Feb 28, 2012

Bleep Years day twenty: Burial & Four Tet's Moth (2009)

Bleep Years is a series in which I take two decades, from 1992 to 2011, and come up with some sort of chronological soundtrack. One tune a year. Click here to see the whole lot of them. And let's not forget, it's all a celebration of a decade of fatroland.com because no bugger got me a cake.
2009: Burial & Four Tet's Moth

The tyranny of the arbitrary time division has positives (birthday drinks!) and negatives (mid-life crisis!). Maybe Bleep Years has been my way of facing up to the fact that I am beginning to measure my life in decades rather than years. And maybe the insinuation there is that I will eventually measure my life in centuries then in millennia as I become Uber Lord Roland Of The Everythingverse (TM).

Having said that, we are, co-incindentally, ending this series with an artist called Burial. Yeah, fate, thanks for that reminder. Cheers for that. Yeah. Thanks.

Dear blog chums, life is for living and for loving and for playing massively loud tunes. If I looked back on the last couple of decades and I couldn't find music that moved, uplifted and even upset me, then I might as well be dead on a spike. Or be Cheryl Cole. I expect to find massively more exciting tunes over the next two decades too: just wait until I'm wazzing praise all over this blog about Clark's impending new album.

And so we end with 2009, in which I faced Christian prejudice and Orbital's return (not to be mixed up). Burial and Four Tet released one of the bestestest house collaborations ever (watch below). And it was the year in which I took my blogging seriously for a change, a brilliant 'second job' that has given back again and again. Which brings us beautifully to the end of February 2012, the most blogged month in the history of Fat Roland On Electronica.

Another 6,000-or-so words plopped into the burping mouth of the internet. NOW WHERE'S MY CAKE?

Feb 27, 2012

Bleep Years day nineteen: LTJ Bukem's Horizons (1995)

As Bleep Years wobbles inexorably to its memory-gorged conclusion, we take one last gasp of the 1990s. After this, we fill in the final year on our grid above, then we mope around wondering what to do with ourselves.

1995: LTJ Bukem's Horizons

1995 was the year Robson & Jerome and Simply Red were at the height of their powers. Grunge had fizzled away, as had the anti-Thatcher musical angst. What was left? Two things. Drum. And bass.

LTJ Bukem was raised on jazz and classical music, and brought a melodic, breathy, atmospheric edge to drum 'n' bass missing from early jungle releases from the likes of General Levy. He seemed to build an empire with Good Looking Records, and it's thanks to him I got into Peshay, Photek and Blame.

I was a hack on a local newspaper in the mid-1990s, uncomfortable in my own skin and hungry for new experiences. Clubbing was my release, and I still remember the first moment I saw Bukem in action. It was in a big tent with lots of dry ice and herbal smells. Within a few years, I would have perfected the long d&b beatmatch: those intricate beats are, whisper it, deceptively simple.

Horizons is Bukem's signature tune, and it could be regarded as an anthem for the 1995 Me as I explored who I was, what I was into and how to get the next high. It's also a pants-flappingly great track.

Feb 26, 2012

Bleep Years day eighteen: 808 State's Lopez (1996)

This Thursday, I will be waffling about the 1996 IRA bomb for the Manchester Histories Festival. You remember '96, don't you? It's also today's randomly-chosen year for Bleep Years, my two decade trawl through the jukebox of my mind.

1996: 808 State's Lopez

From the 303 acid of Flow Coma to the storming techno of Nimbus, 808 State had long proved their status as Madchester's ravers-in-chief. 1993's warm and adventurous Gorgeous is probably one of my top ten favourite albums. Their 1996 album Don Solaris was a more ethereal affair: think Hacienda classics by stoned beach bums.

Don Solaris' track seven, Lopez, featuring the vocals of James Dean Bradfield Out Of The Manics, was by no means the best track on the album. However, it was the one I'd find myself humming down the street in a year which not only saw 808 State headline a massive party five days after the IRA bombed the heck out of Manchester, it saw the death of my father.

