Apr 4, 2021

From catatonic breakdance to a need for speed: new electronic music for April 2021


Are your ears stupid idiots? Do you want to punish your ears? How about punishing your stupid idiot ears with some brand new electronic music?

Here's a smattering of bleepy albums due for release in April 2021.

Murcof's rejoins the Leaf Label for The Alias Sessions, an album written for a dance company in Geneva. I'm not much of a dancer, myself: my moves are limited to confused salsa, catatonic breakdance and eyebrow tango. Murcof's music often resides in little ripples of waveforms, but there are great big tidal washes of noise on this new album. One of my favourite Murcofs for a while.

Jimi Tenor's putting out Deep Sound Learning (1993 - 2000). This scoops up a load of unheard stuff from, you guessed it, 1993 to 2000. Apparently Jimi bombarded Warp Records with endless DAT tapes, presumably using some kind of cassette cannon, and much of it remained in storage until now. I really want a cassette cannon. A tape trebuchet. A reel-to-reel rocket launcher.

The album I'm most looking forward to in April is Eomac's Cracks. This is darkly desolate Dublin bass music that blends the atmosphere of Rival Consoles with the melodic motifs of Aphex Twin. Eomac (pictured above) is 'Cameo' backwards, but I don't know if that means he does backwards walk-on parts in movies, or whether every track is the 1986 party track Word Up! played backwards.

What else? Look out for Facta's Blush, a debut album of folky electronics released on the label Facta jointly owns with the equally pastoral K-Lone. K-Lone's Cape Cira made my best-of-2020 list and Blush certainly feels like a sister album to some extent.

By the way, I'd like to point out that I'm typing all this without the use of one of my index fingers. When cutting bread, I decided to use my hand as a chopping board. This wasn't a good idea, and I cut my finger. It's not a big cut, but it's in a really annoying place, so my middle finger is putting extra work in while my index finger has a long hard think about what it's done. I'm amazeb any og these words sre coming out okau.

And finally, look out for: Caterina Barbieri's Fantas Variations, an album of remixes of a single track from her excellent Ecstatic Computation album; Dawn Richard's Second Line which promises chart-friendly sassy bangers and a whole lot of fun; and Herrmann Kristoffersen's thoroughly listenable Gone Gold, an IDM-influenced imaginary soundtrack for the Need For Speed racing game. Vroom flipping vroom.

Take THAT, stupid idiot ears.

Mar 31, 2021

Justin Bieber's Justice injustice

Justice and Justice

Here's the Justin / Justice story. The cover art for Justin Bieber's new album Justice appears to have ripped off the logo of the French house band Justice. A big cross for a T is the clue: this was very much Justice's thing, particularly on their cross-emblazoned debut album.

In itself, this isn't that incriminatory. In a past life I worked for a Christian bookshop and people plastered crosses on everything. They turned Ts into crosses, Xs into crosses, laugh-cry emojis into crosses. Maybe not that last one. It's a pretty route-one design technique, like turning Ss into snakes or turning As into anarchy symbols.

However, there's a paper trail (and no, we don't mean this joke doodle from Justice's record company). We all know from cop shows that paper trails are bad. Apparently one of Bieber's people wrote to Justice's people, according to an email seen by Rolling Stone (the magazine, not the wrinkled rockers). No-one got back to the Bieber peeps, so they pressed ahead anyway, but now Justice's people are cross (geddit?!) and have issued a cease-and-desist letter. The war is on.

Bieber also used audio of Martin Luther King on the album, for which he received permission. This is, of course, problematic in a different way. It's good that a famous white man is introducing black history to his fans, many of whom may never have been exposed to this stuff before. But it's also dodgy that a famous white man is appropriating stuff like this to sell records, especially when there are current black voices being silenced. This is, of course, from the same bloke who said Anne Frank would have been a belieber. It's all a bit icky.

It also seems that the justice theme is pretty perfunctory. There's the Justin / Justice wordplay. Yep, I get that. Then there's the MLK samples, including the line "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." But according to Buzzfeed, that's it. Hold On is about holding hands with his girl. Holy is about having a nice hug with his girl. Lonely is about the isolation of fame, probably while playing pat-a-cake with his girl. This is not an album about justice: it's just a selection of his usual watery pop guff.

Let's think about that for a moment. Someone came up with the Justice title because it sounds a bit like Justin. They made an apparently half-arsed attempt to get permission to use Justice's cross logo, then used it anyway. And then they dumped some MLK speeches about justice into an album that is otherwise nothing to do with justice. 

