Jun 30, 2020

The best thing I heard in June was… (drum roll, please)

phoebe bridgers

I heard many amazing things in June. Here is a list.
  1. A magpie warbling like a crazy little thing inside a bush

  2. Game Of Thrones – the soundtrack bit, not the head-chopping-off bits

  3. A chap singing the Danger Mouse theme tune in the style of Pulp

  4. The sound of my bedroom fan white-noising my overheated self to sleep

  5. The 808 State listen-along for #TimsTwitterListeningParty

  6. Actually, yes, the head-chopping-off bits in Game Of Thrones

  7. A chap chopping the head off Danger Mouse in the style of Pulp

  8. Magpies hitting my fan to the rhythm of 808 state.... inside a bush
All these sounds are undoubtedly exquisite audio sculptures that make your ears feel like a carpet of velvet unicorns. Why not recreate the above sounds using cardboard tubes, a staple gun and some glitter?

Despite all that noise nonsense, there is one sound that topped them all. There is one sound that was undoubtedly the best thing I heard in June...

In fact, a whole bunch of us picked our favourite music of the month on the Picky Bastards website. One writer picked the new Phoebe Bridgers (pictured) album that everyone's banging on about. Someone else picked Lady Gaga's Chromatica. My pick? I chose Special Request's lightning-sharp Spectral Frequency, a track released a short while ago but rereleased this month on vinyl. It put a rocket up June's bum like nothing else.

Read all about the track's resonating drums and sweaty rave flashbacks on the PBs website (my choice is at the end because I always submit last). Have a read there, and have a listen below.

Jun 28, 2020

It's just the sun rising (and being a bit too hot)

Beloved the Sun Rising

The recent heat has done something funny to me. It felt like a hot spoon scooping out my brain. It left me feeling like a cartoon character that's just been exploded by TNT, leaving only a pair of smoking boots.

The other day in Manchester, my home city, it was 900 degrees. Or something like that: I was too cooked to focus on the numbers. I went for a walk and the sun was so unbearable, I had to dive into the shade. Everyone looks suspicious diving suddenly behind a hedge. I got looks.

It was hotter than a quartermaster's whelk. It was hotter than a jelly salesman's foghorn. It was hotter than a rampant barrister's whittling knife. It was hotter than a dog-whisperer's door handle cabinet. It was hotter than a confectioner's wardrobe on a Hungarian spaceship. It was hotter than a cheese bridge for dogs over a trench full of grandfather clocks. It was hotter than the year 1437 mauled in a bear trap by Robot Phillip Schofield.

Those hotter-than comparisons were swiped from my previous tweets, by the way. I'd like to thank past-tweeting me for being an imaginative and nonsensical idiot.

I think the sun is great, and even though horoscopes are hogwash, I do feel a connection with my star sign Leo. It's a fire sign that's ruled by the sun, which sounds really summery even though I have no idea what that means.

I'm also quite fond of sun songs. For example, Orbital's The Girl With The Sun In Her Head, Caribou's Sun or The Beloved's The Sun Rising. They're so much better than, say, Engelbert Humperdinck's Winter World Of Love, the Glee Cast's version of Ice Ice Baby, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Snow (Hey Oh). Is that last one real? Yeesh.

The problem is that I'm not very good with heat. I'd like all the benefits of summer weather but without the high temperatures. It would be nice if the sun was cold and fire felt like ice pops. All the colour and brightness without the sweat. That's not too much to ask, is it?

I'm grateful rave culture based itself around Ibiza and not Nunavut, but there's a balance to be struck. Next time we have a heatwave, please let's have a cold one. Thanks.

Jun 22, 2020

Endless Ed Sheeran is the most played artist of 2019

Ed Sheeran

It's official. Ed Sheeran is the most played music artist of 2019.

He beat Calvin Harris to top PPL's Most Played Artist Chart for the fourth time in five years. Coldplay broke that run as 2016's most-heard, although everyone now agrees we were all having a bad day and we listened to them by mistake.

Sheeran scored three UK number one singles last year, respectively with Justin Bieber, Khalid and Stormzy. The most-played tracks of the year are full of collaborations too: Calvin Harris with Rag ‘n’ Bone Man; Mark Ronson with Miley Cyrus; Sam Smith with Normani. It's like no-one can do anything on their own anymore. They're all trying to emulate successful double acts like Ant & Dec and those two girls out of The Shining.

It's interesting to see who Sheeran beat in the Most Played Artist Chart. In third place is Sam Smith playing the spoons while tightrope walking over a crocodile pit. In seventh palace is the sound of Rita Ora having a benny and throwing a television through a hotel window. And in tenth place is the whole of Maroon 5 screaming into a funnel.

I once claimed that Ed Sheeran was here to destroy us all, that every song had become Ed Sheeran. In my defence, it was the week he broke the charts by scoring 16 top 20 hits at once. But even a stopped idiot tells the right time twice a day. Maybe I was pointing towards a future so Sheeraned, we forget how to listen to anything else. We are living in that future.

Extensive surveys tell me that the average Fat Roland reader reads this blog by mumbling the words out loud. This blog is actually all cut-and-pasted from Ed Sheeran lyrics: has been since 2004, seven years before Sheeran had his first hit single. Sorry to break it to you, my muttering friend, but by reading this very page, you're already making the Suffolk superstar the most played artist of 2020.

In two of his singles, Shape Of You (not bad) and Galway Girl (terrible), he makes a reference to putting Van Morrison on a jukebox. People aren't paying attention. They're putting Ed on their jukeboxes, not Van. They're putting Ed on their record players. They're putting Ed on their Spotify. They're putting Ed in those annoying birthday cards that make a tinny noise when you open them. 

Ed everywhere. Ed will never end. He is Ed Sheer-on-and-on.

Jun 18, 2020

Spotify's mystical rivers of bad recommendations

An alien pointing at Spotify

If you ordered a handbag full of wasps from my Wasp Handbag shop, and instead I sent you a bucket of hamsters, you'd rightly be annoyed.

"I demand a refund," you would shout through my shop's letterbox. "I'm not in," I would convincingly shout back while hiding in the stock cupboard. "Ouch, ow, stop stinging me," I would add because of what was in the stock cupboard.

The streaming service Spotify is fairly good at giving me what I want. Its curated playlists seem to recognise my musical moodswings from gloomy techno to big gay pop anthems. It's easy enough to avoid its more ridiculous categories such as "At Home", which is as nonsensical as defining your listening experience as "Standing On The Floor" and "Leaning On A Hedge".

However, it has recently been trying to flog me hamster buckets instead of my favourite wasp-based clothing accessories. Not literally: it's a metaphor. Keep up.

Here's an example. The Grid is a brilliant dance project by Richard Norris and Soft Cell's Dave Ball, but instead of popping classics such as Floatation and Crystal Clear into my recommendations, it's been trying to push some unrelated rock band of the same name.

