May 28, 2010

Top 20 electronica tracks of 2010 (kind of) so far (sorta)

YouTube playlist time, kids!

I'm currently doing time in comedy-prison for impersonating a Michael McIntyre fan, so I decided to use my spare time in the yard (full of people making inane observations) to see where we're up to in this ubiquitous block of time we call "2010".

Here are the 20 best tracks of 2010 so far. I've done this before, and again most of the choices are mine. I spiced it up this time by asking some of my musical chums and contemporaries to include their own favourite tracks.

If you want to play all the choons at once, I've fashioned together a YouTube playlist. Here are the Top 20 electronica tracks of 2010 (kind of) so far (sorta) in their entirety. If I was you, I'd jump straight there. (Edit: you can also see the list in MASSIVE CLICKABLE WORDS, thanks to a link sent to me by Cameron Reed. Ta!)

Here are the individual tracks with their youTube links. Let's go!

- Girl Unit: Shade On from the I.R.L EP.

- Instra:mental: No Future (Skream Remix)

- Africa HiTech: Blen, recommended by DJ / producer the 8Bitch. She also wanted to go for Ramadanman's Glut or a bit of Subeena or Brackles, but instead ended up plumping for the first single from the rather exciting Steve Spacek and Mark Pritchard collaboration.

- Flying Lotus: Do The Astral Plane from his latest album Cosmogramma.

- Gonjasufi: Ancestors, produced by Flying Lotus and taken from the Warp debut A Sufi And A Killer.

- Caribou: Jamelia, recommended by Cameron Reed, a.k.a. Babe Rainbow who wanted "something off the Caribou album". Glad to oblige.

- Pariah: Detroit Falls, recommended by Yer Mam. He also wanted to go for Brooklyn's Pursuit Grooves.

- Lorn: Cherry Moon (link updated), who is bringing the Brainfeeder sound to the UK with his essential album Nothing Else.

- Ikonika: Idiot from the Hyperdub album Contact, Want, Love, Have.

- Son Lux: Break. Isaac Ashe's Sound Advice threw several recommendations in my direction, so I chose a Son Lux track. But he'd also like you to listen to Bass Clef, Bonobo and Massive Attack. Actually, I feel guilty for not including Massive Attack on my final list.

- Starkey: OK Luv, the opening track from Ear Drums And Black Holes.

- Four Tet: Angel Echoes, recommended by Isaac Ashe's Sound Advice.

- Shlohmo: Spoons from the woefully overlooked Shlomoshun Deluxe album on the Friends Of Friends label.

- Babe Rainbow: Shaved. Speaking of Babe Rainbow, here comes another of his recommendations...

- James Blake: CMYK, recommended by Babe Rainbow and by Borland. Borland also like a bit of Gold Panda and are busy producing their own gubbins (see my post last weekend.

- Autechre - See On See from their first album of 2010, Oversteps.

- LV And Untold - Beacon (Mount Kimbie Remix)

- Pantha Du Prince: Stick To My Side from the hypnotic album Black Noise.

- Floating Points: People's Potential, recommended by Yer Mam.

- Kourosh Yaghmaei: Gol-e Yak, an older track recommended by a superbly exasperated Two Fingers, one of whom said he was too skint to be buying music all the time, but "on the plus side, I pretty much hate everybody. So I could pretend to like the shitty thrill-free dubstep etc that this generation farts out, but I'm not going to." That's rather refreshing, methinks. And he sounds like half my mates.

A massive thank you to everybody for collaborating on this piece. And again, here's the whole playlist in one playable list which enables you to play it as one big list of playness, entirely without listlessness.

May 26, 2010

Autechre - a new album already?

Autechre have shocked us all by coming out with their second album this year. Move Of Ten will be out on July 12th on CD, vinyl and downloadable mp3 magicness.

You can hear a track from the album, a gloopy five-minute acid workout, on Autechre's website right this minute.

When I announced the release of Autechre's last album Oversteps, I posited a theory that every track was rhyming slang for something.

