Dec 31, 2011

Best electronica albums of 2011: number 1

Brummie music thinkbod Andrew Dubber recently railed against the habit of hacks writing off 2011 as the ‘year of boring music’. He argued that it said more about the paucity of stimulation in the journalists’ lives rather than a lack of good quality music.
“I suspect that it is not our musicians that have let us down, but our champions of music.

"So if your job is to report upon popular music and you are unable to find ten incredible things in the past year to share with those of us who still read what you have to say, then that makes you a failure.”
“John Peel-ism should be the norm,” he added.

Let me extend that thought. If you’ve ever liked a YouTube music video then left a comment declaring old music to be way better than the mulch that is spooned down our gullets today, then you might as well piss all over John Peel’s grave, suck up the urine from the soil, wait for it to digest, then take a second slash whilst banging on about how the first piss was a nicer shade of yellow.

My difficulty was not finding ten incredible things, but narrowing it down to an arbitrary number that inevitably led me to exclude something quite important....

[This is part four. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part three.]

Some also rans

...James Blake’s album James Blake (Atlas). The most important underground electronic music artist of the past year is not in my top ten, despite me doing everything I could into tricking you into thinking he was Album Of The Year at the end of my previous post. Sorry 'bout that.

Last December, I indicated the excitement that preceded his debut album. When it finally came it, I felt it was playing to a quite different audience. An intricate album full of beautiful bass that even caught the attention of Beyonce – but there were ten other incredible things I wanted to share more than Blake's LP.

Other also-rans include new kids on the block, Cant. I found their album Dreams Come True (Warp) too band-y. I believe the monumentally entertaining Ceephax Acid Crew had an Unstoppable Phax Machine (030303), but I didn't get the memo, whilst there was no space in the top ten for the industrial glory of Byetone’s Symeta (Raster Notion) nor for Brian Eno’s poet-poking Drums Between The Bells (Warp).

Which only leaves one thing: a young Glasgow musician who’s brandishing something long, transparent and deadly. It’s a glass sword. That was a reference to a glass sword. Not his penis.

1 - Rustie - Glass Swords


The arpeggiated mayhem of Zig-Zag was the first moment beat-nuts took notice of Rustie. With that track and the 2009 highlight Bad Science EP, he very much sounded like a kid earning his dues in the Lucky Me collective’s electronic workshop.

Meanwhile, his mentors Hudson Mohawke and Mike Slott lead the way for the Glaswegians with, respectively, the Butter and Lucky 9Teen albums. Rustie, perhaps, sounded like the talented apprentice playing with the Nintendo in the corner, biding his time until...

Glass Swords (Warp). It takes three minutes for the first insane slap bass to cut through the ambience to make way for an orgy of portamento mayhem and retro computer game wizardry.

It brings to mind the retro synth mischief of Lorn, whose 2010 debut sounded like a naughty Knight Rider breaking into the Blade Runner film set. Rustie’s debut takes that philosophy much further. If Lorn was Kansas in black and white, Glass Swords is so far over the rainbow, it has hypercoloured the sun itself.

This is the sound of a young pretender dicking about with his software, which would be really annoying at a party, but committed to record it is a joy. He pumps up the Hudson Mohawke beat aesthetic until it bursts.

All Night is a soul jam at the most disgusting sex party ever to be held in your bass bins. Hover Traps is simply the catchiest tune of 2011, Globes sounds like drums crashing against the dawn of time, while After Light throbs with so much minor chord desire between the cut-up voices and blistering bass, you’ll be writing love letters to Glass Swords well into your pensionable years.

Every synth crunch on Glass Swords is a Glasgow kiss that requires, if you so please, your full bleeping attention. And it is all underpinned with a crystal-clear balance of melody and emotion. It feels to good to have Rustie battering my ear drums. You know how you can get fish to nibble your corn-encrusted feet in pretentious shopping centres? In this case, your feet are your ears and instead of fish there are nice things like pies and ice pops and bacon Frazzles.

Which reminds me, I’m hungry. Rustie's Glass Swords is my Album Of The Year 2011 because it matters and I'll be humming it in a year's time. Do have a listen below. Thank you for reading my blog in 2011. It has been an extraordinary year in many ways, and none of it would be possible if lovely people like you didn’t dip your eyes in my word sludge every now and then. Let’s do the same in 2012, only more ridiculous, more unrestrained and with more bacon Frazzles. Did I tell you I was hungry?



[This is part four. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part three.]

Best electronica albums of 2011: numbers 4 to 2

We are approaching the Album Of The Year much in the same way an astronaut with an upside-down map is heading for the sun. By the time you finish reading this blog post, you should be in a position to try and guess the winner of this year’s top accolade.

Meanwhile, let’s check out the nearly gang in our penultimate collection of also-rans. Once that's done, we'll crank up the Top Of The Bleeps theme music with numbers 4 to 2.

[This is part three. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part four.]

Some also-rans

I’m very sad to exclude Björk, especially after her triumphant performance of the Attenborough-tastic Biophilia (One Little Indian). She had a Tesla coil for crap’s sake. However, although she is on top of her game right now, it’s not really electronica of the Fat Roland On Electronica variety.

At the very bottom of their game is Paris’s own Justice, whose new album Audio, Video, Disco (Ed Banger) was such a mess, I wasn’t sure if Spinal Tap were having a seizure: at first amusing then just painful and sad. Imagine The Who teaming up with David Guetta. No, it wouldn’t be fantastic, you’re wrong. In 2011, Justice made me cross.

Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek’s Africa HiTech project was a joy to the ears: 93 Million Miles (Warp) was bristling with bass and bad attitude – but not a top ten spot. Also not in the top ten is Biosphere, whose nuclear-themed concept album N-Plants (Touch) was gorgeous and just okay at the same time, while SBTRKT’s SBTRKT (Young Turks) was filed along with Nero in the grey bin next to my desk marked ‘pop’.

4 - Modeselektor - Monkeytown

In 1998, Thom Yorke threw a rabbit into the headlights and set the standard for guest vocalists on Unkle’s debut Psyence Fiction. It’s remarkable then that he should return all these years later and equal that achievement on Modeselektor’s third album Monkeytown (Monkeytown). It’s not the first time they have worked together, of course, but the tracks Shipwreck and This are hypnotic and beguiling.

Beyond the Yorkie bombs are other highlights: the hotstepping German Clap, the digital urgency of the loping Grillwalker, the emotive melody on the PVT-collaboration Green Light and the absurd hip hop of Pretentious Friends (“the pâté was fabulous!”).

We’re so spoilt with this Berlin duo’s dexterity, confidence and (whisper it) pop sensibilities, it almost seems a shame that the claustrophobic Shipwreck b-side Dull Hull isn’t on show too.

Unstoppable, bass-driven, ear-hugging digitalism: this is the rise of the town of the monkeys. Come on my ‘selektor.

