Apr 5, 2020

Orbital tweeting Dick and Dom is all the goodness we need right now



We're all agreed that Twitter is an open sewer. A torrent of streaming mouth bums. The equivalent of a cavalcade of Celine Dion albums smashing into your face until the end of time. 

But every now and then, there is a moment of hope. A silver lining around the cloud of guff. That glimmer of goodness came in this tweet: 

 
And here it is again with, for reason whatsoever, kittens: 


That's right. Techno behemoths Orbital had a nice how-do-you-do exchange with children's telly legends Dick and Dom. 

I suspect a collaboration is afoot. Acid Pants In Da Bungalow. Satan In Da Bungalow. Da Box In Da Bungalow. You get the idea. 

Orbital once made a video with Play School presenter Brian Cant. Play School had different shaped windows for children to look through, no doubt reflecting the big-fish small-fish cardboard-box shapes made by ravers. Also, they had a giant egg person called Humpty, which sounds like a standard hallucination at Shroom if you ask me. 

Shroom was a nightclub, by the way. It was important in the development of acid house and that happy smiley face symbol you see everywhere. Shroom rhymes with Button Moon, which was a children's programme about a pot-headed man who had astral visions and spent most of his time using kitchen utensils to get high.

As I said in that Brian Cant blog post, kid's characters have played a part in club culture. The Prodigy sampled Charly the cat for their debut hit in 1991, and Global Communication's Mark Pritchard scored an early top ten as Shaft with a raved-up Roobarb And Custard theme tune. My most scratched seven-inch, destroyed from overuse, is probably Smart E's druggie kids anthem Sesame's Treet. You can guess what that samples.

I'll get back to my 1995 albums contest soon. I just thought I'd share this moment of levity amid the chaos. A happy face amid the scowls. A thumbs-up amid the angry fists. A sunbeam amid the drizzle. A parking space amid the lack of parking spaces. A nice pair of trousers amid the dirty undies. Ew. I'll stop now.


Mar 29, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Global Communication versus Leftfield


Welcome to the last opening heat to find the best electronic music album of 1995. See the series so far here, and see the 16 albums I started off with here. After this post, we'll get to the quarter finals. This was only to meant to last a week: it's been a month since I started, and the whole of civilisation has collapsed in the meantime. By the time we reach the grand final, Earth will be a shrivelled husk drifting aimlessly through the frozen far reaches of space. All is doomed. Let's play some albums!

Here are the final two choices that haven't faced my keen-eared criticism yet:
Remotion by Global Communication
Leftism by Leftfield
Uh oh. A slightly niche remix project long out of circulation versus a Mercury Prize-nominated behemoth that defined 1990s dance music culture. This truly is a David and Goliath battle. It's King Canute in his deckchair facing the incoming tide. It's that Skywalker bloke against all those horrible people in helmets that had the big metal ball in space, y'know, the one that wasn't a moon. Let the battle commence.

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

The Global Communication album comprises remixes of acts such as Chapterhouse and The Grid, and certainly has the kind of pick-and-mix attitude worthy of the crumbly world of biscuits. However, scratch under the surface, and it's not much more than a coconut-flavoured Nice. The Leftfield album, meanwhile, packs more of a varied flavour palate: it is Ginger Nuts, Oreo and Wagon Wheels combined.
Winner: Leftfield

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

Another win for Leftfield. Quite aside from the barn-storming Release The Pressure, John Lydon's hell-raising rant on Open Up is the definition of "bangin' tune". Seriously. Grab a dictionary from your shelf. Look up the word "bangin'". Is the definition just a photograph of John Lydon trying to sell you butter? Told you so. Now look up the word "moustache". Is there a picture of a buffalo? If so, your dictionary is broken and you should ignore this entire paragraph.
Winner: Leftfield

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

The tropical pretensions of Leftism count against Leftfield here: as everyone knows, you don't get cute animals in hot countries (don't google this). And while Remotion isn't overflowing with furry creatures, it does have Wild Horse, and a track called Le Soleil Et La Mer which I'm pretty sure is french for A Sealion And A Mouse. Again, don't google this. Also "Global Communication" is an anagram of "clinical, numb moo-goat", so there's that.
Winner: Global Communication

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

I've just received this letter, postmarked 'heaven'. Let me just read it. "Dear Fat Roland," it says, "Jesus here. I object most strongly to your inclusion of Leftism in this blog series. I tried listening to this with my disciples and it was mostly enjoyable. It's got a good beat. However, the moment when that John Lydon fellow says 'bigger than God' was most offensive. Smite you. Yours sincerely, Jesus Christ." Oh dear. It looks like Remotion wins by default – but that's okay: it's an angelic-sounding album.
Winner: Global Communication

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

Global Communication had some good egg-singing opportunities. In Delta Phase, I found myself singing the phrase "lovely eggs, I just want some lovely eggs," while on Epsilon Phase, it was possible to repeatedly sing the line "Have to add some cheese, reaching to the knife, chopping all the thyy-yyme." However, there was much more on the Leftfield album, with eggy lyrics including "I've got to stand and fry" and "You're original, with your own pan" and "You fried, you baked, you beated, you made some eggs" and "ovum up, make room for cheese". Sp-egg-tactular.
Winner: Leftfield

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

The 'jawbone lens' design on the Leftfield album cover is beautifully done, and I remember buying my gatefold vinyl edition with pride. In a nice coincidence for this randomly-curated contest, Leftfield's cover designer Jonathan Cooke also did the artwork for the US release of a Chapterhouse remix album by Global Communication, which incidentally featured two tracks from Remotion. Unfortunately, the cover artwork of Remotion itself is a bit, er, Word Art. Leftfield wins this one.
Winner: Leftfield

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

This final set of criteria is guided by the wisdom of Wikipedia's random page button. Here goes. Which album is more Italian? Leftfield is a bit Afro, and Remotion has French track titles – the latter wins for being slightly closer to Italy. Which album smells fishy? Leftfield because of its Space Shanty. Which album is worse for your eyesight? The Leftfield album features a camera lens, so it must be Global Communication. Which album should be home to migratory birds? Global Communication because they can perch on the Wild Horse. Which album would be better at digging wells in south western India? Oh CHEERS for that, Wikipedia. Global is a deeper listen so, er, them.
Winner: Global Communication

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: Taking the final place in the quarter-finals is Leftfield's Leftism. Goliath won over David, but it was a close call. Good job, really: I don't want to get beaten up by John Lydon.

The next phase of this neverending battle will be the quarter-finals, which will feature (SPOILER if you haven't read all the blog posts so far): Freefloater by Higher Intelligence Agency versus Timeless by Goldie; Maxinquaye by Tricky versus Everything Is Wrong by Moby; Post by Bjork versus ...I Care Because You Do by Aphex Twin; Landcruising by Carl Craig versus Leftism by Leftfield. It's going to be brutal. See all the original riders and runners here.

Further Fats: See the whole Best Albums Of 1995 series here.

Mar 23, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: The Black Dog versus Carl Craig


Three weeks ago, I began a battle to determine the best electronic music album of 1995. That battle is still going: this is heat seven of eight, after which we get to the quarter finals. See the series so far here, and see the 16 albums I started off with here. "But Fats, this is going to take many more weeks if you keep posting this slowly." Considering the current climate, that is no bad thing

I fired up my trusty random number generator to pick today's pairing. Remember, only one of these will survive through to the quarter-finals. The choice is between:
Spanners by The Black Dog
Landcruising by Carl Craig
This is a fascinating match. In one corner, we have a seminal British IDM act clearly influenced by Detroit techno. And in the other corner is a bonafide Detroit techno album debut. Good job there is no chance of messing up this contest with comparisons that blabber on about biscuits and cute animals, huh.