I get all excited when I see a Grid track I don't recognise, and when I click on it, all I get is some unrelated guitar dirge that makes me want to drag my ears through broken glass. And because I've played it, Spotify recommends them some more, locking me into an impostor loop that can only end if I throw my computer into a fire.

This happened again the other day, this time with Orbital. According to Spotify, the latest release from Orbital is a track called Mystical River. This is not an Orbital track: it is a fake; it is Trojan horse; it is a cuckoo's egg in the nest of my musical egginess. It's Spotify getting it wrong again.

As you can see from the picture at the top of this blog post, Richard Hughes the alien is furious about the incorrect listing. Who is Richard Hughes the alien? I drew him because just posting a Spotify screenshot would have been as dull as heck. He now exists. Everyone say hello to Richard Hughes the alien.

This isn't Spotify's only failing, of course. There are other user annoyances, such as the lack of ability to browse by label, even though a browse of, say, DFA or Warp would be really useful. And Spotify earn musicians so little money, they appear to want every musician to wear rags, work up chimneys and snort gruel.

Computers are very clever, but they are also eye-wateringly dumb. I recently subscribed to Now TV, and now my internet is packed with adverts telling me to subscribe to Now TV. That's like going into a newsagent, popping a Twix on the payment counter, and the newsagent screaming at you "buy a Twix, buy a Twix". I'm buying one, for crap's sake, lay off me. Also could I get a packet of Rizla? Thanks.

This is a reminder that algorithms can only ever be algorithms. We need to rediscover personal recommendations: proper ones from humans. As shops reopen across the UK, there are insanely experienced booksellers and record shop assistants and handbag wasp experts just waiting to give you the benefit of their years of experience. Use them. Spotify has its plus sides, but it can't tell great music from a bucket of fluff.

Jun 16, 2020

Infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters: Electronic Sound issue 66 is out now

Electronic Sound issue 66 Fat Roland illustration

On the cover of the new Electronic Sound you'll find synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani, who is such an electronic music legend, when she once moved to New York, the only furniture she took was her Buchla modular kit.

Also inside this edition is my usual column. This month, my sluice of wet word waste recalls the time I had a jam session with some Christian friends. This really actually happened, although the details will be different* because I have the memory of a slightly neglected plank. Here are a few sentences:
"I Marshall Jeffersoned that synthesiser to pieces. As long as we weren’t in the key of C, my choppy rave chords soared above Anita’s meandering oboe and hairy William’s sixteen tambourines (he was surprisingly dextrous). Infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters: we were bound to be headlining the Hacienda within the week."
Once again, I illustrated my column, an excerpt of which you can see above. I've gone for a yellow and brown vibe this month. Last month it was purples and pinks. This all just doesn't happen by accident, you know. Apart from...
I also reviewed Shaw & Grossfeldt ("a mountainside of smoky chords"), Helena Hauff ("unrelenting"), Sonic Boom ("a disturbing flicker"), Koenig ("tin-can tomfoolery"), J Majik ("a warm hug") and Blibberty Jazzpump F'nang F'nang Splat ("this is Robson & Jerome, no I mean literally, this is Robson & Jerome"). I made that last one up, sorry.

If I tell you any more about issue 66 of Electronic Sound, I'm legally bound to charge you 50 pence, so get yourself a subscription, or pick up a copy in one of those new-fangled shops they're opening up these days.

* the true core of the story in my column: the church youth group. the Christian holiday, the jam session, me playing choppy chords, the talented pianist freezing up.

Jun 14, 2020

The quarantine raves: Top one, nice one, get Covid?

Ravers (MEN)

A bunch of people in Greater Manchester went raving last night

This would not normally be news because, as we all know, 100% of people in Manchester are raving 100% of the time.

However, these raves happened in the middle of the pandemic, and it's kinda not okay. A tonne of party-goers descended on two sites in Trafford and Oldham for 'quarantine raves'. Several videos on Snapchat caught lots of revellers half-heartedly swaying to fairly commercial dance music. 

In the aftermath, Warehouse Project founder Sacha Lord slammed them as "morons" and "selfish idiots", while local volunteers collected over 200 bin bags of rubbish from the mess they had left behind. He's right. Top one, nice one, get Covid? If you went to one of the raves last night, you're a wrong 'un.

I understand the need to be at events like this. Hold on. Let me clarify. I wouldn't be caught dead at crappy park raves where WKD-glugging drones cheer as the DJ drops Get Lucky. But I do get the need to go to places with speaker stacks banging out tunes; to feel the heat of the bodies, the music and the lukewarm sweat dripping off the ceiling. I miss clubbing.

But surely us ravers can keep our glow-sticks in our pants for a bit longer? The more these Superdry-wearing sub-Parklife plonkers go to illegal raves like this, inevitably spreading the virus because that's how viruses work, the longer the rest of us wait until we don our party pants. And the longer the club industry will take to recover.

It has also occurred to me that if Covid hangs around for a long time, we may never go raving again. We'll have to go to clubs in human-size hamster balls, zorbing our orbs against each other like a kinky lottery machine. It sounds weirdly appealing, but raising our hands in the air like we just don't care is going to be a logistical nightmare.

I can cope with people protesting in large numbers for #BlackLivesMatter, because that is about a threat that is every bit as immediate as this pesky virus. If you disagree with that sentence and you're white, you've just proved the need for #BlackLivesMatter. But a bunch of rave babies dancing to low-rent wedding reception dance music because they feel stronger than the virus? No thanks. 

It's like they listened to the chorus of Rozalla's Everybody's Free without paying attention to the verse: "We are a family that should stand together as one / Helping each other instead of just wasting time." Together is a metaphor: that means staying home, you clubbing Covidiots. Also, I bet that was the only track the DJs had: just Rozalla over and over again.

If you want to support Greater Manchester clubbing instead of frightening a bunch of hedgehogs in a field in the middle of the night, then support United We Stream.

Edit: Since posting this, the news story has advanced. In addition to the idiocy of a quarantine rave, there have been some pretty serious crimes at these events. It's pretty depressing reading.

Jun 12, 2020

Get ready for Fat Roland's top 20 magical dreams

The Reynolds Girls

Instead of raving all night, sometimes I like to go to bed. And when I go to bed, I like to fall asleep and dream.

Shakespeare said "to sleep, perchance to dream", and I think he was waffling about death, but whatever the ruffed berk was on about, he clearly found dreams fascinating. And so do I. Especially when the dream stays in my memory in the first moments of the day; a lingering afterglow of imagined nonsense.

If I find a dream particularly memorable, I tend to post about it on Twitter. So I did some homework. I trawled through my entire Twitter history to find all of my tweets about my dreams. 

So, a special treat for psychologists everywhere, and perhaps as a tribute to 808 State's excellent 1989 track Magical Dream, here is...

Fat Roland's top 20 magical dreams

A list of my dreams as posted on Twitter over the past 11 years, in no particular order. This is all genuine. Brace yourself. 

1. The record collection
Last night, I dreamt I was showing someone my record collection - but the only record I had was I'd Rather Jack by The Reynolds Girls (pictured above).