That's not going to stop me doing it again. Here are some example sentences from everyday life followed by the rhyming track names which, if you are a true cockernee-slang Autechre fan, should be used instead.

1. (a sequel to tron? yes!) Etchogon-S
2. (holiday in devon) y7
3. (do you wanna get high?) pce freeze 2.8i
4. (autechre's got a new one) rew(1)
5. (my favourite car is herbie) nth Dafuseder.b
6. (why say 'four times' when you can say 'quadruple') iris was a pupil
7. (can you help me, i'm suffering from some kind of terrible manic disorder) no border
8. (knock knock, who's there, i've done ap, i've done ap who, ha ha you just said i've done a poo) M62
9. (d'oh!) ylm0
10. (do you want a ride on my chopper?) Cep puiqMX (sorry, i meant bmx.)

For more Autechre stupidity, click the Autechre tag just below this post or just jump to my Autechre live review, me getting too serious about my Autechre phone wallpaper, or my ten bloody brilliant Autechre tracks.

May 23, 2010

Good thing bad thing

Good thing: the Cabaret Formerly Known As Bucket at Chorlton Art's Festival the other night had puppet poetry, a zombie western band and the eye-catching Madame Laycock And Her Dabeno Pleasures. It was also at a great wee bar, Oddest, which ought to be prosecuted under trade description laws.

Bad thing: I spent all morning the other day annoyed at Coldplay. I listened to people arguing so I was annoyed at Coldplay. I was late for my bus so I was annoyed at Coldplay. I turned on Radio One and heard JLS so I was annoyed at Coldplay. Irrational, undirected hatred is not helpful.

Good thing: I spent Thursday on my Twitter feed posting links to tracks Brian Eno has written or produced. For your non-tweeting pleasure, here they are: Roxy Music's Ladytron, Byrne and Eno's America Is Waiting, Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets, Bowie's Warszawa (which apparently gave Joy Division their 'Warsaw' name, I discovered later) and Eno's Fractal Zoom.

Bad thing: I had an incredibly dirty exchange of innuendos with the poet laureate. We had both been drinking, I was talking about a delivery of her books, and "in the back" was all it took. I tried to spark off a similar exchange in a bar a few days later, talked about "crusts" and just ended up offending someone.

Good things: Name dropping on blogs. Hootsuite. Getting up an hour earlier every day to write and not feeling as dead as I thought I would. Borland's Universe Trilogy (google it). Reunion drinks with friends I'd known fifteen / twenty years ago and it being *great*.

Bad thing (which is a good thing really): I am leading a church. Run for the hills. Sanctus 1 were mad enough to vote me onto their leadership team. Thankfully, there are other leaders and so it's not going to go all Koresh. It will, however, go all Moonie and not in the way you're thinking.

May 18, 2010

While my guitar gently sods off

The recent news that pop music is outselling rock music is as an important a cultural change as the renaissance, the industrial revolution and processed cheese.

For too long now, the tyranny of the guitar has ruled over us. We have bowed and scraped to our six string masters, as if rebelling against the jangly bastards was as bad as strangling Bill Wyman to death with a jack lead.

The indoctrination starts early. Pony-tailed parents soundbomb their Smiths collection at pregnant tummies to 'train' their newborn into having good taste. Any gawky teenager showing a creative bent has a guitar and a Nirvana chord book shoved into their hands.


And what has it given us? The Beatles, who were responsible for the worst haircuts ever and fixed Liverpool into the '60s for all eternity. Turgid rock behemoths like the Rolling Stones and Status Quo, who somehow made stadium rock acceptable and are therefore responsible for Coldplay. And James Blunt. James Blunt.

Official Charts Company figures show a third of sales in the UK are now pop, compared to rock's tawdry one-quarter share. We have rendered our Fenders to the dustbin. Given ebows the heave-ho. Turned rage against the machine into a polite letter of complaint.

Because pop music is more enamoured with the keyboard as opposed to the guitar, this means electronic music fans win. The keyboard wizard is supreme: Adamski can finally rest in the grave of his forgotten career.


