimentation with cheap LSD, frolicking in parks, etc etc. They pull it off pretty nicely, moving from a dreamy Neil Young-tinged opener in ‘My Love’, through a droney freakout session over ‘I Look Around’ and ‘Hei Nah Lah’, ending up with the simultaneous invocation of My Bloody Valentine and a combination of Ride’s first two albums on ‘She Touched The Sky’.

The album is subtitled A Treasury Of Witchcraft And Devilry, hinting at either some kind of Stones-go-Satan cheeky devil-raising or some hard-drug shenanigans that’s best left alone. Across the whole album we’re only a couple of times exposed to the true devilry of bland, pseudo-epic songwriting, and as a piece it sits firmly in this odd neo-shoegaze place that’s all the rage right now. There’s reverb and echo aplenty, and enough of a nod to authentic late ’60s psychedelia to make this more than a simple knock-off. It’s their fifth album too, I believe, so they’re certainly persistent and no foot-draggers. I have my fingers crossed that right now The Asteroid No.4 are sitting cross-legged in kaftans, smoking hookah and creating action poetry – anything less would be unbecoming.

The Asteroid No.4
The Committee To Keep Music Evil

Fortuna Pop! Records: a few words…

Posted: December 29th, 2008, by Simon Minter

A few words about Fortuna Pop! Records, who have been happily doing their own thing as a label for the past fifteen years, and who recently sent me a few CDs for review, and in doing so created a rare and momentous occasion – actually receiving unsolicited stuff in the mail that I enjoy listening to, and that appeals to my musical sensibilities rather than being an obvious, desparate push as part of a scattershot PR campaign in order to raise the profile of yet another identikit, no-mark, faceless, bland musical puppet in the thrall of yet another misplaced record company advance.

Anyway, I digress. Fortuna Pop!’s output, in the main, seems transparently influenced by the work of Belle & Sebastian and Sarah Records in the past, along with a variety of twee/indie-pop/C86 labels and bands. But that stuff goes on forever, and despite any trends and turns taken by independent music, always seems to exist. Simple tunes, kind-hearted intent, and a relentless exploration of human relationships: what went right, what went wrong, and how it was affected by it being winter or summer (in general). Continue reading »


Posted: December 20th, 2008, by Simon Minter

Polymath, published writer, Renaissance Man – and regular diskant.net contributor – Wil Forbis is now an official recording artist. Shadey’s Jukebox, released a little while back on Rank Outsider Records, is a collection of ten tunes with Forbis on vocal, guitar, mandolin and banjo duty, backed up by a collection of what sound like good ol’ boys on a variety of American Class Rock instrumentation choices.

Anybody familiar with Forbis’ writing, myself included, would expect this album to be a mix of authentic punk rock, piss-taking hair metal and comic-book japery. But it seems that he’s gone so far into the heart of weirdsville Americana in the past that he’s come out as a very straight-laced, by-the-book, normal musician and songwriter. The music here is a combination of swingin’ croon, hick bluegrass and country twang – I guess that nothing could really be more American, and its poker-faced normalcy is more bizarre than any ‘joke’ recordings would ever have been.

Sure, there’s a sense of humour at play – songs called ‘Let’s Get High on Jesus’ and ‘Where There’s a Wil There’s A Way’, goddammit, they’re never going to be humourless. This still sounds authentic however, like Forbis means it – and I severely hope he does, and that it’s not some elaborate art prank. Some of these songs are actually pretty tender and touching. In the context of a world full of knowing, clever-clever music and musicians, this album succeeds by doing things simple: have some ideas, write some words, get some tunes to back them up, and there you go. I expect a tour of whisky bars and shacks across middle America to be forthcoming.

Rank Outsider Records

Wil Forbis

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #21

Posted: November 4th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted August 2004)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Hot, isn’t it? I’m beginning to realise that I’m more a fan of cold weather than warm. It’s great that the sun is out, don’t get me wrong, I’m not wishing it was pouring with rain all day long. I’m just missing the times when I could walk about in town for ten minutes without feeling like I’m going to pass out, and when I could get some decent sleep at night without the need for wide-open windows, and the insect attacks resulting from them.

But the English love to complain about the weather, eh? I’m such a walking cliché.

In other news, I cut my own hair the other day and inadvertantly clippered a few bald patches in there. I’m a trend setter.

