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.

Apr 29, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Quarter Final 3 – Bjork versus Aphex Twin

Bjork and Aphex Twin albums

It's time for another quarter final in the competition 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. You may well have been in the middle of getting groceries for your grandma, but that doesn't matter right now: dump those shopping bags in the river, take my hand, and let's skip off into the sunset singing "1995! We feel so alive!"

Today, I pair up two more albums that survived the first round. Only one will make it through to the semi-finals as they face my very strict and, er, sensible judging criteria. Today's contest is between:
Post by Bjork
...I Care Because You Do by Aphex Twin
Two solo acts who have carved a singularly individual musical path. Two albums that cemented their respective reputations. Two album covers that have their face staring straight into camera. What are they thinking? How do they feel about this contest? Are they wearing anything below the waist? Let battle commence.

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

There's a clear size difference here. Aphex Twin's third album feels insular, as if we're listening to the reverberations of subterranean pipes. In contrast, Bjork's vision feels open and free: rumour has it, she sung one of these songs to the sea and another one inside a Bahamian cave. Okay, caves are quite insular, but the whole landscape of Post feels bigger. Therefore, for obvious reasons, you ain't getting that album inside that dang caravan no matter how much your Uncle Malcolm brags about his spatial awareness.
Winner: Post

Criteria two: which album has the best individual noise?

Both albums are full of great noises. There's a particularly aggressive fart about four minutes into Aphex Twin's The Waxen Pith, and although the ear-piercing feedback on Ventolin is difficult to take, his rusty snare on Start As You Mean To Go On is a real treat. Bjork's album is an aural rollercoaster, and I especially love the plaintive squeals in the beatless first half of Hyperballad. The problem is, no matter how much Bjork tries, the annoying shushing on It's Oh So Quiet undoes all of her noisy efforts.
Winner: ...I Care Because You Do

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

Both albums make your record collection look cool, especially among all your Nolan Sisters twelve-inches and Keane picture discs. Do those things even exist? Aphex Twin has to win this one, because you can dig out this album at a party and sellotape it to your face to make your friends laugh. "Oh look, you're being Aphex Twin!" they all chortle as they swig the Blue WKD laced with bleach. "Oh look, Aphex Twin has poisoned us!" they gasp as your evil Aphex face smiles back coldly.
Winner: ...I Care Because You Do

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

The tarnished techno rhythms of ...I Care Because You Do are enough to scare off any big cat. Leopards are particularly wary of MIDI-enabled synthesisers. Meanwhile, Post saw Bjork embracing a bigger sound, giving her only top ten hits of her career. She even became a whole army ("If you complain once more, you'll meet an army of me"). She may have teamed up with Graham Massey and Tricky (see Tricky's quarter final here), but Army of Bjork needs no help: that poor tiger is history.
Winner: Post

Criteria five: which album has the sexiest track titles?

Excuse me while I don my polka dot negligee so I can judge this section properly. Bjork's track titles are proper phwoar. You've Been Flirting Again. Cover Me. I Miss You. Enjoy. I bet Aphex Twin is the sexiest, though. Let's have a look at his track titles. Oh. Er. Wax The Nip. That's about it for sexiness, and I'm not sure nipple waxing is sexy. We're talking the actual nipple rather than any hair growth around it, right? It's going to chafe. I feel very un-phwoar. I'm changing back into my boiler suit. 
Winner: Post

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

I'm sorry, I mistook the question. I thought you said bagpipes. I've been blowing into the business end of this sheep for no reason (I couldn't find actual bagpipes). The farmer's going to be furious, especially after last week with the cow and the homemade trebuchet. Look, I haven't got time to judge this criteria properly. I'm pretty sure you could mix some panpipes into Aphex's twisted analogue tapestries, so let's call it a win for him. Today I learned that sheep don't go "toot". Who knew?!
Winner: ...I Care Because You Do

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

This final section is subject to Wikipedia's random page function. Here goes. Which album will kill you? Bjork, especially if you're a photographer (special topical joke, I thank you). Which album would win at the 1948 Summer Olympics? Aphex Twin because his body is (acrid avid jam) shredded. Which album is the most Russian? Aphex has a Siberian coldness, and his track titles certainly look Google-translated from Russian. Which album is best for women's empowerment? Bit of an open goal, this one: it's Bjork. Which album is a luminous red giant? We're back to the landscape thing again: I bet Bjork recorded some of her album on a distant star.
Winner: Post

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: This was the toughest decision of the competition so far: I've so much love for both of these albums. The Aphex album is endlessly playable, but Post saw the creation of a global pop celebrity and the eradication of tigers from most beaches and caves. Bjork scrapes the win and moves to the semi finals. 

