Dec 6, 2016

Telefon Tel Aviv's debut album - you remember 2001, right?

Nice to see that Telefon Tel Aviv‘s debut album Fahrenheit Fair Enough has been rereleased. They're touring again despite the sad loss of Charles Tel Aviv.

They appeared in my best albums of 2009, However, this particular album dates to 2001, when we all loved nu metal, ring tones, Tony Blair, water features, Westlife, Chandler's sarcasm, leg warmers, Chopper bikes, gramophones, penny farthings, the Black Death, arrowing kings in the eye, discovering fire with twigs, the big bang, and the alien lizards that ruled everything before this universe was created.

Or was that 2002?

Anyways, welcome back, that old debut album. Get your ears around this pristine IDM.

Further Fats: Bleep Years day thirteen - Aphex Twin's Avril 14th(2012)

Further Fats: A new old thing from Jon Hopkins - Cold Out There (2016)

Dec 2, 2016

Flashback Fats: A hundred blinking goths

You know when you see an old photo of yourself and gasp at the horrendous mustard sweater you somehow once treasured?

A similar thing happens when I look at old blog posts. This blog has been going a long time - but I wish I could erase some old posts from history.

Actually, I could erase them. There's a button for that.

But it's more entertaining to rake over them in a new feature I call Flashback Fats. It might be some posts aren't so bad, but are still worth the bloggy equivalent of a DVD commentary. Let's start with my grand introduction to a damp squib...

Flashback Fats: A hundred blinking goths, Jabba goes J-Ho, and sodden notes drying on radiators (2008)

This May 2008 blog post was a way of talking about my biggest embarrassments without the pain of having to go into any detail. You can see the original, but I have included much of its text here in italics.
"There are many things I should have resisted. An invitation to Ara, Manchester's leading goth night. I arrive dressed in white. A hundred six-foot black and purple people, some of them dressed as crows, don sunglasses."
Indeed, my mate is still running that goth night. And yes, I did dress in white. Although I feel a natural connection with 'alternative' cultures, I'm not gothy. I might dress in black, but I'd happily live in a day-glo world in bright sunlight. If I was a vampire, I'd have been dust a long time ago.

I go on to mention a number of trivial disasters. The "record company showcase" where I spilled MC Tunes's pint did indeed feature All Saints a long time before they were packaged for final launch. And yes, I bought the Kooks album.
"What was I thinking? It makes me sick to even think of it. I gave the CD away in a tombola at my 33-and-a-third birthday bash."
That bash was nearly ten years ago. It was my 33 and a third birthday party, with all sorts of themes relating to thirds. We had a tombola with 33.33 prizes (the fractional prize being part of a chocolate bar).

"Getting my ears pierced in a strange attempt to cure a throbbing hangover." This was when I was trying to be trendy and Afflecks Palace-y. My traditional androgynophobic boss at the time nearly fired me.

"Sledging with £1,300 in my back pockets." Yep. Actually happened. A long line of £50 notes drying on radiators.
"There are many things I should have resisted. However, there is one thing I have resisted, but should have given in to quite some time ago. Yes. I am finally on Last FM."
And that's the point of that blog post. Didn't see that coming, did you. All those amazing anecdotes curtailed because I just wanted to tell people I was on Last FM.

What's next? Withholding the punchline of a joke until I've given you my MySpace URL? Dangling tasty sausages in your face as a lure to Snapchat? Bellydancing for Bebo?

I still have no idea why I bought that Kooks album.

Nov 30, 2016

Hey Fat Roland extra: Rubbish Outtakes

My podcast listeners have been camped outside Fats Towers waiting for a new episode for weeks. Igloo tents, marquees, bivouacs, the whole works.

I've been concentrating on having a new job instead. I will get back to Hey Fat Roland podcasting soon, honest. 

In the meantime, here is a modest selection of what modern people call "bloopers" but what I call "bits I scraped from the floor of the editing studio that my pet iguana missed when hoovering up because it lied on its CV about its ability to operate household machinery".

Nov 27, 2016

Don't be rattled: it's just drum 'n' bass

In a Salford pub yesterday, as I leant against a snoozing cat (pictured), I was reminiscing about the moment I discovered the full beauty of drum 'n' bass.

