Dec 31, 2013

Best of 2013: a Spotify playlist

If you want the best electronic music of 2013, look no futher. You're inches away from Google. Try that.

However, if you want some music I found at the bottom of my Writer's Sick Bag (we all have one, right), then have a rummage. And remember: if it feels damp, that's a good thing.

Here's a Spotify playlist based on some of the Fat Roland top ten albums of 2013 and some other things. There are two hours of music. Two whole hours! That's like... more than 12 minutes or something.

Further Fats: Best electronic albums of 2013

Best electronica albums of 2013: live blog


Welcome to my live posting of what I reckon is the best electronic music of 2013.

How this works

There will be about nine or ten updates of this one blog post during New Year's Eve 2013. We start now and I'll slowly reveal my top ten albums until we hit the number one some time in the afternoon. Keep checking back here or follow the progress on Twitter.

As with previous lists, there is no way my list is comprehensive. I may even miss some big albums because I am forgetful and slightly high on Windowlene. But any punk will tell you, daft or otherwise, that this has been a massive year for electronic music and I believe this list represents the most memorable, the most moving, the most affecting long-playing electronica of the year.

Apologies in advance if the amount of text is more paltry than in previous years. I usually write all this well in advance, but 2013 hasn't afforded me that luxury. The panic-buy Windowlene queues took weeks out of my life. Instead, I have my list and I am writing this 'live'.

Previous winners of my best album award have been Clark, Mount Kimbie (although it should have been Luke Abbott), Rustie, Andy Stott and Lone. Who will be this year's number one? Who cares? Where am I? What's that on my shoe? Who knows.
Edit: See also the best electronic music of January 2014.
10 - Factory Floor - Factory Floor (DFA)

Journalists practically milked themselved shrivelsome over the tense industrial swagger of Factory Floor. Its post-punk sensibilities, drenched as it is in analogue synthesisers, percussive stabs and detuned vocals, encourage you to wiggle your shoulder pads in robotic-style on the dancefloor.

The album probably reflects DFA Records maxim of "too old to be new, too new to be classic". It's written through with history and yet it's measured: it never lets its acid tweakery or drum foolery drown the memorable melodies throughout. LCD Soundsystem fans take note.

9 - Chvrches - Bones Of What You Believe (Virgin)

Such glorious, spangly 80s pop. You see, I never got on with Erasure. Too cold. But the moment I heard Lies for the first time, I understood that Chvrches was an electronic pop band that melded synthetic immediacy with emotion.

This Caledonian trio probably wooed the indie set more than the EDM kids, but the electronics spark from the speakers because, in the construction of the rhythms that punch and snap, Chvrches understood what to leave out. 'Do a Miley' and lick off the saccharine sugar to find something mesmerising. In fact, forget Miley: this is the pop sound of 2013.

Some also-rans (part one of four)

Sometimes in a litter, a puppy has to die. Here are several puppies, all neatly snuggled inside a bin bag. Let's take a trip to the incinerator. (Sorry. What? The RSPCA have been on the line. They would like a donation every time you gasp at a brilliant album included in these top ten rejects.)

I couldn't hook onto Oneohtrix Point Never’s Warp Records debut R Plus Seven enough (pictured) even though it's probably their most, er, immediate album yet. Maybe I wanted it to be more visceral, like Roly Porter’s brilliantly epic Life Cycle Of A Massive Star or intense and spiralling like Holden’s The Inheritors. None of these found space in my top ten.

Jamie Lidell's Jamie Lidell just left me wanting Frank Ocean. There was much to be said for Tim Hecker’s harmonic and ambient Virgins, and the clanks and clicks of Logos' Cold Mission, while The Haxan Cloak's Excavation was slooooow and daaaaark. Finally, two genuine contenders that fell at the last hurdle were Forest Swords’ outdoorsy Engravings and fun drum 'n' bass chart botherers Rudimental with Home.

8 - µ-Ziq – Chewed Corners (Planet Mu)

Perhaps it's a blindness. Perhaps I don't want to hear the mixed reviews. Perhaps I'm distracted by track titles like Twangle Melkas, Tickly Flanks and Mountain Island Boner. But I'm having µ-Ziq's first album for six years in my top ten, dammit, because it sounds like the entire history of IDM ozzing from the pulsing heart of Planet Mu.

It's a soft album in many ways, eschewing (sorry) hard-nosed posturing for warm textures and delicate yearning. Perhaps these are studio offcuts - chewed corners, indeed - but I like the taste because it's familiar. One for the IDM aficionado.

7 - Autechre - Exai

I wish I knew why they released this download on Valentine's Day. It would only be suited to a romantic dinner if the candles were made of, um, angles and that. And the napkins were made of, er, awkward complications.

Autechre's 11th album is hefty, with some long track times that allow for rhythmic and melodic developments missing from some of their other work. Dirty bass, nasty percussion and an over-arching feeling of being in another world; positively head-noddy in places. It's a kind of funk, but only if the funk is made of, er, um, napkins and candles. Wait. I've lost the metaphor. What?

Some also-rans (part two of four)

Here are some other albums that didn't make the top ten. M.I.A. was reliably electrotastic with Matangi (pictured), while Fuck Buttons' Slow Focus was suitably scuzzy. The bass music of Akkord's debut Akkord was in my top ten for most of the year, which is more than can be said for Raffertie's Sleep Of Reason, which was a little too hazy to grasp.

Also missing out is the countryside psychedelia of Darkstar's News From Nowhere, Gold Panda’s pleasant house album Half of Where You Live and Mount Kimbie's warm Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. Crikes, they're dropping like flies.

Also spat out from the final top ten is Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory's Elements of Light, which had far too many bells, Four Tet's Beautiful Rewind, which was enjoyable despite a lack of bells, and Omar Souleyman’s truly excellent, Four Tet-produced festival favourite Wenu Wenu. Sorry, Omar.

