Feb 24, 2010

Autechre's new album Oversteps gets a shock release

Although it wasn't due for another month, the digital version of Autechre's new album was released this week.

In an email to their mailing list yesterday evening, Warp Records' online record shop said: "As a surprise to all of the customers who pre-ordered the Autechre Oversteps CD or vinyl album, on Monday we dropped the digital versions of the album into their Bleep account a month earlier than expected."

Each of the 14 tracks comes with its own gorgeous artwork. You can buy it from the Bleep shop by clicking here. You can also stream the album in the player below. The CD will still come out in the week of March 22nd.

The album was supposedly leaked in late January when a set of tracks ran riot throughout the internet. It turned out to be an album by Altered:Carbon and was deliberately leaked by a friend of their record label.

The label Section 27 later told me: "[They] shared the file for one day and it went mental, if just a bit hilarious."

And it was hilarious, but it still left us without the new Autechre album. Then on February 8th, someone with a promo CD linked to the real thing in the comments on my blog post about the Autechre / Altered:Carbon leak.

And the rest is history. So many people ended up owning it, albeit in a lower quality rip, that it seems Warp Records have jumped early.

Happy listening. It's Autechre back to their bleepy best.

Feb 23, 2010

Gorgeous Pauls

There has been a lot of Paul hate on this blog recently, what with my Awful Pauls and my Boring Pauls. Time for some sweet Paul lovin'. Hey, Paul, where's it at?

Paul Hardcastle

The original keyboard wizard (yeah, sorry Adamski) and a man that not only gifted us the stuttering Vietnam classic 19, but he also provided something for Bruno Brooks to waffle over when he wrote The Wizard. My love for Paul Hardcastle is tempered by his tragic descent later in life into an addiction to smooth jazz. Oh and his manager Simon Fuller later gave us the Spice Girls and Pop Idol. Wait. Paul Hardcastle BAD not good. Screw you, Hardcastle, you n-n-n-n-tossbag.

Les Paul

It's easy to slap the sticky Guitar Inventor label onto this man, but he also gave us a bucketful of production techniques including overdubbing, phasing and an unstoppable flood of country and western music. One of his first guitar creations was called The Log, probably after a strenuous session in the toilet, and-- oh, who am I kidding, guitars suck. I want to him because he beat all the odds (being called Les) to become a legend (a famous Les), but I can't. I just can't.

Paul Hartnoll

He's the one out of Orbital who looked like a robot slightly less than the other one out of Orbital. He captured the anti-poll tax zeitgeist, he brought in a little mining chic by using headlamps, and he popularised the dance music album. Most importantly, he's in my favouritest band ever and has more talent in his left nostril hairs than I have in my entire body. And, yes, you've guessed it, for that very reason, I hate him. I want to stick his face into a blender, stick that blender into a crusher, then stick that crusher into Ann Widdecombe's gob.

Pauls Oakenfold and van Dyk

A double Paul on account of there being two in a similar field of dance music. Paul Oakenfold was once the producer-du-jour, smearing his particularly crunchy version of power trance over clubbers everywhere (and later reality TV droids). The trance music peddled by Paul van Dyk, meanwhile, made him into the biggest DJ in the world despite having a head shaped like a comma. Between them, these two men pumped their manly way into my affections as I sweated and gurned in darkened rooms while I-- (wait, this has gone way off course. Move on to the the next one. - ed)

Paul Potts

I watched this porn video once-- (that's enough. Sniiiip! - ed)

More Pauls

Well, I think that went well. I hope my effusion of love and peace for Pauls will drizzle throughout the blogosphere until it's all slightly damp and unusable. If you are called Paul, don't be discouraged. In fact, do. Chop your arms off so you can't make music, it's the least this world deserves.

See what you think of my Boring Pauls and my Awful Pauls too.

