May 30, 2017

Was John Noakes techno?

Here's John Noakes wrestling with a load of reel-to-reel tape recorders and a VCS 3, a synthy bit of kit beloved of prog rock bands.

What was the legendary Blue Peter presenter doing? Was he pumping out sick techno? Was he having it large with block rocking beats?

Was he, as I strongly suspect, putting a donk on it?

I think we should be told. I would google it, but I'm busy making a pair of y-fronts from sixteen Fairy liquid bottles, a tub of battery acid and two hundred yards of sticky backed plastic.

Spotted via @mulhollandrew on Twitter. 

May 28, 2017

Insert clever Bola pun here

Oh my pants, Bola's back.

Bola's debut album Soup came out around the same time as Boards Of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children, and I would spin from one to the other like some kind of techno mother trying to choose her favourite child.

Darrell 'Bola' Fitton also had a hand in Autechre's Incunabula and the Gescom project. About a decade ago, after releasing a properly decent fourth album called Kroungrine, Bola disappeared. Piff paff poof, in a burst of smoke, he vanished.

By the way, it took me about two years to realise his debut album was a pun. And it's taken me until now to realise his follow-up albums were also puns. Look:

> Soup (1998) - as in, Bola Soup = bowl o' soup;
> Fyuti (2001) - as in Fyuti Bola = footballer;
> Gnayse (2004) - as in Bola Gnayse = bolognaise - well done, you're catching on now;
> Kroungrine (2007) - as in Kroungrine Bola = crown green bowler;
> D.E.G. (2017) - as in Bola D.E.G. = boiled egg.

Yeah, it got a bit tenuous there.

On first hearing, there's plenty of chunky techno warmth on new album D.E.G.., with all the signature digital growls and spun-out ambience. The slow motion electro loops of Avantual are already nestled under my skin. Have a listen yourself on Boomkat. Or just hit play below to hear the first part of a triptych dominating the second half of the album.

I'm going to enjoy this one. A great Manchester musician making a welcome return. Eee, Bola.

Further Fats: My greatest idea once more crumbles to dust like a great big crumbly bit of dust (2010)

Further Fats: There goes the hear: Manchester has enough gigs (2011)

May 26, 2017

The 5 best electronic music tracks of the decade so far

Someone had posted on Facebook asking about the best tracks of this decade so far. I always find these things impossible to answer, like choosing my favourite chocolate bar or torture instrument.

However, I plumped for five tracks. I'll probably change my mind next week, so take this with a pinch of salt. (Any brand of salt - I haven't got a favourite.) In fact, for all of these you could choose numerous other tracks. Although Brazil really is quite something.

What you're about to hear or see is:

> Luke Abbott's glorious Brazil from his 2010 album Holkham Drones. Every part of this track oozes warmth and melancholy and a kind of purple glue for which I don't know the name.

> Moderat's Bad Kingdom, a desperately melancholic 2013 single with a video that's likely to cause all kinds of seizures in parts of your body that haven't even been discovered by science.

> Clark's Winter Linn, a robust slab of techno that feels like shoving your head up a synthesiser's bum then not being able to pull it out again, despite a blind text to Uncle Kenneth who not only has experience in this kind of thing but also has an extra large plunger.

> Jon Hopkins' Collider. That breath sound. Oh my. I've seen this live a couple of times and I did everything the woman does in the video. Gyrating, snogging, being possessed by a demon, the works.

> Scud, from the Hudson Mohawke album Lantern from a couple of year back. This one feels like a little pop song, all lo-fi yet pompous. Which is good because the names of my first two children are going to be Lo-Fi and Pompous.

May 24, 2017

The cowardly Arena attack won't stop Manchester buzzing

The Manchester Arena attack was a cowardly act in a brave city. A city forged from hard work and human rights and something to do with bees.

There's nothing meaningful I can say in the wake of this awful event. Except this: it's not just an assault on young pop fans - as with the Bataclan, it's an assault on all of us.

Dammit. That sounded so cheesy.

I can't help thinking of the 1996 bomb, and the defiant party that followed. Have a look at the flyer (from the Manchester District Music Archive). 808 State's Castlefield Arena gig six days after that bomb was reported by Mixmag here: "Dilated pupils abounded - the kids wanted quite simply to 'ave it!"

My pupils weren't dilated, but I "had it" so hard I woke up drunk in London with some record company person offering me cocaine. I refused. Long story. I'll tell you over a J2O sometime.

Anyhoo, back to the present day. My heart go out to those who lost loved ones this week, and the stories of help and heroics have been amazing to read. The vigil in Manchester last night was absolutely packed, and a rather beautiful moment of connection. Tony Walsh read a cracking poem and everyone just hung out together. Apart from a couple of grumpy Twitter people, I've come across nothing other than love and respect. And a whole lot of sadness, of course.

