Feb 28, 2023

Ten album titles that are puns - the good, the bad and the willie

Recently, Drowned in Sound's Twitter account posed the question: Has there ever been a good song or album title containing a pun?

Let's find some kind of answer. Here are ten albums with punny titles along with my thoughts on each and every dang one of them. 

The Orb: Orblivion
Plays into the ever-pulsating galactic dramatics of The Orb. Certainty works better than "Armageddorb" or "Catastrorbphe". Undermined by their other album UF Orb which sounds like a pun but really doesn't work. In fact, it's terrible.

Sleaford Mods: UK Grim
Nottingham’s mouthiest geezers have been knocking about for yonks, but it’s only until now that they’ve concocted the perfect album title. This play on ‘UK grime’ speaks to the core of the band: rap music, British vibes, everything being crap. This is excellent pun work from the guys that gave us Tied Up In Nottz and Eton Alive.

Blink-182: Enema of the State 
Just thinking about this album title makes me empty my bowels. Which is exactly what the California rock imps wanted. Even the cover is awful, with its sexy gloved nurse. A childish embarrassment to puns everywhere. Jeez, guys, what’s your age again?

Salt-N-Pepa: A Salt with a Deadly Pepa
For a band with a wordplayed DJ in the form of Spinderella, you'd think everyone's fave condiment-themed rappers would nail a pun. Not so. The album title starts well, but like the album it runs out of ideas. "Pepa" is standing in for the word "weapon". Unless you're talking about pepper spray, this doesn't cut the mustard gas. Poor. 

The Shirehorses: Our Kid Eh
As suggested by Thomas Ragdale on Twitter. It feels like puns come with the territory with Mark & Lard's parody project, and indeed the first track on the album is If You Tolerate This Piss by the Manic Street Sweepers. What raises this above the average pun is the delightful audacity of knocking off Kid A only a mere seven months after that seminal album's release. Talk about poking sacred cows with a stick. Impressive.

Rednex: Sex & Violins
Sparks: Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins

David Bowie: Aladdin Sane
Bowie really didn’t have many options after Ziggy Stardust. He’d been to Mars, he’d invented the bisexual alter-ego as icon, he’d made a synthesiser sound like a saxophone. A-Lad-Insane is a pretty solid pun which carries all the weight of the craziness of stardom. It's a bit naff but, whisper it, Bowie often was. (Complaint letters to the usual address.)

Will Smith: Willennium
Big Willie Style is perhaps a more famous album for this freshest of princes, which is unfortunate because in UK slang this is definitely not the kind of pun you need. Willennium is Will Smith’s wild wild western era, and it feels like there were greater puns to be found here rather than this millennial mediocrity. The Good, the Bad and the Willie, maybe.

Bola: Soup
Bola: Fyuti
Bola: Gnayse
Bola: Kroungrine
Bola: DEG
I had to include Manchester’s downtempo maestro in this listing. The albums listed here are puns on a bowl of soup, a footballer, bolognese, crown green bowler, and boiled egg. This should be awful, but Bola somehow managed all this while maintaining his creative integrity. Quite frankly, I’m Bola-d over.

Phats & Small: Now Phats What I Small Music
Sometimes you don’t know whether something is absolute genius or the worst thing ever invented, like Marmite or crocs or the jelly toaster. I may have made that last one up. The jury is still out on the title of Phats & Small’s debut album. Considering the album is only ten tracks long and Turn Around features twice, let’s not lose any sleep over it.

Punning album titles are still all the rage, as evidenced by the title of Orbital's brand new album Optical Delusion. Which punning album titles impress you? Which make you feel all Blink 182ed? Let me know on Twitter.