There's one more quarter final in this best-of-1995. Be there, or I'll wax your nip. See all the original riders and runners here.

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

Apr 28, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Quarter Final 2 – Tricky versus Moby

Tricky and Moby albums

Put down that egg sandwich and pay attention. It's time for the second quarter final in my contest to find the best electronic music album of 1995. No, you may not put it in the fridge. The only thing that matters is this music battle in which I, Fat Roland, play judge, jury and executioner.

There are only a handful of contenders left. I won't spoil the results so far: you can see the whole series here and see the introduction to the quarter finals here. This second quarter final is between:
Maxinquaye by Tricky
Everything Is Wrong by Moby
That's a cracking contest. The difference couldn't be greater: a muttering misery guts versus a happy clappy techno idiot. Fire versus ice. Oil versus water. Cillit versus Bang. There hasn't been a binary choice like this since, er, sorry, I can't think of any controversial votes that have happened in recent years. Here goes. A place in the semi finals beckons...

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

Assuming we're talking about a single-axle caravan of no more than six metres nose to tail, the route for entry is usually through a single doorway of no more than 57 centimetres across and 170 centimetres in height. The insular nature of Tricky's sound, forever sounding like an imploding bong trip, guarantees easy entry: it's music made for hunched shoulders. Meanwhile, there's no way Moby's ever getting through that door, not with all that glorious hands-in-the-air star-jumping rave exuberance.
Winner: Everything Is Wrong

Criteria two: which album has the best individual noise?

In audio terms, these albums are poles apart. Moby's noise is based on charming artificiality, with its use of vocal samples and preset-style fake strings. I rather liked the moody "lets" at the start of Moby's Let's Go Free, but for the most interesting sounds, we must turn to Tricky. Slurred lyrics, stoned whispers, scuffed snares, awkwardly tripping loops and, best of all, the depressed, descending tooty sound woven through Suffocated Love. What a treat.
Winner: Maxinquaye

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

Eamonn Holmes is flicking through your records. "Woah, dude," he says, with Moby's blue face staring gormlessly up at him. He continues rifling through your albums. "Like, woooah, dude," he says, looking at the distressed red tones of Tricky's album. You want to ask him which album cover was the coolest, but now he's just sitting on your record player drooling at a crack on the wall. You suspect he thought Tricky was coolest. It's hard to tell these days with Eamonn. 
Winner: Maxinquaye

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

The trick is to look at the tiger's face. It flinches as I play the thrash metal bits of Everything Is Wrong, but there's something of a Tigger-energy to Moby's pre-Play career, and I can't help feeling that, despite its initial surprise, the tiger's emotionally connecting somehow. On the other hand, it finds Maxinquaye disorienting; there are too many layers, tonal changes and confusing human voices. Look at its left eye twitch. That tiger's not happy.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Criteria five: which album has the sexiest track titles?

With tracks called Overcome and Black Steel, Tricky's album sounds like a sequel to 50 Shades Of Grey; as sexy as a Tory party conference. The sexiness of Moby's titles is much more direct: All That I Need Is To Be Loved, Everytime You Touch Me, Bring Back My Happiness. Lights off, clothes off, rattle the bedposts, showered in time for mackerel for tea. And God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters sounds like a classic next-day-in-the-office sexual conquest boast.
Winner: Everything Is Wrong

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

Maxinquaye is a jumble of pitch-shifted sounds and glitches; it defies any normal logic. Everything Is Wrong is the polar opposite: the songs run from A to B, using well-recognised songwriting tropes. If I let Tricky anywhere near my panpipes, he'd probably turn them into a bassoon or an ashtray or a farmstead on the Isle of Jura. Things would be much more straightforward with Moby. A tune is a tune. Panpipes means panpipes.
Winner: Everything Is Wrong

