Dec 31, 2009

Top ten best movies of 2009: part three of three

These are my final top ten favourite films of 2009. It's a re-edited and expanded version of my provisional list posted in November.

This is part three. Check the rest of my blog for parts one and two.

Other films of note

The best British comedy of 2009 was In The Loop, although I think it suffered against a superior TV series. The best US comedy was The Hangover, but it certainly wasn't enough for a top ten position.

Sean Penn's turn in Milk is worth a mention, as is the uplifting headlocker The Wrestler. 9 was astonishing to look at and is an essential DVD purchase, while The Men Who Stare At Goats may just be Clooney's best performance yet.

As for animation, Watchmen was bold in its scope and is a classic of its kind, while Up certainly gave us the best five minutes of the year when it tracked the courting, the marriage and the loss of a beautiful relationship in a heart-breaking montage.

Oh and Coraline should claim the best 3D visuals of the year, but it seems James Cameron stole that thunder in his otherwise tripe-spewing Avatar.

On with the final two...

2 - Moon

"I'm here to keep you safe, Sam. I want to help you."

Sam Rockwell has been mining on the moon and is ready for his imminent trip back to earth to see his wife and kids. Surely the last two weeks of the mission will pass without event?

It's difficult to talk about Moon without giving too much away, because it's the bizarre plot that is the crux of the whole film. Is this real? Who is Sam Rockwell? Is Kevin Spacey really trapped inside that computer? In short, there is an accident and then Sam's reality shatters into space debris.

The isolation of the moon jumps from the screen in spine-freezing chills as Rockwell gives a compelling performance as a man who is trapped and scared and just wants to go home. The soundtrack, as you'd expect from David Bowie's son, is tremendous. This film is experimental, complicated and effective.

I wish I could say more. Just see it. Watch the trailer.

1 - Where The Wild Things Are

"Will you keep out all the sadness?"

Max is a naughty boy who ends up in a forest full of monsters. Wild rumpus ensues. Max gets home in time for supper. The end.

This is Spike Jonze's first directorial feature since the mind-fizzling Adaptation seven long years ago, so the numerous cinema punters who walked out half way through probably have no idea that Jonze was never going to deliver (a) a standard blockbuster about monsters nor (b) a standard children's film about monsters.

Because this isn't about monsters. Yes, the furriness of Max's friends helps fuzz things up a lot, but this is fundamentally a film about childhood - and the loss of it.

Empire magazine called this a 'mood piece', and they are right. The plot doesn't matter: the joy and the frustration of childhood is writ large in Where The Wild Things Are. It's so brilliantly realised and uncompromising (you should read Dave Egger's accompanying novel), this makes it the best film of 2009.
Max lives in a world where his actions have no consequences, where his world is the only one that matters. He has no idea what his selfishness is doing to his family, and he is on that cusp of having to put childish things behind him - but he can't let go.

And so, he joins the world of Carol and Judith and KW and all the Sesame Street drop-outs as they smash down their own homes, nearly crush Max to pieces, punch holes through trees and engage in childish squabbles.

There is a sinister edge throughout (the eating threats, the pile of bones, the suffocation scene later on), but it is only enough to keep us a little uneasy without ever resorting to nastiness.

The inevitable goodbye, where the monsters howl in glorious unison as they mourn for Max's friendship and for their own hopeless state, ought to leave you floored and broken - but also a little thankful for the short childhood you had.

This is part three. Check the rest of my blog for parts one and two.

Dec 30, 2009

Top ten best movies of 2009: part two of three

These are my final top ten favourite films of 2009. It's a re-edited and expanded version of my provisional list posted in November.

This is part two. Check the rest of my blog for parts one and three, as and when I've written 'em.

6 - Anvil: The Story Of Anvil

"We're gonna be rock stars."

Anvil were a real band and this is a real documentary following their very real hopes and dreams.

Let me address comparisons to a certain comedy rockumentary that was funny to the level of 11. Yes, Anvil has the same kind of down-to-earth silliness, and it proves that the drudge of normal life can be frequently hilarious when small minds dream big dreams. But the comparison stops there.

Here are a bunch of guys who had their day a long time ago, but their rock dream remains alive. As we follow their triumphs and tragedies, their mentors and opportunists, you become increasingly aware this is a touching study of ageing and how normal people cope when there's so much to achieve and too little time left in which to achieve it.

For those about to watch this masterpiece, I salute you. Watch the trailer.

5 - A Serious Man

"Very troubling... very troubling..."

A suburban family man tries to get by. His wife wants a divorce, his brother is moving in, he has a daughter he doesn't understand, and his son is in trouble at school. So he seeks advice from three rabbis.

The Guardian called this a very un-Coen Brothers film. They are completely wrong, because this has all the Coen trademarks: slightly left-of-centre characters, Jewish jokes, small-town mentalities, lots of pot, amazing hairstyles and a script that is so tight, you couldn't stick a shekel between the pages.