That's like setting up a lemonade stall dressed as a lemon, with a whole range of home-made lemonades laid out neatly on a a table-cloth displaying a lovely tapestry of carefully illustrated lemons, with little handmade paper lanterns in the shape of lemons, then stealing someone's overweight poodle and calling the stall Look At This Massive Poodle. 

Just stick to the lemons, Justin. The unnecessarily purloined stuff is just complicating things. It's a distraction and it's getting you into trouble.

I guess what I'm trying to say is if this ends up with a load of overblown proggy Justice remixes of Justin Bieber songs, I'm moving to Mars and never coming back. Now excuse me while I edit this blog post to ensure every small-case m looks like a pair of testicles.

Mar 30, 2021

A mad March catch-up with Fat Roland, i.e. me

Hey Fat Roland, what have you been up to?

Thanks for asking, opening sentence. I've had a busy March, hence the lack of blogging. Here's a quick summary.

I broadcast a show for Turn On Fest. This was Seven Inch, the one-hour solo work originally commissioned by The Lowry and adapted for the Edinburgh Fringe. It was great fun to film, and hugely gratifying to dig out my 200+ props to discover they hadn't all been eaten by piranhas.

If you bought a ticket, thank you from the bottom of my bloomers. I'm not sure where the show will go next, but I will probably do a live audience version once things are a bit less socially distanced.

I've been working on a couple of other projects too, including a video thing which will plop onto your internet fairly soon. Hush hush. (Please imagine me winking at your screen, but in a teasing way rather than in a creepy way.)

I got vaccinated. This isn't really news because it's so dang common. As I pointed out on Twitter, the annoying thing about the vaccine is now everyone seems to be getting it. It's gone mainstream, like Feeder, Daft Punk or hummus. We need an alternative, cool rad vaccine: one that turns you purple and your head falls off or something.

I launched the F1 Losers League. The what now? The F1 Losers League. This is an upside-down fantasy league dedicated for Formula One fails, a project which fizzled off in 2014 but revived for 2021. It's too late to enter, but have a look at the website here if you fancy it (I spent a lot of time on it so I hope you like it).

Alongside my venue getting busier, thank Lordi, that's pretty much it. But that's quite a lot, right? All this plus long walks in the park.

What? You want more? Right then.

I climbed Everest. There. How'd you like that? Did it in one big step. I won the lottery fifteen times. I went to Mars for a bit, dropped some litter, came back. Didn't even apologise. I invented the snorkel. I joined then quit Good Morning Britain. I became an NFT. I did all that while getting wedged in the Suez canal while people tried to tug me off,

See? Told you I was busy.

Here's to a fun April with hopefully more blogging. Then again, if I wrote a blog post for every time I apologised for not blogging enough, I'd be blogging too much. What? Did that make sense?

You can stop writing now.

Thanks, penultimate sentence.

Mar 21, 2021

Tiësto is doing very well, thanks for asking


Admit it: the last time you paid attention to the pop charts, you were doing wheelies on your penny farthing during your job as a chimberly sweep.

Let's talk about the current singles chart. In fact, let's talk about one particular artist in this week's chart: Tiësto. 

For me, Tiësto's name is associated with one era of music: millennial trance pop. I'm talking clean-shirted four-to-the-floor melodic house music with big fat chords, cheery basslines and chunky snare fills, all ever so Euro. Think Ferry Corsten, ATB, Armin van Buuren, or William Orbit doing Barber's Adagio For Strings.

His 1999 track Theme From Norefjell is a perfect example. A big synth line, a no-nonsense driving beat, sweeping strings, and no vocals. In all honesty, it could have been produced by anyone. 

That's the point of all that post-Chicane / post-Insomnia stuff: just a "pop-trance, pop-trance, pop-trance" rhythm at a merry 140BPM. Good and solid, like a Volvo.

In these modern times, I'd assumed Tiësto was an irrelevance, like VHS rentals, milkmen or smallpox. Dance music is way beyond that basic trance pop stuff, right? These are the days of trap, of mumble rap, of moombahton. 

Nope. Turns out, the dancing Dutchman is still going strong. 

Not only has he been busy remixing John Legend and Avicii, and teaming up with big hitters like Martin Garrix and Post Malone, he is currently enjoying what might be the biggest hit single of his career. The Business peaked this month at number three in the UK singles chart, and is currently only a few places behind that awful sea shanty thing that's ruined TikTok. Tiësto is *big* right now.

This is starting to sound like one of those hagiography Wikipedia articles, but honestly, this really interests me. It seems weird to have Tiësto in the charts in 2021, because it doesn't follow a standard dance music artist career trajectory. Standard in my mind, anyway.

