Apr 27, 2009

Seven shades of armageddon: the radio marathon continues

I am nearing the end of my marathon run of radio programmes, so normal blog service will resume soon.

I am 75% of the way through a month of consecutive weeknight radio shows (called the Theatre Of Noise) and I have learnt some valuable lessons from the features we have produced so far.

Firstly, as a rule, the cheaper the quiche, the more weight it can take. Aldi's cheese and chive quiche can take the weight of several potatoes, while Sainsbury's distinctly snooty salmon and watercress quiche collapses under the weight of thin air.

Secondly, attacking a folk CD with a lawnmower is much more destructive than you imagine. You'd think it would just chafe under the blades, but instead the plastic explodes into seven shades of armageddon.

Finally, deep fried Creme Egg is sickly beyond anything the human tongue can cope with, but it's much more alluring than a Tunnock's tea cake and celery toasted sandwich. That feels like your taste buds are being raped by a randy gorilla made of nettles with nipples of dung.

All of these are serious lessons in radio, the likes of which the Today programme are learning every day. As I said, normal service will return, just as soon as I've figured out what 'normal' is again.

Apr 23, 2009

Everything She Touched Tur-- oh she's gone already

Beats overlord Guillermo Scott Herren is back with a fifth album under his Prefuse 73 moniker.

Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian is the sound of a man dipping his toes into various colourful pools of smokin' beats without ever getting totally immersed.

The hip hop sensibility that underpinned his debut Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives has been spat into the wind here. Instead, we have crunchy, Clark or Vibert-style electronica, sprinkled with shiny aaahs and swooshes to give it a rather false-sounding heart.

My beef is that there are about a hundred million billion trillion tracks on here, and most of them last barely more than two nano-seconds. As soon as your head is nodding to one particular diversion, the CD starts shouting "next track! next track!" at you.

That's not to say the majority of the beats aren't oodles and oodles better than stacks of other junk out there. He recorded this to analogue Ampex tape, hence the album's title, and you can feel the warmth if you stand close enough.

So Herren remains the Mega King Of All The Beats. It's just a shame he won't hang up his coat and stick around for more than one quick cuppa.

Apr 21, 2009

2paW0r: Answers

Time for the answers to my Warp Records anagram challenge. If you want to have a go, don't spoil it by reading the answers here... jump straight to the quiz and see how many you can get.

Here goes:

1 - Not tiresome seduction (5) was the early Squarepusher album Music Is Rotted One Note.

2 - Hurray! Knobbed! (2) was Donkey Rhubarb, the EP by Aphex Twin.

3 - A bawdy convoy (2) was the Boards Of Canada track Dayvan Cowboy.

4 - Enchant a dull head (2) was Haunted Dancefloor, the Sabres Of Paradise classic.

5 - Shams (1) is the Jackson And His Computer Band album Smash.

6 - Non-established chalk (5) is the Gravenhurst mini-album Black Holes In The Sand.

7 - Sells an ego (2) is the Flying Lotus album Los Angeles.

8 - If sequencer (1) is Frequencies, the LFO album.

9 - Damndest, elite nightshade! (5) is The Ends Against The Middle, the Warp debut by Anti Pop Consortium.

10 - The gormless kid (2) is Smokers Delight, the notable album by Nightmares On Wax.

11 - Is cocky dirt (2) is Tricky Disco, an early classic.

12 - No (1) is On, the single by Aphex Twin. Tough one, that.

13 - Shock OK bet (1) is the Req album Sketchbook.

14 - Charmed tory (4) is, bizarrely, the Squarepusher single My Red Hot Car.

15 - Flaky old ponce (2) is Polyfolk Dance, the EP by Hudson Mohawke.

16 - Hence examined chews huge, inclement nail (5) is the Harmonic 313 album When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence.

17 - Wiser, roughened toxin (3) is One Word Extinguisher, the second album from Prefuse 73.

18 - Daring grunt, no? (2) is the Clark album Turning Dragon.

19 - As critique (1) is Quaristice, the recent album by Autechre.

20 - OK ancient warmth (4), finally, is seminal Forgemasters single Track With No Name.

Apr 17, 2009

The Guardian puts a clonk on it

If you're quick, you can still get the Guardian's tribute to Warp Records, cut it out with your mam's sewing scissors, and plaster it on your wall like a great big fanboy.