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

The Carl Craig album would be a cookie rather than a biscuit. This is because Americans have funny words for things. They also call herbs 'erbs, pavements sidepavements and aluminium aluminiminimum. Spanners by The Black Dog is such a wonky take on recognisable techno, it would be an unusual biscuit like Mr Kipling Viennese Whirls or those pink wafery things. That said, Carl Craig wins because The Black Dog's techno biscuits would be so loaded with e-numbers, they'd make your eyes pop out of your bum-hole.
Winner: Landcruising

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

I once praised The Black Dog's Barbola Work because it was "one of the few classic 90s techno tracks that makes you cha-cha-cha". It's easy forget now how alien and amazing their work was when it first appeared. Carl Craig's got the tunes, though: Einbahn is Autobahn on rollerskates, and the sheer 80s drama of Mind Of A Machine is enough to crack a smile on a bloodhound.
Winner: Landcruising

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

Carl Craig's debut album falls down badly here. There are no animal references in his track titles. I'm not saying he hates animals so much that he sneaks around back alleys baseball-batting weasels to death: that is for you to decide. Looking at The Black Dog's titles, Pot Noddle is definitely the name of a crime-fighting pig and Nommo is its sworn warthog enemy determined on wreaking destruction all across the pig sty. Oh and they're both dressed in tutus, so they're still cute.
Winner: Spanners

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

When the UK lockdown is over, pop into your local church. Who's the vicar? Oh look, it's Carl Craig. And the church organist? Carl Craig again. Who's that little old lady running the coffee bar? It's Carl Craig in a dress. Now pop to your nearest Buddhist centre. Look at all those little fat statues of Carl Craig! Saint Craig is so spiritually connected on Landcruising, he simply has to be Jesus's favourite. The Black Dog feels more like a crusty old geezer collecting sign-ups for a humanist society round the back of Aldi car park.
Winner: Landcruising

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

It's not often I type this sentence, but neither album really screams eggs. The Black Dog album suggests Starburst sweets, odd-shaped leeks and an interesting purple mould that's taken hold at the back of the fridge. The Carl Craig album suggests oysters served on a lattice of spun caramel drizzled in the finest liqueur. What wins this category for The Black Dog is the chattery voice in transitional track Bolt1 which definitely sounds like someone yabbering on about Tesco's running out of eggs.
Winner: Spanners

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

Landcruising is brilliant driving music, and its cover logo is clearly a nod to Detroit's automobile industry. The three-headed CGI beast on the cover of Spanners is more confusing. Is it a dog gone wrong? Is it a fancy paperweight? Is it a hallucination and I really should stay off the Windolene? Of the two, the strange black dog is the more memorable.
Winner: Spanners

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

This final area of judgement takes as its cue Wikipedia's random page function. Here goes. Which album is the most moist? Detroit gets five inches more rainfall per year than Sheffield, so Craig has it. Which album will win you the lottery? The Black Dog because of the track Utopian Dream. Which album is a heavy assault tank? Carl Craig because he be landcruisin'. Which album is a novel nanomaterial? Carl Craig's album is a debut, so it's novel by default. Which album has stout, sparse tentacles like the white sand anemone? The Black Dog, obviously – dogs are famous for their tentacles. Three-two to Craig.
Winner: Landcruising

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: The Black Dog are so central to my love for electronic music, that I'm chalking this win as a surprise: it's Carl Craig's Landcruising that cruises (geddit?!?!?) through to the quarter-finals. Well deserved: it's a cracking album, despite the weasel thing.

There is one heat left in this first round, so stay tuned: the battle to find the best electronic music album of 1995 will continue. See all the original riders and runners here.

Further Fats: See the whole Best Albums Of 1995 series here.

Mar 19, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Aphex Twin versus Nightmares On Wax


Welcome back to the battle to become the best electronic music album of 1995 in which I play judge, jury, executioner and toilet attendant. This is the sixth of eight first-round contests (I won't spoilt the results, so see the series so far here). The winner goes through to the quarter finals. See the 16 albums I started off with here.

The randomly chosen tie for today is:
...I Care Because You Do by Aphex Twin
Smokers Delight by Nightmares On Wax
We have the 13th best IDM album of all time (say Pitchfork) versus the 15th best trip-hop albums of all time (say Fact). Let's talc this pair up and throw them into the ring. Kamaete mattanashi! Let this bout begin.

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

Great question. If Smokers Delight was a biscuit, it would be something you'd get from Waitrose: it would be caramel flavoured or perhaps infused with fennel. I can't be more specific because the place scares me. I fled from a Waitrose once after seeing eighteen flavours of breadstick. The Aphex album feels more biscuity, even though it will never move beyond the levels of a custard cream or a jammy dodger.
Winner: ...I Care Because You

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

The Nightmares On Wax has an earworm so large, it looks like a giant dong: the descending strings of Nights Introlude have swirled around my head for 25 years, partly thanks to their reprisal on Les Nuits. That said, Aphex's follow-up to his Selected Ambient Works albums is a triumph of melody: the gentle steeliness of Alberto Balsalm, the waning flows of The Waxen Pith, the shimmery sadness of Start As You Mean To Go On, the off-kilter insistence of Wet Tip Hen Ax. Neither album especially bangs, but Mr Twin has the most choons.
Winner: ...I Care Because You

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

This is another straight win for Aphex Twin. Imagine a messed-up Wombles in which the common is made of drugs and instead of picking up litter, they pick up unicorns. And all the Wombles are mauve and made of anti-matter. Yes? Let's introduce the characters. Here comes Ventolin on his skateboard made of rainbows. Running behind him is little Mookid, the Womble with the fifteen udders. Cow Gud Is A Twin is his twin. And there, shuffling behind them while brandishing his walking stick, is old Alberto Balsalm. Wombles of Wimbledon, techno are we.
Winner: ...I Care Because You

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

While Aphex Twin has spent much of his career looking a bit like Jesus, there is something undoubtedly spiritual about Nightmares On Wax. When you speak to NoW's George, you get the feeling he's trying to connect to a higher power – hence later album titles Mind Elevation and Shape The Future. He'd make a great cult leader. Maybe George is the Holy Spirit, while Aphex is Jesus. And Jesus definitely listens to the Holy Spirit. Does that make me God? Lawks. I hate wearing white.
Winner: Smokers Delight

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

A write-off. I tried some egg songs, but none of the lyrics could fit. There's a background vocal in Nightmares' Stars which could pass for "eggs" but I think they're saying "hedge". And hedges are not eggs: I know because I've tasted them. If my heart was an egg, Aphex and Wax have broken it, and they didn't even made a heart omelette or a heart cake out of it. Very dis-egg-pointing.
Winner: No-one

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

Smokers Delight's cover is a jumble of strange totems topped with graffiti-style text to symbolise the dualities of spirituality and urbanity contained within the album's music. Meanwhile, the cover of ...I Care Because You is Aphex Twin's big face. That's right. He drew his own face. Have you ever tried to draw your face? Half the time, I don't know where my face is. I've tried opening my eyes really big but it's still difficult to see my face. Sometimes I pass a mirror, and the mirror reminds me where my face is, but then I turn round to take a good look at my face and it's gone. How can you draw that? It's impossible, but Aphex Twin managed it.
Winner: ...I Care Because You

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

As if this project wasn't silly enough already, this final set of criteria is guided by the random article function on Wikipedia. Let's jumble up some pages and pick a winner. Which of the two albums is the most science fiction? Nightmares totally has his mind on otherworldly things. Which album would most protect you in a hailstorm? Aphex because he cares (because you do). Which album would be listened to by 19th century cartographer Émile-Fortuné-Stanislas-Joseph Petitot? Nightmares because his track titles reference Venice, Groove Street and a beach. Which album would get baptised with a two-edged sword? The dualities of Nightmares On Wax. Which album is a sanatorium? Aphex because Ventolin will make you better.
Winner: Smokers Delight

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: A relatively easy victory. Aphex, Aphex, Aphex. Twin, Twin, Twin. You can chant that if you want.

