Jan 31, 2009

Monthly mop-up: cross-shaped houses, cross ambientalists, and not getting your wires crossed in the studio

I have scooped up this month's unused snippets of bloggery-pokery and baked them into one tasty pie of goodness, especially for you, my dear reader.  Think of this as my 'deleted scenes' extra for fatroland.com.

Before I get stuck in, absolutely my favouritest release this month was Lukid's Foma - more so than Squarepusher's Numbers Lucent.  A music producing chum described Numbers Lucent as "the sound of the inside of someones ass" if it had a bad Casio stuck inside it.  I think that was a compliment, but most of it sounded like the weaker noodly stuff that didn't qualify for his Just A Souvenir LP.

On to business...

Will HMV survive 2009?

Consider this quote from retail trend analyser Greg Hodge when he spoke to the BBC a few weeks ago:

"Is there room for a music store on the high street? The answer is probably no."

Things look grim, with the CD album under threat from the unbundling of albums on services like i-Tunes, the collapse of Zavvi because of a Woolworths-related supply disaster, and HMV-owning Waterstone's cutting jobs in their goods-in departments.  Will HMV survive 2009?  Yes.  They have reduced their losses and sales are actually up.  Is there room for a music store on the high street?  Yes, it's just that there will be less actual music in them, and lots more Wii.

Have you advice for recording in studios?

No, but Alan Parsons has.  My favourite bit is "don't suck the life out of a recording by overuse of limiting and compression."  You don't know how many times over-production annoys me, especially, oddly, in the Christian music industry.

Please make the fighting stop.

It did stop, but the headlines made for uncomfortable reading.  The prince of all that is ambient Brian Eno spent January being quite vocal about Gaza.  Go and read his Stealing Gaza piece at the angry Counter Punch site.  He has expressed his support for Palestine in various newspapers, including the NME.  Between him and Vince Cable, the Lib Dems seem to be kicking ass right now.

Where do Justice live?

In a big cross-shaped house, of course.  Well, not exactly, but some crazy French architects have built a house (abstract pictured above) in tribute to the duo. There's a wonderful quote from Kanye West:

"I want to live there so badly, but people would have to know that the house is a cross shape because of Justice, not because I was some sort of religious fanatic".
This from the guy who brought us Jesus Walks.

Recommend a band that's not strictly electronica.

I recommended the heavenly Here We Go Magic to the A New Band A Day website.  They liked what they heard and prompty posted it on their blog.  You should spend some time on A New Band A Day: there are many gems to be found.

In other internet news, you can get more random links and musical thoughts by following me on Twitter (see link in the sidebar of this site).  As I said to myself when choosing my sexuality, if it's good enough for Stephen Fry, it's good enough for me.

Jan 29, 2009

Scary girls frighten me more than blood-filled elevators

I can't stand adverts that splice together video bits to create a "cut 'n' paste" music track.  I can't stand the way I just typed "cut 'n' paste".  They should wire up keyboards so that depressing those letters in that order delivers a debilitating electric shock to the fingers.

I also can't stand little girls who are possessed by something dark and dangerous, especially the ones near the lifts in the Overlook Hotel.  However, I'm willing to make an exception for this cute-as-buttons Aphex Twin protégé because:

(a) They've bothered to write an actual track. Or at least half an actual track.

(b) It builds nicely into a tune I would probably buy if it was made from real synthesisers and that.

(c) Don't tell anyone, but I think evil girls are sweetly endearing in a Roald Dahl worm-eating kind of way.

On the subject of childish things, my friend wrote a book about finding your place in primary school.  You should probably buy it.

Telefon Tel Aviv's Charlie Cooper dies

Charlie Cooper, one half of Telefon Tel Aviv, has died.

This is absolutely awful news for the world of electronic music. I had rightly hyped their new album Immolate Yourself as potentially one of the best LPs of the year in my 2009 preview.  The sense of anticipation has only heightened the shock of Cooper's death for anonymous music fans like me.

