Jan 30, 2019

Slaying the metaphorical dragon of January

Yes! January's almost over! We've nearly slayed the, er, ice dragon of broken resolutions.

This month's always a slog. In the past I've found that little routines help make the trudge a bit easier. That might be anything from emptying the bin, to a regular food haunt, to scheduled writing sessions.

Here are three small routines that helped this January. They're largely trivial, but they've added a spark to my month.

1. A tiny tweet

On every other day, I've tweeted a “you should be listening to” Spotify link. I might as well let you know what I'm plopping into my ears, and it somehow feels I'm being generous, despite it taking very little effort. See those tweets in my feed.

2. Blogging!

I've blogged every third day. The blog posts have been small: little notelets flapping on the thermals of the internet. It somehow centres me: this here website has been home to me for nearly 15 years. More importantly, it's kept my writing brain in gear. (Thank you for reading, by the way.)

3. Total narcissism

I've kept a weekly list of pats-on-the-back. A collection of private congratulations. It's all pretty dull. Things like hanging out with friends listening to Kraftwerk, completing a writing deadline, buying socks. In this most slushiest of seasons, it helps me remember the good things which so easily fade into the cold night.

From the tweets to the blog posts to the lists, I've ended January feeling more positive than I usually go. Take THAT, metaphorical time dragon. Maybe you should try some tiny routines. Nothing big. Largely trivial. Something to add a spark.

Jan 27, 2019

5 great new dance hits from January 1989

Nothing like a bit of UK chart perusing for these cold winter nights. Here are some dance music hit singles that made their first chart appearance 30 years ago, in the month of January 1989 - also known as the month Kylie & Jason ruled the charts.

1. Cookie Crew - Born This Way (Let's Dance)

"Black is the word." The Rok Da House rappers hit the charts on New Year's Day with Born This Way and rose to number 23. The title was later copied by Lady Gaga and by the cast of Glee.

2. Royal House - Yeah! Buddy

Todd Terry's the chap who turned Everything But The Girl into a dancefloor hit. Here he is in 1989 tearing up the dancefloor and the chart, scoring the second of two top 40 hits under this particular alias.

3. Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock - Get On The Dance Floor

Although It Takes Two was Rob Base and E-Z's signature song, Get On The Dance Floor was the bigger chart hit, entering at number 30 on 8th January 1989 and peaking at number 14, a couple of places above Milli Vanilli.

4. Turntable Orchestra - You're Gonna Miss Me

I must admit, I don't remember this one, even though it uses as its beat the "In My House" breakdown on the Pet Shop Boy's remixed Always On My Mind. Anyway, there it is, scoring a tiny number 52 hit in the middle of January 1989.

5. DJ Fast Eddie - Hip House / I Can Dance

This veteran Chicago house producer reached number 47 with this double a-side at the end of January 1989. It should have been a bigger hit, with all that lovely acid.

Jan 24, 2019

Bluedot's getting in my face for 2019

Bluedot Festival has just announced its 2019 line-up, and it's a corker.

Firstly, they've got Kraftwerk in 3D. Normally, the klanky kids are in 2D, spooling out onto the stage from a fax machine.

And then there's Jon Hopkins. He twists his knobs with great gusto, which makes me think he'd be great at juicing lemons.

They've booked the lads from 808 State. When they say “in your face”, I'm not sure if that means going in through the mouth or entering up through the nostrils. I'm about to find out.

And there's Anna Calvi and Omar Souleyman and Maxine flipping Peake. And New Order. We're sure going to have a “fine time” with these guys. Geddit?! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

The festival is just a taxi ride away for me, and I feel like the luckiest festivaller in the cosmos. Check the festival out here.

Further Fats: Posts on this blog about Bluedot Festival

Jan 21, 2019

Just look at this lovely album cover

Look at the cover of Hardfloor's 2014 album The Art Of Acid. Look at it. Just look at it. No, don't look at that thing over there. Just look at this album cover.

All those synthesisers. All those sound modules. All those knobs just waiting to be tweaked. Some of them are Rolands, just like me. Don't go tweaking my knob. I might make an interesting sound if you do, but trust me, those machines will make a better noise.

It's such a lovely album cover. I want to nuzzle that picture. I want to buy it dinner. I want to dance the Lambada for it, then suddenly switch to the Macarena, and everybody will be, like wooah look at his dance moves, he knows all the dance moves.

I can't keep looking at that album cover. You never know, I might even listen to it. Maybe. One day.

Jan 18, 2019

Just how DO you act at your first rave?

WikiHow has a whole page on how to act at your first rave.

On that page, there are useful pictures accompanying the useful text.

Now, I don't like to read things. If I buy a Booker Prize-winning novel, it had better be at least 40% pictures, because I can't be doing with all those clever words.

Here is what I gleaned from that WikiHow article simply from looking at the pictures. Just how DO you act at your first rave?

1. Dance

That's right. You know the phrase "dance like no-one's looking"? You need to dance like everybody's looking. Like, proper staring. And probably dribbling a bit.

Find a friend. Try swapping your back-pocket cloakroom tickets by rubbing your bottoms together.

2. Wave

Wave at your fellow ravers. Wave at the DJ. Wave at the bar staff. Wave at the bouncers. Wave at the strobe lights. Wave at the fire exit sign. Ask the fire exit sign's name. "My name's Jeremy," says the fire exit sign. Oh good. Now, the fire exit sign's talking.

3. Play pretend football

Have a pretend game of football. Kick a ball you've made up in your head. See if you can do a goal. Ten nil! Run around with your shirt over your head.

Pretend everyone in the club is your grumpy neighbour, and ask them for your ball back. Ask everyone, one by one, even though you know the ball is pretend. Do it. It'll be hilarious.