Take Underworld or Erasure or Orbital as an example. They don't have hits anymore because they now occupy the Old Act Precinct of the dance music world. They'll make money from making soundtracks, or BBC commissions, or selling tour tickets to original fans whose wrinkled bodies could do with a good old dancefloor shuffle every couple of years.

People like them aren't meant to be mixing with the cool chart kids after all these years. That's like going on your first date with the boy from school and dragging your Uncle Kevin along. Jeez, face the other way, Kevin, you creep.

However, unlike my underwear, Tiësto has changed with the times. He doesn't sound like he used to. Instead of being indistinguishable from every other millennial trance track, he now sounds like every other Calvin Harris track. Again, solid, like a Toyota. The Business fits in brilliantly with recent dance music trends, and it's no wonder it's a hit.

And watch out, because all that old trancey pop gubbins could be coming back too. Climbing to number 11 this week is ATB / Topic / A7S with Your Love (9PM). Yes, it's *that* ATB. Yes, it's *that* 9PM track.

So maybe there's not much point in paying attention to the pop charts, because it all comes full circle anyway, like that big old penny farthing wheel. Encore une fois and all that. Either that, or next time you look twenty years later, the hit parade is still full of the same clean-shirted millennial trancers.

You could say that Tiësto (there's a really good joke coming up, so get ready for it) has stood the tiëst of time. Ha ha ha ha. No? You just wait: that joke will be cool in a couple of decades' time.

Further Fats: How to keep cool in a heatwave if you like dance music (2015)

Further Fats: Soaking up the rays with Way Out West (2017)

Mar 3, 2021

303 blog posts (actually, just six, but who's the heck's counting) about the 303

It's 303 day, which celebrates a very special Roland. Me. It celebrates me.

Apparently some crazy people think 303 day celebrates the Roland TB-303, a silver box originally designed to create a 'transistor bass' sound but instead adopted by rave kids to create acid tweakin' mayhem.

Let's humour these crazy people. Let's combine the two: me and the acid machine. 

Here are some of my blog writings on the 303 and/or acid house. Think of this as a flashback episode, churned out due to budgetary restraints...

Some 303 writings

"The whole idea of Acid August is that you spent the whole month listening to acid house music and nothing else. Are you telling me you've not done this? Have you that much disrespect for Acid August?!" [What do you MEAN you haven't heard of Acid August?, published August 2020]

"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." [I recommend three, oh, three great acid tracks, published May 2020]

"This is like One Direction relaunching as a thrash metal band. Or like The Beatles returning as a drum 'n' bass act. Or like Jive Bunny revealing that all the music was made by actual bunnies." [Calvin Harris launching an acid house project is the biggest music news of all time, published February 2020]

"I'm no stranger to a filter-tweaking acid house night, so I'm delighted to see that the latest Electronic Sound is dedicated to acid house records." ["Acid house - it's not real music, is it" said the idiot, published November 2019]

"Luke Vibert calls the album, out in May on London's Hypercolour Records, an 'ode to the era of M25 convoys, mobile phone hotlines and raving amongst dogs on strings in British aerodrome fields.' That, my disco-brained friend, sounds like a challenge." [Luke Vibert just made me do a poetry, published March 2017]

"Acid, though, is the music I'll always go back to whatever my mood. Because of its technological restraints (imagine having a genre of music that can only be made on the banjo), acid barely changes. One Josh Wink record aside, it has never commercialised, nor has it ever faded to nothing." [I love acid and the acid loves me, published October 2015]

Feb 28, 2021

There is one John Cage joke and it is this:

John Cage

There is one John Cage joke.

The avant-garde US composer had a long and fascinating career, but he's best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″.

The whole thing with 4′33″ is that's it's silent. Four and a half minutes of nothing. That's the schtick he's known for, whether he liked it or not. Kenny G's got his saxophone, Cher's got her autotune, Eric Morecambe's got his glasses, and Cage had this weirdly silent record.

Of course, it's not silent. The record is actually a bunch of musicians sitting down in a room for a bit, not making any deliberate noise. What you're hearing is the sound of a room in which nothing much happens. 

But it's easier – and funnier – to think of 4′33″ as a silent record. Because then you get jokes like this in Viz:

John Cage joke in Viz

Let's zoom in:

John Cage joke in Viz

Hat tip to whoever I saw post about this online: the origin is lost in the depths of an infinitely scrolling timeline.

