Jan 24, 2018

Fat Roland: Seven Inch - tickets on sale now

I'm doing a show at the Lowry theatre in Salford, and you should come. I don't care if you're reading this in China. You should definitely come.

The show is called Seven Inch, and it's my third solo show. Here's the blurb:
Surrounded by a set built entirely from cartoons, Fat Roland’s one-man show is a hilarious and touching spoken word comedy about music, loneliness and not-quite-teenage kicks.
This all came about because I won a national pitch for inclusion on the theatre's Developed With scheme. I get to do two nights as part of the Lowry's Week 53 festival, and I get extra stuff like a special hat, access to a secret shark pit, and the ability to drop buttered toast the wrong way round and still pick it up and eat it.

It's going to be mega, and if you buy tickets now, I'll totally keep a picture of you in my wallet forever, and not in a creepy way. Okay, In a SLIGHTLY creepy way.

Jan 16, 2018

Fat Roland does jury service (uh-oh)

You think you had a miserable start to 2018? I started it with jury service.

At 9am on Tuesday 2nd January, I found myself in court trying to look as suspicious as possible so I'd get let off. Even with the stripy jumper, eye mask and teetering swag bag, they still made my do jury duty.

On the positive side, they were VERY impressed with the barrel roll I did when entering the court room. "Cool moves, dude, quack" said the judge who also happened to be a six foot duck. It helped that the made the guilty people dress as as Hamburglar.

On a slightly less stupid note, I found jury service fascinating. I got to sit on a trial, and even managed to be foreperson of the jury. After all, why would you pass up the chance to be the bloke who reads out the verdict? Dead exciting, right?

Parts of it were tough. We were faced with a split jury, with most of us leaning towards a legally correct but morally unpleasant verdict. Announcing the decision in court felt like dropping an incendiary bomb into the lives of real people. But I did my job well, as did all of my fellow jurors, and during deliberation I managed to lead a group of people through a field of decisional cowpats without getting poo everywhere.

The final result was as follows:
guilty 3, innocent 1
adjourned 0, dismissed 2
robes 1, wigs 0 (late result)
guv'nors 1, m'luds 1 (5,4 pen.)

If you're facing the prospect of jury service, my guidance is simple: research your role and do it well, keep a logical head, make friends, bring a pack of cards, don't continuously moan about taxpayer money, get fresh air when you can, and don't expect wifi. Oh and judges rule. Even the one in my cartoon.

Jan 13, 2018

Remember when Boards of Canada remixed Colonel Abrams?

Before they released their amazing Music Has The Right To Children debut album, Boards of Canada produced some odd remixes.

Firstly, here's BoC taking on Colonel Abrams' 1985 hit Trapped. I'm a big fan of the Boards, but this is kinda horrible.

Secondly, here's an alternative take on Trapped. The original song is almost incidental as Boards get all Autechre on us. In fact, it's so Autechre-y, it doesn't sound much like BoC at all.

On this third remix, they get it right. This time they're taking on Midnight Star's 1986 song The Midas Touch, a minor hit in the States but a top ten hit over here in the UK. The BoC beats are upfront and centre, as is the original track. The dour electronic workout juxtaposes nicely with the glittery video.

I can forgive all this not quite working: they were unofficial remixes under the alias Hell Interface.

Incidentally, the Hell Interface alias appeared again on a 1997 Christmas compilation called Whine And Missingtoe, with a spooky track called Soylent Night. If BoC were the Whine, then V/vm Records' James Kirkby was the Missingtoe: for the album, he produced a terrifying Chipmunk version of Hark The Herald Angels Sing and a truly Satanic version of Jingle Bells called A Sprig Of Holly On The Electric Turbine. Ho ho ho!

Jan 10, 2018

#SevenInch: Buying some Ed Sheeran from a record shop

I want to keep a video diary. A totally accurate video diary.

So I did this.

It's a Seven Inch video diary in which I, Fat Roland (me), talk about something for a minute, In this first edition, I go to a record shop to buy a song by Ed Sheeran. All the cartoons are by me.

The audio's a bit loud, so watch those delicate ears of yours.