Stay tuned - two more albums will battle for the title of best electronic music album of 1995 as decided by me. See all the riders and runners here.

Further Fats: See the whole Best Albums Of 1995 series here.

Mar 14, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Autechre versus Bjork


When I started this contest to find the best album of 1995 (see the series so far here), I planned to have a new contest daily. But I haven't had the time, so here we are dragging it kicking and screaming through March as if we've got nothing better to do. See the 16 albums I started off with here.

As ever, I use a random number generator to pick each head-to-head. Remember, only one can survive through to the quarter-finals. This time, we have:
Tri Repetae by Autechre
Post by Bjork
Oh this is going to be horrible. Hey children! Which puppy do we throw into the mincer?

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

This is the album that signalled Autechre's descent into more complicated, awkward, spiky electronic music, so if it was a biscuit it would be the oaty kind that leaves bits in your teeth. With its filmic anthems and bold ballads, Bjork's second album is more showy: perhaps it would be a jaffa cake or one of those flavoured Penguins, but not something we'd traditionally think of as a biscuit.
Winner: Tri Repetae

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

I want to take Autechre's Clipper and tattoo the sound all over my naked body. I want to knit Clipper's rhythms into a scarf and strangle myself senseless with it. I want to shove Clipper up my bum and bounce on a space hopper until my intestines ping out of my eyes. That said, nothing says "banging tune" more than Army Of Me, Hyperballad, and, well, half the tracks on Post.
Winner: Post

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

I'm not sure the imaginary animals on Autechre's album are that cute. Clipper sounds like an angry dolphin, Stud is an amorous stallion trying to hump everything but the fence post, and Leterel is a sneaky eel that's just signed you up to a timeshare con without you noticing. Bjork's Isobel tells the story of a girl born in a forest, but to the uninitiated, the title sounds like something you'd call a warthog if you were trying to convince people it was cute. In a way, it's the antithesis of cute. Strangely, Autechre wins.
Winner: Tri Repetae

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

I have consulted the runes and they tell me both Bjork and Autechre have Godlike status. Both come from faraway lands (Iceland and Manchester), attracting fanatical followers as they spread their gospel of musical purity. But since Tri Repartae sounds like a sinister Catholic order that flays choirboys for fun, this one has so go to Autechre.
Winner: Tri Repetae

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

As I sat on the bus improvising egg songs over these albums, one artist clearly won through. With Bjork, I managed to loudly sing "it's oh so quail… you fall in l'oeuf…" and "my name's scrambled egg, married to my shell" and "if you complain once more, you'll meet an army of quiche". I tried so hard to match egg words to Autechre, and as my fellow passengers wrestled me to the floor, I had to admit defeat. There's nothing eggy about Autechre.
Winner: Post

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

Two drastically different covers. The Designer's Republic deliberately stripped the graphics for Tri Repetae's muddy monotone. The Post cover puts Bjork front and centre, contrasted against her hyper-coloured surroundings. Both covers are great. However, on the Post album, Bjork is dressed as an envelope. Never noticed that before? Have a look. Post. Envelope. Post. Envelope. Absolute genius.
Winner: Post

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

This set of criteria is led by the random article page on Wikipedia, so strap in. Which album is the gayest? Queen Bjork, obviously. Which album would lead a navy? Bjork is feistier than Napoleon: she would lay waste to her enemies. Which album would succeed as a member of a Chinese rowing team? Autechre because there are two of them. Which album is the most legally disputed? Bjork because of Possibly, Maybe. Which album was born in an African tribe 3,000 years ago? Autechre because it sounds like it emanates from the very beginning of time.
Winner: Post

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: This was a tough match, but it's Bjork that moves into the quarter-finals. I'll expect angry letters from Autechre fans. To be honest, though, would the Autechre chaps dress up as envelopes? I wouldn't have thought so.

When I get time, two further albums will face off against each other in an attempt to become the best electronic music album of 1995 as decided by me. See all the riders and runners here.

Further Fats: See the whole Best Albums Of 1995 series here.

Mar 8, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Moby versus David Holmes


What's black and white and red all over? I have no idea, so why not ignore that sentence and instead read this continuing contest to find the best electronic music album of 1995. With today's post, we reach the halfway point of the opening knock-out rounds, with each winner going through to the quarter-finals. See the series so far here, and see the 16 albums I started off with here.

I use a random number generator to pick each pairing. Today it is:
Everything Is Wrong by Moby
This Film's Crap Let's Slash The Seats by David Holmes
Here we have very different producers whose music has worked brilliantly in film and television: Moby in Heat, The Sopranos and Stranger Things, and David Holmes in a tonne of on-screen stuff including Ocean's Eleven and Killing Eve. But which one will stand up to my strict criteria? Let's find out.

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

The filmic flavour of Holmes' work is brilliantly suited to the rich history of biscuits and its many flavours: ginger, plain, chocolate, a bit more plain. As it tumbles from dirty beats into evocative samples, his debut album bridges the gap between his DJing career and his movie scores. And what is a biscuit other than a bridge between cake and bread? In contrast, Moby is the name of a fish and no biscuits taste of fish.
Winner: This Film's Crap Let's Slash The Seats

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

Holmes has a great ear for melody, and the album neatly loops back to the same hazy chords. But Moby's album has screaming rave tracks and angry thrash metal, with brilliant turns by Rozz Morehead for the fast stuff and Mimi Goese for the slow stuff. Bangin'? It's bulldozing down the doors while shooting foghorns out of a cannon.
Winner: Everything Is Wrong

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

With track titles like When It's Cold I'd Like To Die, Moby's album isn't focused on cute animals. Many critters enjoy the cold, such as baby seals, baby penguins and all those baby spiders secretly hiding in your fridge. Holmes's track titles evoke a grizzly bear tearing through an orphanage, particularly with Got F***ed Up Along The Way and Slash The Seats. All in all, a disappointment for both albums. Moby scrapes a win because of the track name First Cool Hive: bumble bees are fuzzy.
Winner: Everything Is Wrong

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

The melancholic claustrophobia underpinning This Film's Crap feels more like purgatory than a heavenly place, despite the clanging church bell that ushers in the album. It's this uneasiness that made it such a remarkable work. On the other hand, Moby gives us rousing anthem after rousing anthem ("take me away!") that could easily be hollered from a pulpit. Everything Is Wrong is the sound of a coked-up church revival meeting. No wonder his early albums included the credit "Thanks to Jesus Christ".
Winner: Everything Is Wrong

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

The best I could do with Holmes was "she don't even yolk" which isn't even a verb. Meanwhile, after the chorus in Feeling So Real, Moby has a sample that sounds like a truncated "eee-ee-eeggs". In other songs, I found myself singing "every time you touch me, I feel like I'm being boiled" and "I am white albumen, poaching forever, I fry into the blue" and on Bring Back My Happiness "these hard eggs let you go". So much fun. Another win for Moby.
Winner: Everything Is Wrong