The strange repetition of incidents and dialogue along with all the references to God, and the fact you have to see this twice to really get it, puts A Serious Man alongside Donnie Darko as a mysterious, symbology-laden cult classic.

Don't you want a film to love? Watch the trailer.

4 - Let The Right One In

"Be me, for a little while.

I love children's films. Schoolboy befrends local girl. Schoolboy is bullied. Schoolboy and local girl chat in the snow. Local girl gets people killed so she can drink their blood, provoking the vengeance of the neighbourhood.

Let The Right One In is a thoroughly gruesome horror film where the innocence of youth is torn apart by a vampire's bloody trade in blood-drained bodies and residents torn apart in subways. And young Oskar thought he had it hard just being picked on in the playground.

It is also a delicate study of love and childhood friendship, in which Oskar and Eli need each other in a world that is frightening and confusing. And the fact that it is set in a freezing Sweden and it has some brilliantly psychopathic cats makes it Very Cool Indeed.

Who needs twilight when you can have sheer darkness? Watch the trailer.

3 - Mesrine: Killer Instinct

Nobody kills me until I say so."
Jacques Mesrine

This is the first part of a brace of films following Jacques Mesrine's globe-pillaging career as one of the most notorious gangsters in history.

We see the end of the film first, so we know where it's all going to finish, but the ride along the way is exhilarating. Speeding through his life, often leaping months and years to leave us filling in the gaps, we have raids and affairs and shootings and fightings and oodles of moody dialogue.

Despite the rapier editing, the film does put its brakes on for one moment during an attempted prison break. As the inmates edge towards a perimiter fence, trying to avoid the gun-sights of tower guards, the teasing tension is absolutely no clue to the massively violent and surprising twist of fortune that is about to be unleashed.

It ranks up there with Goodfellas. Watch the trailer.

This is part one. Check the rest of my blog for parts two and three, as and when I write 'em.

Dec 29, 2009

Top ten best movies of 2009: part one of three

These are my final top ten favourite films of 2009. It's a re-edited and expanded version of my provisional list posted in November.

This is part one. Check the rest of my blog for parts two and three, as and when I write 'em.

10 - Drag Me To Hell

"You'd be surprised what you'll do when the Lamia comes for you."

This is a silly horror film in which a loans manager irks an elderly client, who then unleashes the curse of the Lamia upon her unsuspecting ass.

Amid a raging torrent of modern horror franchises, this film trumped on two significant counts. Firstly, it is quite scary. From the most terrifying handkerchief in the world, to the inevitable but still shocking conclusion, Sam Raimi ramps up the tension from start to finish.

And it would be too much tension but for the second significant factor: the humour. The comedy can be quite base (sucking someone to death having lost your false teeth, the staple in the woman's forehead) but it's done with a light touch and keeps the respect for the basic horror of the plot.

I feel awful including this in the top ten at the cost of In The Loop and Milk - but this is Raimi on top form. Watch the trailer.

9 - District 9

"What is 'eviction'?"

The politics are obvious. The style is inconsistent. But otherwise, this story of a tragic mis-management of an alien colony is compelling viewing.

And that's the point. District 9 really shouldn't work. Avatar has a much better final battle scene, while the aliens really do look like overgrown prawns. And the whole film's rip-off of The Fly should render it null and void for any discerning movie-goer.

But it's the sheer emotional pull that works here, on the side of Sharlto Copley's helpless cog in the human system as well as the prawns panicking for their lives. It's one of those few films where you are thrown into a complete world right from the start, with its slumdog sci-fi grubbiness, and you never question it once.

District 9 is *almost* the best sci fi film of the year (keep reading!). Watch the trailer.

8 - Slumdog Millionaire

"Maybe its written, no?"

The rags-to-riches story of a poor-to-do boy is told through the strange construct of a television contest. So what makes this better than X Factor's Sigur Ros-soundtracked vignettes, then?

For a start, this snapshot of India (past and present) looks and sounds beautiful, from the sun shining off the tin slum houses to the girl in the gold dress promising so much for Jamal. It is brilliantly scripted, the TV host character is a revelation, and it pulls off the clever trick of feeling like a novel on screen.

More importantly, it has that crazy, overpacked feel of a debut feature. And yet, this is Danny 'Trainspotting' Boyle. Is this his best movie since the story of those Scottish junkies? No, because I think Sunshine is fabulous.

But it still rocks - Bollywood style. Watch the trailer.

7 - Frost/Nixon

I'm in this for all I've got.
David Frost

David Frost, desperate to save his floundering career, sets up an interview with Richard Nixon, the law-dodging president of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Frost/Nixon is set up like a boxing match, with the aides of each side constantly giving their prize fighters advice. And what brilliant aides: there isn't a bad actor here, with Frost's sidekicks providing more than a little light relief to counterbalance what is essentially a dry remake of a television interview.