Jan 7, 2018

A peaky Brainwaltzera blinder from Luke Vibert

Original Hate Brother and jolly acid plugger Luke Vibert did something quite impressive with a track called Muddy Puddle Trot by Brainwaltzera.

You might remember Brainwaltzera for their starring role on this blog a week ago in my run-down of the best electronic music of 2017.

Vibert turns the original's trippy breaks into a peaky blinder of punchy electronics. Listen here.

Further Fats: Audio lampposts: Luke Vibert straightens up his Rhythm (2009)

Further Fats: Best electronic albums of 2017: Brainwaltzera (2017)

Jan 4, 2018

Something short and nasty from Not Waving

Here's something short and nasty from Alessio Natalizia, otherwise known as Not Waving and as one half of acclaimed ambient duo Walls. Me Me Me is taken from Not Waving's second album Good Luck (Diagonal).

The homemade film featuring children prancing about is straight out of the modern Aphex Twin video stylebook. In this case, the children are skeletons, and their skull faces are a perfect match for the snarly acid.

Contains balloon swears.

Further Fats: The 7 best moments in Ryan Wyer's video for Aphex Twin's CIRKLON3 [ Колхозная mix ] (2016)

Further Fats: A final tune for January: let Not Waving's dirty disco pickle your bones (2017)

Jan 1, 2018

New New Year number one singles

Welcome to 2018, readers. We are now in the future: it's official.

New Year's Day is a strange way to start a year. Everywhere's shut, no-one does anything, and it just feels like a final hiccup before we get cracking with our lives again. They should move New Year's Day to later in the year, when we need a break. July or something.

I spent a bit of time today researching UK number one singles that are bona fide New Year's Day chart toppers: in other words, they reached number one the week *after* Christmas, replacing whatever was official Christmas number one. A new New Year number one, if you like.

There aren't many.

1955: Dickie Valentine With The Stargazers - Finger of Suspicion
1956: Bill Haley & His Comets - Rock Around The Clock
1957: Guy Mitchell - Singing The Blues
1963: Cliff Richard & The Shadows - The Next Time / Bachelor Boy
1969: Marmalade - Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
1979: Village People - YMCA
1989: Kylie Minogue & Jason Donovan - Especially For You
1991: Iron Maiden - Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter
1999: Chef - Chocolate Salty Balls (PS I Love You)
2010: Joe McElderry - The Climb
2012: Coldplay - Paradise
2014: Pharrell Williams - Happy
2015: Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
2016: Justin Bieber - Love Yourself

Considering it's a quiet time of year for record sales, there are some pretty massive hits in that list. More so than if you chose a random week later in the year, I'd say.

The current UK number one is an Ed Sheeran track that was number one for Christmas last week. So no new New Year number one this year: nothing to add to the list.

However, if this list was based on streams only, today would have a brand new New Year number one. Hurray! What's the song? Last Christmas by Wham.

Oh great. Even New Year can't totally get rid of Christmas.

Dec 31, 2017

Best electronic albums of 2017: joint number one

1 – Clark – Death Peak (Warp Records)
1 – Jlin – Jlin – Black Origami (Planet Mu)

Two things to say right off the bat. Firstly, I missed out doing a number two because that's what you're meant to do when you have two big number ones. Secondly, it's such a cop-out to have two joint winners of album of the year.

Let me explain. It's a head / heart thing, and no two albums summed up that tension more than the two I'm presenting here.

Jlin's Black Origami is a perfect expression of percussion, where all the fury and fire of 2017 has been propelled into a clinically devastating work. You know you're in a different world altogether when you have a child saying into your headphones, "you’re all going to die down here" and for a moment, you believe it.

This album may be abrasive on first listen, but let the beats become the music: let the spikes of sound become waves. That said, this is not an album you feel. It seems to plug itself into you physically - body music full of sub-bass and minimalism. An album for the head that just happens to have rewritten the footwork genre.

Meanwhile, Clark's Death Peak twanged my heart trumpet like no other. I've shown plenty of love for Clark before, whether I'm digging up facts about him, awarding him the second best album of 2014, or the best album of 2009. So it's no great surprise to see him here again.

