Jan 22, 2022

Electronic Sound 85: blowing my alpine horn

In issue 85 of Electronic Sound magazine, I do a deep dive on the new Bonobo album. Meanwhile, in my column I take on cancel culture while my fictional self blows a horn. All pretty normal, nothing to worry about here.

The Bonobo review is the lead review in this latest edition, which is always a nice spot to be in as a writer. You'll have to read the magazine to find out what I think, but I can tell you it contains the phrase "frozen fish aisle". I also review the latest album by Pan Daijing ("a forest of startled birds") and Arca's new clutch of albums ("witches and queerness").

This month's column has me getting outraged about cancel culture. "Are you telling me I can’t prance around as glam-rock Brian Eno, complete with unbuttoned motorbike jacket and feather shoulder-pads, while hooting Van McCoy's ‘The Hustle’ on the alpine horn?" And yes, that ended up being my illustration for the column, with added conkers for eyes. It'll all make sense if you read the column. Probably. Ahem.

Elsewhere in the mag, in gubbins that wasn't written by me, there's a piece about the Hacienda's design, a chat with Suicide and their "battered old keyboards", Tim Hecker talking about writing soundtracks, and a piece about the ace new electro-pop project Telefis. And loads more.

85 issues, 85 columns. Good grief. Incidentally, Erasure's Oh L'amour only got to number 85 in the charts when it was released, only surpassed by Dollar's cover version in 1987 and Erasure's slightly weedier remix many years later. All the best things are number 85.

Jan 19, 2022

You wait for one Better Days and two arrive at once

Better Days artworks

I was tottering along the street a while ago when a black cat appeared from under a hedge to say hello. I always stop to fuss cats. They're cute and fun, and you never know if one will suddenly start talking French or lead you to an abandoned whelk mine.

The moment I stroked this friendly black cat, another black cat appeared. Same hedge, same appearance. I suddenly had two black cats greeting me. It was like being in The Matrix except without the pill popping and questionable spoons. 

Apart from the brief concern that I had developed a special power that duplicates whatever I stroke, a talent that could get very problematic very quickly, I handled the situation fine. Two very similar cats. Two very similar hands. The maths worked out: double petting commenced. 

Why am I telling you this? Because at the moment there are two songs in the UK singles chart called Better Days. This concerns me, because singles are less cute than cats and I don't like having two of them. 

One of the Better Days is by Neiked, Mae Muller and Polo G. It's a sunny slice of Tik Tok-famous retro pop in which US rapper Polo G asks "can I get an amen" so politely, it sounds like he's ordering afternoon tea. 

The other Better Days is a yearning torch song by Irish singer Dermot Kennedy. In the video, he falls into a puddle and stays there for a bit. It's pretty wet physically and musically, but Snow Patrol fans will like it. 

Two Better Days in one chart? I thought this wasn't allowed. I thought you had to give songs different nicknames so you could tell them apart, in the same way we all have friends called Big Tony, French Tony, Naked Tony and Seven Years In Strangeways Tony. I thought songwriters had these things allocated to them, making them queue with a numbered ticket as if they were waiting for fancy cheese.

In the past, duplicated track titles were easily navigated. Adele and Lionel Richie both had a Hello, but the songs were decades apart and Adele didn't have a bonce made out of clay. Orbital and Boney M both had tracks called Belfast. Neither are likely to get confused, unless the Orbital brothers suddenly start coming up with disco dance moves. Mariah Carey and Big Bird both had different songs called All I Want for Christmas Is You, but only one of them was about a snuffleupagus. 

It gets more difficult the closer the songs get. In the mid-1980s, there were two number one ballads called The Power of Love courtesy of Jennifer Rush and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Close in time, close in style. Meanwhile, Robert Plant, World Party and Erasure all had different hits called Ship Of Fools within 20 months of each other. It's such a colourful metaphor that, in my mind, all three songs have muddled into one vague image of a bunch of clowns on a pirate ship doing karaoke.