Okay, it's only pop music and not, say, ambient or dubstep or breakcore. Having Lady Gaga and JLS at number one is not great - we'd obviously prefer it if Aphex Twin went platinum, and I'm not talking about his hair. But an unpopular, painful compromise is the step in the right direction. It's true. Just ask a Liberal Democrat.

There are dangers in this brave new world. If rock bands start ditching their guitars, we could be saddled with more Ben Folds Fives and Keanes. They need identifying early. I would suggest border police at the door of every recording studio, with faceless but sinister staff asking everyone "are you now or ever have been a guitar player?"

They would lie of course. But then the cunning officer, feigning informality, would mutter a comment about E flat minor seventh not being the sexiest chord. The secret guitarists' instant and obvious revulsion would see them dragged out the back, cut to pieces with an overly-sharp plectrum and buried in their own guitar case with the word "IRONY" emblazoned across the top in glam lettering.


Having said all that, The Who were quite impressive weren't they? All that windmilling and smashing stuff up. And I quite liked Madchester. The XX and Lonelady have a kind of amazing energy, y'know? In fact, guitar bands are fantastic. Who wrote this crap?

Vive la rock music! Guitar bands are brilliant. If I find you buying pop music, I will slice you. I will smother you with Lady Gaga's hat until you are nothing but a vegetable blithering "ro mah ro-mah-mah" in the corner of an institution.

No, seriously. For too long now, the tyranny of the keyboard has reigned over-- (nurse's note - Fat Roland has gone to sleep now. You can visit him again when he's rested.)

May 14, 2010

I have just burned down my local NHS hospital while listening to Phil Collins on my walkman

Forgive me, dear blog whisperer, as I bring the dirty subject of politics onto the clean pages of the Fat Roland blog.

I feel privileged to have witnessed the events of the past week. It's like we've all watched a unicorn give birth to a kraken: we have a sense of pride to have been part of something fascinating whilst trying to ignore that niggling sense of horror.

It has brought me my own dilemma. My political views were formed growing up in a Labour household in Manchester, sharpened by the poll tax riots and set in stone when the music world rose up against the Criminal Justice Bill.

That spirit of protest crystalised around bands like Dreadzone, Orbital and the Levellers, more of which I have waffled about here.

Which brings me to the Liberal Democrats. I have written the following comment on the Lib Dem Voice website:
"I hope some good can come from the coalition, I really do. The move to roll back Labour's civil liberties abuses is welcome. However, I am a left-leaning Lib Dem supporter who feels sold down the proverbial river by the pact with the Tories.
"I understand the reasons why, in many ways, the coalition had to happen - but the mantra 'vote Lib Dem get Tory' is too hard a pill to swallow. For now, and with massive regret, my support of the Liberal Democrats is suspended."
You see, my head understands the hobson's choice Nick Clegg faced: side with the reds and bring down the country into a burning heap, or side with the blues and bring down his own party for the sake of Blighty.

He underestimated the endless well of ire bubbling against the Tories. I agreed with Nick when he described the "gulf in values" between him and Cameron, so maybe I didn't take seriously the possibility of him using my vote to bring back Maggie's mates.

I loved spending the night at the Manchester count at the behest of some wonderful Lib Dem people, Northenden councillors Martin Eakins and a newly elected Mary Di Mauro. And nothing will ever take away the sense of pride when I voted for John Leech in 2005 and again in 2009 (and also in elections since 1997).

And so it's with a heavy heart that I suddenly find myself as a floating voter for the first time in my life. I cannot vote Tory. I feel betrayed by the Lib Dems. Labour have been shockingly right wing (see this piece by George Monbiot). And I don't feel that connection with the Greens yet.

I hope I'm wrong, and that I return to the Lib Dems like a prodigal son. But.... Tories? Seriously?

Maybe I need to rediscover my leftist roots. Or just keep joking about the whole thing, as I did on my Twitter feed the day the coalition formed after jibes from work colleagues about being a 'massive Tory' - because if I don't be silly about it, I may start a poll tax riot all on my own:

- Because I voted Lib Dem, I'm going to spend this afternoon being a MASSIVE TORY. Do join me.