'Bleep Of Faith' is a neat little feature looking back on 20 years of the electronic music label.

It contains all the obvious gems of Warp mythology, listed here for your easy digestment, plus one or two lovely stories. I especially like the image of LFO fighting on stage like they were some kind of Kraftwerkian Gallagher brothers.

- Warp Records was conceived in a bedroom. Arf!;

- modern electronica was born with the release of the Artificial Intelligence album;

- the first release (Track With No Name) was flogged from the back of a car;

- they fooled Pete Tongue into thinking the future of music was something called "clonk";
- they happen to make some pretty bloody good films (the best of which is This Is England)

- LFO used to fight on stage. Like Brian Jonestown Massacre;

- the label was started with a £40 Enterprise Allowance grant;

- Richard David James, a.k.a. Aphex Twin, is something of a 'maverick'. You'd never guess;

- signing the likes of Maximo Park had purists spluttering into their chai tea;
- the early releases apparently sounded exactly like Sheffield, which makes Warp totally different from Pulp, who also sounded exactly like Sheffield... who were, incidentally, totally different from the Human League, who also .... you get the idea.

Tretchicovs and radiograms, TVs and aspidistras: the death of Johnny Roadhouse

Johnny Roadhouse, the propieter of Manchester's famous music shop of the same name, has finally ascended the stairway to heaven.

(That metaphor was necessary by law.)

Saxophonist Roadhouse has died at the age of 88.  His website says he "passed away in his sleep early on Saturday 11 April, 2009. He will be deeply missed and fondly remembered, by all his family, friends and staff."

Johnny Roadhouse (the shop, not the man) was featured in Oasis' video for The Masterplan. Roadhouse (the man, not the shop) has played with Elton John and the Halle orchestra. Also, Paul McCartney famously hired a guitar from the Roadhouse (the shop, not the man) for a sesh at the BBC.

Even Les Dawson hung out there.

Smiths drummer Mike Joyce paid tribute to Roadhouse, saying, "Every single band in Manchester has gone through Johnny Roadhouse Music at some stage - it's impossible not to... Music shops come and go, but Johnny Roadhouse stays. It's synonymous with Manchester music."

On an electronic tip, 808 State bought a serious chunk of their gear from Roadhouse. Which is quite suitable, considering the 'State were responsible for bringing saxophone to the post-acid dancefloor. Graham Massey pays tribute to the shop here with the wonderful line:

"In the 1970s, Americans would have called it a pawn shop, as it seemed to do house clearances: alongside the drum kits and guitar amps were Tretchicovs and radiograms, TVs and aspidistras."

Apr 15, 2009

Wevie Stonder: all the people are fridges; all the food is made of October

For a decade, ridiculous joketronica band Wevie Stonder (photo: Fjords) have been churning out their own parody dance music, featuring (according to the New York Times) "singing and shouting" and "a portly German tuba player in sunglasses and costume antennas."

They are electronica's version of Weird Al Yankovic, except without the yawning realisation that you've heard the joke before.

You'd think they'd be stuck in a rut doing this kind of thing, like Goldie Lookin' Chain. Yet the boys still have one sweaty ear pressed up against music's pregnant underbelly. Their latest album The Bucket churns out dubstep and grime references like some kind of clown-show sausage machine without an off-button.

Hans Peach takes off Leftfield and T-Rex and is the sound of all the guitars and all the synths playing Twister after closing time in all of the UK's instrument shops. Small People (think Lemon Jelly on K) is a Carribean island, palm tree at its centre, spinning in giddy circles like a warped record.

The Amiga beeps beep. The funk bass funks. The 909 snares ensnare. The whole thing pleases. "It's going well Tuesday," spouts the Nathan Barley DJ on Glidstep.

I have no idea what any of The Bucket means. It's like being at a party where the people are fridges and all the food is made of October. Wevie Stonder leave the quirkiness of Lemon Jelly and Avalanches dead in the dodo juice.

Apr 13, 2009

Mr Scruff's dried rabbits, LD's deep woofs and Mujava's drained drums

Here are some tracks that ought to be caressing your pretty ears right now.