6 - Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest (Warp)

Boards of Canada achieved two things in 2013. With their first studio album for many years, they avoided the pastoral bleaching-out that may come with age. I'd suggest that if this had been their debut album, it would have had enough crawling melancholia to mark it out as classic as Music Has The Right To Children.

And secondly, in the track Reach For The Dead, they provided me *the* spine-chilling musical moment of the year. This album reduced me to crumbs. That's not a sunrise on the cover. It's not a sunset. It's their music suffocating the world. If this is the sound of the post-apocalypse, the sound of tomorrow, then I welcome it with quivering arms.

5 - James Blake - Overgrown (Atlas)
This was the year in which James Blake shaved his head, got arrested for drugs and walked shirtless through airpor-- wait, no, I may be thinking of other people. Blake is in fact sensible. And he focuses on the music.

Which may be why he confounded my expectations with a stupendously catchy and memorable follow-up to his ever-so-slightly disappointing 2011 debut.

He has walked a fine line between singer-songwriter (yawn) and electronic innovator (yes). For Overgrown, he's drawn his own line by producing an inventive soul album that somehow puts the song and the electronics first. By jove, the Mercury judges got it right.

Some also-rans (part three of four)

Thundercat failed to rock my world with his Brainfeeder album Apocalypse (pictured). Heterotic's Love And Devotion had some amazing highlights but missed out on the final cut (but in all fairness, Paradinas was recording two albums at once - see number 8 in this list).

It's a shame not to include two of my favourites, but they're albums worth checking out anyway: Machinedrum's Vapor City, with Gunshotta being a blistering highlight of 2013, and FaltyDL's lush Hardcourage. Apparat's theatre project Krieg und Frieden was interesting, and DJ Rashad's Double Cup was a footwork banger and no mistake.

Karen Gwyer’s debut Needs Continuum was glistening, trippy experimentalism. And Samaris’s track Góða Tungl should turn the head of any James Blake fan, as should their beautiful album Samaris.

4 - RP Boo - Legacy (Planet Mu)

After all that cynical chin-scratching I did at my computer screen when Planet Mu threw their considerable weight behind footwork. What an idiot. In no way did I anticipate a footwork album that would entertain me from toe to toupee.

RP Boo's debut album (it stands for Record Player, before you ask) is unlike anything else in this top ten. Typical of the genre, you get minimal percussion, all those little trills, cut-and-paste, cut-and-paste and yet there is something extra. The way he works the vocals makes this quite addictive, and it spins from comical to clinical with deft precision. As Record will tell you himself, this is red, red hot.

3 - SCNTST - Self-Therapy (Boysnoize)

A compelling, complete techno masterpiece and SCNTST is only twenty years old. When I reviewed this for Electronic Sound magazine, I called it a "stupendously listenable debut" with "blistering control of the most basic of ideas". I was wrong. The number of times I have returned to this album since means it is something better than that.

Each track has its own character, whether its pulsing or thundering or skipping along cheerfully. It's techno to the core, and it's never far from a 4/4 beat, but Self-Therapy takes in jazz, hip-hop and ambience in a way that rarely wavers.

The sampled mechanics of Percee Scan makes it sound like a hymn to photocopiers, while the operatic drama of Murder delights. He does a decent Plaid on Loqui. Even low-key house numbers like Throwback claw under your skin as the themes filter in and out, buzz and pulse, heave and ho. A self-assured, self-therapeutic debut that, if it doesn't hit you at first, will grow and grow and grow.

Some also-rans (part four of four)

The final selection of complete losers too pathetic to grace my top ten are as follows. Disclosure tried hard to revive the 90s but Settle (pictured) settled for a place outside the list. I enjoyed Pet Shop Boys' mostly-successful Electric return to form, which is more than I can say for Karl Bartos' indulgent Off The Record.

Ikonika’s happy Aerotropolis was almost disco. Which brings me to, yes, disco. Oh boy. None of it made my top ten. Letherette's ace Letherette was as if Justice got good again while a lot of you loved Starcadian’s Sunset Blood (really?!) and Kavinsky’s Outrun. Which brings us to my biggest omission, 2013's king of disco...

...Random Access Memories. No, no, no, no, no. I suggested in May that Daft Punk's new-found success would come at a cost. I believe I was right. Shame. Let's move on.

2 - Special Request - Soul Music (Houndstooth)

Italian house. Brutal junglism. Drexciyan IDM. Rave breaks. Sirens. Techno. Grime. Buckets of dystopia and misery. Get all of that and stick it in your washing machine. No, I don't care if it's pants-wash day. Fast-cycle it. Now tip the result onto the kitchen lino. Have you made a mess? Good. Best get it cleared up before your New Year's party.

Bad bwoy samples and jungle breaks blend and break on Special Request's astonishing debut album. Vintage gear and pirate radio underpins this brutal assault of musical memories and tributes. Baselines fart, breakbeats disappear into the upper register, vinyl fuzz cracks warm into the album's veneer.

A breaks album that is interesting, innovative and exciting; both listenable and uncompromising. There are so many albums like this: the jungle truly is massive. But the Houndstooth label, brought to us by the Fabric nightclub and Rob Booth of Electronic Explorations, have the magic touch and this is possibly the strongest debut album of 2013 - and in a year as strong as 2013, that's saying something.

1 - Jon Hopkins - Immunity (Domino)

The best electronic album of 2013 comes from a classical pianist who played with Coldplay and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. I might as well award it to Michael Bublé.

Jon Hopkins set his sights on the dancefloor for this release and yet the rhythms seem constructed from the static between the beats. He grabs wafer-thin sounds and ideas and polishes them up so brightly, it dazzles from start to finish. That breath near the start of Collider. It floored you, didn't it? The production is mind-blowing.

