Apr 28, 2011

Battle of the Computer Bands: the great radio programme electronic music poll

Edit: Voting is suspended. No more votes on the blog, please. You can next vote tonight by contacting my radio programme from 8pm - 9pm, with the grand results being revealed from 9.30pm. Tune in to find out how.

If you know your Aphex Twin from your Orbital, then please take part in my poll.

Battle of the Computer Bands is a grand survey for my radio show in May. I'd like your list of who you think are the most important electronica artists of the last 20 years. A top five, decided by a points system, will be revealed on my radio programme, with some voters getting namechecks on air.

For details on how to vote, read on.

What you're voting on

When deciding on the most important electronica artists of the last 20 years, think of electronic music of the techno / IDM / Warp Records tradition, so no chart-topping pop / autotune pap. We're talking armchair techno onwards (1991 was the year of Orbital's green album, and a lot has happened since). It's not just about your favourites: think consistency and influence as well as general level of amazeballs.

My top artists would, for example, include Orbital, The Black Dog, 808 State, Flying Lotus, Underworld, Mu-Ziq, Aphex Twin, Burial, Autechre and Richard H Kirk among others, although I've not decided on an order yet. And anyway, I don't get to vote.

Need help choosing artists? Wikipedia has this history of IDM music to prompt you.

The rules

Here are the house rules:

- You can submit as many or as few names as you like, as long as they are ranked with the most important *first*. If you can only think of one, that is also fine. If it's a long list, I will probably only take notice of your first ten.

- Only one list per person. You cannot vote for your own project. Please don't vote-rig or get others to vote a certain way. Suspect lists will be eliminated, destroyed and then killed.

- If something is nowhere near IDM / electronica, that vote will be quietly ignored. How I judge this is entirely dependent on the amount of sleep / sex / Windowlene I've had.

- Voting will finish at 9pm on May 19th, an hour into the radio programme, with the results revealed between 9 and 10pm on air then, later, online.

- Any derision aimed at my Battle of the Computer Bands title will be met with the fact that I nearly called this poll Chorlton And The Bleepies, which makes even less sense.

How to vote

I'll leave you with details on how to vote. Go to it, chums!

- leave a comment on this post;
- tweet me @fatroland;
- email me: computerbands (at) fatroland.com;
- contact the programme when it's on air (details nearer the time) although lots of pre-show votes would be lovely.

Thanks, in advance!

Edit: Voting is suspended. No more votes on the blog, please. You can next vote tonight by contacting my radio programme from 8pm - 9pm, with the grand results being revealed from 9.30pm. Tune in to find out how.

Apr 27, 2011

Totally gay for Scouting For Girls

The apparent theft of Scouting For Girls' official Twitter site has had one unforeseen consequence that raises serious questions about the role of social media and pop music.

Here's what happened. For several hours yesterday, the official Twitter feed on scoutingforgirls.com displayed some remarkably odd tweets:

- working on some more shit tunes.

- Oops... turns out Elvis IS dead. Let us know of factual innacuracies in our other songs and we'll write (irritating) corrected versions.

- Robbie WIlliams showed that anyone can rap well. We'e thinking of giving it a bash for our next single. Rap-a-rap-rap! Word!

- she' so loverlee UH! she's so loverlee YEAH! she's so loverlee HAHA-HAHA! #ThatsHowWillSmithDoesIt

- just off to the toilet. One of us is going for a wee - the other 2 are going poo-poos. See if you can guess who!

- time UP! the one in the hat went for the wee, whatever his name is.

- just to let you know, Danny Dyer will be the warm up DJ for our next tour. pwopa nawtee!

A quick, um, scout of the internet shows @SFGOfficial being pimped by the funk-dribbling piano fops for some time, but it seems they never got round to registering the Twitter account.

And so a wag by the name of Chappers took up the name and started tweeting as Scouting For Girls. The tweets fed automatically to the group's website. They were funny. A (very) small segment of pop history was made.

Chappers, a web-head and occasional DJ based quite near me in Stockport, was quick to offer the account back to the group's management. They grumpily referred the matter to Sony, while the band themselves seemed to take it on the chin.

The 'Girls said on their own Twitter account: "Thank you to everyone who complained when out twitter account got hacked into! Just seen it. Quite funny - fairplay!"  Although it should be pointed out, the account wasn't hacked and was simply the result of a slip in web design by their record company.