Point is, when Manchester is knocked down, it knows how to pick itself up and throw a big stonking gathering.

That seems trite: some of this will never heal. But this city is really good at community, whether that's ravers or vegans or goths or Muslims or hipsters or poets. Whatever label you want to wear, Manchester's just about the right size for you to find your niche. Everywhere I look, many of those communities are getting stronger.

Dammit. Cheesy again. I should have pushed the bee analogy. If I wedge a crappy bee pun into the title of this blog post, will that redeem these half-thought words? Hope so.

I flipping love you, Manchester.

May 22, 2017

Night Grows Pale: Flying Lotus has a new killer Queen track

Take a sweeping musical score, drain it of all its blood, throw in some weedy guitars and what have you got?

Queen. That's what you've got.

I've never had much time for the prancing operatic rockers Queen. Yeah, I had moments of liking them when Wayne's World and Shaun Of The Dead came out. I'm also quite taken with the Freddie Mercury doll action shots by Toyko tweeter @suekichiii.

And okay, yes, the new Flying Lotus track Night Grows Pale features a killer Queen sample from the 1974 single White Queen (As It Began). Despite my protestations in my previous blog post about Burial rejigging an old dance track, this rework is great. Nicely done, FlyLo (pictured above).

But those are the only Queen things I like. The bit in Wayne's World where they rock out in the car, the snooker cue assault in Shaun Of The Dead, that Twitter account, and the new Flying Lotus release.

And the sample in Utah Saints' What Can You Do For Me.

And the Under Pressure riff.

But that's it. That's all the Queen I like. Honest. Have a listen to the new short but sweet FlyLo below, and beneath that get a load of his Twin Peaks theme.

Further Fats: Tim & Daisy make Jay & Bob look like ****ing Bert & Ernie (2008)

Further Fats: Chosen Words: Q is for Queen (2010)

May 20, 2017

What's Burial's Subtemple EP all about, then?

If you weren't convinced we were living in bleak times, have a listen to the sinister new sound of Burial's new Subtemple EP (below).

Throw away all that is good. Bin your belongings, tear your clothing to shreds and sell your children, Down in the Subtemple, with two tracks of extended dark ambience, there is no hope.

Subtemple itself is seven minutes of vocal shards scattered across a beatless wasteland, micro mechanics clicking at us amid the static. Meanwhile the breathy synths of the ten-minute Beachfires slow things down even further as we succumb to a kind of slow-motion armageddon.

Burial's recent work could be seen as a bit patchy: his breakbeat remix of Goldie's Inner City Life for Record Store Day saved all the best stuff to the last couple of minutes, while his ravey white label Temple Sleeper was a direct lift of Solar Quest's 1994 acid gabba track Into The Machine.

When he removes the drums, he sounds much better. The distant rhythms of November's Young Death / Nightmarket EP were gloriously sparse, and were a brilliant precursor to Subtemple - no apparent audio relation to Temple Sleeper - which really does cast us out into the neverending vacuum of space.

A beatless Burial shouldn't work. The joy of Will Bevan's work is the glitchiness of his loops because of his refusal to quantize his drums (i.e. he won't use the audio equivalent of spellcheck). But this is a sound of an artist developing something new. No drums? No problem.

It's approaching a decade since Burial's last studio album. Can you imagine if he dropped a long-player of static-scrubbed minimalist ambience; a devastated Eno for a new generation?

We would all instantly die as everything good crumbled around us, but at least we'd die happy.

Further Fats: Elbow nudge ahead for Mercury Music Prize win - my cat is disappointed (2008)

Further Fats: Listen: Zomby and Burial's Sweetz (2016)

May 18, 2017

Story: Elizabeth Gaskell sits at a table

Later today I'm hosting a Manchester After Hours event with Bad Language at Elizabeth Gaskell's house.

This is a venue dedicated to the Manchester writer Gaskell, the author of Cranford, and her minister husband William.

If I get time, I'm going to read a story. As a sneak preview, and because I haven't got time to blog about anything else today, here is that story.

Elizabeth Gaskell sits at a table

Elizabeth Gaskell sits at a table. On the table is a piece of paper. Elizabeth Gaskell writes a word on the paper.

“William Gaskell,” says Elizabeth Gaskell. “William Gaskell, look what I done.”

William Gaskell walks across the room including across the rug that is on the floor of the room and he looks at the word that Elizabeth Gaskell wrote on the paper.


“You did done gone write a word,” says William Gaskell.

“I did done gone write a word,” says Elizabeth Gaskell, “And a good word what I done gone and writ good too.”

