Apr 11, 2014

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


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.

Mar 30, 2014

British Summer Time is here: let's all listen to John Wizards



It's British Summer Time. Time to crack out the Wizards.

John Wizards is a glorious band from South Africa who have a style like no other. Muizenberg is from their debut eponymous album. Little fact: lead Wizard John Withers makes jingles. Try saying that six times fast.

This video is by cartoonist Sebastian Borckenhagen.

Mar 6, 2014

Ten Bleep years bleeping


I'm running from pillar to post at the moment, except the pillar's a shark-infested pool and the post is a really angry post that pokes me with a pointy stick.

So I'm just popping by to send you over to Bleep10, a celebration of 10 years of my favourite online music shop Bleep.com. They're putting on some celebratory live dates, but also releasing a Bleep10 album of exclusive and never-before-heard bleepy goodness.

The album has Autechre, Machinedrum, Lone, Mu-ziq and more. There's even a teaser video here.

In other decennial internet birthday news, this blog is also ten years old in 2014. You're getting none of my cake, you bleepy gits. I'm saving it for the sharks. NOT YOU, POST.

Feb 28, 2014

Electronic words


This month, I wrote a column for Issue 6 of Electronic Sound. I'm not going to duplicate it here, because I want you to download the magazine when it comes out. I can, however, give you some words from my (pre-subbed) article.

fingers;
rainbow;
robot;
gob;
Pong;
stagger;
drizzle;
pistons;
Bono;
wet;
dust;
toaster;
flummox.

Now have a Clark video. Happy end-of-February everyone!

Feb 26, 2014

I'm the new co-host of Bad Language


I can finally reveal that I will be the new co-host of Bad Language.

In a sensational move, two thirds of the existing Bad Language team are to move to London to become bricklayers or astronauts or something. They will continue to oversee Bad Language from a national level, which means I get to move in and help develop their long-running Manchester night.

I've already thought of some ideas to make it better. I hope you like them:

1. Lasso the moon and bring it to earth, like some beautiful, terrifying beacon;

2. All television versions of Miss Marple all talking at once all the time;

3. Funnels;

4. Lasso the moon and milk it, providing sweet, sweet lunar nectar for everyone. Mmmmm, bacon;

5. Moor the QE2 and/or similar size ship and/or a desert island inside Bad Language venue The Castle, fill the place with water, laugh like maniacs;

6. Change every attendee's surname by deed poll to Yeepman;

7. Lasso the moon then apologise profusely and insist we were aiming for Mimas and/or Titan. Offer to buy the moon a drink. Moon sexy time. Mmmmm, bacon;

8. Use only scripts from the sitcom May To December;

9. Infinite sadness, see also 8;

10. A cluster of elbows and/or packet of knees.

Joe Daly will co-host the next Bad Language with li'l old me. And a massively doffed hat to Daniel Carpenter and Nici West who built a fantastic reputation for the event during their time in Manchester. It's going to be fun working with them from their London lair.

Mmmmm, lair.

Feb 21, 2014

Special FX at the Royal Exchange


Tonight, I will take to a stage in the Royal Exchange to read alongside Abi Fernandez-Arias Hynes, Kieran King, David Hartley and Joe Daly for the theatre's regular early-evening entertainment slot. It's hosted by Bad Language.

Details here. It's a kind of a post-work start time, so do pop along.

Next week in the same slot, there will be a jazz quartet and the following week will be an hour of stand-up. All I can promise is a new short story about Come Dine With Me, which is neither jazz nor stand-up but maybe a tiny bit of both.

Keep up-to-date with all my peformances on my live page.

Feb 19, 2014

Clark's AMA on Reddit and George Clooney's pentatonic blues sequence


Clark, the electronic artist who's about to pop out a new single called Superscope, did a Reddit AMA yesterday.

A Reddit AMA is where forum lurkers can get to "Ask Me Anything" of a famous person. Hey, Cher, do you *actually* believe in life after love? Hey, the KLF, when's the reunion tour with Scooter supporting? Hey, Chad Kroeger, just... why? That kind of thing.

You can read Clark's answers to questions here

I quite liked:
 "Do your parents like your music?" "No."

"All of that modular gear will rapidly decline in value once the sea-level starts to rise."

"Extremely distracted/gormless Clark face,"

"George Clooney would be a gold edition Moog Voyager, with Ableton reverb over a major pentatonic blues sequence.
 He would, as well. Good ol' George.

Feb 17, 2014

My Harder Better Blog Writing Tour Faster Process Monday Fats


There's a blog tour going around like some kind of Swedish/Danish eco terrorist plague. You can see previous postings of this by Daniel Carpenter, who tagged me, Sarah Jasmon, David Hartley, Iain Moloney, Simon Sylvester, Kathleen Jones and many other writers.