And so, I give you some lyrics from Lopez, which may explain why this one song summed my 1996. (Before this gets too weepy, I should also point out that my dad, who had an extensive record collection including Acker Bilk, Ella Fitzgerald, Cleo Laine and a huge classical collection, bloody hated techno and railed against the invention of the drum machine with some vigour.)
Each sun feels like the last:
Death is proclaimed at sunset
by a final light,
Which darkness fills
With every shade.
Solitude bides time.
Joy gives me my last regret.
Joy gives me my last regret.

Feb 25, 2012

Bleep Years day seventeen: Autechre's Arch Carrier (1998)

1998: Autechre's Arch Carrier

An untitled album released by Autechre brings us the next song in our Bleep Years saga. The album, since labelled as LP5, was meant to be a stop-gap between Chiastic Slide and the game-changing Confeld.

But with tracks like Under BOAC, the hidden track Drane2 and the one I've chosen for Bleep Years, Arch Carrier, they produced an all-consuming Autechre classic. It was also their last album before they basically went evil (listen to the wonderful crunching madness of Pen Expers to hear evil in action).

1998 was the year I "became" Fat Roland. I fell down a hole and was afforded telekinetic powers of beat-matching, lasting through long sets and playing anywhere from living rooms to big clubby places. My first public gig was in the middle of 1998 in the now-mothballed Phoenix pub yards from where I work now. I remember playing this track for the first time on my brand new Technics. It is one of my most played tracks, if not *the* most played.

I would like Arch Carrier to be my theme. I will walk in time to the steady beat. When the moody minor chords kick in, I shall glower at passersby. I shall hunch my shoulders and allow my tongue to loll menacingly. I will be The Arch Carrier. They will call me The Gawping Idiot, but I shall know my real name.

Feb 23, 2012

Bleep Years day sixteen: Luke Abbott's Brazil (2010)

The last five posts of Bleep Years start here... and it's a great track from Border Community.

2010: Luke Abbott's Brazil

Life accelerates as you get older. You start with days skipping past you in your twenties, tiny moments of thinking back to your teens when everything passed so much more slowly. And then the weeks and months start tumbling, and you either get swallowed in the landslide or you hunker down and enjoy the ride.

I am, at the time of writing, 16 million years old. My eyeballs are scorched with the burn marks of cynicism. I have less time than ever for new, magical things because I am too busy barrelling down the scree slope to death. And yet... and yet...

I could have died in 2010. Surgery on my inner splodgy bits by some very good doctors ensured a fair few years of me to come. Which is good because I haven't yet planned my techno funeral. Luke Abbott's Brazil, from an album which should have been record of the year but wasn't, did two things for me in 2010:

(1) it jet-washed the cynicism from my neolithic mind: here was a track that moved me as if I were a dewey-eyed kid all over again;

(2) it provided an emotive soundtrack to an emotional year of incredible highs (the blog awards, new friendships) and incredible lows (the oxygen mask, the bleeping hospital machines...).

Life accelerates. But when it's soundtracked by something this good, then it's worth the journey.

Feb 22, 2012

Bleep Years day fifteen: The Orb's Blue Room (1992)

Bleep Years continues. Join me on an amazing journey of discovery into my dull life. This time, it's a track from 20 years ago which, for those with calculators, makes me at least 20 years old.

1992: The Orb's Blue Room

At the turn of the 1990s, The Orb released three killer singles: Little Fluffy Clouds (which took an aeon to grab its deserved place in the top ten), Perpetual Dawn and Blue Room. Despite the diminutive fluffy clouds hanging in the public's memory for a long time afterwards, it was Blue Room that scored the highest chart position of the three.

Blue Room was remarkable for two reasons. Firstly, the band's appearance on Top Of The Pops was no doubt a surprise to them. They turned out one of the show's most memorable performances: no-one has since played chess so intensely on a peak time music programme.

