Sometimes people get lost. Christopher Columbus set off to find India and ended up playing for the West Indies cricket team or something. Sometimes I load up kitten fights on YouTube and end up watching body building videos. Like I say, sometimes people get lost.
Therefore, I produced these graphics for anyone who feels lost. You kind of have to be on Twitter to make them true because they say things like "you are on Twitter".
"If you remember the 60s, you weren't there." "Music was just better in the 80s." "I so got bogus on alcopops at the Britpop disco last night."
Yeah, I hear your conversations, you wrinkled dinosaurs living in the past. It's pathetic. I listen to new music all the time, while you close your ears off because your ear wax is made of nostalgia and one day you will drown in it.
Haaaaving said that...
I love this old track from The Black Dog, performing here as Balil (below).
Their Bytes album expanded my world. In this one track, you can hear trip hop, Orbital's Snivilisation and LTJ Bukem's atmospherics. Except this was some time before any of that came out, assuming we're dating trip hop to a couple of years later in the 90s.
This is truly forward thinking futuristic futurism right here, and definitely not me wallowing in techno nostalgia.
Five billion years ago, I went on a school trip to France. I was very interested in going on a school trip to France. I'd learnt the word boulangerie and everything.
The trip was a nightmare. Some of my school "mates" were nobbists of the highest degree, and I spent the whole vacation feeling confused and overwhelmed. I still remember a supermarket cashier barking shapes at me while I nodded in a way I thought looked intelligent.
I still do the same nodding now.
Ever since, I've had an anxiety about not enjoying the moment. Such as dancing my mullet off in a club yet worrying about how many shirt buttons I should have unfastened, opting between one and two and three back to one like some kind of crap fabric traffic light.
It's happened again recently, only in a more general sense. I've been caught in a cycle of logistics and planning and stress. Even when chillaxing with my bluds (I think these are French words), my mind has been a dripping pipe of mental notes and worries.
Last weekend, that changed.
I attended a writing workshop run by Prole Books at the turret-tastic Bodelwydden Castle. I only went because I followed Prole on Twitter and, hey, it was in a castle.
I’m not really a workshop kind of guy, but the process loosened some pretty rusty bolts. I realise that clashes with my pipe metaphor, but shut up. Writer Sue Pace led the workshop without dictating, and allowed freedom to simply enjoy the process of writing.
The weekend forced me to stop, to take a step back. I threw some priorities up in the air and let them land in a different order. I've written a lot. I’ve even been facing some tiny demons this week that I have been avoiding for a long time.
The Aphex Twins will release a new album today for the first time in 13 years.
Gone are the dance moves of the past. This is a more introspective, mature sound, designed to reflect the Aphex Twins' recent 65th birthday.
Last week, I went to a listening party where I hung around Piccadilly Records looking shifty while loudly declaring that the album "had a good beat".
Here are ten comeback albums that are significant. Of course, it includes The Aphex Twin's new album.
1. Guns 'n' Iron: Chinese Illusion II / Use Your Democracy
2. My Bloody Valentine: Gangnam Stylin'
3. Stone Roses: The Third Coming
4. Westlife: Sexploitation Soundtrack Classics
5. Bob Dylan: One Man And His Casio Pre-Sets
6. U2 - Never Mind The 90s, Here's Something To Use In Your Advert
7. Peter Andre: Music For Airheads
8. Guru Josh: 2010s, Time For My Pills
9. David Bowie: Songs For Ricky Gervais
10. The Aphex Twins: I'm Banging My Computer Keyboard Against This Granny Does It Look Like A Track Title Yet
It's a jolly little ditty, and not entirely unlike my favouritest band Plaid. Add a few Totems Flare-style synth and vocal bits. It may underwhelm some looking for a Windowlicker, but I'm a happy sausage right now. And it beats the grainy live clips already on YouTube.
Aphex Twin's new album will be a collection of ballads with Irish boyband megastars Westlife.