And so emotive. The analogue yearning that made Luke Abbott's Holkham Drones so essential, or indeed Orbital's more ethereal moments, soars to new levels on Immunity. I know it's calculated and I suspect Hopkins has graphed this out to perfection, but energy and sadness and hope swell from every programmed moment of this album, from the thudding first half to the fragile second half. Played with precision. Paced to perfection.

This has been the strongest year for electronic music for a while, and yet Jon Hopkins still ended up leagues ahead with Immunity. It's one of the best electronica albums for years. Just let's not talk about the Coldplay thing, yeah? What Coldplay thing? That's right. That's exactly right.

Thank you for reading Fat Roland on Electronica. 

Edit: See also the best electronic music of January 2014.

Dec 30, 2013

End-of-year list and the future of this blog

2013 will be remembered for two things.

Firstly, it was the year that PJ & Duncan scored their first ever number one single. I wish I was joking.

Secondly, it was the year that Fat Roland On Electronica fell flat on its face. My frequency of posting has been glacial. That's because I've been writing lots of fiction and submitting things to the likes of Electronic Sound - neither of which would have happened if this blog hadn't been a success.

So I propose to do two things.

Firstly, tomorrow I will produce one blog post: a condensed version of my usual top ten albums of the year. I will produce it in 'live blog' format, so I'll start it in the morning, then blue-tac on additions throughout the day until my top ten list is complete. It will grow before your eyes, like a cheerful tumour. Follow the latest updates on Twitter.

Secondly, from January 1st, this blog will-- (Edit: not just become a personal blog, but become the brand new Netloafer!). All this means is, I will combine my music witterings featured here with my fiction-writing witterings (currently on a different site). This blog will adopt a new name. Geoffrey, perhaps. Or Susan. On second thoughts, I'll keep 'Fat Roland' in the title. (Edit: it's Netloafer. As you can now see.)

It will take a few days to redesign the blog. Any other blogs I have will be decomissioned (you have to get written consent from the Queen, apparently) and combined with this one. My other alternative was to knock blogging on the head, but I don't want to do that because my ego won't let me.

The change in this blog will provoke in you two distinct reactions:

Firstly, as the new design becomes apparent, you will vomit with joy and keep vomiting for the entirety of 2014.

Secondly, as my music readers are faced with fiction writing and my fiction fans are faced with music writing, you will realise that this whole new-look blog has fallen between a rock and a hard place.

And it shall be decreed that the rock shall be named PJ and the hard placed shall be called Duncan. Psyche.

Further Fats: Best albums of 2012

Oct 7, 2013

Paul McCartney died in 1966

Thank my MC Hammer pants for YouTube. Without this excellent source of information, I would never have learned that Paul McCartney popped his clogs in 1966.

An old video called Mystery About Paul McCartney's Death Or Putative Death compares low-quality pictures of Paul and his replacement "Faul" (a portmanteux of 'faux' and 'Paul') and also encourages conspiracy theorists to listen to the Beatles backwards and pay special attention to the messages hidden in the cover of Sgt. Pepper. It seems, over time, his appearance has somehow changed.


The comments add valuable additional information. Feel free to read these in the best Adam Buxton voice you can muster:
"My eyes change color from time to tile green to blue blue to brown brown to green then the cycle goes on again it probably has to deal with genetics"
"You man have a lots of spear time in your life. Why you just don't do something more constructive with your life instead of creating this bs video?"
"I was not that good looking in high school, but I am real sexy now, my facial features got more defined and my hair is long and works for me and i got a handle bar mustache, late bloomer, but the better times are just starting, cause im a man, ty lord ,peace"
I also have a lot of spear time, and being real sexy now I thought I would look for more replacement blokes in popular culture. The evidence, I think you'll find, is utterly compelling. From my literally-minutes of research, I can only conclude that everyone famous died in 1966. Even ones born in 1987 and, perhaps, 1974.


Oct 3, 2013

Eight people I would definitely or definitely not torture

It is October. This blog has been dormant since July. It looks like Fat Roland on Electronica has ground to a pathetic halt. I could vomit excuses at you, but I won't. All I can say is I want to blog more. And will.

Instead of excuses, here is a list of musicians I would definitely and/or would definitely NOT torture if given the chance.

Justin Bieber

Would chuck him into a swimming pool filled with used tighty whities and the tears of his adoring fans.


Would take Drake (pictured) to the flattest part of earth where everything is painted magnolia, then have Robert Peston describe Last of the Summer Wine plots at him until he dies of boredom.

Jon Hopkins

Would not torture him. Would make him a little crown in the shape of a Korg Kaoss pad.

Miley Cyrus

Would show her Madonna’s Justify My Love, Rihanna’s X Factor nudity, Erykah Badu’s illegal Dallas disrobing and Amanda Palmer’s Daily Mail song strip, then have all of Miley’s fans shout “SO?” at her for the rest of eternity.

Four Tet

Would not torture him. Instead, would spend a romantic evening with him because of his beautiful music. We would eat ice cream, feed each other biscuits with our feet, then spoon while watching less successful episodes of Friends. I know how to have a good time.

Robin Thicke

Would tell him he was to be tortured on peak-time TV then have him turn up to an empty room with the word DISAPPOINTMENT scrawled on the wall.


Would not torture her. Would make her queen of the universe, then have the whole universe destroyed while she laughed maniacally to the rhythm of Windowlicker. She’d like that.

Boards of Canada

Would definitely torture them. It’d be dark: leeches, probes, tweezers, strange hats. I've nothing against them: I'd just be interested in what they'd sound like if they were even more melancholic and desolate.

Further Fats: The devil has all the best IDM: Jon Hopkins (2010)

Jul 21, 2013

Manchester International Festival: hot, sweaty, dramatic fun

I spent most of this year pretending Manchester International Festival didn't exist. Blah blah blah, leave it to all the Macbeth-quoting theatre luvvies.