And secondly, The Orb messed with the chart rules. By 1992, the KLF had become notorious for their coldy-calculated, ice-cool undermining of the rulebook. At the time of Blue Room's release, the the maximum allowable length for a single was 40 minutes. Most people would assume that meant the main single plus all the remixes. The Orb's track Blue Room came in at three seconds short of 40 minutes, giving radio stations heart attacks and giving The Orb the strange honour of having the longest hit single of all time.

I was totally lost in The Orb's music back in the day: their dense audio worlds spun alien webs inside my addled noggin. It's only with hindsight that I've realised that, to some extent, I've also always aspire to their principles of 'event' performance and messing with the established rules. As for their chart record? They've changed the rules, so don't expect a Blue Room 2.

Feb 21, 2012

Bleep Years day fourteen: Orbital's Planet Of The Shapes (1993)

Holding back the Bleep Years... I'll keep writing on. (Sorry.)

1993: Orbital's Planet Of The Shapes

Orbital's brown album, or Untitled 2, or Orbital 2, was the album after Chime and Belfast and their green-covered, equally-untitled rave debut. Techno bands were starting to discover the album format and began to appeal as much to armchair slouchers as to clubbing gurners. The brown album combined dancefloor immediacy with the long player: tracks two to six were designed to be listened in one go.

The most enduring tracks on the album were versions of older tracks, such as Remind and Halcyon+on+on. But the one that stays with me, the one that haunts me in the dark places, is track two, Planet Of The Shapes. It was the first Orbital track I heard all the way through and it was an ear-popping epic with lazers, moody synth lines and crashing drum beats.

How I discovered the brown album is quite telling. I was turning 20 and felt like I was losing my childhood identity fast. I remember sitting in a tree writing down everything I thought I was and everything I wanted to be. Every longing and every hope cut me sharply at that age: I had a desperate need for connection.

I brought out a copy of the NME whilst up the tree. It described a strange album without a name, full of weird noises, and I decided there and then that this was the music I was going to connect with - even though I hadn't heard a note. I bought Orbital's brown album as soon as I could.

My love for Orbital continues. The tree has since fallen to the ground with age. I am still not everything I want to be. If I was still a teenager, I'd recognise the metaphor in that. But I'm not. I still like lasers, though.

Feb 20, 2012

Bleep Years day thirteen: Aphex Twin's Avril 14th (2001)

For those just tuning into this blog, we're in the middle of Bleep Years, a series which fragments the life of Fat Roland into twenty annual musical masterpieces. We're about two thirds through. Personally, my music tastes have changed. I now like country and western, acid jazz and the sound of vomiting.

2001: Aphex Twin's Avril 14th

It would be foolish for me to shove a load of Aphex Twin history down your neckhole. Firstly, the Twin featured just a week ago in this series. Like Plaid, he is important enough to get a second mention. Secondly, you're reading a blog that, according to the tags further down the page, has mentioned Aphex Twin 54 times, 55 including this post, which is a frequency of once every seven weeks and accounts for 8.7% of all blog posts on Fat Roland On Electronica.

I also don't need to explain why this track is such an emotive memory. And so, today, Bleep Years is hella short because, like the best music, the noise about to drift into your ears speaks for itself...

Feb 19, 2012

Hounds Of Hulme's new Vocal Minority EP

While Bleep Years pops out for a quick fag so I can spend a bit of time on site design and writing this tweet for 3hundredand65, I should tell you that I have some more music for you to listen to.

I've released a new EP under the name of Hounds Of Hulme, the only Manchester techno production crew with a horse as a member. Acid Minors is the lead track on the Vocal Minority EP (cheapo video below), and if you download it, I've also thrown in a short story which is available on my Italic Eyeball site, but not quite in the sexy horse format contained on the EP. This latest release follows the Midnite EP from a few weeks ago.

You can stream the EP on the Bandcamp site and on the newly sprung Hounds Of Hulme website , but it would also be nice if you bought it too because this kind of thing takes a lot of time - and horses cost a fortune to keep in doughnuts, broccoli and playing cards. Unless you dislike the music, in which case, if you see a horse, punch it in the nose. Really hard. Go on, I dare you.

