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Summer Catch-up 2006

diskant does seem to have been taking a summer holiday this year but that doesn’t mean we’ve been sitting around doing nothing, oh no.

I thought it might be an idea to catch up with the diskant contributors and find out what they’ve been enjoying recently. So let us tell you what we’ve been listening to, reading, playing and watching this summer…


Raccoo-oo-oon – Is Night People (Release the Bats)
Frequently overwhemling ritual-rock from Iowa City. The layers of feedback, sax, clatter and pure energy here reminded me at first of Animal Collective, but repeated listens have exposed this CD and band to be a very unique thing. Triffic! (Ollie Simpson)

Racoo-oo-oon – The Cave of Spirits Forever (Time-Lag)
Racoo-oo-oon are probably the best new band I’ve heard this year – a raucous and gloopy mix of Sunburned-style doped-out funk jams cross-bred with a rabid punk attitude and unceremoniously rammed headfirst into wigged-out psychedelic consciousness and raga bliss. Songs on their records have a tendency to be hard-cut into each other whilst veering between a huge variety of sound and moods, creating a dizzying and intoxicating gloop of sounds and spirits. Yes, “gloop” is my favourite word for them. “The Cave of Spirits Forever” isn’t much over half an hour long, but is incredibly infectious and uplifting to listen to if you’re prepared to follow the band on such a whacked-out ramble through musical countrysides littered with contrasting moods, approaches and results. Wonderfully loopy and delightfully engaging, this is certainyl my favourite “new” music (actually a re-issue of a self-released CDR from last year) I’ve stumbled across all year. Nice artwork and packaging too; as can always be expected from Time-Lag. (David Stockwell)

Ramnad Krishnan
Most records I’ve bought lately have been ancient vinyls on ebay, the best one in the last couple of weeks being a sweet double LP by a Southern Indian vocalist, Ramnad Krishnan. Homeboy busts out those taans like nobody’s business! His kritis are doing it for me, to say the least. (Joe Luna)

The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes
The perfect Summer album. This is so ridiculously catchy that I don’t really need to listen to it any more; the whole album is stuck on repeat in my brain. Short sharp-witted pop songs about boys and dancing and, well, boys but with a bittersweet tang that means half of this album makes me want to cry for things long gone and things that will never be. It’s their wonkiness, wistfulness and wit that charms, like Talulah Gosh covering the Supremes. If they get any more glossy and professional I don’t think I’d love them as much. Also, after three years in a boy-led electronic band, don’t I envy their polka dot dresses, red shoes and dance routines. (Marceline Smith)

Hot Chip – The Warning
For a while there Hot Chip were a great live band let down by a lousy first record. Actually, that’s not fair. Their first record is far from lousy, and I played it fairly often after purchasing it, but then made the mistake of seeing them live, and after sampling their fat, eminently dancable live sounds, that album sounds all too anaemic. Since they had been hanging around James Murphy a lot, I reckoned that album #2 would turn out to be a big DFA-produced slab of disco. The Warning isn’t quite that – but I’m far from disappointed. This is an album without compromise, definitely the same band as before, bursting with confidence, but smart enough not to let it get out of hand. (Alex McChesney)

The Dirty Three – Cinder
It’s summer and spring and the beach all in one beautiful album. I picked this one up at the ABC show this winter. With songs like “Flutter” and the stunning Cat Power assisted “Great Waves”..who wouldn’t have a wee glow in the heart for this album? Best enjoyed while travelling at great speeds. I’ve never been to Australia , but I can see it in my mind’s eye as clear as day thanks to the Dirty Three. (Rebecca McChesney)

Double Nickels on the Dime by Minutemen
I imagine my enthusiasm for this album has been rekindled by the release of “We Jam Econo”, a documentary about the band. (Fraser Campbell)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Zuma
I feel I only like old records at the moment and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I am open to learning and I don’t reckon I can do that from some young whippersnapper. Which is why it is so damn handy that Uncle Neil is about. There is just something about Zuma that is so FUCK YOU and so defiant. I would love it for the songs anyway as they are mind boggling. But it goes beyond love to admiration – THIS is how you fight a broken heart. THIS is how you tell someone what you think. THIS is how you get on with your life. What a ble ssing Zuma must have been to Neil. And what a blessing it can be to everyone else. (Chris Summerlin)


