Jan 31, 2017

Most-read pieces on FatRoland.co.uk in January 2017

1 - Charts in crisis: here's why there are so few number one singles
"If they do another Top Of The Pops, it will simply be a video of antimatter."

2 - Best electronic albums of 2016: one
"I'm almost longing for World War III, dystopian governance and being ambushed by clowns."

3 - Keeping an eye on Roland-twiddler Lorenzo Senni
"It's full of melodramatic bombast filtered through the smallest Gameboy in the world."

Jan 30, 2017

A final tune for January: let Not Waving's dirty disco pickle your bones

Finish off your January with some electronic acid in the form of Not Waving's Too Many Freaks. Drink it all down. Let this dirty disco pickle your bones.

In my end-of-year list, I omitted this Italian producer's last album Animals, despite not forgetting to list his label boss Powell. I like Too Many Freaks: it's granular and grainy and gnarly in all the right places.

An admission. I noticed this track because of the artwork of its parent Populist EP (pictured above). The low-bitrate contrast must have done something good to my brain. I really am that easily pleased.

Want some more new electronic music? There's loads on this site - click here.

Jan 28, 2017

Is Tales From Fat Tulip's Garden responsible for the rave boom?

No wonder rave happened when you had children's TV programmes like Tales From Fat Tulip's Garden.

I barely remember the programme, broadcast in the 1980s, but I was reminded of its existence in a Richard Herring interview with Sir Tony Robinson. Yeah, he's a Sir now.

Have a listen to the theme tune below, which bubbles up repeatedly throughout each episode as Robinson bounces around the garden. I'd listen to an album of this gloopy, acidic techno. It feels like sonic mulch, all squidgy and satisfying underfoot. The music's producer Kevin Stoney calls it "squelchy" and he's not wrong. I'd like this kind of squelchy life.

It makes me wonder: I'm pretty jealous of 1980s musicians who had all this new gear to play with. There must have been more that went in a techno direction like this. How many other children's programmes in the 80s were infesting the minds of future clubbers?

And if they had gone in a more traditional direction, would we all have been line-dancing in the Hacienda instead?

Jan 26, 2017

What IS the most important thing in Dr Who, Hey Fat Roland?

The latest edition of my podcast raises some important questions. What's the most important thing in Dr Who? What are actors made of? Is space just down the road? How would I cope being on Any Questions? What is Producer Lee's best costume?

If you're hear for electronic music, then you might be disappointed by the knockabout waffle of Hey Fat Roland. Then again, if you're sometimes a total idiot like me, then you'll enjoy it. You can subscribe to Hey Fat Roland on iTunes or get it on Podbean. You can listen to Hey Fat Roland on this site. Or search Hey Fat Roland on your podcast app and binge-listen the lot.

Also because we are living in the future and everyone drives UFOs on magic slides that get wi-fi from rainbows, you can now follow my podcast on social media. Here's the Twitter page, which I'll probably use most, and here's the Facebook page, which will update you with the most important hot pod news.

Jan 24, 2017

Pitchfork's 50 best IDM albums - the Fat Roland edit

Pitchfork's top 50 IDM albums of all time is not too bad a list. I know this because Warp Records said so.

Instead of picking apart the list, bemoaning the lack of Future Sound Of London or Orbital, I shall accept the list as fact. This is now the top 50 forever. Anything else is fake news.

Taking only the albums chosen in that top 50, here is my reordered top ten. I've tried to avoid duplicating artists, although I've given Aphex Twin (pictured) a free pass on Polygon Window.

Pitchfork's 50 best IDM albums boiled down into a Fat Roland top ten...

1 - Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Because this is the don. Because it crept into my speakers and never quite oozed clear again. Because of Willy Wonka.

2 - Jon Hopkins - Immunity. Because it's 'played with precision and paced to perfection'.

3 - The Black Dog - Spanners. Because its diagonal beats dislodged something in my brain and I liked it. Because without these guys, much of this list won't exist.

4 - Polygon Window - Surfing on Sine Waves. Because Aphex went organic and shimmery. And then super techno. Because of If It Really Is Me.

5 - Autechre - Amber. Because I didn't think they could better Incunabula and they did: what a pair of albums.

6 - Flying Lotus - Los Angeles. Because oh-my-crap-what-is-this-noise and oh-help-my-ears-are-robots-now.

7 - Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children. Because it's one of the greatest debut albums of all time. Because it changed music. And it sounded sad.

8 - Various Artists - Artificial Intelligence. Because there isn't enough Warp in this list already. Jeez, Warp, if I like you so much, why don't you marry me?!

9 - Plaid - Not for Threes. Because of Kortisin. Because of their rhythm section. Because Plaid have appeared in my best albums of the year lists three times.

