Dec 31, 2012

Top ten best movies of 2012

Digested all the blog lists summing up 2012 in increasingly shrill tones? Time to click the internet away until 2013? You don't get away with it that easily. There is one final list I would like to shove in your face.

These highlights of 2012 are incomplete because I'm not Mark bloody Kermode and I haven't got 92 hours a day to sit in a darkened room wondering how much better the movie would be in 2D. So I missed The Hobbit, Looper, The Raid, Argo, Holy Motors, Marley, Don't Think, Katy Perry's Part of Me and all those fancy films with subtitles.

Still, I love the cinema. It's the one time when I can truly get away from my troubles / my past / the bailiffs / the police. Here are my top ten movies for 2012, peppered with other titles that didn't make it into the final running.

10 - Ted

I wanted to dislike Ted. Talking teddies are in the same furry league as anamophic animals: all cutesie and moralistic. Leave it to Pixar to get that stuff right.

However, it works wonderfully in the paws of Seth MacFarlane, who played writer, director and bear. It's not subtle (like I said, it's Seth MacFarlane), but it's deliciously funny even before you take into account Patrick Stewart's bitter narration.

And if it gets a generation of plush toy-hugging kiddywinks into smoking crack, what's not to love?

9 - Skyfall

After an adequate cut-and-shut job in Quantum, Bond is back on form as a weakened Daniel Craig battles the mayhem of M's past.

The central premise of Skyfall - a lost hard drive - is so believable, we can forgive all the action film tropes (deux-ex-machina, plot-serving support characters). It's great fun and has a solid Bourne feel about it.

Sam Mendes has a clear affection for the franchise, and Bardem's baddie is psycho-Larry Grayson. Just let's not think about Adele's woeful rhyming couplets.

Intermission

There are two films from 2011 which I wanted to mention. I spent such a long time wanting to see Another Earth, it just seemd so magical and different. I sat down to watch it this year. I fell asleep. This is no comment on the quality of the film, and it just means that the little paragraph raving about it in my 2012 summary has turned into this: a grovelling apology. Sorry, Another Earth.

I did, however, see Martin Scorsese's 2011 movie Hugo which truly was magical although not necessarily anything different. It does that Cinema Paradiso thing of romanticising the flicks to great effect. I'm a Scorsese sceptic (a 'Sceptsese') but Hugo hits home with every single beat. Didn't bother with 3D though. More about that later...

8 - Room 237

The Shining is a movie about a boy with a talking finger, right? Wrong. It's about the carpet. It's about Native Americans. It's about the moon landings.

Five bonkers Shining fans waffle for the entire film about their insane theories about the hidden meanings of Kubrick's horror masterpiece. And it's brilliant.

With more reveal moments than a Rihanna performance, Room 237 fizzles with celluloid geekiness as the theories unfold. Ultimately, though, it's a celebration of the human imagination - nutty or otherwise. Mostly nutty. Link

7 - The Muppets

Yes. The Muppets.

Animal is in rehab. Gonzo is a plumber. Fozzie is in a crap Muppet's tribute band. If only they could get the gang back together for one last time... a bog-standard career revival story becomes a moving celebration in the fuzzy hands of Kermit and his pals.

It's loaded with nostalgia, but the daftness is quite affecting and the Flight of the Conchords music (the white suit moment made me clap with glee) is worth the ticket price alone.

Intermission: thoughts about Prometheus

Die, die, die. I hope you all die. Oh look, you're walking over there. Oh look, now you're walking back again. There's a hostile alien environment. There's a weird gloop. There's a creature inside someone's torso. Someone's talking. They're still talking. Someone's got a mysterious map. If you join all the symbols on the map, it says I CARE ABOUT NONE OF YOU AND I HOPE YOU ALL GET EATEN BY THE ACTUAL ALIEN FROM ALIEN.

6 - Seven Psychopaths

I wrote about Seven Psychopaths on Screen 150, so go there. In short, Martin McDonagh's whimsical world is populated with Coen Brothers characters speaking Tarantino dialogue.

It has the courage to get the McGuffin of a plot where a gangster persues his dog's kidnapper, put it to one side, and let the first-rate actors go town on the best script I've heard at the flicks this year.

Just wait for the DVD to come out. I seriously think this film's IMDb quotes page will get very full. What? You think I'm not serious just because I carry a rabbit? Jeez.