You could be fooled into thinking this is a two header. It is not. With the likes of Kevin Bacon and Sam Rockwell in the wings, it can only be an ensemble piece. But it is ultimately about one man's battle against another. The stakes are high, and the added fiction of a dramatic late night phone call from Nixon to the gregarious TV presenter only serves to stoke the tension to the point of exploding.

Nixon famously lost the battle... but the outcome in this film is a lot less clear. Watch the trailer.

This is part one. Check the rest of my blog for parts two and three, as and when I write 'em.

Dec 28, 2009

Top ten best electronica albums of 2009: part three of three

This is part three.
For part one, click here
For part two, click here.
1 - Clark - Totems Flare

Readers of this blog know I make little secret of my love for Warp Records. So it's no surprise that one of their mob finds itself as the absolute Fat Roland favourite for 2009.

But this album is justified in being number one.

Chris Clark began with Warp in 2001, releasing a succession of albums and EPs that seemed to get better as the decade strolled on. His sound was firmly entrenched in Aphex-style 'IDM' electronica; it was muckier behind the ears without being too unpleasant.

If electronica fans in dark corners started whispering that Clark had lost a little of his sheen with 2008's Turning Dragon, they needn't have fretted.

The tentative first notes of Outside Plume on his 2009 album Totems Flare sounded like robots getting up in the morning and wondering what was in store for the day ahead. To be honest, it probably represented Clark's waking realisation that he had to step things up a gear: more of the same was not an option.

So the day ahead for those yawning robots was a torrent of yelping synths, snares that sounded like a hundred people clapping, themes piling on top of themes, melodic progressions that will chime a bell for any Orbital fan, and furiously grumpy electro workouts.

An mp3 of Growls Garden preceded the album, and is the second track here. It starts with vocals about sunbeams before ripping into the nastiest piece of pop perfection you've ever heard: a catchy choon with a full-on dance beat, all bathed in an insistent brown fuzz. It is the most startling and pompous electronica tune of 2009.

The bobbling beginning of Rainbow Voodoo ends up sounding like Front 242 in a Benny Hill video. And this one gets nasty too, all scratches and farting machines, before switching all the lights on and becoming something Mario would mushroom-dance to.

But if I'm painting this album as a nasty, snarling beastie, I'd be doing it a terrible service. There is straight electronica too, like the understated Luxman Furs, the acid house of Look Into The Heart Now, and Primary Balloon Landing's sweeping interlude.

And that's not all. There is beauty in bucket-loads on Totems Flare.

The speed junglism of Totem Crackerjack careers into a tinkling melody and a wibbling synth solo that would warm the frostiest of frowns. Suns Of Temper is a low-down, driving techno track that floats into a thin, heavenly chorus before descending into a bombastic drum anthem smothered in chords that wail like the titular Wild Things in Spike Jonze's recent film.

Future Daniel returns to the crunchiness of the first few album tracks before leading us down a crazy-paved path of a ever-so-slightly eighties tune, while Talis, another vocal piece, is melancholic and mega and would sit comfortably with the simple guitar-led closer of Absence.

Clark's Totems Flare was a bold statement. You can not only produce uncompromising electronica that rips at your speakers while at the same time swathing you in gentle melodic bliss: you can even add vocals to it and not sound like a tosser.

And so Mr Christopher Clark finishes the decade in style. If you want to know what my favourite track title is from Totems Flare, see this post. In the meantime, listen to Growls Garden and buy the best electronica album of 2009 from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

This is part three.
For part one, click here
For part two, click here

Dec 27, 2009

Top ten best electronica albums of 2009: part two of three

This is part two.   
For part one, click here
For part three, click here

5 - DâM-FunK - Toeachizown

80s boogie anyone? See if you can guess why I never featured this album on my blog before: he was a Warren G session musician, his album is full of smooth chord changes and all-out soul, and he runs nights in California called Funkmosphere (!).

So why number five? It's an electronic album that gets under your skin. The insistent boss drum, the spiralling synth themes, the genius tweaking of a filter here, the acid flare-up there. It's got a simple funk veneer, but scrape that away and you have an album of staggering inventiveness, bustling with analogue synths and vintage drum machines.

Quality *and* quantity... and it's a debut album. Listen to this YouTube sampler.  Buy the album from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

4 - Hudson Mohawke - Butter

Turntablist-turned-aquacrunker Hudson Mohawke had one of the most anticipated releases of the year when Butter came out in October. But even though I said it would be "massive than a horse explosion", it seems the preceding Polyfolk Dance EP got more plaudits in 2009.