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

This final section is generated using Wikipedia's random page buttonWhich of the two albums could cause an earthquake? Moby, because he's got God on his side. Which album is most likely to be eaten by moths? Tricky: it sounds pretty bitten already. Which album floats best? Moby, because he's moving over the face of the waters. Which album is the most Senegalese? Tricky's Bristol is slightly closer to Senegal than Moby's Harlem, so Tricky gets this one. Which album is best for soundtracking Asterix comics? Tricky sounds thoroughly dosed in Getafix's potions.
Winner: Maxinquaye

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: Tricky trundles through to the semi finals. The Moby album is a personal favourite of mine, but Tricky's album is one of the most acclaimed debut albums of all time: it deserves the win. Isn't that right, Eamonn? Hey, Eamonn. He's not listening – He's climbed into the fireplace again. Silly Eamonn.

Stay tuned to this website for another chapter in the saga that is Fat Roland Decides What The Best Electronic Music Album Is Of 1995 While Sellotaping Custard Creams To His Face To Ease The Boredom Of Lockdown. See the introduction to the quarter finals hereSee all the original riders and runners here.

Apr 27, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: Quarter Final 1 – Higher Intelligence Agency versus Goldie

Freefloater and Timeless

A horse and a nun walk into a bar. The horse says, "Have you seen Fat Roland's competition for the best electronic music album of 1995?" The nun says, "Why the long face?" The horse says, "You do this every time, Alison, why do you never listen to me?" Ignore those two idiots: they're hogging the queue to the bar. My best-of-1995 battle is back on track. Strap in, music fans.

We started with 16 albums and now it's time for the first quarter final. See the series so far here, and see the introduction to the quarter finals here. The choice is between:
Freefloater by Higher Intelligence Agency
Timeless by Goldie
The Higher Intelligence Agency (HIA) beat the legendary Sabres Of Paradise to get this far, while Goldie knocked out The Chemical Brothers. Two giant-killers, and only one will survive through to the semi finals. We have brand new judging criteria, and special thanks must go to @benjaminjudge, @JacksonWylde and @viaduct_theatre for suggesting criteria two, four and six respectively. Slap on that vaseline, it's time to fight.

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

The squiggly IDM of Higher Intelligence Agency, with its filters squeezed into ever-narrowing frequency bands, would be small enough to fit into a matchbox, never mind a caravan. Stick it under the Calor Gas, sorted. On the other hand, Goldie's Timeless is all about bombast, dynamism and volume. The opening track is 21-minutes wide: you'd not even get that into the entrance of the campsite. There's no travelling light with the monster that is Timeless.
Winner: Timeless

Criteria two: which album has the best individual noise?

Goldie's sound defined an era of drum 'n' bass, and so his album has some ear-bending moments. At one end are the heavenly suspended strings pulling everything taut, while at the other end there's some really ugly crying on Tears. The best single sound are the vocals crescendoing in at the start of State Of Mind as if catapulted from a distant satellite. Higher Intelligence Agency's work is full of great noises, with their squawks and boings and tickly acid (just listen to Elapse), but nothing beats Goldie.
Winner: Timeless

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

I have a real issue with how Timeless looks. I know embedding a Metalheadz logo in a perspex vagina was the coolest thing ever in 1995, but it hasn't aged well. Whereas, if I was flicking through your records and happened across Freefloater, I'd be intrigued. The cover looks like an impressionist Blue Peter ship, and the speech marks around the track title give it an added irony. Yeah. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Winner: Freefloater

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

Let me think this one through. I turn down the side of Lidl and there's a striped, snarling beastie blocking my cut-through to the chiropodist. How do I fight the tiger? I could batter its face with HIA's bloopy beats, but that would only annoy it, and I don't want to run because I haven't got to the chiropodist yet. Goldie's beats might skip along more breezily, but they're much heavier. A fat snare drum right in its snout should do it. Take THAT, tiger.
Winner: Timeless

Criteria five: which album has the sexiest track titles?