5 - The Artist

I'm not a film critic, so I don't have the luxury of advance screenings. So it goes that The Artist, which was released here in the UK on 30th December 2011, counts as a 2012 film. And what a film.

It may not the first time we've seen a black and white tale of movie makers struggling in the transition to talkies, but The Artist's light touch brings us a perfect balance of drama and humour - as well as hugely effective use of its silence.

It's worth seeing again without all the, er, noise generated by the critics a year ago.

Intermission

21 Jump Street is a stoopid buddy comedy about cops impersonating high school students to bust a drugs ring. The Woman In Black is about a grieving lawyer poking around a village terrorised by a ghost. One is funny and one is scary. One of them has someone being kicked in the goolies. One has someone stepping on a teacup. One has Channing Tatum. One has Harry Potter. Both have vomiting of some kind. Neither are in my top ten.

4 - Chronicle

If Donnie Darko had true superpowers (and no, "thinking of rabbits" doesn't make you superhuman), then you'll probably get Chronicle. It has that free-wheeling freshness that made District 9 similarly entertaining.

Careless teenages are afforded telekinetic abilities, forcing them to either grow up or stay as isolated teens forever. A science fiction story becomes a study of loneliness and anger.

I wrote about this on Screen 150, but essentially it's a stupid premise handled with a fresh eye and an intelligent mind. The plot piles what-if upon what-if until we end up... well, that would be telling. "Andreeeeew!"

3 - Cabin in the Woods

Oh crumbs.

Cabin In The Woods is a horror film, except it's not. It's about college kids in an isolated cabin, but it's not. It's about horrific blood-soaked deaths, but it's not.

This film is unreviewable, so I'll keep it vague. AAAAARGH! AAAAAAARGH! AAAAAAAAAAARGH! WHO THE HELL IS THAT? WHAT IS HAPPENING? OH MY CRAPSIE! AAAARGH! Multiplied. A super-charged tour-de-force where the merest "ding" of a lift's arrival will give you the terrors for weeks afterward. Highly recommended.

Intermission

Unlike many of my friends, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. Much of it doesn't make sense and I suspect the sheen will wear off with a second viewing, but I was in awe at Christopher Nolan's complete world-noir. I'm yet to see a better trilogy, so I was somewhat gutted to bump this from the top ten in favour of James Bond. The nagging plot holes probably sunk the Dark Knight this time.

Meanwhile, The Master may be the darling of everyone's best-of list, but I couldn't shake its poor ending. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams build the tension terrifically, so believable is the madness in the methods of Hoffman's titular Master. But the movie went for what I can only describe as an 'I drink your milk' moment and it didn't work. Still a cause worth watching for, though.

2 - Moonrise Kingdom

A boy goes missing and Edward Norton's slightly pathetic scoutmaster is on the case. Except, the boy is busy discovering being a grown-up with a weird girl carrying binoculars.

Moonrise Kingdom is constructed from the strange storyboards and camera cues in Wes Anderson's mind, but unlike some of his previous films, it serves this beguiling and hilarious film brilliantly.

Moonrise is a joy from start to finish. Hollywood stars (Willis! Swinton! McDormand! Bill blimming Murray!) play support to the child leads, themselves nailing the uncertainty of adolescence as the ominous clouds roll over the coast. It's eccentric, unsentimental and quite beautiful. This is Life Aquatic On The Shore.
1 - Life of Pi

Young Pi loses his parents to the sea and finds himself in literal choppy waters: uncertain fates await him as he battles to survive with only a vicious boy-eating tiger for company.

Life Of Pi is an incredible achievement. Not only does it map out the dramas of the supposedly unfilmable book with remarkable clarity, the hyper-realistic CGI is unlike anything else I have seen. Anamorphic animals? This tiger's wrath is visceral throughout.

You could argue it handles the novelistic metaphors a little ham-handedly (God, nature, all that stuff), but Life Of Pi is a near-perfect cinematic experience that had me gasping, looking away from the screen, laughing in delight and crying floods of tears. Ooo. Best not mention floods. Sorry, Pi.

The man who brought us Crouching Hulk Hidden Mountain may have brought us his most amazing film yet. Well. Unless you watched it in stupid 3D.

The 3D. Bah humbug. I don't want a pair of odd glasses to come between me and an immersing cinematic experience. Anything that takes your eyes a step away from the action is not a good thing. I saw Life Of Pi in 2D and, honestly, it's fine. It's amazing. It's my film of the year and is up there with Where The Wild Things Are. Anamorphic animals. Again.