One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Nothing new or exciting here for anyone else I’m sure, but a few months on and I’m still floored by this one. A sprawling epic that only fully reveals the full extent of its scope in the final couple of pages. Don’t even really know where to start trying to describe how excellent this is, but at three quid in Fopp you literally cannot go wrong. (Ollie Simpson)

British Journal of Ethnomusicology, various issues
Not technically a book, but I’ve been enjoying flicking through these. Picked them up in Cambridge with mild trepidation, as I was wary of the kinds of academic studies of ethnic musics that suck all the power and passion from the music itself and reduce the musicians to anthropological curiosities, but some of the writing was interesting and simply trying to get a better grasp of the workings of great non-western music. Also been trying to read as much as possible about Japan, as I’m going there in about a week and the only thing on my itinerary is to try to find Keiji Haino and get him to tell me the secrets of life, the universe and his fringe. (Joe Luna)

Love in the Time of CholeraGabriel Garcia Marquez
Just started this. Every so often I look away from the page and wonder at the effortless way he drifts into another character’s story, shifting and deepening the reader’s view of what’s gone before. (Chris H)

100 Posters, 134 Squirrels – Jay Ryan
I mentioned this on diskant recently but it takes me a long time to tire of looking at fat squirrels. 100 of Jay Ryan’s awesome poster designs full of fat, stupid-looking animals that are really far too great to be advertising indie band shows. More posters should provide lists of hilarious ‘facts’ about wooly mammoths. I’d probably go to a lot more shows if they did. (Marceline Smith)

Never Had It So Good (A History of Britain 1956-63), Dominic Sandbrook
From the Suez Crisis to the formation of the Beatles, Dominic Sandbrook takes us from the end of the post-war depression to the birth of the Sixties in an eminantly readable fashion. My only complaint is that the hardback is far too unwieldy to take on the train. (Alex McChesney)

Tideland – Mitch Cullin
A young girl’s mother OD’s on heroin..the dad isn’t doing so well himself…the girl and father relocate from LA to Texas. The level of detail and painted imaginary in scenes of this book are nothing short of incredible. Upturned rusty old school busses and lightening bugs..scattered conversations with decapitated barbie heads who by the way make perfect companions. Read this..the movie Terry Gilliam made about it may never be released. I’ve left it by the tub, and let me tell you, I’ve become a raisin trying to get through this book. I don’t want it to end. (Rebecca McChesney)

Tales of Ordinary Madness – Charles Bukowski
A collection of short stories by Charles Bukowski. If you want to read some great stories about wishing people would just leave you alone, he’s your man. (Fraser Campbell)

Another Country by James Baldwin
I read this a long while ago and haven’t re-read it because it’s too dense to take in again right now. Baldwin does this thing where he sets up situations that engross the reader and then he flips it all around and makes you see it from his prespective. That perspective is a black man at a time of extreme uncertainty in the USA. I have never lived in the USA, never mind been a black man. I also like to think of myself as being socially aware and at the very least aware of racism and how it can manifest itself but yet Baldwin poses questions I would never have thought of that in turn make me question the way I see the world. Not only that, he phrases it in language so wonderful the effect is gobsmacking. (Chris Summerlin)


Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki
Cracking early 90s Troma-style kung fu prison flick. Loads of highly entertaining action involving people getting punched through, exploding fists and dogs getting kicked in half. And guts. Most fun I’ve had watching a film in some time. (Ollie Simpson)

Pet Shop Boys – Performance
The DVD of their 1991 tour which was directed, lit and choreographed by theatre professionals and thus a million miles away from your average pop concert. The audience are completely ignored and the Pet Shop Boys merely the main actors in a huge ensemble. Somewhat audaciously Chris Lowe barely plays a note live and there are entire songs that take place with neither Pet Shop Boy singing, playing or even appearing onstage. I remember being gobsmacked when we saw this in Aberdeen as teenagers and it’s still bewilderingly entertaining – full of ridiculous costumes, some stunning set design and a generally incomprehensible plot. You may mock pop music but often it can be more inventive and daring than your experimental artists. (Marceline Smith)

The Kids in the Hall
I’ve just finished watching season 4 of The Kids in the Hall, the show by the terrific Canadian Sketch troupe of the same name. It’s not as consistently good as previous seasons, but still has plenty of hilarious moments. As for films, the recent John Huston season on BBC 2 meant I finally got to see The Asphalt Jungle, which was great. (Fraser Campbell)