Butter was a dizzying mix of the low-fi and the futuristic, taking something as old fashioned as turntablism and making it sound synthetic, forced but accessible. Was it rave? Was it hip hop? Was that Prince?! No-one knows, but there was no doubt this was the defining sound of electronica in 2009.

Wrap your ears around ZOo00OOm. Buy the album from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

3 - Dan Deacon - Bromst

Bromst was Dan Deacon's umpteenth album but only his second professionally released on Carpark Records. It's probably not bleepy enough for this blog, but it didn't stop me calling Bromst a cacophonous bliss in April.

I might have overstated the brilliance of the album back then, but hark ye at the frantic arpeggios of Red F, the stamping over Susumu Yokota's legacy with the woodwind backing in Paddling Ghost, and the hypnotic, shimmering Surprise Stefani. It's a perfect companion to that Animal Collective album you've no doubt got.

Simply glorious. Listen to Paddling Ghost. Buy it from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

2 - Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue

Pull up a campfire and marvel at this stunning debut for Warp Records. Bibio's summery rustic guitars could have sat firmly in the folktronica camp, something I'm not a huge fan of, but instead it ran hurtling around the borders of techno and produced the mind-blowing Ambivalence Avenue.

If you don't buy this, you are stupid, You should know that, because I told you in June. The pop psychedelia of Jealous Of Roses or the delightfully catchy refrain of Haikuesque (When She Laughs) was enough for a great album, but then you get the Prefuse 73-friendly beats of Fire Ant or the kick drum of Sugarette punching holes in your record decks.

I cannot praise this album enough: it has been a very good friend to me since the summer. Listen to Fire Ant. Buy it from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

Not quite in the top ten (part two)

Why I chose a top ten rather than a top 97, I don't know. But it does mean that some musickers didn't reach the dizzying heights of my top ten, despite deserving plaudits.

Moderat, the hugely impressive collaboration between Apparat and Modeselektor, didn't quite punch me in the face enough. Neither did Prodigy's Invaders Must Die, which blew the speakers but not my mind. And Jega's Variance, with all its Aphexisms, wasn't quite enough either. The spacey IDM of Nosaj Thing's Drift is definitely worth a look in too, despite being missed off.

This is only an album top ten, so the following artists missed out on a technicality: Floating Points produced some gorgeous EPs, while Bullion's Young Heartache EP took Hudson Mohawke's cut-up style to a new level - and what a shame not to include the eminently loveable track Until There is No End by Lorn.

This is part two.   
For part one, click here.
For part three, click here

Dec 26, 2009

Top ten best electronica albums of 2009: part one of three

This is part one.   
For part two, click here
For part three, click here

10 - Telefon Tel Aviv -  Immolate Yourself

This band started 2009 with two momentous events: the death of Charles Cooper and the release of this third studio album. Such tragedy overshadowed a great album full of 1980s analogue confidence - and curtailed what would have been a fascinating future for the pair.

I called Immolate Yourself "insubstantial" back in January, but you have to lie back and let yourself be overtaken by it. One moment it is channelling the ghost of the Pet Shop Boys, while the next moment it could be Brian Eno in a cavern or the Human League on GHB.

It was unashamedly pop: check the new wave joy of Helen Of Troy. Buy it from Bleep or Boomkat.

9 - Lone - Ecstacy And Friends

My computer speakers can't cope with Lone's new album, as I mentioned here just a few weeks ago. Maybe my old cobwebby PC just has a function in it that cannot cope with anyone who grabs Boards Of Canada, rubs them up against Bibio and produces a beats album that gave Hudson Mohawke a run for his money.

This was Nottingham boy Lone's difficult third album: a lush, poly-rhythmic long player that, t'be honest, struggled to be heard amongst all the other rhythm-reapers of 2009. It's difficult to exorcise the washing repetitions of Waves Imagination, or to brush off to smooth, silkiness of the future party track To Be With A Person You Really Dig.

Get some good speakers, then listen to Waves Imagination (Goldies Timeless without the d 'n' b, anyone?) Buy it from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

8 - Lukid - Foma

Luke 'Lukid' Blair's sophomore long-player took the foundations laid by Autechre and Eno and blew them wide open. Foma was this year's first essential electronica album, and it sounds even better knowing what albums came after from other artists in 2009.

This is utterly in the vein of classic electronic music (it is the sound of a man playing with his machines into the wee hours of the night). The crunchy wooziness seemed to stretch it out into something new, until the sound was more ambient than a dialling tone. The buzzing anticipation of the first 30 seconds of Slow Hand Slap are better than most albums this year.

Have a listen to Fall Apart, and while you're doing that, buy it from Boomkat or Piccadilly.

7 - 2562 - Unbalance

Dubstep inspired by Detroit techno? This was the unlikely starting-point for 2562, whose Unbalance was a rhythmic, deep follow-up to his much acclaimed 2008 debut Ariel. Of course, dubstep is a tired genre, and this album was in danger of being swept under the dancefloor. Indeed, I didn't even feature it on this here website.

