Oct 26, 2014

Fnarp blang-grabble toop: what I learnt from drawing

Some time ago I went to a life drawing class. We sat in rows with our chosen tools, in my case an A3 sketchpad I had bought that day and the pencil I used to illustrate a 2012 short story collection. A succession of models in fancy dress glared at us: we drew Storm from X-Men, an evil-looking Darth Maul and someone from Blade Runner.

I didn't like it. It left me frustrated. I wanted to snap my pencil. I didn't snap my pencil. If you snap pencils, it releases lead into the atmosphere and a dolphin dies. I read that somewhere.

The models were great, the night was friendly and fun, the costumes and make-up were brilliant, and the company I kept was great. I drew lots and, for a while, I enjoyed the challenge of squinting at the shapes before me and trying to spew that onto paper.

Yet I learnt a few things:


I'd rather live inside my head. Things outside my eyes are boring. I need to mix things up into a beautiful field of horses or an elephant hick or a cheese goat Neil Buchanan mash-up or something so disgusting and weird it's probably NSFW.


I won't sit still. I won't draw in a structured environment. I won't follow your recommendations to the letter. Don't give me an exam: I'd break it. I don't only think outside the box: I've opened a dictionary, crossed out "box" and written "fnarp" instead.


Well. I wear clothes: I'm not a naturist. But I wanted actual life drawing not fancy dress. Models with skin and that. Nuddies. The sags and contours of skin are more interesting than leather jackets and capes. If you're not reading this naked right now, I'll be furious. Actually, I can see your reflection from my computer screen. My eyes. MY EYES.


Despite this blog post using conventions of grammar on a template of a major blog publishing platform using equipment owned by multi-national corporations, I, like, totes don't do boundaries yeah?! Smash the system, yeah?! Fnarp blang-grabble toop p'dinb-dinb wam. That's not even a sentence. I'm out of control.


My dislike of following a crowd. My disrespect of popular conventions. My urge to always find the new. I feel restless.

Maybe this is why I got into electronic music. I'll spend the afternoon trawling Bleep, loafing around Resident Advisor or spinning through Soundcloud for something new: Objekt or The Bug or Butch.

Meanwhile everyone else is into fancy dress and normcore and real things and Ed Sheeran and Sunday lunch and saying how-do-you-do and wearing ties and television and breathing and jeezeverythingissoBORING.

Anyway. I kept my drawings. They were okay.

Oct 19, 2014

Sometimes people get lost

Sometimes people get lost. Christopher Columbus set off to find India and ended up playing for the West Indies cricket team or something. Sometimes I load up kitten fights on YouTube and end up watching body building videos. Like I say, sometimes people get lost.

Therefore, I produced these graphics for anyone who feels lost. You kind of have to be on Twitter to make them true because they say things like "you are on Twitter".

I hope someone will find them useful.

Oct 16, 2014

The Black Dog / Balil's 3/4 Heart

"If you remember the 60s, you weren't there."
"Music was just better in the 80s."
"I so got bogus on alcopops at the Britpop disco last night."

Yeah, I hear your conversations, you wrinkled dinosaurs living in the past. It's pathetic. I listen to new music all the time, while you close your ears off because your ear wax is made of nostalgia and one day you will drown in it.

Haaaaving said that...

I love this old track from The Black Dog, performing here as Balil (below).

Their Bytes album expanded my world. In this one track, you can hear trip hop, Orbital's Snivilisation and LTJ Bukem's atmospherics. Except this was some time before any of that came out, assuming we're dating trip hop to a couple of years later in the 90s.

This is truly forward thinking futuristic futurism right here, and definitely not me wallowing in techno nostalgia.

(Incidentally, The Black Dog's Sound of Sheffield volume 3 is out this week, including the bass-heavy Fraction Slide.)

Oct 15, 2014

Stephen Fry's moustache

Stephen Fry's moustache. That's it, really. Just those three words.

It was probably an episode of QI in which someone joked about an internet site dedicated to Fry's facial hair. Maybe. Anyhoo, the idea stuck in my head. 

Because the internet needs this kind of thing.

Oct 14, 2014

Anxious Fats and the castle of happiness

Five billion years ago, I went on a school trip to France. I was very interested in going on a school trip to France. I'd learnt the word boulangerie and everything.