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

An album called Everything Is Wrong and there's Moby looking depressed on the cover with a sad blue face? It's a bit on the nose. A metaphorical nose, that is, not Moby's nose. Stop thinking about Moby's nose. The montage that comprises the cover to David Holmes's album isn't particularly memorable: what do a few rips, a couple of hands and a big knife represent? Gordon Ramsay making whoopie? Yeesh. Don't think about that: think about Moby's nose instead. Holmes wins it because at least it looks like the cinematic layerings of his music.
Winner: This Film's Crap Let's Slash The Seats

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

This final selection of judging criteria comes to you courtesy of Wikipedia's random page function. Which album is most like a Bulgarian footballer? Holmes because he looks like he can dribble along a touch-line. Which album would make a great motto on a commemorative coin? In Brexit Britain, that would definitely be Everything Is Wrong. Which album should have represented Ireland in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest? David Holmes is from Belfast, so he's the closest. Which album's hindwings are whitish with an orange subbasal fascia? Moby has the most orange and white on his album cover so, er, that. Which album is scaaaaandalous (said in a RuPaul voice)? The seat-slashing David Holmes, obviously.
Winner: This Film's Crap Let's Slash The Seats

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: This felt like a pretty easy win for Moby. Although he'll be mostly remembered for 1999's Play, selling 12 million units to Wrong's 250,000, it's nice to honour 90s raver Moby with this little success. Everything Is Wrong goes through to the quarter finals.

Stay tuned for another head-to-head battle to find the best electronic music album of 1995 as decided by a jury of one: me. See all the riders and runners here.

Further Fats: See the whole Best Albums Of 1995 series here.

Mar 5, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: BT versus Tricky


Oh heck. Stop the presses and hold the anchovies. It's the third instalment of my knock-out competition to decide the best electronic music album of 1995. See the series so far here, and see the 16 albums I started off with here.

I use a random number generator to pick each pairing. Today it is:
Ima by BT
Maxinquaye by Tricky
A curious pairing. Two more debut albums, and it looks like a pushover for Massive Attack's mate. But is it though? Read on.

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

Brian 'BT' Transeau's album is so shiny and smooth, if it was a biscuit it would be coated in chocolate or gold or creosote. Possibly edible, possibly not. The stories of Maxinquaye's chaotic recording sessions bring to mind meandering studio sessions, tapes full of unusable samples and floors littered with vinyl records. If that album doesn't resemble a box of broken biscuits, I don't know what does.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

Tricky's album was full of quotable quotes, albeit murmured and deeply smoked. However, BT's album was a landmark in progressive trance that melded the signature chunky house of Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto Records with diva-style singing. The 1996 edition's got Tori Amos on, for warbling's sake. You can't get more iconic than Broadway vocal coach Vincent Covello's turn on Loving You More, one of my most played 12-inches from back in the day. An easy success for BT.
Winner: Ima

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

Almost none of the track titles remind me of cute critters, so I can only assume BT and Tricky both hate animals. The BT album is full of aspirational titles like Embracing The Future and Deeper Sunshine. You try telling that to a rabbit: they just want to sniff lettuce and look at hay. Tricky's album doesn't fare much better: gothic titles like Suffocated Love and Black Steel poll quite badly with the baby otter community. Tricky saves the day with one solitary track title: Pumpkin is definitely in the top 100 hamster names. A winner by a (cute, snufflin') nose.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

Possibly the most memorable track on Tricky's album is Hell Is Round the Corner, which sounds like Jesus ranting to the Pharisees. But the BT album goes one better by portraying on its cover the underwater statue Christ Of The Abyss. Hey Jesus, which album do you prefer? "The one with my picture on, obviously, you idiot." Good point. Thanks, Jesus. "Bog off." Oh. Okay then.
Winner: Ima

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

A hard (boiled) win for BT here. Across various songs, I could fit the lyrics "Egg? Hell yeah" and "I'm loving eggs more than I ever have before" and "these are my ee-eegs". Maxinquaye confused my tastebuds and I ended up composing a three-hour mumblecore opera about Pot Noodles. I don't wish to libel the Trickster, but I don't think he has ever seen an egg in his entire life.
Winner: Ima

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

The composition of the Ima cover is pleasing, with Wet Jesus embracing the sunlight in the centre of the design. But if you buy a different edition, the soggy saviour is sidelined in favour of a stock image of some clouds underneath a grey rectangle. Disappointing. The rusted and peeling panels of the Maxinquaye design is a stronger design, suggesting both decay and warmth, and if you staple-gun it to your Ikea wardrobe, people will think you own vintage furniture.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

Finally, here is some assorted criteria generated with the help of Wikipedia's random article function. Which album has the highest fat content? Tricky doesn't sound healthy on Maxinquaye, so it has to be that one. Which album would most startle a moth? Ima because of the blinding light on its cover. Which album would win the US Open Cup Final. I don't even know what this is and I can't be bothered reading the Wikipedia article. Let's say Tricky, because he can team up with Massive Attack and win the football / golf / netball / yachting / whatever it is. Which album is conceptual art? Obviously Tricky because of the graffiti connection. Which album sounds most like I Pray On Christmas, Harry Connick Jr's 1993 Christmas carol? The one with Jesus on the cover, of course. Isn't that right, Jesus? "Get lost." Oh.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: I said I thought this would be a walkover by Tricky. It was closer than expected because SOMEONE chose some ridiculous criteria with which to judge these albums, but it is indeed Tricky that goes through to the quarter-finals.

In the next day or three, two further albums will battle it out to win the accolade of best electronic music album of 1995. See all the riders and runners here.

Further Fats: See the whole Best Albums Of 1995 series here.

Mar 2, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Goldie versus the Chemical Brothers


Here is the second round of my all-singing all-dancing contest to find the best electronic music album of 1995. See the series so far here, and see all 16 featured albums here.

A random number generator tells me the next two contestants are:
Timeless by Goldie
Exit Planet Dust by The Chemical Brothers
Lawks. Only one can get through to the quarter-finals. Fire up the chainsaws!

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

Here we have two critically acclaimed debut albums released within a month of each other in 1995, each one a shining example in its field. But which one goes better with a cup of Tetley's? The tone of these albums is wildly different: the Chemicals with their floor-stomping rafter-shaking beats, and Goldie with his complex rhythms and symphonic satellite sounds. Biscuits are basic: it has to be the block-rocking Brothers.
Winner: Exit Planet Dust

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

On one hand we have the "brothers gonna work it out" refrain alongside contributions from Beth Orton and the fringe guy from the Charlatans. On the other hand, we have the epic Inner City Life: feel your spine shiver with that opening "tiiimeleeeeess" from Urban Cookie Collective's Diane Charlemagne. Since these albums came out, we have endured terrorism, recessions, riots and fascism. Which tune echoes through the ages? Tiiimeleeeeess...
Winner: Timeless

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

I'm going to ignore the fact that Goldie was obviously named after a famous Blue Peter dog. Timeless's first disc ends with the track Jah The Seventh Seal, which means this album must contain six other seals. The Chemicals have the track Three Little Birdies Down Beats. So what's better: three little birdies or seven blubbery seals? The birdies have it.
Winner: Exit Planet Dust

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

Goldie's album starts with Saint Angel and ends with Jah, while his track This Is A Bad sounds like a precis of Jesus banging on about good trees bearing bad fruit. It certainly sounds heavenly with all its extended chords, while Exit Planet Dust has chemicals and swearing and a song to evil singing birdwomen the Sirens. No offence, Chemical Brothers, but you are definitely going to hell.
Winner: Timeless