- I am being a MASSIVE TORY. I have just smashed in the face of a poor person. I don't think they minded.

- I am a MASSIVE TORY: I have just burned down my local NHS hospital while listening to Phil Collins on my walkman.

- As a MASSIVE TORY, I've just pissed on a disabled person in a council flat. I am enjoying being a MASSIVE TORY.

- I've sent the single mums back to where they came from whilst shoving a miner down a pit. I'm a MASSIVE TORY.

- My final act as MASSIVE TORY is to seek social justice and sanctuary for the alienated and afraid. Oh, hold on....

May 11, 2010

More pow than Batman: some singles from Ikonika, Falty DL and James Blake

Because I went a bit flappy on maintaining this blog for a while, I'm a bit behind on my single reviews. Here are three quick ones to keep you going while I sort out the other 3,927 I have in my to-do pile.

On an unrelated note, while the MPs aren't looking, can someone install Aaron Funk of Venetian Snares as prime minister, please?


I'm not sure if I've waffled about Ikonika's new album yet. I will do, but in the meantime, Idiot is worth grabbing. Its punchy Nintendo lead is rooted in a rolling bass, a contrast that is amplified by the Altered Natives remix - a track with more pow than Batman thanks to a repeating descending fill that sounds like someone's spilling LFOs.

Falty DL

Falty DL's All In The Place is not dubstep. Repeat. Falty DL's All In The Place is not dubstep. Let's stop calling everything dubstep, shall we? It is probably acid techno and it's all a bit ho hum - choppy synths, bouncy bassline, loadsa reverb - until he allows a muggy rave line pull the tune into fantastic, foggy Aphex territory.

James Blake 

James Blake, who has made his name touring with Mount Kimbie, sounds like he was in 1995 listening to an ethereal moment on Goldie's Timeless before jumping through a time tunnel to provide us with his sad, liquid r'n'b-tinged grime-tech. See if you can spot the Aaliyah and Kelis samples on his essential Cmyk EP.

May 10, 2010

More crunch than Timbaland's cornflakes: Daedelus and Starkey album reviews


The blurb from the label about Righteous Fists Of Harmony, an important new album from Daedelus, is hogwash, waffling about modernity and the end of an era and containing alliterations that would even make me blanche ("bygone battle", ""contemporary conundrum", "doomed to be destroyed by our ingenious inventions").

Thank goodness the album itself is technically much better. But despite Righteous Fists Of Harmony being the Brainfeeder label's first massive release, the liberal appropriation of disperate styles doesn't work.

On one album (it's a mini-album, really - more of an EP), we have sea-dog folk, Spanish guitar, claustrophobic psychedelia, soundtrack sweetness and pleasing loungecore thanks to the vocals of Laura Darlington, who also appears this year's much more successful Flying Lotus album.

What bugs me though is how dated it sounds when Flying Lotus has appropriated jazz to staggering lengths (note the free drumming on Daedelus' Tidal Waves, then compare it to Cosmogramma) while folk guitar techno has been nailed with stellar success on last year's Bibio album.

Daedelus should strip things down a bit: keep it simple, like the Ninja Tune video for Stampede Me, which does some really lovely things with red, green and blue.


Over to the world of crunkstep now, and Starkey's Ear Drums And Black Holes album has more crunch than Timbaland's cornflakes. It's an essential buy for Joker and Rustie fans and is already one of my Planet Mu highlights of the year.

Pick any track on Ear Drums and its more likely than not to sound epic, like it's the 'big single'. So hark ye the loping, grand chords of 11th Hour, the elastic band playfulness of Multidial or the synthesised orchestral fills of OK Luv.

The stark truth of Starkey is he isn't doing anything new, but America needs people like him to keep them oscillating in this strange, ghetto-crunk sub-genre that's genuinely giving a new meaning to the clubber's term "bangin'".

May 5, 2010

Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma embraces the cobblers

Do you remember all that cobblers in the '90s about the Aphex Twin's lucid dreaming?