‘More’, 1969
A portrait of the slow decline of a bright-eyed hippy into heroin abuse, set in the impressively-shot sunbaked Ibiza countryside, and featuring Pink Floyd noodling/rocking across the soundtrack. The story may be relevant to times gone by, but the film is still absolutely current in its emotional/spiritual kick. (Simon Minter)

Romance and Cigarettes
Something I can recommend wholeheartedly is this movie, which just came out on DVD. It’s written and directed by John Turturro, veteran of quite a few Coen brothers movies. Remember “Nobody fucks with the Jesus” in the Big Lebowski? Him. It’s a kinda indie New York blue-collar musical into which he’s obviously poured a lot of his own memories and experience. The characters do burst into song (pop songs chosen by his mum, apparently) and there are some fairly elaborate dance sequences, but the down-to-earth setting and moments of real emotion balance out the camper excesses. It features Coen regulars James Gandolphini and Steve Buscemi (any movie is worth seeing for his face alone), Susan Sarandon, a wee bit of Eddie Izzard, Christopher Walken stealing the show, and Kate Winslet obliterating any memory of her English rose image, as a foul-mouthed dirty-speaking Liverpudlian. It’s carried by the humour, which is fantastic, but ultimately it is the characters and how real they feel that stay with you, presumably a tribute to their autobiographical origins. Go see it – it’ll have you singing along to Dusty Springfield. (Andrew Bryers)

The Devil & Daniel Johnston
What struck me was that, despite his obvious skills, Daniel shouldn’t be held up on too high a pedestal for his work. I am not sure the film demonstrated that enough but I credit it with at least trying. There is a bullshit notion in popular culture that the art someone makes over rides the suffering that the artist may have gone through or is sill going through. You suffer for your art but that suffering is OK as long as the end result enriches the world. Daniel has enriched the world plenty but one look at his parents and what they have gone through and still will go through is enough to dispell any notion that they are happy with their lot and they wouldn’t prefer that their son was a bank clerk with 2 kids or a double glazing salesman, just anything other than someone with severe bipolar disorder who depends on his parents as he enters his 40s. (Chris Summerlin)

Computer Games

New Super Mario Brothers (DS)
It should be no suprise to anyone that I should bang on about a DS title, though for once it’s not Animal Crossing, but another, more established property of the Nintendo stable. New Super Mario Brothers takes the mustachioed plumber and his lanky bro’ back to their 2D platforming roots, bravely stripping away not just the trappings of their recent 3D outings, but paring back the game even further so that its closest relative, in terms of pure gameplay, is the original Super Mario Brothers on the NES. Nintendo have succeeded in creating a title which feels bright and fresh, while still providing enough nostalgic and respectful nods to the series’ history as to cause pangs of nostalgia in even the toughest Mario-hater. Just don’t be put off by the awful tv commercial that’s on just now, which presents us with a poorly-dubbed square-jawed executive type sitting alone in his huge penthouse apartment playing the game… then ends. (Alex McChesney)

Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)
A month with my DS and I have given up on my other games as Animal Crossing takes a grip of my life. Lunchtimes at work see me and my teammate Claire tapping away making squeals of delight and horror as the day’s madness unfolds. There’s really no other game that makes me take enormous enjoyment in paying a poodle 3000 bells for a new hairdo, helping a museum owl to get over his fear of insects, catching fish that are bigger than my character and have me setting my alarm extra early because Tangy (a cat with an orange for a head) has arranged to come and have a look round my house. Oh, I need to go – the fireworks display starts in a minute! (Marceline Smith)

Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)
I can’t stop..I need help. Does anyone have cherries? (Rebecca McChesney)

Loco Roco (PSP)
I downloaded a demo for a game called Loco Roco for the PSP – its great fun, very Nintendo-ish and features a fat roly thing called Loco Roco who has been partially eaten by aliens – you have to help find fruit so he/she/it can become fatter. I don’t normally go for platform games, but this is a nice combination of graphics, playability and Japanese daftness. (Fraser Campbell)

Donkey Konga (Gamecube)
I really don’t like computer games but I wasted about 5 hours of my life (admittedly pretty drunk at the time) playing Donkey Konga in Glasgow with Colin Kearney and Neil Johnson. I could see how a man could get into these things. I heard there’s a game for the Playstation where you have to nail the guitar solo to a ZZ Top song on a minature plastic guitar. Keep me away from that one. (Chris Summerlin)

MepisLinux (PC)
Geek that I am, the most useful thing I’ve found for my computer recently is an operating system. MepisLinux is the first variety of GNU/Linux that works well enough for me to switch over completely from Windows. Hardware was setup automatically, audio and video work out of the box. If you want to take a look at Linux, start here (it’s less brown than Ubuntu). (Chris H)