Jan 16, 2023

My magical dream: everything's gone all Chris de Burgh

A vending machine

There's an old 808 song about a magical dream that goes:

It's a fantasy taking over your mind 

So let it roll, let it roll with ease

It will take control of the rest of your soul

And explode... into a magical dream

The song about a magical dream carries on talking about the magical dream and how having a magical dream is great because it's magical and a dream. Can't remember the name of the track.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog post. Dreams. More specifically, a dream I had. People waffling about dreams can be pretty dull in the scheme of things, so feel free to scroll off to some more fascinating corner of the internet.

Last night, I dreamed I used a 3D printing vending machine for dresses. A what now? A unit where you pressed a load of buttons and it would spit out a dress. For a women. A proper figure-hugging dress like you see at awards ceremonies.

After scrolling through some templates on the vending machine touchscreen, I decided to get one. The quality of the material looked good. You could choose the strap design and the neckline and any little extras. Lovely.

I chose a red dress. Really red, like Mr Strong driving a fire engine then blushing about it. Soooo red. As Chris de Burgh sang:

The lady in red

Is dancing with me

Bum cheek to bum cheek

At least, I think that's how the song went. Looking at the preview screen, the colour was a bit too blocky, so decided to personalise it with a text pattern. Lots of small white type all over the dress, with the words "Fat Roland" over and over again. FAT ROLAND FAT ROLAND FAT ROLAND.

The machine couldn't handle things, and the text rendered badly. Overlaps, warps, random lines criss-crossing. But then I angled the text at 45 degrees and it was kind of fine. That'll do. If people wanted to read FAT ROLAND, they'll just have to look at it wonky.

At the bottom of the vending machine menu was a big PURCHASE button, alongside the final price including customisations. It would cost £450. Shocked at how expensive this was, I brought my friends in to discuss the wisdom of the purchase. We had a long conversation acknowledging the substandard quality of the final product, even though it was still a preview on a screen rather than the end print. We discussed my financial situation and whether I could afford to take the hit. We also needed to balance that with a need to serve my monstrous narcissism. 

I also asked if this is how much dresses cost in Primark because, as you can tell from all this, I don't buy dresses.

And then I fell into a deeper sleep. Drifted from REM into heavy unconsciousness, any dream sequences fading into darkness. Do we still dream when we're properly conked out? Probably not. My drapery frippery was long lost.

When I finally started waking up, a couple of minutes before my alarm, the dream briefly returned. The discussion with my friends was just finishing. Had they really stuck around all this time? I had opted to not buy the dress because that was the pragmatic and grown-up thing to do. The sense of making a decision made me feel assured as I started my day back in the real world.

Which is why I'm writing this blog post in my usual rags, and not crammed into a red dress looking like Elmo with haemorrhoids.

Jan 10, 2023

An interview with Black Box and why Ride On Time was not of its time

Here's a Fat Roland flashback (a Flat Rolashback?) to an interview I conducted in 2019. I spoke to Black Box's Daniele Davoli about the band's massive 1989 hit Ride On Time. Labels said the vocals were “very aggressive” and it barely shifted a copy of its first pressing. "It completely cleared the floor," he told me when the tune hit the clubs "It was heartbreaking."

So how did it become such a big hit single? Read on for a preview. You can read the full piece over at Electronic Sound.

Black Box in their studio

In a dusty room above a garage in northern Italy, a musician brandishes a vacuum cleaner. Scattered along the walls is a guitar, some old keyboards, a half-broken mixer, and a speaker with a wonky tweeter. 

Outside, a bell tower shatters the silence and next door’s dogs yap in response. In this damp, distracting space in Reggio Emilia, Daniele Davoli is trying to rewrite house music history.

“The bell tower was ding dong, ding dang dong,” recalls Davoli, “and the neighbour’s dogs were woof woof woof. If we were recording vocals, we had to stop. There was no insulation, it was just a bedroom without the bed.”

This story ends well. Davoli will go on to form Black Box, whose Ride On Time, released in July 1989, popularised choppy Italo house piano lines. But we’re not quite there yet. As the group formed, sample culture had become the socks-and-sandals of dance music: a shortcut for naff. Where Paul Hardcastle once stood, now there was Harry “Loadsamoney” Enfield parodying Pump Up The Volume. Ride On Time was against trend – and its journey to success had more stumbles than the Stutter Rap.

