Aug 19, 2014

Aphex Twin's new album: the truth

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."

What will the new album be like? Will his window be caustic, lickable or polygon? Further thoughts will be in the next edition of Electronic Sound.

Bonus: a possible album preview has appeared on YouTube:

Aug 16, 2014

The Aphex Twin blimp is a Warp Records PR stunt, say Oval Space


(See a 2014 album update here.)

A blimp displaying Aphex Twin's logo has appeared above art centre Oval Space in London.

The airship shows the year 2014 with the zero containing his logo. Stencils are also appearing, including at New York's Radio City Music Hall, although it could be those have been there for a while.

One marketing man has already collared the bloke driving the blimp trick ("it's gonna be good"), while another tweeter reckons the blimp contains 2,014 unreleased Aphex albums. Or perhaps it's a load of, er, hot air.

I did a bit of digging around.

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.

Maybe he's just DJing at Oval's LDN Craft Beer Festival this weekend. Maybe this means all those unreleased albums are ready to go. Maybe - and most likely considering what Oval Space told me - it's to do with Warp's 25th anniversary celebrations.

Either way, I think we can conclude that Aphex Twin is launching an aerial assault on London and we should all run for our lives.

Aphex blimp photo: NME

Further Fats: Aphex Twin.

Aug 10, 2014

You see where I'm going with this, right?


Post suggestions in the comments. There must be a full Fat Roland's worth of complete record covers in this. Damn you, Portishead, for beginning with P.

Jul 31, 2014

10 Guardian pieces about whether the album is dead or not


I'm not sure what this means. Maybe think-pieces about the death of the album are dead. Maybe everything's dead.

Maybe I should record these articles as an album. And only sell it to dead people.

"The latest victim, and perhaps the most depressing when it comes to the slow but steady bludgeoning of creativity within the field, is the album."  (Harriet Walker, July 2014)

2

"While some musicians have been resistant to the decline of the album, others have begun to recognise and accept the changing tide." (Hannah Ellis-Petersen, July 2014)

3

"Is the album dead? Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Elton John hit by dramatic US sales slump." (Headline, Edward Helmore, November 2013)

4

"The internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left." (David Byrne, October 2013)

 5

"Music has died now I've thrown away my CDs and only listen on my laptop." (Headline, Sophie Heawood, June 2013

6

"Music apps are the new albums. Or the new concert DVDs. Or..." (Guardian apps blog, November 2012.)

7

"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)
 

8

"Record breaking: is the album format dead?" (Guardian music blog, August 2009)

9

"The death knell is sounding for the album, and the industry is quickening its demise by fighting innovation." (Natalie Hanman, July 2005)

Or...

10

"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)

Further Fats: Every Guardian music 'crepuscular' reference since the start of 2010, probably (2013)

Jul 26, 2014

Five engrossing techno tracks


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

Morph's Morphine

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?


Further Fats: Oh to be torn up by wolves and fed, bit by bit, through an old lawnmower (2008)

Jul 12, 2014

Here is the latest pop chart, apparently


I've just checked the latest pop chart now that streaming counts towards its figures. I'm not sure I like it.

Here's the current top ten.

1 - The sound of you and your wheezing breath captured by your laptop's watching camera.

2 - A mysterious operative in a curtained room reading your Yahoo spam emails and chucking quietly. His name is Muriel.

3 - The flat tap-tap-tap of mouse clicks. When you look at the shadows, the clicks stop.

4 - Echoing through Westminster, the joyful slap of high-fives and glass clinks - then urgent shushing when someone approaches.

5 - The plastic rustle of the actual tarpaulin the government uses in its cover-ups.

6 - Julian Assange weeping his way through I Did It My Way then powering his way through six packs of Pringles.

7 - The wet, crusty bubbling of Eric Pickles' widening smile.

8 - The slow grind of history repeating itself and repeating itself and...

9 - The sound of the computer that auto-generates Calvin Harris hits. A mix between a jolly "ping" and the mournful wail of a dying planet.

10 - The brittle splintering of forced satire.

Further Fats: Oh, puppies, why do you live? (2006)

Jun 16, 2014

I'm splurging my wordballs at these following events



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.

> On June 21st, I'm supporting Zach Roddis as he launches Selected Tweets in the Salford Zine Library. Zach Roddis is YOLO. Zach Roddis is not YOLO. He is neither buffalo nor augmented pony. This is going to be a weird one: here's the Facebook event. Click here if you want to give him money to produce more stuff.

> 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.

Jun 11, 2014

Three things I've been listening to, and they all begin with P like pea, pineal gland and, er, Papa Roach


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.