10 - µ-Ziq - Lunatic Harness. Just because.

Further Fats: Chosen Words: W is for Warp (Obviously) (2010)

Further Fats: Chosen Words: E is for Ecstacy (2010)

Jan 22, 2017

Herva's all bound by a somewhat startling space jazz universe

Herva's Solar Xub is a scuzzed-up bag of lovely noise. The strangled metallic bursts all seem to be bound in some gloopy space jazz universe. It's kind of startling, like how I felt when I heard Brian Eno's Nerve Net.

This is from his new album Hyper Flux on Planet Mu. Like everyone else, Herva's throwing field recordings into the mix, but he also went round to his dads to use his weirdo acoustic instruments. Not everyone is allowed round Herva's dad's place for album practice, so that makes this pretty unique.

Jan 20, 2017

Does Donald Trump listen to music?

Mentioning Donald Trump in my last post stuck in my throat. And my eyes. And my pants. At the time of writing, the only people performing at his inauguration was a boy scout on the spoons and a whistling dog called Rabies.

Trump and music should not go together. His idea of good music is mid-career Oasis, or musicians in dungarees, or everything released in 1951. He never talks about techno or jungle. The only time he puts a donk on it, it's without the donkee's consent.

Alright, Obama wasn't cutting edge. He was cool, but in a mainstream dad way. I reckon he had cassette tapes of Roxette and Lighthouse Family on Air Force One. I've heard he once bought DJ Tiesto's Adagio For Strings on 12-inch and never played it. Perhaps. That's okay: at least he tried.

I'm not sure Trump understands music. I'm not sure Trump understands anything. He's a withered flesh sack flopping from one room to another; a hollow semblence of a human; husk sapien.

I bet the only format Trump's ever owned is mini-disc. And the only thing he ever listens to is the sound of the entropic gas that wheezes out of him every time he sits down: a kind of muddy gasp of exhaled miasma, forever looping in rings around his ears.

Trump couldn't listen to music if he tried: he can only hear himself.

And now this:

Further Fats: The X-Factor and the end-times apocalypse (2004)

Further Fats: In the belly of the beast: a week in Tory politics (2009)

Further Fats: I have just burned down my local NHS hospital while listening to Phil Collins on my walkman (2010)

Jan 18, 2017

Lusine's Just A Cloud is the right level of mangled

I like a bit of vocal manipulation. I like it when someone traps someone’s words in a bucket and pours them into a grinder. I like it when someone shoves their hand down someone’s throat and fashions a wicker chair out of their vocal chords.

Lusine’s back and there’s plenty of voice mangling on new track Just A Cloud. And by mangled, I mean pleasantly chopped up. Not mangled like a sentence spoken by Donald Trump: that’s just someone trying to remember what a dictionary is.

Have an ear-waft. This is from Seattle producer Lusine’s new album Sensorimotor, out on Ghostly International in March.

Further Fats: Word cloud for Fat Roland On Electronica (2010)

Further Fats: I'd advise skipping to reason ten lest you fall asnooze from my word vomming (2012)

Jan 16, 2017

Throwing Snow's new spangly licks

Have a crack at the spangly orchestral funk of Prism by Throwing Snow (below). Go on. Shove it in your ears. Lovely, isn’t it. I want to store it in my freezer to lick when no-one’s looking.

Mr Snow’s real name is the Nathan-Barleyesque Ross Tones. What a silly name. Anyone who has a silly name shouldn’t be trusted with music. You see what I'm doing here? My name is Fat Roland and that was actually a joke about me. This is what proper comedians do. Please put some money in the bucket on your way out, thank you very much.

Tones, as I now like to call him, has worked with Flying Lotus, Bonobo and the Red Bull Music Academy. Red Bull make people fly planes through hula hoops while basejumping. Prism is almost as thrilling as that. Bodes well for Throwing Snow's second album Embers out in a few days.

Further Fats: Wevie Stonder: all the people are fridges; all the food is made of October (2009)

Further Fats: Snurvive the snowpocalypse with snowtronica (2010)

Jan 14, 2017

I can go for The xx's new sound (yes can do)

The clues to The xx's electronic direction were there. Just listen to the Burial vibes of Chained a few years ago.

But their recent single On Hold is almost a club anthem. Almost. The Balearic build-ups are tempered by their melancholic sheen. There's such a spine-tingling ambience about them. Not bad for a track that samples Hall & Oates's I Can't Go For That (No Can Do).

Good old Jamie xx. He gifted us one of the best electronic albums of 2011 and 2012, the best live experience of 2015, and he's now turning his main band into a music factory for proper bangers innit. Largin' it. Sorted. Let's disco.