4. Wonder if you should have played pretend football

I'm not... I'm not sure I should have played pretend football  I'm at a rave. Everyone's dancing. I, uh, think that might have been a distraction. What was I thinking? I really need to get my head together. It's okay, it's okay. After tonight, I'll get it together. New start. No more pretend football.

So, er...

That, reader, is apparently how you act at your first rave.

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

Further Fats: A very Roland-y night out (2017)

Jan 15, 2019

Here are Aphex Twin's biggest hit singles

The singles chart doesn't matter anymore to you, does it. You're into modern things like mp3s and modems and skateboards.

Still, it's nice to have a look at chart stats now and then. Here are Aphex Twin's highest UK chart positions to date.

Windowlicker 16
On 32
Come To Daddy 36
Ventolin EP 49
Digeridoo 55

Yes, that's the ‘correct’ spelling of didgeridoo.

For a five-of-the-best, it's not bad, although I would have liked to have seen the teddy bears of Donkey Rhubarb in the place of Ventolin. Sadly, ole DonkRhu spent just one week at number 78 in the summer of 1995.

Curiously, it's all 1990s stuff. Some AFX gubbins just about charted in the noughties, but nothing from the current Syro/Soundcloud revival era has troubled the singles countdown.

Not that I'd expect it to. And I'm not bothered, because chart facts are for boring old people who only like gramophones and Betamax and skateboards.

Further Fats: No new electronica in the singles chart, repeat to fade (2009)

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

Jan 12, 2019

Remember when I used to present Tomorrow's World? No?

In the new Electronic Sound magazine, I had a natter with Matt Berry. Yes, that Matt Berry. He's got a great Television Themes album out, so we talked about Top Of The Pops and Are You Being Served and all that kinda stuff.

I also waffled with the International Teachers Of Pop about their ace debut album. That interview was a moment of fun in a crazy jaunt to Sheffield during which I was also the victim of theft and I pathetically failed to get into a comedy club.

Including my column in which I erroneously claim I used to present Tomorrow's World, and including my half page review of Ultramarine's new album, my articles span nearly 15 pages of the new Electronic Sound. That includes pictures too. Nice pictures. Buy the new issue here or in a shop.

Good jobs I can done string an sentence together, huh.

Further Fats: Oramics is like television, only backwards (2008)

Further Fats: It's not how many notes you have: it's what you do with them (2009)

Jan 9, 2019

I've just found The Black Dog at the back of my sock drawer

When I compile my albums of the year, I always worry that I'll miss something obvious. Like Mo Farah forgetting his running shoes or Tom Daley forgetting his swimming trunks.

I've gone and done it. Lo and blimmin' behold, I missed The Black Dog from my 2018 round-up. I knew they'd released albums, I'd listened to those albums, but my brain put them at the back of my sock drawer and forgot all about them.

The Sheffield soundsmiths popped out a pair of contrasting works. Black Daisy Wheel was mellow, like a swan enjoying a summer's day, and Post-Truth was a bit perkier, like, er, a slightly more perky swan enjoying a summer's day. Both were informed by the dystopia of disinformation in which we all wade.

The Black Dog have been techno legends for 52 decades, and they still remain as active as ever: their website is bursting with things to listen to. It's silly to have missed them because Post-Truth got plenty of play from me this year, in the same way that Tom gets plenty of use out of his trunks. I presume he's got more than one pair, although I suppose they kind of wash themselves.... I'm getting side-tracked.

Have a listen to some of it below. The album, that is, not Tom Daley's pants.

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

Further Fats: Dramatic PowerPoint Slide: performing in Sheffield (2015)

Jan 6, 2019

Meet the Yamaha GX-1, the tractor's natural nemesis

This is a Yamaha GX-1. It is a synthesiser. It is a very big synthesiser.

It looks like an organ, but it's an eight-voice polyphonic synth that retailed for tens of thousands of dollars when it came out in the mid-1970s.

It even had a ribbon controller like a proper synthesiser. That's a strip you move your finger on, and it changes what you're playing: like a guitar's tremolo arm or that little eagle eye switch on the back of Action Man's head.

Very few GX-1s were ever made. Stevie Wonder and Aphex Twin own one. Keith Emerson's GX-1 got run over by a tractor - he later bought a second one from Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and used its parts to repair his original.

As Keith Emerson once told Keyboard magazine:
"A truck lost its steering and drove straight into my barn recording studio. It was lucky I wasn’t there at the time, because I would’ve been playing away and the next second I’d have a tractor with a whole trailer of logs behind it go into my back. Somehow my nine-foot Steinway avoided being hit, but the tractor had shoved the GX-1 to the other side of the studio—it was bad news."
Yamaha have also made motorbikes, archery equipment and harmonicas, which suggests to me an exciting new triathlon at the next Olympics.

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

Further Fats: The tractor thing (2010)

Jan 3, 2019

Beefy metal from top producers Jon Hopkins and Daniel Avery

Danny and Jonny have done swapsies.

Daniel Avery and Jon Hopkins have remixed each other on a limited edition 12-inch. Hopkins has beefed up Avery's airy track Glitter, while Avery has dirtied up Hopkins' C O S M. Both are great versions, especially the latter: I love a good metallic snare.

Daniel Avery is a Bournemouth producer who's twiddled knobs for Little Boots and Metronomy. He had the fourteenth best electronic music album of 2018. Jon Hopkins is a former keyboardist for Imogen Heap, and he once should have won the Mercury Prize instead of James Blake. Jon had the twelfth best electronic music album of 2018.

Grab some listens here.

Further Fats: Luke Vibert's remix of A Little Bit More (2007)

Further Fats: Music Order Remixed New (see what I did there) (2017)