Feb 18, 2012

Bleep Years day twelve: Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place (2000)

Cast your fears away, it's Bleep Years for another day...

2000: Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place

Underworld wrote the rulebook rulebook on vocal manipulation and the clever art of repeating words words without it sounding like a pathetic call-and-response. Well. They didn't write the rulebook, but on tracks like Cowgirl, they did it best best.

Johnny Angular-Face's fingering of a Korg Kaoss Pad lent Kid A's Everything In Its Right Place a voice voodoo that was far removed from the band's status as the Greatest Rock Band Ever (copyright Q Magazine 1927). Suddenly, Radiohead were topping Orbital's mouth-manipulating collaborations with Noami Bedford and Goldfrapp.

I remember seeing Kid A live, in which tracks for Amnesiac were also previewed. A bloke did a Noah-esque wee on a tent pole next to me. I also remember seeing Radiohead support James back in the smoky mists of pre-Oasis Manchester, a gig at which I had my first alcoholic drink. I can't remember what the drink was but it was in a bottle and the name, I think, ended in 'Ice'.

Back in 2000, I used to make music without much success. I also had a Kaoss Pad. I seethed with jealousy at the angular bloke manipulating the pad's screen with a poetic dexterity. Still, this track represented a clash of rock and electronic music that hadn't really been properly explored for several years. The opening chord on Everything drops in from some new kind of place, and rock music has been playing catch-up ever since.

Feb 17, 2012

Bleep Years day eleven: Plaid: Unbank (2011)

We're now in the second half of the Bleep Years series, in which I celebrate a decade of fatroland.com by shoving my hand into a top hat of years and pulling out some, er, floppy-eared rabbits. By which I mean tracks. Each randomly chosen year will feature a piece of music that somehow represents that period of my life. It's all rather self indulgent, but at least I'm only featuring each band once... oh wait...

2011: Plaid: Unbank

Well, that's annoying. My plan was to make sure no artists appeared twice in this series. Then you would think 'wow that Fat Roland has really varied and interesting taste, I want to be him, I want to marry him, I want to wear him as a stylish pair of loafers'.

Plaid were included in last Tuesday's post about 2003 in which I chugged on about whirrs and swirling and Beyonce and stuff. I also narfed on about today's track in my end-of-year round-up six weeks ago. So I'm not going to repeat myself any more than I need to.

2011 was a chuffing great year. I had my blog awards tucked neatly into my belt, and enjoyed all the free stuff you get as a result of that accolade (limousines, helicopters, one of the smaller Galápagos Islands). Actually, I think I spent my blog award money on part of a hoover. Anyhoo, I had great fun with my chums organising events, running competitions and generally crapping about the Manchester literary scene drinking gin out of boots we had stolen from poor people.

2011 was also a difficult year, with some relatively minor health gremlins limiting my mobility and, frankly, making everything slightly harder than it needed to be. How did I deal with that? Music library: Unbank: play. Music library: Unbank: play. Music library: Unbank: play. Over and over again. I hope to get healthy again, although I'm not (un)banking on it in the short term. See? Oh come on, people. You can win awards for this kind of crap. Wasted on you, this is, wasted on you. Algernon, pass me the boot.

Feb 16, 2012

Bleep Years day ten: Chemical Brothers: Galvanize (2004)

These Bleep Years years are randomly chosen, but most of them seem to be landing in the noughties. Anyhoo, hey boy blog reader, hey girl blog reader, here we go...

2004: Chemical Brothers: Galvanize

I consider the Grammy-winning Galvanize to be a great pop record, combining snappy vocals with the Chemicals' club aesthetic. It followed the duo's Singles 93-03 greatest hits album and it turned out to be their biggest hit of the decade.

It's one of those tracks I didn't stop listening to, and its blatantly commercial bent has no doubt been an influence on the short tracks I've been producing as Hounds Of Hulme. I pushed my own button in 2004 (oo-er missus) when I left the comfort of my bookshop in Manchester for a new challenge managing a shop in Macclesfield. One of the downsides was that commuting stifled a lot of DJ opportunities, and eventually led me to drop the 'DJ' bit from 'DJ Fat Roland'.

