Dec 31, 2012

Top ten best movies of 2012

Digested all the blog lists summing up 2012 in increasingly shrill tones? Time to click the internet away until 2013? You don't get away with it that easily. There is one final list I would like to shove in your face.

These highlights of 2012 are incomplete because I'm not Mark bloody Kermode and I haven't got 92 hours a day to sit in a darkened room wondering how much better the movie would be in 2D. So I missed The Hobbit, Looper, The Raid, Argo, Holy Motors, Marley, Don't Think, Katy Perry's Part of Me and all those fancy films with subtitles.

Still, I love the cinema. It's the one time when I can truly get away from my troubles / my past / the bailiffs / the police. Here are my top ten movies for 2012, peppered with other titles that didn't make it into the final running.

10 - Ted

I wanted to dislike Ted. Talking teddies are in the same furry league as anamophic animals: all cutesie and moralistic. Leave it to Pixar to get that stuff right.

However, it works wonderfully in the paws of Seth MacFarlane, who played writer, director and bear. It's not subtle (like I said, it's Seth MacFarlane), but it's deliciously funny even before you take into account Patrick Stewart's bitter narration.

And if it gets a generation of plush toy-hugging kiddywinks into smoking crack, what's not to love?

9 - Skyfall

After an adequate cut-and-shut job in Quantum, Bond is back on form as a weakened Daniel Craig battles the mayhem of M's past.

The central premise of Skyfall - a lost hard drive - is so believable, we can forgive all the action film tropes (deux-ex-machina, plot-serving support characters). It's great fun and has a solid Bourne feel about it.

Sam Mendes has a clear affection for the franchise, and Bardem's baddie is psycho-Larry Grayson. Just let's not think about Adele's woeful rhyming couplets.


There are two films from 2011 which I wanted to mention. I spent such a long time wanting to see Another Earth, it just seemd so magical and different. I sat down to watch it this year. I fell asleep. This is no comment on the quality of the film, and it just means that the little paragraph raving about it in my 2012 summary has turned into this: a grovelling apology. Sorry, Another Earth.

I did, however, see Martin Scorsese's 2011 movie Hugo which truly was magical although not necessarily anything different. It does that Cinema Paradiso thing of romanticising the flicks to great effect. I'm a Scorsese sceptic (a 'Sceptsese') but Hugo hits home with every single beat. Didn't bother with 3D though. More about that later...

8 - Room 237

The Shining is a movie about a boy with a talking finger, right? Wrong. It's about the carpet. It's about Native Americans. It's about the moon landings.

Five bonkers Shining fans waffle for the entire film about their insane theories about the hidden meanings of Kubrick's horror masterpiece. And it's brilliant.

With more reveal moments than a Rihanna performance, Room 237 fizzles with celluloid geekiness as the theories unfold. Ultimately, though, it's a celebration of the human imagination - nutty or otherwise. Mostly nutty. Link

7 - The Muppets

Yes. The Muppets.

Animal is in rehab. Gonzo is a plumber. Fozzie is in a crap Muppet's tribute band. If only they could get the gang back together for one last time... a bog-standard career revival story becomes a moving celebration in the fuzzy hands of Kermit and his pals.

It's loaded with nostalgia, but the daftness is quite affecting and the Flight of the Conchords music (the white suit moment made me clap with glee) is worth the ticket price alone.

Intermission: thoughts about Prometheus

Die, die, die. I hope you all die. Oh look, you're walking over there. Oh look, now you're walking back again. There's a hostile alien environment. There's a weird gloop. There's a creature inside someone's torso. Someone's talking. They're still talking. Someone's got a mysterious map. If you join all the symbols on the map, it says I CARE ABOUT NONE OF YOU AND I HOPE YOU ALL GET EATEN BY THE ACTUAL ALIEN FROM ALIEN.

6 - Seven Psychopaths

I wrote about Seven Psychopaths on Screen 150, so go there. In short, Martin McDonagh's whimsical world is populated with Coen Brothers characters speaking Tarantino dialogue.

It has the courage to get the McGuffin of a plot where a gangster persues his dog's kidnapper, put it to one side, and let the first-rate actors go town on the best script I've heard at the flicks this year.