But listen! The pounding Flashback was a nuclear missile aimed squarely at your feet, while the reverberating saw bass of Like A Dream or the snapping loops on Yes/No reminded you this was music for the head too. How could you ignore it? 2562's Unbalance was a triumph.

Have some trippy Love In Outer Space. Buy Unbalance from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

6 - Harmonic 313 - When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence

More than most on this list, Harmonic 313 succeeded in carving out a very particular furrow this year. By the time When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence came out at the start of the year, Harmonic 313's solid techno sound was already recognisable.

Don't get distracted by the Speak and Spell novelty value: there is true feeling here. I rather pretentiously described Harmonic 313 as a "siren song of a cyborg" calling from some distant shore. It's not. It's just great subwoofer-friendly dance techno (check the bass on Cyclotron!) churned out by one of the best ambient producers of the past 20 years

Quandrant 3 is quite lovely and brilliant. Once you've listened to that, purchase the LP from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.

The top five will be on this site from tomorrow...

Not quite in the top ten (part one)

I never claim this blog to be comprehensive, even though it is subtitled 'From AFX to Yokota'. So here is what missed the list for no reason other than, well, I didn't put it on the list.

I didn't include Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest, even though I loved Two Weeks. It just wasn't electronic enough for this top ten run-down (same for the wonderful Animal Collective long-player Merriweather Post Pavilion). Other albums just passed me by, so there's a severe lack of Zomby's Nintendo-nudging One Foot Ahead Of The Other, nor is there Jon Hopkin's compelling Insides album.

I kinda got bored with Venetian Snares, so that's why Filth isn't featured. And this is an album top ten, so what a shame I couldn't mention some great tracks from 2009: Burial's expansive Fostercare, Kode 9's excellent Black Sun (well done, Hyperdub, for a great year), or a definite classic, Mount Kimbie's Maybes.

This is part one.   
For part two, click here
For part three, click here

Dec 24, 2009

Donner and blitzen, reviews and previews

I'd like to wish all my readers a happy Winterval Jesustide. May the fat beardy man drop all manner of goodies down your chimney.

The next week-ish on this blog will be dedicated to two things.

Firstly, my review of the year will take a broad stagger into the china shop of 2009 in the hope of not breaking everything. I will foist upon you my favourite albums of this year, my final list of favourite films of the last 12 months and a few other silly goodies too.

And following the success of a similar post at the start of this year, I'll also bring you my preview of the best electronica releases likely to stumble into our eardrums in 2010. It might not be comprehensive, but there's a hell of a lot to talk about and it has taken me about a month to compile, so if you don't read it, I'm slashing your tyres.

If you don't want to miss all this, then pop this site into your Google reader / intravenous drip. See you on the other side of the inevitable frozen turkey / candles / Christmas tree disaster.

(Picture of Manchester's town hall Santa from my recently revived photo blog.)

Dec 20, 2009

Live blog: Rage Against The Machine versus a small boy with white teeth

It's the chart battle everyone's talking about. Simon Cowell thinks it's stupid. 7Digital reckon X Factor's Joe McFlurry won't get to number one. So I've settled down in front of a warm radio to being you a live blog of the chart result as it happens.

6.31pm: Someone is on the wireless comparing RATM to David and Joe McDonalds to Goliath. This can't be right?

6.35pm: "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow," says the stupid charity single that Peter Kay did. This is at number four, just ahead of 3OH!3 and their annoying shouty song Starstrukk with pretend lesbian Katy Perry. Already, with three more hits to go, I feel like ending it all and forgetting about tomorrow forever.

6.37pm: This supposed 'medley' (for that, read 'malady') is going on forever. At least we know RATM and Joe McCavity are in the top three...

6.40pm: So then who is number three? The insipid presenter fellow has just read out a text saying Killing In The Name is "just noise". Surely that's what music is? It's not something you can taste, is it? Right then, they've finally got to number three in the UK singles chart. Oh no! It's Lady Gaga and her "rah rah rasputin" nonsense! You've got to love her videos, though.

6.43pm: I'm quite excited by this. In a year in which Twitter has defined as well as followed the news, it's a real moment for the internet. I bought Rage Against The Machine's Killing In The Name first time round, and it's as good as anything to stick one in the eye of the annual X Factor Christmas number one stitch up.

6.45pm: Radio One is playing a recap of the whole Joe McElderberry versus RATM battle, Rocky-style. They'll no doubt recap the chart so far. Any moment now; just minutes to go.

6.46pm: Rage Against The Machine sold 100,000 downloads just yesterday. I'm feeling quietly confident.

6.47pm: And the number two single and runner-up is...

6.47pm: JOE McCRAPPYPANTS! Ha ha ha ha ha!

