Mar 18, 2019

Knob-twiddling and Salad Fingers

Things have been quiet around here because I've been under the weather, literally because of the proximity of the sky, and also metaphorically.

So here is a bit of audio and a lot of a video to keep you entertained.

Underworld have posted a 2005 as-live studio session of Twist, from their A Hundred Days Off album, and it sounds pretty sweet. It's free to download too.

David Firth has plopped all the old Salad Fingers episodes onto YouTube, now including more recent ones. It's as sinister as you remember, and of course the soundtrack is excellent.

I advise looping the two simultaneously and see what happens. In the meantime, I shall try my very best to get well soon.

Mar 7, 2019

World Book Day: music books I have read and should have read

This World Book Day piece on the Official Charts website reminds me that I haven't read as many music biographies as I should have done.

I remember reading Chuck D's Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality twenty years ago and thinking he talked a lot about making money. And I tried to read Morrissey's List of the Lost before firing out this status update on Facebook:
"Morrissey's novel. I read some of it yesterday. You know how sometimes people write like teenagers with no knowledge of the well-worn amateur mistakes a lot of beginner writers make? The kind of adverb-strewn purple prose on which we look back and blush, with the sentences all imprecise and confused because when we were young that's how our minds worked? Morrissey should aim to get to that level before putting out another book."
A friend once gifted me John Lennon's nonsensical books, and I really value them. And I've probably read more histories of rave than is wise for one person. I inhale almost anything Underworld-related. Oh and I used to read the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles even though it was just lists.

The problem is when you're buying a musician's book, it could be coffee table dribble with glossy but anodyne photographs, or some kind of ego trip from a lyricist who thinks they can write something other than lyrics.

Or if you're Madonna, just a load of people having sex all over the pages and everything sticking together. Yeeps.

The most interesting one in those Official Charts picks is Stormzy's Rise Up, which launches his #Merky Books imprint that's dedicated to encouraging young writers with submission opportunities and internships. He's a good chap, that Stormzy.

As for my should-read pile, I should read How Music Works by David Byrne. I need to get my hands on that Beastie Boys Book that came out before Christmas. And I'd read a right-riveting biography of Kate Bush, if there's one knocking about.

Feb 28, 2019

On my gramophone in February 2019: Pye Corner Audio, High Contrast, Seb Wildblood, Four Tet and, er...

Here are a few things I've been spinning on my gramophone in February 2019.

1. Pye Corner Audio

Pye Corner Audio's Hollow Earth, which purports to revive the “ghosts of ’90s house euphoria” but actually ties the corners of those ghosts to fashion them into a parachute designed to glide you into seriously smoky ambient valleys where you'll be lost forever. In a good way.

2. High Contrast

High Contrast's 2002 debut album True Colours, a great sister sound to Roni Size's Brown Paper Bag. In recent years, he was a music selector for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, and he had a track in T2 Trainspotting. Which is like going from the sublime to the ridiculous. In a good way.

3. Seb Wildblood

Seb Wildblood's Grab The Wheel, an EP from last year which is only just tugging on my musical heartstrings now. His deep house is simple, almost by-the-numbers in its structure - but boy, it's weedled up my pee-hole right into my guts. In a good way.

4. Four Tet

Kieran 'Four Tet' Hebden still refuses to tell anyone what he did with the first three Tets. While we wait for an answer, we'll have to make do with this cheery little album from 2017. I overlooked this at the time, but it's growing on me like a particularly persistent moss. In a good way.

5. Sweep

Experimental sound artist Sweep has often found himself under the shadow of the better known silent composer Sooty. But this symphony of squeaks, juxtaposed perfectly with floppy ears, really speaks to the zeitgeist of our times. It's like having your brain scooped out with kazoos. In a good way.

Feb 25, 2019

Remembering Mark Hollis

You know that moment when Bowie died that you realised time was split into two: pre-Bowie and post-Bowie? I just had that feeling on hearing about the death of Talk Talk's Mark Hollis.

Not that it's a choice between them, of course. It's weird, isn't it, how these strangers affect us so much, especially a stranger who was unlikely in any case to ever produce music again.

Talk Talk were one of the few 1980s bands who cut across the rave era into my 1990s brain. Scratch beneath the surface of the main singles It's My Life and Life's What You Make It, both of them whole loads of ace, and his talent shone brightly, albeit it awkwardly.

What sad news (caveat: yet to be officially confirmed at the time of writing). Still, it does mean that in heaven right now, Mark Bell from LFO is making an experimental album with that incredible voice.

Here are two bits of music.  Firstly a 1986 performance, complete with strangely intense percussion break-down - and 1980s haircuts (apart from Mark Hollis, who was beyond time). And secondly an uncredited piano performance on Unkle’s Psyence Fiction, his notes as reclusively minimal as you'd think.

Pictured above: Mark Hollis superimposed on a background from the It's My Life video.

