Jun 23, 2017

1997: what the flip was going on?

Someone tweeted about 1997 being an incredible year for music. Can't remember who. (Cool story, Fats.)

And yeah, there was Daft Punk and Propellerheads and Prodigy and Chemical Brothers and Roni Size. You were right, tweety person, you were right. 1997 was a great year for music.

It's good to measure these things so let's get specific. I decided to look at the singles chart exactly 20 years ago. 23rd June 1997. Let's wallow in a memorable year of fantastic tunes, shall we?

1. Puff Daddy's mawkish I'll Be Missing You was number one. Okay. Not so great. But all the good songs get to number two, right?

2. Bitter Sweet Symphony. And there's the good number two. Never did make it to the top of the charts. THANKS, Puff.

3. Mmm Bop by Hanson.  Three flesh muppets talking nonsense. Oh dear.

4. Ocean Colour Scene? Bog off. I'd drain the oceans and watch all aqua life writhe and die before listening to this shambles again.

I'm not convinced this is really working. Let's speed things up. Time to skip some numbers and get to the real meat of this burger of musical joy.

9. Guiding Star by Cast. Possibly the most annoying band of the 90s, and the band I have heckled the loudest. Make them stop.

11. Celine Dion? Crumbs. I'd forgotten about the boat-mouthed siren that was Celine. Ouch.

18. Savage Garden?! Worst S-band name ever. Apart from Shed Seven. And Salad.

22. The Friends theme tune that was in the charts forever. I'd rather have the clap clap clap clap.

This is terrible. This week in 1997 was a travesty. Jon Bon Jovi, Sarah Brightman, Brand New Heavies, Wet Wet Wet. All this chart proves is that 1997 was a verruca on the foot of the 1990s - and even then it's not a foot, it's just some weeping stump on the diseased leg of the 20th century.

No wait. I've found something.

87. The Saint by Orbital. Not their most remembered track, but with 11 weeks in the chart and a high point of number 3, it remains their best charting single. Kept off the top spot in April 1997 by I Believe I Can Fly and Song 2.

Yay! Told you 1997 was good.


Jun 21, 2017

Bag it up: the #mcrwithlove compilation is out now

Manchester With Love is a 226-track compilation of Manchester music to raise funds following the Manchester attack.

The album is a tenner and you can get it from Bandcamp and Boomkat. That's less than 5 pence per track - less than you'd pay for a carrier bag.

If you think each track is worth more than a carrier bag, say a bag-for-life with flowers on, or one of those hessian totes that look really scratchy, you have the option to pay more.

It's worth it - all funds go to the 'I Love Manchester' fund by the Red Cross.

Here are some names on the album: 808 State, A Certain Ratio, The Buzzcocks, Caro C, Denis Jones, Fingathing, From The Kites Of San Quentin, Honeyfeet, Illum Sphere, Matthew Whitaker, Mind On Fire, Nabb Gang, Neko Neko, Swing Ting, The Whip.

That's 14 carrier bags right there. That's a proper big shop. Have a listen to some highlights here - and give money too.

Jun 19, 2017

Brian Cant's guest appearance with techno legends Orbital

I'm sure many older readers of those blog will be saddened by the death of Brian Cant. His presence on children's television was once as ubiquitous as Roland Rat, Mr Tumble and that weird vacuum cleaner thing in the Teletubbies.

What you might not know is that Cant once appeared in an Orbital video. In the promo for the 2001 track Waving Not Drowning, he directs a disastrous version of his own Play School programme.

This was not Orbital's best period, and the DVD containing the cut - The Altogether - felt more like a series of curious offcuts than a full package. Hence the second clip below with Cant skitting like a silly sausage, which I seem to remember being a hidden extra.

It's nice to know everyone's favourite children's telly star had a connection to the techno legends. After all, it's kid's TV references that helped kickstart the careers of the Prodigy (Charly) and Mark Pritchard (Roobarb and Custard).

Jun 17, 2017

'Tis the (Off) Season for Joy Orbison

Joy Orbison's Off Season takes me back to sweaty jungle clubs, the bass shuddering the walls, the air thick with smoke, everyone with an octopus hanging from their pocket.