6.49pm: Simon Cowell, the internet has spoken. Please hand your King Of Slush card into security on the way out. This is amazing news - I just hope Scott Mills remembers to play the censored verson in a few minutes (unlike the embarrassed Simon Mayo (I think) on the chart show back in 1990).

"Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes you're going to have to lose."

Joe McElderry, 2009
6.56pm: The largest first-week digital sales ever (does that count for an old track?) and the most downloads ever sold for a Christmas number one single. Well done, chaps. Zack de la RATM says "when young people decide to take action, they can make the seemingly impossible possible." Bless, he just called me young!

6.58pm: Those who downloaded are justified for wearing the badge saying "screw you, X Factor, your time is up". I'm not quite sure if those adapted lyrics would scan, but you get the idea. And it's also quite a while where we've had a number one where there's a man going "UH!" all over the place.

Hurrah! 'Night all.

Dec 19, 2009

A phenomenally dull post about cataloguing music

Rustle rustle.

Chief executive of Corgi toys, £500,000 per annum, company car provided? Hmm, depends on the size of the car.

Rustle rustle.

Cleaner, £8.50 an hour, required to work in blogosphere clearing up dead bits of old posts? Nah.

Rustle rustle rustle. (This is meant to be me browsing the job pages, by the way, not stealing cows.)

Ah, here's one. It seems Bleep was recently the lookout for a "bright, enthusiastic intern", as opposed to a dull, maudlin one, to help manage their content.

That meant cataloguing and maintaining all of Bleep's lovely tunes. As an avid watcher of early 'WAP' catalogue numbers on Warp Records and as someone who still reads The Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles like a novel, this job has its appeal.

Cataloguing your own music collection is very important but increasingly difficult to do in a digital age. It used to be that my CDs and records would get sorted into any one of three fairly obvious ways:

- colour of the spine;

- alphabetical order of first vowel of artist's name;

- number of key changes.

But now my collection is a lot more protracted, with shards of downloads littered all over the place. I have folders called 'random downloads', 'more random downloads' and 'I think I downloaded these while drunk'.

So how do I order things now? By file size? By the time it took to download? By likeness of the waveform to the Manchester skyline?

I asked some of my Twitter followers how they organised their record collection. The public responses were thusly:

- Andy Taylor has all his CDs in a "big bloody box", so lets iTunes do all the work.

- a similar story was told by Alex Hall, although he uses a big bloody bookcase rather than a big bloody box.

- Jonathan Anelli asked: "Remind me? What's a CD collection again?" This could have been an incisive comment on the development of technology, or he could just be senile.

- Richard Holden used to alphabetise his CD collection until he, well, basically got a life. He uses iTunes.

- and Robert Marshall talked about Linux and Amarok, but he might as well have been talking about mechanical zebras and jellied pot noodles. But he helped demonstrate a point.

Despite my Linux ignorance, the point I got was this: whatever system we use, we are terribly uncreative when it comes to organising our music collection.

CDs and records used to be part of our environment, part of our decor. I still have a CD rack with duck feet.
You just don't get that when you let your cataloguing be defined by what computer you happen to use, no matter which trendy-looking skin you select in the options menu.

I refuse to be kowtowed by my komputer-- er-- I mean, by my computer. My files of randomness remain because it reflects how I used to organise my CDs. I do try and be organised according to these fairly obvious rules:

- colour of the mp3;

- alphabetical order of first vowel of the file size when written in letters;

- grouped by whichever daytime TV presenter I was fantasising about marrying when I downloaded the track.

It doesn't look like I'll be trotting to Kentish Town any time soon to join Bleep in their quest for beautifully catalogued data.

Dec 16, 2009

Should X Factor fans face execution?

Bravo to the Rage Against The Machine for bringing proper music back at Christmas. Society should be much more angry about this bland X Factor crap. Jedward Schmedward. Go Joe!

simon callow is well out of order. peeople shoudlnt watch itv. BOYCOTT THE BBC. simon did do zig and zag tho and taht was well LOL

My parents brought me up proper, my first album was Bros, I think X Factor fans have a right to express themselves, but they should do it in the privacy of their own homes, music has the right to children but there are limits.

Has anyone mentioned me yet?

Let me be clear that X Factor is an abomination in the eyes of Rephlex Records. Aphex Twin laid down his life for our sins, and we waste that salvation by keeping the telly switched on after Harry Hill every Saturday. Join my Facebook group to launch the W.W.AFX.D. wristband campaign. It's what he would have wanted.

As an X Factor viewing male (sorry mum, but it's true), I find it very hurtful that this is even being discussed.

Just because a website is called Have Your Say, it doesn't mean that people should have their say. The whole point of a democracy is that certain people should know their place. I voted Labour in 1997. That doesn't mean I wanted them to win, for goodness sake. What was the question again? Question Time should do a special edition on this.

