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2008, yum yum

Posted: January 14th, 2009, by Pascal Ansell

– – ALBUMS – –


Flying Lotus – Los Angeles. Real headphone hip hop. Massive beats and dirty samples – it’s rare to call a rap album beautiful but this sets the yardstick. Yum Yum Flying Lotus.

Volcano – Paperwork. Read my review!

Flake Brown – Help the Overdog – ditto. Good old, peculiar folk.

Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna. Wildy danceable – a dizzying 11 tracks. Grime track Princes surprised the hell out of me but is the album’s best.

Not Too Shabby:

Bjork – Volta. Good tunes but where the hell were Chris Corsano or Brian Chippendale ?

Jonquil – Lions

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Gushpanka – Gushpanka

– – GIGS – –

Brudenell Social Club = my new home:

Acid Mothers Temple,

Oxes + Bilge Pump,



Dalek + Zach Hill


Charlottefield – Wheatsheaf, Oxford, 12th Jan (last gig??)

Volcano! – The Library, Leeds

DJ Yoda’s Magic Cinema Show – Oxford Academy

– – 3 GOOD THINGS – –



Flying Lotus

– – 3 BAD THINGS – –

Damon Che – Drums,

Gene Doyle – Guitar,

Jason Jouver – Bass

(WHAT are Don Cab doing???!?!)

Desert: Delia Smith’s How to Cook Book 1, singing Dream of Gerontious, Thame Choral Society and the Bernwode Singers, an England-free World Cup = great and unbiased viewing, Sweden, Czech Republic: teaching English + tasty Czech beer, Leeds Uni, interviewing Zach Hill, Leeds Festival Chorus, Oxfam Headingley, Room 237, Scandinavian Soc, North Hill Court, Samba and Reggaeton, Exodus at the West Indian Centre, Leeds University Union Music Library, Reggae Reggae Cookbook, Moscow Philharmonic + sardines at Leeds Town Hall, meeting Judith Bingham (blog here), Viva Cuba’s house band, BBC Manchester, Poulenc: Gloria

VOLCANO! + CASS McCOMBS + TIGERS! – The Library, Leeds, 18th November 08

Posted: November 20th, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

After 2005’s stunning debut album, a two-year break and another spectacular album (review here) Chicago’s finest trio, Volcano!, land upon the shores of Old Blighty exhausted but enthusing about the general British friendliness. Hurrah.

Volcano! play loose, twitchy alternative rock which provides the pastry base for the spicy mincemeat that are their other meanderings: glorious and ecstatic chaos, improvised gibberish and half-minute noise-ridden catastrophes. Volcano!’s vast musical blending and genre-bending just shouldn’t work. This is one thing many listeners emphasize but miraculously it does and it takes a bunch of very switched-on, very talented songwriters to achieve this. Tonight’s bands are respectively connected with Volcano! in ways of ‘wacky’ spelling and a shared hometown, thus fulfilling a fantastically tenuous line-of-thought to run through my review.

You’ve got to be pretty mental to have an exclamation mark in your name – step aside:

Godspeed You! Black Wussies,
You Slut!,
Panic! at the Disco,
Los Camposinos!,
The Go! Team,
Capeman! (this is just getting silly)
¡Forward, Russia! etc.

but pointless lists aside, the Leeds hardcore outfit Tigers! are tomfoolery-loving jokers and funnily enough the music’s good enough to stand for itself. Melt Banana and all the other grimecore lot have a HEAVY influence (pun central!) but Tigers! are infinitely more listenable than the bands mentioned. Like The Locust for the family, akin to listening a mad cartoon. Definitely worth seeing if just for the comedy wrestling costumes, the horseplay, the banter and ‘strong man’ muscle-pumping displayed at the triumphant finish of songs.