Further Fats: Bleep Years day two: Plaid's Get What You Gave (2012)

May 31, 2014

"But you made the quiches yourself": becoming a better stage performer


 THE FAILURE.

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.

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."

"Sorry?"

"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?

THE CLICK.

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 FUTURE.

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.

May 30, 2014

Glock/Ver10?* Bearded knob twiddler's cover Aphex Twin's Windowlicker


Chug this down your YouTube neck. Here's one-take cover artist Binkbeats with his version of Aphex Twin's Windowlicker. It's a brave attempt, and not many people would survive this with their brain intact.

Brought to the internetwebhole by the ever-reliable Boiler Room.



* a glockenspeil pun on Aphex's Cock/Ver10 even though I'm pretty sure it's a xylophone.

Further Fats: The devil has all the best IDM: Aphex Twin (2010)

May 26, 2014

Finding healthy pop wheat amid the pop forest fire of, um, doom


THE PLAN.

The plan: find something positive to say about the charts. Music that may be derivative but it's done in a nice way and doesn't carry the baggage of a mysogynistic or gun-addled video.

The result: quite difficult. I think Coldplay's new electronic direction is welcome, but I'm never going to post something by them because it's still like listening to a squeezed dishcloth. And the chart is full of older stuff, like Duke Dumont and Avicii in the mid-range and the likes of Busted and Shaggy near the bottom.

I found four. There's a decent Lana Del Ray remix knocking about somewhere, but I couldn't spot it on YouTube. So...

THE RESULT.

- Kiesza's Hideaway, a snappy 90s house track with some proper Strings of Life synth stabs bubbling under the surface;

- Route 94's My Love, a hypnotic house meditation with choppy pianos and a gorgeous arpeggio throughout, let down by a poor video;

- Klangkarussell's Sonnentanz, with its filtered synth motif, layered vocals and sax parps that are so crap they're probably good;

- Clean Bandit's Extraordinary, a band that used to me more interesting, but this fluff has some nicely executed production. Only just made the list.







May 7, 2014

My start with Bad Language: always blame the monsters


The beginning of 2014 seems like a different year. Time is fragmented. Broken. You know when you drop your diary and all the dates get mixed up because your diary is possessed by a mischievous poltergeist that can manipulate text? That.

When I took on the co-running of Bad Language, Manchester's live literature night, I expected it would be a bit like being hit by a train. I was wrong. It was like being approached from behind by a scaly time-stealing monster and mauled to death. In a good way. I've tried to replicate this experience in picture form (above).

So far, I have hosted two Bad Languages, with authors Stephen May and Luke Brown headlining. If you want to see me shake my stuff, then come along to the Portico on Thursday May 15th for a very special night of readings. We'll have Rosie Garland, Jo Bell, Rodge Glass and Marli Roode. The next regular Bad Language will be on May 28th. Thank pants I'm not doing this on my own - Joe Daly should take at least 54.6% of the credit.

Much of my time is spent planning events. Speculative meetings, meetings that go nowhere, meetings that burst with promise. Watch this space.

Not enough time is spent updating this website. Better get to it. To be honest, I'd ask the time-stealing monster to do it, but its spelling is atrocious.

Incidentally, for those more musically-inclined, I've been listening to Hardfloor, Legowelt and Mixmaster Morris.

Apr 11, 2014

Window-kicker: Aphex Twin's 'new' Caustic Window Kickstarter album


(See a 2014 album update here.)

It took mere hours for a budding entrepreneur to raise the $13.5k needed for a new Aphex Twin album.

Well. Kind of new. A bunch of old test pressings under the Aphex alias Caustic Window have been gathering dust since the 1990s. The owner has now decided to release the recordings, and with the permission of all concerned parties, a Kickstarter campaign has started for anyone wanting to own a digital copy.

BEGINNINGS.

The fundraising idea began as a speculative survey on the legendary We Are The Music Makers (WATMM) forum, and it's now the owner of that forum, Joyrex, who is coordinating the campaign for these lost recordings to see the light of day.

Joyrex, himself named after Caustic Window releases, said on the forum:
"I think any Aphex Twin fan (myself included) would dearly love for Richard to release any new material, and for whatever reasons he hasn't yet, this is an opprotunity for the fans to let Richard know there is a demand for even his older material.

"This may not mesh well with Richard's personal wishes (there was probably a reason he didn't commercially release this), but since this is fan-driven, if anything, it will convey to him and the labels the fans are willing to support their favourite artists in unique ways."

BLESSINGS.

Richard D James, aka Aphex Twin, gave his blessing to the project, as did Rephlex label boss Grant Wilson-Claridge. That in itself is remarkable: Grant himself told this blog two years ago that it would be nice if more attention could be paid to non-Aphex things. He's right, of course. Dave Monolith produced one of the best albums of recent years and Bochum Welt is rarely far from my earbuds.