If Flying Lotus hasn't spent the last two years in one massive lucid dream, I'll eat my trilby. His third album Cosmogramma sounds like every hazy memory and lazy Sunday spilled from his brain into shimmering, liquid gold.

Los Angeles, his influential 2008 album, was all about the head nods and the knob tweaking. It deep froze hip hop into crystalline instrumentals. The new album is not that. In fact, it blows his J Dilla manifesto out of the water as he looks further afield to jazz, to soul, to the weight of a musical history few artists manage to encompass in one record.

Cosmogramma seems ungrounded to the casual listener, spinning as it does from p-funk house (Do The Astral Plane) to shuffling workshop techno (Recoiled). It often jumps genres within one tune, but unlike that track-hopping scratchamentalist Prefuse 73 he plumbs emotional depths whilst snatching from different record boxes with breathtaking drive.


It's a difficult LP to hook into at first. The space jazz of Pickled confused me, and left me wondering if I was playing my mp3 at 45rpm instead of 33, while other tracks are pure lounge: Satelllliiiiiiiteee underwhelms, while Zodiac Shit is a laid-back summer afternoon.

But one you get used to the newness - free jazz and plenty and plenty of harps - the wooziness begins to lighten your head. Ravi Coltrane's tenor saxophone lends a smokiness to German Haircut and...And The World Laughs With You smothers Thom Yorke's vocals until they're musical chloroform. It's a dizzying ride.

Arkestry is the most leftfield, with mad drumming leading into moody choralwork, a dramatic edge that is only amplified by the descending melody and clockwork rhythm of MmmHmm. I can even forgive him the opening ping-pongs of a track called Table Tennis (what else?) despite dredging up the memory Enrique Iglesias' awful 'Ping Pong song'.


The deeper we fall into the spell of Cosmogramma, the more Flying Lotus' place in musical history becomes transparent.

Until now, FlyLo's great aunt, the jazz pianist Alice Coltrane came from another musical world: a different time with different ears. Until now.

The genre-busting Cosmogramma, encompassing nuyorican soul as much as hip hop, ties his history in with hers. It's that echo of the past that makes this a real producers' album, but in a very different way from 2008's Los Angeles.

Cosmogramma is a soulful kaleidoscope of genres, lending it a headiness not seen in his previous work - but its roots are deeep. FlyLo has drawn a line in the sand once again: it's time for his contemporaries to get dreaming.

May 2, 2010


Here are some tweets I have tweeted on the twitterverse to the twitterers that twollow my status twupdates and are, thanks to the phenomenon of cut-and-paste, now available for you to read on the old fashioned but still-robust blogosphere.

In no particular order:

- CD album sales fall, but download *and* CD single sales not only up, but reach an all-time peak.


- Bringing sexy back: here's an unforgettable Justin Timberlake medley on YouTube.

- (When the aviation ban ended.) I've just seen a plane, fairly low-flying, over Didsbury. It looked awkward and out of place, like a music lover at a Keane concert.

- D'you know, suddenly everyone's talking about Caribou. Bleep calls his new album Swim "an exultant, restless, frequently brilliant success."

- The state of electronic music at the moment nicely summarised in one paragraph.

- Chiddy Bang's new single rhymes Katsopolis, noblest, metropolis, topic hits, rockerish, lockin’ this, apocalypse AND I got this. Amazing.

- I'm in the Lass O'Gowrie about to watch the new Dr Who with lots of uber-geeky fans. I am fearful. Very fearful. A fight broke out. I'm lucky to have escaped alive. Never thought nerds had it in 'em. I feared I'd be threatened with a sonic screwdriver. And by 'sonic' I mean 'scabby', and by 'screwdriver' I mean 'penis'.

- How much do music artists earn online? Here's a diagram, a fantastic diagram.

- How on earth did Born Slippy get to no2 and spend nearly half a year in the charts in the 90s? Listen to it! No way that would happen today.

- And finally, I got a newspaper and folded pictures of the UK political party leaders. Here's folded Gordon Brown. Here's a disturbing folded David Cameron. And here's folded Nick Clegg looking sad at the first-past-the-post system).