They both look at the word. They both look at the word for long time. Elizabeth Gaskell and William Gaskell stand next to the word and look at the word on the piece of paper on the table.

William Gaskell shakes Elizabeth Gaskell's hand and says “well done”.

“Thanks,” says Elizabeth Gaskell. “Thanks very much.”

“Will you write another one again now?” says William Gaskell.

“Another what?” says Elizabeth Gaskell.

“Another word,” says William Gaskell, pointing at the THE on the paper as if to demonstrate his point.

“Yes,” says Elizabeth Gaskell, “yes, I think I will but first I will go to sleep for a bit.”

“Good idea,” says William Gaskell, who also nods his head.

“I think the stairs in our home are that way,” says Elizabeth Gaskell, pointing out of the room.

“Yes, I think the stairs in our home are that way too,” says William Gaskell, “so you had better go that way to get to the stairs in our home to get some sleep for a bit.”

Elizabeth Gaskell crosses the room including the rug that is on the floor of the room, and goes to the bottom of the stairs.

Elizabeth Gaskell uses her feet to step up onto the first stair.

“William Gaskell,” says Elizabeth Gaskell. “William Gaskell, look what I done.”

“Coming, Elizabeth Gaskell,” says William Gaskell, who is looking at the THE in the room where the stairs aren’t.

May 16, 2017

Will you put a cross in Jeremy's, er, circle for #Grime4Corbyn?

Jeremy Corbyn is now a grime artist.

The #Grime4Corbyn campaign is a website offering tickets to a London gig if you register to vote. It's got plenty of glitch going on and even has Corbyn phat beats auto-streaming like it's back in the old days of web 1.0.

Of course what will actually happen is that the Tories will win a landslide and, with mandibles waving all over the place, eat all the country's orphans. Corbyn will quit politics and next be seen appearing as Tom in Channel 5's remake of the 1970s sitcom The Good Life.

But still, it's a nicely done initiative, so more please, Mr and Mrs Internets.

As I write this, an election van is loud-hailing it past my window. It sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher. Or it might just be the scrap metal man. I'm not going to vote for a piece of metal: I'm not stupid.

To misquote Wiley, Jeremy Corbyn is a ninja turtle, you can't step into his circle, and in a soundclash, he will hurt you. So, y'know, whatever colour of turtle you prefer, put an X in the box on polling day.

Boy Better Know photo by Ashley Verse.

May 14, 2017

Jlin's Black Origami: drums and drums and more drums

Have you ever crawled inside a drum? Actually stripped down to your undercrunkies, split the skin of a snare and climbed inside?

I have. It's flipping amazing.

Oh no wait, I'm not inside a drum. I'm just listening to Jlin's second album Black Origami. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? I thank you.

She takes the basis of footwork, that stuttering dancing music so in fashion a few years ago, and maps that into something quite new. Her percussive world is so overwhelming that it's easy to go a long time before you realise you've not heard a chord for twenty minutes. Or a synth line. Just drums and drums and vocal snippets and more drums.

Have a listen to Nandi, three and a half minutes of machine-drilled opera,

Further Fats: Chosen Words - B Is For Boss Drum (2010)

May 12, 2017

Blade Runner 2049, Jóhann Jóhannsson and an origami cow

Considering they decided to go easy on the set-build CGI, Blade Runner 2049 looks pretty smart. But what about the soundtrack?

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is the guy who has the trouser-soiling task of living up to Vangelis's epic score for the original film. Rather him than me. Have a listen to it in the trailer below.

I never like people who worry sacred cows, and indeed there's a skeleton yard of failed sequels throughout movie history. This project has sacred cow molestation written all over it. Yeesh. I just got shivers from Matrix Revomited, or whatever it was called.

But a good soundtrack can make a serious difference, and if we end up with a shaky film but an amazing soundtrack - like Tron Legacy - I'd be happy enough

Another potential downside? I'm an Older Harrison Ford sceptic. I even cheered a little when that thing happened in a certain big film not so long ago.

Overall, I think this particular origami cow should lead a happy and untroubled life. Jóhannsson worked with director Denis Villeneuve on Sicario and Arrival. That's some CV.

See what I did there? I referenced origami. I'm dead clever, me.

Stop reading this and instead read Electronic Sound's interview with Jóhann Jóhannsson where he maps out some of his musical influences.

May 10, 2017

Ikonika shows her chops with Manual Decapitation

It's nice to have Ikonika back. Listen to Manual Decapitation below, the first cut from forthcoming album Distractions. Wubby synth lines, chiming bells, proper moody.

Speaking of manual decapitations, I had to kill off the new design of this blog. Shame. The template had more bugs than an NSA storage locker. It also killed my clicks, making this website more unpopular than a Robson and Jerome and Crazy Frog comeback tour.