The reason is simple: Death Peak was the one album throughout 2017 I returned to again and again. I played it to pieces. I couldn't escape the "buzzing arpeggios, ambient fogs, analogue snarls", as I said in my review for Electronic Sound. And, like Jlin, more terrifying children, this time in the form of a choir singing "we are your ancestors". I'm beginning to think that this Clark album, in equal parts baleful and hopeful, is his most complete yet: an emotive journey from start to finish.

Jlin for the head. Clark for the heart.

It's much better having two at the top. Yin and yang. Sweet and sour. Shock and awe. Ant and Dec. Little and Large. Mitchell and Webb. Morecambe and-- wait, hold on, I'm just naming comedy duos now.

Thanks for reading my blog in 2017. With the help of today, this year I've totalled 165 blog posts, which means it's my most blogged year ever. Views range from a couple of hillbillies and their can of beans to hundreds of salivating music addicts, and just this week I've had over a thousand clicks for an old blog post about Autechre. Probably a bot. Every reader is huuugely appreciated, so thank you.

Hur hur. Bot. Sounds like bottom.

Sigh. See you in 2018.

Scroll all of the best 2017 electronic albums by clicking here.

Best electronic albums of 2017: the final also-rans

You have been so patient waiting for me to parp out this long list. We're nearly there. In fact, I can reveal that this year's NUMBER ONE BESTEST ALBUM is a joint number one. It'll be the first time the top spot has been shared since Andy Stott and Lone split the accolade in 2012.

Before we get there, here are some big and big-ish names that didn't make my list.

Perhaps Sampha's soul is too straight-up to be considered for inclusion here, but the instrumentation on the Mercury-winning Process (Young Turks) was top notch. I also fell for the alluring ethereal pop on Colleen's A Flame My Love, A Frequency (Thrill Jockey). I was perhaps less personally taken with the prog tendencies of James Holden & The Animal Spirits' The Animal Spirits although it's clearly a very good album indeed.

Mount Kimbie surprised me (pleasantly) with the post-punk vibes of Love What Survives (Warp Records). Vintage synth fans take note. I found Clap! Clap!'s A Thousand Skies (Black Acre) in some ways exhausting, but then again that album is a spaceship ride, not a Sunday drive. And I doff my hat to Fever Ray's Plunge (Rabid Records), a trip for fans of quirky pop and big fat keyboards.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith got plenty of accolades this year for her new-agey The Kid (Western Vinyl) vocal-led, as did Kelela on the astonishing debut album Take Me Apart (Warp Records). Both albums are worth your time, particularly if vocal-led albums tickle your tassels. And finally for this section, maybe start your 2018 resting in the hot dappled glow of lackadaisical sounds on Laurel Halo's Dust (Hyperdub).

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Best electronic albums of 2017: three

3 – Errorsmith – Superlative Fatigue (PAN)

Remember the dirty filters Daft Punk used on their debut album Homework? They went biddidy-dow biddidy-dwow baddidy-pyow boddidy-pyooo, and so on.

Superlative Fatigue is full of those kind of filters. They are the best filters ever. There's something so fat and dirty about Errorsmith's first album in 13 years - everything is banged up to the most bangiest bang ever. If I was dancing to this, it would be the best dancefloor ever. There's acid and trap and techno and house and the BEST MUSIC EVER.

Those superlatives getting on your nerves, yeah? Funny, that.

Every fart and every pow is a treat on this album. The filtered gasping vocal on My Party is all kinds of stupid, title track Superlative Fatigue is an absolute tune piped through a tonne of scaffolding, and Retired Low-level Internal Server sounds like, well, an old bit of computer kit on its way out... but with more heart.

An album which came late in the year, but thank goodness it did.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: four

4 – Shinichi Atobe – From The Heart, It's A Start, A Work Of Art (DDS)

Give me eggs, flower and fairy dust, and I'll bake you a cake. You may want to spit it into the bin, but it will contain all the right ingredients. Even if the end result was lacking, it is a cake.