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

A couple of moments on the Chemicals album proved successful. On Life Is Sweet, I managed to sing "I'm boiling my eggs soft, but I forgot to set the timer" and on Alive Alone I could fit the lyrics "I'm an egg, aren't I, I'm an egg, oh no". It's all pretty negative about eggs though. On the Goldie album, I not only could warble a chandelier-smashing "tiiimeeeer", I could also sing "Om-el-ette, oh those yolken eggs is what I wanna eat, sprinkle cheeeese, I need to be, I need to be your oooeuuuuuf". Speggtacular.
Winner: Timeless

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

The Brothers chose a photograph of a 1970s hippy couple possibly walking home from a music festival. The soft-hued picture has been flipped, so a clearly American car is driving on the wrong side of the road. It's an Instagram photo 15 years before Instagram. The Goldie design is impressive, with the Metalheadz logo embedded into some kind of robotic cloaca, but it lacks the resonance of its rival.
Winner: Exit Planet Dust

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

This final section contains criteria guided by Wikipedia's random article button. The album most likely to defeat the eye of Sauron? The aggressive rolling beats of Goldie. The album best made into a cheesy motivational kitchen sign? The Chemicals and the text would be In Dust We Trust. The album best used as a life raft? The Chemicals because it would placate the Sirens. The album filled with the most gas? Obviously Goldie: the album is mostly air. Album most likely to be found in the National Helicopter Museum? With his graffiti lifestyle and gold teeth, Goldie would definitely own at least six of their helicopters.
Winner: Timeless

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: I did not like two big hitters appearing so early on in this competition. By a whisker, Goldie's Timeless wins this leg of the contest. Congratulations, big dog. Massive apologies to the Chemical Brothers. I'm sure you're gonna work it out. I'm sure you're gonna work it out. I'm sure you're gonna work it out. I'm sure you're gonna work it out...

Two more 1995 albums will go head-to-head in the next couple of days or so. Stay tuned to this blog. See all the riders and runners here.

Further Fats: See the whole Best Albums Of 1995 series here.

Feb 29, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Sabres of Paradise versus Higher Intelligence Agency


This is round one of the battle to find the best electronic music album of 1995, as voted for by me and me alone. See all the riders and runners here.

A random number generator has picked the first two contestants. They are:
Sabresonic 2 by Sabres of Paradise
Freefloater by Higher Intelligence Agency
Winner gets through to the quarter-finals. Let's go to war!

Criteria one: which album would make a better biscuit?

Great question, Fats. This is a pretty easy one. There's much to admire in the icy filters of the Higher Intelligence Agency's second album, following their brilliant debut Colourform and an impressive showing in the Artificial Intelligence series. But it's not very biscuity. If it was a foodstuff, it would be sour sweets or sprinkles, or that dry ice crap posh restaurants cover tables with. Andrew Weatherall's Sabresonic 2 is so tribal and earthy, you'd almost certainly throw it into a biscuit mix.
Winner: Sabresonic 2

Criteria two: which album has more bangin' choons?

Ah. We have a problem here. Higher Intelligence Agency were never really about the massive tunes: it was more a soundtrack to which you could wheelbarrow a load of drugs down your gullet. And although Sabres arguably have more tunes, this second album is really just a remix of debut album Sabresonic. So the tunes are mostly not original: in fact, it's barely an album at all and shouldn't be on this list. Sssshhh. Don't tell anyone. By definition, the other album has more tunes.
Winner: Freefloater 

Criteria three: which album's track titles better remind me of cute animals?

Let's look at Sabres first. "Smokebelch" sounds like a disgusting hippo that you regret inviting around for tea, while "Inter-Lergen-Ten-ko" could be the name of an alien animal from a distant moon. Now let's look at HIA. Oh my. It has "Fleagle" and "Skank" and "Tortoise" and "Ting" and "Pinkgreen" and "Taz". If that's not a hilarious Netflix special starring subversive woodland creatures, then I'll eat my squirrel-skin hat.
Winner: Freefloater 

Criteria four: which of the two would Jesus listen to?

In giving a motivational speech to his newly-appointed apostles, Jesus said: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." An easy win for the Sabres there.
Winner: Sabresonic 2

Criteria five: which is the better album to sing songs about eggs to?

On Sabres' Return Of Carter, I could only do "eeeeeggs, eeeeeggs, eeeeeeeggs", while on Edge 6 I could sing "I like eggs, the special eggs" in a really catchy way. I couldn't do much with Smokebelch II. All I could with HIA's Elapse was repeatedly sing "benedict, benedict", and as for the rest of the album, it was so squiggly, it just put me off eggs. I wonder if the ambient dub scene just wasn't that into eggs.
Winner: Sabresonic 2

Criteria six: which album has the better cover design?

A hard win for Sabres Of Paradise. The guy's got a sword through his head! Ha ha ha ha! What a stupid idiot, getting a sword through his head! He was probably just sitting there making a belly-fluff model of the K-Pop band BTS and then suddenly – whoomph! There's a sword through his head! Ha ha ha ha ha! That said, it's virtually the same album cover as previous album Sabresonic, which means he's only pretending to have a sword through his head. Disqualified. HIA wins.
Winner: Freefloater 

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

Some final criteria chosen with the help of Wikipedia's random article button. A better album for flipping pancakes to: HIA because it sounds so airy. A better album for waking up Ann Widdecombe in the middle of the night to: definitely Sabres. The album that sounds most like echoes from an abandoned Albanian TV station: HIA because it sounds like satellites. An album for spies: Higher Intelligence Agency, of course: the clues in the name. A better album for drowning out 'iMammy (Batteries Not Included)', which is the hilarious title of season two episode three of the award-winning sitcom Mrs Browns Boys: Sabres of Paradise all the way.
Winner: Freefloater 

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: Freefloater by Higher Intelligence Agency. Perhaps a surprise and also a shame considering the recent news about Sabres' Andy Weatherall, but perhaps if it had been the original Sabresonic album, it would have been a different result. HIA go through. 

Using the same criteria (apart from the miscellaneous choices), witness another first round contest in the next day or two. See all the riders and runners here.

Feb 28, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: an introduction


No-one remembers 1995. It's too long ago. Nick Hornby wrote High Fidelity. Robson & Jerome took over the charts, and Oasis had a beef with Blur. I bet none of them remember any of it.

To revive everyone's interest in this most average of years, I'm going to launch a contest. I have chosen 16 electronic music albums from 1995, and they will face off against each other in a knockout competition so tense, your knuckles will fall off. Literally fall off.

The competing albums are all works I owned back in 1995. Some are big hitters, such as Leftfield and Goldie, while others are less well known. Because it's my own record collection, there will be some notable omissions. Despite what everyone says all the time, I'm not perfect: just DEAL with it, jeez.

The 16 albums will be randomly matched on a one-on-one knockout basis with the weaker album being eliminated. 16 in the first round, then eight in the quarter-final, four in the semi-final, and eventually a grand final to choose a winner: the bestest best electronic music album of 1995.

Who gets to vote? I have gone to great lengths to choose a panel of judges based on expertise, intelligence, looks and nice eyebrows. The panel of judges is me. Myself. Fat Roland. No-one else. I get to vote, and you just have to sit there, all sulking with your bottom lip curled. The judging criteria may be, er, a little unusual.

I hope you enjoy this series, and may the best electronic album of 1995 win. Here are the contenders, all of which should be 1995 albums because Google told me they were 1995 albums.
...I Care Because You Do by Aphex Twin
Everything Is Wrong by Moby
Exit Planet Dust by The Chemical Brothers
Freefloater by Higher Intelligence Agency
Ima by BT
Maxinquaye by Tricky
Landcruising by Carl Craig
Leftism by Leftfield
Post by Bjork
Remotion by Global Communication
Sabresonic 2 by Sabres of Paradise
Smokers Delight by Nightmares on Wax
Spanners by Black Dog
This Film's Crap Let's Slash the Seats by David Holmes
Timeless by Goldie
Tri Repetae by Autechre
(Patriarchy apology: it's a very male list because 1995 me was rubbish.) There we go. Contenders at the ready. Battle will commence in the next day or so.