Feb 22, 2010

Boring Pauls

In my ongoing quest to uncover the musical Pauls (see my Awful Pauls and my Gorgeous Pauls), you don't have to scrape off too much froth to discover a steaming pile of terminal dullness. Here are the boring Pauls.

Paul Stanley

Stanley Eisen was so dull, he changed his name to Paul. He then joined Kiss. If you're not sure which one he was, he had a single black star over his eye which made him look like glam-era Elton John after a hefty punch in the face. Stanley was never rock and roll, despite the Kiss persona. He hardly ever missed a show, he's had a hip replacement or two, he talked more than he played on stage, and he perfomed a duet with Sarah Brightman of all people. Crazy, crazy nights, huh?

Paul Weller

Don't get me started on the Pantene-haired Britpop-leeching plodfather of mod, Paul Weller. How he can bottle something like the Jam and let it turn into runny, tasteless like the snoozesome Wild Wood MOR dross, I'll never know. I blame Weller entirely for Ocean Colour Scene and The Enemy, two bands that cancel out anything good he ever recorded. If he was a colour, he'd be brown. And not even a good brown.

Paul Anka

You may not have noticed, but Anka's back in fashion after jumping on the Glee and American Idol bandwagons. This is very bad news indeed. He represents everything I hate about the 1950s: slick hair, white teeth, Elvis warbling and uncontrolled use of rhyming couplets (Diana alone has rhymes as tedious as 'me / see', 'say / play' and 'lover / other'). For a man called Paul Anka, rhyming couplets is a dangerous game. Except it's not dangerous: it's just dull.

Peter Paul and Mary

This trio was drippier than a leaking tap on a drizzly Sunday. They gave rise, unashamedly, to the dubious notion that the 1960s were all about smoking pot and picking flowers. In fact, the Magic Dragon they sang about really was a crappy children's song about a dragon, while Leaving On A Jet Plane led to New Order being sued in a nasty bit of solicitor spitefulness. Drip, drip, drip, the 60s are dead and so is your childhood, get over it.

Paul Hewson

Paul Hewson, otherwise known as Bono Out Of U2, is a Pope-badgering, vocal-straining, swollen-eyed, God-complexing, post-unmodern, microphone-chewing, charity-mugging, tax-dodging philanthropist with a neat line in mid-life crisis trousers and an ability to keep shouting "EDGE!" in live shows like he's got some kind of Pizza Hut tourettes whilst simultaneously making every song sound like it was recorded for an advert for life insurance for the over 70s. He is now possibly the most boring musician on earth, and James Blunt isn't dead yet, so that's saying something.

More Pauls

Surely some Pauls are redeemable? This can't be all the Pauls? What about the good Pauls? Can you have a good Paul? Jump to the Gorgeous Pauls, or click here for some Awful Pauls.

Feb 21, 2010

Awful Pauls

I have discovered an important theme in modern music. If I should die, please pass this on. People need to know. (See Boring Pauls here and Gorgeous Pauls here.)

Paul Rodgers

Rodgers qualifies for this list because he was a member of one of the worst rock bands in the history of all planetary axe-weilding. He co-wrote All Right Now which got the spirit of raaawk into a headlock and squeezed all the breath out of it. The single ummed up the sanitised, by-numbers music that later led to similar fayre in the form of Lenny Kravitz and posthumous Bob Marley singles.

Sean Paul

The ever-blazin' dancehall megastar imprinted himself onto the public consciousness like he was branding cattle. It doesn't change the fact that his hits such as We Be Burnin' and Baby Boy were the audio equivalent of listening to Stephen Hawking plugged directly into a malfunctioning karaoke machine. He had such a messiah complex, he called his third album The Trinity and gibes biblical-level wisdom to his Twitter followers: "If it glitters it dosnt have 2 B gold!!! It can B a fish scale! Carefullllll of dem fish!!!"

