Jul 25, 2016

Listen: µ–Ziq & Aphex Twin (Mike & Rich)'s 11 Vodka (Mix 2)

An Atari, a Memorymoog, a couple of old Rolands and some samples scooped from a Casio FZ-10M. 11 Vodka (Mix 2) has some pretty neat building blocks.

Have a good ear-swab by clicking play here. It's a remastered version of a track that originally appeared on the mid-90s album Expert Knob Twiddlers by Mike & Rich (aka µ–Ziq & Aphex Twin).

Mike's brilliant Planet Mu label is rereleasing this chunk of old electronic chunkiness. There'll be new tracks too, including one called Portamento Gosh and another called Organ Plodder. Kinda proper excited for this one.

Jul 23, 2016

Listen: SKY H1's Hybrid

I thought I wasn't allowed to listen to anything from Brussels, what with Brexit and all, but somehow I managed to hack Boris Johnson's racist firewall to listen to SKY H1's Motion EP.

There's a glimmering freshness that's quite addictive here, right from the hopeful gasping vocals of Air through to the mile-wide synths of I Think I Am.

I've featured Hybrid here because of its lightness and beautifully-paced development of a three-note melody. It's just so satisfying. In your FACE, Boris.

Jul 19, 2016

Graham Dunning's got some balls

Graham Dunning used to be Graham Analog in improvisational Manchester act Blood Moon. He's now a guy who destroys vinyl in the name of techno.

Although it's not performed in front of a room of mildly-bored scenesters, this Boiler Room video recorded at the end of June shows his talent for mechanical musical making. Glitching four-to-the-floor stompy clubness. Lo-fi meets DIY.

Just you wait for the moment he opens that wooden box on the right of the screen, next to the keyboard. Can you guess what's in it? Am I going to put a spoiler in the title of this blog post? You bet I am.

Jul 18, 2016

Listen: Factory Floor's Ya

Go on. Do something. Move around. Do a dance. A cartwheel. Anything. Go on. Do something. ANYTHING.

I really like the minimalism of the video for Factory Floor's Ya. It's so stubborn in its refusal to do much more than, well, someone not doing much with a what appears to be a pair of massive modular cakes.

I'm digging that bouncy bassline too. New album out next month: from what I've heard, there's more bouncy minimalism ahead.

See also: Factory Floor in the best electronica albums of 2013.

Jul 11, 2016

Hey Fat Roland podcast: in which I meet people and talk to their faces

As if there weren't enough soundwaves in the world already, this weekend I will launch a new podcast.

Hey Fat Roland is a podcast about meeting people. I'm one of those annoying people with a very wide but sometimes shallow social circle. While I'm skimming across that circle like a greased turtle, I might as well bring a microphone with me.

There will be a few interviews in each episode as I bump into random arty people. Those interviews, er, don't always go well. My producer and old Theatre Of Noise cohort Lee Moore will also yack with me about unusual people we have met in the past.

I'm planning ten fortnightly episodes for starters, with the first episode going out on Sunday 17 July 2016.

You can go to the direct link here if you want to, but don't fret too much because the podcast will feature right here on this website, and also on your favourite podcast subscription service. Or you can catch me in Edinburgh.

How do all the soundwaves fit into the world anyway? And do they tickle if there are too many?

Jul 9, 2016

Blogging versus Facebook: working out where I belong

You may have noticed something of a blog revival here.

The catalyst was Facebook. If you've never heard of Facebook, basically it's a big metal trash can in which everyone yells until no-one can hear anything. All the loud words reverberate and everyone mistakes the resulting shudders for thoughtful stimulation.

I felt sad about discarding my words into the biggest bin in the world while ignoring a perfectly functional web home that I was paying for.

So I developed a habit of pausing before I pressed 'post', often discarding Facebook posts mid-draft. Instead I loaded up my blog editor and neatly filed my words where they belonged - and where they have belonged for the past 12 years. Here.

I've posted every two days for the past three months, and although I'm now going to slow that down to every three days while I turn my attentions more to Electronic Sound, the habit has been quite cleansing.

Of course, I'll keep Facebook because sometimes it's useful for event promotion, and I do like keeping up with friends who use Facebook creatively. And I can cross-post stupid panda pictures from Instagram.

But here is where I belong. If you're new to this blog, hello. This isn't a trash can. More a recycling skip. One of the bottle types that whiffs of last night's excess. There's plenty more to come: thank you for visiting.