And then I won tickets to The Machine (pictured) courtesy of the Postcode Lottery of all things. It was an edge-of-the-seat, imaginative and funny play that bent reality and built the stakes beautifully.

Massive Attack's behind-screen visual soundtracking I've seen done better (Murcof's eye-poppng collaboration with AntiVJ, for example), but it was a powerful narrative that renewed my love for Adam Curtis' visceral pessimism.

Then I thought that was it. Done the festival. Tick box. Outta here. Fat Roland has left the building.

However... you know when you lace the jelly with heroin and all the children get addicted and no-one suspects you because you're the clown and no-one's going to check your shoes for high-grade class As?

That. Except the clown is the festival and I am the children and the drugs are:

- Maxine Peake's passionate and haunting Masque of Anarchy, which reminded us that great theatre can send hearts reeling:

- Tino Sehgal's unsettling and mesmerising This Variation, which replaced one's sense of safety and security with a surreal horror;

- James Murphy's friendly and inclusive slow-disco club night Despacio, which used a custom-built sound system to dance away the mothballs;

- Festival Square and its fun transformation of Albert Square / the magical access to old buildings / the super-friendly volunteers / tremendous word-of-mouth buzz that deserves some kind of marketing award.

So yeah. All that. MIF transformed Manchester into a living hotbed of creative surprises: theatre for the people. It was hot, sweaty, dramatic fun and it made my city a community again.

With thanks to Cowboy Boots Dave, Ros + Lee + Sarah, Dancing Matthew, Hartley Hare + numerous people to whom he's either engaged or related or friends with (mostly the latter), various ticket sellers, um, the Postcode Lottery, and anyone else who mainlined me some festival.

Further Fats: Murcof's amorphous star clouds at Futuresonic 2009 (2009)

Jun 19, 2013

Stream µ-Ziq's new album on an empty stomach

I know. I should be blogging. The Punk. The Boards. The Panda. The Zombie. All the lovely names are releasing new stuff.

Mike Paradinas, King of Planet Mu, is releasing his first album as µ-Ziq in six years. His last album Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique created an, um, what was it? (Checks old blog post.) Oh yes. It created "a see-saw effect right where your dinner's settling". I think that was a good thing, overall.

The new one sounds great. Stream µ-Ziq's Chewed Corners here.

May 19, 2013

Electronic Sound magazine: the future is buttocks

You may remember me contributing to Electronic Magazine for Future Publishing a while back. I probably ought to tell you where that led to.

I'm now a columnist for Electronic Sound. The mag for Future seemed to do quite well, but I'm probably not alone in thinking there's not an easy, er, future for niche print magazines unless they're about guitars or gaming. So the team behind the original print magazine have gone independent to launch issue one of Electronic Sound for the iPad.

My column is a hilarious take on the Performing Rights Society: not exactly a minefield of comedy, but honestly, it's gigglesome. The app also has a picture of a synth with utterly ridiculous tags puked from my stupid brain (pictured above: the circles link to my nonsense), while I've thrown in some album reviews for good measure.

Issue one also includes OMD, Dave Clarke, Billie Ray Martin, Gary Numan, Utah flipping Saints and that bloke from the Human League. James Blake and Autechre are among the reviews.

I think you can just about still get issue one for the introductory price of 61p, although you'll have to be quick. The second edition is about to land, and this time I'm banging on about Daft Punk, The Black Dog, Juan Atkins and what all the numbers mean on the labels on records (note: possibly not accurate).

Sorry that you can't get it if you're not an Apple addict, but this has been put together by some amazing people on limited resources. First stop, the iPad. Next stop, forehead projection implants where you scroll to the next article by blinking or clenching your buttocks.

If you have an iPad and a vague interest in things that go bleep, you love me enough to get this, right? Beats blimmin' pretend air hockey.

May 14, 2013

Review: Daft Punk's Random Access Memories

There are parts of Daft Punk's new album Random Access Memories I want to store in my RAM forever... but this is only part of the story.

Let's get some context. For a band that has only released three albums, Daft Punk's effect on dance music has been stratosflippingpheric. Every French house band from Cassius to Letherette gets a Daft comparison.

However their output over time, as they've moved from Revolution 909 to Aerodynamic to Robot Rock, has lost traction. You could argue their nadir was the Tron Legacy soundtrack, and even though the album itself it's much better than you think it is, the movie did translate as some kind of weird Bangalter-Christo vanity project.


The problem with Daft Punk releasing a new studio album after all this time is the Justice Imperative. The Justice Imperative is where a great Parisian electronic music act - let's for argument's sake say, er, Justice  - feels the need to fall so in love with their own arse, they prog themselves until they disappear completely. Except it's not prog: it's more "The Who teaming up with David Guetta". Have Daft Punk fallen into the Justice trap?

Tragically, yes. At least, to some extent.

The clue is in the epic riff that opens Give Back to Music. The riff disappears quickly and we're into a disco jangle ripped straight from Get Lucky, which is also here in (thankfully) extended form. But remember that opening few seconds. It will return.


Let's start with the positive. Doin' It Right featuring Panda Bear is exactly what you'd want a DP / Animal Collective collaboration to sound like and it's brilliant. Slow, teasing, melodic and glorious. Lose Yourself In Dance is utter disco singalong, lifted by Pharrell Williams's vocals against the robots' cheerleading him with "come on, come on".

Giorgio By Moroder starts, literally incredibly, with Moroder himself waffling at length about singing in discotheques and his lovely Moogs before launching into a spiralling, string-laden emotive nine minutes - a theme which is, incidentally, revisted on final track Contact. They spoil Moroder though with a bit of jazz noodling, but the track is pulled back with hi-hat-abusing live drumming that rises into a distorted acid shred climax.