Feb 22, 2020

A tribute to Andrew Weatherall: imagine a cake, a simple cake


I've spent this week feeling like poo. Some kind of lurgy that has robbed me of all my energy. No brain space for blog posts or for creative projects or for functioning as a human being.

In the midst of this week's funk, I heard some terrible news. Andrew Weatherall died. I hoped that my fever had got so bad, I was hallucinating worst case scenarios. Alas, no. We lost a giant of electronic music.

There may be some readers of this website who are unaware of the pull of gravity Weatherall had over modern electronic music. I'm still not quite out of the fog of illness, so here are some unedited and slightly clumsy thoughts on how important I thought Andy was.

Imagine a cake. A simple cake. Something with a sponge and a pleasant jam filling. Now imagine shoving all the pills into that cake. Paracetamol, ecstasy, uppers, downers, bum pills, dog pills, M&Ms and Skittles. Imagine the pills being inserted by one of those tennis ball machines with a spring-firing mechanism. That's what Weatherall did to music.

He did this to Primal Scream. He did this to Saint Etienne ("cool and deadly!"). He did this to New Order and Leftfield and mother-chuffing Starsailor. He was a constant remixing presence in the early releases of the Chemical Brothers, James and the Happy Mondays. Pow! Pills! Pow! More pills!

Except it was never about narcotics for me: my highest and happiest days clubbing were devoid of any alcohol or drugs. It was about the trippy rhythms and driving bass that added a fizz to anything he touched.

That fizz is probably best summed up in his wonky party production of Primal Scream's Don't Fight It Feel It – a track that bursts with B52s-style jazz-hands energy while still getting away with farty shredded guitar, clowny sirens, genuine soul and the chunkiest Italo-piano lead of 1991. Just listen to it build and build...



Without Andrew Weatherall, there would be no Fat Roland. He was a staple of Manchester club night Herbal Tea Party back in the 1990s: in fact he was probably their most-booked act. That night was my gateway into electronic music.

And I have fond memories of seeing him at The Orbit in Leeds, a venue I once blogged that "arguably spawned my Fat Roland career. I remember watching DJs Andrew Weatherall and Sven Väth with intense interest, hovering behind them like a stalker. As I left the club, I had a lucid moment when I decided, with a theatrical flourish, that yes the world needed my DJing skills. (It didn't, but I went into DJing anyway.)"

For some reason, the likes of the Guardian and NME have left that element of Weatherall's legacy out of their tribute pieces.

From Shroom to Boy’s Own Productions to Sabres Of Paradise to his insistance that DJs shouldn't play anything beyond 122bpm, Andrew Weatherall's impact on my corner of electronic music cannot be underestimated.

I really wish this was a fever dream.

Feb 16, 2020

New music: Caribou, Wajatta & Grimes


Sometimes people release albums. I can't stop them, no matter how hard I try. Seriously, I attempt to catch as many as I can before they reach the general public, oh, no, another album got through my homemade anti-album filter, dammit.

Anyhoo, here are some new and upcoming February releases that got through my sausage net. I really should stop making nets out of sausages.

Caribou – Suddenly (City Slang)

It's a good job Caribou is Canadian producer Dan Snaith and not an actual caribou. If you let a caribou into a studio full of recording equipment, it would crap everywhere and snap all the knobs with its hooves. We can only assume Snaith doesn't do this, although I've never been in a studio with him so your guess is as good as mine.

Caribou (not the animal) is back this month with another album of summery pop called Suddenly. Single You And I is really good: half melancholic grief song and half broken bass banger. Never Come Back has a similar shimmery vocal vibe to his classic Sun. It's all sounding very promising indeed.

Wajatta – Don't Let Get You Down (Brainfeeder)

Here comes the second album from loop-pedal peddler Reggie Watts and house master John Tejada. You'll know Reggie from his television appearances and pop-parodying beatboxing. Go on, have a delve on YouTube: you won't regret it.

"Wajatta" is, by the way, a combination of their names and the j is pronounced as an h. In the same way that if I teamed up with Justin Bieber, we would become Jat Rober. Or Fatin Biebland. And the e would be pronounced as a q. Words are fun.

Grimes – Miss Anthropocene (4AD) 

And that's what I think of the fifth album of bleepy tunes from the headline-grabbing popster Grimes.

What? There appears to be some text missing from the above paragraph? Ah, that's because I typed the letters at the speed of light, in tribute to Grimes calling herself c (the symbol for the speed of light). You have to read it at the speed of light otherwise you won't be able to read it. Sorry about that.







Further Fats: New music – Squarepusher, Dan Deacon & Phase Fatale (2020)

Feb 13, 2020

Talking about sad things with Squarepusher


In the new issue of Electronic Sound magazine, I chat to Squarepusher about keeping puppies, and how puppies are so cute, and ha ha ha look at their little floppy ears and—

Okay, I lied about the puppies. I'm trying to keep things light-hearted because actually my chat with Squarepusher in issue 62 of the magazine was as melancholic as flip. This is not angry Squarepusher. This is a vulnerable bloke who has recently faced loss in more ways than one. Our conversation was quite extraordinary, and it was a side of the Square one I really liked.

I would explain more, but you're going to have to get yourself a copy by visiting the Electronic Sound website, or popping into WH Smith, or summoning a magazine-creating wizard by setting twelve magpies on fire.

Six whole pages of me and Squarepusher. Exciting, right? No? Oh suit yerself.


Elsewhere in the magazine, I write a full page column all about insurance. Yes, really. For the first time ever, I accompany my words with a custom-scrawled illustration. There's a little bit of the illustration in the image above. Find all the words alongside my cartoon on the inside back page of the mag.

Oh and I've done some reviews too. All of which is massively overshadowed by this month's Electronic Sound cover story, not written by me, about the astonishing life and death of music producer Joe Meek. It's well worth a read. Oh my.

Feb 10, 2020

Calvin Harris launching an acid house project is the biggest music news of all time


Calvin Harris launching an acid house project called Love Regenerator is the biggest music news of all time.

This is like One Direction relaunching as a thrash metal band. Or like The Beatles returning as a drum 'n' bass act. Or like Jive Bunny revealing that all the music was made by actual bunnies.

Last month's Love Regenerator 1 EP hit a million streams in just three days. It was apologetically clubby, summoning the spirit of acid pioneers Phuture and so much more. We're talking fat pianos, liquid breaks, choppy vocal samples and filter-tweakin' squelchy goodness. All the best of the underground 1980s and 1990s.

Like a worm with an embarrassing zit, acid house has remained defiantly underground. We've had Voodoo RayJosh Wink and S'Express, but all of this was a long time ago. Justin Bieber was still in Calvin Klein nappies when Higher State of Consciousness was released.

So when the biggest DJ in the universe (probably) goes acid house, this is big news. It could mean the first mainstream exposure of acid house for 25 years. Imagine the BBC News at Six being presented by a Tamagotchi. THAT'S how much of a revival this is.

In the words of A Guy Called Gerald's 1989 top 20 hit Voodoo Ray:
"Ooh-oo-hoo ah-ha ha yeah
He-hey-ya hey-yah ah-ha ooh hey-yah ah-ha ooh"
Exactly, Gezza. That's exactly how I feel.