2. Fridge problems
Last night I dreamt Robert Plant sneaked into my fridge and did a poo in my Yopp.

3. On the bus
Dreamt I met Debbie McGee on the 142 bus. She was very nice despite being overburdened with shopping.

4. The classic album
Last night, I dreamt I had a listening party with all of my friends so we could reappraise the "game-changing Manic Street Preachers album with all the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs on".

5. The brush off
Last night, I dreamt that every time I used a broom, I chucked it away. I had a bin full of brooms.

6. Career choice
Last night, I dreamed I became a hairdresser by mistake.

7. At the club 
Last night I dreamt I was at a club night. Every so often, Grace Jones would patrol the room to check no-one was smoking. 

8. At the memorial
Last night's dream: I got asked by my local pub to say a few words at a George Formby memorial event. I said yeah fine, I know all about him, I'll not prepare, I'll just wing it. As I walk into the stage, I realise I know nothing about Formby: I was thinking of Bobby Ball.

9. Waking nightmare
Last night I had a nightmare in which I dreamt Mumford & Sons was a real thing and then I woke up and it was true.

10. The race
Dreamt I was racing spiders. (I won.)

11. Definitely my ego
Last night I dreamed I was giving motivational leadership speeches in a car wreckage yard whose electronics were powered by a Nook E-reader.

12. At the pub
Last night I dreamt I went to the pub for a meal. Covid made it way too stressful. Don't touch that, don't queue there, don't lick that, don't stick that in there. Also, @jpmdaly was having a pint with Lou Reed, which just made everything worse.

13. Phone levels
Last night I dreamed my phone battery was at 25% but when I woke up it was at 46% not 25%. 

14. In Edinburgh
Just awoken from a dream in which every Edinburgh pedestrian was dressed as an egg. Big oval costumes with leg holes, but no arm holes or eye holes. Chaos.

15. Someone else's record collection
Had a dream that I was DJing, but I forgot all my records. I had to use @fullofpenguins' vinyl instead but all he had was 30 copies of Female Of The Species by Space.

16. Possibly satire
All I dreamt about last night were zombie bankers molesting me with their elephant trunks.

17. On Christmas Eve
Was intending to be a good boy and go to midnight communion, but fell asleep and dreamt of breakcore instead.

18. A bit dark
Last night I dreamt horses were on fire. I asked an elderly couple if I could borrow their duvet cover to smother the flames. They refused.

19. The grime MC
Last night, I dreamt that Jme released a new single, but it was underneath a pavement and as a result a bunch of Dutch people lost an election inside an ice cream van.

20. All too real
Dreamt last night that my blog got deleted and that the entire world banking system collapsed causing poverty everywhere. My blog. My blog!

Jun 9, 2020

Listen to these June 2020 electronic music albums if you want to save your knees

luke vibert

Here are some albums out this month, June 2020, and let me warn you: if you don't give these a listen, I'm coming round there and painting sad faces on your knees, so next time you're out skateboarding in your Bart Simpson shorts, everyone will see you and feel depressed.

Let's start with a man who loves acid so much, his name would be an anagram of "I love acid" if he had different letters. Luke Vibert (pictured) has announced a trilogy, like Lord Of The Rings, The Matrix and the Police Academy films when there were only three of them.

The albums are intended to be a PTSD-style flashback to the golden years of electronic music. Last month, Luke Vibert Presents Amen Andrews took us into the old-school jungle, and next month's Rave Hop will be packed to the brim with breakbeat. June's offering is Modern Rave, which is centred around... *checks notes* ...rave. Obviously.

I mentioned jungle just then. This reminded me of a crazy Twitter moment a few months ago when I referred to an Orbital track as "lightly junglist". "That’s not jungle though," tweeted a random stranger. No, it's not jungle mate. It's "lightly junglist", in the same way a "lightly drizzled" cake doesn't mean the cake is drizzle.

This stranger insisted that instead of posting tracks that are lightly sprinkled with a jungle vibe, I should post actual jungle tracks, or as he put it, the "choonage to represent the scene and industry, otherwise it’s an insult in certain circles". He then called me a moron who was single-handedly bringing the music industry to its needs. Reader, I blocked him.

Let's have some drum 'n' bass, which is a bit like jungle but isn't jungle. I loved Goldie collaborator J Majik's last album Full Circle. It was his first album for 20 years and it was a cracker. Look out for his new album Always Be, which should serve as a great companion to Full Circle, like double-yolked eggs or Jedward brothers.

And then there's Trickfinger's She Smiles Because She Presses The Button, which is a new album of solo electronics from John Frusciante. John who? He's the bloke from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, statistically the band most listened to by white boys with dreadlocks. The 'Peppers are as dull as spending an afternoon watching cricket with a Tory, but Frusciante has IDM credentials, so it's worth a listen. Remember when he worked with Venetian Snares?

There's also Shaw & Grosfeldt's Klavier, which is Simian Mobile Disco's Jas Shaw faffing around with a sensor-fitted Disklavier piano. And there's a new album of bassy electronics from Budapest sound artist Gábor Lázár: Source is a follow-up to 2018’s excellent Unfold.

Finally, there's some proper industrial helt going on with Helena Hauff's Kern Vol.5, a various artists mix for Tresor’s Kern series, including some exclusively unreleased tracks. The whole thing is lightly junglist. I mean, it's not: that's an inaccurate description, but I just want to annoy the choonage moron randomer.

Jun 6, 2020

On my mind: The Guardian's 100 greatest UK No 1s

The Pet Shop Boys

The Guardian's 100 greatest UK No 1s had some pretty good selections. It's hard to go wrong when you're picking 100 highlights from fewer than 1,500 songs, most of which are hogwash. Take a random year as an example: 1999 number ones by Chef, The Offspring, Boyzone or the Mambo No 5 bloke were hardly going to trouble the list.

Pet Shop Boys' topped their poll, which is entirely the correct choice. Their take on Elvis's Always On My Mind has an incredible energy, like a firework exploding in the boot of a car – I've always considered this the best Christmas number one, so I'm happy to extend it to the best chart topper of all time. Sadly, the Guardian opted for West End Girls as the greatest number one; any fool knows that the other PSB number ones, Heart and It's A Sin, are better than 'Girls. Pfffrt. Just you wait till I get you home, The Guardian.

The Chemical Brothers were just inside their top 50, while the Prodigy soared into their top ten, troubling the likes of Michael Jackson and the Human League. Steve 'Silk' Hurley's Jack Your Body was also in the mix, with it being labelled as "the most minimal No 1 of all time". Black Box and Daft Punk were included, although the latter's only number one song is hardly their best.

Killer made it into their list, with the Guardian praising its perfect design, as did I just last week. Kraftwerk's The Model is also in there, with a welcome shout-out to its brilliant flip-side Computer Love. And while we're doing k-words, the KLF's 3am Eternal made it quite high up the list, proving the ancients of Mu-Mu still have some mojo. This made me sad that Last Train To Trancentral never got to number one. Still, all of these were great to see.

