Jun 30, 2019

Happy 30th anniversary, Warp Records


Warp Records has been celebrating its 30th birthday - it's the same age as Taylor Swift, Daniel Radcliffe and the twins who played Carl Gallagher in Shameless.

The first Warp track I heard was LFO's LFO, quickly followed by Tricky Disco's Tricky Disco. Both were UK top 40 hits - I know that because I taped the charts religiously every week: both songs would have degraded gloriously as I tape-to-tape copied them onto successive home compilations. Aside from loving the electronic simplicity of the records, having eponymous songs seemed weirdly rebellious.

Then came the Artificial Intelligence compilations, my musical fulcrum from which everything spewed, which featured Polygon Window, The Black Dog, Beaumont Hannant and B12. Warp also gave us some incredibly beautiful artist albums, most notably from - of course - Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada, Autechre and Richard H Kirk. You already know this.

I remember Warp's tectonic plates shifting when they moved to London. A bit like when Boddingtons shut down their Manchester brewery. They widened their electronic remit (Warp, that is, not Boddies), bringing in acts like Anti Pop Consortium who sounded wonky and wild. And now they rule the world with artists like Flying Lotus, Plaid, Bibio, Kelela and Oneohtrix Point Never. You can catch a stack of the label's 30th anniversary broadcasts here.

Happy birthday, Warp. I'm glad you're still going strong, and I'm glad you're still putting out music by the likes of Lorenzo Senni, which has all the vital energy as your early stuff. I'll be forever grateful to the label being a beacon of quality techno, and the basis for a lot of further record browsing across a zillion other labels.

If I had one criticism, it would be that there doesn't seem to be much eponymous song titling these days. Just saying. If you want to release Fat Roland's Fat Roland, you know who to call.

Jun 24, 2019

What was your first concert?

There's a "post your replies" meme flapping around Facebook at the moment where you bang on about gigs you've been to and no-one reads it because no-one cares what gigs you've been to.

So I thought I'd use it as the basis of a blog post.

First concert? James at GMEX, 1993, with Radiohead supporting. HOW COOL AM I??!?!? I'd seen a stack of smaller things before that, most likely Christian artists because I was a good church boy back then, and I'd been a music columnist since 1991 so I'd no doubt seen a tonne of local bands. James was the first one I remember, and it's also the one that makes me look coolest, but it was probably my 50th gig and the reality is that I really can't remember my first gig.

Latest concert? It was a couple of friends bands a few days ago: Geisterhouse and Rickerly. Geisterhouse is an angular man with an angular guitar, and Rickerly is a masked spirit who oozes samples. They're both great.

Next concert? When I wrote this, it was Plaid this coming Saturday. However, Saturday's now been and gone due to the rules of time, so it's probably the Subliminal Impulse festival.

Best concert? Almost impossible to say. There was Pulp's Common People tour, and Flaming Lips at Jodrell Bank, and Smashing Pumpkins making the Manchester (Nynex!) Arena feel small, and the Manics doing similar in the same venue, and there's almost every Orbital gig since 1995, and a zillion Bjork gigs, and the Chemical Brothers back in the day, and Blame & Bukem, and Jon flipping Hopkins. It also has to be said that Kylie puts on an astonishing show too.

Worst concert? I used to be a full-time music journalist so could probably list a hundred names here. I accidentally saw Ocean Colour Scene once and that was a dark day.

Who have you seen most? No surprise here when I say Orbital: I first saw them at Tribal Gathering in ye olden days, and most recently had my ears blasted off at the Manchester Apollo. Also I kept getting free tickets to the Levellers back in the 1990s, so them too. Levellers! Remember them? Oh my.

Best concert venue? I have a soft spot for Manchester Apollo, but I have to give a shout out to smaller venues like Hidden, The Peer Hat and Aatma.

Worst concert venue? A place in Preston that made farts out of Orbital's bass sound, can't remember the name. That said, I bought Orbital's brown album in 1993 on the strength of an NME review which praised one of the tracks for sounding like an "extended fart", or words of that ilk.