With titles like State Of Mind and Jah the Seventh Seal, Goldie's track listing brings to mind the tantric liaisons of sexy Sting. Then again, he might start singing, so let's see how sexy the HIA track titles are. Fleagle. Hubble. Ting. Skank. Hmmmm. Less high class escort agency, more a fleshy fumble in a fag-stained Travelodge. Tough decision. The HIA album has "floater" in its title, which is the unsexiest thing ever. Sting, you've pulled.
Winner: Timeless

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

Complete disaster. I was halfway through the squealing sirens of Goldie's nasty Saint Angel and I dropped my panpipes down the toilet. The bleepy melodies of HIA, especially on Ting, were much easier to handle, despite my pipe-holes being a little damp. I'd wipe them down with bog roll, but, y'know, rationing and all that. I really must find a room in my gaff with better acoustics.
Winner: Freefloater

Criteria seven: miscellaneous and worryingly random

As with the first round, this final judging criteria is guided by Wikipedia's random page function. Which album flies highest? HIA is literally "Higher": it's in the title, duh. Which album makes the best Christmas music? Easy: there's a jolly festivity to HIA while Goldie's more Good Friday, alas. Which album could be prime minister of India? Goldie's led an orchestra, so surely he could do that as well. Which album helps with the scientific study of insects? HIA is the only one I can imagine beetles dancing to. Which album is secretly a Norwegian footballer? I guess This Is A Bad describes Norway's FIFA World Cup results, so Goldie it is. 
Winner: Freefloater

Overall winner and going through to the quarter-finals: No penalty shoot-out here: Goldie goes through to the semi-finals, winning four of the seven criteria. He will face whoever wins the second quarter final. Sad to see you go, Higher Intelligence Agency. The Metalheadz master proved too steely in the end.

Stay tuned for another quarter final as we get ever closer to discovering [cue dramatic look to camera] the best electronic music album of 1995. See the introduction to the quarter finals hereSee all the original riders and runners here.

Apr 26, 2020

Best electronic music albums of 1995: the Quarter Finals

Back in the onions of history, I started a contest to decide the best electronic music album of 1995. 

16 albums butted against each other in the most brutal battle since Genghis Khan laid siege to Milton Keynes. The Chemical Brothers and Autechre were some of those who fell by the wayside in the first round: it was not pretty. Since I finished that first round, the entire of civilisation seems to have collapsed, and we are left with just eight albums gingerly staggering towards the quarter finals. 

It is now time for those quarter finals. 

The following albums will face each other daily in a battle so apocalyptic, a butterfly will faint on the other side of the universe. The remaining contestants are:

Quarter final 1:
Freefloater by Higher Intelligence Agency
Timeless by Goldie

Quarter final 2:
Maxinquaye by Tricky
Everything Is Wrong by Moby

Quarter final 3:
Post by Bjork
...I Care Because You Do by Aphex Twin

Quarter final 4:
Landcruising by Carl Craig
Leftism by Leftfield

Some heavyweight candidates there. Which would you choose as the best electronic music album of 1995? Who do you think is going to struggle? 

I don't care how you answered those questions. This is because there's a twist in this contest: it isn't open to a public vote. The winners of each bout are decided by a panel of very experienced experts. The panel consists of, in no particular order:

1. Me.
2. Er...
3. That's it. 

That's right. It's a dictatorship. It's a despotic autocracy. It's a flipping con. The first round saw me eliminating albums on the basis of which would make the best biscuit, or which was best suited to egg-themed karaoke.

In the upcoming quarter-finals, there will be some different yet equally unhelpful criteria on which the judging panel (me) will make their (my) decisions.

Expect a quarter final daily over the next four days. Don your marigolds and stuck a broom up your bum: this is going to get messy. In the meantime, see the series so far here, and see the 16 albums I started off with here.

Apr 24, 2020

In (faint) praise of the artwork for Drum Club's Everything Is Now

Drum Club CD Everything Is Now

This week, I bought myself Drum Club's Everything Is Now on CD. I owned it 25 years ago and it got nicked. Fancied a bit of format nostalgia.