Whitesnake and Alison Moyet both had mid-1980s songs titled Is This Love. Go and look at the videos for the songs. Moyet and David Coverdale sport the exact same shaggy dog hairstyle. It's ridiculous. There have been 20 hit singles called Stay. It's such a bland track name, I could sing you the Shakespears Sister one but absolutely none of the others, despite the rest of the list featuring big hitters like Rihanna, Mica Paris and Simply flipping Red. Not helpful.

I demand that each Better Days song changes its name. The first one, the Tik Tok one, should be called Afternoon Tea. And the other one, the wet one, should be called Oh Look I'm In A Puddle, While I Think About It Whatever Happened To Snow Patrol. That should sort it. Who do I contact about this? Is it the Queen? Paul Gambaccini? Greg James?!

The other solution is to enact a new law in which every song is called Song. Every song ever written. All of them called Song. 

Hey, I've written a new track.

Brilliant, what's it called?


That's great, what's it about?


Sounds wonderful, here's a Grammy.

I wonder if the existence of two Better Days is a Matrix glitch caused by the appearance of two similar cats. I'd ask Keanu Reeves if this is possible, but he's done four films with the word 'Matrix' in, so I'm not going to take his advice on anything. There is no spoon? I've got loads of spoons, mate, all of them identical.

Further Fats: No-one wants songs about the moon these days (2017)

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

Jan 12, 2022

Selected tweeted works: pigs, peanuts, Paul, pricks and polywonk

A broken Twitter logo

Sometimes I go onto Twitter then I give my opinions on Twitter and then I expect the whole of Twitter reads it and think "thank goodness that guy put something on Twitter".

If you are not on Twitter, you're in luck, because I'm about to spew some tweets all over this blog. Here are some highlights from my recent Twitter feed. And by "high", I mean "pretty low" and by "lights" I mean the encroaching darkness that will one day swallow us whole. 

Enjoy my stupid thoughts.

1. Genres
A guide to the different types of ambient music. 1. Ambient = chill-out music. 2. Hambient = pig-out music. 3. Diagrambient = lay-out music. 4. Wigwambient = camp-out music. 5. Victoria Beckhambient = out of your mind featuring dane bowers music.

2. Clock part one
Even a stopped cook gives the right thyme twice a plate.

3. Rockers
Have you noticed how heavy metal fans can't wink? Every single one of them. Now I've pointed it out, you'll spot it all the time. Heavy metal fans. Can't wink. Or crochet.

4. Snack part one
I ate some peanuts. Licked each one clean good and proper. Sang them one-hit wonders.

5. New year
I can't reveal my sources, but I've heard the only music we'll be allowed to listen to in 2022 is Roxette.

6. Pricked
I had my booster jab today. On leaving the pharmacy, a phalanx of seahorses escorted me on a hammock of golden plumes into the street then dumped me in a puddle. Please advise.

7. Snack part two
I'm eating Mentos and drinking Diet Coke. Pray for me.

8. Shopping
I once spotted Paul McCartney in a Currys. He was shoplifting three hoovers, trying to hide them in his enormous side flaps. He evaded security using his invisibility conch, while playing Eleanor Rigby through his gills. Three hoovers. What a guy.

9. Clock part two
I love that Orbital sample 'even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day unless it's a 24 hour clock in which case you probably paid a little more for it so why's it stopped ffs".

10. Indifference
No-one cares: a tweet reply hammered into the keyboard, shift key pressed with stressed-white fingers. No-one cares: a caption on a gif hurled at the internet, shattering on impact. No-one cares: the strained yelp of a purple veined man, scrunching his no-one cares face tattoo.

11. Reaction
"No PCR" is trending in the UK. Quite right. Can't stand Phil Collins Records.

12. Festive food
Remember, folks, you have until January 6th to eat your Christmas tree. Make sure you start at the thin end. Good luck!

13. Movies
Se7en should have been called 5even. The Fifth Element should have been called Th3 Fifth 3l3m3nt. The 4th Matrix film should have been called MatrIX. No reason. I just like things to be wrong and annoying.

14. List
There are some things I will just never understand no matter how hard I try, namely duck hands, the concept of jeleb, the word 'xthw))rd', cloud anvils and late-career polywonk.