My time in Macclesfield, whilst spent with lovely people, stripped me to the bone on an emotional level. Other posts in this series will allude to more of that experience. I returned to working in Manchester spurred into action, ready to be myself again - very much, dare I say it, galvanised. See what I did there?

I also have fond memories of the band's blistering sets in the 1990s when they didn't so much as rock the beats' blocks as pin the beats up against a wall and kick them to death. Galvanise links the joy of the 1990s with my recovery from difficult times in the late noughties. In short, it's better living through Chemicals.

Feb 15, 2012

Bleep Years day nine: Squarepusher's Love Will Tear Us Apart (2002)

 Here's the latest of my Bleep Years in which I try and compartmentalise my life using tracks that represent specific years. My little grid is filling up nicely.

2002: Squarepusher's Love Will Tear Us Apart

The thing about being Mancunian is you get to live on a smug cloud of weed smoke and Hacienda dry ice whilst looking down on all the inferior people with their inferior musical heritages. Are you from Dagenham? Loser. South Woodford? Bah. Hammersmith? Nottingham? North Weald? What have they got that Manchester lacks, apart from being the birthplaces of the various people in Depeche Mode?

Squarepusher is roundly the greatest exponent of jazz drill 'n' bass that has ever lived, unless there's an especially impressive performing troupe of B&Q staff members I don't know about. My Sound was the first track I fell in love with, and his Shobaleader One project had its highlights too.

Love Will Tear Us Apart is the only cover version in my Bleep Years list, and its a contentious one because any true Mancunian would have throttled him with a hooded top for attempting this. However, the icy claustrophobia Oh Square One lends this track is quite beautiful.

And I can see myself in a Revolution bar, DJing in an alternative electronic room at a night called Backslider with some very lovely people, letting this track infect the airwaves of commercially-minded soul and pop fans. Happy days, good friends, and total DJing freedom. A year when Manchester was vibrant and alive and so much more than its history.

Justice, bad books and yer mam: some gigs

It's going to be a busy few days of me and my chums doing stuff.

Manchester singer Hannah Atkins will be launch her new album Beyond Your Skin at the Band On The Wall tonight (Wednesday 15th), with tickets at £8 if bought when doors open at 7.30pm. There's a pretty neat twist to the music because the songs come from her work in social justice and a whole bucketful of charities will benefit from the event. There will also be real life stories of the people written about on the album -visit Hannah's website for more.

On Tuesday, my gang The Flashtag Writers will team up with Bad Language for our second Flash Language literature pub quiz. Past rounds have included Amazon one-star reviews, an insane version of bookish Pictionary and famous literary couples. We'll probably be giving out beer and terrible books as prizes. No more than six people per team, £2 per person, Tuesday 21st February at Barcelona in the Northern Quarter, Manchester. Here's the Facebook page here.

Finally, Seaming To (pictured looking like a strange android) will bring spycorders and vintage electronics to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for a new piece Songs For My Grandmother. It's a song cycle commissioned by the Chinese Arts Centre, and you can also expect poetry (Judy Kendall) and a concert pianist (Seaming's mum!). It starts at 8pm on Thursday 23rd February - see this event page for tickets - and it will be truly magical.

Feb 14, 2012

Bleep Years day eight: Luke Vibert's remix of Jamie Lidell's A Little Bit More (2006)

Bleep Years is a random hop around 20 years of musical history to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this website. Those figures don't quite make sense. Then again, I don't give 37 flying frogs so let's get on with it, shall we?

2006: Jamie Lidell's A Little Bit More (Luke Vibert remix)

After making his name as Wagon Christ in the 1990s, Luke Vibert became a kind of brother-in-acid with the more famous Aphex Twin. His best tracks included the seriously crunchy anthem I Love Acid, from the YosepH album, and the big beat goofiness of Lovely, from the Tally Ho! album.