Sturgeon White Moss
Excellent comics compendium from the UK-based White Moss Press. Issues so far have included stuff by Mike Diana, Alexander Tucker, Mat Brinkman and Daniel Johnston. Good for people like me who sometimes need a prod in the right direction with things like comics. (Ollie Simpson)

The only magazine I actively hunt out each month and it can be difficult as Nylon is a New York style magazine. It reminds me a lot of The Face when it was good and I was in art school and we used to devour it each month, stealing all their ideas and sticking half of each issue on our walls. Nylon has a similar look with some brilliantly inventive page layouts but they feature a lot more small-time fashion designers, artists and handmade stuff as well as some fantastic bands. They did a Myspace issue last month which was a work of insane genius. (Marceline Smith)

Chimps was an old fanzine and I only owned one issue. It had interviews with Ian MacKaye and Ian Svenonius in it. It was written by Layla who I think was in Skinned Teen. I would say without exaggeration it, if only slightly, changed my life. I lost my copy of it, can someone please give it back or copy another one for me? (Chris Summerlin)


Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
Proper shit the bed funny stuff from Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness. Horror writer Marenghi’s 80s opus “Darkplace” is unearthed and shown for the first time on UK terrestrial TV (it had a brief run in Peru), complete with retrospective interviews and Skippy the Eye-Child. Finally due out on DVD some time this Autumn, and it will be the best thing ever. (Ollie Simpson)

Property Ladder / Grand Designs / Top Gear
Don’t watch much TV apart from slight dippings into Hollyoaks when I’m eating my tea. Therefore I only have 3 selections. First is Property Ladder which is fascinating, despite the seemingly shit subject matter of presenter Sarah Beeny following would-be property developers through the process of buying and selling a house for profit. Watching some of these fuckwits navigate the task is frequently enough to keep me in for the evening.

Second is Grand Designs. Presenter Kevin McCloud’s has a unique ability. Over some computer graphics he will read the plan for the project featured. So a 3D computer graphic will take you through a mock up of the finished product as Kevin says “Quentin has designed the interior of this project to feel like an exterior, to completely overwhelm the occupants of the house with a feeling that rather than coming home and locking oneself away, they are in fact opening themselves up to the natural world everytime they come inside their home etc etc”. Your heart races, you love the idea, how can they fail? Then the camera cuts to Kevin on a building site surrounded by mud and 40 hippies that Quentin is paying in soya beans and he cuts the whole thing down to size with a witheringly doubtful comment such as “what the hell is the twat thinking of?”

Lastly is my personal favourite Top Gear. I know, I don’t care. It’s frequently hilarious and it’s made with the viewer in mind. It’s pure entertainment. I read Jeremy Clarkson’s book and it’s alright too. (Chris Summerlin)


Dinosaur Jr
Having never really considered myself a fan, I saw Mascis & Co. in Barcelona earlier this year, and I haven’t been able to walk in a straight line since. Gave new meaning to the idea of ROCK music with GUITARS. A joyous, cleansing, FUCKING LOUD experience. (Ollie Simpson)

Una Corda
Post-rocktastic and Circle (Finland) prog, metal, rock, experimental something I have no idea..but they were rockin. (Rebecca McChesney)

Bat For Lashes
Well, not strictly a band as such – BFL is one person with others helping provide musical depth. I saw her/them supporting Low recently and it was the first “I have to hear more by this band” moment I’ve had for a long, long time. A joyous combination of Björk and Cat Power, it’s weird but it’s pop, and it’s quiet but it rocks. (Simon Minter)

Now defunct. Described as: Combining the sounds of Black Flag, The Fall, Monorchid, Skull Control, southern boogie, and cigarette fueled alcohol injected sounds. Totally bad-ass amazing riff-laden heavy rock with a guy spitting his balls out in the style of Chris Thomson as a front man. Everything they did is pretty much amazing. I remember saying I was into them to the guys in the band Trans Megetti in Holland in 2001 and they told me they were ‘retarded’. I thought they meant like “sick” dude etc but they meant that they actually are a little…slow. I wouldn’t know, I never saw them. Chris Thrash got me into them after staying with some of them in the US. He informs me they are ‘righteous’ as humans. There’s fuck all about them on the internet. I wish I owned the record they put out in a cloth bag and if anyone has one of their T shirts and wants to trade then let’s do it. (Chris Summerlin)