What? The clubs you went to didn't have free octopuses for every attendee? No, YOU'RE weird.

Along with the disturbingly-titled Toss Portal, Joy Orbison is spending 2017 releasing his first solo material for some years. Below, listen to his recent cut Off Season. Feel the tension, the paranoia. It's a proper roller, this one.

I suppose if I think about it, it WAS a bit odd. You'd have to nip to the toilets every hour to sluice them with water. Made your pocket all wet.

If anything, this website is all about creating conversation based around universal experiences. Do leave a comment if you miss the days when bouncers wouldn't turn you away from discotheques if you had aquatic creatures dripping out of your trench coat.

Further Fats: Fat Roland goes to Crosby beach (2014)

Jun 15, 2017

Top 10 bestest Orbital tracks

You know about comfort eating, right? The baggy jumpers of the food world? Ice cream, pasta, pizza, nettles, that kind of thing?

This is like that, but with my favourite Orbital studio tracks. Here is a very imperfect top ten Orbital tracks.

I've generally stuck to main album content, so no Naked And The Dead, US remixes or soundtrack stuff. And you'll notice I've missed off Chime, Halcyon and Impact because they're probably best saved for a 'best live tracks' post. That said, the final track in this listing is a roof-raiser.

I also tried to lay off 1993's brown album - mostly - because if I was really following my heart, that would be the entire top ten.

This is in alphabetical order because this is like choosing my favourite child, and I don't want to tell little Timmy that he's the one sleeping in the coal shed tonight.

Here goes...

Belfast (1991)

The Box (1996)

Funny Break (One Is Enough) (2001)

The Girl With The Sun In Her Head (1996)

I Wish I Had Duck Feet (1994)

New France (2012)

One Perfect Sunrise (2004)

Remind (1993)

Style (1999)

Where Is It Going? (2012)

Jun 13, 2017

Chew on Talaboman's addictive Loser's Hymn

Posting just one track from The Night Land, the latest album from Talaboman, isn't too helpful. The album has a cumulative effect, a slow morphing into something quite addictive.

A bit like Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles. One pastille is satisfying enough, even if it's a blackcurrant one. But the true joy is the cumulative effect. A blackcurrant one followed by a lemon one followed by one with an uncertain flavour but you like the colour.

Suddenly, you've filled a dessert bowl with Fruit Pastilles. A salad bowl. A wheelie bin. There you are, face buried in a stinking wheelie bin of Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles as you declare, all muffled from sugared gelatin, "the cumulative effect, the cumulative effect."

So yeah, it's a bit like that. Talaboman are Barcelona’s John Talabot and Stockholm’s Axel Boman and their album came out in March. It's sublime. Go listen.

Jun 11, 2017

Joanne Pollock's breaking down pop music, Snares-style

Pop music in seven different time signatures. This seems to be the manifesto of Canadian singer Joanne Pollock. Also, she tweeted it.

Pollock first collaborated with twisted king of broken beats Venetian Snares back in 2013 under the name of Poemss. She has now released her debut solo album Stranger on Snares' label Timesig.

Have a listen to Carnival below. In this song, I can hear the experimentalism of Lamb, the sublimity of Grimes and the clanking awkwardness of found-sound Fluke. But mostly, I can hear Pollock setting out a pretty fascinating vision for electronic pop music.

Looking forward to this. Below Carnival, listen to the nicely simplistic Love Song from a few years ago.

Further Fats: They say you can't keep a good tune down. This is a lie. Tip a lorry-load of bricks onto it, that should do it (2006)

Further Fats: 5 pop music predictions for 2014 (2014)

Jun 9, 2017

Jesus be praised: Orbital's brand new 7" is a Kraftwerk cover

Orbital have a new single out, and blow me down with an electronic sausage, it's a Kraftwerk cover.

The Greetings From Düsseldorf seven-inch single is a special limited edition available from Electronic Sound, the magazine tyrants who shake me by my ankles every month until a column drops out.

One side is Orbital's version of Kraftwerk’s Numbers, which is like crossing the streams in a good way because the ectoplasm smells of techno. And the other side is Wie Die Wind Weht by Der Plan, an electronic trio reuniting after 25 years.

