Dec 14, 2018

Google autocomplete taught me some important things about electronic music

I had a mild brain fart the other day and forgot everything I had known about electronic music. Thankfully, Google was there to educate me.

I began to enter things into its search box, and Google helpfully completed my sentence for me. For example:

Turns out Aphex Twin might be Irish or a genius. There's a fine line between the two. I learnt he might be in a Die Antwoord video and possibly uses a Digital Audio Workstation. I'm learning fast here.

According to this, Daft Punk might be French androids or bespectacled Scots. There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether they're still making music, or indeed still alive. It's sweet that people think they might be married because they wear matching helmets.

A fair bit of homophobia on display here. What even is "gay music"? Still, at least I learned that Depeche Mode were goths. Or emo. Or new wave. This really isn't helping. Let's move on.

I widened out my search and decided to learn about electronic music. It left me worried for my brain but encouraged about my studies. A supplementary Google search sent me to a forum thread in which someone declared music to be prohibited by Islam. Someone replied with something along the lines of 'but what about all the Muslim musicians?' It didn't get a response.

Surely I can learn about rave from Google autocomplete? The results were vague. Rave might not be a word, and may get you in trouble in India. What the heck's rave hairspray and rave tobacco? Is that what all the kids are into these days?

Back to the bands, and my all-time favourite. Although only one of these suggested searches references the actual band Orbital. Due to sporadic break-ups, it seems their star has waned. When I turn up to their gig in December, I'm either going to be faced by the world's best techno band or a scuffed old DIY tool. Whatever journey their career is on, they seem to be travelling in a very strange elevator.

One more try. How about one of the biggest names in dance music? Surely I can dig up something on Calvin Harris.

Is that it? Oh forget it.

Further Fats: If it goes bleep, it may or may not be EDM (2013)

Further Fats: Is Tales From Fat Tulip's Garden responsible for the rave boom? (2017)

Dec 11, 2018

Visiting Rival Consoles' jellyfish space beach

I've been spinning the new Rival Consoles album recently, if Spotify tracks spin, that is.

Rival Consoles is a London synth bloke and he was the first ever signing on the trouser-flappingly influential Erased Tapes label. This year's Ingmar Bergman-inspired Persona album is currently on constant repeat in chez Fat Roland.

Here are two videos. Firstly, as an appetiser, the unhurried ambience of Untravel, accompanied by a video set on some kind of jellyfish space beach (pictured). And then, there's Hidden, which is a corker and no mistake.

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

Further Fats: No more harrumphs: Kiasmos are back (2017)

Dec 4, 2018

Don't be put off by the Shrek violence in this blog post

I’m stuffing a bunch of new music into my ears, which is nicer than sticking pins into my ears, but not as nice as scrambled egg. While that music oozes all over my ear drums, I’m going to tell you about my stupidly busy week.

I had that Robin Ince doing a gig at my venue last Tuesday, after which I tootled over to see some good comedy at XS Malarkey. On Wednesday, I co-hosted the last Bad Language of the year, with poet Shirley May on great form. Thursday was covered in my last blog post, so go and read that for a bit. Friday was a necessary night in, even though a friend had a really good show I wanted to see.

Saturday afternoon saw me doing improv with Tony Slattery: an unexpected treat with a very talented chap, and you should book his new show if you are the sort of person who books shows. Then on Saturday evening, I went to a superbly funny Group Therapy comedy night, the highlights of which were seeing Glenn Wool for the first time, and seeing John Luke Roberts run through the 24 Spice Girls that didn’t make it into the Spice Girls.

On Sunday night, I scratched my pop itch by screaming at Years & Years (pictured). It was loud, proud and more colourful than a pair of jolly colourful slacks from Mrs Thribble-Smythe’s tie-dye trouser boutique. Then on Monday night, I “interpreted” a section of the film Shrek at Flim Nite, which led to the following tweet:

Finally tonight I have been on Electronic Sound business, all of which was until someone nicked the case to my Zoom recorder then lied to my face about nicking it. Silly thief. The rest of this week is Burgess Foundation work and Electronic Sound work and maybe some extra sleep.

The music’s still playing. The music will never stop playing.

Nov 30, 2018

Putting postcards under the hammer

You remember postcards, right? They were like Instagram, but you wrote the caption on the other side of the picture.

Last night, Manchester architects Levitt Bernstein held a postcard auction in aid of Shelter. Designers of the arty cards included New Order, Karl Hyde, Mr Scruff and Mary Anne Hobbs.

One of my own designs went under the hammer too. It fetched £45, which wasn't bad for a sketchy pen scrawl. Some of them went for £200, which is £1.29 per centimetre.