Dec 30, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: number one

What was the best electronica album of 2012? Stephen Hawking's Olympics follow-up where he sang the War of the Worlds soundtrack with Swedish House Mafia? Something the Mayans cooked up with a tub of LSD and a rack of 303s? Or is it something I'm about to spew out of my blog gob? I think you know the answer.

Firstly, let's get stuck into a final selection of also-rans.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2. Click here for the whole lot.]

Also-rans

Some of this year's best electronic moments weren't in album form. Burial and Four Tet's haunting reunion for example. The Underworld and Orbital moments at the aforementioned Olympics. Anything Chvrches did.

Back to the albums. I excluded Plug's Back On Time (Ninja Tune) from the running because it's an archive collection. Still love him though. Very much in the running was Gonjasufi's MU.ZZ.LE (Warp), which spent a lot of its time firmly lodged in my brainworm's little ears and would have been in the top ten if there hadn't been so much competition.

Albums that didn't grab me so much but are still worth your time are Shed's powerful The Killer (50 Weapons), the sprightly disco of Lindstrøm's Smalhans (Feedelity) and the beautifully organic Voices From The Lake (Prologue) from Voices From The Lake.

The lie

Time for the number one album of 2012. Except it's not a number one. It's a joint number one. Two halves, if you will. This renders this entire top ten numerically nonsensical, but I tore my wig out with this year's choices and there isn't a single one of these 11 albums I can omit from this listing. Ten? Pah. Everything is a lie. This is the whole Bobby Ewing in the shower thing again. Stop reading, switch off your computer and get some fresh air.

Still here? Okay then. Here are the number one albums of 2012. They're both Manchester artists. I assure you, this is a co-incidence...

 1a - Andy Stott - Luxury Problems (Modern Love)

If Andy Stott had a more interesting name, he’d be Thrumming Basslord Of The Universal Spheres or Mr Monged Out In The Corner Of Sankeys Soap Chewing Himself A New Ulcer. But no, he’s called Andy and he’s operated well under this reviewer’s radar with two albums on Modern Love and a couple of deep-as-hell dub techno EPs in 2011.

It seems for this third album Luxury Problems (Modern Love), he stuck a microphone under the nose of his piano teacher – or possibly nicked her singing-into-hairbrushes tapes - and littered his record with sampled loops. Snippets of phrases are ever-present: always catchy, always heavenly, often rotating in mad gibberish.

But then there's all the stuff lower down. Opening track Numb starts off all very nicely with her layered vocals, but when the track breaks down at the two minute mark into sinister voice cymbals followed by a bass drum with such gravity it would rip the sun from the clouds, this becomes something quite astonishing. Mid-tempo snares and industrial scrapes punch through much of the haze, but this is never far from a terrifying underground thunder (listen to the rising terror of Expecting). The power. The sheer power.

It's a dub techno album that's more versatile than you think, from Lost and Found's angry rumbles and the pure sub bass of Hatch The Plan, to the comparatively brisk house of title track Luxury Problems and the junglism of Up The Box. Stott is in no rush and has the confidence to keep his ideas in check, only opening them up to the listener at exactly the right time. Luxury Problems is measured, like a movie with perfect pacing. The result is addictive.

Like many of the best albums this year, it's not just techno. It's ambient, it's industrial, it's somehow reaching beyond the chalk lines that demarcate EDM/IDM sub-cultures. It's an immersing soundtrack that speaks of the stark Manchester mills and alleys in which this album was no-doubt made. Buy it. Stream it. Be awed and afraid. If you've got Luxury Problems, I feel good for you, son.

1b - Lone - Galaxy Garden (R&S)

Can I review Lone's Galaxy Garden (R&S) without using the much-trodden metaphors in other reviews of strange underwater worlds and video games, each one suggested by the music's contrasts of rich fluidity and punchy simplicity? The day-glo album cover itself suggests a hyper Mario submarine adventure full of bubbles, bleeps and electric octopuses.

Lone is no stranger to this here blog. In 2009, I included Ecstacy and Friends in my albums of the year, rather bluntly calling it Goldie's Timeless without the d'n'b. In 2010, he missed out but still lured me with his lusciousness. And now, here he is at number one. Galaxy Garden is his first album for R&S, a classic Belgian techno label that has more recently become home to James Blake, Juan Atkins and Delphic, and it deserves to be listened to as a classic.