Just wait for the DVD to come out. I seriously think this film's IMDb quotes page will get very full. What? You think I'm not serious just because I carry a rabbit? Jeez.

5 - The Artist

I'm not a film critic, so I don't have the luxury of advance screenings. So it goes that The Artist, which was released here in the UK on 30th December 2011, counts as a 2012 film. And what a film.

It may not the first time we've seen a black and white tale of movie makers struggling in the transition to talkies, but The Artist's light touch brings us a perfect balance of drama and humour - as well as hugely effective use of its silence.

It's worth seeing again without all the, er, noise generated by the critics a year ago.


21 Jump Street is a stoopid buddy comedy about cops impersonating high school students to bust a drugs ring. The Woman In Black is about a grieving lawyer poking around a village terrorised by a ghost. One is funny and one is scary. One of them has someone being kicked in the goolies. One has someone stepping on a teacup. One has Channing Tatum. One has Harry Potter. Both have vomiting of some kind. Neither are in my top ten.

4 - Chronicle

If Donnie Darko had true superpowers (and no, "thinking of rabbits" doesn't make you superhuman), then you'll probably get Chronicle. It has that free-wheeling freshness that made District 9 similarly entertaining.

Careless teenages are afforded telekinetic abilities, forcing them to either grow up or stay as isolated teens forever. A science fiction story becomes a study of loneliness and anger.

I wrote about this on Screen 150, but essentially it's a stupid premise handled with a fresh eye and an intelligent mind. The plot piles what-if upon what-if until we end up... well, that would be telling. "Andreeeeew!"

3 - Cabin in the Woods

Oh crumbs.

Cabin In The Woods is a horror film, except it's not. It's about college kids in an isolated cabin, but it's not. It's about horrific blood-soaked deaths, but it's not.

This film is unreviewable, so I'll keep it vague. AAAAARGH! AAAAAAARGH! AAAAAAAAAAARGH! WHO THE HELL IS THAT? WHAT IS HAPPENING? OH MY CRAPSIE! AAAARGH! Multiplied. A super-charged tour-de-force where the merest "ding" of a lift's arrival will give you the terrors for weeks afterward. Highly recommended.


Unlike many of my friends, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. Much of it doesn't make sense and I suspect the sheen will wear off with a second viewing, but I was in awe at Christopher Nolan's complete world-noir. I'm yet to see a better trilogy, so I was somewhat gutted to bump this from the top ten in favour of James Bond. The nagging plot holes probably sunk the Dark Knight this time.

Meanwhile, The Master may be the darling of everyone's best-of list, but I couldn't shake its poor ending. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams build the tension terrifically, so believable is the madness in the methods of Hoffman's titular Master. But the movie went for what I can only describe as an 'I drink your milk' moment and it didn't work. Still a cause worth watching for, though.

2 - Moonrise Kingdom

A boy goes missing and Edward Norton's slightly pathetic scoutmaster is on the case. Except, the boy is busy discovering being a grown-up with a weird girl carrying binoculars.

Moonrise Kingdom is constructed from the strange storyboards and camera cues in Wes Anderson's mind, but unlike some of his previous films, it serves this beguiling and hilarious film brilliantly.

Moonrise is a joy from start to finish. Hollywood stars (Willis! Swinton! McDormand! Bill blimming Murray!) play support to the child leads, themselves nailing the uncertainty of adolescence as the ominous clouds roll over the coast. It's eccentric, unsentimental and quite beautiful. This is Life Aquatic On The Shore.
1 - Life of Pi

Young Pi loses his parents to the sea and finds himself in literal choppy waters: uncertain fates await him as he battles to survive with only a vicious boy-eating tiger for company.

Life Of Pi is an incredible achievement. Not only does it map out the dramas of the supposedly unfilmable book with remarkable clarity, the hyper-realistic CGI is unlike anything else I have seen. Anamorphic animals? This tiger's wrath is visceral throughout.

You could argue it handles the novelistic metaphors a little ham-handedly (God, nature, all that stuff), but Life Of Pi is a near-perfect cinematic experience that had me gasping, looking away from the screen, laughing in delight and crying floods of tears. Ooo. Best not mention floods. Sorry, Pi.