Meanwhile, singer Jamie Lidell was furrowing his own strange path, veering off from the predictable career path of soul singers and setting his musical satnav for the likes of Warp Records and Simian Mobile Disco. He added energetic layers of beatbox and loops in compelling live solo performances. And his voice was dead sexy.

Vibert's remix of A Little Bit More mixed the techno mania with Lidell's soaring vocals, and it's impossible to see how that collaboration could have been achieved by any other pairing. It also best represented Warp Records move from purist electronica into other styles of music (hence releases from Battles and Grizzly Bear).

I've chosen this track because it is such a massive tune, with an electronic backing that is as distinctive and as memorable as the vocal melody. No big emotional pull. No X Factor-style back story. Just, y'know, CHOONiness. Have an ear-peek...

Feb 13, 2012

Bleep Years day seven: Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy (1997)

After a day out to concentrate on other writing deadlines and to consider whether I preferred the Muppet movie or the Shakespeare play I saw at the weekend (answer: Muppets were better), it's time once more to wind-up the clockwork innards of Bleep Years...

1997: Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy

Aphex Twin rose to gurning prominence with the armchair techno album Selected Ambient Works 85-92, on a record label (R&S) that was cooler than polar bear's ice pop thanks to their support for the likes of Future Sound Of London and CJ Bolland.

Mr Twin experimented with demonic dancing bears, stop-motion Jarvis Cocker animation and bringing the didgeridoo to the dancefloor. But it was the Chris Cunningham-directed video for Come To Daddy that put Aphex Twin on the very urban, very decayed map. The highlight was a creature screaming the blue rinse out of an elderly lady (Coral Lorne, who went on to play Old Lady Who Gets Thrown Out Of Social Benefit Office in Spaced).

Britannia became cool in 1997, but my own world was shattered from the death of my father at the end of the previous year. My newly orphaned ears picked up every musical nuance in 1997, and it is the one year in which I remember the most music, owned the most CDs, and learned the most lyrics. I dealt with my grief by surfing on sine waves all year long.

For some, Come To Daddy is a brutal horror only eclipsed by the eye-popping Windowlicker two years later. For me, it is the ultimate Aphex moment: the perfect match of comedy, terror and very nasty beats. This song was also me being angry at losing my father, even though it took me years to twig the irony in the title.

Feb 11, 2012

Bleep Years day six: DJ Mujava's Township Funk (2008)

Bleep Years. It rhymes with 'leap years'. It's a leap month. Bleep... oh forget it. Here's another randomly chosen year which, by coincidence, is exactly one year after the previous post.

2008: DJ Mujava's Township Funk

It's a difficult one this because I've no special love for DJ Mujava. It's more of a representation, a fugure-head for what was happening to music in 2008. Although it's also true that Township Funk stuck in the grooves of my brain like cerebral belly button fluff.

By 2008, Burial had scorched the earth, preparing the way for the opposing chart assaults of The XX and commercial dubstep. There was a shifting of the plates where older sounds (such as the cut 'n' thrusting Prefuse 73) would no longer do. In short, a lot of music was getting a little dull, and, no, that Aphex Twin revival was not coming.

The DJ Mujava track was the most successful of a whole new groundswell of processed computer trickery. This was also the year of Ikonika's utterly unique Please, and it is also the year that saw the rise of Starkey, Hudson Mohawke, Rustie and, on a ravier scale, Zomby. So much rhyming, so much talent. Hyperdub Records were untouchable and electronic music was changing yet again.

2008 was a quiet revival musically and, after a year like 2007, personally. I was finally working back in Manchester too, which was amazing because Manchester is my township. Like I say, I don't know much about Mujava, but listen to those sexy oscillators...

Feb 10, 2012

Bleep Years day five: Underworld's Beautiful Burnout (2007)

Bleep Years is a series in which I stagger through two decades of musical memories, drunk-hugging single tracks that somehow represent entire years of my life. I love these tunes, man. No seriously, I reeeeally love these tunes, hic.