Here is the statement in full, from his band mate Joshua Eustis, which celebrates Cooper's love of hip hop, wine and, wonderfully, shoes:
Hello, Everyone.

It breaks my heart to inform you all that Charlie Cooper, my better half in Telefon Tel Aviv, passed away on January 22nd.

We have been friends since high school, and began making records together a decade ago. We have been so fortunate to tour the world together, while at the same time having a massive amount of laughs at one another's expense.

Aside from Charlie's singular genius and musical gifts, I can tell you that he was a total sweetheart of a guy, and a loving friend and confidant to people everywhere. His musicianship was surpassed only by his greater gift to the world - his warmth, his generosity, his unquenchable humor, and his undying loyalty to those whom he loved. In the spirit of honorable mention, however, I should mention that he had a shoe collection that was marvelous, knowledge of hip-hop that was profound, and knowledge of wine that was subtle.

He is survived by a sister, a neice, a nephew, his mother, his stepfather, me, and more adoring friends than the Universe has dark matter. As such, his family and I ask for your discretion and consideration of our privacy during these extremely turbulent waters.

Yours in Music,

Joshua Eustis

Jan 27, 2009

The Designers Republic vs B12 Records: are the 1990s dead?

I was sad to see The Designers Republic close its doors last week.

Through work for many bands (Autechre, Aphex Twin, Pop Will Eat Itself, Pulp) and classic video games, they pretty much defined 1990s graphic design for me.

According to a piece in the Creative Review, founder Ian Anderson explained:

“We’d lost a couple of clients, didn’t win a couple of pitches, got a tax bill which should have been sorted out and wasn’t and a major client who didn’t pay the money they owed us – in themselves any of those things would have been fine but when they come all at once there’s not much you can do.”
So sad.  They made a Google image search look sexy.  Their record covers looked like the music, like a kind of creeping Talented Mr Ripley metamorphis.  Wipeout 2097 wouldn't have been the game it was without their abject coolness, and they utterly defined PopWill Eat Itself's image.

They're not wiped out for good (did you see what I did there?) as I'm sure something will rise from the paint fumes.  Speaking of paint fumes, the picture of Designers-style graffiti at the top of this post was taken by John Wardell.  No-one needs Banksy when you have this graf in the basement.

On a more positive vibe, B12 are keeping the 1990s well and truly alive by rereleasing their complete back catalogue in a seven volume Archives series.

Rewind to the early '90s for a moment.  Modern electronica came out of the dregs of rave culture, when a cluster of assorted dredded dancers and smiley pill-poppers wanted music for the head as much as for the body.

B12's Archives series tracks the invention of IDM and intelligent techno, and spans many important moments in post-rave electronica.  It includes tracks used in the Electro Soma and the Artificial Intelligence compilations, the former of which you can hear at the bottom of this post.

Absolute techno nirvana, in seven double-CD chunks.  Volume three is out this week, which largely contains tracks from '91 and '92 and contains four unreleased tracks.  The 1990s may be dead visually, but the beautiful noise lives on.

Jan 25, 2009

13 bird related facts about Merzbow's Masami Akita

In honour of Merzbow's 13 Japanese Birds project, in which the seminal Japanese noise experimentalist will release 13 records in 13 months inspired by Olivier Messiaen's birdsong music, here is a list of 13 bird-related facts you should definitely know about Merzbow mainman Masami Akita.

Bird fact one.  Masami Akita shares his surname with a prefecture of Japan in which three swans died from bird flu.

Bird fact two.  Akita founded Merzbow in 1979, just three years after the Atlas Of Breeding Birds In Britain And Ireland was published.

Bird fact three.  Some birds, such as the whip-poor-will, are good at camouflage. 'Camouflage' is the name of yet another album by Merzbow, out this month.  A special edition of this album is in the shape of a seabed and is limited to just 149 copies.

Bird fact four.  Akita is from Tokyo, which is in a place called Japan.  The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was founded in Didsbury, which is very much not seen as the 'Tokyo of Manchester'.