Paul Young

I don't need to tell you that this silk suited soulboy achieved an amazing feat of perfoming self-strangulation to get that distinctive vocal inflection. To say his saccharine pop slop has made the world a better place is akin to suggesting UB40 have made it immensely easy for ginger white musicians to be taken seriously for their reggae songs. He is now a member of some Mexican-themed 80s revival band (pictured) who recorded the song Do We Really Want The Same Things? Yes, Paul, you do: you'll never change.

Paul Gadd

I am a massive believer in astrology. So for example, I am a very typical... er... um... no, I have no idea about astrology, although I do have all the signs and dates memorised for pub quiz purposes. I do believe that the number one single at the time of your birth has an important bearing on your life and its various successes. So I will never forgive Paul 'Gary Glitter' Gadd for declaring "I'm the leader" at the moment my placental juices flopped onto the hospital table of life.

Paul McCartney

This pouting thumbs-alofting wannabe frog chorister destroyed all known music in the 1960s when he played a key part in a band that had a nice line in production techniques, boasted an uber-talented bespectacled songwriter, gave the world a Thomas The Tank Engine narrator, and yet was continuously thwarted by McCartney's attempts to turn every single track of the greatest group of its time into a simplistic, bedtime song predecessor to his pièce de ridiculance Mull Of Bloody Kintyre.

Paul Simon

If only The Sounds Of Silence had been taken literally. I'm crying as I write this. He wasn't only satisfied with playing carbunkle to the Garfunkle with the drippiest pairing in the history of drips, he then released the audio equivalent of the Guardian newspaper in the smug cloud formation of Graceland, an album so plainly awful and worthy, Coca Cola's pillaging of the developing world can only be seen as some kind of misplaced revenge attack.

More Pauls

This is not over, Pauls. I have a massive list of Pauls. There are more Pauls, although be assured the Pauls will get better from this moment on. What about the Pauls that are neither here nor there? The Boring Pauls? And then, there's the Gorgeous Pauls...

Feb 17, 2010

Brits 2010: a prejudiced review from someone who doesn't give a damn

I don't need to tell you, dear reader, that the Brit Awards are the saggy scrotum of the music industry needlessly scratched once a year by panting, sweat-sodden record industry moguls.

Did you cry at the telly screen wondering what had happened to music? You missed the point: it has no relevance to music of any kind. That's a bit like looking at a cat going to the toilet and wondering which Shakespeare play is the funniest.

Last year, I ran a live tweet of the Brits. No such fun this year, I'm afraid, but close observers of this blog will already know what I think of this year's winners.

(Yes, this post is just an excuse to link to other bits of my blog, but there is some fun readings to be had if you get clicky. Here goes... )

Forced castration

Lady Gaga swept up the trophy cabinet in the 2010 Brit awards. I did once recommend that James Blunt become more like Lady Gaga with the help of forced castration using nose hair clippers. She's got a good turn in pop pap, but really, she's a load of old nonsense. I do detect, however, begrudging respect from when I live-blogged the Christmas Number One.

JLS inexplicably won a gong or two. There were literally a billion better singles these past 12 months, although their award-winning track Beat Again did give me something to rake over on this very blog last month ("I need love CPR," isn't the best advice, I mused.) JLS? Really?

Florence And The Machine scooped the best album prize for Lungs, which I don't mind too much despite me claiming last month that "The Source are probably rolling in their grave at her treatment of You Got The Love." In fact, I do mind. I do mind very much. If you own her album, you are crusty and merely six inches from death by old age.

And Kasabian didn't do too badly from the Brits either. Kasabian are a bit like that friend you knew from school who's turned into a bit of a knob but you're still friends and anyway he keeps poking you on Facebook. I like to think my Kasabian tip for the 2009 Mercury actually applied to the 2010 Brits instead.

Jizzle Zizzle

Jay Z has had 99 awards and now the 2010 Brits are one too. I want to slag off the Jizzle Zizzle, but I can't. I loved The Grey Album and I've thrown him at least a couple of bones on this blog before (defending him against Radio 4 in 2006 and the wonderful Jay Z bar chart in 2007). Jay, if you ever fancy writing a guest post on this blog, I'm willing to talk money.

