Jan 15, 2019

Here are Aphex Twin's biggest hit singles

The singles chart doesn't matter anymore to you, does it. You're into modern things like mp3s and modems and skateboards.

Still, it's nice to have a look at chart stats now and then. Here are Aphex Twin's highest UK chart positions to date.

Windowlicker 16
On 32
Come To Daddy 36
Ventolin EP 49
Digeridoo 55

Yes, that's the ‘correct’ spelling of didgeridoo.

For a five-of-the-best, it's not bad, although I would have liked to have seen the teddy bears of Donkey Rhubarb in the place of Ventolin. Sadly, ole DonkRhu spent just one week at number 78 in the summer of 1995.

Curiously, it's all 1990s stuff. Some AFX gubbins just about charted in the noughties, but nothing from the current Syro/Soundcloud revival era has troubled the singles countdown.

Not that I'd expect it to. And I'm not bothered, because chart facts are for boring old people who only like gramophones and Betamax and skateboards.

Jan 12, 2019

Remember when I used to present Tomorrow's World? No?

In the new Electronic Sound magazine, I had a natter with Matt Berry. Yes, that Matt Berry. He's got a great Television Themes album out, so we talked about Top Of The Pops and Are You Being Served and all that kinda stuff.

I also waffled with the International Teachers Of Pop about their ace debut album. That interview was a moment of fun in a crazy jaunt to Sheffield during which I was also the victim of theft and I pathetically failed to get into a comedy club.

Including my column in which I erroneously claim I used to present Tomorrow's World, and including my half page review of Ultramarine's new album, my articles span nearly 15 pages of the new Electronic Sound. That includes pictures too. Nice pictures. Buy the new issue here or in a shop.

Good jobs I can done string an sentence together, huh.

Jan 9, 2019

I've just found The Black Dog at the back of my sock drawer

When I compile my albums of the year, I always worry that I'll miss something obvious. Like Mo Farah forgetting his running shoes or Tom Daley forgetting his swimming trunks.

I've gone and done it. Lo and blimmin' behold, I missed The Black Dog from my 2018 round-up. I knew they'd released albums, I'd listened to those albums, but my brain put them at the back of my sock drawer and forgot all about them.

The Sheffield soundsmiths popped out a pair of contrasting works. Black Daisy Wheel was mellow, like a swan enjoying a summer's day, and Post-Truth was a bit perkier, like, er, a slightly more perky swan enjoying a summer's day. Both were informed by the dystopia of disinformation in which we all wade.

The Black Dog have been techno legends for 52 decades, and they still remain as active as ever: their website is bursting with things to listen to. It's silly to have missed them because Post-Truth got plenty of play from me this year, in the same way that Tom gets plenty of use out of his trunks. I presume he's got more than one pair, although I suppose they kind of wash themselves.... I'm getting side-tracked.

Have a listen to some of it below. The album, that is, not Tom Daley's pants.

Jan 6, 2019

Meet the Yamaha GX-1, the tractor's natural nemesis

This is a Yamaha GX-1. It is a synthesiser. It is a very big synthesiser.

It looks like an organ, but it's an eight-voice polyphonic synth that retailed for tens of thousands of dollars when it came out in the mid-1970s.

It even had a ribbon controller like a proper synthesiser. That's a strip you move your finger on, and it changes what you're playing: like a guitar's tremolo arm or that little eagle eye switch on the back of Action Man's head.

Very few GX-1s were ever made. Stevie Wonder and Aphex Twin own one. Keith Emerson's GX-1 got run over by a tractor - he later bought a second one from Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and used its parts to repair his original.

As Keith Emerson once told Keyboard magazine:
"A truck lost its steering and drove straight into my barn recording studio. It was lucky I wasn’t there at the time, because I would’ve been playing away and the next second I’d have a tractor with a whole trailer of logs behind it go into my back. Somehow my nine-foot Steinway avoided being hit, but the tractor had shoved the GX-1 to the other side of the studio—it was bad news."
Yamaha have also made motorbikes, archery equipment and harmonicas, which suggests to me an exciting new triathlon at the next Olympics.

Further Fats: Confusion in our eyes that says it all - we've lost Control (well, almost) (2008)

Further Fats: The tractor thing (2010)

Jan 3, 2019

Beefy metal from top producers Jon Hopkins and Daniel Avery

Danny and Jonny have done swapsies.

Daniel Avery and Jon Hopkins have remixed each other on a limited edition 12-inch. Hopkins has beefed up Avery's airy track Glitter, while Avery has dirtied up Hopkins' C O S M. Both are great versions, especially the latter: I love a good metallic snare.

Daniel Avery is a Bournemouth producer who's twiddled knobs for Little Boots and Metronomy. He had the fourteenth best electronic music album of 2018. Jon Hopkins is a former keyboardist for Imogen Heap, and he once should have won the Mercury Prize instead of James Blake. Jon had the twelfth best electronic music album of 2018.

Grab some listens here.