All very well and fluffy. No harm done. Everyone had a giggle at the expense of an awful band. Except this whole fandango has had a much more dire consequence that anyone had imagined. This will have repercussions way beyond what happened over five hours yesterday.
It means I am now following Scouting For Girls on Twitter.
The moment Chappers handed SFGOfficial back to the band's management, I suddenly found myself as an official fanboy of Scouting For Girls.
I have never followed an awful band on Twitter. 7,000 tweets and two years into my Twitter career, and this has ruined me. I am following Scouting For Girls.

This fact cannot be denied.

I've had to buy into the 'Girls. I am their follower, after all. I've bought t-shirts. I've bought all the singles. I've listened to far too much Ben Folds Five. I am now TGFSFG: Totally Gay For Scouting For Girls.

It has left me in a world of Topman jackets, sensible fonts and Jamiroquai posters. I now like to hear the lyrics in a pop song. A good melody. I don't even like Aphex Twin any more. I mean, it's just noise, isn't it?

Everything's changing, as Keane would say. Chappers is pop music's evil nemesis, while I am a brain-dead fanboy. The whole balance of music has tilted, and all because Scouting For Girls had the indecency to be crap in the first place.

After all, if they didn't make the kind of music that is probably liked by Liberal Democrats, this whole saga would never have happened. Yeah. You heard. Liberal Democrats.

Harrumph. Scouting For bloody Girls. Happy now?

Apr 24, 2011

Soundtrack of my life: the bones, the cones, the groans

I love memes: I can't get enough of them.

There's one meme doing the rounds which asks you what your soundtrack would be if your life was a movie. I love this meme: I can't get enough of it. Here are the rules...
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...
I really love those rules. I can't get enough of them. It's even more exciting because I have a habit of recording real sounds in the real world, then uploading them to my computer using the cables that were provided with the computer when I first bought the computer.

Here are my results, spat from random soundfiles on my Atari.

Opening Credits:
A recording of I Want To Sex You Up by my three-year-old self, peppered by intermittent gasps from the nursing home residents.

Waking Up:
The 641-hour opus of found-sound I recorded when I placed a microphone inside a packet of caramel hobnobs, left it on the toilet seat then went on a four week holiday to Rhyl.

First Day At School:
The Windows start-up sound.

Falling In Love:
Rachmaninov's Third Symphony bit-reduced to three kilobytes per second.

Fight Song:
The sound that cheese quietly makes at its ultimate culinary and biological peak: something akin to a satisfied "oooooh".

Breaking Up:
A six-second Homer Simpson clip I once downloaded to impress a friend and try to get into his trousers. I succeeded, and the next six seconds is the sound of me being suffocated inside a trouser leg.

The murmering noise you make when mouthing the words as you read this blog. Don't say you don't read like that, because you do.

Life is Good:
The police scanner in the basement. Shhhh. What police scanner in my basement? There is no police scanner in my basement. I didn't mention a police scanner in my basement.

Mental Breakdown:
I totally love this list. I can't get enough of it. (The sound of that, a thousand times.)

The heartbeat of a spider amplified 60,000 times through a complex system of tubing.

The recording I took through the thin walls of my hut whilst my neighbours were having rumpytime.

Getting Back Together:
The derisory voice of the judge sentencing me to 100 hours of community service for recording through the thin walls of my hut whilst my neighbours were having rumpytime.

The slow scrape of entropy I sometimes hear in the bones of friends but am too afraid to mention.

Paying the Dues:
Things I have shouted into the pointy end of traffic cones.

The Night Before The War:
The distant echoes of long-dead kitchen maids calling from inside my oven.

Final Battle:
Something by Bon Jovi. Don't know the title but it sounds quite manly.

Moment of Triumph:
A one-second sample which sounds like 'plink', although it's a bit more of a 'ding' with less of a tail-off at the end. Think of the noise your brain makes when you think of a good idea, then mix it with the sound you make when you stub your metal-capped Doc Martins against the kettle when you're playing ticky-off-the-ground in your grandmother's kitchen when she's too busy out back smoking meth. Yeah. That kind of sound.

Death Scene:
The applause I hear in my head every time I ever say anything to anyone.

Funeral Song:
A cover version of Your Woman by White Town performed by beating differently-sized towels with the butt of my loaded shotgun.

End Credits:
A Spanish version of me, a bit like Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3, but instead of neat soundbytes, I'm all OMG i'm in spain LOL tanned to the max LMAO i'm such a hombre genial xxxxx ole! :D. Followed by the sound of me crying hard at my inadequacies until the end of time.