Who have you not seen but want to? I never saw The Fall despite numerous chances to. And New Order, who I may or may not have seen due to the fogginess of my raving days but I don't think so. And PJ Harvey. I could just list band names here. Pink Floyd. Bananarama. Madonna. Are you even reading this? Westlife. The Cheeky Girls. Crazy Frog.

Ultimately, you don't care what gigs I've been to: it's such a personal thing, seeing all that stuff with your eyes, feeling all that bass in your gut. Still. Let me know your first concert experience in the comments below or by tweeting me at @FatRoland, especially if it is extra cool or extra embarrassing.

May 31, 2019

Fat Roland's top ten comfort listens - 1: Richard H Kirk's Virtual State


Number 1 in my top ten comfort-listens is Richard H Kirk's Virtual State

Album nameVirtual State

Artist: Richard H Kirk

Additional note: This is the last post in this mini blog series - see all the rest here. I should have included Aphex Twin, The Orb and Global Communication in this list, but all three demand closer listening even if it's something I've heard a zillion times like Selected Ambient Works, and the whole point of this series is about background listening without paying too much attention. Also, you can pretty much shuffle this entire top ten. Righto - carry on...

Who they sound like according to Spotify's recommendations: A lovely pair of woolly trousers.... actually it doesn't say that, but Spotify's recommendations are pretty weak

Most comforting musical element: The memory of playing this on vinyl over and over again, alongside Autechre's Incunabula, without - at that stage - knowing much about either artist

Least comforting musical element: The fact that Kirk's had so many aliases and projects (Cabaret Voltaire, Sandoz, Electronic Eye, Sweet Exorcist), the chances are you're listening to Richard H Kirk AND YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW IT

What it's like being smothered by (in a good way): A lovely, heaving, moist Fat Roland, possibly lubricated with Lurpak

Comfort food it should be paired with: A lovely salad - you've had far too much comfort food during this blog series and you're looking a little green around the gills

Public figure I would recommend this album to so they can chill the heck out: None of them: I'm keeping this album all to myself, so important was it to me back in t'day

What the opposite of this album sounds like: A basket of puppies being poured into a shredder, or perhaps a baby hippo in a blender, or maybe a giraffe entangled in the mechanical jaws of a city-destroying megabot - basically, anything that's horrible

Click here to see the comfort listening series in full - thanks for reading.

Fat Roland's top ten comfort listens - 2: The Radio Dogma podcast


Number 2 in my top ten comfort-listens is The Black Dog's Radio Dogma

Podcast name: Radio Dogma

Artist: The Black Dog

Who they sound like according to Spotify's recommendations: Ah! Shut up! It's a podcast! Fooled you! In your FACE, stupid question-setter!

Most comforting musical element: The quality of the collated tunes, and the continual warmth even when they get dark

Least comforting musical element: When you're trying to concentrate, the talking gets in the way, but I'm sure The Black Dog don't sit in their studio thinking "better make sure we don't throw Fat Roland off his macramé"

What it's like being smothered by (in a good way): A couple of gruff old techno-heads from Sheffield, proper rubbing up against you, they are - one of them's wearing a really itchy poncho

Comfort food it should be paired with: A Sheffield egg, which is a Sheffield-centric egg encased in sausage meat, cheese, relish, breadcrumbs and steel dining forks

Public figure I would recommend this album to so they can chill the heck out: All those other bloody idiots who do bad things on podcasts: poor editing, poor mic control, eating on mic, going on mic with a sniffly cold, waffling on too long, not listening to answers, talking over each other, doing endless intro segments, bad music... you all need to be more like The Black Dog

What the opposite of this album sounds like: Nighttime on the New Zealand north island village of Papatowai, which is directly on the opposite side of the Earth to Sheffield (geography for the win)

Click here to see the comfort listening series in full.

