Oct 26, 2016

News from the ambient room - listen to Square Lines and 36

It's rather nice dropping in on an online DJing session. You don't have all the stress of popping into a real club: the long bar queues, the accidental spillages, the sticky floors. I can create all of that at home.

I was earwigging the blissful ambience of A Strangely Isolated Place's Mixlr broadcast when music by Square Lines got its claws into me. Check our their track Shingaya Square above - it's from their debut EP Transmissions Overseas, released on Apollo Records (the ambient imprint of the legendary R&S Records).

Meanwhile, A Strangely Isolated Place have just plopped out ambient opus The Infinity Room by 36. Grab a listen here. It's continually morphing simplicity, caught in a blissful void somewhere between Global Communication and Vangelis, deserves a special spot under your skin. Listen to Room 3 below.

You see? Online is good. You didn't put your sleeve in a splashy spot on the bar, no-one got into a fight, and you didn't slip head-over-heals on a pool of beery vomit. But like I say, that can be arranged...

Oct 24, 2016

Hey Fat Roland podcast latest: booms, dogs, toilets

My Hey Fat Roland podcast is chugging on like a lorry weighted down with 31-minute wav files.

Episode six featured The Real Story's Kate Feld saying "boom", episode seven had comedian Jack Evans talking about dogs, and the newly released episode eight has my favourite use of the word "urinal" in the podcast so far.

All the links you need are on my podcast page - or you can just stream directly on that page. Nice, eh. Or just search for Hey Fat Roland in your chosen podcast app.

Oct 23, 2016

Watch the video for Oneohtrix Point Never's Animals

Val Kilmer sits on a bed. Val Kilmer sits on a bed. Val Kilmer sits on a bed. Everyone's like, hey Val Kilmer, why are you sitting on a bed.

And Val Kilmer's all like, shut up, I'm sitting on a bed.

Oneohtrix Point Never's Animals is a track from Garden Of Delete, the fourth best album of 2015. The new video, directed by filmmaker Rick Alverson, full of dramatic tension. And yet...

Future videos will include Gwyneth Paltrow on a couch. Or Tom Hanks on a sideboard. Viola Davis on a pouffe. You get the idea.

Oct 21, 2016

Listen to patten's Sonne while I hold this trifle

You know when you walk into another room but you leave a bit of information at the threshold? As if it tumbled from your brain without you noticing?

It happened to me the other day. "Why did I come into this room?" "Oh yeah I need get the trifle to feed the buffalo."

We've all done it. It seems I've done the same with patten's Sonne video. It came out months ago and I could have sworn I'd posted it.

But no, I probably got distracted. Maybe I'd started writing about it but then walked away from my computer to stop the buffalo eating all the trifle because some idiot, can't remember who, decided to give the buffalo all my trifle.

Anyway, it's finally posted. Watch this video for Sonne taken from patten's second album on Warp Records, Ψ. That's the Greek letter psi by the way. Not to be confused with the Psy that did Gangnam Style.

The harsh percussion matches the video's dramatic lighting, and brings to mind Autechre's Gantz Graf. Mesmerising use of colour too.

Must go. I've got an animal to feed, and this dessert's not going to eat itself.

Further Fats: Three things I've been listening to (including patten's ESTOILE NAIANT) (2014)

Further Fats: God sent Jesus Christ but the techno gods sent a single solitary extra black dot (about Autechre) (2008)

Oct 19, 2016

Fats goes to Herbal Tea Party - a Storify slideshow

Herbal Tea Party at the New Ardri in Hulme was Manchester’s first techno night. It has an incredible place in club history.

It ran throughout the mid-1990s and attracted what you could call the 'Megadog' crowd. Orbital used it as a warm-up for their legendary 1994 Glastonbury appearance.

There was also (deep breath) Andrew Weatherall, David Holmes, Carl Cox, Dave Clark, Justin Robertson, Richie Hawtin, Sven Vath, The Advent, Joey Beltram, System 7, Drum Club, Banco De Gaia, Spooky, Psychic Warrior of Gaia, and many more.

And then, just recently, it returned... this slideshow will tell you my story of the night (you might need to click or hover over each pic to see its caption).

Further Fats: A ticket to ride (a post about Herbal Tea Party from 2007)

Further Fats: see also my column in Issue 18 of Electronic Sound (January 2016)

Oct 16, 2016

Pruning words - and my full-time job

"It should speak to the enthusiast and the novice."

There are some great points about journalistic criticism on the International Anthony Burgess Foundation blog by Observer arts editor Sarah Donaldson.