The man who brought us Crouching Hulk Hidden Mountain may have brought us his most amazing film yet. Well. Unless you watched it in stupid 3D.

The 3D. Bah humbug. I don't want a pair of odd glasses to come between me and an immersing cinematic experience. Anything that takes your eyes a step away from the action is not a good thing. I saw Life Of Pi in 2D and, honestly, it's fine. It's amazing. It's my film of the year and is up there with Where The Wild Things Are. Anamorphic animals. Again.

Dec 30, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: number one

What was the best electronica album of 2012? Stephen Hawking's Olympics follow-up where he sang the War of the Worlds soundtrack with Swedish House Mafia? Something the Mayans cooked up with a tub of LSD and a rack of 303s? Or is it something I'm about to spew out of my blog gob? I think you know the answer.

Firstly, let's get stuck into a final selection of also-rans.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2. Click here for the whole lot.]


Some of this year's best electronic moments weren't in album form. Burial and Four Tet's haunting reunion for example. The Underworld and Orbital moments at the aforementioned Olympics. Anything Chvrches did.

Back to the albums. I excluded Plug's Back On Time (Ninja Tune) from the running because it's an archive collection. Still love him though. Very much in the running was Gonjasufi's MU.ZZ.LE (Warp), which spent a lot of its time firmly lodged in my brainworm's little ears and would have been in the top ten if there hadn't been so much competition.

Albums that didn't grab me so much but are still worth your time are Shed's powerful The Killer (50 Weapons), the sprightly disco of Lindstrøm's Smalhans (Feedelity) and the beautifully organic Voices From The Lake (Prologue) from Voices From The Lake.

The lie

Time for the number one album of 2012. Except it's not a number one. It's a joint number one. Two halves, if you will. This renders this entire top ten numerically nonsensical, but I tore my wig out with this year's choices and there isn't a single one of these 11 albums I can omit from this listing. Ten? Pah. Everything is a lie. This is the whole Bobby Ewing in the shower thing again. Stop reading, switch off your computer and get some fresh air.

Still here? Okay then. Here are the number one albums of 2012. They're both Manchester artists. I assure you, this is a co-incidence...

 1a - Andy Stott - Luxury Problems (Modern Love)

If Andy Stott had a more interesting name, he’d be Thrumming Basslord Of The Universal Spheres or Mr Monged Out In The Corner Of Sankeys Soap Chewing Himself A New Ulcer. But no, he’s called Andy and he’s operated well under this reviewer’s radar with two albums on Modern Love and a couple of deep-as-hell dub techno EPs in 2011.

It seems for this third album Luxury Problems (Modern Love), he stuck a microphone under the nose of his piano teacher – or possibly nicked her singing-into-hairbrushes tapes - and littered his record with sampled loops. Snippets of phrases are ever-present: always catchy, always heavenly, often rotating in mad gibberish.

But then there's all the stuff lower down. Opening track Numb starts off all very nicely with her layered vocals, but when the track breaks down at the two minute mark into sinister voice cymbals followed by a bass drum with such gravity it would rip the sun from the clouds, this becomes something quite astonishing. Mid-tempo snares and industrial scrapes punch through much of the haze, but this is never far from a terrifying underground thunder (listen to the rising terror of Expecting). The power. The sheer power.

It's a dub techno album that's more versatile than you think, from Lost and Found's angry rumbles and the pure sub bass of Hatch The Plan, to the comparatively brisk house of title track Luxury Problems and the junglism of Up The Box. Stott is in no rush and has the confidence to keep his ideas in check, only opening them up to the listener at exactly the right time. Luxury Problems is measured, like a movie with perfect pacing. The result is addictive.

Like many of the best albums this year, it's not just techno. It's ambient, it's industrial, it's somehow reaching beyond the chalk lines that demarcate EDM/IDM sub-cultures. It's an immersing soundtrack that speaks of the stark Manchester mills and alleys in which this album was no-doubt made. Buy it. Stream it. Be awed and afraid. If you've got Luxury Problems, I feel good for you, son.