There are plenty of other similar cartoon jokes on the internet about this quietest of records. A pianist messing up the song by accidentally playing a single note. John Cage carol singers standing shtum in the snow. And this XKCD cartoon.

I'm not immune either. My show Seven Inch (March 17th tickets available here) has a silent John Cage joke. Of course it does. I leave no hack comedy stone unturned.

There's a bit in the show where I talk about lyrics. This gives me a repetition joke as I recite the ad infinitum inanity of the Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling (although I'm swapping this out for a different song at the March 17th show).

It also gives me a chance to recite the lyrics for John Cage's 4′33″. The joke is, of course, there are no lyrics: there's a whole load of nothing. Ha ha ha ha. So funny. Look at him standing in silence, confused. Sigh. It comes across as a special joke for music nerds, even though 4′33″ is stratospherically famous for a piece of experimental classical music.

This is the point in the blog post where I hilariously include a quote from John Cage about his famous work, but actually it's just a few blank lines. Ha ha bonk: you just laughed your head off.

Maybe I should do something in the show about the loudest song ever. Ten minutes of me yelling into a microphone, and then I explain that it was a tribute to AC/DC or The Who or one of those screamo metal bands that sounds like a malfunctioning washing machine.

Please don't leave a reply in the comments. It's what John Cage would have wanted.

Further Fats: Reviving my shrivelling grandma and getting out of my depth with Mahler (2007)

Feb 24, 2021

Warning! Dinosaurs are taking over the UK album chart!

A dinosaur and an album chart

You know that movie where Richard Attenborough breeds a load of dinosaurs and then they stomp all over a theme park while Jeff Goldblum from The Fly doesn't turn into a fly and Richard's all like 'screw this, I'm off to play Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street instead'?

Well, that exactly what's happening to the album charts.

The dinosaurs are taking over. Instead of the album charts being full of cool young bands like The Kneepads, Post Office Flip Flop Explosion or Digital Colostomy, it's packed with bands that have been around the block so many times, they've worn a groove in the pavement.

By the way, those cool young bands don't exist. I made them up.

Mint Royale pointed out that this week's album chart is full of incredibly old LPs because music fans are streaming the same favourites over and over again. "An Oasis compilation is getting enough steady streaming to probably just sit in the top 30 for ever," he says.

He's not wrong. The current number one album is brand new: Tyron by that cheeky scamp Slowthai has been around for precisely one week. But that's not typical. 60% of this week's top 100 has spent more than a year in the charts, which is a big rise on five years ago when it was just 35%.

Let's take a look at the longest-toothed dinosaurs in the current album chart. Here are the LPs sitting in the charts right now that have clocked up the most chart weeks since their release.

ABBA: Gold – Greatest Hits (981 weeks)
Bob Marley & the Wailers: Legend (965 weeks)
Queen: Greatest Hits (933 weeks)
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (876 weeks)
Michael Jackson: Number Ones (483)
Oasis: What's The Story Morning Glory (476)
Eminem: Curtain Call – The Hits (449)
Amy Winehouse: Back To Black (411)
Oasis: Definitely Maybe (392)
Foo Fighters: Greatest Hits (392)

Just outside that tyrannosaur top ten? Time Flies 1994-2009, that aforementioned Oasis compilation which has spent 389 weeks in the album chart, 216 of those weeks consecutive.

This is theoretically fine. People are caning their favourite music, maybe having living room discos on Saturday nights while their pet dog looks on in confusion, and there's nothing wrong with that. You spin that old ABBA record, daddio.

However, these craggy dinosaurs will sell bucketloads of albums come rain, wind or scattered sunny spells. And they're clogging up the charts, reducing the number of chart opportunities for newer acts further down the pecking order: active bands who are writing and releasing fresh tunes in a Herculean effort to gain chart recognition.

Just a couple of blog posts ago I raved about the appearance of bleep techno in the hit parade and how it blew my tiny mind. I'm fascinated by new shiny things, like a magpie or a baby or a magpie looking at a baby. I don't want to delve into the latest album chart and see the same ancient faces with their expensive microphones and branded plectrums and anecdotes about how they met George Harrison once in a Tandy electronics shop. Serious yawn.

That's like searching on YouTube for bitcoin investment advice, or the Mars landing footage, or the latest Taskmaster challenge, and every time the only result that comes up is that bloke singing Chocolate Rain. Every time. Chocolate Rain. You try adding quote marks or searching in Welsh. No luck: just Chocolate Rain. You try the 'Contact Us' link to get help, and Mr Clippy pops up and starts singing Chocolate flipping Rain. You keep rocking those 2007 trends, daddio.