I'm also quite a fan of Dizzee Rascal, the cheeky-faced hip hop Tigger who somehow straddles blantant commercialism and the urban underground without breaking a sweat. As far as this blog goes, I fell in love with Dizzeee Raaaaarskuw's name, I slagged off his Band Aid appearance, I compared Bonkers to Ace Of Bass, and I wanted to work with him because he sounded like Scooby Doo.

Where the Brits really lost their way, of course, was when they declared that (What's The Story) Morning Glory was the best album of the past 30 years. Morning Glory is not even in the top 200. Peter Kay's now infamous comment was right (google it) - I've said before that Liam Noel Gallagher's gob needs plugging.

Net of narkiness

And this is where my crass self-promoting linkage almost ends. Sadly for this blog, there are two winners who have warranted many a mention but somehow seem to have escaped my net of narkiness.

I'm amazed that Lily Bloody Allen has only had a couple of mentions on this website (once in an end-of-year review called Knobs, Cocks and Boils, and a quick namecheck in my Number One Album Chart Death Rant). I'd like to go officially on record to say that if clever lyrics were all that it needed, then people would have liked the Smiths. Oh... wait... I need to formulate a better argument, there.

And the Spice Girls, gawd bless their union-flagged PVC trousers, have never had even the slightest mention on Fat Roland On Electronica, until now. I can't think why.

So, there it is. Cry all you want, cringe to your heart's desire, but when you've already made up your mind about certain artists, as I most evidently have,  the Brits aren't worth the record company PR clause they're written in.

Next year: Flying Lotus sweeps the board at the Brits and I completely change my tone.

Feb 16, 2010

Massive Attack got soul but Ceephax got swing(ing lampshades)

Hey, look, there is some albums what just come out!

Ceephax Acid Crew

I'm swinging from the bloody lightshade.

United Acid Emirates, the new album from Ceephax Acid Crew, has got me prancing around my mansion like a brain damaged pixie. It's so lurid and colourful, like being stuck in an 8 bit Meg And Mog cartoon.

The drooling, looping trippiness of the acid, splattered all over this album, is a constant, giddy joy. The opener Cedric's Sonnet is a sharp, spikey melodic number reminiscent of his brother Squarepusher in Welcome To Europe mode. Castilian is dragged kicking and screaming by a full-on, bullying bass drum, while the dated click rhythm of Life Funk reminds me of Felix-era house music.

This is, however, not a stupid album. It's a serious step forward for Ceephax, where he demonstrates his various skills at chugging 80s techno anthems (Topaz) or off-kilter chord arrangements (Commuter). And all this with plenty of squelching acid moistness. Highly recommended.

Massive Attack

Are you bothered about a new Massive Attack album?  Of course you are: I can't believe you asked me that, you idiot.

Heligoland has finally, um, landed. It's a full seven years after the band's previous studio album ("If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing slowly," says their MySpace page) and nearly 20 years after their highly influential debut Blue Lines. And actually, it's that memory of Blue Lines that I can hear on Heligoland.

Yes, there are guest vocalists (which The Guardian had down as almost unique in the dance world, despite the Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim and Unkle doing that kind of thing for years). Yes, there is gloominess a-plenty. But what this has, which I think 100th Window missed, is... capital letters... SOUL.

It's an album that is destined for coffee tables, new year's parties and easy headlines about the vocal collaborators (hello, Guy Garvey), and therefore many serious music fans will brush it off their shrugged shoulders. Which is a shame.

What will really get me all excited are those Burial remixes the internet's been promising.

Pantha Du Prince

Also out this month is Pantha Du Prince's Black Noise. Oh, and look, he has vocal collaborations from the likes of Animal Collective, !!! and LCD Soundsystem people. Read this and weep, The Guardian.