Cakes contain fairy dust, right?

Give me the ingredients to produce house music, and I might produce something okay given the right YouTube instructional videos and Ableton training sessions. Those that have heard my 2012 recorded output may argue that....

However, some people can take basic ingredients and make something amazing.

I present to you the simple dubby house rhythms of From The Heart, It's A Start, A Work Of Art. Atobe is a Japanese producer clouded in mystery, but I would love to know why he, say, plonked the snarling air-gun percussion over the terribly sad Republic - it's a stroke of genius.

From the glimmering work-out of Regret to the echoing shimmy of closer First Plate 3, this collection of rediscovered old tracks is full of sparkling, driving techno in the vein of Jon Hopkins and Four Tet. It works more slowly - no builds or swoops here - but the result is no less rewarding.

I bet Shinichi Atobe uses fairy dust in his cakes. No easy streams to embed, so here's a YouTube rip of Republic. Give it time...

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Best electronic albums of 2017: sorry about the fake news joke

Let's pause the countdown once more. Here are some tasty techno tidbits which, although worthy of your attention, just didn't make the grade for the final top 20. Consider them as pathetic rejects, but also really brilliant albums wot you should listen to.

Here's some Fake news (ha ha): Nathan Fake nearly made it into my final 20 with Providence (Ninja Tune). He seems to have beaten down his writer's block with some impressively chunky synth work. Peverelist's Tessellations (Livity Sound Recordings) matched beefy bass with airy ambience. I definitely detected some Stranger analogue Things in Pye Corner Audio's superb The Spiral (Death Waltz Recording Company) Stranger analogue things

Just finished thowing shapes and/or having it large? Enjoy some amazing post-club non-bangers in Teengirl Fantasy's 8AM (Planet Mu). Two decades of German techno were represented on Thomas Brinkmann's Retrospektiv (Third Ear Recordings), with it all feeling like an odd basement party with
Kraftwerk. And Manchester's Modern love label pumped out some staggering, paranoid techno on Turinn's 18 1/2 Minute Gaps (Modern Love).

Not enough? Then try some moody pounders on 400PPM's Fit for Purpose (Avian), shiny electronic funk on Sinjin Hawke's debut First Opus (Fractal Fantasy). beguiling afro-euro dancehall techno on STILL's ungoogleable I (PAN) or Andrew Weatherall's positively polite Qualia (Hoga Nord).

Phew. We're nearly there.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: five

5 – Bicep – Bicep (Ninja Tune)

Here it is. The top five best albums of 2017. What shall we start the top five with? Nose-flute ballads from Peru? A compilation of Asda in-store radio jingles? The sound of the universe dying?

No, let's have some irresistible prog house in the form of Bicep. Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson have produce a stormer here. Although covered in a coffee-table sheen, every beat feels urgent, every skipping snare a call to action.

Glue should have every Moderat fan mopping their broken heart off the floor. And the filtered ravey chirrups in Rain will have Chicane devotees salivating.

Let's not forget where Bicep came from. Producers, yes, DJs, yes. They were music bloggers, which is very much the greatest form of art. In a million years, when the columns of empire have crumbled and humanity is a mere sliver of carbon amid the layers of the earth, they will talk of music bloggers. "Do you remember Bicep's blog," whisper the future aliens. "Yes, and we remember Fat Roland too."

THANKS, future beings, thanks.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: six

6 – Rhys Celeste– Microlith (Fundamental Records)

When I am dead and gone, and my ashes have been loaded into a Casio keyboard and cannoned into the heart of the sun, I'd like to think there'd be a lasting tribute to me. A statue, a bench, a catch of the day at my local fishmongers, anything really.

After we lost Rhys Celeste earlier this year, Fundamental Records took his final recording sessions and produced Microlith, named after the Maltese knob-twiddler's pseudonym. That's way better than a statue or a blue plaque or having a piece of Ikea furniture named after you. (*adds that one to the list*)

This album is really nicely done. Chattering Roland drum machines splash rhythmic colour throughout, and you're never far away from a puddle of squelchy acid. No frills here - just lashings of lo-fi and buckets of reverb. It has a similar vibe to Aphex Twin's comeback material, but warmer.

