Oct 31, 2010

The devil has all the best IDM: Orbital

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of... oh you've got the idea by now. This is the final one of the series. See the other posts here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Orbital
Track: The Box
Album: In Sides
Year: 1996

I got the idea for ten Hallowe'en posts while watching Mark Gatiss' excellent History Of Horror TV series, which featured Orbital's The Box as background music.

Orbital's Satan may have been more appropriate - that track even samples a line from, I think, the Twilight episode Nightmare At 20,000 Feet.

But The Box was a sublime moment in which both sides of the vinyl release told an epic story in sound pictures: a horror film with no script. The creaking, the wooden chords, the chilling insistence of the clattering beats. Superb.

As a fan of everything from The Stand to Sam Raimi, from Dracula to Dark Water, I've always reserved a warm, soft place in my bloody heart for Hallowe'en. I like the nights drawing in, a creeping shroud to chill your bones. Thank you for joining me on my Hallowe'en quest. It's the ideal time for some dark electronica tunes - I hope you've discovered some good ones tonight.

Don't have nightmares.

The devil has all the best IDM: Moderat

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Moderat
Tracks: 3 Minutes Of / Nasty Silence
Album: Moderat
Year: 2009

A Berlin commuter uploaded a video that's enough to kill any Hallowe'en mood, but anyhoo, here's a slice of ambient electronica that's all rather Sigur Ros until the sound funnels into a grumpy piece of downplayed techno full of snappy bass kicks (note how the video changes too... clever commuter).

These are actually two tracks that run together on Moderat's eponymous EP, the first, 3 Minutes Of, being the moody Hyde while the second, Nasty Silence, being the more clinical and ordered Jekyll (and no less sinister for it).

There's no overt horror here, just some unsettling suggestion. In the same way that some of the most unnerving scenes in the Shining are the scenes of normality (driving in a car, eating breakfast together, getting knifey on your wifey... wait, not that last one...)

The devil has all the best IDM: Front 242 and The Prodigy

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artists: Front 242 / The Prodigy
Track: Religion (Prodigy Bass Under Siege Mix)
Single: Religion
Year: 1993

Front 242 are ideal for Hallowe'en, but I remember getting this 12" and realising it showed the ghostly grandfathers of EDM returning from the grave to subvert the rave aesthetic only to be confronted by a bunch of fire-startin' punk upstarts wielding sticks and chanting "you think you're hard? Try THIS!" For its time, it was an astonishing remix.

Oh, that and the track's called Religion and it has someone screaming "burn you down". Aaah, Hallowe'en for all the family! Seriously, though. Don't burn me down. I wouldn't like it and I've just had me nails done.

The devil has all the best IDM: NOISIA

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: NOISIA
Track: Stigma
Album: Split The Atom
Year: 2010

I shouldn't really include a track that's been on Gran Turismo - if I'm just doing loud drum and bass, then the Prodigy would be on here - but the first time I heard Stigma a year ago, I pooed into my socks.

It's fierce, chaotic, claustrophobic, and like being attacked by those fast zombies you get in 28 Days Later. Also, the production's a bit rubbish and everything's too loud - a bit like a stabby scene in a Hammer film.

If I was cornered by this track in an alleyway, I'd run. That sound of brown-coloured squelching? That's me, that is.

The devil has all the best IDM: Jon Hopkins

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Jon Hopkins
Track: Insides
Album: Insides
Year: 2009

We're half way through our audio frightfest. Thanks for following this so far.

I was introduced to Jon Hopkins by a DJ I did a radio programme with earlier this year. This is glitchy and menacing, like a spectre looming out of a Japanese TV screen.

Hopkins succeeds in bottling the Autechre sound and spray-blasting it on filmic proportions until we are all drenched with the seeping red chords and that dismembered voice lurking within the beats.

And get that drop at 2.27 - before the nastiest chainsaw of a bassline you've ever heard...

The devil has all the best IDM: Venetian Snares

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Venetian Snares
Track: Szerencsétlen
Album: Rossz Csillag Alatt Született
Year: 2005

The pizzicato strings at the start of the track are deliberately mimicking a horror soundtrack, so I nearly didn't include this for being too overt. But Venetian Snares' Szerencsétlen gives me the cold willies every time I listen to it.