Mint Royale goes on to suggest that perhaps the album chart should be subject to ACR. This stands for Accelerated Chart Ratio: in the singles chart, this is used to weaken the chart position of songs if they've been around a while. It's a modern oddity that became necessary after Ed Sheeran almost monopolised the charts in 2017 in a move that even the Roman empire would have called "brazen".

I hope they sort it out soon. Otherwise the dinosaurs will continue to rampage unimpeded, and before we know it we've got a Lost World situation on our hands. And nobody wants Lost World.

More Fat Roland: No new electronica in the singles chart, repeat to fade (2009)

Even more Fat Roland: What's happening with the not-so-current current album chart? (2016)

Feb 22, 2021

Daft 'n' defunct: it's the end of Daft Punk

Daft Punk 1993 to 2021

Daft Punk broke.

I figured their batteries would never run out, or maybe they were eternally powered by Nile Rogers' electric guitar licks. Alas not. Daft Punk are no more. The duo has split up.

Their split announcement came in the form of a video in which one of them explodes in a desert and the other one's all like "hey, you just exploded in a desert so I'm gonna walk off now". Even though it's just a clip from their 2006 film Daft Punk's Electroma, it's a pretty devastating watch.

Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter formed Daft Punk in 1993 after becoming disillusioned with guitar music. They got their name from a Melody Maker review that slammed their crappy rock band as "daft punky thrash".

The pair cemented their electronic music foundations when they hooked up with Stuart from Glasgow techno legends Slam, who signed them to his Soma Records and put out Da Funk. When Virgin Records came sniffing around, stratospheric success beckoned: platinum albums, oodles of Grammies, producing Kanye West, becoming actual French knights.

Maybe their greatest legacy is comedian Limmy's oft-repeated tweet "Check out Daft Punk's new single 'Get Lucky' if you get the chance. Sound of the summer." A gentle dig at their commerciality from a man who obviously knows the band's true origins: he has a pilled-up character whose catchphrase is "where's the Slam tent?", a reference to the aforementioned techno Glaswegians who discovered Daft Punk.

Daft Punk are responsible for one of my strangest clubbing experiences, as recounted in this blog post:

"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'."

In all fairness to the glad-handed Gaul, he looked absolutely mortified. He bumbled off pretty promptly, no doubt in search of that elusive Slam tent.

Daft Punk's output was one of diminishing returns. At one end of their career, Homework was astonishing, an abrasive analogue assault with crowd-pleasing sass. At the other end of their career, Random Access Memories was pretty rank. In 2013 I criticised its "awful MOR pop" and the "horrible, horrible rest"

It gave them their only number one single and studio album, indeed one of the best-selling singles in UK chart history, but it dented their reputation forever. Which is saying something considering their commerciality had never been a problem previously, such as getting sponsored to only wear Gap clothing, or hawking Star Wars merch for Adidas, or having Coca Cola launch something called Daft Coke (!).

Despite this slow eroding of their underground cool, they delivered a career highlight in 2010 with their superb Tron Legacy soundtrack, an album I once cautiously predicted would be "at least ten per cent better than the Moomins film". No, I don't remember a Moomins film either. It's most probably my favourite film soundtrack, despite the movie itself being rather eggy.

Here's something else you might not remember: Thomas Bangalter gave us Music Sounds Better with You as Stardust, a top ten smash from 1998. Not only that, with his work on Bob Sinclair's workout-sampling Gym Tonic, later covered with great success by Spacedust (no relation), he's partially responsible for a zillion house music videos with lycra-clad dancers. Put those leg warmers away, Madonna.

Daft Punk lit a tricolour touchpaper under the backside of dance music, showing that you could produce club-credible tracks and still appeal to a mass audience. Although they didn't quite roll and scratch as they used to, I'm gutted about their demise. Salut, boys.

Feb 14, 2021



I was thinking today about how much of an incendiary bomb LFO by LFO was.

The single was Warp Records' first big hit, peaking at number 12 in the UK charts in August 1990, wedged between Timmy Mallett and Craig McLachlan from Neighbours.

"We'd just been messing around with drum machines since we were, like, thirteen, tapping away at them like they were arcade games," said LFO's Mark Bell.

And that's what it sounds like. Computer-y. Geometric. Made of pixels. It was kind of house music, which had been around for a while, but lacked any sass. No diva was going to start wailing over this kind of club sound. 