Bird fact five.  You can listen to Merzbow's Woodpecker No 2 on Last FM.  It pretty much sounds like a lot of his other stuff.

Bird fact six. Akita attended Tamagawa University, which has a Honeybee Science Research Center.  Honey bees are not birds.

Bird fact seven.  While in Akita's home country of Japan, TV-presenter and planet-killer Jeremy Clarkson tricked the country's speed cameras by shielding his face with a mask of ornithologist Bill Oddie.

Bird fact eight.  Merzbow is named after the work of Kurt Schwitters, who once made adverts for pen makers Pelikan.  (I wanted so much to type 'penguin makers' just then.)

Bird fact nine.  The bird with the most feathers is the Tundra Swan.  Max Tundra is an electronic musician, as is Merzbow.

Bird fact ten.  Masami Akita switched to using laptops some time in the 'noughties'. Chris Killen's debut novel The Bird Room was probably written on a laptop. Probably.

Bird fact eleven.  Akita is into bondage.  There is a bird called the red knot.  There may be a connection there, I'm not sure.

Bird fact twelve.  A cassette compilation called Massaconfvsa, featuring Merzbow's track Everywhere It's Machine (Grid Module 3), was released in 1988 on O Crow Records.  It seems to be the only thing O Crow has ever released.

Bird fact thirteen.  If you're baffled by Japanese noise music, read Paul Hegarty's Noise Music: A History, which has a whole chapter on Merzbow.  Birds do not read books, as a general rule of thumb.

Jan 23, 2009

Fingers, fists and big squelchy buttons: new singles from Amon Tobin, Syntheme and HudMo

If I stuck two fingers in your face, you'd quite rightly twaz me round the chops with your broomstick.

But if I stuck Two Fingers in your face-- note the capitalization-- you'd quite rightly hold me and squeeze me and call me George.*

That's because Two Fingers is a collaborimification between smoke-hazed Ninja Tune sample king Amon Tobin (pictured) and electronic artist Doubleclick.

The first digital single of that partnership hit like a freight train this week.  What You Know has been hailed as Blade Runner played out in Tottenham.  If the streets of London are strewn with paper unicorns after this post publishes, you know why.  The single fuses hip hop and drum 'n' bass, as a twitchy nod to the early DJ Food era of Ninja Tune Records.  Mercury nominee MC Sway grimes things up good and proper with an angry rant on racial stereotypes, and it's entertaining to see Tobin make room for the vocals by stepping back from the wall-of-sound big fistedness he's known for.

The Two Fingers chaps will drop an album, which I believe will be titled eponymously, closer to Easter. 

Also out this week is Syntheme's daringly titled 12" Syntheme Vol 2.  The key word here is "squelch".  She gets a Roland TB-303 Bass Line synthesiser and pummels it until it's squelchy.  She recreates a banging acid rave in a basement by pressing a big red button labelled 'squelch'.  She squelches like no other: a fine 12" from Planet Mu Recordings.

Hudson Mohawke's new EP Polyfolk Dance is out today(ish).  He's been banging out tracks for ten years, and since he's only 22, that makes me sick.  In fact, I'm already fed up with him, so I'm not going to tell you about him justifying all the hype, about how your ears will find him outrageously addictive, and about how he's working on The Best Album Of 2009 Maybe (which will be fawned over extensively on this site - stay tuned).

*one of my favourite Looney Tunes quotes, from 1961's Abominable Snow Rabbit.

Jan 21, 2009

Why Lukid's Foma is the first essential electronica album of 2009

Edit: This album is mentioned in my top ten electronica albums of 2009

January's most overlooked piece of plastic also happens to be more essential than oxygen, water and Alan Partridge repeats on the inexplicably-acronymed telly station G.O.L.D.

Lukid (pictured above) released his Foma album in the last few weeks to barely a whisper of applause.  It is an SBD.  Silent But Delightful.

It's a big slugful of hip hop sensibility, salted down to a mere shrivel of its former self, with slight rhythms and paper-thin synths belying a depth akin to the likes of Autechre.