Black Noise is awash with clouds. You know how some albums sound urban-y and some sound outdoors-y? This is Heidi the goat-herder's friend flatlining on heroin on the highest mountain in the world while buzzards perform a jagged dance of death around her.

With sharp techno, dizzying loops, spiralling bells and smoky, smoky atmospherics, this will appeal to Susumu Yokota fans looking to grab something a bit more substantial by the goat horns.

Feb 13, 2010

Defending blogging against Blogger

Last night, I was sniffing through my 78s looking for something to write about. There's so much to cover this month, with lots of lovely new noise from Martyn, Massive Attack, Moebius, Merzbow, Mosca and pretty much everyone else beginning with M.

And then I spotted a Guardian article that made my blood turn to ice pops. Google has been deleting music blogs for mp3 copyright infringements.

It seemed that six blogs had been smudged off the face of the internet by Blogger after the service received legal notices under the USA's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Some of those 'infringements' were for mp3s sent by record labels to be posted with full permission.

I have never had an entire blog deleted, but I know what it feels like to have a post taken down.


Just over a year ago, I wrote this article about an upcoming Squarepusher EP. I also included a free mp3 that had been dawdling around internettle for about a month. Blogger then pinged me an email which said something like:

- we've deleted your post;
- there is something you can do about it, but it's long and convoluted;
- we could haul your ass in court, you know.
- we murdered your cat. (This last bit may not be true.)

No warning. I had never been in trouble before, what with my perfect grades and neatly-ironed school shorts. I was terribly upset. I restored the post using Google cache, left out the criminal mp3 (TV On The Radio are bastards anyway) and then had a frustrating conversation with Blogger that lead exactly nowhere.

It was like talking to grandpa after he'd had half a bottle of whiskey, a ride on the teacups and a massive stroke all at the same time.

Stupid ego

I have not posted mp3s since then because Fat Roland On Electronica has never really been about free mp3s: it's more of an outlet for my stupid ego. (Having said that, I might not post free mp3s, but some, um, interesting stuff sometimes appears in the comments on this blog, as well as on my Twitter feed.)

Interestingly enough, Blogger did tell me that I should have received warning notices. What absolute dolphin spit. I didn't. Not a single one. They also said the same thing to Massala, who had his blog restored this week and received a grovelling apology which said:

"What happened this week when we removed your blog was a mistake. As you no doubt know by now, we removed your blog citing repeat offenses of the DMCA.
"The problem was that due to a processing error, you had not received notice of the DMCA complaints we'd received for your blog."
Processing error? Hold that thought.


Blogger's product manager Rick Klau said: "When we receive multiple DMCA complaints about the same blog, and have no indication that the offending content is being used in an authorised manner, we will remove the blog...

"[If] this is the result of miscommunication by staff at the record label, or confusion over which MP3s are 'official'... it is imperative that you file a DMCA counter-claim so we know you have the right to the music in question."

And so there is sometimes a breakdown in communication resulting in a false DMCA claim. Add to this the possibility of processing errors, then you'd think Blogger would think twice before deleting, wouldn't you?

Once the blog is killed off, you lose your traffic, your momentum and any trust you have for your service provider. It is an extreme thing to do. Surely the music bloggers should have the right to counter-claim before their blog is deleted, not after.

It's like appealing your sentence after the execution. Blogger's policy is patently nonsense.


Add to this the absolute absurdity of Blogger not even mentioning which mp3 triggered the DMCA infringement in their take-down notification (again, that happened to me a year ago and has been happening repeatedly since).

I'm not even going to bother to defend the posting of mp3s: it seems like a good thing to do and it supports the ideal of an internet that is democratic and user-led, as well as bringing music to a wider, paying audience much more quickly than through traditional channels such as advertising, mailing lists and a music-starved MTV.