Mr Aphex announced his first studio album for 13 years by threatening London with a zeppelin and then a small ad in the back pages of Loot, otherwise known as the "dark web".
There was also a posting on his official Twitter account, which read: "nuAlbum with WstLfe, theyre the 1s with Ronan in, rite?!".
The reaction from the music industry to Aphex Twin's comeback was swift and overwhelming. [Note: insert a bunch of tweets here and pass them off as journalistic quote sourcing.] Also, Phats & Small were unavailable for comment. Skrillex did hold a press conference at which the only attendees were Chase & Status, Nile Rogers, a bloke from Disclosure and whoever's left out of Milli Vanilli.
The album will be available in gatefold vinyl which plays, greetings card style, Avril 14th when you open it up. The first 500 copies will come with a free "Squarepusher sucks" sticker.
Alongside a live tour with Kid 606 and Austin Mahone supporting, the album will be promoted with residency on The One Show.
A statement from Ronan Keating reads: "Seriously, it's because we're Irish, isn't it? They just dressed in black and sat on stools. We had dance routines and stuff. Westlife didn't even do curtains properly."
The publicity stunt follows a successful Caustic Window Kickstarter campaign that saw £67,000 raised to release a rare 1990s test pressing. The latest missive from the campaign - I'm one of the backers - just mentioned some housekeeping details about a DigiPack release and mentioned nothing of a Pink Floyd-style PR coup.
I rang Oval Space, who are hosting Aphex's label mate Rustie next month for the debut of Rustie's new album Attak. I asked them if the blimp was anything to do with them. They issued a quick denial and told me it was a marketing exercise by Warp Records.
"It has been a decade since piracy and the arrival of iTunes – which
destroyed the notion of an album in favour of single, downloadable
tracks – but the music business has found nothing to repair lost CD
sales." (Dan Sabbagh, October 2011)
"The death knell is sounding for the album, and the industry is quickening its demise by fighting innovation." (Natalie Hanman, July 2005)
"The working cycle of a band is still based around making albums and then
touring them, and while artists are still grouping songs together for
release, whatever the format... Whether you're listening on a
smartphone or gramophone the "long player" is here to stay." (Guardian music blog, February 2013)
Here are five utterly engrossing techno tracks. Dive into them. Let them wash over you. Some of them have the texture of treacle or gloopy fairy tears, while others will feel like you're drowning in a pool of hot tar. But in a good way. Some of them just feel you're being humped by the YouTube Lossy Dog. Down boy.
Vatican Shadow's Cairo Is A Haunted City
Prurient's Through The Window
Synkro & Indigo's Guidance
Pearson Sound's Untitled
Oh and an extra one for being so well behaved...
The Autechre remix of Surgeon's Whose Bad Hands Are These?
I did a poetry event the other night. I did it. I proper did it.
Evidently takes place in the bricked back room of Salford's Eagle Inn on a stage facing two balconies: the double-deckered audience gives the impression of intimacy in what is otherwise a cavernous chimney. A great venue with great beer.
Here are some other events I'm splurging my wordballs at:
> On June 18th, I host the launch of Anneliese Mackintosh's debut short story collection Any Other Mouth. Click here for the Facebook event. I'm reading the book at the moment. Its perfect mix of humour, depth and readability has left me giddy. It makes me want to be a better writer.
> And on June 25th, it's the monthly literary feast that is Bad Language. Ooo. I've not done a Facebook event post for that yet. Sack this blogging lark, I'm off to Land O'Zuckerberg...
In other news, I'm generating story ideas. There are post-it notes on my living room wall. I have a thing in my head. An idea; a through-line. It feels quite fragile, like a web made by a frail spider with a bit of a detox wobble. But I have a thing: a series of connected stories that aren't very connected at all. Like Cloud Atlas. That kind of thing, only not as long and as frustrating.
I can't tell you what the thing is because that would cause a breeze in my mind and the web would crumble.
The thing feels quite precious in this state. I'll keep you updated.