The trip was a nightmare. Some of my school "mates" were nobbists of the highest degree, and I spent the whole vacation feeling confused and overwhelmed. I still remember a supermarket cashier barking shapes at me while I nodded in a way I thought looked intelligent.

I still do the same nodding now.

Ever since, I've had an anxiety about not enjoying the moment. Such as dancing my mullet off in a club yet worrying about how many shirt buttons I should have unfastened, opting between one and two and three back to one like some kind of crap fabric traffic light.

It's happened again recently, only in a more general sense. I've been caught in a cycle of logistics and planning and stress. Even when chillaxing with my bluds (I think these are French words), my mind has been a dripping pipe of mental notes and worries.

Last weekend, that changed.

I attended a writing workshop run by Prole Books at the turret-tastic Bodelwydden Castle. I only went because I followed Prole on Twitter and, hey, it was in a castle.

I’m not really a workshop kind of guy, but the process loosened some pretty rusty bolts. I realise that clashes with my pipe metaphor, but shut up. Writer Sue Pace led the workshop without dictating, and allowed freedom to simply enjoy the process of writing.

The weekend forced me to stop, to take a step back. I threw some priorities up in the air and let them land in a different order. I've written a lot. I’ve even been facing some tiny demons this week that I have been avoiding for a long time.

I feel pretty.... boulangerie.


Also this week, I performed with Flashtag at Manchester Literature Festival in a kind of literary human centipede which was, according to reviews, comedic and hilarious. And as Bad Language I co-hosted a bunch of rising stars along with development agency The Writing Squad and author chappie Matt Haig. I had an immense time at the Festival and thanks to everyone for making it feel prop spesh and well good.

Sep 22, 2014

The Aphex Twins: a classic comeback album?

The Aphex Twins will release a new album today for the first time in 13 years.

Gone are the dance moves of the past. This is a more introspective, mature sound, designed to reflect the Aphex Twins' recent 65th birthday.

Last week, I went to a listening party where I hung around Piccadilly Records looking shifty while loudly declaring that the album "had a good beat".

Here are ten comeback albums that are significant. Of course, it includes The Aphex Twin's new album.

1. Guns 'n' Iron: Chinese Illusion II / Use Your Democracy
2. My Bloody Valentine: Gangnam Stylin'
3. Stone Roses: The Third Coming
4. Westlife: Sexploitation Soundtrack Classics
5. Bob Dylan: One Man And His Casio Pre-Sets
6. U2 - Never Mind The 90s, Here's Something To Use In Your Advert
7. Peter Andre: Music For Airheads
8. Guru Josh: 2010s, Time For My Pills
9. David Bowie: Songs For Ricky Gervais
10. The Aphex Twins: I'm Banging My Computer Keyboard Against This Granny Does It Look Like A Track Title Yet

Sep 4, 2014

Stream an actual new Aphex Twin track now

It's a jolly little ditty, and not entirely unlike my favouritest band Plaid. Add a few Totems Flare-style synth and vocal bits. It may underwhelm some looking for a Windowlicker, but I'm a happy sausage right now. And it beats the grainy live clips already on YouTube.

The new album can be pre-ordered from Bleep here.

Further Fats: The Gospel According To Aphex Twin (2010)

Aug 19, 2014

Aphex Twin's new album: the truth

Aphex Twin's new album will be a collection of ballads with Irish boyband megastars Westlife.

Mr Aphex announced his first studio album for 13 years by threatening London with a zeppelin and then a small ad in the back pages of Loot, otherwise known as the "dark web".

There was also a posting on his official Twitter account, which read: "nuAlbum with WstLfe, theyre the 1s with Ronan in, rite?!".

The reaction from the music industry to Aphex Twin's comeback was swift and overwhelming. [Note: insert a bunch of tweets here and pass them off as journalistic quote sourcing.] Also, Phats & Small were unavailable for comment. Skrillex did hold a press conference at which the only attendees were Chase & Status, Nile Rogers, a bloke from Disclosure and whoever's left out of Milli Vanilli.

The album will be available in gatefold vinyl which plays, greetings card style, Avril 14th when you open it up. The first 500 copies will come with a free "Squarepusher sucks" sticker.

Alongside a live tour with Kid 606 and Austin Mahone supporting, the album will be promoted with residency on The One Show.

A statement from Ronan Keating reads: "Seriously, it's because we're Irish, isn't it? They just dressed in black and sat on stools. We had dance routines and stuff. Westlife didn't even do curtains properly."