3 - Plaid - Scintilli

Plaid are a duo that arose from godfathers of bleepery The Black Dog and became the techno musician’s techno musician, much in the same way that Stewart Lee is the comedian’s comedian and your great granddad is the racist’s racist.

Until now, Spokes was their best post-1990s album: it had amazing tunes but, unlike actual spokes, didn’t quite hang together as a whole. Scintilli (Warp) is the scintillating icing on the, um, spoke cake.

Opening with jingling guitars, which brings to mind 2001’s Eyen, we’re quickly smothered with choral sorrow and their trademark awkward chord progressions. Eye Robot brings in the fuzzy techno, Thank leads us into the cheery eeriness seen on many a Plaid album and by the fourth track, the anthemnic Dr Who work-out of Unbank, we’re ready for a tea break. The rest of the album careers from sunny dance numbers (African Woods) to sheer strangeness (Talk To Us), but it’s all perfectly Plaid.

This band has spent five years dabbling in other media, most notably for their audio-visual project Greedy Baby, but they have been in danger of seeing their traditional fans drift off. In that respect, Plaid have checked themselves and produced their best album for at least ten years.

2 - Martyn - Ghost People

The Brainfeeder label was the success story of 2010, with important releases from Lorn, Teebs and The Gaslamp Killer, and a crucial partnership with Ninja Tune. They were responsible for the return of Mr Ozio this year and they were even a headline feature in the Guardian a month or two ago.

All along, however, I felt that without a Brainfeeder-labelled album from their godlike founder Flying Lotus (he releases on Warp), they’d never quite crack it. They just needed something... something extra. I don’t know. Something indefinable. A ghost, maybe.

Ghost People (Brainfeeder) is a spectre to behold and should be the album that propels Brainfeeder into the premier league. I’m mixing metaphors again. Martyn has produced an aural dystopia in which shards of rave and techno have darkness cast upon them until they glisten molten musical antimatter.

Popgun could just be bouncy Joy Orbison dubstep with the occasional vocal grunt, but the atmospherics lift the sound into something greater than its parts. The driving Bauplan is so beautifully melodic, you either want to go for a run or a cry. And the choppy We Are You In The Future sounds like the theme music for every techno track ever recorded. Everyone is trying this sound, but Martyn does it best.

I wrestled over the decision whether to make Martyn’s Ghost People my album of the year or not. But no. There is another. A debut album so great, so absorbing, with such unique production, it ought to have every kid with a smidgen of soul mimicking his sound. Stay tuned, dear reader, for my Album Of The Year 2011.

[This is part three. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part four.]

Dec 30, 2011

Best electronica albums of 2011: numbers 7 to 5

Welcome back to my countdown of the best electronic music albums of 2011. Have a look at my previous post, why don’t you.

Before we fondle the edges of the top five, let’s have a look at some more people that coulda been a contender but they weren't because I wiped them on the doormat on the way in.

[This is part two. Click here for part one. Click here for part three. Click here for part four.]

Some also-rans

It’s always a tightrope wobble producing this annual series of blog posts, because I don’t want my top ten to be too guitary. Metronomy fell just about on the wrong side of the divide so they are not included in my final list, but that doesn’t stop The English Riviera (Because) being one of the best albums for ages.

Katy B, darling of what I call the Radio 1 dubstep scene, did wonders for Magnetic Man. However, On A Mission (Rinse) didn’t convert me and she misses out on the top ten. Again. At this rate Skream will be round my place brandishing a pointed microphone stand. Again.

Balam Acab’s liquid loveliness on Wander / Wonder (Tri Angle) missed out on a place in the final list, which is a shame for such a brittle marvel. Thundercat’s The Golden Age Of Apocalypse (Brainfeeder) was too jazz funk for my tastes while Shigeto’s Full Circle Remixes and Gold Panda’s Companion (Ghostly International) walk away from this blog with nothing more than this brief mention right here in this sentence just here.

7 - The Field - Looping State Of Mind

Like an agoraphobic moo-cow, I have been ignoring The Field. In 2007, his album From Here We Go Sublime scooped critical praise but it skittered past me because I was probably too busy listening to The Klaxons. And so to 2011, when I finally not only listened to The Field, but I whacked them straight into my top ten with their Looping State Of Mind (Kompakt).

The album opens with the soft siren call of Is This Power, which is all very nice, then they hit you with the monumental It’s Up There, a chugging 4:4 builder not a million miles from Rez-era Underworld. Arpeggiated Love too has a special kind of 10-minute stuck-needle aesthetic.

It’s probably the easiest listen in this whole top ten, but there’s something about the slow evolution of each song, the recurring sounds and the minimalism that helped this album find a particularly warm spot in my listening hole.

6 - Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX - We’re New Here

Dubstep is a term batted about more than Max Mosley’s bum in a dungeon, and I’m not sure it means anything anymore in a world in which Benga, Burial and Skrillex all lay claim to the term. Post-dubstep is easier. If it’s someone electronic trying to sound like The xx, then it’s post-dubstep. We’re New Here (XL) is post-dubstep. Apparently.

Jamie XX’s stroke of genius was only choosing to use the vocals when remixing Gil Scott-Heron’s 2010 album I’m New Here. He loaded his remixes with future party goodness and created an album that stands on its own. An instant classic and an essential for your record collection, Mr XX’s incredible attention to detail will keep you glued to the speakers. We’re New Here has bouncy bass (NY Is Killing Me), house music (I’ll Take Care Of U), utter beat mayhem (The Crutch) , all underpinning lashings of that smoky, smoky voice.

A true pioneer bringing another true pioneer to a new audience. Gil Scott-Heron, lost to us all in 2011, lives on in the dub.

5 - Surgeon - Breaking The Frame

Taking a million years out doesn’t tend to encourage a quality comeback (see James Cameron’s Avatar or the Stone Roses’s Second Coming), but by the sounds of the furious techno on offer on Breaking The Frame (Dynamic Tension), Surgeon has been percolating quite nicely.

He is in an utterly uncompromising mood, but as the static anger of Radiance gives in to the harps from hell on Presence, there is beauty here too. An evil beauty.

The loops are tight although they still give the impression of an army of machines with steam valves and dangerous malfunctions, the hisses and the gasps stretching out loosely over waspish choirs and malevolent melodics. In some ways, it’s a throw-back to the faceless, tuneless Tresor techno of the 1990s: you know, when dance music was good. And most importantly, more than any artist of 2011, Surgeon stands out as someone unwilling to bend, someone out to please only himself; a man and his machines and, as a result, a bunch of slobbering (and terrified) techno fans.

[This is part two. Click here for part one. Click here for part three. Click here for part four.]

Dec 29, 2011

Best electronica albums of 2011: numbers 10 to 8

Welcome to my annual review of the best electronica albums.

I must start dear reader, with an apology. I got it wrong last year: Luke Abbott's Holkham Drones (Border Community) languished at number three on 2010’s list, but repeated plays makes me think it should have taken the top spot. Oh well. Mount Kimbie ain’t giving their crown back.