The auctioneer was the comedian, actor and Manchester celebrity John Thomson. He took the mick beautifully out of the designs (“looks like Johnny Vegas, he said if mine), and bled our pockets dry with a twinkle in his eye.

Actually, I didn't win a single auction on the night, so it turned out pretty cheap for me. I went in steep for the Mr Scruff postcard, but I was easily outbid. Shelter, a donation is on the way.

Nov 27, 2018

A little cat story (it's the story that's little, not the cat)

Total cat drama the other lunchtime.

I'm entering a passageway and a cat approaches. Fusses, strokes, delighted to see me. Could not get a decent photo, as you can see above. Anyway, we're bezzie friends for a good five minutes.

Suddenly, a family appears with an Alsatian the size of the moon, heading towards us. I set off into the passageway and the cat, nervous, follows.

So I'm walking down this passage, the cat walking close with me but looking frantically for a bit of broken fence to escape through as megadog quite cheerily tails us.

And suddenly, there's a moment.

The cat clocks the length of the inescapable passageway. It's heading too far from home. It's trapped. It looks up at me and lets out a frightened mew.

Therefore I did what a lot of cats hate. I scooped up the cat into my arms and stood aside as the humongous hound passes us. The cat buries its face but knows I'm protecting it.

Dog gone, the cat shoots back to the start of the passage, back home to safety. (Had a nice chat with the dog owners as they passed, about how their fifty-foot lump of a dog REALLY likes chasing cats.)

I've always felt a close affinity with pusscats, but that was a weirdly extra-connected vibe.

Never did get a decent pic.

Nov 24, 2018

Oh for a collection of Orbital Os

Behold this collection of Orbital Os. A sequence of circles representing the infinite omega of techno, where we are the alpha.

The zeros equate to nothing and yet are everything. They don't multiply or divide with ease. They are awkward and individual.

No mobius twists here: in these ohs, infinity is linear, with outsides and In Sides forming a binary collusion that--

What a load of guff. It's just circles, innit. It's the initial of the band, plus an added reference to the M25 motorway that gave them their name. I put these record covers together because it looks nice.

If I ever start actually writing like that, poke me in the face.

Further Fats: Battles Dross Glop spot the difference quiz (2012

Further Fats: James Blake's The Colour In Anything: Spot The Difference quiz (2016)

Nov 21, 2018

BlueDot announce Kraftwerk as 2019 headliners - nice!

BlueDot Festival has just announced Kraftwerk as headliner for 2019. For a festival which blends science and music, it's yet another canny booking.

So to celebrate, and because I'm lazy, here are some hastily-lifted Kraftwerkian highlights from the entire history of this blog. Happy browsing.

1. KLING! Top five bands that you wouldn't expect to record Kraftwerk covers but they did, honestly they did... read more on this 2010 Kraftwerk blog post.

2. KLANG! Orbital have a new single out, and blow me down with an electronic sausage, it's a Kraftwerk cover. Read more on this 2017 Kraftwerk blog post.

3. KLONG! According to my pocket calculator, Florian Schneider was in the band for 38 years.  To put that into perspective, teenager-snuggling metallics-botherer Bill Wyman was in the Rolling Stones for only 30 years. Delve into this 2009 Kraftwerk blog post.

4. KLENG? In the beginning, you had the puritans. Kraftwerk, who were clean and clinical, who stood there on their podiums giving sermons about wild ideas like pocket calculators and autobahns. Read my 2010 Gospel According To Aphex Twin.

5. KLUNK. All I have now are reflections of a remarkable time. Read my reflections on my debut 2015 solo show Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship, written moments after I finished a run in Edinburgh.

Further Fats: 'Scoping out the 2017 BlueDot festival (2017)

Further Fats: BlueDotBlog: Love is all (2018)

Nov 18, 2018

Throwing shapes, lots of pretty shapes

I like a data visualisation, me. Lots of pretty shapes throwing information in your face.

Maths doesn't strike me with fear, as it does for so many. I got an A in my GCSEs, and I'm the kind of person who reads all the chart positions in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.

I was less keen on art at school because I'm not one for colouring within the lines. But give me a bunch of marker pens and a stack of paper, and I'll scrawl you something very out of the lines. A hypno-cat? A shark called Franklin? A devastated Gonzo? It's all there on my Instagram page.

All of which is to say, I love Sequence, the data art prints by Alex Szabo-Haslam.

You pick any album, and I mean any album at all, and its track lengths will be rendered into a tasty graphic. The Kickstarter has just smashed its funding goal, and now you can order from his website (I presume you communicate your chosen album via email).

More geeky artwork, please, world. My face loves those shapes.