Jul 7, 2016

Who (what) appears in the new Electronic Sound?

Robert Moog, Robert Moog's daughter, Vince Clarke, a magic pony, Robert Hood and Ladyhawke. Almost all of these appear in the brand new Electronic Sound.

Plus, says the magazine...
"...our regular contributors Synthesiser Dave, Jack Dangers and Fat Roland, who between them will meet all your technical, archival and, erm, deranged reading requirements." 
You guessed it. The magic pony does not appear in Electronic Sound. Not alive, anyway. That's right, a FREE magic dead pony with every edition. Or a music CD. Come to think of it, it's probably just a free CD.

ANYHOO, it's a beautiful thing with incredible design, and a cracking read even though it does have my column in. I really shouldn't have mentioned the pony thing. This has gone terribly wrong. Pre-order issue 21 of Electronic Sound now.

Jul 5, 2016

I Am Dogboy: Underworld's new book already pleases me no end

I Am Dogboy is already my favourite book of 2016.

It has been written by Karl Hyde, the dancey bloke from Underworld, and it contains diaries, pictures and abstract poetics collected since 1999. Those that have seen me perform my weird fiction or seen my text-heavy exhibition Slow Reader will know how much I'm going to love this.

Because the Tomato collective have done the design work, the book is going to look gorgeous. I also like the fact that Hyde has "done a Bill Drummond" and divided a special painting into 100 separate pieces for the deluxe print-run. I once bought 0.05% of a painting off Drummond once. That's another story.

All this lovely new Underworld wonderfulness can be pre-ordered on their website. It's not cheap, but I reckon it'll be worth every penny.

If you fancy a treat for your ears, there's a Spotify playlist building up in preparation for the release. Click below for more. Brills.

Jul 3, 2016

The techno-ness (technosity?) of Beyonce's Single Ladies

Why the heck have I not noticed the techno-ness of Beyonce's Single Ladies?

You know the song. All the single ladies, all the single ladies. Instead of putting a donk on it, everyone put a ring on it.

Single Ladies is so vocal-heavy, and those vocals syncopate so unusually with the rhythm, it's easy to miss what's going on behind Ms Fierce's famous vocals. Uh oh oh, oh oh oh.

Take out the voices, and you get an awkward ratchety stomp that leads into some pleasing space whoops, curious bleeps, epic strings, and that lovely bubble of a bass note that rises up to say hello every now and then.

Have a listen below.

I also flipping love the stunning string notes on Amerie's One Thing. Of course, these tracks are best with the vocals on, and I'm sorry for silencing these amazing women. But it's nice to hear very familiar tracks in a different way.

Wow, this blog post was like being in the noughties again.

Further Fats: Rihanna will knock out a cover version of Hangable Auto Bulb as soon as she claps her eyes on this pile of blog waffle (2007)

Jul 1, 2016

Plaid finally drop Elevator

Plaid have plopped out a new EP called On Other Hands and it's quite the curveball. The lead track Elevator is a right stomper: they've been playing it live for some time, as you can see in the video above.

I love the snarly gnarly tech bite of second track Odica. The eardrum-banging freshness of On Other Hands is an impressive feat, following so soon after The Digging Remedy. That album, by the way, is reviewed in July's Electronic Sound, which you can pre-order now.

I've got a ticket to see Plaid and The Bee in Manchester - a city whose emblem is indeed the bee.

It's been a few years since I've seen them because, well, I'm rubbish.

This is the gig. Come join me.

Jun 29, 2016

Listen: Robert Hood / Floorplan's Music

Robert Hood created his Floorplan alias two decades ago when he wanted to explore the melodic reaches of his sound. In the last few years, that alias has flourished. He's just released his second Floorplan album, Victorious, to critical acclaim.

I wanted to feature opening track Spin, a huge banger that's deceptively simplistic, but there isn't much to officially stream out there. You'll have to make do with this preview of Music. Straightforward, tight, utterly danceable.

He recorded this album with his daughter Lyric Hood. If you fancy 90 minutes of very happy house DJing, here's the pair doing a Boiler Room set at Dekmantel Festival.

Jun 27, 2016

Listen: Mala's Kotos - and yes, those are panpipes

Things really have changed in the last few days. Britain is a burning wreck crumbling into the English Channel, and I'm about to feature panpipes on my website.

Yep. Panpipes. Don't worry though: Mala's Mirrors is an album of tribal bass music rather than easy-listening chillout instrumentals, and the pipes on opening track Kotos sit nicely alongside the RP Boo-isms of the rhythm track.