The album came out this week. Let's see how electronic it is. Meanwhile, here's the On Hold video. It's probably worth considering this NSFW: one of the bright young things has very few clothes on. Less of a new direction, more of a nude direction, amiright?!

Further Fats: Mercury Music Sausages (2010) (in which I replace "xx" with "sausages")

Jan 12, 2017

The KLF will rise again, and they may or may not go "baa"

The KLF have the internet abuzz with rumours of their return, a subject that has been well covered here, here and by Jimmy KLF in this tweet:

The KLF are my favourite pop band. Their so-called stadium house trilogy of What Time Is Love?, 3am Eternal and Last Train To Trancentral set my teenage brain ablaze. Their guerrilla grime. The horned hoods. The mock mythology. Following in the path of Snap!, Adamski and Enigma, it all kind of made sense.

I was too young for Doctorin’ The Tardis several years earlier. I remember seeing a car in the video and deciding it wasn’t as good as KITT from Knight Rider. And by the time they took on America or the time they didn't even offer Tammy Wynette an ice cream, I was less interested. Wasn't 'my' little secret anymore.

However, their greatest success was hardwiring baffling and conflicting codes into my system. Destruction is art, art must be destroyed. Having hit singles is easy: let’s delete all our hit singles. You need pumping beats in your tracks; let's make the albums ambient. We are all bound for mu-mu land, even though that never seemed leave the M25. They were, as the saying goes in this grim north, reet punk.

And oh the questions, the many questions. Why is he in a wheelchair? Is he angle-grinding his guitar? Why is she on a boat? How can time be eternal? Is that a rhino horn? Why is he firing a machine gun on TV?

The barrage of content overload, message upon message, chimed nicely with Zoo TV’s fuzzy postmodernism. Y’know. When U2 were good. The K Foundation, as they became, were much more than a music group. They burned money. They tried to demolish Stonehenge. They made videos, books and art. I still own ten pieces of the $20,000 painting that Bill Drummond sliced up.

This reunion as the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu could be anything. It might not be music. It might be a second Manual. It might be a cube of lager. It might be a dead sheep. Or an alive one, listening to old KLF hits on headphones, confused.

Still. In whatever form, the KLF will rise again. Here they are on Top Of The Pops in their Ancients guise.

Further Fats: Blowin' in the wings: why protest songs should return to centre stage (2009)

Further Fats: I am having a constructive conversation on Youtube about the KLF (2012)

Jan 10, 2017

Hearts - a Fractions short story video

I made a little video about the internet. It's a very short story, or rather, a short story fragment that's maybe been chipped off something bigger. Something unseen. Something very weird.

Fractions is an old video series that I'm rebooting for 2017, because goodness-to-heckery we need creative distractions these days. The new format will feature my cartoons - the kind of scrawly nonsense I've been posting on Instagram.

Click here to watch Hearts, and any of the previous Fractions videos posted over the years. Or by the magic of embedding, viddy the vid below.

Jan 8, 2017

A bite-size look at Bleep's best electronic music tracks of 2016

Every year, the online retailer Bleep sells a package of 100 bestest tracks of the year. It's usually a great big steaming pile of brilliance. Here is a brief peep into that Bleep heap.

Belfast duo Bicep remixed 808 State's top ten classic In Yer Face. Bicep also co-run a record label. Do you know what it's called? Feel My Bicep. Good job Willie Nelson never set up a similar label, eh? Arf.

Ben Lukas Boysen turned out a blissful opus called Nocturne 4. It's mixed by labelmate Nils Frahm, the bloke from nonkeen who's worked with Ólafur Arnalds from Kiasmos. In other words, we're in heart-breaking classical territory here.

House DJ Midland recently won Pete Tong's Essential Mix of the Year, so he's got an embarrassment of riches right now. Makes sense then this track, debuted at Boiler Room, is called Blush. Nice fat synths.

And finally, the one and only Boards of Canada remixed Sisters by cLOUDDEAD's Odd Nosdam. BoC are usually chilled, but this is a different flavour of chilled: more heavenly and glisten-like thanks to the original's choir vibes.

'Feel My Willie.' It was a dong joke. Oh never mind. Enjoyed these four tracks? Loads more where that came from. Grab yourself Bleep's excellent top 100 tracks of 2016 here.

Further Fats: Ten plaudits Bleeping (2010)

Jan 6, 2017

How you can help Electronic Sound magazine get even better in 2017

Here is a list of words I recently submitted for publication in Electronic Sound: trousers; hedge; steaming; molested; bile; gush.

Writing for Electronic Sound is a blast. Writing about music generally is a blast. But writing for Electronic Sound is a particularly blasty kind of blast.

You can now get involved in Electronic Sound and its creator Pam Communications by investing some cash. You can bung in a tenner. Or if you've had a string of hit singles and own a duplex in Ibiza, throw them ten grand.