They chose Snap!'s Rhythm Is a Dancer, which I'm sure they were as serious as gout about, but I would have probably have gone for Snap!'s other number one, The Power. That track was so strange and discordant, confusing my head at the time before my heart fell in love with it. The Power knocked Beats International's Dub Be Good To Me off the top spot – another missed contender in this list.

They should have included Pump Up The Volume by MARRS, which incidentally stands for band members Martyn, Alex, Rudy, Russell and Steve. They're like ABBA but with less knitwear. The band didn't get on, and it was a miracle they ever released anything, never mind create a chart-topping acid house classic. And how on earth The Guardian missed The Shamen's Ebeneezer Goode, I have no idea.

There were some outsider choices I would have like to have seen, and would have no doubt made a top 200. For the 1990s, I love the indie spirit of White Town's pin-sharp Your Woman ("So much for all your highbrow Marxist ways, just use me up and then you walk away"), while I mourn the exclusion of Flat Beat by Mr Oizo, which was a blow to yellow puppets everywhere.

There are some 21st century outsiders I'd liked to have seen: Rihanna's Diamonds (they chose Umbrella); Duck Sauce's Barbra Streisand; David Guetta's epic Titanium; Tinie Tempah's Scunthorpe-namechecking Pass Out. Nothing much interesting to say about them – I just like the tunes, dammit.

Like I say, it's an easy list to generally get right, even for people like me who find it difficult to focus on anything before 1987. And not a single mention of Lou Bega's fifth Mambo, despite its remarkable lyric "It's all good, let me dump it, please set in the trumpet". Pardon?

Jun 3, 2020

Lapse dancing: the stories of Manchester clubbers

The Lapsed Clubber Audio Map logo and background collage

Maps are great. You can get big paper ones that are difficult to fold, and digital ones that ask you to rate places you've been nowhere near.

The Lapsed Clubber Audio Map is a crowd-sourced map that was launched a few years ago by the Manchester Digital Music Archive. The great thing about this map is it talks to you.

The Map contains audio and text memories of Greater Manchester ravers of their clubbing experiences between 1985 and 1995, easily covering the peak years of rave culture.

I had a pleasant trawl through some of the stories uploaded to the site. Here are some highlights from various clubbers in various venues, appended with my comments because I'm a blabbermouth who wants to make everything about me.
808 State at G-Mex: "It was a hell of a gig for us coming from out of town, us small country people... we heard all the same music that we listened to in the clubs of the back and beyond, but on a massive sound system and with a massive crowd of people."
Growing up in Manchester, it's easy to forget that the city was a bit of a Mecca for people out in the sticks. I went to the Hacienda because it was just down the road – albeit quite a long road. My earliest gig memories were at G-Mex: Radiohead supporting James comes to mind, mainly because it makes me sound cool. I probably went to awful gigs there too.
Tangled at the Phoenix: "It was small and it was dingy and there was sweat dropping off the ceilings... Everyone would end up at the garage at East Lancs getting Ribena, the king of all drinks. That was pretty much my life for about five or six years."
The Phoenix was very sweaty. We're talking Piers Morgan's armpits when he has the guilty sweats, which is all the time. I did my first ever DJing gig in their bar – I was terrible – and I remember grubby acid techno bashes in the club. I worked near the Phoenix and watched its building get knocked down. It's shops now. On warm summer nights, you can still smell the perspiration.
Daft Punk’s first UK live gig: "Daft Punk played live for the first ever time in Britain and played that song [Da Funk]... Still to this day, the B-side Rollin’ & Scratchin’ is the only song I can never listen to without vomiting."
When I saw Daft Punk DJ at Sankeys Soap back in the 1990s, a French stranger tried to roll my torso like plasticine while saying "wide boy, wide boy". I have nothing more to say about Daft Punk.
Devils Dancing: "I had this strange-shaped pill I bought, which actually turned out to be ketamine... These lights were making red shadows and all I could see were these weird devils dancing, in this weird, satanic fire dance, and my friend took me home."
I've always stayed away from the more hallucinogenic end of the drugs spectrum. My imagination has always been vivid and strange: my silly creative activities are my way of pressure-cooking that intensity out of my brain. If I didn't have that kind of release, I really would be seeing red devils all over my walls. For now, I just have slightly muted woodchip.
Dancing at Sankeys Soap: "I felt this body come up behind me and start dancing in the same rhythm as me. It got a little bit too close and so I turned round, not forgetting that I’m off me chops, and it was Zammo from Grange Hill."
So many good nights at Sankeys. And a bad trip that nearly destroyed me. Easy come, easy go. When I took on the name 'Fat Roland', I didn't even think of the Grange Hill connection. I should have gone for something different. Wide Boy, maybe. The forward Frenchman was right. Dammit.

I've plenty of memories of clubbing back in the day, so I really should upload something to the Lapsed Clubber Audio Map. Have a browse, why dontcha.

May 31, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Grand Final – Tricky versus Bjork

I hope you've been following the battle to find the best electronic music album of 1995. It has, frankly, taken ages: this grand final has been a long time coming.

We started this contest with 16 albums by the greatest names in bleepy beats, including Aphex Twin, the Chemical Brothers, Leftfield and Autechre. Bout by bout, an album has been eliminated, often for incredibly spurious reasons. Why spurious? Because (a) the judging criteria has included egg songs, elephant birthday presents and the size of caravans, and (b) the only judge has been me, and I'm often sozzled on the contents of my cleaning cupboard. Who knew Toilet Duck tasted of bubble gum?

Disclaimer: Toilet Duck does not taste of bubble gum. Do not drink cleaning products. I am building a sophisticated comedy character through exaggerated fictional activities, so you should ignore that comment. As you should, for that matter, everything I ever write.

For the grand final, I'm going to use a random number generator to arbitrarily select some previously-used judging criteria. This is in the sincere hope that the eggs one will come up again: I miss that one. Fingers crossed.

Let's welcome our contestants for the grand final. They are:
Maxinquaye by Tricky
Post by Bjork
The New York Times declared Maxinquaye as the "first album-length masterpiece" of trip hop. Spin magazine praised the way Post broke the "flow of whiny rockers", while another publication said it set the scene for the incoming cyber age. Two massively important albums. Only one can win.

Let's boogie.

Criteria one: which album feels too big to fit into a caravan?

Nice to see the caravan criteria back, last seen in the quarter-finals. The sheer scope of Post would overwhelm a humble caravan door, thereby impeding entry. And if you told Bjork to get into a caravan, she'd slap you across the schnozzle. But the more I read about Tricky's chaotic recording sessions, the more cluttered Maxinquaye sounds. Fitting his album into a space that small would be like trying to squeeze all your furniture into next door's bird nest. Don't let Tricky anywhere near my caravan: at the very least, he's going to snap a hinge.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Criteria two: which album cover would make the best face tattoo for Fat Roland?