1b - Lone - Galaxy Garden (R&S)

Can I review Lone's Galaxy Garden (R&S) without using the much-trodden metaphors in other reviews of strange underwater worlds and video games, each one suggested by the music's contrasts of rich fluidity and punchy simplicity? The day-glo album cover itself suggests a hyper Mario submarine adventure full of bubbles, bleeps and electric octopuses.

Lone is no stranger to this here blog. In 2009, I included Ecstacy and Friends in my albums of the year, rather bluntly calling it Goldie's Timeless without the d'n'b. In 2010, he missed out but still lured me with his lusciousness. And now, here he is at number one. Galaxy Garden is his first album for R&S, a classic Belgian techno label that has more recently become home to James Blake, Juan Atkins and Delphic, and it deserves to be listened to as a classic.

Layers and layers of super magic sparkle dust are sprinkled across the silky smooth instrumentation on this album. Elastic rave chords and acid muzak are washed in filtered chords on The Animal Pattern, while the sweet and delicate Raindance delivers choppy techno and soaking wet snares. There are waterfalls, steel drums and tabla. It couldn't be more lush if you lay naked in the dew grass in a shower of bubbles. Wait. That sounds weird. Let's move on.

Beyond the futuristic fat pads and multi-coloured vibrancy of Galaxy Garden, we also have an album of old influences. Lone has mainlined not only into the glassy hyper-charged world of Rustie, perhaps its most immediate modern comparison, but in places there is Underworld, Kevin Saunderson, early Warp and Tresor. Most notably, the gorgeous glow of tracks New Colour and Dream Girl/Sky Surfer stands as a tribute to the kings of smooth, 808 State. In-your-face gorgeous.

I had this album on 'random' recently. There was a moment as Cthulhu faded away - the fifth track on the album but late on in my listening - where I took off my headphones, pulled out a chair from the corner of the room and let the memory of the tracks echo around my head. It sounded like I was listening to my own past. All the techno I had ever loved was here. That, my friends, is some endorsement.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2. Click here for the whole lot.]

Further Fats: other amazing lists on Fat Roland On Electronica.

Dec 29, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: numbers 4 to 2

We're into the top five of what I believe are the best electronic music albums of 2012. I've wet myself with excitement so many times, I'm having to sit on four layers of towels surrounded by a makeshift wall of mop-heads.

We're into to rock-solid (or should that be bleep-solid) classic territory here. If numbers four to two are this good, my chart-topper is liable to trigger a flood alert.

Inevitably, lots of artists didn't make the top ten. Here are some more also-rans for this year's chart.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]


Brian Eno's Lux (Warp) missed out on the top ten, as did another big-hitter, Clark. His Iradelphic (Warp) seemed to be Clark-by-numbers to me despite some spine-tingling moments and despite topping my chart three years ago. Shame.

The DJ in me enjoyed I:Cube's mixtape-tastic “M” Megamix (Versatile) and Stunt Rhythms (Big Dada) from my favourite Amon Tobin guise Two Fingers. Also missing out is the noisy improvisation of Carter Tutti Void's Transverse (Mute), an utterly replayable IDM album Steam Days (Border Community) from Nathan Fake and two records from Mouse On Mars: comeback LP Parastrophics (Monkeytown) and follow-up mini-album WOW (Monkeytown).

4 - Grimes - Visions (4AD)

Grimes. Of course, Grimes. I played with the idea of excluding her because she might be too ‘pop’ for the EDM/IDM subculture this blog appeals to. Then I decided only an flipping idiot would exclude her, and although I am an idiot, I’m not a flipping idiot. Because, if you didn’t already know, Visions (4AD) is one of the best albums of the year in any genre.

Among the hazy layered vocals, analogue synth hooks and the light touch that keeps everything in a perfect balance, you’ll find Grimes reclaiming the orchestral stab (Oblivion), bringing back 1980s Prince beats (Colour Of Moonlight) and making a good job of a Mariah wail (Be a Body).

Ah yes. The voice, the voice, the voice. This will make or break the album for you. She’s high, she’s low, she’s delicate and she’s bluesy – almost choral on tracks like Skin. The voice is everywhere, and at its most effective, it is versatile and moving. Tied with such solid instrumentation, if this doesn’t grab you on first play, try it a dozen more times. Deserves to be on as many coffee tables as Moby (ask your grandad).