Davoli was DJ Lelewel, banging out soul and disco hits at Rimini’s Starlight club... [continue reading this article on Electronic Sound]

Further Fats: Is Fat Roland my real father? Norwegian woof. *click* (2011)

Further Fats: 5 great new dance hits from January 1989 (2019)

Jan 6, 2023

Bang-on electronic music releases in January 2023

Music For Dead Airports cover

Hello, you. You're looking wonderful today. I love that tartan eyeliner, and those designer galoshes really compliment your knee pads.

It's 2023, and if the progression of previous years is anything to go by, we'll be swallowed by burning lava or eaten by locusts within weeks. Still, there's lots of music to enjoy, and I am going to bang on about some of that music now.

All these January 2023 releases are proper bang-on.

The Black Dog: Music For Dead Airports (Dust Science, EP, pictured above)

These four tracks are atmospheric spatial electronics, at least in part recorded in Sheffield airports. The work is inspired by Sheffield's troubled history with airports, including the doomed Sheffield City Airport which had a runway too short for popular budget airlines. Also Sheffield's really hilly and planes hate hills. Music For Dead Airports is released alongside the band's 2010 field recordings album Music for Real Airports.

Rian Treanor & Ocen James: Saccades (Nyege Nyege Tapes)

A remarkable listen, this. Arising from a residency in Kampala, Rotheram's Rian Treanor produces folk techno with Acholi fiddle player Ocen James. Think super rhythmic Ugandan techno using real instruments. This follows 2020's Treanor album File Under UK Metaplasm, which I described previously as "a rave in the middle of Mike Teavee's fractal transfer in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory".

Oceanic: Choral Feeling (Nous'klaer Audio)

We've had an artist from Rotherham. Now let's have one from Rotterdam. For this debut album, Oceanic asked his friends to sing for him. Simple. The resulting vocal melee is mesmerising, with the rhythmic vocals sounding fully human yet so alien. The repetitive and blossoming Sunshine, Dear is a banger. Oceanic is not to be confused with the early-1990s rave act signed to Cheshire's Dead Dead Good Records.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12 (Milan Records)

No Bandcamp preview for this one. This is a selection of musical sketches to mark the revered composer's 71st birthday. He's approached it as a kind of diary, and it tracks a long battle with cancer in which he found himself "reaching for the synthesiser". The track titles are all numbers, and look like a Sudoku grid has glitched because Elon Musk sacked all the puzzle setters. There's a super minimal album teaser on YouTube, although it doesn't give much away. I'll bang on more about this album in Electronic Sound.

Eat Static: Abduction (Planet Dog) 

And finally, look out for this reissue of a 1993 ambient trance classic by the Ozric Tentacles offshoot. It's on double vinyl and comes with added John Peel session tracks. Psychedelic trance that is very druggy, very snappy, and very Planet Doggy.

Dec 31, 2022

Top 50 electronic music albums of 2022: everything in one list

Here's my countdown of the best electronic music albums of 2022.

Here the introduction to my countdown, which sets out my parameters.

And for those of you without thumbs and are therefore unable to scroll, here's it all again as a dry, lifeless, boring old list. No links*, no nothing, just words. Horrible, horrible words.

*Update: I've now added links, so jab away.