I feel quite sad about face tattoos. Post Malone's "always tired" tattoo makes him look, well, always tired. A face tattoo on my podgy boatrace would make me look like a confused balloon or a sofa infested by spiders. Despite my previous fondness for Tricky's red, I really should go for Bjork. I'd look great. I'd look like Bjork. The actual Bjork. "Mummy, why has that man got a Bjork CD drawn on his face?" "Ignore the strange man, Jemima, he's one of those bloggers." Yeah. It would be brilliant.
Winner: Post

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

Neither contestant fared well in this judging criteria back in round one, with me finding BT and Autechre more Christ-friendly than Tricky or Bjork. So which of these two heathen long-players deserves the attention of the saviour of the world? Maxinquaye feels more like John the Baptist, prophesying the future in Hell Is Round The Corner. With her evocations of nature and mystery, perhaps Post is more druidic than I'd given it credit for. It's easy to see which one Jesus would plump for. 
Winner: Maxinquaye

Criteria four: which album is best stored in a fridge?

In the semi-finals, I was unconvinced about putting Tricky's album in the fridge. There was too much contaminated filth in his dirty beats. And although there's something delicate about Bjork's music, like ice crystals, Post was Bjork in a boisterous mood: "I won't sympathise anymore," she warns. Should someone that feisty be stored near eggs? I'm beginning to think it's Tricky we should keep in the fridge, at least to stop his smoky beats from going off.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Criteria five: which album has more bangin' choons?

Cast your mind back to May 2007. The charts were full of Nelly Furtado and Shakira. On the 1st of that month, I published this blog post declaring that Bjork had released a "choon". It was poorly written and didn't really explain what the tune in question was, but it pointed towards Bjork's propensity for bold melodic motifs, clearly evident on Post. Have I ever written a blog post about Tricky releasing a "choon"? No, I haven't. Sorry, Tricky.
Winner: Post

Criteria six: which album has the sexiest track titles?

I unfairly compared Maxinquaye to 50 Shades Of Grey in the quarter-finals, while I referred to Bjork's track listing as "proper phwoar". And while Tricky's Overcome and Suffocated Love suggest a certain level of bedroom tomfoolery, I really can't deny the sexiness of Bjork's cheeky Enjoy and You've Been Flirting Again. "This is sex without touching," she says. She's talking about her track titles. I bet her record company was very confused.
Winner: Post

Criteria seven: an honest appraisal of both albums
I would usually cram this final judging criteria (criterium?) with a bunch of random gubbins from Wikipedia. But as a respectful sign-off to this blog series, I thought it would be nice to give some serious consideration to these grand finalists. The 1990s would have felt different if either work had been absent. Tricky consolidated the blunted electronics of the Portishead aesthetic, although you could argue that trip hop in general has not aged well. Bjork made herself a star with her album, which was show-tuned and filmic, although you could argue her most acclaimed work lay elsewhere. Only one of these albums, however, burned like a magnesium fire; a moment of production madness that summed up the hybrid nature of 1995's music scene like nothing else. And no, it's not easy to sing along about eggs to...
...Winner: Maxinquaye

The best electronic music album of 1995 is: Maxinquaye by Tricky. I reckon six of the 16 albums featured in this contest were serious considerations for first place, but it's former Massive Attacker and trip hop pioneer Adrian 'Tricky' Thaws that takes the title. A thoroughly worthy winner for a genre-crunching, beat-breaking, lyric-smudging work of paranoid perfection. "Don't wanna be on top of your list," says Martina Topley-Bird on Tricky's Overcome. Sorry, Martina. Best of 1995 it is.

May 30, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Semi Final 2 – Bjork versus Leftfield

Bjork's Post and Leftfield's Leftism

It's the second semi-final in the ongoing contest to decide the best electronic music album of 1995. I'm too excited to look. Someone blindfold me. Poke out my eyes with spoons. Sellotape me into a box and mail me to Peru. It's all too tense to bear.

The winner of this bout will go through to the grand final to meet yesterday's winner. We will then know the best 1995 album and there shall be no more debate. See the series so far here, and see the 16 albums I began with here.

As with the last semi-final, I am judging these albums with some slightly unconventional criteria. Hoping to win my semi-thumbs-up in this most semi-gladiatorial of battles is:
Post by Bjork
Leftism by Leftfield
The hyper-balladeer meets the space shantiers. Jeeves, can you please lube up the contestants and place them into the firing cannon of destiny. One shall win. One shall be spurned forever. The semi-final is go.

Criteria one: which album is best stored in a fridge?

The crystalline atmosphere of Post seems ideal for cold storage, which is a good job because Leftfield lose this on two counts. Firstly, they've got a song called Melt which, let me remind you, is extremely triggering for fridge systems. And they've got some buttery punk loudmouth singing "burn, Hollywood, burn". Only Bjork can deliver safe storage for my dairy goodness.
Winner: Post

Criteria two: which album is the best soundtrack for the lockdown?

The violently happy Bjork would be an ideal companion for being stuck at home. You can both just sit there, "listening to the irritating noises of dinosaurs and people dabbling outside." That would have been the best choice, if it weren't for the futurist defiance of Leftism. "I've got to stand and fight," they say. "Will it ever be the same again?" they ask. The bold sounds of Leftfield are what we needed to narrate a lockdown.
Winner: Leftism

Criteria three: which album would make the best birthday present for an elephant?

I'm not sure the zoos are open as I write this, so I had to make do with throwing CDs at a horse. The rider was furious, and I waffled something about people in Cheltenham breaking distancing rules, which didn't help. But then I played Bjork's It's Oh So Quiet and the shushing really helped calm the rider down. The horse kicked me in the face, but that's beside the point. I'm sure it could please an elephant.
Winner: Post

Criteria four: which album's track titles are a secret code to unlock the secrets of the Illuminati?

To be honest with you, I wasn't really thinking when I included this judging criteria. I'm not into any of that illuminati nonsense, and I don't think Prince William looks much like a lizard. Leftfield have the chanting lyrics of Afro Left and the dubby spaciness of Storm 3000, while Bjork's track title Army Of Me sounds like a the name of a one-man illuminati conspiracy blog. She wins on the track title technicality. But truly, I'm out of my depth here. If we really are run by a cabal of space blobs, I'd be the last one to notice.
Winner: Post

Criteria five: which album can you dance the Macarena to?

The only song acceptable for dancing the Macarena to is the song Macarena. However, if you are going to flout Macarena rules, then you should probably bust your moves to Leftism. Nothing against Post: the carnival vibes of I Miss You are perfect for repetitive choreography. It's just that Leftfield's beats hit harder and for longer: we're talking an extended, dark, after-hours Macarena. A sexy Macarena
Winner: Leftism

Criteria six: Which album cover would make the best face tattoo for Fat Roland?