15. Girl power
The Spice Girls would have been more successful if they'd been called the Spine Girls i.e. they were just a bunch of dancing spines. We're all thinking it.

16. Token
This tweet is an NFT. If you read it, you owe me 92 bits of ethereal coins or something.

17. Optimism
You know it's going to be a good day when you've laid a load of blue eggs and they start whistling Van McCoy's The Hustle. No? Just me? Suit yourself.

Further Fats: Tiny promises that get me through (2016)

Further Fats: Selected tweeted works: bagel, beards, bungs and beaches (2021)

Jan 10, 2022

Guess a word, any word, no not that word

Wordle grid showing FAT ROLAND

Everyone's into the daily word guessing game Wordle. Half my Twitter feed is people posting their Wordle results. There hasn't been an online puzzle this popular since I posted a close-up body part and people had to guess if it was my ear or my warts.

For the unaware, Wordle is a bit like hangman, but you have to guess a five-letter word each time. You enter letters and the puzzle tells you how close you are to the correct ones. It has words like QUERY and DADDY and FARTS. It's nice and simple, and all credit to software guy Josh Wardle for creating a truly viral hit. Yes, the game is a letter-changed twist on his name. It could have been called Jash, I suppose.

You can post your daily results on social media, although to avoid spoilers, you can only post your answers as plain coloured squares, with the letters taken out. No, really. It's like being shown some meat at the supermarket, and when you ask what it is, they just say it's "some meat".

Of course, anyone who plays Wordle is a sad loser with nothing better to do with their time. Have I played it? Heck yes. I need to beat all my loser friends. I've even played the limitless version where you can load new games until your thumb falls off. Best correct streak so far is 57. But yes, sad losers, all of them. Ahem.

I'm glad the puzzles are only five letters long. I can't think beyond the fingers on one hand or beyond the toes on one foot or beyond the nipples on one nose. We need a game for five-lettered electronic music acts. Yello. Bjork. Diplo. Plaid. Fluke. Clark. Tycho. Bibio. Teebs. Unkle. As One. Tosca. Zero 7. 3OH!3. Chase out of Chase & Status. Jeez, it's really difficult to think of five-letter electronic music acts.

Since lockdown, I've embraced word games. This blog turns 18 years old this year: I'm not the spring chicken I once was. I'm a withered old cockerel. I'm convinced I'm going to wake up one morning and my brain will literally be a cabbage. And not even a good cabbage: one with browned leaves and loads of fungus and it's 14p in Sainsbury's. So I play word games to keep me sparking along. BRAIN. WORKS. MAYBE.

There's one kind of word game I won't do. Cryptic crosswords seem to follow some kind of arcane rule set only communicable by invisible semaphore. I think this is only played by people who understand cricket. Like most cryptic noobs, I can get the anagram ones, but I come unstuck pretty quickly. That said, I once got 13 correct answers in the Private Eye crossword: I felt superhuman. Maybe I was just possessed.

Yazoo! I thought of another one! Plone! Sasha! Cylob! They're coming thick and fast now. I can actually literally feel my brain getting younger. Quick, let me post these names on my Twitter feed but only as anonymous coloured squares. I'm sure everyone will appreciate that.

Further Fats: Chosen Words: N is for Nintendo (2010)

Further Fats: Flatulent balls – lockdown thoughts and a cartoon of a bull (2020)

Jan 7, 2022

Some January 2022 electronic music releases: Bonobo, wintertime cities and generous wildebeest


What is the sound of January? Is it the noise of Christmas trees being fed into a woodchipper? Is it the noise your uneaten Christmas dinner being fed into a woodchipper? Is it the noise of a woodchipper being fed into a woodchipper because that's all you got for Christmas and you already had one?

No. It's none of the above. January actually sounds like these four interesting records, all due for release at some point this month.

Here are my January new electronic music recommendations.