It was at Tribal Gathering in a tent dense with dry ice. It was like walking into a shisha pipe, only with a sillhouette of an MC rising out of the cloud. I'd got a load of vinyl, but it was the first time I'd seen "liquid beats" (ugh) in a live setting.

Here's a remix of LTJ Bukem's classic track Music. It's just a clip (full version here), but this is the kind of loveliness I walked into.

For those not used to this kind of drum 'n' bass, you need to get over the busy-ness of the beat. It is, after all, running at 175BPM which is enough to leave your rattled bones scattered over the dancefloor. Let the loop become one. And then lose yourself in the chords swirling around the centre.

Despite the likes of Rudimental hooking up with Ed Sheeran to bring a clunkier - yet still entertaining - form of this music to the Hozier generation, the genre has stayed pleasantly underground. Yeah, there was that Olive track a generation ago, and that woman totally addicted to bass. But really...

But the smoky, airy Bukem stuff remains fairly pure. And, when done well, absolutely one of the most liberating styles of music alongside acid house.

A particular favourite of mine was Big Bud. a regular on Progression Sessions and someone whose sound seemed to cut a little deeper. Listen to High Times below.

I like cats. I like drum 'n' bass. Maybe there's a corrolation between the weed-hazed jungle ambience and a domesticated jungle cat that sleeps 22 hours a day.

Maybe this, and exactly this, is what cats hear in their head all the time.

Further Fats: Bleep Years day nineteen - LTJ Bukem's Horizons (2012) 

Further Fats: The precarious future of Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud (2016)

Nov 18, 2016

What's happening with the not-so-current current album chart?

It's 2016. We have flying cars and chutes that feed us breakfast. Money is made of gas. We are so in the future, it's ridiculous.

Why then, dear reader, does the current album chart look like this?

Robbie Williams. Elvis. Bon Jovi. Michael Ball. Michael Buble. Michael flipping Buble.

They aren't even the most successful Michaels. They're eclipsed by Jackson and George. But it's not that which riles me.

It's 2016, not 1927. These five folks date back to the time we used pagers for social reasons. Back to the time dial-up internet meant you had to write to Readers Digest to request your ration of bytes. Back when we brushed our teeth with chimney sweep brushes. If you could afford teeth.

Alright, old fogeys probably sell better in the lead-up to Christmas. No record company's going to risk losing the next new thing in the swamp of seasonal sales. I bet the best-selling things in pound shops right now are carriage clocks, denture glue and snuff.

But there's definitely a domination of physical product here. Boil the chart down to just streams, and instead the top five is Drake, James Arthur, Justin Biebpipe, Ed Sheeran and Kanye. Much fresher blood. So what we're seeing in the current album chart are strong old-school Adele-style sales of supermarket CDs.

In short, streaming is dead, old people are alive, and Michael Buble is definitely not the most successful Michael in town.

I wish the chutes thing was true.

Further Fats: Here is the latest pop chart, apparently (2014)

Nov 15, 2016

Where's the Slam Tent? Here, actually

You when Limmy asks where the "slam tent" is? Like this?

Those south of Hadrian's Wall may not know that the Slam Tent is indeed a real thing at T In The Park. An actual tent. With, er, slamminess in. Here's a video announcing some of its techno delights earlier this year.

The curators of the Slam Tent are uber-chief-mega techno legends Slam, whose label Soma can partly be credited for the early success of Daft Punk. (They were the first people to put out Da Funk on 12", which was then picked up by the Chemical Brothers before Virgin Records swooped in and made it a hit single.)

Glasgow duo Slam are still going strong. Machine Cut Noise is their latest album and I'm pleased to say it hits like a boxer and stings like a butterfly with bees sellotaped on. My favourite track is Viginti Quinque, which is Latinate nod to the age of the Soma label. Here's an excerpt, a word which, incidentally, is from the Latin "to pluck":

Just beautiful. But you want longer stuff than that, don't you? Here's the unrelenting Psalm, a word which is co-incidentally from the Greek "to pluck".

Why am I talking linguistics? I blame Arrival.

Psalm is a little basic in melodic themes but pretty much sets you up for the album. In the Soundcloud comments, someone uses the phrase "fanny baws". Ah Glasgow.

Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2014 - Slam's Reverse Proceed (2014)

Nov 13, 2016

What's it going to be then, eh?

Where's my blog been at this past eight days?

Was it shoved into a drawer with all my socks and undies and false moustaches? Did it fall down the back of my sofa along with all the spare change, remote controls and baked beans?

If you must know, I've been making a few life changes. Instead of being a full-time bookseller, I now run events at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, a live venue and archive dedicated to the Manchester author of Clockwork Orange - and 32 other novels.

It's amazing, really. I'd been looking for an opportunity to cut down my hours, then this came along. A Manchester theme - tick. A booky theme - tick. Event wrangling - tick. Operations twaddling - tick. Part-time to allow for further creative gubbins - tick. And although my task is to look beyond Burgess's most famous book, it also helps that Clockwork Orange is my favourite novel.

I've thoroughly enjoyed my first week. It does mean that blogging and podcasting has been relegated to the back benches while I try and give my A-game at the start of a new job. Yeah, all my metaphors will be based on American sports from now on.

I should be able to rediscover a balance this next week. Blogging will be back on track. The podcast will rise again from its audio silence.

I really shouldn't spill baked beans down the back of my furniture.

Nov 5, 2016

Hot damn, Black America Again

Common's new single Black America Again is a doozer. The fat piano, those strings, the scratching, the James Brown sample, the hope that bursts through with a little help of a certain Stevie Wonder.

And of course, the lyrics. "Maria Sharapova making more than Serena." The nod to Viola Davis and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The lack of black people in science fiction ("maybe you need two, and then maybe then we'll believe you").

If you want more of this, or rather this with all its elements spread out over 20 minutes, check the sprawling 'remix' video that's just come out.

Crumbs, we're messed up aren't we. Why do people even question the need for black lives to matter a heck of a lot more. Why am even typing this paragraph in 2016? Sheesh. Everyone needs Black America Again.

It's also catchy and I'm caning that repeat button.

Incidentally, here's the MC Lyte dis track that I think inspired part of this track. That's her voice at the start of Black America Again's second verse.

Nov 2, 2016

#SaveFabric: listen to Throwing Snow's One For The Booth

Poor November. Stuck between the behemoths of Hallowe'en and Christmas. All it can do is fire rockets at the air in a desperate ploy for attention.

I suspect I'm going to spend most of the month listening to the #SaveFabric compilation, a 111-track album coming out this week to support the campaign against the closure of London's Fabric nightclub. That's right. 111 tracks.

So far, campaigners have gathered a petition with in excess of 150,000, and Fabric have received more than £300,000 in donations to bolster their legal fight. The mega compilation, featuring the likes of µ-Ziq, Skream, Mr C, Machinedrum and Coldcut, was the brainchild of Fabric Records and their in-house label Houndstooth.

Have a listen to Throwing Snow's dancefloor stomper One For The Booth, aka track 104, which sometimes sounds like fireworks being air-gunned from a pipe. Probably. Come on, I had to link back into the November theme somehow.

#SaveFabric is available for download on Thursday.

Oct 30, 2016

My first time performing in London was-- oh hold on, I just need to pop in here for Rizlas

I spent this weekend in London, hosting a four-hour spoken word stage for Bad Language at Mirrors Festival.

The main thing I've learned about Hackney is there are loads of newsagents. When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe, you had to walk miles to find a single newsagent.

Not here. Literally every shop is a newsagent. You want Softmints, a lighter and Take A Break Puzzler magazine? Come to Hackney.

By the way, the performers and audience last night were amazing. It was a privilege to make my London debut, and proper props to my Bad Language colleague Joe who shared hosting duties.

But back to the newsagents.

I've never seen so many newsagents. The tube station is a newsagent and the trains themselves are dressed up as Smarties with a price sticker on.

Even the people are mini-newsagents. Pick a random pedestrian in Hackney and they'll charge you £1 a week to pin on them an index card advertising cleaning services.

I exaggerate, of course. I saw a mobile phone accessories shop too. Which also sold tabloids, crisps, fizzy drinks, a slightly random selection of stationery, and curiously small £2 bags of chocolate raisins.

So yeah. London debut. It went well. Here's me in action with a pocket full of sherbet lemons.

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)