3 - Actress - R.I.P (Honest Jon’s)

Two years after I excluded Actress’ Splazsh from my end-of-year top ten, here he is making waves in the 2012 list. And what an unexpected treat: Actress has shut his drum machine under the stairs with the hoover, instead producing a collection of loops that take their rhythm from the likes of tape hiss, broken orchestration and eerie rattles. And probably from the hoover too.

R.I.P (Honest Jon's) is a dirty affair, but he allows space for the crackles and nastiness by keeping it simple. Actress has dug down into the essence of each track, finding the trashy distortions and frequencies then ditching anything else that doesn’t fit the groove. It’s puffy, fuzzy but not fussy.

Tracks like Raven are so smothered in hiss, it takes a while to find the rhythm. Somewhere amid the hissing loops of Marble Plexus, I hear a bass drum: I almost write a letter of astonishment to the Telegraph. Serpent has a shaky Splazsh-style rhythm but it’s bedded beneath layers of strings – in the true orchestral sense – and is the best example of why there's no other album like this in 2012. R.I.P is deep, metallic and, erm, dead good.

2 - Orbital - Wonky (ACP)

You wait eight years for a new Orbital album and one comes along at once. It is an unwritten rule of music criticism that comebacks should not work. Chinese Democracy. Free As A Bird. Dark Light*. They often give you the feeling you've been cheated. And yet Wonky (ACP) was Orbital’s best album since the mid-90s, leaving sweating fans everywhere throwing deep shapes of relief.

The throw-back moments are here, for example the Satan remix or the Belfast-style old tape loop reused for Stringy Acid, or indeed in the cut-up vocals starting One Big Moment or the skipping Distractions snares. But Orbital don't rely on these production details: instead they choose to rack up their live punch front-and-centre. New France is stadium dance music at its most euphoric, while title track Wonky is all build-up and build-up designed to wear out the soles of your disco crocs.

The two 2012 gig tickets in my pocket prove I am an Orbital junkie, so maybe I shouldn’t be placing them so high up in this top ten. But comeback albums of this quality are rare, and to top that, this album has a live anthem with as much potency as Chime and as much catchiness as Impact: album closer Where Is It Going equals their absolute best. They couldn't have done this better - and if you need one more reason for the Satan-bringers appearance in this top ten, this just so happens to be my 666th blog post on Fat Roland on Electronica. Even a top blog gives the right number etc etc...

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

* You remember Dark Light, right? No?
Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2011

Dec 28, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: numbers 7 to 5

This is my count-down of the best electronic albums of 2012. Dozens of discs were whittled into a select ten that your reel-to-reel mp3 player should not be without.

Before we get stuck into the middle bit of the top ten, here are some albums that didn't make it through.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Some also-rans

It pained me to exclude two amazing albums from this top ten. The first was Leila's between-the-eyes electro on U&I (Warp), much of it worth checking out by Orbital fans, while Lukid's Lonely At The Top (Werkdiscs) is my number 11 in a list of 10.

I reviewed several albums for Electronic's debut magazine, and the one that sticks in my head is Sterac's smooth remaster of Secret Life of Machines (100% Pure) and Last Step's deliberately dream-driven Sleep (Planet Mu) in which Venetian Snares does accessible.

Thomas Datt's punchy trance album Picking Up The Pieces (Discover) was likeable,
The Gaslamp Killer's Breakthrough (Brainfeeder) wasn't quite the breakthrough I was hoping for but still had a smoky charm.

I need to mention Dave Monolith's Welcome (Rephlex) which I listened to too late for last year's countdown (it was first mentioned here and yes, it's a masterpiece), while finally I've never quite tuned into the critically-lauded Shackleton's wavelength (Music For the Quiet Hour (Woe To The Sceptic Heart)).

7 - Squarepusher – Ufabulum (Warp)

A welcome return to form from the brother of Ceephax Acid Crew. Ufabulum (Warp) may not forge new territory, but it brims with trademark chords, clipped snares and bonkers digitalism reminiscent of Go Plastic. The d’Demonstrator funk is reigned in as is the live bass, and this, uh, albulum is stronger for it. (That's now a word.)