So no pressure then. This year’s best electronica list is, if I may say so, utter brillsocks. Every album featured I love to bits, have slept with several times and have moved into a bungalow with. Before we lap up the goodness, let’s see some of the tracks I spat out. After that, we’ll crack on with the top ten.

[This is part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part three. Click here for part four.]

Some also-rans

Walls were darlings of the ambient community in 2010, so they went and ditched the driftiness and took up dance beats instead. Their album Coracle (Kompakt) was closer to techno and therefore closer to my heart, but it wasn’t enough to make the list.

Bibio scored highly in my best electronica review two years ago but 2011’s Mind Bokeh (Warp) seemed confused: their sub-Orson rock song Take Off Your Shirt was, well, like Orson. Meanwhile, Tycho's Dive (Ghostly International) was lovely, Zomby’s Dedication (4AD) didn’t quite do it for me, while I got Dave Monolith’s Welcome (Rephlex) for Christmas and haven’t had time to absorb it yet.

10 - Falty DL - You Stand Uncertain

You Stand Uncertain (Planet Mu) is such a complete world and yet, by all rights, it ought to be a disconnected mess of rave, house, r’n’b and techno samples.

Take Lucky Luciano. It starts with some slow-motion rave riffery, hypes it up with some breakbeat samba and “oooh yeah” vocal samples, throws in some frenetic funky drummer-ness and suddenly we’re in a watery world of 808 State techno followed by some drill’n’bass-lite. The fact that this one track holds together is a miracle, never mind the album as a whole.

I’m less keen when it gets too far down the garage path and I could do without the female vocal tracks: they feel too much like a bid for radio play. You Stand Uncertain works better in the abstract as repeated melodies work their way into your brain and hang around for the rest of the record, or when a new opposing theme drifts into the music as if uninvited and the whole records hangs beautifully in the delicate, titular uncertainty.

9 - Machinedrum - Room(s)

If Travis Stewart was an actual machine, he’d be a bit rusty around the wingnuts because he’s been in service now for ten years as Machinedrum, Sepalcure, Tstewart and Syndrone.

A brief flirtation with Glasgow’s Lucky Me record label oiled his creativity as he left behind his glitchy past in favour of more upfront electro. Room(s) (Planet Mu) is the full-flexing realisation of that change: swirling vocals and complex breakbeats abound.

In fact, that’s pretty much the motif of Room(s). Busy rave rhythms agitate echoing soul vocals, such as the “for real” refrain of Now U Know Tha Deal 4 Real, the auto tuned U Don’t Survive or the people wailing at the choppy synths in The Statue. A highlight is the additively repetitive She Died There. And with a lot of the tracks coming in at the four or five minute mark, Mr Drum knows how to structure things so that nothing outstays its welcome. Pitchfork wrote off this album as “devoid of its creators voice” – they couldn’t be more wrong.

8 - Kuedo - Severant

Three Planet Mu albums in a row: crikes.

I never thought a Carly Simon sample would end up in my annual album reviews, but it’s happened thanks to the fifth track on Kuedo’s debut album which sees the famous “la de dah de dah” refrain from the ‘80s songstress go to battle with a helicopter or at the very least, a synthesiser that dearly wants to be a helicopter. Next up, Burial doing Coming Around Again on a hovercraft?

Kuedo is a new name around these parts, but most will recognise him as remixer and producer Jamie Vex’d out of, um Vex’d. There is not much comparison, however. While Vex’d The Duo snarled and growled like some crazed darkstep killing monster, and Jamie Vex’d The Soloist sounded like Ninja Tune down a k-hole, the new Kuedo project has a different flavour.  Severant (Planet Mu) sounds like a Vangelis remix album. It is a landscape of yearning 1980s chord sequences (Truth Flood), cinematic analogue ambience (Salt Lake Cuts) and delicate melancholia (Visioning Shared Tomorrows). This album will pluck your heart strings until they shimmer.

[This is part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part three. Click here for part four.]

Dec 28, 2011

Best movies of 2011: numbers 5 to 1

My review of films in 2011 trudges on like a troll through a Norwegian forest. See if you can guess which one of these top five films contains trolls and Norwegian forests. That's right. Tyrannosaur. Peter Mullan's furious about those damn trolls and those damn trees.

[This is part three. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. See also 2010 and 2009.]

5 - Tyrannosaur


The terrifying driving instructor from Happy-Go-Lucky pushes Peep Show’s Sophie into the arms of My Name Is Joe, but not in a way you'd expect. A stunning directorial debut from Paddy Considine that slowly smudges your sympathies from black and white into grey. The violence is often more malevolent than just physical force so this is not a film for the faint-hearted. But hey, it's about a Christian working in a charity shop, so it's all light and fluffy, yeah?

4 - Source Code


Groundhog Day condensed to eight minutes. The extremely false set-up of Source Code makes Flight Of The Navigator look like Newsnight, but the time restriction lights a narrative touch-paper that produces a thrilling science fiction blockbuster that stimulates the intelligence and lies somewhere between Quantum Leap, Unstoppable and, um, 50 First Dates.

3 - Troll Hunter


“Troll!” Welcome to Cloverfjord where the Scandinavian troll legend is realised in its full CGI horror. Otto Jesperson’s deadpan poacher is as concerned with red tape as he is with the creatures he is hunting. A pseudo-documentary with black comedy teeth, this is a delight from start to finish and unlike anything else at the cinema this year. The bridge thing? Best film moment of 2011. Read more at Screen 150.

2 - Submarine


2011 was a brilliant year for British directorial debuts, but it’s Richard Ayoade (IT Crowd, Nathan Barley, Mighty Boosh, Darkplace) that takes the honours with a debut brought to us by him, Warp Films and Ben Stiller.

A geeky paranoid boy tries to solve his parents’ relationship problems whilst trying to hook up with the girl he both loves and fears. The girl in question is Yasmin Paige who withers more than Jeremy Paxman in a heatwave. A quotable script, a massive funny bone, great music and pitch-perfect visual motifs that return you to your own paranoid childhood (a fairground, a Polaroid camera, a kaleidoscope). The comedy of the year.

1 - Senna


A documentary is my film of the year.

So why should this share such a prestigious honour (hey, stop laughing) with Another Year (2010) and Where The Wild Things Are (2009)? Although I like formula one, Senna was before my time and so the film held no emotional pull for me as I walked into the flicks: in fact, I'm always apprehensive of sport in movies. What I experienced though was movie-making of the highest grade.

The film follows the racing star in the ten years leading up to his death, eschewing normal racing footage for intimate high-speed close-ups and behind-the-scenes tension. We see Senna the god but then Senna the battler as he falls foul of the authorities. As the film approaches its Titanic moment, the doom is played out with a cold steadiness that will either have you on the edge of your seat or cowering behind it. Because it’s not just Senna and Ratzenberger that were victims during that fateful weekend...

