Jul 29, 2017

I've finally broken my new year's resolution

I was doing so well at blogging every other day in 2017 - my only new year's resolution - and now it's all gone aubergine-shaped. I seem now to be blogging only once every three days.

This is, of course, a disaster because - as we all know - blogging is still the number one communication platform. We all get up in the morning, grab our phones, and scroll through all the Blogpost blogs. Don't we? Hello? *taps mic* Hello?

I'm really enjoying blogging regularly again. It's helped add rhythm to my life since I quite the full-time job last year. And that rhythm is the sound of clattering plastic keys, the staccato giggles to myself as I think of funny words, and the bass-heavy sobs when I realise few people blogs anymore. Apart from Richard Herring fans.

Thanks for reading this, by the way.

On the plus side, I've just realised that when I get chores done, I do a little "pyow pyow" laser noise to myself as if I'm zapping my to-do list. Washes plate. Pyow pyow, Hoovers hallway. Pyow pyow. Pops zit. Pyow pyow.

It's nice having simple goals.

Jul 26, 2017

I've got a song in my head

I've got a song in my head. It's from the 80's. It sounds a bit like this:

"Doo de doo de dooo biii doooo, doo de doo de dooo biii doooo."

It's a proper 80s synth sound, but it's not the chorus, it's the bit inbetween things. Doo de doo. Like that.

And there's a bloke in rolled up jacket sleeves who looks at the camera, and there's some lighting and video FX and smoke. Oh and he's got a perm.

Although that might be from an entirely different video.

"Doo de doo de dooo biii doooo."

Also there's someone singing. I can hear the voice in my head but not the tune or the tone. It's a man or a woman or an alien or a horse or something.

Anyway, that's the song in my head. Good, isn't it?

Jul 23, 2017

Spotiphex: Aphex Twin goes all streamy on us

Aphex Twin just sneezed and splattered the internet with loads of new tunes.

That's literally what he does. He tickles his nose with a feather or looks at a lightbulb for too long, then he sneezes, and all the music comes out. He's like one of those flu adverts where all the nose drops are analogue frequencies.

I know the Twinlord has dumped tracks all over the internet before, but this seems particularly special. He now has a dedicated Aphex Twin streaming site.

Among the 30-or-so existing albums and singles on his brand new microsite, there's Korg sessions, new AFX tracks and never-before-heard bonus tracks from Windowlicker, Come To Daddy, Hangable Auto Bulb, Polygon Window and oh my, I'm fainting. Even The Tuss is on there. And there's more to come from his Rephlex archive.

It's a Warp Records site through a Stranger Things filter via a ZX Spectrum. Have a stream - and a download - right here.

Jul 21, 2017

Listen to Orbital's new single Copenhagen

The Orbital brothers have released a new single. Originally called 'Cooping Lisa' by someone who probably got the name wrong, 'Copenhagen' is a free download on Soundcloud.

The track sounds very Orbital, dontcha think? Vocals are by folk singer Lisa Knapp. Have a listen below. They played this at their recent BlueDot Festival appearance (thanks Aimée for jogging my memory). I've included their set-list below the Soundcloud embed, in small writing so you can ignore it if you want to be surprised when you see them live.

'Copenhagen' is the latest in a geographically-named series of tracks. Others include 'Belfast', 'New France' and, er, 'Planet of the Shapes' which apparently is just outside Chelmsford.

A little bird tells me Orbital are working on a new album, which should be ready in 2018. By "little bird" I mean "an interview with Orbital which was recorded after their soundcheck at the BlueDot festival then uploaded online which I then watched using the internet".

That BlueDot track list in full (I think): Lush > Impact > Copenhagen > Wonky > Forever > The Girl With The Sun In Her Head > Satan > Halcyon On And On > Belfast > Doctor?* > The Box > Chime > Where Is It Going?
*with The Radiophonic Workshop

Further Fats: Gorgeous Pauls (2010)

Further Fats: Orbital get a keyboard fixed (2017)

Jul 20, 2017

No-one wants songs about the moon these days


Today's the billionth anniversary of humankind setting foot on the moon.

Do we have colonies on the moon now? Are we whizzing around its craters in bubblecars? Can we speak into our wrists to order cocktails from little green alien butlers?

No. Total waste of time.

Here are all the UK number one singles with "moon" in the title. They're in order of success (number of weeks at number one then number of weeks in the chart) because I am too stubborn to throw off the notion that chart trivia stripped of its context is a useful thing.

I can only assume from this list that since the turn of the millennium, no-one wants songs about the moon.

Connie Francis - Carolina Moon. Number one in 1958. I don't know this one and because the title reminds me of 'Oh Carolina', I can only imagine her sounding like Shaggy.

Stargazers - I See The Moon. Number one in 1954. Is 1954 even a year?! The moon wasn't even invented then.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Moon Rising. Number one in 1969. "Hope you are quite prepared to die." Thanks for that, Clarence or whatever your name was.

Showaddywaddy - Under The Moon Of Love. Number one in 1976. Reality TV stars before there was reality TV, with a band name to match.