Foma, the follow-up to his debut album Onandon a couple of years ago, sounds like a house of cards falling down.  Slowly.  It's a football match played by ghosts.  It's Flying Lotus smoking a massive doobie.  It sounds a little... woozy.

When the beats are more substantial, such as on tracks Veto and Sky Fly (but even then, they gasp and trip), it could become the engine of a new scene of baggy-beats driven by Dabrye and powered into the future by Hudson Mohawke.

But when it is sensual and dreamlike, glitchy and inviting, it sits firmly in the vein of classic IDM electronica.

For both those reasons, Lukid's Foma LP is the first essential electronica album of 2009.  Listen to it then buy it at Boomkat.

Hot off the press: Warp Records are giving away free, without obligation, sans engagement, uden forpligtelse, the track Illegal Dustbin from Squarepusher's new Numbers Lucent EP.  It's the fiercest and best track on the EP.  All you have to do is give them your email address.

Jan 20, 2009

Please spell Freeland versus Daft Punk. "OBAMA." You are correct

Just for one day, hide your cynical Private Eye brain in your sock drawer and celebrate a sparkling slice of political history.  In tribute to the USA's most listenable president since, er, well, George W Bush, here is coastal breaker Adam Freeland's reworking of Daft Punk's Aerodynamic, set to an energetic cut-and-paste video by a bucketful of sickeningly talented visual artists.

Oh and while I'm here, in the comments under my Stefan Betke's Pole piece, you'll spot a top tip from Go Flying Turtle's Steve.  Go to Last FM and download tracks from the Wasted Magic In The Sand compilation for free.  (See the 'free' button in the grey box, top right.) Recommended for fans of Proem, Lackluster and Boards Of Canada.

Jan 19, 2009

Lovely bleepy goodness from Mind On Fire

Manchester music collective Mind On Fire are stoking their flames of success by launching a brand spanking new web label.

The label (http://www.mindonfire.co.uk/) will burn a trail for the hottest Manchester artists (you do realise the fire synonyms are just going to get worse, don't you?) regardless of style, genre or dress sense.

And they're sparking it all off with three launch events later this week, the details of which are at the end of this post.

Mind On Fire have scorched a trail throughout Manchester, burning up dancefloors in places like Po Na Na, Music Box and Mint Lounge.  I actually started a fire once in Po Na Na, which seems prescient considering this blog post, but that's a different story.

They subscribe to the John Peel school of DJing, which says if something smoulders with goodness, the genre doesn't matter.  Hence the web label.  Set your ears alight with the excellent tracks on their MySpace page (and tremble in awe at their brazen use of the word "brap!").  There's some lovely bleepy goodness in them thar hills.

Here are the gigs:

- Thursday 22nd January at the Deaf Institute, Manchester city centre, from 8pm.  Making Faces, Go Lebanon, Neko Neko playing live, and The Natural Curriculum.  Plus visual gubbins, lovely art and free stuff.

- Friday 23rd January at the Ram 'n' Shackle, Fallowfield, 9pm - 2am.  Mind On Fire DJs, natch, plus Indigo and the cream of the crop from Indigo's label mates on Mindset Recordings.

- Saturday 24th January. It's off to Chorlton's The Nook, from 6pm, with the bluesy Denis Jones, and support from LA77 and Kane Testrack.

Jan 17, 2009

Alles Gute hat sein Ende, especially when chucked across the room

Stefan Betke's started his career as the influential techno experimentalist Pole when he dropped a piece of music equipment (pictured, suitably rearranged) and the resulting crackles it produced became alluring to him.

As Pole releases his new 12" Alles Gute/Alles Klar, two dubby tracks of scratchy Underworld in slow motion, I decided to have a go at becoming an influential techno experimentalist. I decided to create music through destruction.

I began my smashing in my television with the fridge (and not a cat as I nearly did on Mercury prize night). I wanted to throw the fridge at the TV, but it proved too bulky to carry - and suprisingly hot - so instead I hurled the telly at the fridge. Screen first.