Cass McCombs has appeared on a variety of very impressive labels: 4AD, Moniter and Domini can’t be argued with. He and his Chicago-based band start off with a nice, lazy instrumental on the surf-guitar side of ‘50s rock and roll. Laid-back and bare, each song shuffles along with slight changes to the general theme; a gradual development progresses in its own sweet time (i.e. very bloody slowly!). This is well-executed and straightforward rock, Cass’ guitar playing comparable to the delicacy of Buddy Holly – soft and unobtrusive, a gratifying listen.

They may be at the end of a mammoth European tour, but never mind how physically-drained they appear before playing, Volcano! are just as explosive live as on record. Things get so loose and free that it’s best to simply stop trying to follow the (wonderfully frayed and ragged) thread of the music and instead lose yourself in its amazing disarray. The number of gadgets on bassist/electronics dude Mark Cartwright’s desk is phenomenal. He blows a wind piano, draws on a squishy electronic pad-thing while tapping a laptop and a couple of keyboards moments later. Pretty impressive as he doesn’t budge his multifarious sounds into too prominent a part of the mix. Sam Scranton is a magnificent jazz/rock drummer to watch – the collective channelling between beats and all-out improv is captivating. Stellar performance. Shame we’ll have to look forward to seeing them in a couple of years I expect.


Cass McCombs


Pascal Ansell

VOLCANO! – Paperwork (The Leaf Label)

Posted: September 1st, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

There has never been a more fitting title for an album than Volcano’s debut Beautiful Seizure. The Chicago three-piece introduced to an unsuspecting few a world of swirling electronics, spasmodic guitars and rolling, charged semi-improvised drumming – it’s one of my favourite albums. There’s no band that comes close to sounding like Volcano – a hot delicious juicy musical lava to be readily engulfed in. Actually, they sound a little bit like Storm and Stress, just not shit.

What sets Volcano from other bands is the choice you have to listen to any respective musician in any song and be entertained – each consistently provide endlessly interesting melodic lines, chewy noise or rhythmic rolls. Aaron With’s guitar is a scratchy, plucky delight with an abrasive and raw tone. The synths, laptop and bass player Mark Cartwright is even more intriguing to listen to, playing atmospheric rumblings and fuzzy keys; winding lines of bass guitar to all-out delicious noise, and he seldom stays in one mode for long. I might have read this somewhere before, but a perfect description of Volcano’s drummer, Sam Scranton, is that he resembles a jazz drummer playing rock. Like many a jazz hitter he’s delicate and soft in his execution, but with a generous enough groove to back up his bandmates.

The expectations laid upon Paperwork couldn’t be higher, but it is so good because it sounds in parts a bit, well, wrong. In ‘Sweet Tooth’ instruments are played how they shouldn’t; the faintly jarring guitar and keyboard are slightly out of tune with each other, and With’s muted plucking is a definition of understated beauty. ‘Astronomer’s Ballad’ begins with a floating splendour and carries on with a wonderful chaos, bordering on the free-improv. This is Volcano’s trademark sound: loose, wobbly, partially improvised, but somehow they never sound self-indulgent – and this is where Storm and Stress often fall flat on their skinny pretentious arses.

Apparently, ‘Paperwork’ is infused with cynical political stabs and celebrity-bashing, but With’s lyrics are often hard to make out. No matter. He’s got a ripe falsetto, a tremendous wail that’s relatively Thom York-ish in a more upbeat, less suicidal strain.

I doubt there’s a higher compliment you can pay a band or artist than to say that they are never, not even for the slightest second, dull. Volcano are always gratifyingly pricking the ears with some odd keyboard blip here and huge cascading wave of beauty there; they are a consistently entertaining listen. It’s hardly a problem that Volcano’s latest album is not quite as breathtaking as Beautiful Seizure because it’s barely possible for it to be bettered. To look at it another way, Paperwork is a more ordered and coherent listen than their debut, and is generally easier to digest. And the great consolation is that it’s an album you can play at the odd shindig without too many people scratching their heads.


Pascal Ansell