Apr 20, 2011

Fat Roland On Electronica: the radio programme

It's time to burst out of the narrow confines of the internet and get this blog onto the wireless.

Fat Roland On Electronica will become a radio programme for a special one-off show in a month's time.

All the wordy drivel you loyally suck from these digital pages will instead ooze from your earholes for two precious, messy hours.

The beast on which this blog is leeching will be Chorlton FM, the wonderful local radio station set up specifically for the Chorlton Arts Festival, available on 87.7FM in Chorlton and south Manchester - and also online.

Fat Roland On Electronica will hit the airwaves at 8pm on Thursday May 19th, fill as many Chorlton chimneys as possible with dirty beats, then scuttle back into the corner at 10pm in the hope that it would have been so amazing, other local radio stations would be interested too.

Internet shminternet. This blog's all about radio fuzz.

PS - you can catch me on Chorlton 87.7FM the following Thursday, May 26th, when the grand results of the Flash Mob Writing Competition are announced in a live reading night and simultaneous radio broadcast. You can be a part of this if you get shortlisted, so enter now. Stories must be in by April 29th.

Apr 19, 2011

Psycho bunny, qu'est-ce que c'est?

Now to the small matter of a truly international Manchester record label: one leg in this city and the other leg in Dubai.

Borland and From The Kites Of San Quentin have released a split 12" full of giddy ambience and beats that are snappier than crocodiles playing card games. More about the music in a moment: allow me for a second to literally judge a record by its cover...

Gulf Records is a collaboration between local boy Rob Gregg out of prog bleepers Borland and Daniel Fogg, who was single-handedly responsible for getting me into Lorn.

Although an equal collaboration between the two, Fogg is currently living it large on the Arabian Peninsula, so Gregg is hot-footing it around record shops with trouser pockets full of vinyl.

Yes, vinyl. Their debut release comes on a beautiful slab of vinyl, its cover adorned with the psycho Donnie Darko rabbit (my mutilated version can be seen above). I went to the launch at Centro recently, and it was truly a pleasure to get something heavy and touchable slapped into my hand (stop it) rather than a piddling little CD or a URL to a streaming site.

Each cover is hand-daubed with red paint, with copies available at the Japanchester charity gig boasting Japanese-style red circles on the back. It's good to see Gulf Records 'getting' vinyl.

As for the music, what we have is Chet Beaverbrooke by From The Kites Of San Quentin, which is a 'ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space' ambient psych-out with Billie-Holiday-on-heroin vocals.

It settles itself somewhere near chill-out (splutter, wash my mouth out), but being of an older school, the trippy spoken word drops remind me of The Orb. The disgustingly dirty bass that lands at around the three and a half minute mark suggests this is a beast of a much darker pelt.

Clockmen by Borland spits a growling melodic progression onto the floor of witch house then slurps it up with a hefty dose of melancholy. That track is ripped into seven shards of bad boy on the b-side as each artist remixes the other. Borland's take on the Kites track is the closest the 12" gets to a head-nodder, with its flip-book snare adding crunch to a delicious overdose of shimmering effects.

Chet Beaverbrooke / Clockmen is a bold debut, is difficult to categorise despite other reviewers' unconvincing comparisons to Four Tet, and is lovely to slap in your hand. I suggest you buy yourself one now: what better treat for Easter weekend than a psycho bunny?


Apr 8, 2011

The Stone Roses and the seriously stained alley of nostalgia

Edit: I was clearly way off the mark in this piece. Here are my 2016 reflections on the new Stone Roses single.
The Stone Roses are reforming. The Stone Roses are not reforming. The Stone Roses are reforming. The Stone Roses are not reforming. The Stone Roses might be reforming.

Manchester was awash with speculation yesterday. It's the only thing people were talking about in the porn shops. Drug dealers whispered the news from beneath street grids. All the flyers in Affleck's Palace were replaced with pictures of Ian Brown next to a big question mark.

In fact, Manchester does nostalgia almost as well as Liverpool, what with reformations by the likes of James, M People and, um, Northside. When in fact what we really want back are our dearly deceased, such as Joy Division, Frank Sidebottom and Together.

Although the cod-blues drudgery on the second Stone Roses album was a crock of anal splatter, the band's contribution to rock music stands as proudly as the Beetham Tower and we Mancunians should shout about it. Well. Drawl about it.