The telly no longer made any noise, but now my fridge is emitting a threatening hum. I like it.

Shooting my sandwich maker with an air rifle proved to be a more tricky affair. I don't own an air rifle. Nor a sandwich maker. So I went into Argos, and flicked an elastic band at a picture of a sandwich maker.

This failed to produce any interesting noise.

I then re-tuned my DAB digital radio to Radio 2. This produced a frightening noise, which is too horrific-- no-- too chilling to describe here.

So I shall stick with Pole. The A-side Alles Gute is the better track. It's a gloopy groove where the spaces are filled with buzzes and sub-bass. Alles Klar, the one featured on his Round Black Ghosts dubstep compilation, is slower and moodier, cutting its own rhythm in a choking post-rock apocalypse.

Jan 15, 2009

Warp Records does not taste of desks, claim experts

Richard "n" Judy, Boddingtons and Warp Records all quit the north for the big bright lights of, er, somewhere down south.

Nobody watches Richard and Judy anymore.  Boddingtons now tastes of desks.  But it worked in Warp Records' favour, because by moving within spitting distance of Hampstead Heath, it brought them closer to the NEWS.

Yes, that's right.  The NEWS.  It may have escaped your attention-deficit, but legendary techno label Warp Records isn't all about music.  Toward the back end of last year, they released the whole back catalogue of the legendary radio programme On The Hour.  On two glorious deluxe CD packages.

For those unaware of this classic parody series, the audio-only YouTubeness I embedded above gives you a taste of Chris Morris' paeon to rolling news, before rolling news was invented.

There are more rich pickings at the On The Hour media/events interface here.

And another thing.  If you thought radio was too sedate for you, have a listen to the Prodigy filling in for Zane Lowe on Radio 1.  You should be able to still listen to the show if you're quick, although the link was naffed up when I tried.  It should be a big year for the Proj, as I mentioned in my review of 2009 electronica releases.

Jan 13, 2009

Squarepusher's psychedelic number - could it send him (robert) miles off course?

Edit: This post was taken down by Blogger for copyright infringement. I have re-posted it with the offending material removed. (It was a free mp3 - and a fairly average one to be honest.) If you had commented on the post, your comments are tragically lost in the ether forever.

On the way to a festival down south, Somerset maybe, some time in the mid 1990s. We hurtle down the motorway, passing the mammoth spliff around the car. Giggles. Banter. Sinking into our seats at 70 miles an hour.

And then, the question: "Are we nearly there yet?" More giggles. Someone splurts and rails against his seatbelt. Shaking with laughter.

The driver turns his head, heaving a full 180 degrees away from the windscreen. Plumes of smoke erupt from his mouth and he grins. Teeth from ear to ear.

The driver is stoned. We're 200 miles off course. We're heading for Scotland.

It took us hours to get back on course that day back in the 1990s. Do you know what I blame for our weed-infused diversion? Psychedelic trance.

We'd been pumping out some crazy psychedelia through the car's tinny speakers for the whole journey and, with help from the drugs, we had been transported to another dimension. Almost literally.

So I'm curious, therefore, to check out Squarepusher's Numbers Lucent EP, which hits shops in a few days.

The Square one (classic album artwork pictured above) is promising a diversion of his own, into "self styled explorations of dance floor psychedelia." His record company's words, not mine.

Psychedelia? This post was going to be a review, but I can't find anywhere to hear the blasted thing. So I googled 'dance floor psychedelia', but all I got were references to trance music. That sounds wrong: Squarepusher is to trance what Kiefer Sutherland is to darts.

So why is Squarepusher promising "psychedelia"? Will it be as unlistenable as this delightfully grumpy blogger promises? ("Bloody annoying noise I say.") Are we going to get classic 'pusher rave? Or is he going to sound like - gulp - Robert Miles, the pop trance artist who's as psychedelic as a bucket of wet hamsters?

The nation waits with bated wotsits.