The Portland Arms, Cambridge
After years of being a bit rubbish, the last year has seen some smashing gigs at the Portland from the likes of Bilge Pump, That Fucking Tank, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Lords, Chris Corsano, The Evens, and many more. A genuinely friendly, comfortable, great pub venue that I am very happy to have (almost) on my doorstep. You should drop by. (Ollie Simpson)

Lush Bar, Camden Town
I’m in London right now and the other night I went out to this place for Scratch Club Wednesdays! It ruled, the place had a great vibe, the scratching was fast and furious, and to my under-educated ears bordered on the virtuosic at moments, and there was a nice barmaid who gave me a free drink. The place kinda looked like an over-ground version of Po Na Na’s in Oxford, wooden stuff, pillars, couches, that sort of thing. Anyway the only real reason why I liked it was the nice barmaid. Although she made me pay for the next drink, that sucked. (Joe Luna)

The Custard Factory, Birmingham
I visited Birmingham for the first time a couple of weeks ago for the Supersonic festival. As its name suggests, it used to be the source of all the Bird’s Custard consumed by the people of Britain, though since the 90’s it has been a multimedia arts venue. Before arriving I had envisioned a grim brick cube with a couple of dark, sweaty performance spaces and claustrophobic corridors inside. I was pleased to be proven wrong. In fact, the Custard Factory is a small complex of bright, well-lit buildings clustered around a pleasant open courtyard, and as well as performace space features a number of small independant shops, a small cafe-cum-cinema, and various gallery and exhibition spaces. If I lived in Brum, I could see myself spending a lot of time there. (Alex McChesney)

Aladdin’s Magic Fun Cave
As some of you will know, I don’t get out much anymore what with the nipper and all. This generally means that if I’m out at all, it’s generally to some place called something like “Aladdin’s Magic Fun Cave” or something. I get to play in ball swamps with my little girl and the other week went on a Go-Kart with her. I can’t complain. (Fraser Campbell)


DJ \Rupture’s website MuddUp! has links to music (North African, Middle Eastern and “urban”) that I’d not otherwise find. The writing is better observed and more incisive than you’d expect from a DJ, dogma-free and touching on issues of race, identity and culture as they relate to music. (Chris H)

Wikipedia is just about the only website I can get away with accessing when I’m at work (advice: don’t work for an organisation providing services for young children and vulnerable families), so I’ve developed a nasty habit of trawling it for random junk when bored. Though it is a treasure trove of information, my personal highlights have always been stumbling across pages that have yet to be edited for their objectivity; usually because they’re written by vapid self-important trolls who believe that their opinions are so important that they merit reading as fact. You might have heard the scandal about someone editing an American politican’s history to implicate him in the death of JFK last year. My own highlight – unfortunately subsequently removed – was the entry for “St Anns” (a district of Nottingham I live next to) used to read as a personal diatribe about the ease buying guns, pushers trying to force drugs down your neck and the constant threat of gang violence. Its opening gambit ran something along the lines of; “My own experience of St Anns has ruined my life…” – It was great. I was also disappointed to find that the “Guitar Moves” article has now been edited to remove the “Ted Nugent move” of leaning your guitar up against your amp and using a bow to fire an arrow at it from the other side of the stage. (David Stockwell)

I Was Just Really Very Hungry
I’ve been reading this blog sporadically for the last three years but it’s recently become one of my daily reads (partly thanks to the magic of RSS). A food blog written by a Japanese girl brought up in America and now living in Switzerland it has a wide range of topics – comment on current food trends, advice on hunting out local produce, restaurant reviews and, recently, a glorious series of posts about local markets in rural France. What I love most though are the posts on traditional Japanese food which have helped my understanding of Japanese cookery no end. I love that the internet is making me cook more, experiment and think about what I eat. (Marceline Smith)

Get over the crap on here and start searching it in the same way that you used to ‘surf the internet’ – find something of interest, and it’ll lead you down a path of more and more obscure things until you can’t remember what you were looking at first. I’ve found no end of fantastic live footage/old videos on here! (Simon Minter)

As anyone who has tried to watch a band unobstructed will tell you, everyone owns a camera now. This is a bad thing in a lot of respects but an amazing thing in others and one of those good things is Flickr. Flickr is a delightfully designed site pitched squarely at people with time to kill. It is extremely user-friendly, a breeze to look at and has l oads of little features designed to keep you, well…flicking. (Chris Summerlin)