Danny Williams - Moon River. Number one in 1961 / 62. You spelled 'rover' wrong, Danny, jeez.

Marcels - Blue Moon. Number one in 1961. Their in-your-face rendition of a staid classic probably rustled a few starched feathers. Apparently the song has been adopted as an anthem by some small-time Northern football team. Can't remember the city.

Leann Rimes - Can't Find The Moonlight. Number one in 2000. Clouds, Leann. It's probably clouds.

The Police - Walking On The Moon. Number one in 1979. Most notable for Sting's poetic development of the moon landing communications: "Giant steps are what you take... I hope my legs don't break."

Jul 18, 2017

Fats at the Lowry: a Curious trip to the North East

I recently performed to a marvellous Mother's Ruin crowd at the Curious Festival in Stockton-on-Tees. It went so well I actually punched the air after I walked off stage. This is very unlike me.

Sorry, the air. You didn't deserve to be punched.

When I say "well", I don't mean that the audience was throwing garlands. Going "well" is more about me hitting my intended 'marks' throughout the performance: script, tone, pacing. Making it look loose and uncontrolled, and yet ticking mental boxes throughout. Performing things that make me laugh, performing them properly - and hoping that the audience will come along with me.

I also sneaked in possible ideas for my Lowry show, which I have previously waffled on about on this site. My gigs have become more music-filled than before, giving me more freedom to lark about doing nonsense. This change in style is a huge signpost towards what I want to achieve for my 2018 show.

Partly because I want to be transparent, and partly for my own recollection, here is my set list from that 20-minute performance. If you weren't there, this is going to make little sense. Enjoy!

1. Intro music, massive eye dance, destruction of radio
2. Annoying voice-over, mentioning "elephurbs"
3. Musical cartoons: lad with his head in a box.
4. Fat Roland's daring feat: counting up from one
5. Deeply inspirational ornithological moment
6. Alan the Buffalo
7. Musical cartoons: strangers in the night, afraid, very sexy rose
8. Jumanji elephants
9. Massive Whitney moment to rapturous applause and possibly fear

PS: The gig was excellent: great performers, brilliant hosting, supportive venue. After the gig, we went to a pub. I realise Stockton is only *just* out of North Yorkshire, but this was the first time I had ever been to a pub in the North East of England. There was a guitarist in the pub. What was he playing? Crocodile Shoes. Of course.

Jul 16, 2017

Listen to Prayer's new Seeing EP and be converted too

My nostalgia bone is tingling. Sorry about that. I'll put it away.

There's something brilliantly retro about the new Seeing EP from Prayer, just out on Black Acre Records. With Alone, I'm thrown back to 4am chill-out rooms listening to Unkle or Moby or Genaside II. That heavenly break-down at the three minute mark. Tingles.

And what about those breakbeat vibes on the EP's title track Seeing? We've had plenty of 1990's comebacks, but no-one's quite nailed the post-club thing like this.

Calling this 'retro' is a bit reductive: explore Prayer and you'll hear proper modern bass music beefed up by a filmic sensibility. Listen to the trappy hi-hats and techno snares on Decline, for example. Prayer - who started 2017 with the epic Lost EP - is retro, modern, full of dark and light. I'm a convert.

Jul 14, 2017

Let Adam Curtis control your music taste

I'm catching up on the excellent Adam Buxton podcast, and I really enjoyed the episode with documentary mind-crusher and possible Illuminati-in-chief Adam Curtis.

Particularly when he was raving about Burial and his track Come Down To Us.

"He takes what is essentially industrial noise and songs," says Curtis, who is probably also the shopkeeper in Needful Things, "and fuses them together to create something which is epic and romantic."

"It's so emotional... it's just wonderful," wibbles Adam Curtis, who is definitely the love child of Sauron and the Child Catcher.

Adam and Adam both have a knack of making creativity intelligent, fun and sometimes truly profound. Nice work. Take it away, Burial.

Jul 12, 2017

Enjoy Aphex Twin's new track Korg Funk 5 - and the technology behind it

Here's the Korg Monologue in action, a nifty little music-making machine with a very specific boast: it contains presets made by Aphex Twin.

The synth also contains a pretty innovative microtuning function, which the Aphexed one had a hand in. This shifts the frequencies of the notes from their standard tones to make a more textured sound. The change isn't huge - just enough for you to think that something's pleasingly "off".

For example: we all know that the lit green person on a pelican crossing means "cross the road". It's a standard we all recognise. But what the green person was wearing a fedora? Or a cape? Or one big shoe? You'd still cross the road, but perhaps with a little frisson in your step.

Aphex Twin has given the Korg Monologue one big shoe. The results sound great.

Click here to read a geeky music technology interview between Aphex Twin and the guy he worked on the Monologue with, Tatsuya Takahashi, whose home is pictured above. Takahashi designed loads for Korg as an engineer.

And below, listen to a brand new track called Korg Funk 5 created by Aphex Twin on three Monologues and a whole bunch of other Korg gear.

Jul 10, 2017

'Scoping out the 2017 BlueDot festival

I went to BlueDot Festival. I missed loads because I was working, but here are some highlights...