Jan 11, 2009

The Lowry retail outlet: very much not the closest thing to crazy

I've had the dubious pleasure of spending more time than I ever want in Salford's incongruous Lowry Outlet Mall shopping centre.

Now, I'm not expecting them to play Venetian Snares' greatest hits, but I have a slight issue with their muzak playlist.

Here is a typical hour in the Lowry Outlet Mall. See what you think. Have they missed anything? Could this list be any better?

- Shapeshifters: Lola's Theme (pictured)

- Sade: No Ordinary Love

- Sixpence None The Richer: Kiss Me

- Katie Melua: The Closest Thing To Crazy

- an advert for the Cadbury shop ("have a refeshing cold schnapple")

- All Saints: I Know Where It's At (mixed bizarrely with The Platters' Only You, probably coming from another shop)

- Christina Aguilera: Beautiful

- Michelle McManus: All This Time

- Kylie Minogue: Spinning Around

- Robbie Williams: Misunderstood

- Zoë: Sunshine On A Rainy Day

- Elton John: Are You Ready For Love ("yes I am, OH yeh!" reminding me of all the extra vocal bits Smash Hits used to print on their lyrics pages)

- Chicane: Offshore

- Janet Jackson: Runaway

Jan 9, 2009

Future Sound Of London hog the limelight. I'll be in my bathroom.

The Future Sound Of London are a bunch of selfish bumholes.

By my reckoning, they've had seven album releases in the last 12 months. Seven. I don't think I achieved seven of anything in the past year.

I probably had more than seven poos, but that's about it.

Here's the evidence. They started with the Pulse EPs, an album-length rerelease of old things they did under different names before Coolio was in the charts.

Secondly, they continued the blowing-off-the-dust theme with From the Archives Vol. 4, which boasted more than a smattering of tracks from old LPs (ISDN, Dead Cities and Lifeforms).

Environments, their long-awaited album in July, was a shuffling of old material that did a pretty good impression of the classic KLF album Chill Out.

About the same time, Amorphous Androgynous released The Peppermint Tree And The Seeds Of Superconsciousness. What's that got to do with Future Sound Of London? They're the same band.

The fifth album of the year was Yage's world-music offering The Woodlands Of Old, featuring an ex-Propellerhead on drums. Yage is FSOL's engineer. Except Yage isn't, because Yage is actually the guys from FSOL pretending to be their engineer. Confused yet?

They followed this up with the fifth volume of From the Archives Vol.5, alongside a second volume of Environments. That's seven albums, people. They are the James Pattinson of the music world.

I think they are being selfish. Hogging a whole year like that.

They also released a recording of oscillators that reacted to the movement of clouds across the Sun. They are working on a musical remix of a film directed by an Oscar-winning animator. And their gig later this year, as I mentioned in my recent 2009 preview, opens up the possibility of them performing their first new live material for 12 years.

Despite all this, I still think the only guaranteed pleasure in life is having a poo. Think on, FSOL.

mpSunday: In the latest of a series where I give away free music (now not necessarily on a Sunday), get your teeth around this Wipeout 2097 classic. PING!  This mpSunday has now expired.

Jan 7, 2009

Ralf not Florian: Kraftwerk creator quits amid shameful blog wordplay

Before I shine the neon lights of my wisdom onto the whole Kraftwerk situation, let me first say thanks to all the new people that have shown a little computer love by reading my blog over the new year.

I enjoyed writing my 2009 preview posts, and it seems you enjoyed reading them. My blog is now read by more people than it ever has been, so you are part of an ever-pulsating crowd clammering for a bit of Fat Roland. Well, you can have me. Every last bit of me. (I am now sprawling on my chaise longue, swooning like a fop.)

Right then.  On to Kraftwerk.
Florian Schneider, the robotnik on the right in the piccie above, has exited the Kraftwerk autobahn by quitting the band.
According to my pocket calculator, he was in the band for 38 years.  To put that into perspective, teenager-snuggling metallics-botherer Bill Wyman was in the Rolling Stones for only 30 years.
Schneider co-founded the band that invented every other synth band ever.  He used to ram a flute through a ring modulator.  Sir David 'Christ The Saviour' Bowie named a song after him.  That was a metaphoric ram, by the way; Florian Schneider does not, and has never abused woodwind instruments.