I write as much, if not more, crap about electronic music on Twitter, so if you have an account, you should probably follow me. It's not great for music news or reviews or anything, but then again, neither is this blog. It's just me, my whimsy and a bent for bleeps.

Oh and if you can see this post, my Chipmunk warning did not come true. What is Blogger playing at?

May 1, 2010

The Soslimited FuturEverything election debate remix in pictures

I try my best to hide my inner geek, but I still literally wet myself when the More Or Less people come onto the radio to analyse the numbers bandied about by party leaders.

Because elections are all about analysis, whether it's body language, figures to cut the deficit, or whether to mark a cross or scrawl a picture of your genitals across the ballot paper.

On Thursday, American election debate remixers Sosolimited turned their surreal take on politics onto our own party leaders. Hosted by FuturEverything, Prime Numerics was a live stream of the third election debate funneled into the People's History Museum in Manchester and mashed up into a bewildering array of data visualisation.

And so, through 15 fuzzy mobile phone pictures, here is a run-down of the third election debate:

The way it worked was this: everything Gordon, "Dave" and Nick said was typed and fed into a massive machine. That might be simplistic: there was no "massive machine". Anyhoo, here, you can see their words appearing:

Quite simple, really. Whenever a party leader mentioned a certain keyword, perhaps one that indicated caution or bravura or anger, an alarm went off.

Their words were also reduced to the lowest common denominator, with key election soundbite words highlighted. Here's Nick taking about tax. His sound and image got fainter until he mentioned a concrete keyword, when the visual snapped into clarity once more.

And the more they spoke, the more data could be gathered about how many times they mentioned certain topics. Here's the data analysis of the number of times each party leader mentioned, um, sex or things to do with sex. It even searched for the word 'titties'.

The visualisations were sometimes very mathematical. In the picture below, you can see keywords shooting across a plane defined by the intensity of the television picture. That grey graph lump in the middle is probably Gordon Brown's face,

And here we have more analysis, with the green numbers indicating the most commonly used words. Throughout the evening, when a new leader spoke, their respective data set rumbled to the front of the screen.

It wasn't all geeky. At one point, they reduced the whole debate to photographs captured in endlessly shifting bubbles.

And they turned each leaders' words in to massive pixels, which became smaller as they populated their screen with words. This is the television screen (a beige-coloured person in the middle surrounded by the lilac of the BBC set) rendered into large pixels - as more words were added, the definition would increase and the picture became clearer.

Oh and they were redacted, scandal style.

There were many surreal moments. I think in all, we had about 12 modes of visualisation. Here's Gordon Brown disappearing in the polls. (That was my attempt at satire. People often call me the new Rory Bremner.)

It seemed Gordon Brown won most things on the night. He used lots of long words, he talked about key issues the most. Although David Cameron won the prize for being "most vague". Here's some of the final data being compiled:

This is the brilliant visual of all of their words being attached to a cylindar, in length-order. You'll notice some spelling mistakes, but this is inevitable in a live event and is probably allowable considering the amount of word data being compiled. See? There's my geekery, right there.

I seem to remember Nick Clegg mentioned 'money' and 'work' the most. (Note, Sosolimited's US spelling of 'cheques'.) Cameron was the winner on 'family' for most of the evening, as you'd expect for a Tory, but by the end he'd been beaten on that by one of the others.

The 'you', 'us', 'them' measure was fascinating. Gordon seemed to use 'us / we' words a hell of a lot. Here's Nick talking about 'you'.

Although that threw up a strange moment at the end of the evening. I don't remember this revelation being spoken, and it wasn't much covered by the papers... but can you spot Gordon's Star Wars moment in the piccie below. Yes. It seems that Dave is Gordon's mother.

Rupert Murdoch can stick that particular revelation in his pipe and smoke it 'til it chokes him. Thank you, Sosolimited and FuturEverything for an enjoyable night.

I hope Soslimited don't mind me posting my photos here. They have far, far better pictures on Flickr, where some of the finer points of data visualisation are explained.

Meanwhile, I'm going to create my own remix on election night by scrawling a willy on my TV screen.