Feb 21, 2019

Being Frank, oh yes he is, he really is

I'm one of the many backers of Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story, about the reclusive chap who created the bizarre papier-mache entertainer from Timperley.

I missed the backers' special screening back in November, so I'm going to be an ordinary punter when the film hits the cinema screens next month.

I think Frank Sidebottom is my favourite Frank. Music has done quite well out of Franks. There's Frank Ocean, of course, and Frank Black from the Pixies. And Frank Sinatra, whose albums I own on vinyl because I am down with the kids. There's Frank Zappa too, whose music I do not own.

But there's only one Frank I'd rather have sing at me. Have a peek at the trailer below.

Oh and also have a peek at a video I took of Frank in 2007. It's truly bobbins and I strongly recommend turning down your volume before clicking through.

Further Fats: Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Send-Off: a review (2010)

Further Fats: Watching space from inside papier mâché (2016)

Feb 19, 2019

You are reading a blog post by Fat Roland

I've been writing reviews. I'm often writing reviews. This is not a new thing, like that time I tried to sky-dive using one of those little pizza bridges as a parachute.

You are reading a blog post by Fat Roland.

One of the albums I was reviewing this week had a computer voice saying "You are listening to a promo of X by X" overlaid throughout the album. An audio watermark, if you will. I'm not going to name and shame, but it's a proper cool label with a proper cool reputation.

You are reading a blog post by Fat Roland.

I soooo wanted to give it a negative review. Its constant interruption felt like going to review a movie, and every five minutes having the person next to you shout the film name and director.


You are reading a blog post by Fat Roland.

As it happened, I quite enjoyed the album despite the digital Jiminy Cricket on its shoulder constantly ruining everything.

There's obviously a trust issue. I'd never leak an album I was given to review, but it must have happened a million times previously. One significant dance music label insists on only offering limited streams to reviewers, sometimes within incredibly restricted time periods.

Which is just stupid, because one and a half listens in, it disappears. Like having your gramophone nicked while you're flipping back to side b.

You are reading a blog post by Fat Roland.

It would be nice to have a bit more trust, especially when you're a seasoned hack at a respectable publication. Pfffrt.

You are no longer reading a blog post by Fat Roland.

Further Fats: Is Plaid's new album The Digging Remedy any good? (2016)

Feb 15, 2019

50 candles for Electronic Sound

Congratulations to Electronic Sound for reaching its 50th issue. That's one edition for every US state, or for every mph in the Speed bus's explosion zone, or for every dollar you'd have if 50 Cent cloned himself 99 times.

I've been with the magazine since its first issue, which was carved into stone tablets by dinosaurs because they didn't have photocopiers in them days.

Massive props to the ES crew in Norwich who have bust a gut to produce 50 quality pieces of work. I haven't done 50 of anything. For example, so far in my life, I've not listened to Rick Astley 50 times, or been up a tree 50 times, or eaten 50 corn-on-the-cobs.

For the 50th edition, which has Karl Bartos draped all over the cover, my column broaches the tricky subject of politics. And pigeon droppings. Buy Electronic Sound magazines past and present here.

Further Fats: 'O' logo - the 50th blog post on this site (2006)

Further Fats: "No. No. You've still lost me. Could you rewrite it with just the facts and about 50% less nonsense." (2008)

Further Fats: Pitchfork's 50 best IDM albums - the Fat Roland edit (2017)

Feb 12, 2019

Dance music: it's all so wrong

I've recently come to the realisation of how wrong I am about everything. Literally everything. Even this paragraph. It's so wrong.

The wrongest I've ever been is about the 1989 house humpathon French Kiss by Lil Louis. I hated the track when it first came out. Why was that woman moaning all over the record? Was she hurt?

Of course, now I recognise its place in history. Dance music was exploring its sexuality alongside some innovative tempo changes. And actually, it's a cracking tune.

I also remember hating Snap's The Power on first listen. How could something so discordant get to number one? It's all wrong. I felt offended by it: triggered before 'being triggered' was even a thing.

Naturally, I fell in love with the track: a dominating dance music classic. I was simply puzzled by the clash between the robust bad-boy rap, the jingling electro beat sampled from Doug Lazy's Let It Roll, and a whole bunch of chords that came in at different angles.

I now realise that a lot of the best stuff is slightly off: clashy is good.

And now something at the other end of the tonal scale: Air's Sexy Boy. So much cheese. So much soft cheese. Why would anyone like this?!

I have since awoken to the sexy reality that Air's particular brand of spreadable sandwich filling was incredibly tasty, and I inserted, hur hur, the Moon Safari album into my CD player over and over again - until way past its use-by date.

Three different examples in the dance music world. My reaction to those tracks was so negative, viscerally so. And yet I came to love them, and each one helped define my musical world.

What are YOUR hate-then-love tracks? Tracks (or artists) which infuriated or baffled you, but then you somehow fell for their charms in a big way?

Further Fats: Chosen Words: R is for Rhythm (2010)

Further Fats: Sexy words - an infographic (2014)