Here’s some of the things which have been on my stereo recently.

Deep Peace is a compilation CD album from Autoclave Records. It’s ‘curated’ (i.e. put together) by calamateur, who I have reviewed here before. The raison d’etre behind this – all compilations need a raison d’etre – is awareness (and fund) raising for Trident Ploughshares, who aim to shut down Britain’s nuclear weapons capability. There are 14 tracks here, not of early 90s deep Goan Trance (as the hippyish title may make you think) but of a variety of (mostly) guitar-oriented independent music. It’s quite a rich variety too, taking in, amongst other things stripped-down acoustic introspective pop (Aereogramme), moody paranoid-sounding rock (calamateur), woozy My Bloody Valentine-like noise (Slow Storm) and minimalist blissed-out drones (Apologist). Aside from those four tracks – my favourites on here – the album also features Oldsolar, Brahm, Frog Pocket featuring calamateur, Spare Snare, The Gena Rowlands Band, Les Tinglies, The Out_Circuit, alicebelts, Lewis Turner and tenyards. What ties the individual tracks together, beyond the Trident Ploughshares connection, is a very high standard of production and recording, and consistently healthy quality control.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #20

Posted: October 31st, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted July 2004)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

I’m fluctuating wildly these days between my usual lifestyle of drinking too much, not eating enough and not getting enough decent sleep and a New Thing of not drinking, trying to eat well and generally trying to keep myself together. I’m getting tired of continually dealing with health and psychological issues, and think that the latter of the two lifestyles mentioned above might be just what I need to sort myself out.

So, let me know if you notice a newly confident and healthy glow about this column. And forgive me my regular trips to refill my reviewer’s bottle of water – I am well into water at the moment, and convinced that it is a cure for pretty much everything. A serious delusion, perhaps, but I’m all for the placebo effect if it works.

Anyway, on to some music. It’s what I’m here for.

The new Jet Johnson CD single, Death Song, is a languorous, soft-edged and sweet pop song with odd subject matter – it’s about a woman losing the top of her head during a train crash, and about some of the many ways there are to die. Jet Johnson are masters of indie pop with a dark edge – beautiful melodies, understated guitar lines and dreamy vocals. It’s the delightful singing voice of Caroline Nesbø which, for me, propels the band into real They Should Be Famous territory. Half Björk, half Nina Persson, it’s an individual and charming voice which combines with nicely laid-back songwriting to create an idiosyncratic pop band, the likes of which seem to be few and far between these days. The CD, as well as three more tracks, also features a Death Song video, which is a relatively lo-fi, scratchy and intriguing animated affair by Ebba Erikzon.

Jet Johnson also appear on Moo Sick, a budget-priced CD album sampler from their label Seriously Groovy and a fine introduction to that label’s good work. It also features Emetrex (smooth-edged, soft-centred indie rock), Econoline (fizzing good-time noisy/reflective pop music) and Mother Goose (weird, vaguely hypnotic power pop sort of stuff). All good stuff. But I really dislike the cover artwork. But then, who am I?

Next, I’ve got a couple of things here in my little review pile from some other bands which I’ve mentioned in the past.

Continue reading »

diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #19

Posted: October 28th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted April 2004)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Benevolent good egg David J Stockwell gave me a pile of stuff from Narnack Records, after informing me that he had two copies of the Sonic Youth/Erase Errata split which they’ve released. I was convinced that fate had decided that I would never own that record, after ordering it direct from the label and twice being foiled by the postal system. However, nothing is free, and I was given the Narnack records and CDs on the understanding that I mention them in my column. So…

My new Narnack Records things (some new, some old)

Firstly, the Sonic Youth/Erase Errata split. It’s a seven inch on lovely white vinyl, with some kind of Mariah Carey theme running through it: “Mariah Carey is funny and everyone knows it!” as the insert states. SY’s side is great, a frenetic Kim Gordon-led burst of tension with the chaos and growling guitars which seem so rare on Sonic Youth records nowadays. It fair reaffirms my belief in them as a Great Band, so it does. EE are also pretty crazed on their side, with their reassuringly choppy guitar stabs and vocal yelps mixing it up to a stomping drumbeat and a one-step-from-collapse structure. Their song ends like the end is unexpected – and that’s in no way a criticism.

Continue reading »