Apr 28, 2016

Big beat's gonna work it out, maybe, perhaps not

From grunge to g-funk, from trip hop to Brit pop, there’s one thing you can be sure of about the 1990s: the one forgotten genre might be big beat.

Everyone knows the artists. The Chemical (Dust) Brothers blasted the roof off the place with Brother’s Gonna Work It Out, Fatboy Slim had a party in his head with Gangster Trippin and even if people don’t know the band name, they may well recognise Bentley Rhythm Ace (pictured).

But as a name, I reckon there’ll be a lot of younger people who don’t know “big beat”. The label kinda got swallowed up by the cool Britannia thing. Or perhaps it shed its identity when it went massively mainstream: see the Prodigy’s Firestarter or The Propellorheads’ History Repeating.

Maybe it just became known as video game music. Maybe, as Acid Ted suggests, it just got a bit embarrassing.

Not that labels matter that much, but big beat acted as a useful curatorial guide when picking tracks in my early DJing days. For example, there was a great block rockin’ underground in the shape of Brassic Beats and Heavenly Social, with the likes of Req, Cut La Roc, Monkey Mafia and the Skint Records founder Midfield General.

There’s a longer piece in this, and I may well pen something for Electronic Sound. In the meantime, to test my theory, I’m going to be shaking teenagers by the shoulders until they name all the 1990s music styles.

Who knew “let go of me, Fats, you idiot” was a genre?

Apr 26, 2016

Listen: Andy Stott's New Romantic (which doesn't have Too Many Voices (see what I did there))

Ah, the desolate sound of drizzly Manchester.

Shut up, it's quite nice here.

Anyhoo, here's a local artist by the name of Andy Stott, who you may remember from having the best electronic album of 2012. His latest long-player on Manchester's Modern Love is Too Many Voices, and here's a distorted slice of beatery cut called New Romantic - with exactly the right number of voices. Have a listen.

I'm going to stop writing #choon at the end of these short pieces because it looks a bit nobbish. Just click on the "choon" tag below or the big green box at the top of the page. IF YOU CAN SEE IT THROUGH ALL THE DRIZZLE.

Apr 24, 2016

Someone get Lone on the phone

When Lone released a phone number for you to call in order to hear his new single, it reminded me of the halcyon days of rave when the phone network was the best way to find out which sound system was dropping which repetitive beats in which remote woods.

Now you can listen to that single without picking up a phone. Listen to Back Tail Was Heavy here - it's out on R&S. I love it: it's done little to dispel my opinion that Lone is an absolute king of modern music twiddling.

Although I won't be fully satisfied before I'm consuming all my new music via pager. Yeah, Pager. Get with the programme, Lone. #choon

Apr 22, 2016

Akira again: Bwana's Capsule’s Pride is already one of the best electronic releases of 2016

Akira was kinda the coolest thing when I was a teenager. Shut up, I was definitely a teenager. And here I am, aged seven hundred and ninety two, and someone has released a brilliant rendering of the 1988 movie's soundtrack.

Bwana's Capsule’s Pride is already one of my favourite releases of 2016. Check the fancy-pants website by LuckyMe or, even better, scroll down that site to download it free. Yep, free. Proper labour of love, this one.

Here's one of the tracks to add to my #choon playlist.

Apr 20, 2016

Listen: Moderat's Running

Moderat have just completed an impressive trilogy of albums. III is, as you'd guess, their third. I'm looking forward to diving in - Bad Kingdom from their last album is a constant earworm. From III, here's the the lovely Running. #choon

Apr 18, 2016

Listen: Samiyam's Animals Have Feelings

I'd forgotten about Samiyam, but he's back with an album of smoker's beats. The album's title track, Animals Have Feelings, is in the mould of a classic head-nodder, although some of the clips in the (compelling) video may have you shaking your head too. What is it with us and animals? #choon

Apr 16, 2016

A post about Orbital... thinking In Sides: The Box

Yesterday, the Orbital single The Box turned 20 years old. I know this because 6 Music tweeted about it.

Actually, it's because Paul out of Orbital tweeted that 6 Music had tweeted about it.

The Box was a single from Orbital's fourth album In Sides. The band had transformed themselves from club-storming Chimers into paranoid techno charmers via their third album Snivilisation. Think Brian Blessed turning into Jeff Goldblum.

In Sides was full of fear and joy of a technological utopia. But The Box was different. It was nestled between the snarling machines of PETROL and the sinister choir of Dwr Budr. The Box's use of harpsichord and brushy shares made it feel antique, as if it were carved from old wood.

Indeed, we heard the titular container creak open, Hammer-style (horror not MC). We're pretty sure we know who was inside - hey, look, it's the amazing pre-Oscars Tilda Swinton.

The best thing about The Box, was the epic 12", lasting over 20 minutes: a four-part odyssey that was ambitious, frightening and strangely moving.

What is the box? Who opened it? And why do I keep thinking of coffins?

Have a listen to the full, er, Box set below. Even better, track down the vinyl. With two decades of hindsight, and that creaking noise haunting me ever since, I wonder if this release was Orbital's finest early-period moment.

Apr 14, 2016

Listen: The Field's technotastic The Follower

You clever sausage, The Field. The Follower is his new album on Kompakt, and just listen to this title track. Simple. metronomic house music that sucks you into its dub techno vortex before you're caught forever in a breathy loop. Joyous, addictive, hypnotising. #choon

Apr 12, 2016

The precarious future of Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud

It looks like Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud is about to fall out of the top 100.

I don't even know how that Ed Sheeran song goes. I've probably heard it a million times, but it has just trickled out of my brain like very, very beige sand.

What I do know is that is has been in the UK top 100 singles chart continuously for 94 weeks. As you can see in this Official Charts tracker (below), it debuted at number 26, took over four months to get to number one, and then just would not go away.