Looking up to see the radio telescope everywhere I went. Monitoring. Watching. Judging.

Talking about key signatures with the Radiophonic Workshop.

Going to a brill science demo about the brain which was probably meant for kids but OMG BRAINZ!

Trying to escape the radio telescope, but no, it's still there. Always there.

Watching a robot turtle and frog having a stand-off in the woods.

Tumbling back to the 90s with a particularly retro Orbital set.

Wowing at Shobaleader One and the speed-bassing and flashy lights. Noodly but hugely entertaining.

Giving in to the radio telescope. It's the only way.

Making a zillion new friends. This was the friendliest festival I've been to. So many impromptu conversations.

Finding myself at the front of a Hawkwind gig surrounded by fans that have followed them since 1827.

Meeting the tremendously talented Hannah Peel from The Magnetic North... and the brass band she performed with. Parp.

Praising the radio telescope. All hail the radio telescope.

Hugging a big blue humming ball.

Witnessing the Radiophonic Workshop join Orbital, complete with headlamps, for a mega rendition of the Doctor Who theme tune.

What's that, radio telescope? I should press 'publish'? As you wish, radio telescope. All praise and glory to the ra--

Jul 7, 2017

Oramics in the mix

I'm still on the go, so no time to blog. At all. I've not even got time to write this sentence. See? Told you so.

Have some Oramics. This is the method that Daphne Oram developed of turning drawings into sound. It's giving me ideas...

The blokey in this video makes a really good point about constraints. Working with designated limits is a good idea with most creative projects, whether it be music making, story writing or building a Nutella sculpture of DJ Khaled.

Jul 5, 2017

For extra points, listen to Wilmslow Road on Wilmslow Road

Things are a bit hectic this week, so pouring words down this blog drain may be more difficult than usual.

In lieu of quality written content, enjoy this old track by Lionrock.

I'm posting this because I mentioned Justin Robertson's Lionrock to someone the other day and they had never heard of him. We were stood a stone's throw from Wilmslow Road, Manchester. As in the Wilmslow Road featured in the Lionrock track Wilmslow Road.

Tssch. Sometimes I doubt people's commitment to geographically-themed records.

So here is Wilmslow Road, from Lionrock's debut album An Instinct For Detection (1996).

Jul 3, 2017

Fats at the Lowry: checking out their bunkers

I recently enjoyed a tour of the Lowry theatre - stage spaces, back offices, helicopter pads, secret bunkers, biscuit drawers, shark pits, the whole works. I was there to chat about my 2018 Lowry show and how the heck I'm going to create it.

This was my first meeting for my Developed With commission. The result of my partnership with the Lowry will be a Fat Roland show held over two nights at Week 53 festival in spring next year.

I can't tell you much about the show yet because I haven't written it. Writing will be my focus over the next few months. I've bought an infinite number of monkeys, an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of Buckfast. It's going to be great.

At this stage it's also about poking themes with a stick and seeing if they squeak. And since those themes will be, on the surface, about music and seven-inch records, I'll track my progress on this site.

Alongside this show, I'm facing questions about how I best splatter my creative stupidity into people's faces. Do I use a trowel? Do I use a slingshot? Do I just throw things into a fan and hope? This is apparently called "artistic development".

Just how DOES a total panda-drawing idiot develop artistically? Inbetween my endless posting about the latest techno tracks, maybe we'll find out as I track my progress in the lead up to Lowry 2018.

Jul 1, 2017

Five great tracks from the Artificial Intelligence album

Hacienda-era ravers eventually had to take it easy - and that happened in 1992.

Warp Records' Artificial Intelligence was a series of post-rave albums designed for "long journeys, quiet nights and club drowsy dawns". The series began in 1992 and furthered the nascent work of Plaid, The Orb, Aphex Twin, The Black Dog and Richie Hawtin.

Perhaps most significantly. its seventh release was Incunabula, the debut album by Autechre.

The first Artificial Intelligence album, cleverly called Artificial Intelligence (released in the US the following year on Wax Trax!), is one of most influential compilation albums in any genre. Here are my five favourite tracks in no particular order. Enjoy.

Musicology - Telefone 529

Otherwise known as the massively important IDM duo B12. They later scooped up a whole bunch of their limited coloured-vinyl 12-inches for the Electro-Soma Artificial Intelligence album.

Autechre - Crystel

One of the Rochdale band's earliest tracks.

The Dice Man - Polygon Window

No doubt named after the Luke Rhinehart book, The Dice Man would later become Polygon Window, which is the name of this track. Confused? Polygon Window would release Surfing On Sine Waves as part of the Artificial Intelligence series. What became of this particular artist, I have no idea.

UP! - Spiritual High

An early appearance by Richie Hawtin, aka Plastikman - someone who would go on to conquer the DJing world. A touch of Detroit via Canada.

Dr. Alex Paterson - Loving You Live

The Orb kingpin was already top of the ambient world and didn't really need the Artificial Intelligence exposure. Indeed, this live version of Loving You was just a segment of A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld, its original Millie Riperton sample long since exorcised. Still... flipping great track, right?