The repetitive orchestral refrain, terrified by all the biting beats, reaches a frenzy of violence.

Whoever matched all of this up with a Tom and Jerry cartoon for this video deserves a knighthood (wherupon the Queen lets the sword drop a little too heavily... cue evil laugh).

The devil has all the best IDM: Lorn

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Lorn
Track: Tomorrow
Album: Nothing Else
Year: 2010

The previous posts were video-focussed. Now we're back to the music.

I could have chosen several Lorn tracks, but his testosterone retro is balanced neatly on Tomorrow with a scraping iciness. It's a short track, but it quickly flies in from an eerie distance until it's slobbering right in your face.

It's choc full of slow, loping chords from the very (non-)mind of a zombie itself. It's flesh turned robotic, a beast sparked alive with an electric energy.

And it helps that the video, which I suspect is a fan video, is exactly what's happening in Chez Fats tonight. But really, it's the music that makes this a Hallowe'en special.

The devil has all the best IDM: Murcof

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Murcof
Track: Rostro
Album: Remeberanza
Year: 2005

Sometimes, the spookiest material is seemingly innocuous. In this video, a bloke wakes up to glorious sunshine, puts on his favourite jumper and spends a day with his rollerskating duck chicken girlfriend.

It has some lovely touches (the writhing duvet, the hands creeping around the torso, the blurry glass face) and, like a great horror movie, it doesn't end well.

But more importantly, Murcof's music is so delicate, so dark and so downbeat, no Hallowe'en would be complete without it.

The devil has all the best IDM: Aphex Twin

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Aphex Twin
Track: Come To Daddy
EP: Come To Daddy
Year: 1997

Yes, yes, I know it's obvious, and I did say I would post this in the small print under my introduction, but at no point in the history of electronic music video has there been a better mix of IDM and horror. The scary soul-eater! The screaming monster! Aphex Twin in a dress!

Even now, "come to daddy" continues to fail as my number one chat-up-line, but I'm still going to keep using it, dammit.

The playful skipping at 3.15 is a beautiful moment and a testament to director Chris Cunningham's genius attention to detail. And if you want to fast-forward to the screaming bit, it's after the 4.00 mark. You sick sausage, you.

The devil has all the best IDM: Autechre

Here I am, on Hallowe'en night, choosing my favourite IDM / electronica to accompany your fright-filled evening of pumpkin soup, bad clothes and legal doorstep extortion. See the other posts in this series here. See the introduction to the whole thing here.

Artist: Autechre
Track: Second Bad Vilbel
EP: Anvil Vapre
Year: 1995

Autechre's Second Bad Vibel was from back in the day when Ae put a beat to their music, or at least, something resembling a repetitive rhythm.

Chris Cunningham's video, haunted throughout by amorphous, fleshy shapes, was a perfect monster to the band's Frankenstein. That crying synth that comes in at 1.30? Gets me every time.

As claustrophobic as Alien - and as, um, alien too.

Edit: Reader Tom Davenport has suggested Autechre's Iera as the band's most spooky track. The tune sounds it's hiding alone in an abandoned shack when suddenly the trees come knocking at the door...

The devil has all the best IDM: introduction

It's Hallowe'en night, an evening dedicated to ghouls and blood and shrieks and sticking cereal on your face because you think it makes you look like a zombie.

IDM, or "intelligent dance music", is the contentious term for the kind of music to which I have dedicated this blog. Its history is littered with monster beats, blood-sucking synth lines and drop-dead cool. Okay, I'm pushing the metaphor, but the darkness of Hallowe'en has a lot in common with the weirder nature of electronica.

Tonight, do join me as I choose ten IDM / electronica tracks to accompany your fright-filled evening. I'll post ten tracks in ten separate (and quite short) blog posts, all of which you can group together by searching for the Halloween10 tag. I'll try to be done before you have to get off to your Timewarp disco.

Although my list has been completed in advance, do make suggestions in the comments and I will include them in some way. Just keep it IDM or thereabouts (here is a list of musicians to keep you going).