Virtual Music has an excellent piece about handling the threat of DMCA notifications; if you blog, I urge you to read it.

In the meantime, I will be watching Blogger's response to the situation and, if they continue to be thick-headed about the whole thing, won't hestitate to migrate to a better platform where I can write about music beginning with M in blissful peace.

Feb 10, 2010

Gonja Sufi's a smokin' nomad in sound and soul: plus Friends Of Friends and Babe Rainbow

Gonja Sufi

Time for some single reviews. The haunting voice of Gonja Sufi will leave an indelible mark on 2010, especially with his second 7" single Kowboys And Indians. He's so unique, a nomad in sound and soul, that he hardly needs the production genius of eclectic LA beatcruncher The Gaslamp Killer. But it works like nothing you've heard before.

The track opens with a buzzing that will have you packing your speakers off to the repair shop. What follows is a stunning blend of eastern mysticism, slacker guitar, psychedelic rhythm and a vocal that swings loosely between Bollywood theme music and Method Man aged 95.

Gonja Sufi, that sinister, genre-smoking spirit of an electronic Hendrix, has produced the essential new sound of this year. The rats are already fleeing town in preparation of his all-conquering debut album A Sufi And A Killer (featured in the March section of my 2010 electronica preview).


Where do I start with the first volume of a split-single series from the Friends Of Friends label? They've given Ninja Tune's Daedelus and debuting double-act Jogger three tracks each on the Friends Of Friends Vol 1 EP, but then they've gone and drowned it all with no less than seven remixes. Flippin' heck!

Daedelus slaps down some disco house (C'est Super works nicely), then gets the guitars out and strums to a Smashing Pumpkins sample. Jogger concentrates on pumping house (Litre O' Colais is especially manly, grrr) and then goes and spoils it all with vague electric guitar noodling, demonic growling and speed techno silliness.

On the remix side, Prefuse 73 protégée Eliot Lipp puts Kraftwerk through an 80s disco mincer, while for his remix of Nice Tights, Nosaj Thing does a wonderful job creating a leftfield soundtrack full of guitar whimsy and minor-key boogie. A mixed affair - it could have been prettier without all the remix bling, as they'd no doubt say on Stockport's Next Top Model.

Babe Rainbow

I promised I would waffle about Babe Rainbow when the time came for his long-awaited Warp debut, the Shaved EP. It's time, so let's get the clippers out and inspect the scalp of Canada's premier dubstepper.

Sorry. I mentioned the d-word. The thing is, Cameron 'Babe Rainbow' Reed is kinda dubstep, but only in a slow-motion, life-slowly-melting-before-your-eyes way. His noise is so deep and deliberate, he makes Massive Attack look like Scooter (the hardcore German funsters, not the weedy muppet).

And so we have seven tracks of metallic, ringing percussion with vocals swamped with claustrophobic drizzle and an all-too-familiar whoomp bass. With the exception of sixth EP track Celebrate, I'm yet to fall in love with Babe Rainbow. Then again, I haven't used his music to get so stoned out of my face, my brain is melting on a toxic beach somewhere north of Jupiter.

Feb 7, 2010

How do you solve a problem like Madchester (and Fac251)?

I am Mancunian from toe to quiff. I am chuffed with my city's history, from the bravery of the suffragettes and the labour movement, to the creation of the computer, to the literal rise of the Beetham tower.

But then, there are the pills, the thrills and, most of all, the bellyaches from a severe case of Madchester indigestion.

I am not about to rail against the Madchester legacy. I will never forget the sense of pride I felt simply being in the city centre at the turn of the 90s knowing that this great city was ruling the cultural world.

For someone who spent most of the day with his breakfast dribbled down his T-shirt and his evenings trying to smoke banana skins, I didn't have much to be proud about. So I bought it: I wore the T-shirts; I bought the records; I watched the Hacienda bouncers beating people up. Sweet memories.