The original idea was for the digital Caustic Window release to be limited to a few hundred backers, but that has now been opened up and the campaign is fast approaching the $20k mark. You can donate here. The original recording will eventually be auctioned, and there is a plan to split those proceeds between Richard James, the Kickstarter supporters and charity.

BURGERS.

It's a long time since I've been on the WATMM forum. I suspect my account's been deleted. But amid the in-jokes, image memes and (I seem to remember) huge numbers of ASCII pictures of burgers, is a dedicated community of electronic music lovers.

This campaign is a rather impressive outpouring of that bleepish, rubber-johnnied window-licking love. In the words of WATMM member, MisterE:
i thought
wow this is interesting
then i went to the rdj rare pics thread and printed like mad
surrounded myself
and wept
and now im here and everything is going to be OK

Further Fats: Ten absolutely fascinating facts about Rephlex Records

Apr 10, 2014

Blog your spleen out (with added Balki)

I have been tagged in an awful meme by Tim Footman, and I hate myself enough to rise to the bait. The hook is in the flesh of my cheek. Now pull.

To make this more palatable, I have peppered this blog post with pictures of Balki Bartokomous from Perfect Strangers. Let's just get through this, shall we?

WHO / WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO START BLOGGING?

My ex-journalist ego, probably. Also a man called James and a colourful feline.

Blogger is like a washing machine: ugly, noisy and most of the buttons never get used. One of its more bizarre functions is a 'next blog' button which transports you instantly to another blog anywhere in the world, regardless of subject matter or language. In the days before BuzzTube and TwitBook, this is how I used to discover blogs. Click, click, click.

One of the blogs I was transported to was James and the blue cat, a writing fellow. I probably found him nestled between a Korean knitwear site and a fishing holiday journal. I made a tentative foray into the blogosphere because I wanted to be where other writers were, and I wanted to talk about my DJing. There was Quinquireme too. And Cultural Snow.

HOW DID YOU CHOOSE WHAT TOPICS TO BLOG ABOUT?

I didn't. My first post was in November 2004 and I did tend to plug what I was doing, but it wasn't until 2009 until I renamed it Fat Roland On Electronica and I focused on music previews, Warp Records and various noise noodlings that the blog got any attention.

Blogging is different now - Upworthy, for example, is about click-quantity over content-quality. I've changed the name of my blog and I no longer analyse stats other than an annual auditing process (clicks-per-post down 3% in 2013, dontcha know). The success I gained from blogging now keeps me busy enough to prevent me from blogging as much as I'd like. It's a good problem to have.

WHAT IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I once went to Manchester University students' union to interview Travis, but I forgot to put a tape in my dictaphone, so I says "sorry chaps" and never saw them again. A couple of years later, they released The Man Who. In the pantheon of an ever-pedestrian rock scene (thank crap for the Arctics), I now blame Travis for the downfall of rock which is why I stole a time machine from David Bowie to steal that blank tape from past-me.

WHAT THREE WORDS DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?

Susan techno horse.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT BLOGGING?

Are you chatting me up, question? You're such a flirt, question. That's a cute curl you've got on your mark, question. Maybe you and me should go on a date sometime. I'm seeing an exclamatory remark right now, but I can't see that relationship going anywhere because, frankly, no-one likes shouting in restaurants. You're not going to be needy, are you, question? Oh. Don't reply then. Fine. I'll snap off part of your mark, make it into a semi-colon. See if I care. Got to go. Exclamatory remark's calling for me. So loud.

THE END

Was that alright, Balki?

No, says Balki.

Mar 31, 2014

Mad March


It has been an extraordinary month that has derailed my blogging into a happy, exhausted but ultimately wordless ravine.

Last month, I was revealed as the new co-host of Bad Language, a leading night of live literature in Manchester. A few days ago, I hosted my first one. The quality of the open mic acts and the headliner, Stephen May, left me somewhat staggered. I performed in a ridiculous hat given to me by this man.

I also got to host a proper discussion with proper writers. I invented this event for Manchester Histories Festival, and the quality of readers and the turnout re-staggered my mental innards all over again. I topped it off with a radio show yesterday alongside my writing cohort David Hartley.

In the spare time I have had, I saw a great show by Jackie Hagan, I've been listening to old techno, I visited Crosby beach to see the strange iron blokes and I bought a bagel on Brick Lane.

Look to the horizon. You can see the smoke rising from the wreckage in the ravine. Look again. It is a smoke signal. It says "blog more".

Shut up, smoke.