The only thing you have to fear are your ears themselves. Happy listening and watch the Halloween10 tag.

Picture: an edited screen grab of Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy. And yes, this track will be included in the final ten.

Oct 28, 2010

Painting 2010 beige: Eno, Orb, Hardfloor and Seefeel

It's not sepia: it's beige. When you look back on the past, you're looking through beige-tinted glasses. Don't go romanticising it.

A clutch of recent and upcoming releases offer several shades of light brown for those with nostalgia in mind. Let's start with The Orb, who have teamed up with 90s uber-producer Youth to put out a retrospective of the acid house label WAU! Mr Modo, called Impossible Oddities.

You may think you've never heard of WAU! Mr Modo, but you surely do remember their biggest hits Zoe's Sunshine On A Rainy Day and The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds. Both tracks are here, albeit re-jigged. I'm more excited by the Orb's remix of Sun Electric from back in the days when an Orb remix was always called an 'Orbital mix', thereby confusing them with the famous but unconnected head-lamped techno duo that brought us Satan.

Also, ambient sandal-gazers Seefeel are to release their first album in 14 years (artwork pictured). The band was relaunched by their original pair of guitarists a couple of years ago and, after releasing the summer-crackled Faults EP (the title track is lovely) in September, they have slated an eponymous long-player for a February 2011 release on Warp Records.

And there's more. Hardfloor are back, this time with their eighth studio LP. Two Guys Three Boxes (the boxes referring to their beloved acid-making machines and not record boxes) will be out on bonfire night. And finally, we are moments from the launch of the Small Craft On A Milk Sea, Brian Eno's album on Warp Records and, for many, the most anticipated release of the year. Eno's album will be out on November 15th and you can listen to bits of it here.

The old school is very much alive, well, and unashamedly beige.

Oct 25, 2010

A massive cry-baby remembers John Peel

On July 28th 2004, I set in front of my green ghetto blaster-style radio weeping like a baby. Orbital were playing their last ever performance together. That gig, on a John Peel Maida Vale session, broke me.

I am a massive wuss.

Of course, Orbital later reformed, piddling all over my ridiculously inflated sense of loss, but that's not the point. It was a beautiful wireless moment when radio did everything that radio is meant to do when it's not Scott Mills or the bloody Archers. Seriously, if Mills ever gets a part in the Archers, I'm moving to a hideaway a mile under the ocean where my FM signal will be fuzzy at best.

Later that year, my sense of loss was compounded when John Peel ascended unto the great record shop in the sky. The bearded git made me cry twice in one year, which isn't bad for someone I had never met.

And so it seems appropriate, six years after Peel's death, to post a bit of that session on my blog. Both band and presenter remain a massive inspiration. I can only hope John Peel will piddle over my ridiculously inflated sense of loss by making a Jesus-style comeback halfway through the Olympic games.

Oct 21, 2010

Blog Of The Year

Fat Roland On Electronica was the big winner, alongside Love Levenshulme, in last night's Manchester Blog Awards.

I have been peppering the web with snotty flakes of false modesty in preparation for my campaign for blogputsch ending in failure. But believe me when I said I didn't expect to win anything; I meant it.

Banana skins

The awards event was held in the Deaf Institute and was graciously compered by Manchester Literature Festival's Jon Atkin. He introduced several short story readings by 330 Words contributors, all of which were brilliant and some of which included the phrase 'banana skins' in their text (by coincidence, but it proves I was right about 330 Words in my recent blog post).

My Shitty Twenties, the reigning Best Writing On A Blog winner, raised warm smiles with her blog post about gerbils and About A Boy and the spelling of Gandhi, while previous winner Chris Killen peformed a remarkable Choose Your Own Adventure story in which I volunteered to be the protagonist.

You can see us in Tom Mason's picture above, Chris reading the story and me making the crucial decisions. Except I've added a few speech balloons. That's me on the right, there. Chris Killen had me going on a date with crap hair then trying to escape through a toilet window. Or was it me that chose that? It was very chortlesome because he's a great writer.