Fat Roland's top ten comfort listens - 3: Sun Electric's Present


Number 3 in my top ten comfort-listens is Sun Electric's Present

Album name: Present

Artist: Sun Electric

Who they sound like according to Spotify's recommendations: Mariah Carey and Megadeth... only joking... Global Communication, System 7, The Orb

Most comforting musical element: It sort of glistens, like a beautifully packaged parcel of molten hot iron

Least comforting musical element: Aaaargh, too hot, aaaaargh, too hot, I'm burning, I'm burning

What it's like being smothered by (in a good way): This album was off my radar and I only really got into it a couple of years ago (Kitchen was always my preferred Sun Electric album), so it's like being smothered by a long-lost uncle who you're not entirely sure is your uncle but he has that look in his eyes so you carry on pretending he's definitely your uncle

Comfort food it should be paired with: A sausage and chorizo pasta bake thrown into the fiery heart of the sun

Public figure I would recommend this album to so they can chill the heck out: Normski - whatever happened to Normski? Or maybe Neil out of Art Attack. Someone you'd forgotten about but now really want to meet

What the opposite of this album sounds like: An overly-familiar part of your body, like the back of your hand, or your athlete's foot, or your gangrenous third nipple

Click here to see the comfort listening series in full.

Fat Roland's top ten comfort listens - 4: Autechre's Incunabula


Number 4 in my top ten comfort-listens is Autechre's Incunabula

Album name: Incunabula (rhymes with parabola) (probably)

Artist: Autechre

Who they sound like according to Spotify's recommendations: AFX, Squarepusher, μ-Ziq

Most comforting musical element: Autechre were so different here: just listen to those lingering chords

Least comforting musical element: The week this was released, Mr Blobby entered the charts for the first time - COINCIDENCE?!

What it's like being smothered by (in a good way): Something old and textured, like a very nice elephant or a grandpa dressed as a Christmas tree

Comfort food it should be paired with: A lovely slice of old pizza you found behind your oven (just blow the mould off, it'll be fine)

Public figure I would recommend this album to so they can chill the heck out: All the candidates in the Tory leadership contest, as long as they listened inside their own toilets and didn't come out ever again

What the opposite of this album sounds like: Blobbyyyy, oh Mr Blobby, if only you could make us understaaaand....

Click here to see the comfort listening series in full.

Fat Roland's top ten comfort listens - 5: Bicep's Bicep


Number 5 in my top ten comfort-listens is Bicep's Bicep

Album name: Bicep

Artist: Bicep

Who they sound like according to Spotify's recommendations: I'm not even going to bother because they don't mention Bonobo once, which is ridiculous

Most comforting musical element: Those icicle-sharp hi-hats that send a shiver up your nose

Least comforting musical element: The blokes from Bicep who have nipped round to poke an icicle up your schnozzle

What it's like being smothered by (in a good way): Nostalgia, but not creepy family photograph nostalgia: good nostalgia, like early MySpace or your YouTube uploads from ten years ago

Comfort food it should be paired with: That ice-cream with the marshallow chunks in, but nothing too salty, thanks, in fact I'll just have a Viennetta

Public figure I would recommend this album to so they can chill the heck out: Anyone overdoing the whole keyboard-warrior bullying on Twitter instead of using their significant following to celebrate their legacy such as, for example, IT-themed sitcoms

What the opposite of this album sounds like: A life without nostalgia: a country without a past, a person without a back-story, a computer without a search history

Click here to see the comfort listening series in full.

Fat Roland's top ten comfort listens - 6: Bola's Soup


Number 6 in my top ten comfort-listens is Bola's Soup.

Album name: Soup

Artist: Bola

Who they sound like according to Spotify's recommendations: Arovane, Brothomstates, Kettel (where really they should just list Boards of Canada)

Most comforting musical element: It's exactly the right level of chill

Least comforting musical element: The title pun (bowl o' soup)

What it's like being smothered by (in a good way): Soup, but room-temperature soup because a piping hot minestrone is going to take your face off

Comfort food it should be paired with: Soup, obviously soup, just plain old soup, not soup and a bread roll, just the soup, no you may NOT sprinkle it in herbs

Public figure I would recommend this album to so they can chill the heck out: Joey Essex because he once did a soup advert, which is very much something I just had to google

What the opposite of this album sounds like: What's the antonym for soup? Just some ingredients laid out in a line, entirely separate, i.e. some tomatoes or a mushroom, I really feel there was something else I was meant to be writing about here...

Click here to see the comfort listening series in full.