What will the new album be like? Will his window be caustic, lickable or polygon? Further thoughts will be in the next edition of Electronic Sound.

Bonus: a possible album preview has appeared on YouTube:

Aug 16, 2014

The Aphex Twin blimp is a Warp Records PR stunt, say Oval Space

(See a 2014 album update here.)

A blimp displaying Aphex Twin's logo has appeared above art centre Oval Space in London.

The airship shows the year 2014 with the zero containing his logo. Stencils are also appearing, including at New York's Radio City Music Hall, although it could be those have been there for a while.

One marketing man has already collared the bloke driving the blimp trick ("it's gonna be good"), while another tweeter reckons the blimp contains 2,014 unreleased Aphex albums. Or perhaps it's a load of, er, hot air.

I did a bit of digging around.

The publicity stunt follows a successful Caustic Window Kickstarter campaign that saw £67,000 raised to release a rare 1990s test pressing. The latest missive from the campaign - I'm one of the backers - just mentioned some housekeeping details about a DigiPack release and mentioned nothing of a Pink Floyd-style PR coup.

I rang Oval Space, who are hosting Aphex's label mate Rustie next month for the debut of Rustie's new album Attak. I asked them if the blimp was anything to do with them. They issued a quick denial and told me it was a marketing exercise by Warp Records.

Maybe he's just DJing at Oval's LDN Craft Beer Festival this weekend. Maybe this means all those unreleased albums are ready to go. Maybe - and most likely considering what Oval Space told me - it's to do with Warp's 25th anniversary celebrations.

Either way, I think we can conclude that Aphex Twin is launching an aerial assault on London and we should all run for our lives.

Aphex blimp photo: NME

Further Fats: Aphex Twin.

Aug 10, 2014

You see where I'm going with this, right?

Post suggestions in the comments. There must be a full Fat Roland's worth of complete record covers in this. Damn you, Portishead, for beginning with P.

Jul 31, 2014

10 Guardian pieces about whether the album is dead or not

I'm not sure what this means. Maybe think-pieces about the death of the album are dead. Maybe everything's dead.

Maybe I should record these articles as an album. And only sell it to dead people.

"The latest victim, and perhaps the most depressing when it comes to the slow but steady bludgeoning of creativity within the field, is the album."  (Harriet Walker, July 2014)


"While some musicians have been resistant to the decline of the album, others have begun to recognise and accept the changing tide." (Hannah Ellis-Petersen, July 2014)


"Is the album dead? Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Elton John hit by dramatic US sales slump." (Headline, Edward Helmore, November 2013)


"The internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left." (David Byrne, October 2013)


"Music has died now I've thrown away my CDs and only listen on my laptop." (Headline, Sophie Heawood, June 2013


"Music apps are the new albums. Or the new concert DVDs. Or..." (Guardian apps blog, November 2012.)


"It has been a decade since piracy and the arrival of iTunes – which destroyed the notion of an album in favour of single, downloadable tracks – but the music business has found nothing to repair lost CD sales." (Dan Sabbagh, October 2011)


"Record breaking: is the album format dead?" (Guardian music blog, August 2009)


"The death knell is sounding for the album, and the industry is quickening its demise by fighting innovation." (Natalie Hanman, July 2005)



"The working cycle of a band is still based around making albums and then touring them, and while artists are still grouping songs together for release, whatever the format... Whether you're listening on a smartphone or gramophone the "long player" is here to stay." (Guardian music blog, February 2013)

Further Fats: Every Guardian music 'crepuscular' reference since the start of 2010, probably (2013)

Jul 26, 2014

Five engrossing techno tracks

Here are five utterly engrossing techno tracks. Dive into them. Let them wash over you. Some of them have the texture of treacle or gloopy fairy tears, while others will feel like you're drowning in a pool of hot tar. But in a good way. Some of them just feel you're being humped by the YouTube Lossy Dog. Down boy.

Vatican Shadow's Cairo Is A Haunted City

Prurient's Through The Window

Morph's Morphine

Synkro & Indigo's Guidance

Pearson Sound's Untitled

Oh and an extra one for being so well behaved...
The Autechre remix of Surgeon's Whose Bad Hands Are These?