This was a track from a Leeds band, released on a Sheffield label. Is this relevant? I think it is. I'm tired of lazy generalisations about "the north" but there's no way this would have sounded as good if it was made in London. It needed a Yorkshire dourness: a sense of the industrial. After the burst of yellow smiley colour that was the rave explosion, LFO seemed to be built from actual scaffolding. Structural and metallic; absolutely clanging. 

Also they said "LFO" in the track. They were called LFO, they named their single LFO, the lyrics were "LFO". What a statement of intent. Tricky Disco's Tricky Disco, which was a hit at the same time, pulled the same stunt, a chirpy and childish "tricky disco!" spicing up the bleeps. That's like Orbital chanting "Orbital!" right in the middle of Chime, which they'd need to rename Orbital.

LFO spent one week at the giddy heights of number 12 in the charts: it would go on to sell 130,000 records, solidifying Warp's future and beginning a whole new chapter in electronic music history. Mark Bell would go on to produce Björk, helping move her from a spiky popster into a baroque techno experimentalist on Homogenic.

What replaced LFO at number 12 the following week? Together's Hardcore Uproar, the legacy of which should probably be saved for another blog post.

As the Pharisees attacked Jesus, and so it was that pop music fought back against LFO. In the second half of the 1990s, a band called the Lyte Funky Ones appeared. They shortened their name to LFO, thereby confusing everyone forever. I hated them. These New England popsters were NKOTB wannabes who were about as techno as a Barbie doll head on a spike. 

Actually that's quite techno. I may need to think that analogy. 

Within a month of (the proper) LFO's commercial success, Timmy Mallett would top the charts, followed by the Steve Miller Band's The Joker which I think is one of the worst songs ever written. Vanilla Ice would try the eponymous lyric thing by saying "Ice, Ice baby" but it would sound all wrong.

Good old LFO. Have a listen here.

Further Fats: My Warp top ten: it's not all Warp and there aren't ten of them (2009)

Further Fats: Fat Roland's wonderful Warp Records word search (2020)

Feb 7, 2021

Electronic Sound issue 73: for the last time, please do NOT look at the ostrich

A cartoon ostrich as described in the text

I didn't want to have to do this, but for issue 73 of Electronic Sound magazine, I go on strike. And there's my illustration of a confused ostrich. With a piece of paper on its back for some reason. Ignore the ostrich. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE OSTRICH.

In my column, I rail against the readers and demand that they write this month's article themselves. It's been a long time coming. Stupid readers with their stupid money that pays our stupid wage. Oh. Wait. Dammit.

I'm not really on strike, of course. It's a fiction maintained for comedic effect. In the same way I spent a week after new year dressed as Mr Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street using only crepe paper and taramasalata. I wasn't the real Mr Snuffleupagus. I was maintaining a fiction.

In the same edition, you will find my reviews of the latest albums by Haroon Mirza and Jack Jelfs (something botanical about the croaking synths"), Emeka Ogboh ("bursts with life") and veteran ambient producer Tim Story ("oodles of acoustic space").

There is also stuff in issue 73 not written by me, if you can believe such a thing. Elsewhere there's an interview with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, a short story by John Foxx of Ultravox fame, and a piece about Langham Research Centre and their tape manipulation exploits.

There's also a great section dedicated to limited edition record releases, including Aphex Twin's ultra-rare Analogue Bubblebath 5, a bizarrely truncated Boards Of Canada tune for Record Store Day 2013, and that one-off Wu-Tang Clan album that was bought by pill-pushing fraudster Martin Shkreli.

The design of the magazine is another triumph. Plain black text on a plain white background, like the mind control signs from They Live, only classier. Sunglasses on, folks. OBEY. CONSUME. BUY ISSUE 73 OF ELECTRONIC SOUND.

I must go. Blogger spell check is not recognising the word "Snuffleupagus" nor the word "taramasalata". I'm off to write a strongly-worded letter to Ms B Logger, who owns Blogger, about a lax attitude to Greek meze and feathered mammoths.

Electronic Sound issue 73 Fat Roland blog

Further Fats: 

Jan 31, 2021

Talking or not talking about Bad Lip Reading

Buble singing in Bad Lip Reading

This year, Bad Lip Reading is ten years old.

The spoof YouTube channel overdubs pop promos and current affairs broadcasts, getting Rebecca Black into a Gang Fight, having the Black Eyed Peas sing about poop, and giving Michael Bublé a scatological hit song about a Russian Unicorn.

This is the point where my jaw drops to the floor. Where did that ten years go? I can't be bothered to cut and paste emojis into Blogger, but if I did, you would be seeing a little yellow face with an exploding head. Ten years. Ten years!