The rest of the album is either bold experimentation or .. well...


Touch is bonkers. We find ourselves in a Doctor Who horror hell, which then inexplicably morphs into Michael Ball in Phantom-mode, sinister strings and oodles of expansive trip hop. Vocals are by Paul Williams, who wrote the Muppets' Rainbow Connection, and that kind of makes sense and it's kind of brilliant or, more worryingly, it's something else. Parts of this track can be coupled thematically with Motherboard, which comes across as an ambient rhythmic UNKLE, its arpeggios the only clue as to it being Daft Punk track.

And now the rest. The horrible, horrible rest.

It's either bold experimentation or... this. That's what the opening riff alluded too. You're expecting 80s hair and flares and anything but a touch of Sade or Warren G, but there it is on Beyond which g-funks it up so much it's almost a total steal of Michael McDonald's I Keep Forgettin'. And The Game Of Love's guitar harmonic MOR barely sticks its head above 90bpm and it is smooth. Not just smooth, but Sade-smooth. We're talking Smooth Operator smooth. Okay, let's cut the crap: it's basically Smooth Operator.

Instant Crush, an obvious single, could be an Avril Lavigne track when it starts out but it gives in to Europop territory with light Royksopp or Mew vocals. Utter cheese... but they've softened us up with Get Lucky, so it's less of a shock. Still. This is Daft Punk and they've lost da funk.


Fragments of Time is awful MOR pop - Todd Edwards should stay on the other side of the microphone - and the line on ballad Within which says "there are so many things that I don't understand" will seep into your subconscious all track long until you are diving for Teachers (the track and the drink) to make everything okay again.

On Random Access Memories, the experimentation is sometimes brilliant, but it is all-too-often the sound of a band losing their confidence and losing their sound. There are parts of Daft Punk's new album I want to store in my RAM forever and some parts I'm going to need an anti-virus programme to purge.

There is enough here to make this their biggest album to date. They've gained traction again - but at what cost?

Further Fats: Please spell Freeland versus Daft Punk. "OBAMA." (2009)

Apr 13, 2013

Rez changed my life

"Have you heard the new Skrillex? It's really banging to the roof, I can't wait to jack it up on my mp3 disc player."

"I've heard it, yeah. I preferred his earlier stuff."

"Oh screw you. Screw you and I hope you die a thousand times." 
This is, of course, the natural reaction to anybody who ever says "I prefer their earlier stuff". It's the attitude of real ale drinkers, broadsheet journalists and people who take BBC class surveys. These people should be shunned from society.


At the height of 1990s Underworld when Born Slippy provided a pulsating soundtrack for every heroin lover everywhere, you would have found me harking back to their earlier stuff like a white-gloved, pill-popping Saxondale.
"Have you heard that lager, lager, lager track? It's rad to the club max. I can't wait to jive to its funky beats down the discohouse."

"I've heard it, yeah. I preferred Rez."

"Oh stick it up yourself. Stick it up yourself and swizzle until you explode a thousand times."

Ah, Rez. The track happened when a creatively exhausted Rick Smith was banished to the studio by his wife. He locked himself away and came up with Rez. What he produced was an antithesis to all the bog standard 12-inch remixes that stuck another load of bars into the middle and roller-pinned out the intro a bit. It was a thundering epic with rolling rhythms with nowhere to go but upwards: in retrospect, a shoegazing Higher State Of Consciousness.

Rez got me trawling through the likes of Lemon Interupt and Junior Boys Own 12-inches. More importantly, I didn't hesitate in buying their next album Dubnobasswithmyheadman - despite it not containing Rez and instead having its addictive Karl Hyde-vocalled sequel Cowgirl.

Underworld went on to score Danny Boyle films and frighten millions of people on TV. They also went on to produce two decades of brilliant music - and to write many lyrics of entertaining nonsense. But for me Rez would be the track that taught me boundaries were there to be broken in techno music, that it didn't just have to sound like sine waves jostling for position through MIDI connections. Techno could have soul. And you could record it in your back bedroom.

No Rez would have meant no Cowgirl, no Dubnobass and no reference point for all those bands that hook into some extra kind of kinetic energy in their 4:4 rhythms. So much goes back to Underworld.

I think I've started with an obvious one in 1993 Changed My Life. Part 2 and a new track / album coming up...

Other parts of this series:
Intro | See all 

Further Fats: This is the future: some pilled-up nutter going wild as a retro dance-rock beat combo plays a dead festival (2007)

Mar 27, 2013

1993 changed my life: the beginning

Last year, or twenty recessions ago, I blogged about how I discovered Orbital up a tree. The moment still flutters hazily in my Blue Nun-numbed brain: one of those memories that may manifest itself as a crystal-clear hallucination once dementia robs me of my sharp, er, thingy, mind.

Following that blog post, other flashes of memory appeared: other albums or tracks from the same period that now seem to carry echoes of the music I have since loved. I'd remember an old rave beat and hear within it the sound of later drum 'n' bass or electro.

And then I noticed that most what I was remembering was from the same year. 1993. I can't think of another 12 month period that has been so formative in my passion for music, despite hearing life-affirming albums every year since. 1993 changed my life. You'll have your own Year-with-a-capital-Y, I'm sure.

Nostalgia is dangerous. On YouTube the other night, I watched a current-day 5ive, Atomic Kitten, Blue and PJ & Duncan perform a medley of their hits for Saturday Night Takeway. It was horrific. It made me think the world would never be a good place again, especially since it climaxed with a ridiculously energetic Let's Get Ready to Rhumble that was not only cretinous the first time around, but will be even worse when it returns to number one this Sunday.

There is a danger that by launching a blog series reminiscing about a year that may have little relevance for you, this will be your equivalent of you ogling the telly and saying "blimey, Lee from Blue's been on the pies, hasn't he?"