Number 1 album of the year:

Real Lies: Lad Ash (Unreal)

The rest of the top 10:

Björk: Fossora (One Little Independent)

Brainwaltzera: ITSAME (FILM) 

Hudson Mohawke: Cry Sugar (Warp)

Lynyn: Lexicon (Sooper)

Mall Grab: What I Breathe (Looking For Trouble)

Max Cooper: Unspoken Words (Mesh)

Mu-Ziq: Hello (Planet Mu) + Mu-Ziq: Magic Pony Ride (Planet Mu)

O'Flynn and Frazer Ray: Shimmer (Technicolour)

Plaid: Feorm Falorx (Warp)

The rest of the top 20:

Bot1500: Surreal (Lith Dolina)

Daphni: Cherry (Jiaolong)

DJ Travella: Mr Mixondo (Nyege Nyege Tapes)

Elektro Guzzi: Triangle (Palazzo Recordings)

Luke Vibert: GRIT (Hypercolour)

Model Home: Saturn In The Basement (Disciples) 

Moderat: More D4ta (Monkeytown)

Shelley Parker: Wisteria (Hypercolour)

T-Flex: No Comment (DINAMPLATZ)

Working Men’s Club: Fear Fear (Heavenly)

The rest of the top 50:

96 Back: Cute Melody, Window Down! (96 Music)

Ani Klang: Ani Klang (New Scenery)

Biosphere: Shortwave Memories (Biophon)

Bogdan Raczynski: ADDLE (Planet Mu)

Bonobo: Fragments (Ninja Tune)

Civilistjävel!: Järnnätter (FELT)

Clark: 05-10 (Warp)

Daniel Avery: Ultra Truth (Phantasy Sound)

Deepchord: Functional Designs (Soma Records)

Frantzvaag: Solo Super (Fuck Reality)

Gabe Gurnsey: Diablo (Phantasy Sound)

Galcher Lustwerk: 100% GALCHER (Ghostly International)

Jared Wilson: From A Different Time (Altered Sense)

John Tejada: Sleepwalker (Palette Recordings) 

Kelly Lee Owens: LP.8 (Smalltown Supersound)

Kuedo: Infinite Window (Brainfeeder)

Maxime Denuc: Nachthorn (Vlek)

Noda & Wolfers: Tascam Space Season (L.I.E.S.)

Pye Corner Audio: Social Dissonance (Sonic Cathedral)

Rival Consoles: Now Is (Erased Tapes)

Robert Ames & Ben Corrigan: Carbs (Nomad Music Productions) 

Salamanda: ashbalkum (Human Pitch)

SCALPING: Void (Houndstooth)

Silicon Scally: Field Lines (Central Processing Unit)

T. Gowdy: Miracles (Constellation)

Tangerine Dream: Raum (Kscope)

Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan: Districts, Roads, Open Space (Castles in Space)

Whatever The Weather: Whatever The Weather (Ghostly International) + Loraine James: Building Something Beautiful For Me (Phantom Limb)

Wordcolour: The trees were buzzing, and the grass. (Houndstooth)

Zaliva-D: Misbegotten Ballads (SVBKVLT)

Commended albums:

33: 33-69 (C.A.N.V.A.S.)

3Ddancer: new exciting toys (3Ddancer)

Ailie Ormston and Tim Fraser: It Changes (Bison)

Brassfoot: SWEAT (NCA)

Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit (light-years)

Chouk Bwa & The Angströmers: Ayiti Kongo Dub (Les Disques Bongo Joe)

Coby Sey: Conduit (AD 93)

Decius Lias Saoudi: Decius Vol. I (The Leaf Label)

The Ephemeron Loop: Psychonautic Escapism (Heat Crimes)

HiTech: Hitech (FXHE Records)

Kakuhan: Metal Zone (NAKID)

Kemetrix: Here and Now (100 Limousines)

Michael J.Blood x Rat Heart: Nite Mode Vol.1 (BodyTronixxx)

Nosaj Thing: Continua (LuckyMe)

Pacced Rock: Chapter One - Sonic Levitation (Ilian Tape)

Pole: Tempus (Mute)

Rat Heart Ensemble: A Blues (Shotta Tapes)

Richie Culver: I was born by the sea (REIF)

Romance & Dean Hurley: In Every Dream Home A Heartache (Ecstatic)

Soichi Terada: Asakusa Light (Rush Hour)

Stephen Mallinder: tick tick tick (Dais Records)

Ulla: Foam (3XL)

Walton: Maisie By The Sea (Lith Dolina)

Waves: Low Altitude (self-released)

Zombie Zombie: Vae Vobis (Born Bad)

See all the write-ups for Best Electronic Music Albums of 2022.