And then came the awards. Best City And Neighbourhood Blog went to Love Levenshulme, more of which later. Best Arts and Culture Blog went to Ribbons and Leaves, which combines old and new by scanning typewritten blog posts (I must dig out my old typewriter some time).

The Best New Blog winner was the collaborative story-writing project 330 Words, while Best Personal Blog was awarded Might As Well, otherwise known as one of the brains behind Beards Of Manchester.

Each and every one of these blogs bagged a well-deserved win, and I urge you to frequent them constantly.

Slow motion

As for my wins, it played out in slow motion. As a couple of my competitors in the Best Writing On A Blog category won in other categories first, my chance of winning presumably increased. The preamble to my category mentioned the winner having a "slightly obscure subject matter", and that, along with a knowing tap from Do A Barrel Roll's foot, had me furiously trying to write an acceptance speech inside my head in the five seconds remaining before my name was read out.

On the stage, I took a slow sip of beer (got that tip off an actor a while ago!), hesitated because I nearly fainted from shock, and then apologised for everything I've said about James Blunt over the years.

To go on to win a second award, and this time the biggie (Blog of the Year) was surprising and humbling and delightful and scary and all the other things that bubble up from your stomach when everything happens at once. It gave me an excuse to be the first person ever to namecheck Venetian Snares at an awards ceremony.

Fat Roland the website has been chugging away for eight years, eight months and eighteen days, and as it became more bloggy (proper URL, some semblance of design) and more 'writerly' (six a.m. writing sessions, lots of editing), it still squatted in some obscure corner of the internet pooing out its electronic effluent on a modest gaggle of off-beat but lovely fans.

Something small

The extra sweetness from the yummy winnery was the fact I won Blog of the Year jointly with Love Levenshulme, another blog that is focussed on something small. but that something small is treated with passion and commitment and, it has to be said, sacrifice (turns out, one of them gave up their TV to concentrate more on writing, as did I earlier this year).

The judges split the prize because they couldn't work out which blog was the bestest, a conversation I would have given my right arm to eavesdrop on. "Aphex Twin or Levenshulme... Aphex Twin or Levenshulme... hmmmm... let me pipe Windowlicker in through Levenshulme library's windows, see what happens..."

I'm pretty sure ninety-twelvety per cent of Best Writing winners have gone on to be multi-millionaire novelists, so I'd better start writing my tome on Murcof b-sides straight away. I'll just copy out Dan Brown's books, twaddle a few words around and colour the edges of the book pages red because publishers think it's trendy.

Meanwhile, will this blog change? Will it fudge. There are bleeps to be fondled, squelchy basslines to be goosed, and I'll be flappered sideways if I'm going to give up this corner of the internet in my battle against r 'n' b clones, despotic pop loons and Michael chuffing Bublé.

Thank you for reading. NOT YOU, BUBLÉ.

Oct 18, 2010

My Manchester Blog Award rivals dissected

Edit: To see how well I did since writing this post, see the results here.

With the Manchester Blog Awards nearly upon us (you can still vote for me here until the end of Tuesday), it's time to look at my opposition in more detail.

The following blogs have been shortlisted, along with me, in the Best Writing On A Blog category. Let's see if they have what it takes to win the prestigious prize (to be awarded on Wednesday night).

Specimen one: 330 Words

On the positive side, this is a collaborative blog where people submit very short stories inspired by a picture. This ensures they have a wide reach and probably carry a lot of respect because of that. I must write something for them, if only to get reflected glory.

330 Words have a search function on their site. So I thought I would test their mettle by firing in some fairly obvious phrases. 'Aphex Twin' revealed no results, as did 'Venetian Snares'. However, a simpler search for the word 'banana' (pictured) returned two hits. Nothing for 'sausage', though. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Specimen two: The Pigeon Post

This is a music blog. You know what one of those is because you're reading one right now, although Mr Pigeon does a better job of it by posting audio and writing about music. It is, in other words, a proper music blog and it's made right here in Manchester.

The writing on 'Post covers nagging doubts at gigs, fruitless searches for new music, and railing against clichés in music blogs. On the negative side, he too has a search box and a scan for 'James Blunt hanging limply from the remains of his own broken career' returned precisely zero results.