But still, he has quit.  Sigh.  I hope his musique doesn't stop, and although he'll never be big on the radio, activity for this model music maker should hopefully continue.  I also expect his solo projects will be far less desperate than my attempts to shoe-horn in as many references to Kraftwerk track titles as I can into this post (eight altogether - um, can you spot them?!).
Florian is a delight to watch on this interview from a decade ago.  He starts off reticent and bemused, and it just gets worse...
Interviewer:  Are you preparing a new album?
Florian:  Yep.  [smiles]
Interviewer:  Do you like the new generation of techno music?
Florian:  Ya.  [doesn't smile]

Jan 5, 2009

A mallet-pawing, arm-throating, wrestle-bashing preview of 2009 (part two)

I'd better get my 2009 preview finished before this whole New Year lark becomes unfashionable.


Berlin adrenalin-techno kid (and former classical violinist, 'pparently) Tim Exile will plant his Listening Tree album.

The Future Sound Of London, whose artwork make gatefold vinyl a pleasure to ogle at, will play their first live date for over a decade at the Bloc weekender. It is unlikely to be as frenetic as Dan Deacon's live performanced.  Deacon counts a mallet among his percussion instruments, and has been taking to the stage with a synth-heavy 14-piece ensemble at recent gigs.  For that reason alone, seek out his new long-player Bromst.

Oh and former members of Plone and Broadcast have formed Seeland, who I reckon are a hot tip for 2009. When you clap ears on their debut album, you'll spot whispers of Stereolab and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

The rest of 2009.

One of Paul Simon's favourite bands, Grizzly Bear should give Warp Records a new album in May, or thereabouts.  Speaking of Mr Simon, I still haven't forgiven the garfunkled-one for Graceland.  And while we're at it, I'm still boycotting Sly Stallone films for the travesty that is his 1996 movie Daylight.

If I kept my CDs on shelves, with my favourite artists on the higher shelves, and my least favourite artists on the lower shelves, Plaid would have their very own shelf about fourteen miles above my house. They are putting the finishing touches to their album Scintilli, and it will be released on Warp some time in the middle of the year.

In August, Orbital will morph together for their first live performance since John Peel's Maida Vale sessions, this time at the Big Chill. As I said in this post back in November, they have promised it won't be "an exercise in nostalgia". Of course, we all know it will.

Portishead ended 2009 without a record contract, so expect some In Rainbows-style tomfoolery with their fourth album. It should be out around September.

On a more commercial tip, ex-Pop Idol contestant (spit!) and new darling of the press Little Boots will claim 2009 as her own. She's worth watching because she uses a Tenori-on, which is a pretty Japanese music making box that lights up. The same people who rave about 'Boots enthuse about La Roux.

Finally, you may need to strap me down because I am insanely excited about one particular artist.  The Glaswegian Hudson Mohawke refers to everything as "shite" on his Myspace page.  He's not being negative: he's just being, well, Scottish.

Mohawke is a new signing to Warp Records, and he flips between electronica, hip hop, electro and soul in ways that really shouldn't be possible.

Someone somewhere labelled his music as "emotronic" (probably H-Mo himself).  He's working on an album which should sound a little like this:

Jan 3, 2009

One of the worst days of my life

Before I unleash the second part of my 2009 preview, let me splash cold water over the proceedings and talk about the death of my pet.

A moment of bittersweet comedy happened on the day my 19-year-old cat Whiskey died.

Her death was peaceful and tender. At the vet's, I held her eye-to-eye as she entered her final moments. After she died, I left her at the surgery to go through the grim rigmorole of cremation. I walked into the cold street, swinging the empty cat box at my side. The box was a symbol of what I had lost.