Senna tells a narrative and lets the racing take second place, and that's why it is such a triumph. It brings to mind not other sporting movies, but rockumentary Dig! which funnelled acres of doco footage into an equally compelling tale. Director Asif Kapadia clearly picked only certain elements of Senna's controversial life during his edit (there were 15,000 hours of footage), but he hasn't gone all Iron Lady on us. Instead, he has compellingly told a story that resonates through time. At 18,000rpm.

[This is part three. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. See also 2010 and 2009.]

Best movies of 2011: numbers 10 to 6

So far, my top movies of 2011 have included a bear man selling teeth, also some fannies and bums, and a collection of amazing mullets. Time to start the top ten, in which you will find aliens, wallpaper and dinosaurs.

[This is part two. Click here for part one. Click here for part three. See also 2010 and 2009.]

10 - Attack The Block


Hoodies take on aliens in a funny and, yes, believable debut from the one who isn’t Adam from Adam & Joe. The yoots rob and prowl and ought to be the real villains, but once the terrifying shadowy claws start ripping them to shreds, our loyalties remain firmly in the four walls of the London tower blocks. A pleasure to see an 'urban' film where the protagonists are, beneath the hoodies, quite normal.

9 - Black Swan


Natalie Portman goes mental, or does she, and is she really Natalie Portman? Black Swan is full of directorial tricks designed to confuse the viewer and I hated it on first watch. But the feathery beast kept pecking away at me until it pulled me under. And now I think it’s the best ballet-masturbation combination of 2011.

8 - The King’s Speech


Colin Firth, on a roll from A Single Man and, er, St Trinians 2, takes the stutter rap as he walks into a delightful culture clash with straight-talking Geoffrey Rush. The Rush family wallpaper was worth the cinema ticket alone. All Firth needs to do now is to go back in time and do the same for Geoffrey in Shine. Oscar or no Oscar, this is the drama of the year: think Frost / Nixon with bluer blood.

7 - We Need To Talk About Kevin


The impossibly thin Tilda Swinton descends to motherhood hell as her impossibly thin offspring Ezra Miller turns from Damien into a high school killer. It's difficult to build tension when the foreshadows of the bloody climax loom larger than Miller's massive scowl, but this tale of painful alienation and archery sparks from the screen thanks in no small part to its photo-perfect arthouse cinematography.
   
6 - The Tree Of Life


The entire universe is created, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn think about stuff, the entire universe dies. Not one for your Twilight audience, Terence Mallick’s ambitious epic is more like a tone poem than a narrative - although there is a story in there somewhere. Absolutely beautiful, from dinosaurs to a depressed dad to dwarf stars. Just don't expect a Stephanie Meyer novelisation any time soon.

[This is part two. Click here for part one. Click here for part three. See also 2010 and 2009.]

Best movies of 2011: numbers 15 to 11


Welcome to my favourite films of 2011. First, let's start with some disclaimers so I'm not beaten to death by movie geeks brandishing cola straws.

[This is part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part three. See also 2010 and 2009.]

I missed numerous 2011 films: this top 15 has more holes than the plot of Transformers. So Drive is safely parked away, while The Artist maintains a respectful silence. Neither is there Tintin, Harry Potter nor bloody Mars Needs Moms. And no shouty Nicholas Cage.

There were some films I did see that didn’t make it into the list. The Adjustment Bureau, about men in hats walking through walls, was entertaining if not original, while Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ticked all the boxes but failed to be greater than the sum of its parts. Kill List was my hands-down film of the year until the ending reduced it to a laughable failure. And Paul simply wasn’t good enough to be included.

Tron Legacy would have been in my top ten last year, but I saw it after I’d written my write-up and now it’s too late to join this year’s list. Yes, it was trash, but it was rezzed-up techno trash and I Daft-Punking loved it. Also, I finally saw Catfish (otherwise known as the other Facebook film) and was mightily entertained if a little paranoid about ever logging on again.

15 - Super 8


Part Stand By Me, part Close Encounters, this is JJ Abrams’ love letter to Stephen Spielberg. Which is a bit like The Hulk taking up needlecraft. The ‘berg served as producer for this wide-eyed adventure story, which is probably why the movie manages to soften the stupendously moronic storyline with a dash of nostalgia and more than a little warmth.

14 - The Inbetweeners Movie


Popular television comedy writ large for the big screen? If that idea of that doesn’t fill you with dread, then you’ve never seen The Simpsons Movie. As it is, the film delivers the requisite quota of fannies and bums and silly dancing despite the woeful near-absence of Greg Davies. Any film that gets Kylie to say "clunge" at an awards ceremony gets my vote.

13 - True Grit


For any other film makers, Bear Man (“I have taken his teeth: I will entertain an offer for the rest of him”) would be their best character ever. But these are the Coens and they play oddball better than anyone. True Grit is a solid remake shot with a slow and steady hand and is only slightly spoilt by an action-led last act that seems a bit unCoeny.

12 - Arthur Christmas


Yes, really. A red-nosed Christmas classic co-written by Peter ‘Alan Partridge’ Baynham and with all the adult nuances of Nick Park’s more famous inventor and dog. A glittering cast helps: Laurie, McAvoy, Jensen, Broadbent, Palin, Staunton and Nighy (“right down the Rodney hole!”). It really didn't need the 3D, so leave those stupid specs at home.

11 - The Fighter


Christian Bale does crazy and Mark Wahlberg does Rocky in a film that ought to be a knock-off of an old idea, but is brought to life with two compelling central performances and a gaggle of Christopher Guest-style ensemble characters clad in amazing mullets. Empire Of The Sun and the Funky Bunch seem like such a long time ago.

[This is part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part three. See also 2010 and 2009.]

Dec 6, 2011

I am not typing

I am not blogging at the moment. Instead, I am preparing new material for the book-of-my-blog which I promised you a couple of months ago.

10,000 is the word target I'm aiming for this week, which I should pass tomorrow. This does mean I have now spent three whole days indoors thinking and typing, thinking and typing. In the words of Sir Fredrick of Mecury, I'm going slightly mad. I've only spoken to the newsagent and the man who came to service my boiler.

That's NOT a euphemism.

Here are some of the words that now sit proudly in this week's first draft. I'm quite happy with it so far:
Belch, bucket, cloys, cocked, consolation, daaaah, dismembered, drizzle, entropy, fedora, fundamentalist, gaslamp, heroin, monochrome, neanderthal, nipple, oscillators, panda, psychogeography, putrescent, sable, sextet, slaughter, snog, swagger, tympanic, unicycling, vestibule, wolves.

Nov 28, 2011

"Our Future Books..."

It is a year, a week and a day since my patently ridiculous call to literary arms, The Beatoff Generation.

Since then, we've run reading events, pub quizzes and competitions, and even produced an anthology which was, let's face it, a hare's testicle away from being outright pr0n.