I really liked Russian Unicorn. It turned something as bland as Bublé, who posted a good natured video reply because that somehow is ultimate Bublé, into something full of unhinged energy. Even better was Morning Dew, which mashed together Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Jay-Z to make a peon to furry pet monkeys and broccoli pizza.

Part of me insists I shouldn't like Bad Lip Reading. It revels in the worst pop music (Bieber, BTS, James flipping Blunt) and legitimises it through affectionate parody. It's decidedly off-key in places, referring to women as "chicks" and using a slang word for cerebral palsy that is pretty much verboten in the UK. 

And it's fallen hard for Star Wars fandom, that most tiresome of fandoms, producing songs about seagulls in space, death by chicken-duck, and Yoda's stick ("it's just a stick"). That last one is pretty poor, but then again they did come out with the smooth electro banger Hostiles On The Hill in which the Skywalker guy fights the long leggy things in the Antarctic or somewhere. You can tell I'm a fan.

What's strange about the success of BLR, and channels like it, is its wonky place in popular culture. Take traditional TV as a comparison. 30 million people watched the Eastenders episode in which a vengeful Dirty Den give Angie divorce papers for Christmas. For years, that scene appeared in compilation shows and newspaper lists. It turned Christmas dark, and soaps have never looked back since.

The most successful BLR video has four times the views: their top five videos have racked up a third of a billion watches. Yet in the past ten years, I don't think I've experienced a single 'watercooler' moment about Bad Lip Reading. The same goes for other YouTube big hitters at the geekier end of culture: Tom Scott, Drew Gooden, those never-ending Vox factual videos.

This is all to do with the fractal nature of modern entertainment, where the metaphorical family sofa has been replaced by a wide scattering of deck chairs: the watercooler is now a zillion single water bottles. This more personal method of video consumption means we can spend an entire evening wasted on Fail Army clips without ever mentioning it to anyone ever. Maybe one day you'll mention it on a blog. Maybe.

And yet, I don't fully buy that. It's not fractal, is it. What we've done, in the UK at least, is swap four or five terrestrial television channels (and a wall of DVDs) with fewer providers of televisual entertainment. YouTube and Netflix dominate the market as BBC1 and ITV did in the olden days. I don't have Freeview or anything, but don't tell me that endless menu of things you don't want to watch adds up qualitatively to anything more than a single day of programming on Channel Five.

Anyway. Go and watch Bad Lip Reading videos so we can talk about it one day. A lot of it sounds like Uptown Funk but there are roses among the thorns. One of their BTS videos is childish cack, but the more recent BTS one seems to take ballad writing seriously.

What did we do without YouTube? Actually, we watched Flash videos. Badger, badger, that sort of thing. That is, oh goggle-eyed viewer, a whole different blog post.

Further Fats: Insanity Prawn Boy (2005)

Jan 22, 2021

An update: so whose blog post is this?

Hello. My name's Fat Roland. You might remember me from 'Fat Roland: A Space Odyssey', 'Dude Where's My Fat Roland' and 'The Fat Roland Who Went Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain'.
I thought I'd plop a quick update on my blog, lest you think I've been kidnapped by monkeys or something. Most of these updates are trivial. One is not (but don't worry, it's nothing too serious).

Update one. I've been listening to a lot of Pet Shop Boys, and I'm in awe of the lyric:
I'm always hoping you'll be faithful
But you're not I suppose
We've both given up smoking 'cause it's fatal
So whose matches are those?
Update two. I had to postpone my Seven Inch show for obvious lockdown reasons, but it's all cool because I'll do an online version that is going to kick ass. And because it'll be online, I'm going to have to storyboard my whole show, which will be equally fun and brain-breaking.

Update three. I've just realised I'm the same age Susan Boyle was when she first appeared on Britain's Got Talent. I also saw a picture of myself which made me realise I'm now properly middle-aged. I'd better do something constructive with my life, like being a brain surgeon or flying helicopters or something.

Update four. A few days ago, I got evacuated. And no, I don't mean I had a bodily mishap with a hoover. The river Mersey got a bit angry and I got a phone call from Floodline telling me my life was in immediate danger and I had better do something about it. I spent the night at a friend's place, then went back to a thankfully unflooded home once we'd be given the all-clear. My main takeaway. A bit of discombobulation, but it was amazing to visit my friends. Thank you, friends.

Update five. Did you notice that update four was the non-trivial one? You did? Good.

Update six. I tweeted "I miss Donald Trump. His touch. His embrace. His warm breath. His fine collection of venus clams" and it only got two likes, and now I'm worried people will think I actually want to touch Donald Trump.