This is what I've been pouring into my ear tubes recently.
PLASTIKMAN: EX (MUTE)
Slow-ass acid techno, performed live in New York, that's as sharp as a million pins piercing your brain. There's so much space in Pastikman's first album for a decade, a simple cymbal shudders plaster from the walls. The growling bassline of EXtrude will knock you off your feet. Every moment is played for a live experience, and although progress is, on the surface, glacial, the themes submerge and rise with a beautiful and hypnotic dynamism. And Richie Hawtin certainly offers us the best production I've heard in 2014. Run for the hills, Jon Hopkins!
PLAID: REACHY PRINTS (WARP)
IDM's most listenable, most melodic moment of the year, and certainly Plaid's "easiest" album. Nafovanny's moody loping is nothing less than a five minute pop song with a stadium-techno refrain, albeit with that ethereal chiming to make things sounds like a steel drum band on Venus. Like their older tracks Eyen and Get What You Gave, most of this feels simple and familiar. Throughout, there's Kraftwerkian melodies, home-listening melancholia and, on Matin Lunaire, a close approximation of Wonky-era Orbital. The most Plaidian Plaid to date.
PATTEN - ESTOILE NAIANT (WARP)
And here's an album I started listening to a lot then gave up on. patten's complex and messy electronica sounds like Boards of Canada with broken legs. It has all the sounds of classic IDM, but it seems somehow distracted and entirely of the head rather than the heart. There's so much bustling on Key Embedded, while their most intriguing moment Drift kills itself with its own percussion. Still, I love the abstraction and the Autechre bit of me has an utter tentpole at the sound of it all.
The stage lights burning the back of my eyes. The solitary microphone and the stares from the audience. And the sudden and lurching gap in my memory.
I remember my only attempt at stand-up comedy well: I died on my backside: a brutal failure. The years have not diminished my shock at the experience.
The next time I took to the stage was for Bright Club with a comedy lecture called Gospel According To Aphex Twin. It wasn't stand-up but I played it for laughs and I shook like a leaf. Four years later and, for the first time ever earlier this week, I had a "performer moment". A moment where I wasn't just on a stage reading funny stuff, but I used a learned technique to elicit a response from an audience. Like a Performer, capital P.
The moment happened as I compered Bad Language. A couple of open mic acts hadn't turned up, and at one point there was a risk that it could have derailed the night. I needed to make light of the situation on stage, so I used a stupid metaphor, explained slowly with the best deadpan I could manage. I likened the no-shows to me making five quiches for a dinner party, with only four guests turning up, leaving me to eat the final broccoli-filled quiche even though I hated broccoli.
And then came a friendly heckle. "But you made the quiches yourself."
"But you made the quiches yourself."
The heckler shot my metaphor down with brilliantly-timed wit. I couldn't fight the logic. Why would I make a quiche I hated the taste of?
Something clicked. For the first time, I could use a heckle to gain a bigger laugh. I feigned a dawning realisation at the audience member's insight, and while I acted this out, my mind wrote a punchline. The punchline went something like: "This is what my life has come to: me making quiches I hate for people that don't exist."
As I spoke the punchline, keeping my timing regular and my voice steady, my brain went into planning mode again. I decided that after the word "exist", I should turn from the microphone. A visual full stop to land the phrase with a decisive thunk. It worked. People laughed.
It was only a small moment, and by writing all this out, I am probably overplaying it. I'm also not trying to tell you how hilarious I am. The point is this: what struck me about that moment was I could multi-task my little brain gremlins to enable me to plan mid-performance. I'd not done that before. I felt like a stand-up.
The heckler apologised afterwards, but he didn't need to. I thanked him for making it funnier than it ever could have been.
I guess the moral is that performance skill can be learned, that's probably worth trusting the moment, that a strong-enough stage presence can withstand almost anything.
There are many stage performers better than me. But sometimes it's nice to look back and see how far you've come - because the energy I still get from that long-past stand-up failure still drives me to be a better performer today.