Her parting of the waters between cultural and academic criticism chimes with something I have often noticed: that the art of academic essay-filling is the opposite to the skill of well-pruned popular journalism. The wordcounts often race in different directions.

Alongside information on shiny new things, readers want validation of their own opinions when reading a review of the arts. They also want to be entertained, and her article is a useful reminder, perhaps, that style is perhaps as important as the substance.

You can judge whether I get this right in my own reviews: issue 23 of Electronic Sound has just come out. This edition leads with the Stranger Things soundtrack, and the first line of my regular column contains the word "sperm".

I've got a good excuse for linking to Sarah Donaldson's blog post. From next month, I will be events and operations droog at the Burgess Foundation. It'll be a job doing what I love with a fantastic venue and archive.

My new job also allows me more time to build my writing career which, for the past 18 years, has had to squeeze into the crannies of a full-time position. No longer. I'll be working part-time at home scribbling utter nonsense all over my computer screen. 

It'll be a big change. A new start. I'll need to be organised. It's okay because I've upgraded my yellow post-it notes to multi-coloured ones. That's pretty much all you need to be organised.

All of which leads me to an inevitable plug for the competition Sarah Donaldson is judging. If you want to enter the Observer / Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism, the link is here.

Oct 14, 2016

Listen (and cry) to Ulrich Shnauss's Love Grows Out Of Thin Air

Crikes. Ulrich Schnauss is now a member of ancient electronic totums Tangerine Dream. I suspect that passed a lot of people by with the death of the group's founder Edgar Froese.

Next month, Schnauss will release his first solo studio album since joining the Dream.

No, that's not a good shortening of their name. The Tange. TanDr?

Anyway, it's called No Further Ahead Than Today and Thump just premiered a cut from that album called Love Grows Out Of Thin Air. You can watch it above.

I'll warn you now. The video is heartbreaking. Props to its director Sean James Garland. It's the life sequence from Up; it's the garbage incineration scene from Toy Story 3; it's the wacky banter between the M&Ms in the cinema adverts.

Wait. No, not that last one.

I've just penned a review of Schnauss's album for Electronic Sound magazine. Love Grows isn't the best track on the album, but it's pretty typical of its sweet euphoria.

Oct 13, 2016

Listen to Ital Tek's Beyond Sight: tingling up your spine nice and good

See this video here? Turn up your volume and play it full-screen. Play it on the biggest screen you can. Display it on the side of a building. Project it onto the moon.

Even with YouTube compression, it'll tingle up your spine nice and good.

Beyond Sight is the moment on Ital Tek's fifth album Hollowed - available to stream in full here - that the ambience gives away to Clarkesque dirty beats.

This is quite a departure for Alan Myson. The clues for his fatter, more free direction were always there - just listen to the fuzzy bassline of Babel on 2010's Midnight Colour album.

But put this against the clinical footwork of 2013's Hyper Real and you'll realise something quite new's happening here. I like it.

Further Fats: In a post about Merzbow, the first time I fell in love with an Ital Tek track (2008)

Oct 3, 2016

Listen to Tycho's Division: sepia post-rock

Tycho have always had an Instagram aesthetic in their designwork, all filters and vanishing points. I'm enjoying the new geometrical look with the latest album Epoch.

The album was a surprise release: unnanounced, as is the trend with the cool kids these days. It's Tycho's first album since Awake a couple of years ago.

It's all rather easy on the ears: a sepia post-rock or lens-flared Boards of Canada. Nice enough though. Have a listen Division here.

Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2011: numbers 10 to 8 (2011)

Sep 30, 2016

A general update (Clocks by Coldplay) on various things

I've had a rather non-bloggy week due to a load of live events, although that doesn't really matter because I've got Clocks by Coldplay stuck in my head.

Last week, I went to see Plaid & The Bee. In the parlance of old ravers, they kicked like a flipping mule. Best gig for ages. I just wish I could hear their music in my head now, but I've got Clocks by Coldplay on a loop.

I also co-hosted an hour of spoken word at the Royal Exchange. Always a good gig this. I went for a drink in one of the nearby chop houses afterwards, although I can't remember which one because my brain's being distracted by Clocks by Coldplay.

Bad Language on Wednesday was a doozer. We had Neil Campbell of Salt Publishing headlining. It was standing room only and the audience was one of those buzzy ones it's a real delight to compere. Such a shame the memory's being dampened by Clocks by Coldplay fizzing around my noggin.

And last night, we hosted a sold-out show at the Portico Library to celebrate ten years of the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. I was going to do a waffle about me never winning a major literary prize but instead winning the only chess game I've played as an adult. I forgot because someone was whistling Clocks by Coldplay.