There is a down side. It looks like this is a vinyl-only release. Actually, this is good news - what a lovely tribute to the music. But it does mean not much digital traction here. Do track it down if you can.

Totem pole. I've decided. I want a totem pole. Inside a Tesco Metro.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: Color, noise and more

The top 20 best electronic albums are progressing nicely, but let's take a break to stuff some more also-rans down your music pipe so you can smoke every last one of them. Here's a hotch-potch of various genres that didn't quite make the cut.

I enjoyed getting greased up on the oily, dirty electro on Patricia's Several Shades Of The Same Color (Spectral Sound), while it's worth checking in on Le Car's Auto-Reverse (Clone Classic Cuts) and its old-school claps, blaps and bleeps. Oh and let's not forget Floating Points' sandswept but somewhat noodly Reflections - Mojave Desert (Pluto).

Here are some noisy ones for you. Tzusing's 東方不敗 (L.I.E.S.) put the "angst" into "bangers" if you ignore some of the letters. Emptyset made a load of instruments for Borders (Thrill Jockey) to produce some nicely rasping sound design. And Pharmakon's Contact (Sacred Bones Records) prompted me to open my Electronic Sound review with: "The hairy wet artwork of Contact will grab your attention way before the screaming begins."

Definitely make some mp3 space for Biogen's posthumous retrospective Halogen Continues (Trip) and its lovely Icelandic IDM that spins from zaniness to glistening ambience. And James 'Drexciya' Stinson's back catalogue popped out some unreleased work in the form of Jack Peoples' Laptop Cafe (Clone Aqualung Series) - just imagine if IDM-heads took over Radio 2. Also worth a nosey is his classic work as The Other People Place: the reissued Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café (Warp Records) has some great Drexiyan IDM, overlooked first time round.

One thing I should mention before I forget: Stinson aside, I've tried to steer clear of reissues, soundtracks and compilations in this end-of-year round-up. I have too much on my list as it is. So apologies to Leftism 22 and Kraftwerk, and to Oneohtrix Point Never, Winged Victory For The Sullen, and the various people who did Fabric and DJ Kicks compilations. SORRY, EVERYONE.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: seven

7 – Brainwaltzera – Poly-ana (Film)

Here are some happy memories:

> The stop-motion objects moving around the beach in Aphex Twin's On.
> The blue lasers during Halcyon at a 1995 Orbital gig.
> Walking out of Cruz 101 and finding pilled-up clubbers wowing at the sky.
> Playing Autechre's Amber album in a church.
> Bossing the levels on Wipeout 2097 to the sound of We Have Explosive.

Strange how such small good memories stay with you. Poly-ana appears to be named after the Pollyanna principle, which is our brain's tendency to more accurately recall pleasurable memories rather than unpleasant ones.

This debut album from an anonymous producer plays on those memories, for this is a collection of unashamedly nostalgic IDM, albeit on a lower gas mark than usual. You'll hear echoes of Aphex's The Tuss alias, Boards of Canada and, of course, Aphex Twin himself.

Actually, to heck with the comparisons. This has been one of the biggest growers of 2017, and works equally well at snoozing-off level as it does blasted to the max. It's stirring memories, sure, but it's also got me proper excited about new music in 2017.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: eight

8 – Talaboman – The Night Land (R&S Records)

Axel Boman and John Talabot come together as Talaboman for this absolute treat on R&S Records.

The Night Land could be dismissed as yet another house album on first listen, but listen out for the drones that infect the album throughout, or the occasional electronic stabs that remind you the machines are in charge.

Loser's Hymn is one of the best tunes of the year too.

In my mind, the people that are enjoying this are ageing ravers forever trapped in a 4/4 beat against an imaginary Ibizan sunset. The builds and break-downs are long gone: all that is left is the pulsating rhythm itself.