Specimen three: Ribbons And Leaves

This blog is a-- oh wait, he's got a Manchester Blog Awards logo at the top of his blog and a link-through to the voting page. Why haven't I done that? Back in a moment...


Right then, I've done the same on my blog. Anyway, Mr Leaves types his blog posts on a 1960s German typewriter then scans them onto the page. It sounds exhausting, but the results are stunning. When I'm on his blog and I smash the side of my computer screen with the flat of my right hand, it doesn't go ding. This needs to be rectified. Ding.

I nominated this blog in two categories and it ended up getting shortlisted in both of them. Here we have a personal blog that has an imaginative edge, such as a list of things to do this decade that includes "live like a Moomin for a while".

He spends his time calling me a North Korea sympathiser stroke planet killer, which only leads me to scream out very much in the style of Matthew Bionic's query on Judge's sister blog Ask Ben And Clare. When I change my name to Kim Jong Roland, I'm going to nuke his blog.

So there are the fellow shortlistees. It's amazing to be in the same category as the blogs above. There are other categories in the Blog Awards too, but I don't want this post to go on forever so I must leave it there.

If you're going on Wednesday (anyone is welcome), you'll spot me being confused and drunk in the corner. I have no idea what happens at these things, whether I get to read anything at the front, or how many fist fights there will be.

See you after the Awards, dearest reader.

Oct 17, 2010

Ardently foul, wet flies: do my angry anagrams, you fart-hole

Stop wasting your miserable life and do something useful for a change, you time-felching twazmuppetty bucket of weeping fart-holes.

Solve my anagrams instead. Here are 20 anagrams of pop stars. Both groups and soloists are included, and they have all spent at least two weeks at number one in the UK singles chart in the last five years. One of them is ostensibly not a musician but got to number one anyway.

If you don't get these, you are either bad at anagrams, or you are so out of touch with pop culture, your stupid computer wears socks and sandals and you can barely read this blog post through your pathetic curtain hair.

I hope this has motivated you to do my wonderful anagram quiz. The answers to the 20 anagrams are in the comments section below, so be wary when scrolling down. You thin streak of nose bile, you.

Oh, just one more thing. Each anagram comes with an essential clue which may, possibly, be motivated by my slight dislike for the artist / group. I'm sure you'll find these clues "helpful".

1 Ace commercial hymn
Clue: This anagram disgusts me so much that every time I see a teenage boy in make-up, I scratch my face with barbed wire.

2 Ardently foul
Clue: I'd rather have a cat in immense pain lodged in my cerebral cortex than listen to this anagram.

3 Censored jam
Clue: The words denominator, lowest and common were invented for this annoying, infuriating anagram who lucked-out with a number one.

4 Dry thy cistern
Clue: Oh, look how trendy and urban this anagram is, let's all be like this anagram. I hope this anagram is savaged by an elephant.

5 Dusty scallops
Clue: Prancy, flouncy, arsey rivers of sniffle: Heat magazine awaits.

6 Fancy jewel
Clue: I'm not sure how this anagram could be more of a public embarrassment. I'm ashamed this anagram is even on my blog.

7 I am t'bland
Clue: Oh let's make every record sound like I did it. Oh look at me. Oh you're punching my nose. Oh it sounds like my records. Oh.

8 I am the inept
Clue: I do listen to this anagram on YouTube from time to time, but only because I HATE MYSELF and want to lose consciousness.

9 Learn dark beaux
Clue: Get off my telly screen, you undeserving piece of rotten knicker fluff. Go play at a children's party some time, but make sure they're baby tigers.

10 Lion weasel
Clue: Lion? Or weasel? Neither. This anagram is a hedgehog six seconds after falling under the tyre of a hearse. Three Xs, now get off the stage.

11 Mister Craphole
Clue: I thought this anagram had gone in the 80s, perhaps walked off a cliff into a valley of infected syringes.

12 Old leper
Clue: I cannot even express-- gnnnngh-- how awful-- gaaaaah-- I mean-- rrrrgggghhfffrt-- aaaaargh-- bleeeugh.

13 Perky, arty
Clue: Best pop sensation ever. I am, of course, lying through my plaque-infected yellowed teeth-holes (each hole, strangely enough, has formed the shape of this "controversial" anagram).