Number 1 best electronic music album of 2022: Real Lies – Lad Ash

It's time to announce my favourite album of 2022. I say "announce". You can already see the title, or you linked through from a social media post telling you what the album is. Look, this isn't the Oscars, I haven't got a gold envelope. Jeez, leave me alone. 

This year's top LP will join the following Fat Roland Albums of the Year:

2021 Koreless  |  2020 DJ Python  |  2019 Plaid  |  2018 Rezzett  |  2017 Clark & Jlin  |  2016 Bwana  |  2015 Blanck Mass  |  2014 Aphex Twin  |  2013 Jon Hopkins  |  2012 Andy Stott & Lone  |  2011 Rustie  |  2010 Mount Kimbie  |  2009 Clark  |  2008 Hot Chip  |  

Real Lies: Lad Ash (Unreal)

In some ways, I detest my annual album countdown. How can all the rich complexities of music fandom be contained in a list? My rundown is always far too blokey, and my fickle tastes spin like a weathercock in a washing machine. That said…

Phwoar. I bloomin’ love Lad Ash. A brilliant album at the top of a brilliant countdown! No matter how hard I yanked my tombola handle to shuffle my options for favourite album of the year, time after time these London lads’ second album kept popping out. It’s an impressive musical summary of this entire countdown in a way: the light-footed beats of Bonobo, the accessible melodies of Moderat, the laddishness of Working Men’s Club, the electronic emotion of μ-Ziq. It spins through a rolodex of dance music influences, from 90s house to two-step to ambience and generally excellent boogie music.

The bedtime-muttered vocals are oh-so yearning. “I wish I could do better, burn money like the KLF.” “I'm trying to come of age, can we change the subject?” “I felt like I was part of something.” Aside from the personal narration that sounds like Mike Skinner’s moody brother, the almost-choral use of vocals is a delight, thanks in no small part to vocalist Zoee.

The sultry attitude isn't enough, though, and it needs instrumentation to back it up. Oh boy. We get hissing synths on Dream On, urgent snares on Dolphin Junction, widescreen ambience extending the trippy vocals on Since I, a washed-out Born Slippy stomp on Your Guiding Hand. So. Many. Tunes.

Following their 2015 debut ‘Real Life’, the band talked about Lad Ash’s songs being a “farewell to something”. They had scrapped an earlier version of this second album and were newly pared down to a duo, so it was indeed borne of creative loss.

But the loss they evoke here is deeper. There's talk of “wide-eyed teenhood” and “suburban dust”, the sound of two guys hurtling through life and trying, helplessly, to grasp onto the past. Maybe that’s why I connected so hard. I started this blog in my early 30s, and next year I’ll be 50. I’m not the same person I was, and every so often I have to correct my vision of myself. Lad Ash nails that spinning carousel of life in its lyrics and in its rose-tinted/tainted musical glasses. 

As it says on An Oral History Of My First Kiss:

“There's an awkward gap between childhood and being properly teenage. A peripheral shadowland of not quite being enough.”

Same for us middle-agers. Nothing’s never quite enough. I never achieve enough. I never blog enough. This countdown is not enough. You've not read enough words on this page: I'm pretty sure you skipped a couple earlier on.

But, and this is the important bit, this is all we have. It will do, and we'll be happy with it. Congratulations, Real Lies, you are my favourite electronic music album of 2022.

Curious track: The breezy breakbeat on Dream On feels like something you could actually ride, like a car made of audio or something. Seriously. A journalist for 31 years and I come up with this.

Album feels: Wanting to be young again, but definitely not wanting to be young again.

Cover art: Statue snogging. Absolutely disgusting.