Grab the single along with the latest magazine by jumping on the Electronic Sound website now.

Incidentally, on page 30 of issue 30, you will find my latest column. I like to think of it as extended sleeve notes for the Orbital single. I mean, it's actually not. In the column, I rewrite the Bible. It's kind of epic in a quite disturbing way.

It's also worth getting the magazine because it looks and feels amazing. It really does. I'm going to have to stop writing this blog post so I can touch it.

Mmmmm. Techno.

Jun 7, 2017

A party political post on behalf of the Fat Roland party

I'm writing this on the eve of a UK general election that will probably return an increased Tory majority.

That's despite Theresa May promising to pour spiders into the nostrils of orphans and feeding ground puppy dogs to millionaires. Or something. I haven't been paying attention.

Not a single party has promised to pipe continuous Boards of Canada into every NHS hospital, and none of the manifestos have declared Ed Sheeran illegal.

A while back, I decided not to be political on social media. Twitter is the sound of a billion loose bolts rattling around an ageing tractor engine: I don't need to add to the noise.

Although I did have two separate Tories have a go at me on Twitter, unprompted, because I said something positive about my neighbour's mosque. Make of that what you will.

My first decree if I was prime minister? Compulsory acid house parties for everyone. All day. Every day. It would be relentless and awful, but in a good way.

Anyhoo, it's election day coming up, and soon none of the echo chambers and poll bubbles will matter. It's going to be spiders and nostrils all the way, I think. I hope I'm wrong.

Just remember this as you place your X in the box: at that precise moment, you're not only deciding the fate of the country, you're writing the name of Ed Sheeran's second album (artwork pictured above).

You monster.

Jun 5, 2017

Delia Derbyshire Day - even more original than the Atari

Get yourself to Band On The Wall this Saturday for an evening dedicated to the great knob-twiddler Delia Derbyshire.

Derbyshire would have been 80 years old this year. That means she pre-dates the Black Eyed Peas, Dappy and other modern musical legends. Ahem.

John Rylands Library has a whole bunch of Delia stuff in its archive, so for Delia Derbyshire Day there'll be new presentations of material offering glimpses into her working methods, She lived in a time before synthesisers were a thing. It's hard to believe, but she didn't even have Garageband. Not even Cubase for the Atari.

Delia used frequency generators and household objects like bottles, clocks and - most famously for the Tardis sound - piano strings. Which is why you should never climb inside a piano because you could end up in medieval times.

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop will be in attendance on Saturday, alongside artists responding to the archive. There's gubbins happening during the day, and tickets for the evening are only a tenner.

Picture: BBC

Jun 3, 2017

Listenable new video gunk from Warp Records

No explanation needed, really. These are all from the past couple of months, and each chosen because they'll ooze melody right down your lug-tunnels.

Jun 1, 2017

Fat Roland teams up with The Lowry - an announcement

I'm de-flipping-lighted to announce that I applied for a Week 53 #DevelopedWith commission at The Lowry - and won.

"But what the heck does that mean, Fats?" I hear you weep through snotted face.

Good question, reader. It means I get to work with The Lowry theatre in Salford to put on a show.

"What kind of show?" you sob-laugh amid shuddering wet bawls of resigned sadness.

Thanks for asking. The show will be a development - and then some - of the kind of music-related hot guff forced onto audiences at my first two Edinburgh free Fringe shows with Laughing Horse. So expect plenty of all-new Fat Roland weirdness, an actual real story narrative, and a whole world of cartoons when the show opens in May next year.

"What kind of cartoons?" you whisper weakly from the chasm of your own despair.

Stop asking questions now, it's getting annoying. Apparently there were 154 applicants, so I'm dead chuffed to get this. It was a lot of fun pitching to The Lowry. Check out previous #DevelopedWith people here.

Any questions?

May 30, 2017

Was John Noakes techno?

Here's John Noakes wrestling with a load of reel-to-reel tape recorders and a VCS 3, a synthy bit of kit beloved of prog rock bands.