I've always wanted to improve my face: I look like a spud that's been dumped in a river bed. If I had the Bjork album tattooed on my face, then I'd look as good as Bjork, which is very good indeed. If I had the Leftfield album inked on my face, I'd look like some kind of jaw-eyed cyclops. "I'm a space blob," I'd say as people ran screaming. Horses would throw CDs at me. This sounds amazing: Leftfield's all-seeing eye wins.
Winner: Leftism

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random
In the worst decision since, er, most decisions in the UK for the past ten years, this section is curated using the random page button on Wikipedia. Here goes. Which album looks brownest? Leftfield, despite Bjork being dressed as an envelope. Which album needs a good wash? Bjork because she sings about standing by the ocean. Which album is a reptile? Despite Leftfield's illuminati leanings, it has to be Bjork for the only reason that Isobel is a great name for a turtle. Which album should have been covered by Jerry Garcia? Jerry lived just long enough to see the release of both featured albums – he would have chosen Bjork. Which album should be played in Liw Castle in Poland? Playing Leftfield in a flipping castle? No brainer. Which album could soundtrack a 1930 German thriller? The sheer drama and intensity of Leftfield would be ideal for this. Which album would be the subject of a satirical story by The Onion? For her headline-grabbing antics and "oh so quiet" dramatics, Bjork.
Winner: Post

Overall winner and going through to the grand final: The gap between the contestants was so narrow, you couldn't have fit Bjork dressed as an envelope between them. The winner is Post by Bjork: her amazing Nellee Hooper-produced album elbows its way into the final. I'm gutted to lose Leftfield: they lost the Mercury Music Prize, and now they lost this.

16 albums began this contest (see the original 16 here) and only two remain. The best electronic music album of 1995 is about to be decided. Don't go turning that blog dial: there's an epic final battle coming our way.

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

May 29, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Semi Final 1 – Goldie versus Tricky

Goldie Timeless and Tricky Maxinquaye

In a thousand years from now, when the apocalyptic nuclear dust settles, the few remaining mutated humans will whisper in hushed tones: "do you remember when Fat Roland did his Best Albums of 1995 thing?" And then some more of the remaining mutated humans will reply with their elbows, "Who?"

It's time for the semi-final of my competition to crown the best electronic music album of 1995. If you're not up to date with this, see the series so far here, and see the 16 albums I started off with here. The winner of today's face-off wins a place in the grand final. 

I've refreshed the judging criteria and, as ever, there is only one person on the judging panel: me. Facing my wrath for this semi-final is:
Timeless by Goldie
Maxinquaye by Tricky
The Walsall metalhead meets the Bristolian wild buncher. Let's fire up this sausage and see if it bursts.

Criteria one: which album is best stored in a fridge?

I feel that if I left Maxinquaye within a mile of my fridge, my butter would be mouldy within minutes. Tricky's got a serious case of cross-contamination in those filthy beats. In contrast, I'd happily nestle Timeless against my yoghurts and tripe. It's a clean album and works best at cool temperatures. I'm not having Goldie in my freezer, though: he'd swipe my Ben & Jerry's. Ice cream's the only thing he can eat, what with those gold teeth.
Winner: Timeless

Criteria two: which album is the best soundtrack for the lockdown?

Both albums trade on a certain level of paranoia, with Goldie's inner city pressure and Tricky's cack load of drugs. Neither can relieve the lockdown but they certainly could reflect it. It's the Tricky album that best sums up the cataclysm that is the Covid crisis in lyrics like "hell is round the corner where I shelter" and "how can I be sure in a world that's constantly changing?" and "how do I hide my own view in Zoom?"
Winner: Maxinquaye 

Criteria three: which album would make the best birthday present for an elephant?

This one is easy. Maxinquaye is custom-made for wrinkly elephants as they trample across muddy plains. Their flat feet drum in trip hop patterns. Listen to them trumpet, the pure fat sound of a– oh hold on, someone's at the door. Back in a mo. ... Ah, sorry, that was Elmer the Elephant and he says Timeless is, and I quote, "da bomb when I'm toking on a patchwork blunt." This one has to go to Goldie. Don't blame me; blame the fictional elephant who coincidentally turned up at my door just now.
Winner: Timeless

Criteria four: which album's track titles are a secret code to unlock the secrets of the Illuminati?

Glad you asked. To detect illuminati coding, we're looking for three things in the titles: lizards, triangles and anything that rhymes with 'David Icke'. Tricky's Abbaon Fat Tracks has four letter As: are these triangles? Would lizards live in Goldie's Sea of Tears, or am I thinking of turtles? I had another listen to Tricky's disturbed whispering throughout his album, and he's definitely unlocking some Dan Brown kinda shizzle right there. He's like a whispering Icke.
Winner: Maxinquaye 

Criteria five: which album can you dance the Macarena to?

For those living in the future, I'm writing this in times of social distancing, so I'm unable to carry out a controlled Macarena experiment on the 143 bus through Withington. However, Goldie's tricksy tripping rhythms are ideal for Los del Río's popular Spanish dance. I can picture it now: ardent arm thrusts, bombastic belly wiggles, underpants flying everywhere, the harrangued bus driver trying to catch me with an oversize fishing net. A mí me gusta!
Winner: Timeless

Criteria six: Which album cover would make the best face tattoo for Fat Roland?

Not having had a tattoo, I'm never quite sure: do you have to draw in the white bits? Thing is, the Goldie album already has a face on, so it should be ideal, but it would end up as a tiny face on the end of my nose and everyone would get confused. I'm often huffed and puffed and red in the cheeks, so if you tatted Maxinquaye across my fizzog, hardly anybody would notice – I'm going for that one.
Winner: Maxinquaye 

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random
For no reason other than I hate you, this final section will be decided using Wikipedia's random page function. Which album would make the best portable flamethrower? Maxinquaye because, as we've established, Timeless is too chilled.  Which album would make a great hockey puck? Maxinquaye because it would be made of Black Steel. Which album has the best nom de plume? Easy: the 'Maxin' bit of Maxinquaye is named after Tricky's mother Maxine. Which album makes the best sewage pump? Timeless because of the (inner city) pressure. Which album would be enjoyed by a southern carpenter bee? Their faces look exactly like the Metalheadz logo, so Timeless. Which album would win the 1999 Qatar Open singles competition? Maxinquaye because he'd be on the (massive) attack.
Winner: Maxinquaye 

Overall winner and going through to the grand final: After a nail-clenching buttock-biting semi-final, Tricky storms it at the end to win a place in the grand final. The album stormed end-of-year polls after its release, so it's very worthy. Alas, for Goldie, the time ran out. Time. Timeless. Time ran out. Geddit?! No. Dammit.

The second semi-final will hit the internet faster than a speeding patchwork elephant. Watch this space. In the meantime, see all the original riders and runners here.

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

May 28, 2020

Decapitated Seals and Adamski's skinned llama: remembering Killer

Clip from the video for Seal's Killer

In May 1990, Adamski's Killer knocked Madonna's Vogue off the top spot of the UK singles chart. Madge was too concerned with Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth, and didn't see the keyboard wizard sneaking up from behind.

Killer wasn't just a breath of fresh air: it was a fully-bellowed gust up the jacksie. It was clearly informed by Adamski's rave DJing, but that bass drum / bassline combo was something new. The Italo-house piano, the 909, the bit where Seal's voice goes "be-ee-e-ee". So good.