A final word: Firstly, an honourable mention for Ceephax Acid Crew, who released an album on Christmas Day, which is far too late to be absorbed for this countdown. Also, apologies to the 92 million album producers I forgot to include. Secondly, thanks to everyone for reading my blog in 2022. I warn you now: 2023 is going to be IMMENSE. 

From another website: On Lad Ash, Real Lies are alchemists – making music that is in equal part for the head, the heart and the gut. (Narc.)

This is part of a series of the Best Electronic Music Albums of 2022. Read it all here.

Top 10 electronic music albums of 2022: μ-Ziq – Hello

This is the penultimate album in my 2022 countdown. This brings to an end my Top 10 countdown, indeed my countdown of 75+ albums, bar one important final blog post – the number one electronic music album of 2022. So nearly there.

μ-Ziq: Hello (Planet Mu)

There’s a lot to unpack here. There was an EP called Goodbye and now an album called Hello, and there was three-part magical pony prancing, and indeed his other 2022 album Magic Pony Ride (Planet Mu) should be considered as part two of this top ten inclusion. Pardon? You might want to read that again. 

It seems reworking his classic 1997 album Lunatic Harness triggered in Mike Paradinas a period of fertility worthy of post-brain tumour Anthony Burgess or post-brain frying Jack Torrance. Hello is melodic beyond words. There’s waveform-wobbling choirs, moth-bitten acid, junglist breaks suspended in pea soup gloom. It's like raving to drill and bass but the drills are blancmange and the bass is even more blancmange. Paradinas being Paradinas at his most Paradinas. Absolutely wonderful.

Curious track: Magic Pony Ride (Pt​.​3) is a deliriously happy conclusion to his various Pony Rides.

Album feels: Like a fairground with more candy floss stands than it necessarily needs but no-one's complaining.

Cover art: A conceptual evocation of early Warp Records vinyl artwork. 

From another website: Загадочный IDM/DnB-эмбиент от радующего нас уже тридцать лет британского ветерана электронной сцены. Вполне мог бы быть саундтреком к восьмибитной компьютерной игре в жанре фэнтези. (AOTY)

This is part of a series of the Best Electronic Music Albums of 2022. Read it all here.

Top 10 electronic music albums of 2022: Plaid – Feorm Falorx

We're almost there. The countdown is nearly complete. Over 70 albums later, and we have a final two Top 10-ers then... drum roll.. the album of the year. You could cut the tension with a sausage. Next up is a band I saw recently at the White Hotel and they were flipping brilliant.

Plaid: Feorm Falorx (Warp)

When I declared Plaid’s previous album Polymer as the best album of 2019, I wrote: “This is a Plaid album that feels angry”, pointing out their descent “into a valley of darkness”. I still think that’s their magnum opus, their chef-d'oeuvre. Feorm Falorx is quite the mood change, shining a light into the shadows. The concept is that we’re enjoying a Plaid gig at the Feorm festival on the planet of Falorx. Bear with me, now. The festival is infinite and Plaid are made of light beams. Before you dismiss this as fanciful nonsense, I’ve actually been there. It’s a lovely planet with: attractive hedgerows; thrumming baroque melodies; fluffy headnod rhythms; Plaid’s trademark seductive spiralling melodies multiplied by a thousand; a fully functioning network of motorways and b-roads; epic highs soaked with anxious ambience; characterful guitar work from Mason Bee; and a splendid visitor’s centre gift shop. Even better with the beautifully designed accompanying graphic novel by Emma Catnip.

Curious track: The pairing of C.A. and Cwtchr is one of the bestest ever Plaid moments.

Album feels: Light beams. Aliens. Basically like visiting Mars with your phone light on.

Cover art: That bit in Arrival where they're talking to aliens inside the floaty baked bean. 

From another website: If there’s anything to find comfort in these days, then it’s the fact that Plaid are still around, ready to provide another door to escape through – at least for a fleeting moment. (The Quietus)

This is part of a series of the Best Electronic Music Albums of 2022. Read it all here.