As I left the vetinary surgery, with my whole world collapsed, I got in one of the numerous private hire cabs that offer their services to burdened animal owners. I eased into the back seat, and was bemused to see I had positioned the box with the front grill facing me. Force of habit. I was crying in little hiccups: I took a deep breath, and gasped out my street name.

The driver had one of those weather-worn friendly faces, with big brown eyes. He noticed the cat box and my teared face. He seemed to put two and two together. He fixed his gaze upon me through the mirror, staring right into my grief, deep into my own eyes. It was a moment of real connection, and in a thick accent, he said a few words: "I'm sorry, mate."

He was sorry for me. Truly sorry for me! He had reached out with a soft, empathetic understanding. I responded with a sob. I remember saying the only words I could think of in my sadness. "She... died."

The friendly face in the the mirror blurred as more tears fell down my face.

The taxi driver halted for a moment, then replied, "No. I'm sorry, mate. I've taken another call. You have to get out."

I have never misread a situation so much in my life. There had been no 'connection' at all. He was just being practical - I hadn't noticed him taking another job on the radio as I got into the car. And bless him, he looked so mortified once he realised how blackly comic the misunderstanding was.

My tears gave way to giggles. As I walked off, box in hand, I'm sure there was a little sprightliness in my step. Thank you, taxi man, for unwittingly giving me the chortles on one of the worst days of my life.

Jan 1, 2009

A throat-pawing, arm-wrestling, mallet-bashing preview of 2009 (part one)

The reverberating acid begins as a hum, the kind of hum that settles on your tummy, but it rises and rises with ferocity, up your chest, until a miffed guitar riff paws at your thoat.

And a robot voice announces: "WE ARE THE PRODIGY."

And so to 2009, and no prizes for guessing electronic music's most anticipated release of this year.

Three storming albums (Experience, Jilted Generation, Fat Of The Land). Then there was the Album-Five-Years-Ago-That-No-One-Really-Remembers-Coz-Everyone-Still-Blithers-On-About-Smack-My-Bitch-Up-Which-Is-12-Years-Old-Yes-I-Know-Get-Over-It. I don't think that was the exact title.

Anyhoo, watch out for the Prodigy's new LP, Invaders Must Die, in March.

Allow that, my sweet reader, to be an introduction to my preview of some other albums that will caress our earlobes in 2009.

My guide is in no way comprehensive, nor is it even accurate. I have probably missed a number of major titles, and quite frankly 99% of sales in '09 will be X-Factor related, so it's all an exercise in futility.


The remnants of Add N To X have teamed up with space rockers Fuxa for a looping joy of a single Add N To Fu(x)a. I hope it's a taste of more to come from this pair.

Following his well-received album Just A Souvenir, Squarepusher will release an EP of "dancefloor psychedelia" called Numbers Lucent. If the Square one isn't nominated for the next Mercury Music Prize, I'll eat my slipmats.

The shoe-collecting Telefon Tel Aviv will flop out their first full-length offering for five years. When Immolate Yourself hits, it could be one of the best discs of the year.


The Eft will waft its way from Samandtheplants, while Susumu Yokota - whose hypnotic The Boy And The Tree album was used liberally on Sunday's Top Gear Vietnam special - will explore a more vocal sound for his new Mother LP.

Not to be outdone by the Prodigy, Massive Attack will attempt a monumental return with the provisionally-titled Weather Underground. The double-album of "gothic soul" is pretty much shrouded in hushness, but it is rumoured by the rumour mill that Tom Waits will feature. That's even cooler than Hot Chip's single with Robert Wyatt a couple of months back.

If the Prodigy and Massive Attack had an arm wrestle, who would win? Please discuss.

Finally for February, there's Harmonic 313's When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence, but I've already covered this so I ought to hush my mouth.


In the second half of my preview, I will cover March, then skip the rest of the year really quickly as though I don't care. I do care, but you try getting accurate release information six months in advance.

I'll also reveal the artist I'm positively frothing at the mouth over for 2009. A clue? He's a genre-buster from Glasgow and he uses the word "shite" a lot.