The tour has been called various names, mostly My Writing Process, Blog Tour and Blog Tour Monday. I wanted my contribution to be part of my Harder Better Faster Fats series. So I shall call mine the somewhat catchy My Harder Better Blog Writing Tour Faster Process Monday Fats.

First, as in the rest of this series, let's start with a soundtrack:



WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
“The humans are busy today. They scurry.” Nuke (unpublished)
Everything and/or too much.

I’m the type of person who needs activity. Friends will know me to be a prolific finger-in-pie merchant, careening from studio to stage, from tweeting to designing to doodling.

The one thing I learned about myself in the hurricane of the last ten years is that I have a pathological terror of boredom. And so I create and create and create, sometimes to the detriment of my immediate environment and my health.

Therefore, 2014 will be a strange year. It will be a year in which I aim to take on new commitments; the kind of commitments which are as exciting as anything else I do but will also mean that other people will rely on me.

This means less careening; less cascading from one unrelated thing to another. If the year goes well, I will also have crammed under my belt the best part of short story collection of entirely new work.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?
“A worm tries to burrow into my face. All it finds is cold, irritated human skin, a football field of blotches.” Norway (Peirene Press, 2013)
Let me answer that as honestly as I can.

Unrelenting bullying in primary and secondary school led me to build two robust self-defence mechanisms: food and humour. The former I abuse, and the weight you see hanging off my bones can be considered a form of self-abuse. The latter I express through wit and performance to the delight, mostly, of friends and audiences.

Add to this a sharp sense of tragedy due to the sudden death in my teens of my brilliant and incredible mother, stir once, cover and simmer.

Many writers will baulk at the thought of being lumped into a ‘genre’ and I will do the same. But how does my writing differ? The comic-tragedy and darkness of what I do comes from a place that is real and raging within; when this doesn't come through in my work, I'm either not trying or I have failed.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
“The other day, she crushed a bauble until it burst into powder. The cuts on her palm were invisible and stung like hell.” And This Is My Mother (Merry Gentlemen, 2013)
I grew up on a diet of joke books and Edward Lear, of the Ying Tong Song and the Ning Nang Nong. I’ve also always loved novels and short stories, from literary to comic to horror, and my first memory of secondary school was getting an A+ for a short story about the London Underground.

I’ve never not thought of myself as a writer; indeed, my first proper job was on a newspaper, an experience that solidified some key elements about my approach to writing fiction:

- Life is absurd;
- Life is tragic;
- Stories are infinite;
- You can achieve a lot in very few words;
- Structure in writing is everything;
- I wish I didn't need deadlines, but I do.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
“You look old, he says instead of thinking. You look old and almost dead.” Hoops (unpublished)
I’m writing this at 4am having been awake since an early-evening snooze that left my body clock wilted and useless, Dali-like. So here I am, under my duvet, in my pants, listening to the rain on the window and wondering if I will ever sleep again. I wouldn't call this "process" but it has certainly given me the space to come up with a new short story idea about a fantastical cavity search. Result!

My writing process involves:

- notebooks;
- backs of envelopes;
- phone notes;
- my laptop;
- my home PC;
- early alarm calls;
- testing stuff out live;
- short walks;
- long walks;
- dreams;
- a constant fear of death;
- too many Bic biros for one man;
- and a dogged restlessness that some may find exhausting. Fingers in pies, fingers in pies.

It boils down to getting down the word-count, but being clear in my vision of what I want to say before my bum hits the seat.

IN SUMMARY

And with this fourth instalment, the Harder Better Faster Fats series comes to an end. Forgive me if I don't tag anyone to continue this particular branch of the blog tour.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned my two self-defence mechanisms. Both could be my downfall. My overeating is a considerable creative block and a continuing struggle, while on a lesser note, humour is an easy refuge from the apocryphal vein-opening gushing that 'truthful' writing is meant to require.

Back in my journalism days, Bjork said in an interview something along the lines of this: she destroys herself at the end of the day, then rebuilds herself all over again.

I love that as a coping mechanism for all the detritus that life splashes at us. Like the refrain of All Is Full Of Love, it's an idea that has circled and circled in glorious repetition over my life for many years.

Destroy, renew.

Destroy, renew.

Create, create, create.

(Pictured: Bjork)
(Fiction excerpts: me)

Feb 14, 2014

Sexy words: an infographic

I am putting this here for edumacational purposes. It's important to know the right sexy words to use when putting your sex ploopy near someone else's sex fandongle.

This is free to distribute and share as much as you want, but please wrap it in rubber first.



See also: Coolio

Feb 12, 2014

10 things I've been up to this past week


1.

Performed at the Contact Theatre alongside Myra Dubois (pictured) and a whole host of performers and contestants in Mother's Ruin's Who's Got The Max Factor. I didn't win but I got some good laughs.

2.

Chased a shoplifter down the street like Officer Dibble and/or something in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Well, actually, my bookseller colleague Dave and I walked down the street asking to look in his bag and then he pegged it.