Calvin Harris has a second Love Regenerator EP arriving later this week. I'm not sure we can cope with this. It's like the earth being struck with two dinosaur-destroying meteors rather than one. The shockwave of this second EP will be so ground-shaking, no-one else will make any music for months.

Harris has been previewing bits on his Instagram and I can declare that, in the parlance of modern youth, it is banging. Proper banging and no mistake, missus. I'm sorry if my street talk is alarming to you, but I am well cool.

Unless Def Leppard return as a KLF tribute act, Calvin Harris going acid house remains the biggest music news of all time.



Further Fats: I love acid and the acid loves me (2015)

Further Fats: "Acid house - it's not real music, is it" said the idiot (2019)

Feb 8, 2020

Ten slices of shallow-fried Twitter whimsy


Twitter is a platform in which everyone can communicate with everyone else all of the time without any downsides whatsoever.

What follows are ten slices of shallow-fried whimsy lovingly copied-and-pasted from my Twitter account. Some if it reads as a useful self-help guide along the lines of The Power Of Now, How To Win Friends And Influence People or the Roland SH-101 Owner's Manual. Some of it reads like poetry along the lines of, er, poems and stuff.

I have given each tweet a header so you can perhaps make an index from it, like they do with proper books.

1. The food puns
Butter Living Through Chemistry. Meusli Has The Right To Children. Thymeless. Dubnobasswithmyheadman (where bass is a fish). Adventures Beyond The Ultrawurst. Endtrojuicing. Not sure where I'm going with this.

2. A question about 1996
Did the boy ever see his mom that weekend to tell her Satan Satan Satan Satan Satan Satan Satan Satan?

3. Thoughts post-Brexit
Don't worry, everyone, we don't need Europe. Just stay in your towns, don't go anywhere, don't meet new people and don't buy anything. We didn't have the EU around the time of the Great Plague and everything was just fine.

4. Morning reflection 1
A grey morning in Manchester. Cold raindrops fall on puddled streets like polar bears in spandex, if polar bears were tiny and made of water, also forget the spandex, that's just a distraction tbh

5. A motivation
How to have a positive day:
- smile more
- do one kind thing
- pay a compliment
- open up the portal of d'ath krondor
- eat healthy
- live in the moment
- the tentacles, the tentacles, they burn
- be a good listener
- the void shall become all, ye wastrels of earth

6. A concern
I'm slightly worried that Antifa is short for Anti Fat Roland.

7. A dream for the future
It's splitting hairs, but I'd like to hear New Order's Mr Disco covered by Electronic.

8. Morning reflection 2
It is morning. The sun comes alive in the eastern sky and says its happy greetings. Hello trees. Hello fields. Hello squirrels. Hello sun! they call and wave. In the western sky, the moon dies a horrible death. Everyone laughs.

9. A simple wish
I wish Squarepusher was called Squidpusher and all of his promo shots were of him in back alleys selling squid.

10. The bird incident
Twitter, I forgot to tell you. A low-flying goose honked at me pretty aggressively the other day, so that's pretty much 2020 written off. How's YOUR week been?

Further Fats: Squarepusher's psychedelic number - could it send him (robert) miles off course? (2009)

Further Fats: Top ten ways to write a top ten music list (2012)

Feb 4, 2020

Fifteen questions for Fat Roland (contains raisins)


This blog post is about me. Which is why it's accompanied by a picture of me.

There's a 30-question Facebook quiz doing the rounds, so for the sake of content, here are my answers. I should point out that I deleted half of the questions: they were so inane, they made me want to go to a wedding reception with Westlife. Here, readers, are 15 questions about me.

1. Who are you named after? Not a who. A what. I'm named after a Roland JP-8000 synthesiser. I am not named after the chubby lad from Grange Hill, although there are worse people I could be named after. I could be called Dan Widdecombe.

2. Last time you cried? I cry at everything. Movie endings, children's choirs, wasps, anything. Jojo Rabbit had me in floods of tears. Seeing arbitrary insanity through a ten-year-old's eyes, in appropriately dis-tonal primary colours (comedy Hitler, rabbit blatherings, "clones"), made this a deeply moving and exhilarating film. Roberto Benigni meets Wes Anderson. Go see.

3. Do you like your handwriting? Actually, I do. It's a bit cartoony. As a child, I refused to learn joined-up cursive as it made no sense to my bookworm brain. Books didn't do cursive, so I shouldn't either. I'd have good handwriting for cartoon strip speech bubbles.

4. Would you do a bungee jump? Plop off. I'd hit the ground so hard, I'd come out in China.

5. What is your favourite kind of cereal? When I do eat cereal, which isn't often, I plump for something with raisins. Got to love a raisin. It's one of those foodstuffs people really baulk at, but they're idiots. Smother me in raisins.

6. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Tentacles.

7. Rugby or football? Neither. Both sports remind me of the horror of school changing rooms, the bullying tackles designed to injure me for fun, the cold mud and rain. Also, each side should be given a ball to make everything easier.

8. What are you listening to right now? Finally a question relevant to my website. I'm currently enjoying Mason Bee's debut album Play Flights. He's the bloke who makes nice guitar sounds and bleepy melodics in Plaid, so it's like someone's taken all the harmony from Plaid and tied a big beautiful bow on it.

9. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? I've kept this question in here to show how bad the deleted questions were.

10. Favourite smell? Not this quiz, coz it stinks. It's all the cliche answers, I'm afraid. Cut grass, fresh bread, nice flowers, old books, kittens in blenders. Some people like the smell of babies or hair, which is weird. If you scratch this blog, it smells of warehouse raves.

11. Colour of your hair? Brown. Not a particularly interesting brown. A general hair brown. The colour of a horse that's just eaten two jars of Marmite. Like I say, not an interesting brown.

12. Scary movies or happy? I'll choose scary. Actually, I'm watching fewer scary films as I get older. Maybe the torrent of existential terror that is modern life has finally got under my skin. Boo! Was that scary? No? Okay, I'll choose happy.

13. Last movie you watched? That Armando Iannucci film about David Copperfield. More gentle than I expected; more Cock & Bull Story than Death Of Stalin. Dev Patel is perfect casting. Made me want to fly kites.

14. Favourite Holiday? Why is holiday capitalised? I don't really do holidays. If I wanted to lounge around doing nothing, I can do that at home. If I wanted to see interesting sights, I can use Google. If I wanted to sit by some water, I can find a puddle. Sigh. I'm happy, honest I am.

15. Best acid house tune? Great question. For years, my go-to acid tune was Fish & Chips by Hardfloor. It was on a Harthouse CD and I played it to smithereens. Amazing build-up. Sorry? What? Yes, you got me. This wasn't one of the original questions, I just wanted to big up Hardfloor. Is this over now? Can I go?

Photo: Alex Winton (taken at Mother's Ruin at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester)

Jan 31, 2020

My eyes, my eyes – Squarepusher goes to Tokyo for Terminal Slam


Squarepusher's popped out a new video for his banging track Terminal Slam, taken from his new album Be Up A Hello. It centres around the famous Shibuya road crossing in Tokyo. You know the one. It's made from steamrollered zebras.

In the video, fancy glasses make display adverts go all glitchy and strange. A bit like that Roddy Piper film with the sunglasses and the aliens, except without any sunglasses and without any aliens.

The track is an absolute belter, and the whole visual experience feels widescreen and ultra-technological. Neon signs everywhere, sunburst bright. And best of all, Squarepusher's face, name and logo keep appearing.

I tried recreating the video in my sleepy suburb. I didn't have sunglasses, so I just gaffer-taped my eyes and ran out into the street. It's very hard to write your name and logo on everything when you can't see a thing. Long story short, the 'Twenty's Plenty' sign opposite my gaff now has "FAD ROLANT" scrawled across it.