Except that's what I'm going to do. Welcome to a new blog series. Twenty albums or tracks from 1993 that meant the world to me. Some of them are awful, but all of them are important.

I'll post a couple of times a week and we should be done by, ooo, early June. By then, Rhumble will be a distant memory and the weeping can stop.

Further Fats: more nostalgia on A low-denominator, low-rent scally by any other name would smell like sweets

Mar 21, 2013

Every Guardian music 'crepuscular' reference since the start of 2010, probably

Words are great, aren't they? With their cute little letters and dots and that?

I have a constant paranoia that I tend to lean on certain words, especially writing about music. For example, I'm fond of blithering, such as a blithering vegetable here, blithering into a micromophone or me being a blithering hypocrite.

And searching for 'fatroland' and 'crikes' may overload google to the point of exhaustion. Crikes.

Many music writers do it. I've rarely seen the word 'sophomore' outside of rock-album-speak, while the NME's rendering of Northern swearing as 'fooking' is as prevalent as its Southern 'facking' counterpart is as absent.

'Crepuscular' is normally reserved for animals that come out at dawn and dusk, such as the crepuscular nightjar. That link says the nightjar is a 'goatsucker' and spreads a disease called 'puckeridge'. Bands are not, generally speaking, goatsuckers, but they do tend to attract the adjective 'crepuscular'. Especially if it's the Guardian describing them.

The Guardian has taken the word 'crepuscular' to new lengths in its music writing, as pointed out in this sweary tweet from my Electronic Sound collaborator Bill Bruce. It's a useful word, really, because 'crepuscular' relates to 'twilight' - but you can't say 'twilight' because people think of vampires.

An early Grauniad music usage was Alexis Petridis' two crepusculars in a Blur live review and album review from 2003. But I think Caroline Sullivan pips him to the post with her short 2001 review of Copenhagen's Tales From the Forest (scroll down) where she called them the "Tindersticks school of crepuscular pop".

How crepuscular is the Graun's music writing? Let's add to those three uses another 27 crepuscular musical references in the Guardian from 2010 onwards (I stopped counting after three years of archives). And there's me blithering on for years without using it once. Crikes!

Every Guardian music 'crepuscular' reference since the start of 2010, probably

Deptford Goth: Life After Defo review by Kitty Empire 2013)
"...this album's crepuscular jag recalls Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago gone post-dubstep..."

New band of the day: Lulu James by Paul Lester (2013)
"...this is a decent refinement of that kind of crepuscular ambient music with soulful vocals..."

Dinos Chapman's debut album: here comes the Luftbobler! by Alexis Petridis (2013)
"...he's only talking to me because he has an album coming out: a collection of crepuscular electronica called Luftbobler..."

OAE/Rattle; Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Manze; A Midsummer Night's Dream – review by Fiona Maddocks (2013)
"...A.S. in Memoriam, by the Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson (b1956), was a crepuscular recreation of Schoenberg's already pretty shadowy Verklärte Nacht..."

New band of the day: Sohn by Paul Lester (2012)
"...there is a fine line between the two, with a similarly contemplative, crepuscular ambience conjured, but the rhythms are less twitchy, more regular than Blake's..."

The xx: Coexist – review by Kitty Empire (2012)
"...'Did I not let enough light in? asks crepuscular, whispering Madley Croft on Chained..."

The Vaccines: Come of Age review by Alexis Petridis (2012)
"...musically it's terrific: winding, crepuscular, decorated with spikes of Pixies-esque guitar..."

The Weeknd: Sounds and sensibility by Hermione Hoby (2012)
"...songs built around a fogged, crepuscular production to set off the keening perfection of his voice..."

New band of the day: Daughn Gibson by Paul Lester (2012)
"...playing on one a series of country songs or noir torch ballads and, on the other, some creepy, crepuscular dubstep..."

Bobby Womack: The Bravest Man in the Universe review by Kitty Empire (2012)
"...informed by the insectoid tickle and crepuscular haunt of London's post-dubstep sound..."

Bob Dylan's Tempest: first listen (2012)
"...In terms of the Dylan canon, does it bring to mind the crepuscular menace of Not Dark Yet? Perhaps it's more Forever Young..."

New band of the day: Psychic Dancehall by Paul Lester (2012)
"...a fair dollop of David Lynchian 'crepusculiarity', a contraction of 'crepuscular' and 'peculiar' that we just coined, cos we're crazy like that.."

New band of the day: Flume by Paul Lester (2012)
"...there are similarities with the Toronto wunderkind's crepuscular penthouse blues..."

Lana Del Rey review by Caroline Sullivan (2011)
"...her America is defined by crepuscular creepiness crossed with nostalgia for the Rat Pack 60s..."

Esben and the Witch: Violet Cries review by Caroline Sullivan (2011)
"...the crepuscular drama that constitutes their sound has been out of fashion for 25 years..."

The Horrors: Skying review by Kitty Empire (2011)
" endpoint steeped in irony, considering the band's fetish for all things crepuscular..."

Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will review by Ally Carnwath (2011)
"...And their grasp of mood is undiminished, not least on the crepuscular blues of 'Letters to the Metro'..."

New band of the day: Gold Panda by Sean Michaels (2011)
"...his music is vaguely reminiscent of Burial's dubsteppy, crepuscular melancholia..."

Jamie Woon: 'I've always wanted to make pop' by Paul Lester (2011)
"...enough crepuscular ambience, to convince doubters that Woon is more than just a soulboy in dubstep clothing...."

Timber Timbre: Creep on Creepin' On review by Paul Mardles
"...combining doo-wop, crepuscular blues and, on 'Swamp Magic', woozy chamber pop..."