Look at this cover (above). The bold patterns, the trippiness, the blobbiness, the suggestion of a face. All very tribal. Only thing is, once you open up the inlay, things get... different.

Drum Club inlay page 2

Inside front cover. So far so good. A nice pretty picture of a record box frolicking in a field, some weird shapes. The text at the bottom is a bit difficult to read, but things aren't so bad, right?

Drum Club Inlay page 3

Pow! Things take a curious direction. Dark pink blobby text against a green background. I *so* remember owning this CD; it's all coming back to me. Squinting next to our hi-fi unit in the living room wondering if my eyes were broken.

Drum Club Inlay page 4 and 5

On the next two pages pictured above, we even have the muddy pink overlaid on the eye creature. Even for the druggy days of Megadog and Tribal Gathering, this was a, er, bold design choice.

Drum Club Inlay page 6

Are these inlay credits? Are those blobs letters? I respect the commitment to narrowing the paragraph for easier reading, but this feels like playing Scrabble in the middle of a food fight. I *will* read this, dammit.

Drum Club Inlay page 7 and 8

Actually, momentarily things get easier. The orange arrives like a ray of light, as does the pretty Technics record deck nestling in some grass. Although the orange phases awkwardly against the green, the gangrenous pink is over. Except... except...

drum club mailing list

What do we have here? This is a proper old school CD inlay - you can write off to a mailing list. Oh joy! Let's see the form, shall we! *eyes fall out* This further pink-green tomfoolery might be horrific, but how CUTE are those dots?!

Maybe the pink wasn't the best choice. Yes, I've taken the mickey, but this most alien of techno albums wouldn't be the same with any other artwork. I scanned this inlay for a good reason: I am hugely fond of this difficult artwork. 

Back in the day, great techno was all about being obtuse: wonky beats, anonymous producers, dark smoky rooms, wild originality. This Drum Club CD is all about that. An album for the weird party kids. 

So I want MORE pink scraped from the innards of a hippopotamus. I want more weird blobs. I want more credits you've got to make a real effort to read — and you do make the effort, because you love it. I'm so glad I ordered this CD with the strangest of designs.

Final thing. You may have spotted it along the way but credit to designer Ged Wells who's still going strong at InsaneEmporium.com (see picture below). The bold patterns, the trippiness, the blobbiness: it's still there. Drum Clubbing forever.

Insane Emporium

Apr 21, 2020

Ten amazing albums that influenced my taste in music

Ten albums

My blogging schedule's gone a bit sideways because the Covid-19 lockdown has, like many other people, left me quite out of sorts. My capacity for creativity is pretty limited.

So I'm going to steal something I did on Facebook. And then we'll get back to the best-of-1995 thing.

My brother Grum tagged me in a Facebook challenge to name ten albums that influenced by taste in music. Here's what I posted, edited to make it more interesting than wot I said on Facebook. 

1 – The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
I remember playing this on my cassette walkmen in my tent on family holidays. So surreal to be in some random Welsh field and to get this amazing, otherworldly collages playing in my young ears.

2 – Transglobal Underground's Dream Of 100 Nations
This strange mix of UK techno and African tribalism and things from other planets. "Watch the skies! Keep looking!" I went to see TGU a couple of years ago and they were phenomenal.

3 – Drum Club's Everything Is Now
The album that truly made me fall in love with the bass drum for bass drum's sake, an appreciation that served me well in many a club. Thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump....

4 – Orbital's brown album. 
Here's the one that changed everything for me. My Damascene moment. The album that hardwired techno and all its variants into my brain for life. And look at me now. I'm **twitch** FINE.

5 – The Irresistible Force's Flying High
Mixmaster Morris's hypnotic ambience lifted me into heady clouds of dubby ambience: I haven't quite come down since. The kind of album that lives in my veins. I also liked things with circles on. See also Banco de Gaia.

6 – The Goons' Ying Tong Song
No, really. This is cheating because it's an EP not an album, and it was a family hand-me-down rather than something I bought myself, but it's worth it because THIS IS WHAT MY BRAIN IS LIKE ALL OF THE TIME.