What was the legendary Blue Peter presenter doing? Was he pumping out sick techno? Was he having it large with block rocking beats?

Was he, as I strongly suspect, putting a donk on it?

I think we should be told. I would google it, but I'm busy making a pair of y-fronts from sixteen Fairy liquid bottles, a tub of battery acid and two hundred yards of sticky backed plastic.

Spotted via @mulhollandrew on Twitter. 

May 28, 2017

Insert clever Bola pun here

Oh my pants, Bola's back.

Bola's debut album Soup came out around the same time as Boards Of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children, and I would spin from one to the other like some kind of techno mother trying to choose her favourite child.

Darrell 'Bola' Fitton also had a hand in Autechre's Incunabula and the Gescom project. About a decade ago, after releasing a properly decent fourth album called Kroungrine, Bola disappeared. Piff paff poof, in a burst of smoke, he vanished.

By the way, it took me about two years to realise his debut album was a pun. And it's taken me until now to realise his follow-up albums were also puns. Look:

> Soup (1998) - as in, Bola Soup = bowl o' soup;
> Fyuti (2001) - as in Fyuti Bola = footballer;
> Gnayse (2004) - as in Bola Gnayse = bolognaise - well done, you're catching on now;
> Kroungrine (2007) - as in Kroungrine Bola = crown green bowler;
> D.E.G. (2017) - as in Bola D.E.G. = boiled egg.

Yeah, it got a bit tenuous there.

On first hearing, there's plenty of chunky techno warmth on new album D.E.G.., with all the signature digital growls and spun-out ambience. The slow motion electro loops of Avantual are already nestled under my skin. Have a listen yourself on Boomkat. Or just hit play below to hear the first part of a triptych dominating the second half of the album.

I'm going to enjoy this one. A great Manchester musician making a welcome return. Eee, Bola.

Further Fats: My greatest idea once more crumbles to dust like a great big crumbly bit of dust (2010)

Further Fats: There goes the hear: Manchester has enough gigs (2011)

May 26, 2017

The 5 best electronic music tracks of the decade so far

Someone had posted on Facebook asking about the best tracks of this decade so far. I always find these things impossible to answer, like choosing my favourite chocolate bar or torture instrument.

However, I plumped for five tracks. I'll probably change my mind next week, so take this with a pinch of salt. (Any brand of salt - I haven't got a favourite.) In fact, for all of these you could choose numerous other tracks. Although Brazil really is quite something.

What you're about to hear or see is:

> Luke Abbott's glorious Brazil from his 2010 album Holkham Drones. Every part of this track oozes warmth and melancholy and a kind of purple glue for which I don't know the name.

> Moderat's Bad Kingdom, a desperately melancholic 2013 single with a video that's likely to cause all kinds of seizures in parts of your body that haven't even been discovered by science.

> Clark's Winter Linn, a robust slab of techno that feels like shoving your head up a synthesiser's bum then not being able to pull it out again, despite a blind text to Uncle Kenneth who not only has experience in this kind of thing but also has an extra large plunger.

> Jon Hopkins' Collider. That breath sound. Oh my. I've seen this live a couple of times and I did everything the woman does in the video. Gyrating, snogging, being possessed by a demon, the works.

> Scud, from the Hudson Mohawke album Lantern from a couple of year back. This one feels like a little pop song, all lo-fi yet pompous. Which is good because the names of my first two children are going to be Lo-Fi and Pompous.

May 24, 2017

The cowardly Arena attack won't stop Manchester buzzing

The Manchester Arena attack was a cowardly act in a brave city. A city forged from hard work and human rights and something to do with bees.

There's nothing meaningful I can say in the wake of this awful event. Except this: it's not just an assault on young pop fans - as with the Bataclan, it's an assault on all of us.

Dammit. That sounded so cheesy.

I can't help thinking of the 1996 bomb, and the defiant party that followed. Have a look at the flyer (from the Manchester District Music Archive). 808 State's Castlefield Arena gig six days after that bomb was reported by Mixmag here: "Dilated pupils abounded - the kids wanted quite simply to 'ave it!"