That nostalgia still feeds this blog to some extent, and I can find myself wallowing in musics past. And so you'd think I would have been at the launch of Madchester-themed club FAC25: Factory Manchester last night, right?

Man boobs

Not right. Quite the opposite of right, in fact.

This whole Madchester revival really gets on my man boobs. Peters Hook and Saville seem determined to keep Manchester in some kind of memory-fogged haze, rewriting the Stone Roses era into a story that needs to be told again and again. This story they're weaving is dragging us into the past: we're caught in the loom and we can't tug free. The Manchester Passion didn't help, and neither did 1960s tribute band Oasis.

Legendary album cover designer Peter Saville is some kind of adviser to the city council on a billion squillion plopillion pounds a year. As for Hooky, the picture above* from last night's launch does not fill me with pride. It's classic Hook with his low-slung bass guitar, but it seems strangely dated like a scouser with a bowl haircut. Or anything new by Coldplay.

But this is not a rant against Peter Hook and his mates, either. Can you blame them? What else are they going to do? This isn't some weird utopia when we can leave old rock stars to die in the woods out of the sight of the youngsters.  Let them play: they made it. The Fuc51 blog is amusing, but we should celebrate Madchester in the right place at the right time.

No, FAC251 isn't the problem. Peter Hook isn't the problem. Madchester per se is not the problem. The problem, dear reader, is you**.

Right arm

You've googled FAC251 because you ripped off your right arm to attend the launch night and you landed on this blog looking for reviews, reactions, piccies and videos. 

The problem is you. You buy into Madchester as an icon of history. You trade off the city's heritage like it's some kind of museum. Yeah, it's cool, you got "mad for it" and now you can wear hoodies without looking like a tosspot and say "Y'alright, our kid?" in your Hastings accent.

You're probably not old enough to remember the halcyon days of crap Northside singles and cheaply-produced cow t-shirts. You do know the Hacienda became seriously crap, right?

If you recognise yourself in my description, you must leave the city now. I will come for you. I will beat you to a pulp with my smiley face cannabis tin. I am Mancunian, which automatically makes me think you can come and have a go if you consider yourself to possess an adequate level of hardness.

Zit craters

You are a fair-weather, nostalgia-leeching cultural blank page. You are a Boddingtons Mancunian. You pretend and pretend and pretend and then you move on, looking for the next nostalgia-trough in which to nuzzle your snivelling, zit-cratered face.

You are the problem. You must leave the city immediately and stop attending Madchester club nights.

Madchester. Right place, right time. Let's build a massive statue of Shaun Ryder's head. We'll bow down before it once a year, smearing it in liquid ecstacy, paint and exploded pigeons***. But otherwise, we will get our fix from the Warehouse Project / Sankey's Soap / Islington Mill / Sacred Trinity / whatever floats your musical boat.

Like The Guardian, like Manchizzle, like Words Dept, I believe we need new spectacles when we look at Manchester culture.

That rose tint clashes with your Afflecks hoody anyway.

* photo: Tim Dobson. See his twittering of FAC251 here.

** this will not apply to most readers of this blog, so it is a tad unfair. You're lovely, thank you for reading, etc etc.

*** references to the Stone Roses paint attack and the exploding pigeons in 24 Hour Party People (book and film)

Feb 4, 2010

Jóhann Jóhannsson, Simian Mobile Disco and a pants-dropping Skream: new and recent releases reviewed

Before I get stuck into February proper, please allow me to catch up with a few musical missives that I intended to waffle about last month but didn't get round to because I was too busy sniffing baby wipes.

Jóhann Jóhannsson

This is from a while ago, but I wanted to mention it because I saw him live last year. Swathes of swooshing strings is the order of the day for Jóhann Jóhannsson's album And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees.

Jóhann, who has a name that never seems to finish like Banarama, produces classical music with shavings of electronica and can often be seen playing to bleep-heads. His ostentatiously titled album is in turns delicate and flamboyant, but I can't be doing with the morning-has-broken cheery stuff and would much rather he stick to the murky ambience or the eerie foreboding of his most filmic tracks.