It has also changed this blog because much of my spare time is now about writing fiction rather than raving with the Aphex 'til the wee hours. In the past fortnight or so, you may have seen me read a story about a desperate shop manager at ReTale, try out my Brian Cox dirtiness at Exhibit C, watched me spew out my first 20-minute set at Blank Space and have authors spluttering into their beer at Word Soup.

The aftermath of my Blank Space set can be seen in this picture. This represents the fall-out of five stories told in my, um, particular style. Even the guitar is mine, although it only has five strings because I used the high E to floss my toes whilst high on envelope glue. You know. LIKE YOU DO.

My latest empublishment is a story called If You Were The Only Boy In The World, which I will read at this Wednesday's Bad Language birthday bash. The story can be found in their new anthology, to be launched screaming at the public on the same night.

And after that, I'll do something stupid at Say Something. An event a week. That's my plan. And if you want the full Fat Roland fiction treatment and you can provide a good audience, I'll do a 20 minute set for you.

Meanwhile, do pop your nose into the Manchester literature "scene". Some say it is somewhat self-regarding, but that's why we did the Beatoff Generation manifesto. It's welcoming and open and a lot of fun: why else would a natural outsider like me be involved.

I'll leave you with some lovely words about Bad Language, who have done so much to support new talent in this city. Katie Anderson writes about her literary open mic performance there (a story "sort of about ghosts, but not really", which is the best kind of ghost story), while Aaron Gow recalls his first stage performance at Bad Language as being "slightly addictive".

A year, a week and a day is a long time at Fat Roland towers. Here's to the next arbitrarily-chosen-time-period-because-it-was-meant-to-be-a-one-year-anniversary-but-I-forgot-until-now.

Nov 21, 2011

Richard Whiteley: off my anus

My computer exploded.

Imagine the 1996 Manchester bomb, but smaller and inside a power unit.

You may think that is an insensitive comparison, but there were 15 handsome badgers working the innards of that machine. Now my writing room is wallpapered with animal brains and wiry black and white hair.

The hair may have been there before.

I'm hoping the Nice Computer Man can save my machine. As long as he stays away from the folder marked Compromising Photographs Of Denuded Biscuits, I should be okay.

The worst thing about this calamatous event is how much I'm missing my music. Someone played me a bit of Laughable Butane Bob today and I nearly orgasmed into his cappuccino. The only thing I have left on CD are Echobelly's Greatest Hits, that collaboration between The Kooks and Kraftwerk, and Tina Turner tribute band The Nutbush City Mimicks.

I'm not sure if those CDs even exist. I'm not sure of anything any more.

The positive side of being computerless is I got off my anus yesterday and had a lovely Sunday lunch. From now on, this blog will be dedicated to lovely Sunday lunches. Cooked by Wetherspoons. In exchange for £6.99, or £8.49 if you want inexplicable cauliflower cheese with it.

I went for the cauliflower cheese. This is my new life. My new computer-less life.

(PS - if you want to see me read an interative story about Richard Whiteley, come to a night called Exhibit C tomorrow. I may do three stories, each obsessed with the idea of celebrity.)

Nov 14, 2011

Bezerking automaton: ReTale happens this Thursday

Six writers. Six stories. One shop.

Next up in the wonderful world of Fat Roland Making It Up As He Goes Along is a unique site-specific story evening called ReTale.

This Thursday, November `17th, my good self and five of m'colleagues will perform six brand new stories in the Triangle shopping centre, or more specifically, in the ladies clothing shop Jigsaw.

With ReTale, we hope to bring a little bit of theatrical nous to the imprecise art of live fiction performance. My fellow performers are the irrepressible Bad Language gang, my Flashtag cohort Dave Hartley and mumblin' Nick Garrard.

My story will contain this line:
“He wants to remove her empty skull above its equator, sit inside  the recess then ride her around like some bezerking automaton.”
It starts at 7.30pm sharp and there will be drinkies. Grab your tickets now, or risk it and pay on the door.

And if you don't like our stories, you could always pick up yourself a little silk ballet dress. Red. Off the shoulder. It'll look nice on you.


Nov 12, 2011

Fat Roland at Blank Space, November 13th 2011


As a tribute to the contents of my head, the name "Blank Space" seems a suitable place for a Fat Roland performance.

So join me tomorrow at Blank Media Collective's fifth birthday celebrations where I will be spewing 20 minutes of my half-brewed pot of fiction stew. It all kicks off from 4pm on Sunday at Blank Space in Hulme.

They're aiming for a speak-easy vibe, with spoken word, poetry and music courtesy of any old sops that turn up to the open mic. Why not be a sop yourself and come and take to the stage? Some time before 7pm, I will headline proceedings along with performance poet and installation artist Rebecca Joy Sharp.

I'm billed as "spoken word", which is an anodyne phrase which is a bit like saying "sounds like Coldplay". Then again, I dislike the phrase "flash fiction", but if it's a wording I've got to wear to persuade you to turn up and listen, then pass me the tattooist needle.

It's my first proper fiction set. From me, you can expect comedy, horror, sadness and my first ever performance with a guitar. It's all hosted by the lovely Blank Pages, who were kind enough to publish my scribblings recently.

Nov 2, 2011

I got the pop song, I got the melody

Earworms.

I think that's what they call them. Earworms are those snippets of melody that lodge themselves in the tissue of your brain.

At the moment, I have a merry-go-round of cacophony in my head. Part of the noise is a disco record that I can't quite put my finger on. It may be the Jackson 5. There's a bit of Womack and Womack in there too. It then morphs into Sydney Youngblood's If Only I Could. He's a cheery German Texan who raised the ire of dance music rival Soul II Soul back in the late 1980s with his chippy cheerful rip-off soul pop.

But not the chorus of If Only I Could. Oh no. Just the start of the verse and the few bars leading up to that.

Which is my problem with earworms. The sign of a good producer or songwriter is their ability to make even the innocuous bits of the song sound as amazing as the obvious hooky bits. Everyone from Trevor Horn to Timbaland is good at this, and it means that a wriggly little earworm can crawl from anywhere in the deep depths of popular music and surprise you with its catchy little hooky teeth.

What I'm saying is, really, that there's too much melody out there. It would be nice for everyone to have a lovely chorus, something-- y'know-- really smashing, and for the rest of the song to be a tuneless, forgettable dirge. It worked for the likes of Echobelly, Oasis, Aliyah, U2 and pretty much any artist beginning with a vowel.

East 17. Adele. Elbow. Every artist beginning with a vowel. Every single one. It works. Try it.

The only way to rid your mind of an earworm is to scoop your cranium empty with the digger your Uncle Dave nicked from the local university building works last Tuesday. Or have a reputable pop impressario such as Gary Glitter, jonathan King or Michael Jackson's corpse do one of those worm-charming things on your skull and tap your bonce incessantly with a long stick.