Further Fats: Oh to be torn up by wolves and fed, bit by bit, through an old lawnmower (2008)

Jul 12, 2014

Here is the latest pop chart, apparently

I've just checked the latest pop chart now that streaming counts towards its figures. I'm not sure I like it.

Here's the current top ten.

1 - The sound of you and your wheezing breath captured by your laptop's watching camera.

2 - A mysterious operative in a curtained room reading your Yahoo spam emails and chucking quietly. His name is Muriel.

3 - The flat tap-tap-tap of mouse clicks. When you look at the shadows, the clicks stop.

4 - Echoing through Westminster, the joyful slap of high-fives and glass clinks - then urgent shushing when someone approaches.

5 - The plastic rustle of the actual tarpaulin the government uses in its cover-ups.

6 - Julian Assange weeping his way through I Did It My Way then powering his way through six packs of Pringles.

7 - The wet, crusty bubbling of Eric Pickles' widening smile.

8 - The slow grind of history repeating itself and repeating itself and...

9 - The sound of the computer that auto-generates Calvin Harris hits. A mix between a jolly "ping" and the mournful wail of a dying planet.

10 - The brittle splintering of forced satire.

Further Fats: Oh, puppies, why do you live? (2006)

Jun 16, 2014

I'm splurging my wordballs at these following events

I did a poetry event the other night. I did it. I proper did it.

Evidently takes place in the bricked back room of Salford's Eagle Inn on a stage facing two balconies: the double-deckered audience gives the impression of intimacy in what is otherwise a cavernous chimney. A great venue with great beer.

Here are some other events I'm splurging my wordballs at:

> On June 18th, I host the launch of Anneliese Mackintosh's debut short story collection Any Other Mouth. Click here for the Facebook event. I'm reading the book at the moment. Its perfect mix of humour, depth and readability has left me giddy. It makes me want to be a better writer.

> On June 21st, I'm supporting Zach Roddis as he launches Selected Tweets in the Salford Zine Library. Zach Roddis is YOLO. Zach Roddis is not YOLO. He is neither buffalo nor augmented pony. This is going to be a weird one: here's the Facebook event. Click here if you want to give him money to produce more stuff.

> And on June 25th, it's the monthly literary feast that is Bad Language. Ooo. I've not done a Facebook event post for that yet. Sack this blogging lark, I'm off to Land O'Zuckerberg...

In other news, I'm generating story ideas. There are post-it notes on my living room wall. I have a thing in my head. An idea; a through-line. It feels quite fragile, like a web made by a frail spider with a bit of a detox wobble. But I have a thing: a series of connected stories that aren't very connected at all. Like Cloud Atlas. That kind of thing, only not as long and as frustrating.

I can't tell you what the thing is because that would cause a breeze in my mind and the web would crumble.

The thing feels quite precious in this state. I'll keep you updated.

Jun 11, 2014

Three things I've been listening to, and they all begin with P like pea, pineal gland and, er, Papa Roach

This is what I've been pouring into my ear tubes recently.


Slow-ass acid techno, performed live in New York, that's as sharp as a million pins piercing your brain. There's so much space in Pastikman's first album for a decade, a simple cymbal shudders plaster from the walls. The growling bassline of EXtrude will knock you off your feet. Every moment is played for a live experience, and although progress is, on the surface, glacial, the themes submerge and rise with a beautiful and hypnotic dynamism. And Richie Hawtin certainly offers us the best production I've heard in 2014. Run for the hills, Jon Hopkins!


IDM's most listenable, most melodic moment of the year, and certainly Plaid's "easiest" album. Nafovanny's moody loping is nothing less than a five minute pop song with a stadium-techno refrain, albeit with that ethereal chiming to make things sounds like a steel drum band on Venus. Like their older tracks Eyen and Get What You Gave, most of this feels simple and familiar. Throughout, there's Kraftwerkian melodies, home-listening melancholia and, on Matin Lunaire, a close approximation of Wonky-era Orbital. The most Plaidian Plaid to date.


And here's an album I started listening to a lot then gave up on. patten's complex and messy electronica sounds like Boards of Canada with broken legs. It has all the sounds of classic IDM, but it seems somehow distracted and entirely of the head rather than the heart. There's so much bustling on Key Embedded, while their most intriguing moment Drift kills itself with its own percussion. Still, I love the abstraction and the Autechre bit of me has an utter tentpole at the sound of it all.

Further Fats: Bleep Years day two: Plaid's Get What You Gave (2012)