Mirrors is full of samples from Mala's wanderings in Peru. Seek also the track Markos Swagga if you fancy a bit of a South London tribal slow-rave.

Jun 25, 2016

This is not an analysis of the EU Referendum

What a vomit-caked hairball of hate the last couple of days have been.

I feel like I'm watching the UK destroy itself, taking with it any semblance of inclusion and love and unicorns and happiness.

There is a long cobbled road ahead of us, and some of it will be easy, and some of it will be like charging into a pack of wolves armed with nunchucks and poky sticks.

But I'm not going to analyse the result of the EU Referendum here. I am sad and angry like many others, but go and read better websites that write about that kind of thing. This is just a music blog. You don't come here for politics.

It has never occurred to me to be anti-European. Without the Trance Europe Express compilation series, I'd be lost. I'm a child of Kraftwerk and Belgian techno and Cafe Del Mar and bands with exotic French-sounding names like Autechre.

I'm finding solace by switching off the internet and listening to music. Good European music. I suggest you do the same.

Here's Belgian EBM outfit Front 242 with their 1988 track Headhunter (below). The Europe of this video seems ever distant now. Mainly because we've smeared our vision with hairballs. Big stinky hairballs. And by hairballs, I mean Michael Gove's pubic hair and Boris Johnson's balls.

Look at the architecture below. The headgear. Mainly the architecture. This video would not have been anywhere near as good if, instead of Brussels, it had been set in Nigel Farage's limescaled bath.

A long road ahead. Love and unicorns and happiness to you all.

Jun 22, 2016

The 7 best moments in Ryan Wyer's video for Aphex Twin's CIRKLON3 [ Колхозная mix ]

Aphex Twin has released his first music video since Windowlicker. I know, right? This is a big moment.

The track is called CIRKLON3 [ Колхозная mix ]: it's from his Cheetah EP and it's a corker. To see the video, click those links you just read past.

The video is basically a lo-fi danceathon and it's directed by 12-year-old Ryan Wyer. Ryan was chosen as director after Mr Twin saw his fan video for comeback single minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix], which was all kinds of strange aceness.

Here, in no particular order, are the bits I enjoyed most when I first watched video rather too loudly at work. It's now on repeat.

1 - Hey, it's that lad from the Minipops video! And hey look at the t-shirt!
Honestly, it was a real "hey, Aphex really GETS the internet moment".

2 - The beach that reminded me of the On video and made me go all fuzzy inside.
Which is nice because there's something of the early Aphex about the glowing chords that light up this whole flipping track.

3 - This proper boss move with the hands.
I tried this but I fell over.

4 - The reveal of the mask... aaaargh... I'm never going outside again.
Another "aaah, we're back in Aphexland" moment. If Aphex Twin ever stops smiling, all music will end. This is a fact.

5 - The most sinister and/or coolest DJ in the universe.
If you google 'find edges', you'll spot this filter in use right across the internet - but none of them make someone's face as toothily chilling as this.

6 - This awesome cartwheel.
I tried this but I fell over.

7 - This 'cute' buddy moment that scared the pants off me but was still kinda sweet.
From one Aphex-head to another, nice work, Ryan.

Jun 20, 2016

Do we really want Vengaboys in our room (boom boom boom boom)?

According to Twitter, which is place where all the news is kept these days, today is the anniversary of Vengaboys topping the UK chart with - and let me get the punctuation right - Boom,Boom,Boom,Boom!!

Which rasies an obvious question. Of all the "Boom" number one singles, how successful is that Vengaboys hit?

Let's do some point scoring.

There are five number one singles with "boom" in the title. In alphabetical order of artist, they are:
Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow (2009)
DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince - Boom! Shake The Room (1993)
Outhere Brothers - Boom Boom Boom (1995)
Shaggy - Boombastic (1995)
Vengaboys - Boom,Boom,Boom,Boom!! (1999)
So these are our contenders. All quality tracks, I'm sure you'll agree.

And now the maths. There are three ways to rate these singles by success: the charts, streaming and popular opinion. In each of these three categories, I will score each single five, four, three, two or one Boom Points, or an average of points if they are tied. The one with the most Boom Points (BPs) wins.

Let's go.

1. Chart success

Firstly, I will look at their original chart run: how long they were at number one, and in the case of a tie, how many weeks they spent in the top 100.