The ES bunnies are top people who deserve support. The magazine is tastier than a sack of carrots, and they've worked their paws off (really going for the bunny thing here) to get it stocked in WH Smith and Sainsbury's.

The writing's excellent, their editorial control is as professional as heck, and the design is truly stunning. Blimey, it's one of the reasons why I've embraced yellow on this website. ES is rewiring the way independent magazines plug into a modern world, and they've got solid plans to expand and take over the universe. They've even got a sentient robot.

I'm biased, of course. They print my column. But that also means you're investing in me too, sort of.

New year's resolution. Support an amazing electronic music magazine. It's worth a tenner, right? Here's the Electronic Sound investment page - don't delay.

And now: here are two famous people holding the magazine that features the other one as cover star. They've both done songs with cars in.

Further Fats: This stint in Independent shall be (2013)

Further Fats: some words what I wrote for Electronic Sound (2015)

Jan 4, 2017

Keeping an eye on Roland-twiddler Lorenzo Senni

I'm named after a Roland JP-800. Twiddly knobby keyboard, all lovely and blue. And I've just found out one of my favourite miminalist techno tracks, Windows Of Vulnerability by Lorenzo Senni, was composed entirely on the JP-8000.

What's he up to these days? Milan-based rave-mangler Lorenzo recently dropped his debut EP on Warp Records. It's called Persona uses all sorts of other sounds. I suppose I'm going to have to name myself after all his other keyboards now? Fat Korg. Fat Yamaha. Fat Casio?

Win In The Flat World, below, is on the EP. It's full of melodramatic bombast filtered through the smallest Gameboy in the world. Amazing what you can do without a drum track too.

Further Fats: Confusion in our eyes that says it all - we've lost Control (well, almost) (2008)

Further Fats: Chosen Words: E is for Ecstacy (2010)

Jan 2, 2017

Charts in crisis: here's why there are so few number one singles

There are no more UK number one singles left.

In 2016, there were only 11 UK number one singles. This equals the lowest record set in 1954 when Doris Day and Yorkshire warbler David Whitfield dominated the charts.

This is a huge drop off considering 2014 had 38 chart toppers. If this trend continues, in 2017 there will be -2 chart toppers. That's right. We'll go into the minuses. If they do another Top Of The Pops, it will simply be a video of antimatter.

To demonstrate this alarming statistic, I've made a graphic (above). This shows the number of separate number one singles over the past decade expressed in sizes of Drake. Drake is not a duck: he is a hugely successful music artist who enjoyed 15 weeks at number one last year. Drake should be used in all bar charts.

There can be only one explanation. It's upsetting, but I don't want to hide the truth from you.

ALL THE MUSIC STARS ARE DEAD. Let's face it: all the celebrities popped the bucket in 2016. Kicked their clogs. Maybe there was no-one left to have number one singles.

No, wait, hold on. That's not right.

The actual answer seems to be volume of weekly sales. There are two clues. 1992 and 2007.

In 1992, the year of Ebeneezer Goode (pictured) and Rhythm Is A Dancer, single sales tanked. There were only 12 number one singles that year. Likewise, in 2007, the CD collapsed as a format and single sales again fell: you could top the chart with a fraction of what you needed just a few years earlier. And as you can see in the chart above, in 2007 there were relatively few number ones.

By contrast, the measuring of downloads and streams saw single sales rocket at the start of this decade. So the opposite trend happened: as sales increased, we saw a big increase in the quantity of chart toppers in any one year.

Seems odd?

Nope. It's mathematics in action. Low weekly sales means a single's chart run is exhausted slowly. The songs then stick around like musical farts. Conversely, high weekly sales sees their sales potential exhausted in no time at all. Sometimes after just one week. Theoretically, a track with 200,000 sales could spend one week at number one in 2013 - or ten weeks at number one in 2007.

Which also reveals something else quite sobering.

There are certain totems that stick around at number one forever. In 1992, Whitney Houston spent 10 weeks at number one. In 2007, Rihanna spent 10 weeks at number one. In 2016, Drake spent 15 weeks at number one.

Notice something about those years? I bet the same is true for Bryan Adams and Wet Wet Wet too. Record-breaking chart toppers? Or merely mathematical musical farts?

Footnote: This is based on a theory once posited by James Masterton. Although the fart metaphor is my own, as is much of this analysis. Tell others: please tweet this article using the hashtag #musicalfarts.

If all that has left your head exploding, here's an old tune to lighten things up.

Further Fats: It's not a pie chart but I called it a Bri Chart because that was the only pun I could think of (2008)

Further Fats: Whatever happened to the cheeky New Year number one? (2013)