Nero: Welcome Reality review by Killian Fox (2011)
"...attempts to create soundscapes as vast and crepuscular as dystopian futuristic cities...."

New band of the day: Funeral Suits by Paul Lester (2011)
"...Mournful and majestic, with elements of crepuscular drama..."

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos 2 & 11 by Andrew Clements (2011)
"...The opening movement, with its crawling, crepuscular string lines, is the most extreme music Shostakovich ever wrote..."

New band of the day: Trophy Wife by Paul Lester (2010)
"...They manage to turn Joanna Newsom's The Book Of Right-On into a thing of crepuscular rhythmic beauty..."

New band of the day: Anna Calvi by Paul Lester (2010)
"...brooding intensity and crepuscular, simmering sensuality..."

New band of the day: Lonelady by Paul Lester (2010)
"...a lifetime spent listening to crepuscular disco and dolorous songcraft..."

Lucia di Lammermoor by George Hall (2010)
"...the emotional ­extremity and shocking physicality of the ­production align well with the fiery exterior and crepuscular interior of the score..."

Further Fats: Top ten ways to write a top ten music list (2012)

Mar 2, 2013

This stint in Independent shall be

I appeared in the Independent today, in the bit where they go on about music and stuff. They paper-retweeted my total fanboy response to Chvrches first headline tour. Assuming paper-retweeting is a thing, which is most definitely now is.

I won't rattle on about the gig in question because I've written a review for a magazine, which I will link to when it stumbles bleary-eyed onto the internet for all to see. But the tweet the Indie purloined pretty much sums up what I thought: "Based on tonight's incredible Chvrches headline slot, they've enough killer tunes for a memorable debut album. Just amazing." So, sitting on the fence, then.

Quickly recognising my instant fame, I capitalised on the new, national interest in my Twitter feed with the following tweet:
To the hundreds of thousands of Independent readers now reading my tweets: I am a buffalo beautician and moon repair man. Hi.
That should do it.

I then changed my profile picture to match that of Electronic Sound, another magazine that will be parping my word juice from its internet pipes at some point soon. So that's all the Independent readers confused, then. Sorry 'bout that.

Thanks must go to Max, who told me about the Indie appearance just in time for me to catch the last copy in my local Spar. Max is far more famous than me: he appears in proper videos and that and puts my feeble Indie column inches to shame...

Further Fats: The Guardian puts a clonk on it (2009)

Feb 24, 2013

Feb 16, 2013

Justin Timbercomment's "jheeeze wavy" bow tie versus FaltyDL

Some of the user comments on Justin Timberlake's boring new single Suit & Tie, some directed at the video, some directed at other users. All comments posted in the last few hours.
i ruined your mom's bed last night 
Kill youself!  
you're retarded 
haha u retarded? 
f--k yourself with a burning end of a stick. 
LOL, you suck and are gay. 
he looks so gay he should have married lance bass 
If you see he dose a Micheal jackson thing 
A lot of Bruno Mars moves 
he sounds like Justin Bieber 
Justin's Bow tie keeps disappearing and reappearing! 
his bow tie jumps on and off jheeeze wavy. This is my new s--t 
its called a bowTIE 
Why does the mike keep changing. 
The mic that JT is using changes like its magic every camera angle change... COME ON! So unprofessional. 
now I make $35h - $ I’m working online! 
Hey EveryBody Go Check My Channel Out I'm a really Good Dancer 
Check out our Harlem Shake! 
all the dislike in this video is the size (inches) of my dick 
He genuinely belongs to music industry 
Why is no text written under the clip? 
Why is he suddenly look so 30++?!
And now some of the user comments on FaltyDL's great recent single She Sleeps, some directed at the video, some directed at other users. All comments posted in the last two months.
Awesome song & video.
I can´t stop moving my feet right now! 
Such a great track! This album is gonna be big when it drops
This track put a smile on my face this evening :) Such a lush video...
Great video FaltyDL's album is shaping up to be pretty terrific. 
FaltyDL being the f--king man brought me here. 
Foster the people, that is why i am here. 
Shut the f--k up about Foster the people, seriously.
I know which corner of YouTube I prefer.

Further Fats: FaltyDL's been building something in his garage (2011)

Jan 28, 2013

Off to see the Wizard's Way, the wonderful Wizard's Way... oh never mind

On Friday, I popped to the BFI in Londontown* to watch a film called Wizard's Way.

Wizard's Way is a comedy about a pair of documentary makers who enter the world of online gaming. They meet Windows, a legendary dragon slayer, and his burger-obsessed friend Barry. As the movie progresses, the footage the filmers capture says more about them than it does about their subjects.

I should declare an interest. I'm an extra in Wizard's Way and I'm mentioned in the credits. I know the production team that made it, so there is less chance of me saying anything negative about this film than Hugh Grant's hopes of getting the lead role in a Rupert Murdoch biopic. Still...

If Wizard's Way doesn't end up rated as one of the funniest films of 2013, I'll eat my wizard's hat. There are so many highlights: Windows' hopeless looks to camera; Barry's earnest culinary exploits, the bickering of the film makers, and the terrible game itself. It's a masterclass in comedy editing: the low-budget production and entirely improvised dialogue is chopped to perfection. It helps that one of their editors also worked on Spaced, Slumdog Millionaire and Les Mis.

The film is also full of heart, turning its social freaks into friends you really care about. And the theme tune. The theme tune. Couldn't stop singing it all weekend.

Wizard's Way won the LOCO Discovery Award 2013, hence the screening, and is listed by LOCO's co-founder as one of the five comedy films to watch for in 2013. If Wizard's Way isn't picked up for distribution this year, I'll not only eat my wizard's hat, I'll shove my wand up somewhere unmagical. Because, although I'm biased, it really is hilarious and I want to see it again.