I call them earworms. What do you call them? What's in your head right now? Am I just asking this to give the impression of interactivity on this blog? Yes. I'm not interested, so bog off. Unless you want to sing me a song in the comments. A lovely, smashing uncatchy song.

Oct 11, 2011

Fat Roland On Electronica: dramatic announcement

Woah there, pickle.

I only started taking my fiction writing seriously because the man from 330 Words saw some toothpaste at the Manchester Blog Awards and insisted I write a story about it.

Today's special commendation from the Manchester Fiction Prize is in some ways my proudest moment yet (see more on my fiction blog) and has placed a little solid nugget in my mind (probably made from chicken) that tells me yes I am a fiction writer and yes it's okay to make up stuff and call it "work". Thank you, little chicken nugget of wisdom.

Which leads me on to the announcement I had teased you with at the end of this post.

As I concentrate more on my fiction noodling, it's quite likely Fat Roland On Electronica will suffer. It has become the runt of my writing litter, albeit a cute runt with fabulous eyelashes. Which is a shame because Fat Roland Dot Com The Domain Name will be ten years old in February.

And so it only seems fair to show this website some love. It is my intention early next year to produce a book of this blog.

The paper-drizzled book version of this blog will be as in thrall to the cult of Aphex Twin as much as to the full horror of Justin Biebpipe. Scrawled in the pages within, you will find numerous giddy joys: selected writings from the blog itself beefed up by extensive footnotes written exclusively for the book; plenty of new blatherings about buffalo, music and kettles; original illustrations, by which I mean mad scribblings drawn with the ear wax of a cat; assorted lists, puzzles and other pointless distractions; and finally, a complete glossary of stupid terms so you too can sound intelligent about electronic music whilst secretly being a moron. 

If you are a publisher and you would like to publish this (ahem, hello publishers, AHEM), then get in touch. But in any case, it will happen and you will buy it. Right? Right?

This nuggety runt just got its game on.

The Tory tweets part two: Bring Your Pet To Conference Day



I find myself at the Tory party conference, which is very similar to a business conference except they know the business is bust and the man who runs the defence department has given all the revenue to his mates.

This is my ongoing story, told through tweets, of a wishy-lefty washy running a bookshop at a right-wing event. Surrounded, incidentally, by the Boris 'brand' everywhere. Click to read part one. This is part two. Stay tuned for part three.
"Another day of Tories. Yesterday can be summarised as a bunch of people in suits and bad hair that don't know please, thanks or excuse me. The founder of MORI delighted me with stories. And we had a 'gay Tory' event (no, really). One woman bought Mandelson's book because she wanted to 'understand evil'. She was in every way a spitting image of Margaret Thatcher."
"I have five book signings today at the conference, including the aforesaid Jeremy Paxman (who is actually lovely)."
With a busy day ahead, I was feeling quite confident. A bit like a Christian looking at a photograph of a kitten in the Colosseum and thinking, "oh THAT'S a lion."

In fact, let's stick with animal analogies, shall we?
"Everyone's much nicer today at the Tories. Yesterday was like wading through dead puppies. Well. I say everyone. Some people are nicer. Mainly the dead puppies because they're not being waded through any more. WHAT AM I SAYING? My brain's turning to Tory mush..."
"It's Bring Your Pet To Conference Day today at the Tory conference. A surprising number of blue animals. Like... um.... blue whales 'n' shit.
"Hey, stop tweeting me #dogfacts. I hate dogs. If I have to think about them *and* Tories, I may cry. I am having my lunch. The conference is affecting me. I have a headache and a growing dislike of minorities. (By 'minorities', I mean 'Tories in Manchester', obvs.)"
 It was a slow start to the day, hence...

"I'VE JUST SEEN A TORY DWARF."
...and...
"I am doing a poo at the Tory Conference. The first plop came out in the shape of Ann Widdecombe. Ooo, here's a second one. Jeffrey Archer. ...Vince Cable?! I have just laid a cable. A vince cable."
..and...
"Eek, David Davis is talking about lotion."
...and...
"Sorry I'm not replying to many tweets. I'm writing love poetry to David Cameron. What rhymes with 'nuzzle'?"
Muzzle, obviously.


My colleagues who had run set-up had nestled some Tony Benn books on the shelf, which by good fortune was in the exact place where cameras would film the book signings. And believe me, there were cameras everywhere. Events like this, whatever the party, is as much about media image as it is about motivating your troops.

I couldn't move without finding myself in someone's shot:

"I got stopped coming into the Tory conference for carrying coins. Of course I'm carrying coins. I'm selling books. Other items possibly considered dangerous at the Tory conference: clothes, hands, air."
"Oh crap, a TV camera has just filmed me. I'm sorry I said bad things about clothes and hands and air."
I even received tweets about being on the telly: "You're on the telly. And you're selling a book. Money has changed hands. Congratulations."
"The Graun have just interviewed me, wanting to know the successes (Kwasi Kwarteng) and turkeys (Assange). Oh dear."
In fact, some Tories couldn't cope with Kwasi Kwarteng. They don't like foreigners, you see. And Kwarteng is very foreign, being an Etonian, a Surrey MP and, oh hold on...
"Crikes. "Have you got that book by the man with a Korean name. Totally unpronounceable." That'll be Kwasi Kwarteng, then. So sheltered. This conference is one big head stuck in a big cloud."
Korea. West Africa. Eton. It's all the same. Bless.

Anyhoo, we did a signing with various MPs, including Kwasi (who I'm pretty sure is responsible for spilling coffee over one of my books, harrumph). The highlight, however, had to be Sir Paxman Of Newsnight who I had persuaded to do a last-minute book signing.


Boy, he was hard work. He withers in his spare time and, while always witty, personable and intelligent (I'd do another signing with him tomorrow if given the chance), his batteries still fire away when the rest of us have ground to a halt. His banter with the book-buying public was priceless.
"My book is so good, you should buy ten copies: some for your family and five or six for you. In fact, let's make it 15."

"I have one leg shorter than the other by about an inch and a half." 

"You want to go to Newcastle and be hung upside down? Yes, brilliant idea." 

"Are you going to tell me what underwear you're wearing?"

"The quotes earlier today were from the university challenged Sir Jezbo of Paxmania, all taken out of context from his book signing."
We ran out of books (understandable considering the signing wasn't planned) and so we had a little argument about that because Paxman was unhappy.

So I leave Part Two of this series with a couple of final tweets from the day.

Still to come is my attendance at an alarming fringe event and, as promised on my previous post, a truly scatalogical moment which represents more about the Tory party than even its critics would be prepared to accept. No, me having a poo further up this post wasn't it.

Oh and I must tell you how the Theresa May cat moment increased our sales.
"I managed to rile Jeremy Paxman today. I accept full responsibility if he's being more withering than normal with Boris on Newsnight!"

"My bookshop was on Newsnight, apparently. Hopefully it wasn't the bit when I was playing Twister with Michael Gove. (He has warm thighs.)"

