Jan 16, 2023

My magical dream: everything's gone all Chris de Burgh

A vending machine

There's an old 808 song about a magical dream that goes:

It's a fantasy taking over your mind 

So let it roll, let it roll with ease

It will take control of the rest of your soul

And explode... into a magical dream

The song about a magical dream carries on talking about the magical dream and how having a magical dream is great because it's magical and a dream. Can't remember the name of the track.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog post. Dreams. More specifically, a dream I had. People waffling about dreams can be pretty dull in the scheme of things, so feel free to scroll off to some more fascinating corner of the internet.

Last night, I dreamed I used a 3D printing vending machine for dresses. A what now? A unit where you pressed a load of buttons and it would spit out a dress. For a women. A proper figure-hugging dress like you see at awards ceremonies.

After scrolling through some templates on the vending machine touchscreen, I decided to get one. The quality of the material looked good. You could choose the strap design and the neckline and any little extras. Lovely.

I chose a red dress. Really red, like Mr Strong driving a fire engine then blushing about it. Soooo red. As Chris de Burgh sang:

The lady in red

Is dancing with me

Bum cheek to bum cheek

At least, I think that's how the song went. Looking at the preview screen, the colour was a bit too blocky, so decided to personalise it with a text pattern. Lots of small white type all over the dress, with the words "Fat Roland" over and over again. FAT ROLAND FAT ROLAND FAT ROLAND.

The machine couldn't handle things, and the text rendered badly. Overlaps, warps, random lines criss-crossing. But then I angled the text at 45 degrees and it was kind of fine. That'll do. If people wanted to read FAT ROLAND, they'll just have to look at it wonky.

At the bottom of the vending machine menu was a big PURCHASE button, alongside the final price including customisations. It would cost £450. Shocked at how expensive this was, I brought my friends in to discuss the wisdom of the purchase. We had a long conversation acknowledging the substandard quality of the final product, even though it was still a preview on a screen rather than the end print. We discussed my financial situation and whether I could afford to take the hit. We also needed to balance that with a need to serve my monstrous narcissism. 

I also asked if this is how much dresses cost in Primark because, as you can tell from all this, I don't buy dresses.

And then I fell into a deeper sleep. Drifted from REM into heavy unconsciousness, any dream sequences fading into darkness. Do we still dream when we're properly conked out? Probably not. My drapery frippery was long lost.

When I finally started waking up, a couple of minutes before my alarm, the dream briefly returned. The discussion with my friends was just finishing. Had they really stuck around all this time? I had opted to not buy the dress because that was the pragmatic and grown-up thing to do. The sense of making a decision made me feel assured as I started my day back in the real world.

Which is why I'm writing this blog post in my usual rags, and not crammed into a red dress looking like Elmo with haemorrhoids.

Jan 10, 2023

An interview with Black Box and why Ride On Time was not of its time

Here's a Fat Roland flashback (a Flat Rolashback?) to an interview I conducted in 2019. I spoke to Black Box's Daniele Davoli about the band's massive 1989 hit Ride On Time. Labels said the vocals were “very aggressive” and it barely shifted a copy of its first pressing. "It completely cleared the floor," he told me when the tune hit the clubs "It was heartbreaking."

So how did it become such a big hit single? Read on for a preview. You can read the full piece over at Electronic Sound.

Black Box in their studio

In a dusty room above a garage in northern Italy, a musician brandishes a vacuum cleaner. Scattered along the walls is a guitar, some old keyboards, a half-broken mixer, and a speaker with a wonky tweeter. 

Outside, a bell tower shatters the silence and next door’s dogs yap in response. In this damp, distracting space in Reggio Emilia, Daniele Davoli is trying to rewrite house music history.

“The bell tower was ding dong, ding dang dong,” recalls Davoli, “and the neighbour’s dogs were woof woof woof. If we were recording vocals, we had to stop. There was no insulation, it was just a bedroom without the bed.”

This story ends well. Davoli will go on to form Black Box, whose Ride On Time, released in July 1989, popularised choppy Italo house piano lines. But we’re not quite there yet. As the group formed, sample culture had become the socks-and-sandals of dance music: a shortcut for naff. Where Paul Hardcastle once stood, now there was Harry “Loadsamoney” Enfield parodying Pump Up The Volume. Ride On Time was against trend – and its journey to success had more stumbles than the Stutter Rap.

Davoli was DJ Lelewel, banging out soul and disco hits at Rimini’s Starlight club... [continue reading this article on Electronic Sound]

Further Fats: Is Fat Roland my real father? Norwegian woof. *click* (2011)

Further Fats: 5 great new dance hits from January 1989 (2019)

Jan 6, 2023

Bang-on electronic music releases in January 2023

Music For Dead Airports cover

Hello, you. You're looking wonderful today. I love that tartan eyeliner, and those designer galoshes really compliment your knee pads.

It's 2023, and if the progression of previous years is anything to go by, we'll be swallowed by burning lava or eaten by locusts within weeks. Still, there's lots of music to enjoy, and I am going to bang on about some of that music now.

All these January 2023 releases are proper bang-on.

The Black Dog: Music For Dead Airports (Dust Science, EP, pictured above)

These four tracks are atmospheric spatial electronics, at least in part recorded in Sheffield airports. The work is inspired by Sheffield's troubled history with airports, including the doomed Sheffield City Airport which had a runway too short for popular budget airlines. Also Sheffield's really hilly and planes hate hills. Music For Dead Airports is released alongside the band's 2010 field recordings album Music for Real Airports.

Rian Treanor & Ocen James: Saccades (Nyege Nyege Tapes)

A remarkable listen, this. Arising from a residency in Kampala, Rotheram's Rian Treanor produces folk techno with Acholi fiddle player Ocen James. Think super rhythmic Ugandan techno using real instruments. This follows 2020's Treanor album File Under UK Metaplasm, which I described previously as "a rave in the middle of Mike Teavee's fractal transfer in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory".

Oceanic: Choral Feeling (Nous'klaer Audio)

We've had an artist from Rotherham. Now let's have one from Rotterdam. For this debut album, Oceanic asked his friends to sing for him. Simple. The resulting vocal melee is mesmerising, with the rhythmic vocals sounding fully human yet so alien. The repetitive and blossoming Sunshine, Dear is a banger. Oceanic is not to be confused with the early-1990s rave act signed to Cheshire's Dead Dead Good Records.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12 (Milan Records)

No Bandcamp preview for this one. This is a selection of musical sketches to mark the revered composer's 71st birthday. He's approached it as a kind of diary, and it tracks a long battle with cancer in which he found himself "reaching for the synthesiser". The track titles are all numbers, and look like a Sudoku grid has glitched because Elon Musk sacked all the puzzle setters. There's a super minimal album teaser on YouTube, although it doesn't give much away. I'll bang on more about this album in Electronic Sound.

Eat Static: Abduction (Planet Dog) 

And finally, look out for this reissue of a 1993 ambient trance classic by the Ozric Tentacles offshoot. It's on double vinyl and comes with added John Peel session tracks. Psychedelic trance that is very druggy, very snappy, and very Planet Doggy.