* Hat doff to my travelling companions Dave and Mark, to Guy and Laura for providing accommodation for the night, and to the numerous drinking chums I kept bumping into.

Further Fats: best movies of 2012

Jan 19, 2013

Whatever happened to the cheeky New Year number one?

So Bowie didn't get to number one last week.


That's that, then. Let's Dance remains his most recent musical legacy of any widespread significance. Sigh.

The thin white berk had a great chance to revive an important musical tradition in the UK pop charts: that of the cheeky New Year number one. It should be easy. No-one buys anything apart from headache pills and diet books in the week after new year, so number one should be a walkover.

The new year charts seem dull these days. A guaranteed post-Xmas X Factor chart-topper, some r'n'b guff and that's about it. A drum 'n' bass track tiptoed in at number 100 and it seems Bon Jovi got back in the top 40, but neither are worth tweeting home about.

Iron Maiden famously topped the charts in 1991 with Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter, followed by the ridiculous sadistic monks Enigma. Made-up people often took the chance for a cheeky early-January number one, with Mr Blobby and Bob The Builder inexplicably retaining their top positions after Christmas because there was naff all else to buy.

Cotton Eye Joe. Chocolate Salty Balls. Even Daniel Bedingfield's squeaky anthem Gotta Get Thru This. You cannot tell me that those tracks would have had the same chart-dominating impact without lower sales across the rest of the January charts, as great (or otherwise) as they were.

This weekend may well see the return to the top of the charts by Eminem, 50 Cent and that kazoo-voiced triangle man from Maroon 5. If they were covering White Town's Your Woman, or Aphex Twin's We Are The Music Makers, I'd class it as a cheeky new year number one.

They're not. And so it goes.

Further Fats:  Fat Roland's number one album chart death rant (2010)

Jan 16, 2013

If it goes bleep, it may or may not be EDM

Many things have changed since this blog first limped onto the internet: the rise of dubstep; the dominance of downloads; Basshunter.

One of the most interesting changes for someone as geeky as me is the crossover into popular culture of the abbreviation "EDM", which stands for Electronic Dance Music.

EDM was virtually unheard of before 2005, but the last two years has seen a resurgence in the phrase, driven, it seems, by a dramatic upsurge in US dance culture. Vice have a cracking article explaining rave culture to Americans, The writer looks across the Atlantic to the crazy Americans and their worship of Deadmau5 and Skrillex, and says of Europe:
"This is a continent that had Born Slippy soundtracking political campaigns and school runs alike. We have politicians who have taken pills and DJs who open youth centres. Us watching you get into ecstasy and dance music is how I imagine you probably feel when you see footage of line-dancing classes in Runcorn and hear TGI Fridays waiters "YEE-HAW!"-ing their way to lonely and inevitable suicide."
Love it.

Labels don't matter, and as soon as you discuss them, it's easy to enter a moronic YouTube clickfest that results in two people drawling "gaaaaaay" at each other until they each literally die of stupidity. Also, this blog attracts many Americans with superb taste in music.

But I'm not convinced by "EDM" either. It stands for Electronic Dance Music. In the UK, we have a name for that. It's 'dance music'. I think that article says as much. We may also call it IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) or techno or electronica, and perhaps IDM suggests a certain lineage via early Warp Records, and perhaps EDM is more energetic and commercial... but if we poke it and it goes bleep, that's enough for us. Or, at least, it should be.

Maybe I should rename this blog Fat Roland On Stuff And That.

Then again, I shouldn't bother. No-one cares anyway: just look at Google Trends.

Further Fats: The devil has all the best IDM (2010)

Jan 14, 2013

Hugely Monetarily Volatile: the decline of HMV

While journalists across the UK rush to be the first with a 'His Master's Voice silenced' headline, let me share a few thoughts about HMV, who at the time of writing look set to call in the administrators.

The news is tragic: a true end of an era for chain record shops. I work in a wonderful independent bookshop that knows a thing or two about retail the age of the internet. It is no surprise that HMV couldn't see out January: they launched a massive post-Christmas sale in an effort to avoid breaching banking covenants. It's all about cash flow and HMV were struggling.

The Chief Executive Officer link with Jessops and Threshers will be raked through by the press and maybe suggests a management problem. But let's be honest. How many CDs did you buy a year from HMV?

I still shopped at the Manchester HMV, although the last thing I bought was a while ago. Orbital's Wonky perhaps, because Piccadilly Records had sold out. I've been in since, but I'm not a gamer and I've limited need for the many accessories that adorn their once CD-rich racks. Money talks: if I'd wanted to HMV to survive, I would have spent more with them.

We don't shop local any more, do we? I remember when shop-local campaigns burst out onto the high street, encouraging us to plough our pound coins into the local economy when we began to notice the desolation of the high street caused by major supermarkets. And yet those people who still buy from grocers and from butchers think nothing of ploughing their money into Amazon, me included. Shop local be damned.

HMV will now be in the hands of administrators as they negotiate a future. The shops remain open for now, I believe. The chain sells over a third of all physical music and more than a quarter of all DVDs and Blu-Rays (dammit, modern world, we need a collective term for those formats). I worry about the impact on distributors and its effect on the wider industry. And I worry about Fopp: I hope the administrators see its value.

Spare a thought for the staff, and spare a thought for what has been lost. HMV was once great. Have a look at these kitsch photos of an old HMV from the 1960s. Maybe now this is the age of the independents and we should all finger their racks at the earliest opportunity: the likes of Piccadilly Records are more relevant than ever.

Meanwhile, old Woofy, or whatever the dog is called, sits staring into an abyss. It listens for its master's voice, but all it can hear is faint ZX Spectrum loading bleeps as an echo from the past translated as "one day, HMV, these computers will find you and we will destroy you - it just may take thirty years. Hold on while the tape loads..."

Further Fats: His master has spoken (2007)