14 Rank, sly garble
Clue: You know if you go to a shop to buy some manure and you get there and there's a massive sign saying SOLD OUT? Fudge you.

15 Riotous bingo
Clue: All you need to do, dear reader, is stop buying this anagram's records. Market forces. Just stop. You didn't buy them, y'know, before, did you?

16 Scornful Gig Riots
Clue: Worst. Ever. Seriously.

17 Sneaking snot
Clue: This anagram is so rubbish, I have a wheelie bin reserved for all its records, a Bob Marley-style graffito of its name on the side of the bin, made from paint and tears.

18 Sweet yank
Clue: A-hahaha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. What a moron. #justsayin

19 Sunbathers
Clue: I once saw this anagram advertised at an Autechre gig. The disparity of, well, everything, still makes me weep.

20 Wet flies
Clue: See anagram.

Oct 14, 2010

So Greater Music Police have been tweeting every 999 call...

Call 1: Report of murder of deputy sheriff and his immediate superior. One suspect in custody. Keeps asking what rhymes with 'lion'.

Call 2: Silly-haired man found igniting blazes. Has apparent tourettes.

Call 3: Five black Americans arrested for using course language to police officer. Seemed to object to our "badge and mother-effing traffic gun."

Call 4: Four post-punk Londoners Three reggae-pilfering new wavers* arrested impersonating officers of the law. The blondest one waffled about tantric sex: re-arrested for being a gobshite.

Call 5: Scotsman and Liverpudlian caught driving around in an old police car, towing an ice cream van. Cargo included heavy artillery, a list of northern cities and several dead sheep.

Call 6: Eccentric man-child caught breaking and entering before attacking a woman, leaving bloodstains on the carpet. Victim's name is Annie.

Call 7: Australian woman found bludgeoned by river. Rose found in mouth of victim. A wiley Hugo Weaving lookalike was seen fleeing scene.

Call 8: Welshman complaining of theft of sun from heart. Was asked to remove balaclava but refused.

Call 9: Young men in chemical masks found in a hypnotic st-8. Had to activ-8 back-up. Won't stop bloody dancing.

Call 10: Smirking gangsters caught running around robbing banks. Evidence of cartoon-dog-based drug taking.

Call 11: Fight broken up between reptiles and local petty criminals. Eye masks seem colour co-ordinated with Teletubbies. Started doing dance routines. Probably mentally unstable: did not intervene.

Call 808: Report of sample theft by Manchester ravers...

If you want some time to figure some of these out, try to ignore the tags below this post!

*see comments section

Oct 11, 2010

Luke Abbott's Drones: not so atonal now

Norfolk is a place that is only famous for producing slightly more than its fair share of formula one drivers. It also produced Luke Abbott (pictured), who recently popped us a debut album called Holkham Drones.

I've sort of ignored Abbott since 2006, when I praised his "manic atonal silliness", but this debut for the Border Community label has regained my fuzzy attention span like a happy slap, a Tango kiss and brain haemorrhage all rolled into one.

The album takes krautrock as its base (compare Abbott's Brazil with Neu's Hallogallo) and then weaves its repetitive curcuit-pumping machinery into a technoid tapestry of emotive, heartfelt electronica. Trans Forest Alignment is detuned pop melancholia, title track Holkham Drones is the very definition of sad disco, and the static beatbox of Hello Tazelaar dances a beautiful dance with melted synths that positively drip from the speakers. Stick that confused metaphor into your badger and smoke it.

It may be too reminiscent of Boards Of Canada in places (2nd 5th Heavy), and it may try too hard to be Clark (Baalnk), but this disc hooks the heart and the head more than most dance albums released in 2010.

Oh and in case you were wondering: Martin Brundle, Ralph Firman and that's about it. I did say "slightly".

Oct 9, 2010

Blog off 2: the Manchester Blog Awards shortlist

Edit: To see how well I did since writing this post, see the results here.

You are reading an award-shortlisted blog.

Six years of forcing metaphors through a hedge backwards has led the Manchester Blog Awards to shortlist Fat Roland On Electronica for the Best Writing On A Blog category in the 2010 awards.