Potato-drawing tea evangelist Mr Scruff (pictured) has teamed up with preacher's son Roots Manuva for a track called Nice Up The Junction. It's a solid piece of dub skank with some meaty "wooh" action, and the video features a jumble sale flogging used tea bags and "dried rabbits".

Dubstep label Hyperdub lit a really slow fuse when they let LD loose on new 12" Traumatic Times.  With its deeply woofing bass, the title track is so low-down, it's doing the limbo underneath your carpet. Flip side Woodblock is a slap round the chops in comparison, and is worth hunting out for its simmering, insistent, rolling techno.

And while I'm a techno tip, if you come across Boy 8 Bit's remix of Mujava's Township Funk, it's worth stopping to say hello. I should point out that Township Funk is minimal house music's version of Rihanna's Umbrella: it's simply massive. Boy 8 Bit magnifies the moodiness. eliminates the tribal drums, and uses menacing synth lines to drain any possible happiness from the track until the glass is indeed half empty. Stupendously, stunningly stern.

Apr 11, 2009

Leila's telly-trembling tribute to sub-bass

Because I'm holed up in a studio most nights, the one thing I can't do at the moment is Go Out. Capital G, capital O.

Footage like this, taken from Leila's performance from a Spanish festival last year, makes me green with envy. So green and so angry, in fact, that I'm tearing my shirt apart as I write this. And believe me, I don't have Lou Ferrigno's muscles.

I want to go to a club night. I want to twiddle some knobs and make a roomful of heads nod. But I can't because I'm having immense fun in a radio studio that's no bigger than your left bra cup.

Anyhooze, it's a sweet little performance on this here video: the camera shake after the minute mark is as good a visual tribute to sub-bass as you'll ever get.

Apr 9, 2009

Audio lampposts: Luke Vibert straightens up his Rhythm

A four-day break in blogging? Pah. I may as well throw my computer into the sea.

I've been rather busy, though, with an unusual project for an electronic music writer. For the past 48 hours, I have been dipping a tentative toe into the whale-infested waters of Christian radio.

We play some cool (and some not-so-cool) music by Christians, from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Demon Hunter and Richard Swift, and sometimes we smash things up with a hammer in the name of God. You can follow my exploits on the Theatre Of Noise website, where you will also find a link to the programme's Twitter page.

While you wait for normal service to resume, why not amuse yourself with an old favourite of mine. As I said in this post last week, acid funboy Luke Vibert (pictured with Jean Jacques Perry and a Moog) has tidied up his beats somewhat for the hip hop sounds of Rhythm.

Rhythm brings together a handful of EPs released on Japanese label Sound Of Speed. It's the sight of an electronic genuis very much not throwing the rattle out of his pram. The beats are straight and orderly. Like rhythmic lampposts.

"Is this important?" declares a very serious sounding robot on Sparky Is A Retard. No, not really. It won't go down as Vibert's best album: file this album next to those MoWax-type breaks compilations you used to collect when you were learning to scratch.

Or indeed, file it next to your favourite Wagon Christ discs... which might well go down on Christian radio, now I come to think of it.

Apr 5, 2009

Trying my best to live a funky sound: I don't wanna put nobody down

The 45rpm record was 60 years old last week. See if you can guess which of these cute triplets was my first ever 7" single purchase:

(a) S'Express (pictured) - Hey Music Lover

(b) Madonna - Like A Prayer

(c) Bananarama and La Na Nee Nee Noo Noo -Help!

I can hear your reasoning. "Fats is the coolest guy on the interwebs but a little on the wrong side of wrong, so it seems logical that he would buy the S'Express hit that nobody remembers. But he's as gay as a lampshade, so the Madonna thing makes sense. Then again, he hates the Beatles, so the Help! travesty seems like a logical choice."

I'm sure if you nip down to Sifter's Records, Mr Sifter will recall that happy day 20 years ago when, yes, I bought all three. Don't tell anyone, please.

Here's a little video in which a Generic Factory Man shows us how 7" singles are made. Basically, they're big floppy CDs wrapped in cling film which are then banged with a hammer by a man with a microscope.

Apr 3, 2009

2paW0r: The Warp Records anagram challenge

Here are 20 releases on Warp Records, all shaken up in a moment of anagram frenzy.

None of them are too obscure, although I reckon a lot of it is difficult (like the music!) and you pretty much need to be "into" your Warp to get them.