So now it's back to looking like a crappy Blogger blog, all mouldy and dripping with melted cheese. Wait. I think that might just be my computer screen,


Yeah, it's my computer screen. Sorry about that

Further Fats: 68 million light years into inky space: Hyperdub is five (2009)

May 8, 2017

Delia Derbyshire: put a donk on it

It's official. You can use Delia Derbyshire to put a donk on it.

The Deliaphonica Game is a little web gizmo where you can manipulate loops using the restrictions Delia would have had back in her day. Y'know. Back when this was all sine waves. And yes, depending on which one-shot sample it picks, there's a donk button. You can also submit your own sounds (see the video below) using pots, pans, draining boards, spleens and whatnot.

I farted a load of waffle about Delia Derbyshire a couple of days ago, and I'm really getting the Delia fever. There's a Delia Derbyshire Day on June 10th at Band On The Wall, with workshops and talks and bleepy performances. Delia's old work colleagues will be there, and there's some interesting sound collage stuff going on.

They're also bringing some Derbyshire magic to Cheshire's Bluedot Festival, which is proper good because Orbital are headlining and those chaps know a thing or two about sampling real-world noise like Delia.

Check the events here, Come hang out on DD Day in June and we can put a donk on it together.

May 6, 2017

Which one of these Delia Derbyshire facts is a lie?

Delia Derbyshire would have been 80 yesterday. Here are half a dozen facts about Delia. Which one isn't true?

1. Like the Beatles, Delia Derbyshire was turned down by Decca Records. It seems back in those days, they didn't employ women in their recording studios.

2. Delia Derbyshire had a phenomenal analytical ear. There's a rumour that she could listen to a record and tell you exactly where any instrument was located during the recording.

3. Delia Derbyshire composed music and sounds for over 200 shows, often building "real" world sounds from sine waves because samplers weren't really a thing.

4. Delia Derbyshire once took part in an electronic music concert which also featured electronic works by a certain Paul McCartney, whoever the heck he is.

5. Delia Derbyshire never got credits for her creations because the BBC had a policy of veiling the Radiophonic Workshop workers in anonymity.

6. Delia Derbyshire invented space aliens, and even now there is a race of amphibious robot mannequins who have stored her brain in a jar in the hope that one day Mecha Delia Derbyshire will rise up against humankind and, with laser eyes shooting and bazooka knees firing, rampage across a devastated earth to explode the innards of every single person who has ever (a) used, (b) heard or (c) thought about the musical production technique commonly known as "autotune". As Delia noted in her book from the distant future How I Destroyed The Universe (she also invented time travel), gilled android dummies really hate autotune. In an ironic twist, Delia Derbyshire teamed up with Davros to co-create the Daleks. These trundling pedal bins became famous for their war cry "exterminate, exterminate" using voices which were, of course, electronically autotuned. Oh Delia.

May 4, 2017

Why did the Fat Roland cross the road?

Here's a thing that happened on a Lake District street the other day.

I'm in Kendal and I need to cross a road. It's a busy road next to a complicated mini roundabout. I'm laden with bags. I see a gap in the traffic and I begin to step into the road.

A man holding a cup of tea interrupts me.

"You've got to be quick to cross this road," he says, smugly.

I stop.

"Quicker than that. You just missed a gap. And another one."

I want to say I missed the gap because he started talking. But I can't because he's still talking to me. At me. But I can't because I'm slightly stunned and he's still talking.

"See, like this!" says the man who then, tea in hand, crosses the road. He looks at me proudly from the other side.

By now, I am agog.

I want to tell him I'm from Manchester, I'm okay with busy roads, mate. But I'm too busy trying to weigh up what's happening, which is:

A smug man has stopped me crossing the road to tell me how to cross the road. 

Oh my crap. Oh my actual crap.

But that's not the end of the story. Oh no. Mr Crossy Tea Nob hasn't finished with me.

He then says "And now, backwards!" and proceeds to CROSS THE ROAD BACKWARDS.

He looks so proud of himself.

To be fair, he didn't spill a drop of tea. And I did cross the road safely... but only once he'd walked out of sight.

THANKS, Mr Crossy Tea Nob.

May 2, 2017

Man at work: Clark begins with a Catastrophe

It's nice to watch someone going about their work day. Plumbers and their pipes, butchers and their sausages, that kind of thing.

Let's watch a techno legend do their work, shall we? Here's Clark with a live remix of his new album Death Peak (below). Look how deft he is with, er, knobs and stuff.

I like the way he begins with the sinister children of Catastrophe Anthem, a track that is as close to a modern masterpiece as Clark gets. That's like a plumber bring out the big wrench right at the start.

Or a butcher bringing our their biggest sausage.

Enjoy these sausages. It's tasty stuff.