Previous winners include Day Of Moustaches, a Manchester author who once read an except of his novel Bird Room in a room plastered with bird wallpaper, Jenn Ashworth, who is don of the Preston lit mafia and if you disagree, she'd probably be too nice to break your legs, and My Shitty Twenties, a single-mum and double-winner in last year's event.

I've had a rotten year in some ways, with a huge financial bottlerocket at the start of the year and emergency surgery in the middle of the year. As a result of my hospitalisation in June, the usual things I find fun, mainly to do with socialising, have been a struggle. So it's nice to get this shot in the arm in the form of this shortlist placing.

I'm not in it to win it, mainly because I'm up against fellow music blogger The Pigeon Post, the uniquely beautiful Ribbons And Leaves, writing blog (and my favourite for the win) 330 Words and my apparent nemesis Who The Fudge Is Benjamin Judge (check his shocking exposé of me here).

You can vote for any of them - even me, if you must - on this page here. You have until the 19th of this month.

Having said that...

...no, I can't..

...must retain dignity... 

...oh, stuff it. If I don't win this, it would be like Shawshank Redemption missing out on an Oscar. Like Radiohead missing out on a Mercury Prize. Like Henman in the semi final again. Like the large hadron collider not quite causing the big bang. Like Moses not quite making it to the promised land. Like the whale dying in the Thames.

All these things were huge disappointments that should have never have been allowed. By voting for my blog, you can make amends for things like Top Of The Pops finishing, for The Wire coming to the end of the series, for Mark and Lard stopping making radio together, for S Club Juniors splitting up, for the Iraq War, for John Peel's sad demise, for Nick Clegg, for that blubbery dead whale in the stinking, shopping-trolley infested Thames, for Nick Clegg again, for Jesus not quite coming back yet, for the Gorillaz ruining the magic by revealing their real faces, for the subjugation of the Aboriginal people, for that whale again, for the awfulness of Live 8, for Nick Clegg, for the original sin of the entire human race.

You can make amends and you can do it today. Just one vote can help millions of starving chil-- wait, I'm getting a little sidetracked. What was I trying to persuade you to do? I can't remember. I fancy a biscuit so I'm going to stop writing now. Do whever it was you were meant to do. Meanwhile, I'll see you at the grand awards ceremony on the 20th.

Jump to the first half of this blog post about blogging here.

Blog off 1: the Manchester Blogmeet came and went

The umpteenth Manchester Blogmeet was, I think those attending would agree, rather lovely.

It was held in Umbro's design studio, which is nestled on the edge of Newton Street and Dale Street in Manchester's Northern Quarter. The place feels like some kind of penthouse suite owned by a 14-year-old: it's brilliant.

A massive thanks must go to Umbro for sponsoring the whole shennanigans. This kind of event may look like lots of people getting tipsy and arguing about 1990s pop music, but, like an ageing Spice Girl, they tend to develop wide ripples over time. Relationships in Manchester's creative community are hugely important, and the Blogmeet helps no end.

Thanks also to those who attended. Blog types represented at the meet included 330 Words, Ancoats Tweeps, Bart, Come See The Duck, Do A Barrell Roll, I-COM, Inside The M60, Manchester Is Not New York, Me, me, me..., Nine Tenths Full Of Penguins, Power Is A State Of Mind, Roy Keane's Lucky Scarf, Scatter Cushions, SEO Manchester, Technical Faults, Tim Dobson's Blog, Voices From The Below, VUI Design, Speech Apps And All That, Who the fudge is Benjamin Judge? and Write In For Writing's Sake.

If you'd like a mention in that list, pop a comment on this blog post. Meanwhile, here are some photos.