Further Fats: Luke Vibert's remix of A Little Bit More (2007)

Further Fats: Music Order Remixed New (see what I did there) (2017)

Dec 31, 2018

Best electronic albums of 2018: one

1 –Rezzett – Rezzett (The Trilogy Tapes)

London duo Rezzett have been parping out sounds on The Trilogy Tapes for a few years, but this is the first time they've done the full toot and produced an album.

They were on the edge of my radar along with other double-z bands like ZZ Top, Yazz and We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It. But with this self-titled Rezzett album they land squarely in my sights. Distorted tech noise and rusty ambience? Yes please, thank you Mrs Music. (Not a real person.)

Rezzett is fuzzy, like an unshaven face or a neglected slice of bread. It's frequencies leak into areas they shouldn't, like a naughty paddling pool. It sounds off, like these similes. It's a scuffed-up science-fiction film set, but with Luke Abbott instead of Luke Skywalker: no JJ Abrams CGI lens flare here.

It's techno and ambient and jungle and bass music all at the same time. When you think the album has settled into a pattern, it throws something deeply satisfying at you. Listen to how the skippy snares of Tarang beckon in a chord sequence ripped straight out of a power pop anthem, and yet it all still holds together. It's perfection.

And most of all, it's properly curated. An album with shape, from the faded glows of Hala, to the dirty deconstructed house of Sexzzy Creep, to the whip-sharp junglism of Worst Ever Contender. Way to end an album.

I haven't even started on the cover artwork. Congratulations Rezzett, you slightly anonymous duo, you are my bestest favourite album of 2018.

I've thought of another one: Johnny Hates Jazz. Ooo, and Gazza!

Happy new year to you, dear reader, and I'll see you in 2019 for much more of this complete and utter garbage. If you think I'm brilliant and I deserve paying for this, then treat yourself to a subscription to Electronic Sound magazine where you'll read my monthly column and numerous other words in a different order.

In the meantime, thanks for reading this blog. Here's to its 15th anniversary in 2019. Blogging! In 2019! Who'd have thought!

Scroll all of the best 2018 electronic albums by clicking here.

Best electronic albums of 2018: two

2 – Autechre – NTS Sessions 1-4 (Warp Records)

In the same way Aphex Twin turned on the tap and flooded us with music, Autechre have been gushing their pipes everywhere. Exai was two hours long, elseq 1–5 was four hours, and here are the NTS Sessions weighing in at eight hours.

There’s Autechre on the ceiling. There’s Autechre on the toaster. There’s Autechre on the cat. There’s Autechre in those hard-to-reach places that you can only really clear with a toothbrush taped to a coat hanger.

This is a month-long radio residency captured in multi-album form. I described this in Electronic Sound a few months ago as “an Ibiza beach bash hosted by daddy longlegs” while noting at how melodic it turned out to be.

More importantly, it’s hella long but remains engaging, each individual idea held within its parameters with masterful knob-twiddling. It's hardly a three-minute pop song, but they've achieved something amazing here. Gush into my ears, Autechre, I’m yours.

No embedded content for this one, I'm afraid. You'll just have to buy the whole lot and hope for the best.

Scroll all of the best 2018 electronic albums by clicking here.

Best electronic albums of 2018: Bruno Brookes eat your heart out

It's a bit weird writing all these side-bars amid a top 20 countdown. It's a bit like Bruno Brookes wandering off to his knitting circle in the middle of Top Of The Pops.

Anyways, here is the final bunch of electronic noodlers that didn't quite make my final list.

A jazz pianist and a cellist might not be natural territory for techno behemoth R&S, but Djrum’s Portrait With Firewood (R&S Records) produced some bass music on an epic scale. Elysia Crampton found a clattering joy in the balance between found sound and world music on Elysia Crampton (Break World Records). Mark Pritchard’s The Four Worlds (Warp Records) was worth it for the likeable washboard shuffle of Circle Of Fear. And Marquis Hawkes raised the flipping roof on The Marquis Of Hawkes (Houndstooth).

DJ Koze created a deserved fuss with Knock Knock (Pampa), a collection of twitchy house music but not as you know it. I was perhaps less keen on its folky elements. Chris Carter, of Throbbing Gristle repute, managed to funnel several decades of electronic music into the excellent Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 (Mute). Astonishingly, Mr Fingers dropped his first album for 24 years in 2018: Cerebral Hemispheres (Alleviated Records) was as soulfully slick as you'd imagine. HVL’s Ostati (Organic Analogue Records) revived many memories of old raves and armchair techno listening.

German glitchmeister Alva Noto gets his own paragraph. He brought us a minimal masterpiece with Unieqav (Noton) earlier this year, but he didn't stop there. His rare Newcastle live recording Live 2002 (Noton) with Ryoji Ikeda and the late Mika Vainio seemed to have its audience hair-spun with static. Also worth looking into is the architecture-inspired Glass (Noton) with Ryuichi Sakamoto: the pairs last work was The Revenant soundtrack with Leonardo DiCaprio getting jiggy with a bear.

That was the tenth and final lot of also-rans for this 2018 countdown. I'll probably remember something I wanted to include, but forgot – I'll include it in this blank space here: _________________.

Scroll all of the best 2018 electronic albums by clicking here.