The track was recorded amid noisy protests over the Tories' anti-rave legislation. Seal was a penniless singer, while Adamski was relying on the government's Enterprise Allowance Scheme (as was I around that time). Lots of dance music felt politically charged. Killer seemed to suck in all that energy, then blast it out in a fully clubby and commercial way.

Watch the original verson with decapitated Seals, young Adamski wearing a skinned llama, and. um. some random science lab tech things.

The track was a huge smash. Only four artists outsold Adamski that year: the Righteous Brothers, Sinéad O'Connor, Elton John and king of all rappers Vanilla Ice. The single hit number one in Zimbabwe and Belgium and — wait for it — hit number 112 in Australia. 

George Michael's bland version brought the track back to UK number one in 1993. I was horrified. It sounded like yer dad discovering your rave records and putting on a live entertainment night with a buffet. Still, I was obsessed with Killer and bought every subsequent cover / remix on vinyl. Even the George Michael one. Sigh.

Here's Seal and Adamski appearing on Top of the Pops on Christmas Day 1990. No jeans and a t-shirt with these two. Just look at them. Adamski looks like a little peroxide tearaway and Seal looks like a gymnast biker. Both are in full live flow, with Adamski taking bits of his other tracks and throwing it all into the mix. Brilliant.

May 27, 2020

Essential Hardcore got me started, ahem, on rave music

Essential Hardcore CD cover

When I was a young droog, much of my musical education came from chart rave, and from compilation CDs.

One compilation I had forgotten about, until I tripped over the above image online, is 1991's Essential Hardcore

It's image was not original. It had a cherub on the cover, reminding us of New Order's Technique, and the acts listed on the front, a style later copied by terribly-named series The Best... Album in the World...Ever!

What was notable was its track curation. The album never leaves strays too far from the environs of commercial dance music, but there's definitely a change in flavour as it progresses.

At the start are charty bangers like Rozalla's saxophone-fuelled Faith (In The Power Of Love) and 2 Unlimited's ubiquitous Get Ready For This. Not great. The kind of music that clueless people mention when you say you're into techno.

Then we get into classic rave. The likes of Bizarre Inc's Playing With Knives, Altern 8's Activ 8 and Slipmatt & Lime (SL2)'s DJs Take Control, with the London breakbeat's duo's biggest hit On A Ragga Tip still a few months off.

By the end of the album, we're into the slightly harder stuff. Lords of Acid's moody and stomping Take Control. Joey Beltram's The Omen (Psycho Mix). And Dutch duo L.A. Style with their jackhammering James Brown Is Dead. It's a great introduction to rave. 

And the The Shamen's wibbly Possible Worlds was a great way to end the album. Most people only knew them for Move Any Mountain, and this was a gateway drug to their more trippy side.

Please let's not talk about the inclusion of Simply Red's Something Got Me Started, though. Crumbs.

This was actually the fourth in the Hardcore series, previous iterations being Hardcore Uproar, Hardcore Dancefloor and Hardcore Ecstasy. All of them showed the dark and light side of charty dance music. The first one included Betty Boo, and Together's ravetastic top 20 single Hardcore Uproar, from which the series no doubt got its name.

I'm glad I rediscovered this again. Back in the olden days, it was useful to have compilations like this – Essential Hardcore and its sister albums played a key part in young me navigating my music taste. Hear a patchy stream of the album tracks over on YouTube.

May 26, 2020

20 great electronic music albums from 2010

A friend on Twitter was asking for recommendations of 2010 electronic music albums.

I don't mean 2,010 electronic music albums. That would be a big ask of anyone, like requesting someone list their top thousand favourite turnips then staring at them while tapping a notepad until they finished. No, that wouldn't be a nice thing to ask.

I mean electronic music albums from the year 2010. The year of Bad Romance and CeeLo Green's sweary break-up song and, er, Susan Boyle's Christmas album. The year, as it happened, of great electronic music.

And so, here it is. My list of recommendations. And because I'm a good boy, I took two tracks off each album and made this Spotify playlist.

There are notable omissions from my best-of-2010 blog posts. That's because tastes change, and a Fat Roland has a right to change his mind if a Fat Roland wants too. I think I now have better taste in music. I also, incidentally, have a better taste in socks, outdoor coats and egg recipes.

List ahoy!

20 great electronic music albums from 2010 (selected tracks playlist here)
Actress – Splazsh
Autechre – Oversteps
Brian Eno – Small Craft on a Milk Sea
Caribou – Swim 
Chemical Brothers – Further
Daft Punk – Tron Legacy
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Four Tet – There Is Love In You 
Hot Chip – One Life Stand
LCD Soundsystem –  This Is Happening
Lone – Emerald Fantasy Tracks
Lonelady – Nerve Up 
Lorn – Nothing Else
Luke Abbott – Holkham Drones 
Magnetic Man – Magnetic Man
Massive Attack – Heligoland
Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise
Robyn – Body Talk
Shobaleader One – d'Demonstrator
Underworld – Barking 

May 11, 2020

Best electronic albums of 1995: the semi-final showdown

Timeless, Maxinquaye, Post and Leftism

The battle to find the best electronic music album of 1995 is about to reach a spluttering climax. It's time for the semi-finals.

Sixteen albums went into this competition, facing up against each other in a series of tense one-on-one knock-outs. They faced hash judgement from a panel of judges that consisted of, er, just me. Only four albums remain. They are:

Timeless by Goldie
Maxinquaye by Tricky
Post by Bjork
Leftism by Leftfield

That's right. There are only four of them. The same number as the Beatles or Abba or The Proclaimers looking into a mirror.

The following artists didn't make it to this semi-final: Aphex Twin, Moby, the Chemical Brothers, Higher Intelligence Agency, BT, Carl Craig, Global Communication, Sabres of Paradise, Nightmares on Wax, the Black Dog, David Holmes, Autechre and your gran playing the spoons (disqualified before the competition began).

Moby got knocked out of the competition because of confusing signals from Eamonn Holmes. The Black Dog fell by the wayside because I compared them to a Viennese Whirl. And most controversially, the Chemical Brothers lost out in the first round because I disliked their attitude towards eggs.

This has not been a normal competition.

In the forthcoming semi-final showdown, Goldie's drum & bass classic will grind up against Tricky's towering trip hop debut, while Bjork's oh-so-massive masterpiece will grapple with Leftfield's legendary LP. Only two albums will make it through to the grand final to decide the best electronic album of 1995.

And yes, my judging criteria will no doubt get crazier. Why make things simple, huh.

The very next blog post will be the first semi-final between Golden Balls and the Trickster, er, I mean, Goldie and Tricky. Watch this site for a battle so epic, Lorraine Kelly will do an especially vigorous "och, noooo". In the meantime, catch up on the competition so far to find the best electronic music album of 1995.