Skream (pictured)

A couple of tracks now. The cold refrain on Skream's remix of Instra:mental's No Future ("lies confusion government control") is nothing short of pants-droppingly brilliant. It's a lolloping half-stepper that stomps its metal legs until you're marching to the same, automatic beat. It threatens to fall into the wobble bass cliche so beloved of dubstep, but it remains purely minimalist.

Speaking of minimalism, Minimalistix is the name of the track on the b-side of the Skream remix. The paddy drums (as in drums that sound like soft pads: it's not me being racist) fight against airy soundclaps as the cut builds and builds and builds.

It reminds me a little of the strange alien isolation of Higher Intelligence Agency and despite its stubborn simplicity, I could play it repeatedly and not get bored: Skream's remix is definitely something to Munch on. (See what I did there?)

Simian Mobile Disco

Beth Ditto, her with the big gob, struck gold when she recorded Good Intentions with Simian Mobile Disco last year. You may want to know there are a couple of remixes doing the rounds, but to be honest former Hacienda resident Greg Wilson's retro stylings have far too much bongo (yes, you can have too much bongo), while Maurice Fulton's disco-tastic take on the track is the kind of generic funk groove that has me sulking in the corner of the club waiting for the good tunes to come on.

Picture from Nailler 9.

Feb 1, 2010

Aphex Twin + Britney + Beastie Boys + 808 State + anything, really

If you mashed-up this blog with a successful blog, the internet would probably explode.

Some things shouldn't be mixed. I remain convinced that most MTV mash-ups were a calamitous waste of cathode rays and I have heard too many DJs ruin two separate tracks by smashing them together until the clubbers were sliced to death from airborne shards of shattered vinyl.

I always beatmixed until I started DJing my particular brand of electronic complexity some years ago. I then boasted that my record collection was beyond any sensible time signature and tracks could not be mixed or mashed into each other without the result sounding like some elephant in chainmail parkouring over corrugated shed roofs.

But that hasn't stopped people trying, particularly with the Cornish king of electronica, Mr Aphex Twin. Let's have a look at some of them, shall we?

Aphex Twin mash-ups
This MIA versus Aphex Twin mash-up sounds impressive at first, but it's a little muddy and the Aphex track, Windowlicker, inevitably ends up drowning out the genre-hopping vocalist.

This AFX  mash-up with classic jam-pumpin' house band Technotronic really is just a DJ finding the right BPM and making sure the audio train stays on a very narrow track. Same for this mix with Daft Punk.

When you throw Aphex's Windowlicker (again) with Vanilla Ice, Missy Elliot and Britney Spears, the result is a lot more pleasing. Especially when there's a cut-up video to go with it. My gosh, though, it doesn't half look dated now.

Someone has melded Aphex Twin with the Beastie Boys and Tokyo electro-popper De De Mouse to produce a track that has a higher feelgood factor than if the entire cast of Glee got pilled up and spent a night sweating and hugging and gurning at Sankey's Soap.

Jack Conte has done his own mash-up of Aphex Twin and Bright Eyes, but to my purist ears, it is ever-so-slightly spoilt by the Bright Eyes bit. And the Jack Conte bit.

Never mind all that. The bestest Aphex Twin mash-up I can find is this shaky mobile clip of Tim Exile blending AFX and 808 State. If I had heard this in a club, I would have been riding his back in seconds shouting "ride 'em cowboy" whilst dribbling all down his hairy back like a mentalist.

DJing at its best. Do you know any better mash-ups (or "mashups" as Wikipedia would have it)?

Edit: As seen in the comments below this post, I missed something pretty obvious. 100dbs take on Aphex Twin versus Snoop Dogg, Q Tip and plenty more is worth a (NSFW) look-in.