Outhere Brothers get a slam dunk here. They spent four weeks at UK number one. Yeah, amazing, I know. Black Eyed Peas and Jazzy Jeff both spent two weeks at number one for their Boom singles, but the Peas had two more weeks on chart, so the Peas nudge into second place. Joint last are Shaggy and Vengaboys, who spent a single week at the top spot with 17 weeks each on chart.

Chart success results:
Outhere Brothers 5 BPs
Black Eyed Peas 4 BPs
Jazzy Breath And The Fresh Mint 3 BPs
Shaggy 1.5 BPs
Vengaboys 1.5 BPs

2. Streaming

Secondly, I will check the number of current day streams: for this, I will simply note the number of total plays each track has on Spotify.

Poor Outhere Brothers. Only 1.6 million listens. Not many people want to listen to a shaking room either: Jeff and his Fresh Prince pal only get 4.6 million listens. Vengaboys and Shaggy are very close: the vengabussers have 25.5 million streams at the time of writing, while Boombastic has 29.8 million streams. Bossing this category, however, is the much more contemporary Black Eyed Peas. They have 55.9 million streams and score top position in this category for Boom Boom Pow.

Streaming results:
Black Eyed Peas 5 BPs
Shaggy 4 BPs
Vengaboys 3 BPs
Jazzy Thingy And The Will Smith Bloke 2 BPs
Outhere Brothers 1 BP

3. Popular opinion

Thirdly and finally, I will turn to popular opinion: here, I will delve into the last ten (top) comments on YouTube and rate those comments for positivity. I'll include nostalgia as a positive thing because that's basically why YouTube exists.

A lot of comments on the Black Eyed Peas' Boom Boom Pow video are spammers or attention grabbers. Someone is excited about seeing them again ("aguardando ansiosamente o retorno desse grupo incrível<3") and there are two nice nostaglia comments: "my my nostalgia" and "velhos tempos, castanhari fez eu me lembra shsuahu". Three positive comments, then.

The comments on Shaggy's Boombastic are mainly people that have clicked on the track due to commercials. All of those comments seem neutral, apart from one which says "The Chase Bank commercial made me remember this fun song and that cute little pig". They said the song was "fun". Therefore, that's one positive comment. Just. I have no idea who the pig is. Maybe it's Shaggy's DJ, blowing the house down with its cracklin' tunes.

For the Vengaboys, it's all a little vague. One comment just says "nostalgia" while another one gives a little story about hearing this abroad then saying a nice thing about Dutch people: "Ik houd van jullie, dutchies :P". I'll give this two positive comments.

There are no positive comments on Boom Boom Boom by the Outhere Brothers. Someone's a little bit racist, another one's calling for it to be censored, while someone else says "I tweeted 4 days ago that reggie and bollie should sing this on the x factor and they did tonight. Cheryl gave me no credit. Cry for me". Okay, maybe that is positive. Sort of. I'll put this joint last with Shaggy.

People love DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince's Boom! Shake The Room. Hark ye the love of the YouTubers: "this song never gets old woooo" / "Haha it is 1993 again and I am nine years old again at the school disco." / "Just one of those people that is good at everything. Well done Will Smith." / "I love Will Smith" / "The stutter rap at 2:34 is genious". They're right - this track may well be genious. Er. Genius. Clearly, Jazzy Jeff and his alien-fighting buddy are the winners of this category.

Popular opinion results:
Jazzy Jeffrey And The Get-Fresh Prancer 5 BPs
Black Eyed Peas 4 BPs
Vengaboys 3 BPs
Outhere Brothers 1.5 BPs
Shaggy 1.5 BPs

Final results

At the start of this blog post (do you remember that?), I wanted to see how successful the awkwardly-punctuationed Boom,Boom,Boom,Boom!! by Vengaboys was in comparision to other tracks that have topped the charts with the word "boom" in the title.

Here are the final scores:
Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow (2009) 13 Boom Points - winner!
DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince - Boom! Shake The Room (1993) 10 Boom Points
Outhere Brothers - Boom Boom Boom (1995) 7.5 Boom Points
Vengaboys - Boom,Boom,Boom,Boom!! (1999) 7.5 Boom Points
Shaggy - Boombastic (1995) 7 Boom Points
Oh. In short, Vengaboys are almost half as bad as the Black Eyed Peas and only as good as the Outhere Brothers.

Well that was a waste of an hour.

Further Fats: Crimes against crimes against keyboards - Black Eyed Peas