What we didn't need, though, was another trip down a syringe-ridden nostalgia alley. We'd just end up vomiting into our navals and using our hoody to wipe up the sick, thereby creating an ironically-pleasing hypercolour design on our clothing. How on earth can they recapture the Bez days of our lives? Stand in Harvey Nicks and pretend it's the Hacienda? No, thanks.

The rumours were quashed pretty quickly. Many commentators took a (private) post-funeral piss-up between ex-band members as genuine news. But Mani himself gave a journalist a right old ear-pummelling about the rumours, ending his rant with "It isn't true and isn't happening."

The Stone Roses are not reforming. The Stone Roses are not reforming. The Stone Roses are not reforming. Let the whispers become murmers then shouts: the Stone Roses will not come again.

Apr 4, 2011

I went to see Kylie...

...however, it will be almost impossible to explain what I saw, other than to say the phrase "that's the gayest thing I've ever seen" in increasingly shrill tones. So:

- A half-naked man angel: that's the gayest thing I've ever seen.

- Kylie singing to a half-naked man angel: that's the gayest thing I've ever seen.

- Kylie riding around in the air singing on the back of a half-naked man angel: that's the gayest thing I've ever seen.

- Kylie singing There Must Be An Angel to the half-naked man angel: that's the gayest thing I've ever seen.

Chariots, Greek baths, golden shells, S&M slaves, sychronised swimming, a massive Kylie bust (not that kind of bust), and a huge man fountain. This was not Aphex Twin.

Here are some blurry photographs that weren't completely ruined by me shaking from heart palpatations.

She's on the back of a chariot in this one:

 Here comes the angel:
 The fountain climax. Some of it looks like the dancers are weeing, but actually they're performing acrobatics on sodden ropes in increasingly precarious ways. The biggest jets of water are just out of shot:
 I'll be re-enacting this one on the fountain outside Manchester town hall:

Falty DL's been building something in his garage

I've been juggling three records with my many eared-tentacles of music appreciation. But I only want to talk about one, which is Falty DL's You Stand Uncertain.

Much has been made of DL's genre-slurping production skills, taking in two decades of dance music. It does genre-hop, but mainly in one one spot: UK garage. Let's get this clear: the new Falty DL album is a garage record. Garage. Not techno. Not bass music. It's garage.

You can bang on all you want about dubstep, post-dubstep and chilldubwavestep, but just take its lead track Brazil featuring Lily MacKenzie: it's proper UK garage. That's garage. It's a word you won't have seen on a blog for about 46 years.

You Stand Uncertain is Planet Mu's most notable release this year so far (although Boxcutter's got some interesting stuff on the way), and it is Mr Falty's follow-up album to his debut platter Love Is A Liability. The big female vocal choons on the album, such as Gospel Of Opal, seem to be a statement. It's Falty pinning up a six-foot banner emblazoned with the phrase I'M BACK.

Onto the outside of his garage.

There are many tools in his garage, though. Open Space is a good example of the variance on offer here: it lurches from tingling fairy techno to dark, low-hung rave (a tendency even more obviously splashed over the playful Lucky Luciano).

And I'm deeply in love with the early-Grid snare clickiness on The Pacifist. He's got that retro feel yet again.

You Stand Uncertain is an impressive achievement and, for my money, sets the standard more so than another one of the three records I'm hammering at the moment, namely James Blake's eponymous and ubiquitous debut album.

The third one? It's not an electronica record, so I can't mention it. All I can tell you is she has the same name as an invisible rabbit and she sings about England.

Apr 1, 2011

Fats does a best man speech

Last week, I got to be best man for a very good friend of mine, The Stef. As part of my duties (not losing the rings, not losing the groom), I got to make a speech.

Here is that speech. I have edited it for my blog readership, which includes changing or deleting names, crossing out in-jokes that you won't get, cutting out personal information and slicing out bits that would have made sense in the room but not on this blog.

Fats does a best man speech

I must start by thanking The Stef to allowing me to be best man... When he asked me to be best man, I'm not ashamed to admit, it made me cry. You now rank alongside my all-time blubbings, including the day John Peel died, when Jenson Button won the world championship, and that episode of In The Night Garden when Makka Pakka didn't tidy the Plinky Plonk and Iggle Piggle lost his blanket.

So let's unravel this mystery man. Think back a time long ago. Imagine a young, eager hip hop fan stuck in the rough end of town, a white rap kid in a black urban music world, not the best-dressed, not the best haircut, but passionate. Little did we know he would develop into a multi-platinum hip hop star.