My pupils weren't dilated, but I "had it" so hard I woke up drunk in London with some record company person offering me cocaine. I refused. Long story. I'll tell you over a J2O sometime.

Anyhoo, back to the present day. My heart go out to those who lost loved ones this week, and the stories of help and heroics have been amazing to read. The vigil in Manchester last night was absolutely packed, and a rather beautiful moment of connection. Tony Walsh read a cracking poem and everyone just hung out together. Apart from a couple of grumpy Twitter people, I've come across nothing other than love and respect. And a whole lot of sadness, of course.

Point is, when Manchester is knocked down, it knows how to pick itself up and throw a big stonking gathering.

That seems trite: some of this will never heal. But this city is really good at community, whether that's ravers or vegans or goths or Muslims or hipsters or poets. Whatever label you want to wear, Manchester's just about the right size for you to find your niche. Everywhere I look, many of those communities are getting stronger.

Dammit. Cheesy again. I should have pushed the bee analogy. If I wedge a crappy bee pun into the title of this blog post, will that redeem these half-thought words? Hope so.

I flipping love you, Manchester.

May 22, 2017

Night Grows Pale: Flying Lotus has a new killer Queen track

Take a sweeping musical score, drain it of all its blood, throw in some weedy guitars and what have you got?

Queen. That's what you've got.

I've never had much time for the prancing operatic rockers Queen. Yeah, I had moments of liking them when Wayne's World and Shaun Of The Dead came out. I'm also quite taken with the Freddie Mercury doll action shots by Toyko tweeter @suekichiii.

And okay, yes, the new Flying Lotus track Night Grows Pale features a killer Queen sample from the 1974 single White Queen (As It Began). Despite my protestations in my previous blog post about Burial rejigging an old dance track, this rework is great. Nicely done, FlyLo (pictured above).

But those are the only Queen things I like. The bit in Wayne's World where they rock out in the car, the snooker cue assault in Shaun Of The Dead, that Twitter account, and the new Flying Lotus release.

And the sample in Utah Saints' What Can You Do For Me.

And the Under Pressure riff.

But that's it. That's all the Queen I like. Honest. Have a listen to the new short but sweet FlyLo below, and beneath that get a load of his Twin Peaks theme.

Further Fats: Tim & Daisy make Jay & Bob look like ****ing Bert & Ernie (2008)

Further Fats: Chosen Words: Q is for Queen (2010)

May 20, 2017

What's Burial's Subtemple EP all about, then?

If you weren't convinced we were living in bleak times, have a listen to the sinister new sound of Burial's new Subtemple EP (below).

Throw away all that is good. Bin your belongings, tear your clothing to shreds and sell your children, Down in the Subtemple, with two tracks of extended dark ambience, there is no hope.

Subtemple itself is seven minutes of vocal shards scattered across a beatless wasteland, micro mechanics clicking at us amid the static. Meanwhile the breathy synths of the ten-minute Beachfires slow things down even further as we succumb to a kind of slow-motion armageddon.

Burial's recent work could be seen as a bit patchy: his breakbeat remix of Goldie's Inner City Life for Record Store Day saved all the best stuff to the last couple of minutes, while his ravey white label Temple Sleeper was a direct lift of Solar Quest's 1994 acid gabba track Into The Machine.

When he removes the drums, he sounds much better. The distant rhythms of November's Young Death / Nightmarket EP were gloriously sparse, and were a brilliant precursor to Subtemple - no apparent audio relation to Temple Sleeper - which really does cast us out into the neverending vacuum of space.

A beatless Burial shouldn't work. The joy of Will Bevan's work is the glitchiness of his loops because of his refusal to quantize his drums (i.e. he won't use the audio equivalent of spellcheck). But this is a sound of an artist developing something new. No drums? No problem.

It's approaching a decade since Burial's last studio album. Can you imagine if he dropped a long-player of static-scrubbed minimalist ambience; a devastated Eno for a new generation?

We would all instantly die as everything good crumbled around us, but at least we'd die happy.