But look at the current week, highlighted in pink (click pic for bigger). It's dropped to 100.

What happens when it drops out? Do the charts lose their strength, like Samson getting a buzz cut? Does someone somewhere stop playing bingo? What happens when we reach number 100 in our own lives; is Ed Sheeran a metaphor for human existence?

Ed (frightened eyes, pictured at the top of this devastating exposé) has one saving grace: a statistical anomaly. In this week's chart, Kanye West scored nine new entries. Nine. For now, the battle is between Sheeran fans constantly buying Thinking Out Loud on CD, and Kanye fans streaming his album tracks on the backs of buses.

Who will win? Leave a comment under this-- actually, don't bother.

Apr 10, 2016

Listen: a new Underworld track you may not have heard yet

Here's a new Underworld track that may surprise you. A Japanese edition of Underworld's Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future includes a bonus t-shirt - and this moody track. Here it is on Discogs. Listen to Twenty Three Blue above. I'm adding this to my new #choon list.

The new Underworld album's great, by the way. These guys are 36 years into their musical partnership: amazingly, they still have a lot of bass drum rattling about their heads. For that alone, I'm in awe. The album's middle section's a little soft for my liking, but If Rah gets constant play on the Fat Roland gramophonium.

I'm quite tempted by the collector's pack, full of Tomato goodness.

Apr 8, 2016

Listen: Ital Tek's Cobra

I'm going to start posting new choooons as and when I hear them. Quick and dirty, not much editing needed: I get to blog more, you get more new music. Sorted! One condition: I will only post things that properly excite me in some way - no filler. Here's Ital Tek's utterly poisonous Cobra. Love it. Taken from the Hollowed LP. #choon

Mar 19, 2016

Making history (geddit?) for Manchester Histories

Here I am under several shiny chandeliers and in front of a packed town hall at the Manchester Histories Community Awards.

The awards exist to recognise efforts to preserve and celebrate the city's history amid various creative and campaigner communities. I was chuffed to be asked to compere the awards: it's kind of like being a flight steward amid a turbulent running order, and I loved every moment of it.

I've got, er, history with Manchester Histories: in 2011, I performed what is still my bestest pieces, '1996 And All That'. And I ran a low-key but lovely event a couple of years ago called Ruined: Short Short Stories From Long Lost Places.

The shortlistees and winners were quite something. I fell in love with my home city all over again.
It was a delight to meet Julie Hesmondhalgh as she presented an award. And I'm glad I told the audience that the opulent room was my living room. I'm pretty sure they believed me. ("See those paintings? £9.99 from Ikea. They came as a set.")

Feb 28, 2016

New releases: Houndstooth, Bullion and Pantha Du Prince

Here are three forthcoming releases that may be worthy of your ears.

To mark their third birthday and slow transition into long trousers, the Houndstooth label (logo pictured) will release a compilation this week called Tessellations.

Houndstooth is partly run by Rob Booth of Electronic Explorations, who's kind of a don round these parts. The album should be good, and features loads of their artists including the compelling Call Super and the incredible junglist Special Request.

On the same day, Bullion plopped out his debut album Loop The Loop. This electronic popster was first mentioned on this blog seven years ago and it's nice to see him release a long-player.  It seems his influences include Can, Devo and Thomas Dolby.

Not to be left out, the ridiculously influential Pantha Du Prince has just announced his first album for six years. His previous one, Black Noise, was my fifth favourite album of 2010, and all of its haunting tinkles have stayed with me ever since.

Listen below.

And an old one from Pantha Du Prince:

Feb 18, 2016

Now that's what I call winning a CD

Last night, I won a copy of Now That's What I Call Music 37.

I'll give you a moment to process that amazing news.

I went to Rod Tame's Pop Tart, an autobiographical show about coming out and Jason Donovan that made me laugh and nearly cry. I really did enjoy it. But never mind all that. During a quiz segment of the show, I went and won the 37th volume of the most famous pop compilation in history.

And okay, it has I Believe I Can Fly by R Kelly alongside a triple stinking whammy of the Seahorses, Ocean Colour Scene and Cast. But it also has these tracks, each one of which is a choooon in its own way. Happy listening.

Jan 31, 2016

Staying in, going out, throwing punches, watching screens

I've had a good January. I don't often say this. I consider myself to have had a month off from doing things.

I wrote some stuff for Electronic Sound. If you want to read those words, it's worth subbing to them. If you want a visual representation if the kind of words I write for them, click through here. That amazingly dark image is broken down here by illustrator Steve Appleton.

While the nights are ugly and the clouds all leaky, I've been staying in more. Recharging my batteries. Still, I went to an enjoyable Speakeasy in Stretford, organised by my writing buddy Dave Hartley. And then there were the two spoken word nights I host: a memorable The Word in Didsbury and a gigglesome Bad Language in the city centre.

I enjoyed my writing critique group in which a bunch of us tear apart each others' stories then sulk for ages. Actually, we're quite adult about it all, and only sixteen punches were thrown at our latest meeting.

I went to the cinema more. Spielberg's Bridge of Spies was a sold historical drama, although I wish he would lay off the sentimentality. There was a great living room scene in which something surprising happened (no spoiler) and he demonstrated his ability to tell an incident as a story-in-microcosm with a series of expertly controlled camera angles; he's still a genius. I enjoyed The Revenant despite it being very much like this Simpson's scene. I'm not as smitten with it as other people, though - there were at least two Revenant moments that were way too Oscar-worthy to be taken seriously. Neither of these films were as good as Room, an extraordinary film about childhood resilience by one of my favourite directors. It takes a dark theme and makes it into something life-affirming and worthy of discussion weeks after you've seen it.

I'll post some more music-y things in February. Honest.