Here's the video. Read more about Squarepusher's new album by reading this blog post that tells you to read Electronic Sound magazine.


Jan 29, 2020

Story: A meeting regarding new material by the electronic music producer Aphex Twin


Aphex Twin slides the dead jackdaw across the table.

"New album," he mutters, pointing at the bird. "New album." He nods a 'whassup' to the suit sitting opposite.

"I don't think..." starts the suit, who hasn't even looked at the bird.

"I've been very productive," says Aphex Twin, fetching a jar of mango sauce from his pocket. He plonks it next to the jackdaw. "New EP," he says, pointing at the sauce. "New EP!"

The suit looks at the bird. Looks at the jar, which is half empty.

The other suit, the lawyer, shifts in her seat. Clears her throat as she reaches for her papers. "Mr Twin," she says. "The record company contract is clear..."

Aphex Twin skitters more objects across the table. An emptied baked bean tin. A bauble. A photograph of a tree. The suits try to interject. The lawyer waves papers at him – any papers.

But it is too late. Aphex is dancing.

Aphex Twin dances on the table, shuffling in awkward circles around the objects, denting the table lacquer with the point of his umbrella.

"I am so productive," he says to no-one as the first suit pokes the jackdaw with a pen.

Further Fats: Story – Elizabeth Gaskell sits at a table (2017)

Further Fats: A little cat story (it's the story that's little, not the cat) (2018)

Jan 27, 2020

Tell me why I do like Mondays


Does anyone else feel bright and shiny on Monday mornings?

I’m so cheery on Monday morning, it’s annoying. I like the fresh sheets of a newly-made week. It’s like a tiny New Year’s Day, and you can fill your pocket with baby resolutions. Amazing!

There are legions of coffee drinkers who can't function until their second morning cuppa. I see them everywhere, gormlessly slurping, eyes drooping like Dali's clocks. They need that sweet fix of squid ink and creosote, or whatever it is they put in that Starbuck’s gloop.

I don't drink coffee, so I look down on them with disgust, what with me being perfect with no bad habits at all. My natural caffeine kick is simply the new day itself. "Lovely morning!" I yell as I skip merrily past bed-haired commuters weeping into their Metro newspapers.

I've never held a 'standard' office job where I input data by smashing a keyboard with my face until the clock strikes five. So I’ve never internalised that Monday-to-Friday routine. Yes, my past jobs of journalism and bookselling involved offices, but it's not the same. Dolly Parton wouldn’t recognise any “takin' and no givin'” in my 9–5, no ma’am.

The buzzy feeling I get at the start of the week is the same sparkly energy I get from discovering new music. The thrill of something not experienced before, the thrum of possibilities. The reason why this blog exists. I am the exact opposite of YouTube comment drones who complain about there being no good music since 1982.

All this might make me sound easily pleased, like a Mrs Brown's Boys fan or a dog. I am. I totally am. Is this annoying to a lot of people? Yes it is. It totally is.

On the flip side, by Friday all of my tiny resolutions lie smashed on the floor as the weight of the week brings me to my knees, my freshly-made week sheets all stained with drizzles of disappointment.

But hey. Let’s save that for another blog post, yeah? Monday! Woo!

Further Fats: My Harder Better Blog Writing Tour Faster Process Monday Fats (2014)

Further Fats: Listen: Photay's Monday (warning: potential earworm) (2016)

Jan 25, 2020

In praise of 808 State's Gorgeous (which is gorgeous)


Here is a theory.

If a band calls their album Gorgeous, then everyone thinks it's gorgeous. Witness the scrabble at the record shop counter as dribbling music fans demand to feast on something gorgeous. "Look at this gorgeous album!" you scream at the haggard shop assistant. "It's called Gorgeous!"

Here is how that plays out in practice.

808 State calls their album Gorgeous. People are kinda fine with it, but are still wedded to previous album ex:el. Meanwhile, album tracks Sexy Synthesiser and the UB40-sampling One In Ten sound odd in the long-receding wake of novelty chart rave. Select magazine calls Gorgeous "over-familiar" and gives it three stars.

I have to say, though: Gorgeous was MY album. It came out in 1993, a year in which I was absorbing all the techno like a big shape-throwing sponge. It was my musical 'coming of age' year. Synthesisers WERE sexy. Calling something gorgeous DID make it gorgeous. I even wore the album's t-shirt to ribbons.

There is so much to commend about this album. The sun-soaked steel drums of Plan 9. The deep forest samba of Contrique. The hippy indie vocals on Europa being the most 1990s thing ever. The Loop Guru-style stomp of Southern Cross. And Colony being an out-and-out banger.

Following up 1991's ex:el was tough. That album had Bjork and New Order's Bernard Sumner. While Ian MacCulloch's vocals on Gorgeous's Moses had a Sumner-esque waver to them, serving to remind you of the previous album, Moses was much more of an earworm than any vocal on ex:el.

On ex:el, In Yer Face and Cubik landed with such a thump in the charts, their reverberations were felt for years. Gorgeous was softer somehow, more mature, and there was nothing that would obviously trouble the top ten. This was nice because it felt like my secret underground album: an eccentric collection of post-Balearic bangers (new)built especially for my CD player.

Gorgeous is great, and I have an affection for this album that's probably tied into my 1993 musical awakening. But I reckon I'm right. It's underrated. It might not have sultry lift music or James Dean Bradfield, but it's full of phat sounds. With a ph. And when people talk about pH scales, they're talking about science. Gorgeous is scientifically great.

I demand we reassess this album's status in the pantheon of techno history. Go up to that record counter. Feast on something gorgeous. Dribble all over the "card machine broken" signs and flyers for student club nights. Make sure the shop assistant knows you're serious. "I want gorgeous," you chant. "I want gorgeous. I WANT GORGEOUS." Recite this blog post as security bundle you onto the pavement outside.

You want Gorgeous. Say it. SAY IT.

Further Fats: A good week for old LPs - and if you say 'what's an LP', I'll set fire to your mp3 player (2008)

Further Fats: Zombie'ites! Going underground with Transglobal and Banco De Gaia (2017)

Jan 22, 2020

Fat Roland's wonderful Warp Records word search


You look bored. Your face sags with weariness, like old underpants draped over a dachshund. Fat Roland to the rescue! Entertain yourself with my Warp Records word search.

See if you can find all 30 of the Warp Records artists, past and present, hidden in this grid. Just to make it harder, the words can go in any direction.

Some are Warp names familiar to any techno-head. Some may have had only one release and just get a brief mention on the Wikipedia page about Warp Records, from whence I lazily snaffled my information.

Warp Records word search: the difficult version (grid only)

I have two versions. At the end of this blog post is a grid without the 30 artist names included for reference. This is for advanced word searchers only, and should only be attempted by people with good eyes, an iron will and a pair of crampons.

The version below is low-resolution. If you want a larger version of this grid, click here to download (353kb PNG file).

Warp Records word search: the easier version (grid with accompanying words)

There is also an easier version: same grid, but with the 30 artist names printed beneath. This is for simple-minded word searchers who need spoon-feeding like little babies. I count myself in this category.

I won't print this easier version here, because it will annoy the advanced word searchers. To see the easier version of this grid with the 30 artist names included, click here to download a decent quality version (300kb PNG file) or click here download a lower resolution version (131kb JPEG file).

Or, and praise the Lord for all this amazing word search admin, check the comments on this blog post, where I've also listed the 30 names.

Your face looks interested now. You're drooling. There's a glint in your eye. My work here is done. Happy searching-for-words.