Opening track 4001 is a hymn to hands-in-the-air IDM, a sound more evident in the first half of the long-player with much of the deformed compression saved for later in the record. In fact, his light touch is faintly comical, such as the computer game bleeps of Unreal Square, the Plone-style tunefulness of Stadium Ice and the punchy power chord theme-tune of Energy Wizard.

By the time we get to closer Ecstatic Shock, the melody is suffocated by farting bass and stop-start beats: it reminds us the machines are truly in control and we are a long way from the Squarepusher as the saviour of live electronics. Maybe he could have pushed more boundaries, but this is his best album since Ultravisitor and, whisper it, a bit of a relief.

6 - Vessel - Order of Noise (Tri Angle)

Vessel seems to have come from nowhere – well, actually, Bristol – to produce one of the surprise highlights of 2012. Not really techno, not really house, not really anything, he signed to the influential Tri Angle label to become labelmates of Balam Acab and oOoOO for his debut album.

The strength of Order of Noise (Tri Angle) is its understatement. Lache, for example, shuffles along nicely, while the slow breaths of Silten are quite lovely. But then Vessel will grab some Global Communication-style tones or Leftfield warmth from somewhere, or perhaps a simple drum fill, a suspended chord or a sub-bassline, and suddenly the simple motifs become something quite affecting.

Villane sounds like Thom Yorke in his death-throes, while I love the whooping halfstep dub of Images of Bodies. The chugging Court Of Lions is a highlight, all tick-tock disco and wafer thin ambience topped off with a late-in-the-day four-line refrain. Vessel commented on this site in 2008 that he was "trying his ass off". Taken as a whole, Order of Noise is such a complete vision and a triumph of ideas, it can be considered as one of the most effective debuts of recent times.

5 - Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes (Warp)

Describing the new Flying Lotus album is a bit like trying to describe the weather: we all seem to know what it looks like, what it feels like, and there are plenty of places on the internet where you can get much more information than from anything I can jab into my worn Logitech keyboard. Although I'm not sure Elijah Wood appeared in a weird amputee fantasy video to warn us about an approaching cold front (Tiny Tortures).

There was a danger with Until The Quiet Comes (Warp) that FlyLo would begin to believe his astral zodiac cosmogrammic shizzle and become as nakedly overrated as the proverbial emperor’s clothes. Think how UNKLE went. Instead, he has taken a small step away from the free jazz claustrophobia of his last work and produced a beautiful odyssey that is easier on the ears but no less fascinating.

The jazz is back as are the guest vocalists (See Thru To U), but the album really shines in the stranger corners: the playground insanity of Putty Boy Strutt, that beguiling “oh no” refrain of All The Secrets, and the African influences throughout, especially on the steel drums of Yesterday//Corded. Strange, thoughtful and delicate, and great for all weathers.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2010.

Dec 27, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: numbers 10 to 8

It's time for my annual rake through the detritus of the last 12 months: my top ten list of the best electronic music albums of 2012.

I don't know if it's the seventeen recessions we've been through, but this year's list feels quite different from the previous ones. Instead of the summer-tinged likes of Mount Kimbie or the chirpiness of Plaid, these selections seem more dour. A bit miserable. So something to look forward to, then.

Still, this represents what I am convinced is the best of the best. Let's start with some runners that didn't quite make it to the final fence.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Some also-rans

Four Tet sellotaped together some 12-inch singles to produce an album called Pink (Text), but it was too much like Mr Tet in workman mode for my liking. Despite the appearance of the godlike Jamie Lidell, and brilliant though it was, Simian Mobile Disco's Unpatterns (Witchita Recordings) didn't make it to the final list.

The psychedelic experimentalism of Juju & Jordash's Techno Primitivism (Dekmantel) was quite something to behold. Two acts turned my head this year but didn't produce albums. Still, it's worth checking out oOoOO's heroin-tinged beats on Our Loving Is Hurting Us (Tri Angle) and do grab the massively important collaboration of Hudson Mohawke and Lunice in the shape of the eponymous TNGHT (Warp x LuckyMe) EP.