Further Fats: See this? This is you, this is (2014)

Further Fats: Aphex Twin's new Cheetah EP: a sweet talkin' design (2016)

Nov 15, 2018

Five starring roles in the video for Aphex Twin's On

Aphex Twin's third EP On is 25 years old today, according to Wikipedia. Happy birthday, On. Happy Onday.

I remember playing the video a lot. I must have owned it on VHS or reel-to-reel or kinetoscope. The hypnotic stop-motion beach scene tied in nicely with the farting bassline of the track. Watch it here.

For those that don't remember, here are the main stars of the On video. Enjoy.

Further Fats: Aphex Twin + Britney + Beastie Boys + 808 State + anything, really (2010)

Further Fats: Fat Roland goes to Crosby beach (2014)

Nov 12, 2018

Eight thoughts, from Aphex Twin's face to the reincarnation of ODB

1. The new Crack magazine has a great Aphex Twin mug shot (pictured), and this interview is matched with some delightfully unwatchable graphics.

2. I went to see Dylan Moran with my mate Ros and he was very funny. He's put me off ducks for life.

3. Scooter's 2003 single Weekend ends with the lines "respect to the man in the ice cream van, over and out", respective references to the KLF singles Justified & Ancient and 3AM Eternal. Two of their many KLF references. (Hat tip: Matthew Cobb)

4. The Designer's Republic, who have done record covers for every important electronic band ever in the whole history of the universe, are running a slightly pricey but very impressive Kickstarter campaign for a new book.

5. Richard Herring's new Stone Clearing podcast is even more ridiculous than his self-playing snooker podcast and you should subscribe to it here.

6. This blog turns 14 tomorrow. It's not an impressive number so I won't be baking a cake. Still, it's as old as Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things.

7. I've got Rhythm Is A Mystery by K-Klass in my head. The "move your body to the rhythm of love" bit. K-Klass really need to have a word with Snap: rhythm's either a mystery or a dancer - it can't be both.

8. Oh and another thing. I learned today that Ol' Dirty B*stard died on the day my blog was launched. I'm not saying this blog is the reincarnation of the Wu Tang legend, but I think questions have to be asked.

Nov 9, 2018

I have the best job on earth*

Two years ago, I began working for Anthony Burgess, or more specifically, for the institution that carries on his work in Manchester.

I have the best job on earth*. I get to put events on in an idiosyncratic but beautiful Manchester mill, and know that whenever someone buys a book about ultraviolence (A Clockwork Orange) or a poet sitting on a toilet (Inside Mr Enderby), they're paying my wage.

I'm also immersed in the world of an extraordinary person. Every time I flit from writing a short story to making music to scribbling a strange new cartoon, I think of Burgess. He did the same, mixing his artistic modes like a cocktail: the musical doodles on his manuscripts in our archive are testament to that.

You should come and visit my place. There's loads on: as I write, there's a synthesiser gig on, and tomorrow there's a hypnotist, and then there's exhibitions and literature and I'm pretty sure there's a children's concert coming up next month.

Working at the Burgess has also freed me up for performance stuff, and I've just had the most remarkable year - bigger and better gigs than ever before including a show run in a proper theatre. Like, proper. It had walls and everything.

And to put the journalistic cherry on top of the orange-flavoured cake, the latest Electronic Sound is dedicated to A Clockwork Orange. I've now written 47 columns for ES along with a stack of features and reviews. You really should subscribe. Burgess was a journalist too, of course. He seems determined to copy everything I do.

As for the rest of 2018, I'm winding down performance stuff. Smaller gigs, open mics and suchlike. I need more head-space, and some quiet creativity to top off what has been a very loud year. And then in 2019? Bigger, better, louder, stupider, and a more orangey artistic cocktail. What does that even mean? I have no idea.

I'll leave you with something cool I did with our brickwork recently. See? Idiosyncratic but beautiful. Nailed it.

* astronauts have better jobs, but technically they're not on earth when they're astronauting

Nov 6, 2018

Feed me Rephlex things

This blog post was prompted by a tweet from Bandcamp, which is a bit like a more modern version of writing a LiveJournal entry prompted by a forum post from Napster.

Rephlex Records was a massive part of my musical world. It was truly the ABC of alternative techno, if that ABC stood for Aphex Twin, Bogdan Raczynski and Ceephax Acid Crew.

The label wound up a couple of years ago, but Bandcamp are here to remind us of their legacy in this old article tweeted at the end of October.

I think I'd include Squarepusher's Feed Me Weird Things, something by The Gentle People, some Voafose and that cracking Monolith album from a while back that was well good.

Professional music writer, me.

Read the Bandcamp piece here.

Further Fats: Reviews: The Flashbulb & Hecker/Voafose (2006)

Further Fats: Some abandoned musics: Body Down by Hounds Of Hulme (2015)