2007: Underworld's Beautiful Burnout

When Born Slippy stole the nation's heart and liver on the Trainspotting soundtrack, I'd already been into Underworld for ages. I didn't even consider it to be their best work. I know that makes me that annoying muso beardo who waffles on about people's *early* work, emphasising "early" as if it's some magical incantation designed for only bourgeois ears, but it's true. I own Underworld's Underneath The Radar on vinyl. Beat that, proles.

I feel I've lived alongside Underworld ever since, from dubnobasswithmyheadman's stark artwork, thrilling to Push Upstairs on MTV, and falling in love with them all over again with the Barking revival and even a David Lynch remix. So why have I, of all the tracks in their 24-year record-releasing career, chosen Beautiful Burnout from their overlooked 2007 album Oblivion With Bells?

I was in a mess at the end of 2006. I burst into tears for no reason, my self-esteem was on the floor and I wanted to hide in the shadows. Around about the time of me writing about ten places I wanted to see Autechre played, the future seemed confusing and scary.

2007 was the year I got things together again. I lost weight, I got a new job and, over time, started becoming the writer I'd always wanted to be. When the "bird, chrome" refrain descends into the frowning techno punches after the five minute mark on Beautiful Burnout, it reminds me of the new hope and energy I built for myself. Underworld have never released a more timely track.

Feb 9, 2012

Bleep Years day four: Loop Guru: Jungle A (1994)

Today's random year for Bleep Years is 1994, no doubt well before you were born, oh youthful reader.

1994: Loop Guru: Jungle A

If the early 1990s was about dance culture having co-genetical rumpy pumpy with other forms of music, then nobody did it better than Nation Records. The London label crunched world music with post-rave head-beats and in the process brought us Natacha Atlas, Asian Dub Foundation and Fun-Da-Mental (the label's founder). Nation fans from back in the day will also remember collaborations with Jah Wobble and Mercury-winner Talvin Singh.

They will also remember Loop Guru, a duo who took a less commercial path while others hippety-hopped up their tablas (a technical musical term - ahem - look it up). Loop Guru's Duyina is one of the most original debut albums of the decade, all twisted with short loops, transcendental spirituality and a straight-faced quirkiness that seemed to twin Asia with the hidden side of a distant, mysterious land.

The third album track Jungle A matched a lazy chant with a basic Soul II Soul beat and has probably risen to the bubbling surface of my brain most months since I received the album as a promo from Nation Records 18 years ago. The experimentation and uncommercial stubbornness of the track defined my musical taste many years to come. I was barely in my 20s and yet I was looped up for life.

Although they've not had much space on this blog before, Loop Guru became so important, I even named a radio feature after them last year. The track doesn't appear to be on YouTube so have a listen on Spotify: Loop Guru – Jungle A

Feb 8, 2012

Bleep Years day three: Venetian Snares' Szamár Madár (2005)

Is this Bleep Years crap over yet? No, dear reader. It has barely just begun. Here's another year in my two-decade trawl of musical memories.

2005: Venetian Snares' Szamár Madár

Somewhere between his Planet Mu albums Winnipeg Is a Frozen Shithole and Cavalcade of Glee and Dadaist Happy Hardcore Pom Poms, the prolific junglist Venetian Snares came up with an album of Hungarian breakcore called Rossz Csillag Alatt Született. No. Stay with me.

Breakcore artists (think drum 'n' bass mainlining a liquidised Duracell bunny) were often accused of anger and noise over emotion and delicacy. This one track from Rossz Csillag, called Szamár Madár, put that preconception into a cocked hat, sold the cocked hat to Roy Chubby Brown and had Roy Chubby Brown thrown into a meat grinder. Szamár Madár has emotion exploding from every bass note.

Half of the track is a nagging orchestral line and half of it is mentalist snare rhythmics, making this both listenable and hardcore. By 2005, I was co-running regular nights in the Northern Quarter and I knew it was a good crowd if I could play this track without people complaining.