The oldies were still at it. Underworld refreshed an old compilation to release the 1992-2012 Anthology (, which by default was full of brilliance, while less successful
was DJ Food's first album in over a decade: The Search Engine (Ninja Tune) was swamped with guest vocals and not much else.

10 - Ital - Hive Mind (Planet Mu)

Here we have a Thrill Jockey lad (watch Mi Ami’s Dolphins: yeah, that’s him in the gloves) who has left indie-crossover to inhabit a crystalline landscape of mid-paced house grooves and perfectly-pitched ambience that should, on first listen, pitch-bend its quirky way into your brainhole and stay there for some time.

Ignore the Whitney Houston sample – that’s entertaining enough – but instead listen in awe at Hive Mind (Planet Mu)'s Israel where warm washes shoot into curious new territory at the two-thirds mark, or the moody stomp of Floridian Void that gives in to heart-breaking synth washes, or the disorientating brokenness of Privacy Settings.

There are only five tracks – three of them are ten minutes long – so if you don’t want the opening phrase of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way over Footwork-ish wrong-key disco edited in some pretty basic software (Audacity, I believe), then maybe you should peruse the rest of this top ten instead. But for me, this was Planet Mu’s shining moment of 2012.

9 - Silent Servant - Negative Fascination (Hospital Productions)

“Stasis is death. See you on the other side.” These were the final words of industrial techno label Sandwell District at the start of this year. For one of their artists, the other side happened to include a mesmerising album called Negative Fascination (Hospital Productions), produced amid economic flux as Hospital found themselves closing their lovely blood-red record shop in Manhattan.

Silent Servant offers desolate dark techno with leanings towards post-punk minimalism. It could be just another Basic Channel-soundalike, but in this world there is enchanting magic: the beautiful persistence of Temptation & Desire, the deep suspended disco of Utopian Disaster (End) and the metallic clunk (no, it’s better than it sounds, honest) of Invocation Of Lust. This servant is lonely but alluring.

Even the unforgiving android barks of The Strange Attractor, which would leave most diving for cover, offer a strange allure that gives these gaunt, DIY rhythms the space and depth to let the imagination wander. Rarely in 2012 has an album given me so little on first listen then slowly hooked its rusty claws under my skin.

8 - Monolake - Ghosts (Imbalance)

If the rasping snares of the opening title track haven’t ripped off your leg before the two minute mark of Monolake’s seventh album Ghosts (Imbalance), and the whispering industrial voices haven't sucked your weak heart from your chest, then you’ll probably survive the rest of this cold, cold, cold album.

The creaks and drips of Taku feels like you’re tiptoeing through an underground cave only to realise you’re inside a stomach, while the clinking Unstable Matter is pure horror film soundtrack. The slamming urgency of Foreign Object, cloaked as the sound of a distant choir trying to pickaxe their way out of a landslide, is so full of industrial swag, it would be best to take up the foetal position until the memory subsides.

Monolake debuts in one of my top tens because this time there is more of a solid rhythmic structure, and although it’s all rather disembodied, it gives me more to hook onto than other ‘lake offerings. A good starter for new Monolake listeners, perhaps. Insert journalistic ‘I believe in Ghosts’ ending here.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2009.

Dec 25, 2012

Top ten ways to write a top ten music list

The first ever list was a load of commandments chiselled into stone and carried across the Red Sea by Moses (or something) and now in commemoration of that event, we have a season called yuletide in which everyone makes end-of-year lists.

You may think end-of-year lists just appear, as if it's blatantly obvious that Alt-J are more worthy than Jesse J. But these finely-tuned summaries of arbritary time periods are borne of much chin-stroking, scalp-scratching and cat-squeezing.

I am compiling my usual legendary run-down of electronic albums of 2012, due for publication before the new year. If you too are compiling a list, I can help. Here are my top ten ways to write a top ten music list.

Pay attention.

1. Um... er... I think that, er... um...

2. Be decisive. Grab your reader with your first choice. Work out what will appear first when people click onto your list, whether counting down or counting up. A list gives you a certain authority. And sound confident by not repeating yourself. Be decisive.