Click to read part one. This is part two. Stay tuned for part three.

Oct 10, 2011

The Tory tweets part one: the moon rises in Uranus


When I was thrown into the jaws of the Tory party two years ago (with hilarious consequences), you'd think I wouldn't go back for more.

Yet, the moon rose in Uranus as the stars decided that this week I would meet tall, dark, be-suited, blue-badged strangers. Once more, I was their official bookseller.

Here is my Tory story in tweets. This is part one. Click to read part two.
"Right then, twums. Tomorrow, I will be at the Tory #cpc11 conference. Expect numerous bitter / sarcastic / funny tweets on Monday and Tuesday. I am warning you now so that you're ready for an increase in my tweeting and you're ready to be offended if you're a Tory. You're not a Tory, are you? Are you a hot Tory? Hot Tories confuse me. "
It has always been an ugly anachronism that the Tories choose to dump their annual shindig right in the middle of Manchester, mere yards from the site of the Battle of Peterloo in which the authorities mowed down poor workers and helped coalesce left wing protest for the next two hundred years. 
"Many people inside #cpc11 confused as to why people were shouting "Tory scum" at them today. Seriously. I must admit, it's confusing grammatically. I find all tautologies confusing grammatically. "

That didn't stop me, however, producing for them one of the best temporary political bookshops in the country for the four days they are camped in our beloved city. You have to remember that most people at the conference are not true blues, but are workers, media, other politicians and the like. It's just a good job I had Twitter through which to vent my rage.
"If you don't want to read me snotting on about Tories a lot, then unfollow me for a couple of days. Having said that, it's unlikely to be different from my normal snotting. Just a bit more frequent. I'm going to runny-nose your feed. 

"I should also point out I'll probably hit 1,000 followers today half way through me tweeting a complicated Eric Pickles sexual fantasy, This isn't going to be pretty. (Unlike Eric.)"
With my followers fully forewarned, I entered the conference to discover a much more professional affair than two years ago. This is the party of government, so no silly blue phone boxes or people dressed up in costumes this time.
I am at the Tory conference. It is everything I hoped for and more. They've upgraded the Gordon Brown pork pie stand to an Ed Miliband jerk chicken stand.

And here come the celebrities...
I've just breathed cheesy crisp breath into Jeremy Paxman's face. Don't think he noticed. I'll upgrade to prawn cocktail next time.

Paxman called me an incompetent bookseller.
Jeremy Paxman would become a key part of this year's bookshop. He (or his people) had decided not to do a book signing, so when he turned up to the shop, I managed to pin him down. He would do a signing. And it would be one of the most exhausting moments of the conference. More of that later.
Everyone who's everyone is here. There's a Tory with massive testicles (bad trousers). And there's Nick Robinson. 

Hitchens. *shudder* 

There are less shouty motivational posters this year. But Oliver Letwin's here with 'kill the poor' tattooed on his forehead, so that's OK. 
All of this is in good humour from a wishy-washy leftie. What could possibly go wrong? My job was to run a successful bookshop and I was going to succeed? Wasn't I?

My anti-Tory ire was barely beginning to bubble. And to make it worse, things were about to get somewhat scatological in one of the most illuminating, and disgusting, moments of the conference.#


This is part one. Click to read part two.

Sep 29, 2011

30 tusks, 25 blogs, 5 votes


Because I won Miss World or something at last year's Manchester Blog Awards, I get to be a judge this year. Imagine American Idol's Randy Jackson melded with 15 dead walrii. Yes, walrii. That's me.

The shortlist, for which you should be voting in your droves even as you read this sentence, is intimidating because there is so much good stuff in there. I only found out recently I'd be judging, so I've had to swill my buckets of dripping bitterness down the drain of perfectly balanced pragmatism and instead adopt a clear decision-making head.

I am now practising a mature opinion about everything. Thus:

- A lot of Orbital's stuff is excellent, but some other bits don't half go on a bit;

- Production techniques in r'n'b often set the tone for all sorts of music in the future in the same way the Nazis were good at car building, but that doesn't stop me even now from envying the production in Cry Me A River;

- Hooded tops are a wonderful way to express the rave culture of my youth, although they make me look a bit like 15 dead walrii;

- Some songs with guitars in can be good, while others can be bad;

- Some other things are good while some other things are bad. You should be getting the point of this list by now.

Short of setting fire to the internet and deciding the winner from the last blog standing, I don't know how I can judge the shortlist. But I'll have a go and I'll enjoy it immensely.

Not that winning last year did anything to my stats other than make me so busy, I've let this blog go a bit. Just look at the stats:


I did some writing, and then I did some more writing. This was in the days when everything was rosy and puppies frolicked in metaphorical fields. Fat Roland On Electronica got as many as four readers, then look: I won the award and suddenly I'm at minus one and, as you can see from the extrapolation above, things are set to get totally walrus.

15 hoodied walrii feasting off the corpses of frolickless puppies. Do you want that, dear reader? Yes you do, so get voting in the Manchester Blog Awards. Your votes get combined with judges votes and then we all have a massive booze up later in October.

Sep 21, 2011

Flashtag writers: fancy a quick 'un?

After I've trodded the boards with my #flashtag writing gang at Bad Shoes Festival this Sunday (there we are in the 2pm slot), I get to release a book.

We Flashtag writers, last seen running the Flash Mob Writing Competition, have produced an anthology of dirty stories.

Quickies has 30 authors, 72 pages and a gaudy lilac cover. Read more about its production over at my fiction blog, Italic Eyeball.

We'll host the launch of the book on Wednesday 28th September for Didsbury Arts Festival. Go to the Arts Festival website for more details... although do get there early as I suspect we'll fill the venue.

I'll be reading, probably, a strange situation piece called Slow Movement, Hard Plastic.

And then you get to buy the book. We'll even do a Kindle version. More details soon.

Which brings me to another point. FatRoland dot com is ten years old in a few months. I intend to do something special to mark the occasion. Curious? You should be. *walks off, whistling innocently*

Teebs, Babe Rainbow and Ital Tek tattooed onto a pop star's innards


I barely wordpuke about electronic jams in this here netspace, even though the whole reason for this website is to delare the word of the beat, of the resonance filter, of the wob-wob-wob.

Instead, I'm either banging on about pop music (OMG JUSTIN BIEBPIPE GOT A TATTOO OF POL POT ON HIS LARGE INTESTINE OMG) or simply not posting at all. This, lovely reader, is not good enough.

So what has been performing syncopated rhythms on my ear drums?

Teebs (pictured) has joined Soundcloud, which is about bloody time because I'm fed up of searching for the deadlocked skate dude on there and not finding him. Seriously. Just last weekend, I couldn't find him so had to punch Soundcloud in the face yet again. His first track posted there is about a year old, but it's sunny and dancy and deserves an embed below.