More importantly, this track taught me the true beauty of difficult electronic music. For me, this became as listenable as Colplay would be for other, more cloth-eared pathetic people. In 2005, a year in which I was unhappy in my job and wondering where my DJing was going, these Hungarian chords sáved my sánity.

Feb 7, 2012

Bleep Years day two: Plaid's Get What You Gave (2003)

Here is the second part of Bleep Years, in which I trawl through two decades of tunes that sum up, in an entirely and unfairly arbitrary fashion, whole years of my life. Today's randomly-chosen year is...

2003: Plaid's Get What You Gave

2003 was a big year for pop music. White Stripes enlisted their Seven Nation Army, Beyonce was Crazy In Love and Kelis had a line of dairy products that was proving popular with her male fans. Plaid. though, were calling back to a whole different era.

Having released records for over a decade, by 2003 Plaid were already an amazing band. Their insistent, spiralling tunes were a nod to their origins as members of The Black Dog, a leading pioneer of intelligent, brain-driven techno. Plaid's album this year, Spokes, was hailed as a return to those roots.

The debate continues as to whether Spokes is one of their better albums. One thing it did do was confirm their status as uber-ultra-lords of all electronica (official title). What I loved about the eighth track on the album, Get What You Gave, was the sheer simplicity: like steel drums on a Sunday drive along the rings of Saturn.

This track is still one of my most DJed. The track acts as a very simple study in repetitive melody, with all manner of spikes and whirrs peppering proceedings from start to finish. There was no other song from this year that got under mys skin more, that slowly and carefully spread its tuneful darkness. Get me tipsy on a few of Kelis' milkshakes and I may even start raving that this is the number one anthem from electronica's number one band.

Feb 6, 2012

Bleep Years day one: Plone's Be Rude To Your School (1999)

Welcome to the first installment of Bleep Years in which I funnel entire years of my life through the narrow confines of single tunes.

1999: Plone's Be Rude To Your School

Plone were a one-hit wonder for Warp Records. They turned the ear of several national magazines when they released their debut single Plock, although it was probably an appearance on a Warp Records compilation that caught my attention. Their playful, playground techno was best summed up in Be Rude To Your School, a track on their 1999 debut album For Beginner Piano.

I still think it's one of the best techno pop songs, and it was a cheery addition to my DJ sets at the time. I'd become quite adept at beatmixing big beat and drum 'n' bass, and 1999 saw me pulling off long, technically involved sets. Amid all of this, though, was a frustration that beatmatching was not enough.

What I saw as a 'John Peel aesthetic', which puts the song before technical proficiency, meant that I started dropping in tracks that were impossible to beatmatch. This meant the complexities of Windowlicker, a classic single from 1999, and this catchy little track from Plone.

Be Rude To Your School sparks images of DJ venues and of friends in smoky bars. The turn of the century was very much about me learning to DJ beyond just keeping beats together. Plone, in that regard, made me a more playful DJ, a silliness I was to mine for many years to come.

Feb 5, 2012

Bleep Years: the beginning

Fat Roland dot com is ten years old. Plus a few days.

The original site was designed in January 2002 on a fancy Mac with a massive screen and it was, frankly, a hyperlinked rabbit hole of egotistical nonsense. I launched it on 2nd February 2002 (02/02/02) especially so I didn't forget its tenth anniversary.

The anniversary was on Thursday. I forgot.

This blog was launched separately a couple of years later, but the two sites were eventually squidged into one. And so here we are. One cake. Ten candles. Scores of thousands of words skimmed across the surface of the internet.

To celebrate, here's a new series that may keep you entertained throughout this most quadrennial of leap months. Bleep Years will track single tunes that somehow sum up whole years of my life. It will be a personal journey and I will pick one year randomly in each Bleep Years post.

And hey, let's do 20 years rather than 10. From '92 to '11, Bleep Years will scratch the mottled surface of this blog waffler and reveal the bone, the veins and the mauve gloop inside. One year a day. Starting tomorrow.

Good to know that, after ten years, this is still a rabbit hole of egotistical nonsense.