Oct 30, 2016

My first time performing in London was-- oh hold on, I just need to pop in here for Rizlas

I spent this weekend in London, hosting a four-hour spoken word stage for Bad Language at Mirrors Festival.

The main thing I've learned about Hackney is there are loads of newsagents. When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe, you had to walk miles to find a single newsagent.

Not here. Literally every shop is a newsagent. You want Softmints, a lighter and Take A Break Puzzler magazine? Come to Hackney.

By the way, the performers and audience last night were amazing. It was a privilege to make my London debut, and proper props to my Bad Language colleague Joe who shared hosting duties.

But back to the newsagents.

I've never seen so many newsagents. The tube station is a newsagent and the trains themselves are dressed up as Smarties with a price sticker on.

Even the people are mini-newsagents. Pick a random pedestrian in Hackney and they'll charge you £1 a week to pin on them an index card advertising cleaning services.

I exaggerate, of course. I saw a mobile phone accessories shop too. Which also sold tabloids, crisps, fizzy drinks, a slightly random selection of stationery, and curiously small £2 bags of chocolate raisins.

So yeah. London debut. It went well. Here's me in action with a pocket full of sherbet lemons.

Oct 26, 2016

News from the ambient room - listen to Square Lines and 36

It's rather nice dropping in on an online DJing session. You don't have all the stress of popping into a real club: the long bar queues, the accidental spillages, the sticky floors. I can create all of that at home.

I was earwigging the blissful ambience of A Strangely Isolated Place's Mixlr broadcast when music by Square Lines got its claws into me. Check our their track Shingaya Square above - it's from their debut EP Transmissions Overseas, released on Apollo Records (the ambient imprint of the legendary R&S Records).

Meanwhile, A Strangely Isolated Place have just plopped out ambient opus The Infinity Room by 36. Grab a listen here. It's continually morphing simplicity, caught in a blissful void somewhere between Global Communication and Vangelis, deserves a special spot under your skin. Listen to Room 3 below.

You see? Online is good. You didn't put your sleeve in a splashy spot on the bar, no-one got into a fight, and you didn't slip head-over-heals on a pool of beery vomit. But like I say, that can be arranged...

Oct 24, 2016

Hey Fat Roland podcast latest: booms, dogs, toilets

My Hey Fat Roland podcast is chugging on like a lorry weighted down with 31-minute wav files.

Episode six featured The Real Story's Kate Feld saying "boom", episode seven had comedian Jack Evans talking about dogs, and the newly released episode eight has my favourite use of the word "urinal" in the podcast so far.

All the links you need are on my podcast page - or you can just stream directly on that page. Nice, eh. Or just search for Hey Fat Roland in your chosen podcast app.

Oct 23, 2016

Watch the video for Oneohtrix Point Never's Animals

Val Kilmer sits on a bed. Val Kilmer sits on a bed. Val Kilmer sits on a bed. Everyone's like, hey Val Kilmer, why are you sitting on a bed.

And Val Kilmer's all like, shut up, I'm sitting on a bed.

Oneohtrix Point Never's Animals is a track from Garden Of Delete, the fourth best album of 2015. The new video, directed by filmmaker Rick Alverson, full of dramatic tension. And yet...

Future videos will include Gwyneth Paltrow on a couch. Or Tom Hanks on a sideboard. Viola Davis on a pouffe. You get the idea.

Oct 21, 2016

Listen to patten's Sonne while I hold this trifle

You know when you walk into another room but you leave a bit of information at the threshold? As if it tumbled from your brain without you noticing?

It happened to me the other day. "Why did I come into this room?" "Oh yeah I need get the trifle to feed the buffalo."

We've all done it. It seems I've done the same with patten's Sonne video. It came out months ago and I could have sworn I'd posted it.

But no, I probably got distracted. Maybe I'd started writing about it but then walked away from my computer to stop the buffalo eating all the trifle because some idiot, can't remember who, decided to give the buffalo all my trifle.

Anyway, it's finally posted. Watch this video for Sonne taken from patten's second album on Warp Records, Ψ. That's the Greek letter psi by the way. Not to be confused with the Psy that did Gangnam Style.

The harsh percussion matches the video's dramatic lighting, and brings to mind Autechre's Gantz Graf. Mesmerising use of colour too.

Must go. I've got an animal to feed, and this dessert's not going to eat itself.

Further Fats: Three things I've been listening to (including patten's ESTOILE NAIANT) (2014)

Further Fats: God sent Jesus Christ but the techno gods sent a single solitary extra black dot (about Autechre) (2008)

Oct 19, 2016

Fats goes to Herbal Tea Party - a Storify slideshow

Herbal Tea Party at the New Ardri in Hulme was Manchester’s first techno night. It has an incredible place in club history.