4. Don't miss numbers just to make your list appear shorter. This is like those newsagents that don't give a penny change so they can donate to a jar in their storeroom labelled 'foot spa fund'. It's all a bit of a con and, quite frankly, their feet will always stink no matter what they do.

5. Ensure one of your choices is something you hate but you saw a 400-word gushfest about it in a broadsheet once even though the journalist was probably sexing the bassist in a bath of Ben and Jerry's at the time. Make it your number two choice, thereby showing a sneering nod to the critic fashionistas.

6. Go to the riverside. Take a net. Hide in the bushes until you see a lesser-spotted adjective. Quick, grab it. Scoop up that little blighter. Gather more, add some great-breasted adverbs, lasso a superlative or five. Let your descriptions ring out as they flap and wheeze for air on the page. Then delete them and just compare everything to shoegaze or Skrillex instead.

7. Include a friend's band in the lower reaches of your chart. You go to their gigs to be polite, you know Nick Grimshaw will never play them, and the reason why you bought three of their self-copied album is because of basic maths: one for each dart.

B. Don't feel tied to a numerical system. Count in letters. Count in Greek letters. Count in the Mayan alphabet, which incidentally finishes at 7 at which point newspapers across their country donate all their column inches to pictures of slightly worried dogs beneath stormy skies accompanied by the heading 'ADOGALYPSE'.

9. Include one of your regular favourites whose material has deteriorated so badly over the years that you find yourself at their gigs surrounded only by fatter and more shell-suited versions of you. Include them because failing to do so would invalidate an important part of your identity. Include them in your list. Eat pies. Buy a shell suit.

10. Don't do an end-of-year list. Only an idiot short of imagination and long of time would resort to compressing a year's worth of other people's creativity into a meaningless chart which has neither the exposure nor the financial backing to make it any more relevant than a moth's cough. A worse offence would be to do a list about making the list: that alone is heinous with the emphasis on 'anus'. Anyone who barely even thinks of a number in a blog post, never mind include them should have the following things confiscated: their blogging account, the internet, their hands, ability to formulate thoughts, trousers.

The Fat Roland top ten electronic albums run-down will be published from December 27th. You could cut the tension with a kitten.

PS - joyful Chrimbnas to one and owl.

Further Fats: 2paW0r: The Warp Records anagram challenge

Dec 3, 2012

A creative meltdown means horrible bowls and don't you forget it

What the actual frigging actual?

I mean, SERIOUSLY to the max, uber-voltage SERIOUSLY, with some SERIOUS cherries on top?

While lazing around in my local Chinese takeaway, I spotted a stack of glossy magazines on a table just above a fiercely hot heater. It was actually dangerous. Being a sound citizen, I moved the magazines away from the heat source and, as you will understand, had to read them all in the process.

Among the bland hot OK air of thin people in their mansions was Take A Break, which had this gem of a "groovy idea" (pictured):
"I found some vinyl records in my attic and wanted to re-use them. I put a record on a heatproof bowl and placed it in a warm oven until it began to melt. Then I carefully moulded the warm vinyl around another dish and left it to harden.
"Now I have a retro bowl that's perfect for storing my keys and loose change."
As a house full of busybodies write letters to trite lifestyle magazines saying "look what memories I destroyed today to avoid putting coins onto the many convenient and robust shelves and surfaces throughout our well-equipped home", a poor dead uncle is looking down on his old classical collection as it is melted into warped plant pots, faux-trendy wall clocks and horrible dog bowls.

Because when I look at a record, I suddenly think my pockets are too heavy and maybe their scratchy contents would look good spinning at 33prm on knackered vinyl. I mean, SERIOUSLY. In other news, I now store all my Facebook photos inside a corrupted mp3.

We're a quarter of the way through an octuple-dip recession, so re-use and recycle by all means. But I am truly horrified.

I should never have moved those magazines away from the heater. That's right, reader: I would rather my local takeaway burn to the ground than have some enterprising creative make an old thing into a new thing because they want to. That's the kind of person I am. That's the kind of person this 'retro bowl' has made me.

Oh I'm annoyed. I'm going for a walk.

Now where are my keys?

Further Fats: Do you pay for your record collection?