But enough about Vanilla Ice: this is about The Stef. He goes by many names. Some may know him as his MC name, “Fire Damage”, so-called because like fire he's overwhelming, noxious and a danger to children.

He is also known as The Stef, that's THE Stef just so (and you may need to help me out here) we don't get him confused with other famous Stefs like...

People call out names, such as Steffi Graf, Stephanie Beecham and Stefan Dennis who played Paul in Neighbours.

I first met The Stef when he used to come into my shop to buy CDs. There was something different about him. Maybe it was his smile, maybe it was his looks, maybe it was the shell suits. Me and my bookshop colleague took him under our wing: we took him to gigs, we helped get him a job with us, we became friends.

Basically, grooming.

We gained a shared love of partying, particularly the totally non-gay time we dressed as cowboys then swapped clothes. And music runs through our veins like White Russians, both of us DJing at a night cafe, The Stef MCing while I beatmixed breaks a youth club where ten year old gangster kids would come down and rap lyrics like “iminimimino imibo dibbedydo” and we'd say, yeah man, that's really deep.

Even now, The Stef keeps it real on his Facebook page by posting videos of DMX, LL Cool J and UB40. That's scrabble scores of 8, 16 and 250 respectively.*

We both have a shared love of going to pubs where football or rugby is being shown. Stef loves watching the game and I love watching The Stef turn an impressive shade of purple as he yells his lungs out. Apparently he supports England. And Poland. His ideal country would be a mixture of the two, but that would be called Pongland, which is stupid.

The Stef can be a passionate man. He is one of the few people that can get into an argument in the street, get punched in the face, and then end up being his attacker's best mate. If we ever fall out, Stef, remind me to reconcile our friendship by punching your face off.

The Stef's ability to shovel buckets of food down his gob and still maintain a martial arts physique is legendary. In fact, I have one of his shopping receipts here.

Pulls out massively long receipt that rolls out across the table and halfway across the floor. Reads:

"Pasta, tuna, crisps, donner meat, chips, pasta, crisps... and a £1.99 ready-meal which is pasta with donner meat sauce and a side serving of tuna-flavoured crisps."

When in the middle of a rather strenuous session of mastication, The Stef cannot talk: instead he chooses to communicate through his eyebrows. An eyebrow frown means he's thinking of going home to do some washing. One raised eyebrow indicates he wants a pint of whatever you're drinking. Both raised eyebrows means he's about to keel over because he's reached his two-pint tolerance level.

The once gave me a keyring.

Holds up racing car keyring. A wheel has fallen off.

It's a racing car, because we both liked formula one. If you look closely, you'll notice the wheel's fallen off. It is now a three-wheeled car, it's essentially a model of a very fast Robin Reliant.

And now, every time I watch an F1 race and a car's wheel falls off, and the driver burns up in a horrendous fire while the tyre bounces into the spectator's arena and violently crushes a hundred people, I think fondly of The Stef and this beautiful symbol of our friendship.

This day is all about The Stef and his bride, but I have to address something I know we're all thinking about. That long love affair, pre-[bride], with the one person that I thought The Stef would be with forever. Of course, I'm talking about MC Serch.*

Let's not forget those intimate nights they spent together, MC Serch blasting out lyrics to The Stef in his bedroom, and The Stef grabbing his hairbrush and shouting them back with delicate affection, sweet, sweet lines like:

"Honeydip, and take the squad to the teepee, Hit it off, smoke a cig, watch a little TV."

"When I go pop pop pop, Simon says "Stop”."

Start to read third lyric, then realise there are children in the room. It was going to be a Vanilla Ice lyric, "ecstasy you don't wanna miss gotta have it! Animal sex with a twist like a rabbit."

Then a load of more personal stuff to end the speech, the only bit of it I want to share being my final visual gag addressed to the bride:

You 'get' Stef. You know his strengths, his weaknesses, his charms and his foibles. Because there's the entertainer Stef, but then there's the deeper Stef that not so many people get to see. In fact, I've taken the liberty of producing a pie chart to show Stef's many sides.

Pulls out hand-drawn A3 pie chart headed 'The Inner Stef' with several different coloured pie pieces, one of which has his bride's name, while all the other bits of pie each contain the word FOOD. Small print at the bottom: Copyright, the Office Of National Steftistics. Some of the family wasn't so sure about this bit... but The Stef seemed to approve.

* blatantly stolen from my Boy Band Family Tree performance from December 2010.
**The Stef's love of 3rd Bass is well documented.

Speech edited and reprinted with approval of the groom.