I won a game of chess that night. Some say it was a slight fluke, but you haven't seen me take down Kasparov. The conker is a queen or a king or a knave or something:

This may look like the empties bucket, but actually I wore this tub on a piece of string round neck most of the night as it was the closest thing I could get to a lager intravenous:

There was art flipping everywhere. Except the half-naked guy. It's a mirror and that's me taking a photo with the camera at my hip:

I told him he wasn't invited, but ole cardboard face always has to come down. Actualy, the cartoons around the place were part of an exhibition featuring the work of Todd James:

I had to get the logo in somehow, but this may be overdoing it:

That's better:

Here are some of the attendees. These guys didn't chat much. They just stood there drinking, while Do A Barrel Roll (centre) struck some poses:

You'll notice the name badges in this next picture. I helped organise this blogmeet on the condition, set by usual organiser Kate Feld, that name badges were used. Sounds cheesy, but it helps the whole thing run smoothly and enables conversations like this to happen.. .repeatedly:

Random person strains to see my badge: "Oh. So you're Fat Roland."

Me: "Yes. I take it you've heard of my blog."

Random person: "No."

Me: "It's about electronic music. Do you like electronic music?"

Random person: "Stop touching me."

A modern design space, but note the old-fashioned clock. Apparently it gives the right time twice a day:

If you misbehave at the blogmeet, everything will be noted down by Power Is A State Of Mind. I'm hoping we'll all end up as characters in a novel some day (or maybe just in his blogmeet write-up). If you have also scribbled something about the blogmeet, shove a comment into the end of this blog post.

Jump to the second half of this blog post about blogging here.

Oct 6, 2010

Student's guide to new music

You're settling in to your halls or your crumbling shared house, but you haven't quite burned all your music from dad's computer yet. What music do you listen to if you want to be cool at university?

Obviously, you'll be bombarded with chances to hear thrilling bands if you're in a decent city. Manchester Academy, for example, is due to host amazing shows from Bowling For Soup, Peter Frampton and Napalm Death.

But this is an electronic music blog, so no doubt you've come to me for a few special recommendations to set you a few paces ahead from your clone mosher friends.

The first and only rule of Fat Roland's guide to new music for students is: if you listen to any music at all, I'll smash your face off with that gatepost.

Seriously. If you go within a thousand miles of anything resembling a rhythm or some kind of assemblance of melody, I'll kick you in the liver.

Biology lesson. A remarkable thing happens to the human body between the ages of 18 and 20. Before then, your synapses are made from phlegm and tears; they lack the connectivity to enable you to appreciate anything good. So you'll foxtrot to Keane, fandango to Kesha, fast-step to Kanye.

From about 19 or 20, you become a complete human being for the first time in your life. Your ears start talking to your feet and your heart, and what develops is a perfectly passable music taste that lives on for a decade or two. Your mp3s become file names like Cripple Bastards, Shitmat and Burt Bacharach (but only ironically).

The danger is, though, and I want you to read this as though it's one of those ominous adverts for AIDS in the 1980s, a residual echo from your pre-18 days lingers in your brain, terminally damaging many of your cells and then hiding until it chooses to ambush you later. Imagine Simply Red hiding in your fridge all night, waiting to pounce when you get milk in the morning.

And so, when you hit 32, all those old musical numbers you jived to in your teens pop back into your memory, and you utter the incantation that has destroyed many a cool person: "D'you know, that stuff wasn't so bad after all. At least it had a melody..."

There is only one way to stop this happening. Your musical taste must be sliced off the moment you hit university. For at least one year, you must be sonically castrated and taught that all music is evil. You have to go through a reverse-Clockwork Orange, and watch Akira Kurosawa or Jean-Luc Goddard films while subjecting your pinned-open earholes to Will I Am, Tiao Cruz or The Saturdays.

You should probably be locked in your room and bubblewrap be glued to every surface, including yourself. Your computer shall have an auto-tune filter, so anything melodic will sound like kittens being slowly diced with an apple corer.

Save yourself from yourself, new students. Listen to nothing. Not even your lectures, for fear of catching accidental intonations or a dull recitation of a textbook unintentionally forming a pleasing pentameter that could easily be set to music.

And all you will be left with is the cleansing wash of a lonely silence except in the dark of the night when the only noise is the dull thud of your heartbeat. Except, of course, a heartbeat is a recognised rhythm, so unless you've surgically wrapped that in jiffybags, that'll have to go too.

I'll ween you when you're ready. We'll start with Boards Of Canada, then go deeper. Meanwhile, let the silence begi--