7 – Adamski's Doctor Adamski's Musical Pharmacy
I have to say, this is NOT a good album, despite the presence of Killer and NRG. But Adamski's DIY 'keyboard wizard' approach introduced my little Smash Hits brain to the concept of the bedroom studio a long time before doing that was a viable option.

8 – Underworld's dubnobasswithmyheadman
An obvious one for other fans of 90s techno, but what a strange animal at the time. I was already a fan of their 12-inches and I keenly devoured Junior Boy's Own's early output. All that gorgeous Tomato design work too. Cor.

9 – LTJ Bukem's Logical Progressions series
Drum 'n' bass was always a trip, and even now the thought of this series gives me tingles. My few short years as a drum 'n' bass DJ were some of my happiest creative times. The best sound, the best live experience, and the best to mix. 

10 – Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Pretty obvious, this one. That bass in Ageispolis. Oooooo.

And so many more, of course. Ten will do for now. 

That's it. I'm creatively spent. I've run out of words. Flong. Pathoot. Clibbibuuuu. See? It's just noise.

I'm off for yet another night of stupidly vivid lockdown dreams.

Apr 14, 2020

Sam Fox reviews The Fall and The Smiths: "very depressing"

Feast your eyes on this reviews section from a 1986 edition of Smash Hits magazine (see below). I've inserted the image below this post rather than aligned alongside the text because Blogger's fancy new user interface has made a right royal mess of image manipulation.

I'm not sure where this image came from as the original tweeter from 2016, who I think must own this scan, has disappeared. The clip was posted again a few days ago, which then got a signal-boost from movie reviewer Mark Kermode who then, in his words, heard from "a load of sanctimonious, humourless, preachy, self-pitying whingebag" Morrissey fans.

Because music editing was once my full-time job, I can only see this reviews section with the eyes of an editor / writer. It's totally the kind of silliness I would have wanted to put into Smash Hits magazine. The angle is clear. Get someone stereotyped for being vacuous to talk about indie bands so that the unwashed guitar kids can snigger into their sleeves. Classic 1980s music magazine humour. 

To be fair to Fox, her Duane Eddy comparison is a pretty fair one, and in that final sentence of the Panic review, she's got Morrissey's number. Even now, he really does go moan, moan, moan, but no longer in a fey 1980s wilting gladioli way. In a more sinister way. Yeeugh. He gives me the shivers.

In summary, (1) listen to that Fall single because it's really great, (2) listen to the Smiths but don't listen to the Morrissey bits and (3) Blogger, sort this interface out – having this image swimming in white space looks rubbish. 

Okay, I admit it, this was a blog post about Blogger. Ignore anything I said about Sam Fox, The Fall or The Smiths.

Apr 11, 2020



That's it. That's the blog post. Just the word 'teapots'. Thanks for reading.

Issue 64 of Electronic Sound magazine is all about John Foxx (not actual fox) And The Maths (not actual maths), but the most important bit, as ever, is the inside back page. On this page, you will find my regular Banging On column (not actual column).

This month's rant is about how to have a number one hit single, inspired by the KLF's legendary Manual. The best sentence is "if I had a beard like that, my trouser topiary would be on the front page of National Geographic", but don't take my word for it. Order the issue 64 print edition here, or upgrade to the version with the vinyl if you're feeling fancy.

I got to illustrate my column again this month, but instead of an illustration, I just took a photograph of Kraftwerk with a load of teapots (see above). What? Yes, it's an actual photograph. It only looks like a cartoon because of the photo realism.

The picture is relevant to the content of the column, honest. Not that I know much about teapots. I've never owned one. I had some builders in once, so bought a box of teabags, the only tea bags I've ever bought. I used two teabags nervously making tea for the builders and let the rest of the box go past its use-by date. Tea is horrible, and I'd rather drink healthy stuff like Pepsi, Blue Nun or Toilet Duck.

I probably shouldn't title this blog post "Teapots". It'll kill any Google ranking. And one thing I've learnt from fifteen and a half years of blogging is how to get hits by doing a words good proper. Is writing about tea popular on the internet? Do people google 'tea'? If I keep mentioning tea, will people arrive on this blog post looking for information about tea?

Anyway, that's the blog post (not actual post). Thanks for reading.

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.