Bonobo: Fragments (Ninja Tune)

Seventh album from the jazzy techno man (pictured), inspired by his forays into the California wilderness. It's dead orchestral, but is also one of his more dancier outings. The Otomo collaboration with O'Flynn revives the giddy breakbeat vibes of the likes of Way Out West. One for the clubbers, and a bunch of soulful vocal tracks for the mainstream crowd too. A sunny antidote to this virus-ridden winter.

Telefís: a hAon (Dimple Discs)

This is going to be ace. Irish producer Jacknife Lee and singer Cathal Coughlan combine to make an album of snappy electro pop celebrating and satirising Irish pop culture, all with a retro / library music feel. They've got Jah Wobble on remix duties AND a track called Archbishop Beardmouth At The ChemOlympics.

Burial: Antidawn EP (Hyperdub)

I've never seen Burial and Lorraine Kelly in the same room at the same time. Coincidence?! Everyone's favourite enigma goes ambient for this new EP, as he invites us into a "wintertime city". Imagine entering Narnia where a fawn offers you a big fat blunt and never tells you its name. Like that. But spookier.

Soichi Terada: Asakusa Light (Rush Hour)

Deep house producer Soichi Terada dug out a bunch of 1990s synths for this first album in 25 years. It's Bleep's Album of the Week and I can see why. Its bright metronomic beats sit somewhere between Shinichi Atobe and early Grid. Imagine being garrotted by a furious wildebeest because you didn't appreciate the woodchipper it bought you for Christmas. This album is the exact opposite of that, i.e. it's proper nice.

That's it. Have a listen to all of that, please. Now move along before I call the police.

Jan 4, 2022

The New Year singles chart is one hot Christmas tree fire


New Year is a time for new beginnings. New promises, new routines, new gym memberships. A lovely fresh start.

So why is the New Year UK pop chart so stuck in Christmas? Here are 19 of the 20 top ten singles in this week's chart, the week *after* Christmas. Listed in alphabetical order. Deep breath...

All I Want For Christmas Is You, Come On Home For Christmas, Do They Know It's Christmas, Driving Home For Christmas, Fairytale Of New York, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, Jingle Bell Rock, Last Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas Everyone, One More Sleep, Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree, Santa Tell Me, Step Into Christmas, The Christmas Song, Underneath The Tree, Wonderful Christmastime.

What the flaming workshop elf is going on? The answer is that while last week's Christmas chart picked up all the pre-Christmas buying and streaming, this chart is picking up all the Christmas Day streams. Which is depressing because it shows the entire of the UK has had the bad taste to soundtrack their turkey guzzling with Shakin' Stevens, Brenda Lee and Elton cacking John. Wot no techno?! It's enough to make me vomit my sprouts THROUGH MY EARS.

There should be a rule. Any Christmas song that is still in the charts after Christmas should (a) be deleted forever, (b) have its artist dropped from the label, and (c) have its lyrics tattooed onto a screaming reindeer that haunts our dreams forever. This is all totally reasonable, as I think you'll agree.

Props to young Nashville singer Gayle (pictured above)who was the only artist in the top 20 who didn't have a Christmas song. Here are some of the lyrics to her smash hit ABCDEFU. It's quite sweary, so to keep on the right side of internet filters, I have replaced all swear words with antique furniture.

Louis XIII walnut tabouret you and your mom and your sister and your job

And your broke-Point de Venise floral curtains car and that regency mahogany double wardrobe you call art

Jonathan Charles side table you and your friends that I'll never see again

Everybody but your dog, you can all Edwardian corner cabinet bookcase off

The worst thing is, we won't get a new singles chart until January 7th, which means these festive songs will be in the pop charts after twelfth night. That's unlucky, like keeping your Christmas tree up for too long, or riding Santa's sleigh after midnight, or informing the authorities of the workshop elves you've got chained in your basement.

Last Christmas was at number one on last year's New Year chart, then dropped out of the top 100 the following week. This will happen again, with nearly three dozen seasonal songs about to tumble down the listings. Next week's chart is effectively a big reset button, with Gayle inevitably becoming number one and all the Santa-suppressed non-seasonal Ed Sheeran songs rising again to the surface like a bad egg.

Ho, ho, and inevitably, ho.

Further Fats: Merry pissmas (2006)

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