Tomorrow, I'm performing at a charity gig in Chorlton (click for deets). Do come. Clocks by Coldplay. Clocks by Coldplay. Clocks by Coldplay. Clocks by Coldplay. Clocks by Coldplay. WHEN WILL IT STOP?

Sep 22, 2016

Thinking about winter

I like the summer. I'm a Leo. Not that star signs mean anything, but lions are good (tigers are better) and the sun is a Leo thing. I think: I had a mug once with all the symbols on. Anyway, I like the summer.

I also like the cold. Well. The cool. 17 degrees is my favourite temperature. I also love snow because it's pretty and covers all those ugly plants, trees and birds. If snow was made of sun, it would probably average out at 17 degrees. That's Celsius by the way, I'm not mad.

But what I really don't like is the dark. Not that I have that SAD thing, but my mood is definitely affected by all the good sun chemicals. Which is why the impending winter holds a bit of trepidation for me. And I positively detest Christmas, a festival which can cucoon families and hold up traditions in ways that aren't great for us outsider types.

However, I don't have to let the winter get to me. That's a CBT thing, right? Think about things differently. I need to make a promise as the seasons move away from happy sunny lion time. Here is that promise:

When I open my curtains to an autumnal trudgeful of murk, instead of thinking about the damp and the dark, I'm GOING TO PRETEND I'M INSIDE A BIG CAKE.

A big lovely cake. That's why it's dark. I'm inside a humongous cake. Simple!

One day I will burst out and sing happy birthday to someone, or perhaps a huge knife will tear the cake sky asunder, but for now I am inside a lovely, lovely cake.

I mean. I don't really like cake. It's pretentious, not like biscuits. And cake reminds me of weddings which, by and large, aren't really my thing. And tigers don't eat cake, which is a significant problem.

But. Yeah. The cake thing. Stupid cakes. No, this isn't going to work. Bah. If you have any tips on being happier in the winter, please write them on a postcard.

Sep 18, 2016

Listen: Jam City's Send (with added mixtape nomenclature crisis)

Jam City's new mixtape Trouble sits somewhere between glimmering pop and grimy bass music. It's doing weird things to my ears and I like it.

The London producer is offering Trouble free to download. You can swipe it from his site here. And have a listen to Send above, which is all emo pop and fat horns. Which incidentally are the first few words of my Grindr profile.

This has left me wondering. Can you really have a mixtape anymore? Isn't this a mini-album? An EP? Should you be able to play a mixtape on shuffle? What is a tape anyway? What is anything? Does music really exist? Am I perhaps overthinking this?

Sep 15, 2016

Hey Fat Roland podcast S01E05: The Truth About Rabbit Poo

Yes, I have a new episode of my podcast out. My favourite moments in this latest edition include me saying the word "trousers" very briefly and having no memory of why, the comment "can you tell I'm lying" which was funnier than I allowed credit for during the interview, the breathing method, and remembering the bemused alarm on Lee's face when I started doing accents.

Get Hey Fat Roland on iTunes here. And if you're non-iTunes, grab Hey Fat Roland here. Subscribe, rate or review. No, actually, do. I know people say that, but if you don't subscribe, rate or review then I won't know how good or bad this is. And believe me, it's one or the other...

Sep 13, 2016

A new old thing from Jon Hopkins: Cold Out There

Hey look, a new Jon Hopkins video! Actually, a new video by Dan Tombs to an old song on his reissued and remastered 2001 album Opalescent.

To give a bit of context, this was Hopkins' debut album. It wasn't until 2009's Insides when he became more widely known for the techno experimentalism thing. Cold Out There is still phenomenal though. It was even used in Sex And The City. What? Pardon? No really, it was used in Sex And The City.

Apparently that's Norfolk in the video. If you squint hard enough, you can see famous musicians from Norfolk such as Nathan Fake, Beth Orton and (if you count American Norfolks) Gene Vincent.

Incidentally, Dan Tombs does pleeeenty good bands. Here's a heavy slab of video mulch for Walls' classic track Burnt Sienna.

Sep 9, 2016

Listen: Phono Ghosts' Tsunami At White Hotel

Watch out for Blackpool's Phono Ghosts this year. They've done stuff on Skam Records as the electrotastic Meatbingo, but now they have an album out on their own Fonolith label.

Listen to Tsunami At White Hotel. It's pretty typical of their stuff: a cut 'n' paste of Parisian house, 80s pop and jumpy IDM drum programming that may sound distracting on first listen but builds into some pretty detailed and enthralling collage-tronica.

Yeah, I just made "collage-tronica" up. Anyhoo, their Solar Dream Reel album is out now.