It ran throughout the mid-1990s and attracted what you could call the 'Megadog' crowd. Orbital used it as a warm-up for their legendary 1994 Glastonbury appearance.

There was also (deep breath) Andrew Weatherall, David Holmes, Carl Cox, Dave Clark, Justin Robertson, Richie Hawtin, Sven Vath, The Advent, Joey Beltram, System 7, Drum Club, Banco De Gaia, Spooky, Psychic Warrior of Gaia, and many more.

And then, just recently, it returned... this slideshow will tell you my story of the night (you might need to click or hover over each pic to see its caption).

(Images not available because Adobe killed Storify.)

Further Fats: A ticket to ride (a post about Herbal Tea Party from 2007)

Further Fats: see also my column in Issue 18 of Electronic Sound (January 2016)

Oct 16, 2016

Pruning words - and my full-time job

"It should speak to the enthusiast and the novice."

There are some great points about journalistic criticism on the International Anthony Burgess Foundation blog by Observer arts editor Sarah Donaldson.

Her parting of the waters between cultural and academic criticism chimes with something I have often noticed: that the art of academic essay-filling is the opposite to the skill of well-pruned popular journalism. The wordcounts often race in different directions.

Alongside information on shiny new things, readers want validation of their own opinions when reading a review of the arts. They also want to be entertained, and her article is a useful reminder, perhaps, that style is perhaps as important as the substance.

You can judge whether I get this right in my own reviews: issue 23 of Electronic Sound has just come out. This edition leads with the Stranger Things soundtrack, and the first line of my regular column contains the word "sperm".

I've got a good excuse for linking to Sarah Donaldson's blog post. From next month, I will be events and operations droog at the Burgess Foundation. It'll be a job doing what I love with a fantastic venue and archive.

My new job also allows me more time to build my writing career which, for the past 18 years, has had to squeeze into the crannies of a full-time position. No longer. I'll be working part-time at home scribbling utter nonsense all over my computer screen. 

It'll be a big change. A new start. I'll need to be organised. It's okay because I've upgraded my yellow post-it notes to multi-coloured ones. That's pretty much all you need to be organised.

All of which leads me to an inevitable plug for the competition Sarah Donaldson is judging. If you want to enter the Observer / Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism, the link is here.

Oct 14, 2016

Listen (and cry) to Ulrich Shnauss's Love Grows Out Of Thin Air

Crikes. Ulrich Schnauss is now a member of ancient electronic totums Tangerine Dream. I suspect that passed a lot of people by with the death of the group's founder Edgar Froese.

Next month, Schnauss will release his first solo studio album since joining the Dream.

No, that's not a good shortening of their name. The Tange. TanDr?

Anyway, it's called No Further Ahead Than Today and Thump just premiered a cut from that album called Love Grows Out Of Thin Air. You can watch it above.

I'll warn you now. The video is heartbreaking. Props to its director Sean James Garland. It's the life sequence from Up; it's the garbage incineration scene from Toy Story 3; it's the wacky banter between the M&Ms in the cinema adverts.

Wait. No, not that last one.

I've just penned a review of Schnauss's album for Electronic Sound magazine. Love Grows isn't the best track on the album, but it's pretty typical of its sweet euphoria.

Oct 13, 2016

Listen to Ital Tek's Beyond Sight: tingling up your spine nice and good

See this video here? Turn up your volume and play it full-screen. Play it on the biggest screen you can. Display it on the side of a building. Project it onto the moon.

Even with YouTube compression, it'll tingle up your spine nice and good.

Beyond Sight is the moment on Ital Tek's fifth album Hollowed - available to stream in full here - that the ambience gives away to Clarkesque dirty beats.

This is quite a departure for Alan Myson. The clues for his fatter, more free direction were always there - just listen to the fuzzy bassline of Babel on 2010's Midnight Colour album.

But put this against the clinical footwork of 2013's Hyper Real and you'll realise something quite new's happening here. I like it.

Further Fats: In a post about Merzbow, the first time I fell in love with an Ital Tek track (2008)

Oct 3, 2016

Listen to Tycho's Division: sepia post-rock

Tycho have always had an Instagram aesthetic in their designwork, all filters and vanishing points. I'm enjoying the new geometrical look with the latest album Epoch.

The album was a surprise release: unnanounced, as is the trend with the cool kids these days. It's Tycho's first album since Awake a couple of years ago.

It's all rather easy on the ears: a sepia post-rock or lens-flared Boards of Canada. Nice enough though. Have a listen Division here.

Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2011: numbers 10 to 8 (2011)