They include singles and albums by a variety of artists including Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Boards Of Canada and more. The numbers in brackets after each anagram indicate the number of words in the answer. Any punctuation you see isn't part of the anagram.

This is in celebration of pants-burstingly exciting Warp20 vote, some details of which can be found on the sidebar of this here website.

For example, for:
- No boring rape? Fine! (3)
the answer would be 'For Beginner Piano', the album by Plone (pictured).

Happy anagramming, and remember, it includes singles too. Pop your guesses in the comments (which should open in a separate window) and I'll 'fess up the answers in a few days. (Edit: Answers here.)

1 - Not tiresome seduction (5)

2 - Hurray! Knobbed! (2)

3 - A bawdy convoy (2)

4 - Enchant a dull head (2)

5 - Shams (1)

6 - Non-established chalk (5)

7 - Sells an ego (2)

8 - If sequencer (1)

9 - Damndest, elite nightshade! (5)

10 - The gormless kid (2)

11 - Is cocky dirt (2)

12 - No (1)

13 - Shock OK bet (1)

14 - Charmed tory (4)

15 - Flaky old ponce (2)

16 - Hence examined chews huge, inclement nail (5)

17 - Wiser, roughened toxin (3)

18 - Daring grunt, no? (2)

19 - As critique (1)

20 - OK ancient warmth (4)

(Answers here.)

Apr 2, 2009

Pssst - wanna buy a Macbook laptop?

Russian beat scientist DJ Vadim is selling his Macbook laptop.

The Ninja Tune star, who has worked with Stevie Wonder, Kraftwerk and the gorgeous Super Furry Animals, swears it's a "once in a lifetime offer".

Here's the spec for those of you who understand this sort of thing:

- it's 13 inches and black;
- it has a 2.4 ghz Intel core 2 duo.That makes no sense - I reckon he made that bit up.
- 2gb ram and a 250gb hard drive. Now I know what they are.
- osx 10.5.6. I think he's just hitting his keyboard with his radio alarm clock.

He's left a few thousand tunes on there, so hop to it and make him an offer.

Oh and I didn't realise, but Vadim got cancer last year. He lost his sight in one eye, but he's fit again and is set to drop new album U Can't Lurn Imaginashun in May. He leads off with cheery single Hidden Treasure in two weeks time (watch that on YouTube).

Apr 1, 2009

The best album of 2009 is Dan Deacon's Bromst. Here's why...

Edit, December 2009: The best album of 2009 is not Bromst. Yeah, I know, I'm contradicting myself, but hey, this here post was from April! Here is my full and final run-down of the best albums of 2009. And now back to the post you clicked on in the first place...

Welcome to the best album of 2009.

It's tempting to label Dan Deacon's Bromst as a coming-of-age masterpiece, using my best Wonder Years voice. But it's only his second UK album proper; he's barely in long trousers yet (see picture!).

I know it's only the beginning of April, but this is the best long player of the year. Here's why:

Bromst opens with Build Voice, which does what it says on the tin, and gives you the same swirling tingle you got in your loins at the start of Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. I expected some toytown trickery and silliness, but this opener is reserved, considered, and, dare my pouting mouth whisper it, mature. Its melodic choir and hopscotch piano makes way for an extended fart: we're into the start of Red F and an energetic, almost frenetic speed pop track that loses none of the melody.

Are those chipmunks hidden in the chorus of Paddling Ghost? The playfulness is still here, raising a cub scout salute and making a goofy face, but like the wonderfully titled and beautifully epic Surprise Stefani, all the Timmy Mallett-ness is integrated into the songwriting.

So Deacon throws us wailing spirituals (Wet Wings), stuttering dog samples (Woof Woof), plus even more chipmunks only a lot, lot faster (Baltihorse), and we catch every single one of them because it all makes glorious sense.

If Flying Lotus hadn't already done it, Bromst has made me fall in love with electronica all over again. By the time we're at the xylophones and modem tones of closing Get Older, which in Max Tundra's hands would be endearingly comical, our heads are bursting with rhythm and colour and cacophonous bliss.

This is the sound of a musical genius having the absolute best time of his life. The streaming link I mentioned in this post a couple of weeks ago is no longer online, so try here instead.