Tesco are playin Stay Another Day. WICKID! That's paid for me holidays.

Joe is too young, he's only going to encourage paedoph-- (SNIIIIIP!)

Dec 14, 2009

No new electronica in the singles chart, repeat to fade

Earlier this year, this blog carried a 'Chartwatch', in which I kept a sharp eye on the UK singles chart in a vain hope of Hyperdub scoring their first number one hit.

In the absence of any popular electronica anywhere, the Chartwatch feature became as desperate as it became bored: I canned it in the summer.

But I love you, dear Fat Roland On Electronica reader, and I want to have your alien lovechildren. So I preserved the text for you to read.

On the first anniversary of the very first Chartwatch, here is the whole dang thing in all its monocolour glory:

- Dec 14th 2008: No electronica of interest in the singles chart, unless you count Basshunter's Jingle Bells and Scooter vs Status Quo (?!).

- Dec 21st: The only vague bleepiness in the Christmas chart is Kanye West, whose album celebrates the Roland TR-808. Bah humbug.

- Dec 28th: No electronica in the chart because no-one has released anything. Aphex Twin has missed a trick there, I reckon.

- Jan 4th 2009: Some dirty synth action in Lady GaGa's Just Dance (highest new entry in this week's singles chart) but it's not really electronica.

- Jan 11th: This week's singles chart is about as electronica as a moustachio-clad tapeworm called Derek. Not impressed. (Lady GaGa got to number one.)

- Jan 18th: With a glut of electronica releases about to hit, maybe just maybe we'll get our first electronica hit of the year - coz there's naff all in this week's chart.

- Jan 25th: There is no electronica in this week's singles chart. Simply Red are in the top 40 album chart. I'm off for a cry.

- Feb 1st: I thought I saw the word "techno" in this week's chart - but turns out it's Coldplay's bloody Life In Technicolour. No electronica, then, in this week's singles chart.

- Feb 8th: There's electronica in the singles chart! Well. The Cadbury's advert music. At #75. It's kinda bodypop techno, but that'll do. The revolution starts here!

- Feb 15th: The Prodigy bring electronica (albeit commercial dancy electronica) to the singles chart with Omen, a new entry at UK#8.

- Feb 22nd: No new electronica in the singles chart. Just Coldplay copyists like Gary Go and U2. Yeah, Bono, you heard me right, deal with it.

- Mar 1st: The Prodigy have a second track in the chart this week, which is all very promising: but can we please get Autechre to number one, just for a change?

- Mar 8th: As a Stock Aitken And Waterman cover version sits astride the number one position in the singles chart (Flo Rida's execrable version of a Dead Or Alive song), the death-knell for all good music rings loud. In short, no new electronica in this week's chart.

- Mar 15th: Still no electronica in the singles chart. Is it too much to ask for a Drexciya re-release getting to number one?

- Mar 22nd: Royksopp in the top 60 is as electronica as it gets this week. At least it will give ad agencies something to put in their adverts.

- Mar 29th: Dear Music, I am disappointed at your continuing failure to provide underground electronica hit singles. I shall be writing to the techno ombudsman. Yours sincerely...

- April 26th: I took a momentary break while I recovered from Broken String's (James Morrison) return to the charts. Still no electronica, although the electro pop revolution continues (hello, Frankmusik).

- May 17th: Deadmau5 and Prodigy lead the dance stampede, although I'm still waiting for that Mu Ziq number one single...

- May 31st: Not much electronica in the charts, although Prodigy have been sniffing round the edges of the top ten recently and Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers has some delightfully techno moments.

- June 14th: Still no new electronica in the chart. What the hell is Bill Withers doing having a hit single? He's not IDM.

- June 21st: Two horrific Noisettes singles and not one paltry Warp Records release in the Top 40? There ain't no justice sometimes.

- July 19th: Have a look at what's number one in the singles chart. (I think this refers to JLS.) Seen it? If you're the last person to leave the country, please switch off the lights.

- A few weeks later: This item has now ended due to an exhausting seven month drought of IDM / electronica in the UK singles chart.

- December 20th: Aphex Twin is Christmas number one, narrowly beating the X Factor winner Joe Something-or-other to the top spot with an intense cover of Gary Glitter's Leader Of The Gang. (Okay, I just added this bit. But one can but hope, cannot one?)

Dec 10, 2009

Will Aphex Twin get round to releasing that new album?

As we hurtle horribly into 2010 and its inevitable poverty-ridden reality of sewage in the streets and corpses littering the post offices, one question spews brutally from our lips:

Will Aphex Twin get round to releasing that bloody album or not?

I have addressed this before in the posts Aphex Twin's New Album Does Not Exist Now Can We Just Stop Worrying And Enjoy Our Knaves Er I Mean Lives and its contrasting follow-up Aphex Twin's New Album Does Exist My Lying Mouth Be Damned. But that was several months ago: let me offer a little more clarity.