Further Fats: Elbow nudge ahead for Mercury Music Prize win - my cat is disappointed (2008)

Further Fats: Listen: Zomby and Burial's Sweetz (2016)

May 18, 2017

Story: Elizabeth Gaskell sits at a table

Later today I'm hosting a Manchester After Hours event with Bad Language at Elizabeth Gaskell's house.

This is a venue dedicated to the Manchester writer Gaskell, the author of Cranford, and her minister husband William.

If I get time, I'm going to read a story. As a sneak preview, and because I haven't got time to blog about anything else today, here is that story.

Elizabeth Gaskell sits at a table

Elizabeth Gaskell sits at a table. On the table is a piece of paper. Elizabeth Gaskell writes a word on the paper.

“William Gaskell,” says Elizabeth Gaskell. “William Gaskell, look what I done.”

William Gaskell walks across the room including across the rug that is on the floor of the room and he looks at the word that Elizabeth Gaskell wrote on the paper.


“You did done gone write a word,” says William Gaskell.

“I did done gone write a word,” says Elizabeth Gaskell, “And a good word what I done gone and writ good too.”

They both look at the word. They both look at the word for long time. Elizabeth Gaskell and William Gaskell stand next to the word and look at the word on the piece of paper on the table.

William Gaskell shakes Elizabeth Gaskell's hand and says “well done”.

“Thanks,” says Elizabeth Gaskell. “Thanks very much.”

“Will you write another one again now?” says William Gaskell.

“Another what?” says Elizabeth Gaskell.

“Another word,” says William Gaskell, pointing at the THE on the paper as if to demonstrate his point.

“Yes,” says Elizabeth Gaskell, “yes, I think I will but first I will go to sleep for a bit.”

“Good idea,” says William Gaskell, who also nods his head.

“I think the stairs in our home are that way,” says Elizabeth Gaskell, pointing out of the room.

“Yes, I think the stairs in our home are that way too,” says William Gaskell, “so you had better go that way to get to the stairs in our home to get some sleep for a bit.”

Elizabeth Gaskell crosses the room including the rug that is on the floor of the room, and goes to the bottom of the stairs.

Elizabeth Gaskell uses her feet to step up onto the first stair.

“William Gaskell,” says Elizabeth Gaskell. “William Gaskell, look what I done.”

“Coming, Elizabeth Gaskell,” says William Gaskell, who is looking at the THE in the room where the stairs aren’t.

May 16, 2017

Will you put a cross in Jeremy's, er, circle for #Grime4Corbyn?

Jeremy Corbyn is now a grime artist.

The #Grime4Corbyn campaign is a website offering tickets to a London gig if you register to vote. It's got plenty of glitch going on and even has Corbyn phat beats auto-streaming like it's back in the old days of web 1.0.

Of course what will actually happen is that the Tories will win a landslide and, with mandibles waving all over the place, eat all the country's orphans. Corbyn will quit politics and next be seen appearing as Tom in Channel 5's remake of the 1970s sitcom The Good Life.

But still, it's a nicely done initiative, so more please, Mr and Mrs Internets.

As I write this, an election van is loud-hailing it past my window. It sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher. Or it might just be the scrap metal man. I'm not going to vote for a piece of metal: I'm not stupid.

To misquote Wiley, Jeremy Corbyn is a ninja turtle, you can't step into his circle, and in a soundclash, he will hurt you. So, y'know, whatever colour of turtle you prefer, put an X in the box on polling day.

Boy Better Know photo by Ashley Verse.

May 14, 2017

Jlin's Black Origami: drums and drums and more drums

Have you ever crawled inside a drum? Actually stripped down to your undercrunkies, split the skin of a snare and climbed inside?

I have. It's flipping amazing.

Oh no wait, I'm not inside a drum. I'm just listening to Jlin's second album Black Origami. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? I thank you.

She takes the basis of footwork, that stuttering dancing music so in fashion a few years ago, and maps that into something quite new. Her percussive world is so overwhelming that it's easy to go a long time before you realise you've not heard a chord for twenty minutes. Or a synth line. Just drums and drums and vocal snippets and more drums.

Have a listen to Nandi, three and a half minutes of machine-drilled opera,

Further Fats: Chosen Words - B Is For Boss Drum (2010)