Or, in another possible universe, this album is proof that Luke Abbott has always been a member of Kraftwerk.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: heaps of house music

As Steve 'Silk' Hurley once said, "Jack, jack, ja jack jack your body Jack ya, jack, jack ya, jack your body Jack, jack, ja jack jack your body Jack ya, jack, jack ya, jack your body Jack, jack, ja jack jack your body Jack ya, jack, jack ya, jack your body Jack, jack, ja ja jack your body Jack, jack, ja ja jack your body Jack, jack, ja ja jack your body."

Here are some house music albums that didn't quite reach this year's top 20.

Nick Höppner's second album Work (Ostgut Ton) very nearly made my final 20 because it liberally sprinkles its house aesthetic with lashings of intelligent techno. Also worth a nod are the rich armchair instrumentals of Bonobo's Migration (Ninja Tune) and a nicely-chilled debut in the form of adopted Welshman Dauwd's Theory of Colours (Technicolour).

Four Tet took a meditative turn on New Energy (Text Records): only he can create fluffy chill-out with such heft. DJ Octo Octa explored the process of transitioning to a new gender with some superior house music on Where Are We Going? (Honey Soundsystem Records). And Fred P gave us some smooth club cuts on FP-Oner's 7 (Mule Musiq).

If you're in the mood for some Nordic dub disco, then opt for Bjørn Torske and Prins Thomas's Square One (Smalltown Supersound). DJ Python's debut Dulce Compañia (Incienso) impressed with some almost military reggaeton. And the absolute legend Robert Hood kept things predictably - and pleasingly - minimal on Paradygm Shift (Dekmantel).

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Best electronic albums of 2017: nine

9 – Arca – Arca (XL)

Somewhere on the internet, there is a rough video of pop sensation Justin Bieber hanging out with friends. In the video, he tries - and fails - to sing his international smash hit single Despacito, the biggest Spanish number one single since 'Macarena' (no, really).

The problem is, Justin doesn't know any of the Spanish words. This is partly because his hit single is merely a remix, but also because - I suspect - young Mr Biebpipe doesn't think too deeply about the music.

Arca is the polar opposite to Justin Bieber. His self-titled album Arca is a Spanish-language antidote to all that is terrible about Despacito. It finds depths the wordless Justin may never know, and spins us from mournful vocals to breakneck drama in a matter of seconds.

For those put off by Arca's experimentalism, there's good news. Thanks to the vocals being upfront in his work like never before, this is easily his most accessible album yet. Want to get into Arca? Start here.

Let's finish this with some photographs of the guy, followed by a video which contains the following content warnings: strobes and partial ass.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: ten

10 – Blanck Mass – World Eater (Sacred Bones Records)

Woah! It's top ten time! And because I'm about to write about Blanck Mass, an act with a stupendously large sound, I am going to write the rest of this bit in capital letters.




Tell you something: it's exhausting pressing shift before every letter.

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Best electronic albums of 2017: tonnes more techno

There are zillions of techno albums that didn't make my final top 20 list. Here are some also-rans that are well worth your time tracking down.

Moiré's No Future (Ghostly International) mixed some heavy bass with some deliciously scratchy sounds - this very nearly made the final 20. I like what I heard in the broken electronics of Herva's Hyper Flux (Planet Mu). Ikonika's third album Distractions (Hyperdub) impressed with her sheer invention melody, while the techno-clad earworms of Legowelt's Legendary Freaks In The Trash Of Time (Clone West Coast Series) brightened up my 2017.

A couple of DJ debuts impressed, namely DJ Lycox's first album Sonhos & Pesadelos (Príncipe), which was packed with compelling, rhythmic energy, and DJ Sports' dance genre-spanning pick-and-mix Modern Species (Firecracker). Also worth a mention is the vital machine music of Richard H Kirk's first solo long-player for a while, Dasein (Intone).

Is there more? Of course there's more! I liked Dabrye's take on industrial wonkiness as Charles Manier for his album Luxus Steroid Abamita (Bopside Records), and I also liked the humming analogue bleeps from modular composer Caterina Barbieri on Patterns Of Consciousness (Important
Records). Finally, for this little section, if you want some EBM for a Detroit generation, look in on Broken English Club's The English Beach (L.I.E.S.).

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