Every single Aphex Twin album rumour in 2009 has been started by jokers on message boards. Whether it's vague Rephlex Records links on Xltronic or fake track titles on We Are The Music Makers. That's okay. It's fun and playful like the sinister bears on Donkey Rhubarb, and was inevitable following two years of speculation about the identity of the Tuss.

But all we know for certain in December 2009 is this:

Nine months ago, as the commercial world was licking its chapped lips at debut number ones from Lady Gaga and Flo Rida, Warp Records founder Steve Beckett gave an interview for the BBC in which he promised a new Aphex Twin album by the end of the year if he could prise it out of Aphex's hands.

Those hands remained as unprised as a bulldog's greedy chops. The fact is Beckett just isn't in regular contact with the Aphex and has to be content for the window-licking one to be constantly "gearing up for something" by playing new tracks at live shows (see the letter J in Self-Titled's Warp piece here) but never quite spitting out the full monty. As it were.

If there is a new Aphex Twin album, it's nestled in banks on his sequencers and, for now, nowhere near the offices of his record label.

So in the meantime stick the kettle on along with your scratched Analord 12"s or your CD of Druqks and wait. Wait until the next decade, because the Noughties have been woefully devoid of Aphexness compared to the 90s, and that once-lauded prolific streak seems buried in the bleepy mists of time.

(Picture from NMScene, which has a lovely Burning Man review.)

Dec 6, 2009

N-n-n-n-n-n-brand new LPs from the Slott and the Lone

Edit: Lone's album is mentioned in my top ten electronica albums of 2009

N-n-n-n-n-n-finally, Mike Slott has coughed up a debut mini-album. It's called Lucky 9teen and if I was going to mark it out of ten, I'd give it n-n-n-n-n-n-twenty six.

Opening with hymnal chords and excitable cheering, the record spins us through broken hip hip that digresses through muddy puddles of jazz and beguiling troughs of 80s synthorama.

He's produced more than a handful of tracks with Hudson Mohawke in the past, although if Mohawke's music is patchwork slacks reeking of doobie smoke, Slott's sound is a bit more suited and booted and sporting a sparkly bow tie.

Listen to Mike Slott's Lucky 9teen at Boomkat. Keep an eye on the Slott: he's not just making new electronica: with the likes of Dabrye and Rustie, he's busy inventing it. N-n-n-n-n-n-good work.

While I'm musing about broken beats (do people still say that these days?), let me point you towards Lone's Ecstacy And Friends. Lone is Nottingham's Matt Cutler and a label-mate of Lukid. He has ripped a few pages from Bibio's sun-bleached book and produced an album of such melodic heat, it will leave your skin cripsy and sizzling like an inattentive beach bather.

I'll warn you now though: the kick drum hits so hard, your crap computer speakers will wither wretchedly. Catch snippets of Lone's Ecstacy And Friends here.

Dec 2, 2009

Bored at Rustie, tapey-fingered whingers and stuffed lycra

Hello, December, you snowbag of Christmas fun, you.

Here are some things you may have missed recently, mainly because my Twitter account has shrivelled and died and so your premier source of electronica information has stopped. In fact, you've probably been so bereft without me tweeting, you're no doubt huddled in a corner shivering and dribbling.

- Rustie has dropped a bomb in the shape of a Crookers' No Security remix. Legendardy squawkbox Kelis has sassed herself all over this track, and her vocals work well with his computer-game take on the track. Having said that, it's the first thing Rustie has done that has bored me a little. (Crookers pictured above.)

- The Grauniad has been musing on the death of hip hop. Writer Simon Reynolds places it around the time of Nas' Hip Hop Is Dead, or maybe when Timbaland declared his love for tapey-finger stadium whingers Coldplay. He wins points for slagging off auto-tune, but loses points for using the dismal contraction 'slanguage' (surely, 'slang' would do?).He says:

"I still hear quite a lot of bump and skitter in street rap but there's a pedestrian familiarity to the beats: they do the job solidly enough but they're the rhythmic equivalent of comfort food, reflexively tugging at your hips and shoulders but never approaching the stark strangeness of early Noughties productions like Ludacris's What's Your Fantasy or J-Kwon's Tipsy."
I think he's got a point, although there's a danger in judging the healthiness of a scene based on what's in the charts. If you took that as a bellwether, most techno genres have supposedly never existed.

Still, I think there's a wider malaise: we haven't had a true musical revolution since rave. The Beatles made music fab, punk stuck a safety pin in that bubble, while rave danced all over the eighties' grave. What since? Drippy guitar geeks? Videos stuffed with girls in tight lycra? Susan Boyllocks?

- Finally, Eclectic Hermit has come back into the light, smothering us with some Ninja Tune scrumptiousness. Welcome back.