Update seven. Yeesh. I've said Donald Trump too much. Bernie Sanders is way better. I think he looks great in those mittens.

Update eight. That's it. That's all my updates. This was a bitty blog post without much focus, but better to have some scruffy words than none at all.

Jan 6, 2021

Happy new 2021 Fat Roland


Happy 2021, idiots.

Yeah, you heard. I called you an idiot and you can do nothing about it. This is the new me: confident, assertive, dominant, and wearing a special hat that says "I am the best".

In previous years, my new year's resolutions have been pathetic. Staying off Facebook, answering emails more quickly, being nicer to dogs, that sort of thing. Those resolutions are for small-minded losers. The new me, the 2021 me, is going to have a big mind.

Everything is going to be bigger.

Strap in, because these ten 2021 resolutions are so full of confidence, they're going to blow your socks off. You have rubbish socks, by the way. Yeah, you heard.

Resolution 1:
Beat Gary Kasparov at chess

I reckon I can take him. I watched that chess drama with the gaudy wallpaper and I'm an expert at chess now. The castle goes down the edges, the donkey does a sideways jump like it's avoiding an ants' nest, and the tall one just stands at the back and does nothing. Easy. Once I've trounced him at chess, I'm going to destroy him at Ludo.

Resolution 2:
Become a superstar DJ like they had in the 90s

I mean, how hard can it be? Stick a cassette tape on, pretend to move all the knobs, move the vinyl back and forth while saying "wickedy-wah", get on the front cover of Mixmag. I'm going to wear a tie-dye shirt with smiley faces on. The only song I'll play is Doop by Doop.

Resolution 3:
Populate Mars

Pretty simple. Buy a nice house on Mars, preferably near a newsagents and a well-maintained public leisure centre. And then populate the planet by either sexy bonky times or a mass cloning programme. I've not worked out the details: my many offspring can sort that out. I'm sure my logic's pretty solid on this one.

Resolution 4:
Patent a two-tier urinal system

Men! Fed up of queuing for a wee in public toilets? Want to avoid todger-tinkling tailbacks? I will invent a two-tier urinal system to speed things up. I can't reveal too much for intellectual property reasons, but Tier One is "Measured Micturition", which involves a tape measure and a waterproof notepad, and Tier Two is "Splash And Dash" which involves standing in the doorway and arcing over the loo queue. Just hand me my million pounds now, Dragon's Den.

Resolution 5:
Host the 2021 Olympics

I will become an Olympic host, just like a country. I don't know if we're due an Olympics this year: Sebastian Coe won't return my calls. But I will totally host it single-handedly. I might not have stadiums (the correct plural of which is "stadiumii"), but I can run around my living room in jogging bottoms balancing an egg in a ladle. Not a real egg, obviously, I'm not stupid.

Resolution 6
Become the world's tallest man

I'll just stand on some bricks or something.

Resolution 7
Win all the marathons

All of them. London, Munich, Sydney, Bhutan, everywhere. Eddie Izzard did loads of marathons because standup comedians run about a lot on stage, so it was a natural progression. I don't want to do any actual running: I'm pretty sure if you bung the finish-line marshals a few quid, they'll plant a few bogus "this way" signs so my competitors get lost and/or fall into a crocodile pit.

Resolution 8
Become 'Back Flip Guy'

Just imagine. I'm in a board meeting. Some suit is pointing at figures on a white board. The big boss at the head of the table asks for blue-sky thinking. I do a back flip right out of my chair, and everyone says it's "well skill" while doing the gangsta hand-snap thing. Hey! I'm the Back Flip Guy! It's what I do! See also: AA meetings, supermarket queues, rollercoasters, egg-ladle racing.

Resolution 9
Invent Star Wars

Do you know how much money Star Wars made? It was like a thousand pounds or something. I'm going to get rich by inventing Star Wars, although I'd get rid of all those little furry animals and the droopy-faced racist guy and all the robots and anything to do with space. It's basically going to be a dozen films of me sat in my pants playing computer Solitaire. The merch is going to be amazing.

Resolution 10
Use the word "horse" instead of other more useful words

My final resolution is going to horse your brain. I'm going to horse a seventy-foot horse in front of a crowd of horse, while horse-rope walking across a huge chasm which is horse metres high. Everyone will totally horse, and within horse weeks, horse will ask me to horse a horse, with horse horse and horse. Horse horse ladle, horse, horse on horse horse. Horse— (that's enough horsing around - ed)

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

Further Fats: The only new year list that counts (2017)