3.

Properly got into this Cashmere Cat track (Wedding Bells is out this week on LuckyMe).


4.

Performed to a packed-out room at Write It: Mic It, in which Poleroid Theatre trawled themselves up from London to host a brilliantly entertaining evening of literary and dramatic performance,

5.

Have been nominated on this blog tour by Daniel Carpenter, which seems to be spidering over the internet like a very slow but determined spider and/or number of spiders exerting the same effort as one very slow but determined spider. I'll write my piece soon.

6.

Bought my first ever Lydia Davis book on the strength of one tweet. Who needs useless Amazon reviews, huh? I think I'm going to enjoy it.

7.

Looked at my laptop and thought: why am I too tired to write? And then thought about Lydia Davis. Then thought about all the ideas in my head. And looked at my laptop. And thought again about writing and not writing.



8.

Scribbled a bunch of critique notes on my writer chums' novels (pictured). Which is the main reason why I haven't blogged for a few days.

9.

Saw Stewart Lee do a gig in Salford. Actually, it was more than a week ago, but it's on this list because it's the best I've ever seen him. He took his ironic meta deconstruction schtick to a whole new level with a brilliant, precise and lengthy heckler put-down.

10.

Asked a guy in a theatre dressing room what kind of thing he did on stage, having no idea whether he was a dancer, comedian, poet, singer or fire-breathing Adrian Chiles impersonator. He replied with some gravitas: "contemporary". Theatre's brills, innit.

(Top picture by Mothers' Ruin.)

Feb 5, 2014

Harder Better Faster Fats: a promise of a worthless wordbasher


For me, blogging is about nuzzling the stains on my favourite sofa: it's comfortable, it's familiar and it smells vaguely of chicken madras. It's fair to say that the character I represent here is a mixture of the real me and some fictional extreme version of me that sweats Windowlene in a basement.

Before I carry on, get this beautiful piece of electronica down your eartubes. It's a Plaid choooon from a soundtrack from a few years ago.

(Read previous instalments of Harder Better Faster Fats here.)
NUKE.

I've always loved fiction. I love storytelling and strange worlds; the hopes and horrors conjured from authors' minds. I'd always written stories, but it wasn't until the ego-boost of the 2010 Manchester Blog Awards (during which I threatened to nuke one of my rivals) that I took my creative writing seriously.

My arrival on the fiction scene began quietly with a story about tooth fairies for 330 Words, published 11 days after the blog awards and featuring a photo taken at the ceremony.

I followed that with a modest call to arms called The Beatoff Generation: Our Future Books Shall Bleed From Your Shelves Like A Hardback Elixir Reddened From An Embarrassment Of Grammatical Riches.

ASS.

I've since done 40 gigs in one year, put out a couple of books, been in a thing with Nik Kershaw in, experimented with online narrative and hauled my fat ass around some of the most bearded joints of Manchester.

But like the track above, as time goes on, I'm calming down. I'm focussing. Or at least, that's the theory.

VOM.

It's my aim in 2014 to produce enough stories for a collection. So that means fewer performances - or at least, fewer open mic slots - and a stinking pile of first draft wordvom each month. I call that a promise. I might even write it down to make it realerer.

Publishers will suggest I write a novel. More routes in. But I'm going to focus on what I enjoy, not because I like faffing around and don't like success, but because I have to what I want to do. It's the one thing to which I'm driven, above my scuba diving, barbershop quartetting and time travelling.

ELBOWS.

I need this like Justin Biebpipe needs notoriety. Like Prince needs a lawsuit. Like, er, Liam from One Direction needs elbows. I am a worthless word-basher. This year, I will write more and I will read more. Nothing else matters.

There are some obstacles in my way, and they're related to my reason to write. These will be the subject of the next Harder Better Faster Fats.

Yeah. How'd you like them cliffhanger apples? This is literally more exciting than a pop star's bendy-arm-middle.

(Pictured: Plaid)

Feb 3, 2014

Two writers talk about pens, get reduced to Fractions

Hurray! Fractions is 10!

I mean, it's not like a proper birthday or anything. I've just made my 10th Fractions video. It's not worthy of cake, although now that I'm thinking about cake, I kind of want to lick your skin off like icing. Not in a weird way. In a cake way.

Fractions is a series of short videos featuring simply animated and soundtracked abstracts of stories and ideas. It can be as weird as hell, which is how I like it. I had been writing a story for the 10th video, but idiot-inspiration (idiotspiration?) struck me when listening to internet radio.

Manchester writers Anna Percy and Daniel Carpenter were banging on about literature on Fab Radio. I shoved a microphone at my computer speakers and, in my mind, dared them to say something silly. And then they started talking about pens.

Within two hours, I had edited their voices and written music for it. See this alongside the rest of the Fractions videos here. And give Fab Radio your time: they're lovely people.