Anchor Steam by teebsio

Speaking of ambient jams that wouldn't look out of place spread over Brian Eno's bald head, I do believe I haven't told you about Babe Rainbow's Set Loose from his Endless Path EP.  It's simple and sad and deserves repeat clicks.

Babe Rainbow - "Set Loose" taken from Endless Path EP - OUT NOW by Warp Records

Also, Brighton's Ital Tek (or iTAL tEK or iTaL tEk or whatever his shift key is doing on any one day) has teamed up with London's Om Unit. Mr Unit, as it's only polite to call him, has been known to make music in the back of an RV before now. His pairing with Ital Tek is a persistent little bugger: a remix of Mr Tek's War Of The Ants. I'm having those tiddlywink snare effects tattooed on a pop star's pancreas.

Ital tek - war of the ants (om unit remix) Coming Soon (Atom River) by omunit

Sep 18, 2011

Five-point Manchester survival guide for freshers


Welcome to the straggly-haired slaughter, you fresh-faced lambs. Here is the official Fat Roland guide to being a fresher.

You arrived in Manchester today lugging your duvet under your spindly arms after doing that passive-aggressive eye thing as you left your parents behind for good. You have chosen the right city: Manchester invented computers, music, politics, card games and the Nintendo Wii.;

But how do you survive in the Northern capital that also brought the world Madchester drug casualties, murderous Hacienda bouncers and, shudder, more than a few members of the BeeGees?

One. You need to know where to hang out. One wrong move, and you'll be bundled into an alley and piddled on by a tramp. These are the only places you should hang out in your first year of university: your halls, the Student's Union, anything with a Wetherspoon's logo, Tib Street, Ancoats and, after two in the morning, Deansgate train station.

Two. You have to listen to the right music. Generally, if it's got a guitar and sounds needy, it's middle-class pseudo-angst and you might as well get minute Laura Marling faces tattooed on your nipples. If it's got keyboards and the players of the keyboard sport cool hair, it could be hipster, in which case you might as well hang out at Common Bar in a cloud of your own farts. Any other kind of music is acceptable.

Three. Don't get in my way. Don't use buses. Don't walk down streets. Don't sit in bars, although if you really have to, for goodness sake don't talk. Only go to the cinema on Orange Wednesdays because that's exactly the day I don't go to the cinema. Do come into my bookshop and buy some books, but only if you're fit / cute / might be fit when you're 25.

Four. Catch as many diseases as you can, and ensure you pass them on to as many Manchester residents as possible. Illness reduces crime (and let's be honest, you're going to get robbed blind in those shoddy student digs), boosts immune systems, and I really like laughing at people thinking their world's going to end because they've got a cold. Yes, women, you do it too. Incidentally, I don't intend to catch the cold virus ever again, so this doesn't affect me. You get extra points for sexual diseases, especially if picked up on the dance floor of 5th Avenue / Cruz 101 / the Christian Union Christmas party.

And finally, five. Don't use anything digital. Unplugged is cool and preserves the 1950s culture in which Manchester truly thrives. You don't think the Happy Mondays used electricity, did you? It was all done with tooth 'n' comb and a kazoo doused in liquid LSD. Ditch your modern appliances. Buy your singles on seven inch. Get proper books. Wash your clothes using poorly-dressed maidens in a scullery. If you need to learn something, go to a library or ask a busker. And stay off blogs, because the amount of effluence dripping from their so-called good advice guides would be enough to turn Doctor Crippin's stomach.

New students: welcome to Manchester. We gave you M People, Dolly Parton and Kraftwerk. (Probably, I dunno.) Now what are you going to give back?

See also: my top 20 Manchester albums of all time (2009)
See also: my students' guide to new music (2010)

Sep 3, 2011

They catch me in the beer tent, you sound the alarm


DJing in a beer tent at Greenbelt Arts Festival is probably the best fun you could have with your trousers on your head.

I've been going to Greenbelt almost every year for the past 20 years. It's my spiritual and artistic home and it's even Mark Thomas' second-favourite festival.

This year, I had two DJing slots in the Jesus Arms organic ale tent, which gave me the chance to do a dark set (techno and IDM on the Saturday night) and a light set (ambient and 4/4 beats on the Monday night). My co-DJ Dan flipped things in a different direction with the likes of Desmond Dekker and Prince.

Being in such close proximity to beer attracted the usual punter comments:

- Have you got any Beatles?

- Have you got any Abba?

- Have you got anything with a tune?

That last comment, dear readers, really means "have you got anything that I recognise" because most people want spoon-feeding with the same old mulch. It's a minority view, so I didn't compromise: back-to-back Autechre tracks were a personal highlight.

The picture shows the free software we used to DJ with. A massive thanks to Dan (who really needs a snazzy DJ name, like DJ Dan The Destroyobot or something) who not only brought proper good choons but also brought the kit to make it all work.

Aug 25, 2011

Purple tins and Co-op: where the hell is Fat Roland?

The time has finally come to nudge me off my bloggy throne back into the pits of well-deserved obscurity, for the Manchester Blog Awards are now open for nominations.

Last year's accolade, in which I shared a couple of gongs alongside some truly smashing blogs, astronauted me scream-first into the spaceosphere: people suddenly wanted me to *do* stuff. I'. sure, once I can no longer call myself "blogger of the year", it'll be back to the purple tins and sitting outside the Co-op.

But I have been busy. For example, I will perform my umpteenth fiction reading at Manchester's leading literary shindig Bad Language this Wednesday, August 31st. I'm hugely grateful for Bad Language's support: they have been the driving force behind my newly-discovered love of short story writing.

And don't forget the wonderfully-named Bad Shoes Festival on September 25th in Chorlton. Bad Shoes is a joint mission between Bad Language and that temple of gorgeousness, Shoestring Magazine. At the festival, I'll join the Flashtag Writers for a fiction reading of sorts. Ah, the Flashtag gang. It seems like an eternity since we congealed our efforts around this stupendously stupid blog post last November.

Oh, that reminds me. We're doing a book. We're doing a disgusting book of smutty stories for Didsbury Arts Festival. Quickes: Stories For Adults in in the editing / typesetting phase and features work by us, by specially commissioned writers and by general submissions. We're going to launch it on September 28th, and it would be great if you could come-- er-- be there.

What else? I'm bound to miss something. I've resurrected by photograph microfiction thingy blog Fatotograf. Me and a few Sanctus 1 chums will be giving out fish this weekend in a new short story experiment. I ran a fun blog workshop for Full Circle Arts and Blank Media. My coming out story is the subject of an Art With Heat project for Manchester Pride (yes, I'm in that video!). You can find me DJing on Saturday and Monday nights at the Greenbelt Arts Festival. There's stuff going on with Manchester Science Festival, but it's not quite announceable yet. And I am currently uploading a few 100-character stories over at Italic Eyeball.

Oh and to take my mind off all of the above, I just wrote this. Like I said. Astronaut. Screams. Spaceosphere.