May 3, 2020

I recommend three, oh, three great acid tracks

For a couple of days last week, I took over @303OClock, a Twitter account dedicated to posting acid tracks twice a day at 3:03 O'Clock.

I thought I would record my takeover here, because Twitter is ephemeral like mist or memory or biscuits, while a blog post is forever, like Jesus or shame. 

The brief was my favourite acid tracks from 2010–2019, and although I don't think my choices were especially original, I was pretty happy with my selections.
Recent takeover people have included Perc Trax, DJ Food, EOD and Ghostly International. So no pressure then.
Hardfloor's Good Luck Scharm isn't easy to come by, and I was pretty dismayed at the booby nonsense in the homemade video. Still, I chose this track because there's nothing more cobweb-clearing than Hardfloor in full tweak. It's so nice the boys have kept going: in lockdown times, I have to work on my motivation, and this is exactly the energy I need.
I was disappointed not to be seeing Daniel Avery at this year's Blue Dot festival, a wonderful shindig whose 2020 event fell foul of the coronavirus crisis. I chose Drone Logic not just for the Chemical Brothers-style scuzziness, but for the sheer joy you can get from a very basic acid melody. In the words of Robert Leiner, it's a kind of magic.
And finally, Ceephax Acid Crew's Legend of Phaxalot. I could have chosen any number of his works, especially from his brilliant 2020 album Camelot Arcade.  This was my comfort-listen choice: I can't imagine life without Ceephax.

I've banged on about my love of acid before, including hearing it on odd-shaped speakers, how I would make acid house parties compulsory, and, er, how acid house is for losers. Um...

Do give @303OClock a follow for a twice-daily dollop of acid. It's not only an antidote to all major diseases, it also makes you better looking and will instantly make you a millionaire. Citation needed. 

Apr 30, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Quarter Final 4 – Carl Craig versus Leftfield

Carl Craig and Leftfield albums

What is the best electronic music album of 1995 (see the series so far here)? You no doubt have an opinion, especially if you check out the 16 albums that started this competition off. But opinions are like holiday homes on the Costa Daurada: everyone's got one. The only opinion that matters in this ongoing competition is mine. And if that sounds egotistical, then, er, sorry about that. Yeesh. I'm a real douche.

This is the last quarter final before we move into the semi finals. The stakes are high. Today's bout is between:
Landcruising by Carl Craig
Leftism by Leftfield
Carl Craig and Leftfield both began their careers in 1989, and both went on to shape electronic music. A sped-up spin of Craig's Bug In The Bassbin supposedly lay the groundwork for drum 'n' bass, while the 'field are credited as starting the genre of progressive house. It will be a shame to lose either of them. Brace yourself.

Criteria one: which album feels too big to fit into a caravan?

Carl Craig pays tribute to his motor city hometown, evoking sunny drives with the window wound down. Following that logic, it would be pretty difficult to fit a road inside a caravan. On the other hand, Leftfield's space shanties evoke an entire universe of texture and colour. Their sound system was so incendiary, it once stripped the plaster off the roof of a venue. Fitting Landcruising into a caravan might be like trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle, but getting Leftism into that glorified shed would be like shoving a whole flipping solar system into the atoms of the needle itself.
Winner: Leftism

Criteria two: which album has the best individual noise?

Carl Craig's got some great vroom vroom car sounds. I would have preferred choo choo sounds, but sometimes you've just got to take what you're given. Leftfield have barely any transport sounds: not even a tractor. That said, they've got tonnes of strange and wonderful noises: bleepy radar bits on Original; funny bubbly bits on Melt; an electronic wobble board bit on Release The Pressure; and a bit where a guy goes waaaah like he's doing a mad skateboard trick which I suppose technically is a form of transport.
Winner: Leftism

Criteria three: which album makes your record collection look coolest?

I remember Leftism coming out so clearly. It was beautiful chunk of vinyl, and looked superb on my coffee table next to my nose flute. "Look at this lovely album," I would tell visitors. "Is that a nose flute?" they would enquire. "Stop looking at the nose flute," I would scream. I didn't get many visitors. Leftfield are cool, but Landcruising looks way cooler. It's dark and mysterious, and the clash of the car emblem and the dot matrix text only raises questions. You'd not keep it on a coffee table: maybe that's why it's cooler.
Winner: Landcrusing

Criteria four: which album would you play to ward off a tiger?

A walkover for Leftfield. They've got John Lydon on their side, threatening to open things up and burn Hollywood to the ground. He's the original Tiger King. If Johnny Rotten was cornered by a snarling tiger, he'd smear it in butter, which tigers famously hate. Carl Craig not only fails to repel tigers, he's a positive tiger magnet. Want proof? He's from Detroit and their baseball team is called the Detroit Tigers: that's how bad he is at warding them off. Useless.
Winner: Leftiism

Criteria five: which album has the sexiest track titles?

Carl Craig's track titles are a bit dry. Home Entertainment, Technology, Mind Of A Machine. I'd imagine a date with this album would result in an early night: me getting into bed on my own while Landcruising fixes the VHS player. Leftism fares a little better: the track titles Open Up, Melt and Release The Pressure could all be mistaken for b-sides to Madonna's Justify My Love. Even then, I'm not terribly excited, even if the Leftfield title Inspection (Check One) is a euphemism lifted straight out of a Carry On film. Oo-er missus.
Winner: Leftism

Criteria six: Which album would sound best played on the panpipes?

The staccato synth stabs of They Were rolled off my panpipes like lemmings off a cliff, and the wandering lackadaisical melody of One Day Soon floated seamlessly into the air like, er, lemmings floating up a cliff. A good result for Carl Craig. And while the opening siren call of Leftfield's Melt was easy to follow, the panpipes sounded naff against their speaker-rattling production. A win for the lemmings, Er, I mean... a win for Carl Craig. Just to clarify, Carl Craig is not a lemming. If anything, he looks like a handsome baby seal.
Winner: Leftism

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

Because I'm reckless and want to watch the world burn, this final criteria is generated using Wikipedia's random page function. Which album could scale an Austrian mountain range? Carl Craig because he's land cruising. Which album has fourfold rotational symmetry? Leftism thought their album didn't quite hang together at first, so Carl Craig must be more symmetrical. Which album would win a TV talent show? Leftfield because John Lydon would show off to the judges. Which of the two albums would make the best Mongolian poet? Leftfield's 21st Century Poem may ignore thousands of years of pre-2000 Mongolian history, but at least they have a poem. Which album would make the best Christmas tree to create a home for the cartoon chipmunks Chip n' Dale? Carl Craig and I'm not explaining why.
Winner: Landcruising

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: A landsliding win for Leftfield, as they scoop five of the seven sets of judging criteria. Looks like they're the one to beat as they move to next week's semi final. In 2005, Carl Craig released a reedited version of Landcruising called The Album Formerly Known As..., updating some of the sounds, Maybe he was anticipating this very competition. Too little too late, Carl. Too little, too late.

Next week, I launch the semi finals of this stupid contest to find the best electronic music album of 1995. Stay tuned. See all the original riders and runners here.

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