Layers and layers of super magic sparkle dust are sprinkled across the silky smooth instrumentation on this album. Elastic rave chords and acid muzak are washed in filtered chords on The Animal Pattern, while the sweet and delicate Raindance delivers choppy techno and soaking wet snares. There are waterfalls, steel drums and tabla. It couldn't be more lush if you lay naked in the dew grass in a shower of bubbles. Wait. That sounds weird. Let's move on.

Beyond the futuristic fat pads and multi-coloured vibrancy of Galaxy Garden, we also have an album of old influences. Lone has mainlined not only into the glassy hyper-charged world of Rustie, perhaps its most immediate modern comparison, but in places there is Underworld, Kevin Saunderson, early Warp and Tresor. Most notably, the gorgeous glow of tracks New Colour and Dream Girl/Sky Surfer stands as a tribute to the kings of smooth, 808 State. In-your-face gorgeous.

I had this album on 'random' recently. There was a moment as Cthulhu faded away - the fifth track on the album but late on in my listening - where I took off my headphones, pulled out a chair from the corner of the room and let the memory of the tracks echo around my head. It sounded like I was listening to my own past. All the techno I had ever loved was here. That, my friends, is some endorsement.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2. Click here for the whole lot.]

Further Fats: other amazing lists on Fat Roland On Electronica.

Dec 29, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: numbers 4 to 2

We're into the top five of what I believe are the best electronic music albums of 2012. I've wet myself with excitement so many times, I'm having to sit on four layers of towels surrounded by a makeshift wall of mop-heads.

We're into to rock-solid (or should that be bleep-solid) classic territory here. If numbers four to two are this good, my chart-topper is liable to trigger a flood alert.

Inevitably, lots of artists didn't make the top ten. Here are some more also-rans for this year's chart.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Also-rans

Brian Eno's Lux (Warp) missed out on the top ten, as did another big-hitter, Clark. His Iradelphic (Warp) seemed to be Clark-by-numbers to me despite some spine-tingling moments and despite topping my chart three years ago. Shame.

The DJ in me enjoyed I:Cube's mixtape-tastic “M” Megamix (Versatile) and Stunt Rhythms (Big Dada) from my favourite Amon Tobin guise Two Fingers. Also missing out is the noisy improvisation of Carter Tutti Void's Transverse (Mute), an utterly replayable IDM album Steam Days (Border Community) from Nathan Fake and two records from Mouse On Mars: comeback LP Parastrophics (Monkeytown) and follow-up mini-album WOW (Monkeytown).

4 - Grimes - Visions (4AD)

Grimes. Of course, Grimes. I played with the idea of excluding her because she might be too ‘pop’ for the EDM/IDM subculture this blog appeals to. Then I decided only an flipping idiot would exclude her, and although I am an idiot, I’m not a flipping idiot. Because, if you didn’t already know, Visions (4AD) is one of the best albums of the year in any genre.

Among the hazy layered vocals, analogue synth hooks and the light touch that keeps everything in a perfect balance, you’ll find Grimes reclaiming the orchestral stab (Oblivion), bringing back 1980s Prince beats (Colour Of Moonlight) and making a good job of a Mariah wail (Be a Body).

Ah yes. The voice, the voice, the voice. This will make or break the album for you. She’s high, she’s low, she’s delicate and she’s bluesy – almost choral on tracks like Skin. The voice is everywhere, and at its most effective, it is versatile and moving. Tied with such solid instrumentation, if this doesn’t grab you on first play, try it a dozen more times. Deserves to be on as many coffee tables as Moby (ask your grandad).

3 - Actress - R.I.P (Honest Jon’s)

Two years after I excluded Actress’ Splazsh from my end-of-year top ten, here he is making waves in the 2012 list. And what an unexpected treat: Actress has shut his drum machine under the stairs with the hoover, instead producing a collection of loops that take their rhythm from the likes of tape hiss, broken orchestration and eerie rattles. And probably from the hoover too.

R.I.P (Honest Jon's) is a dirty affair, but he allows space for the crackles and nastiness by keeping it simple. Actress has dug down into the essence of each track, finding the trashy distortions and frequencies then ditching anything else that doesn’t fit the groove. It’s puffy, fuzzy but not fussy.

Tracks like Raven are so smothered in hiss, it takes a while to find the rhythm. Somewhere amid the hissing loops of Marble Plexus, I hear a bass drum: I almost write a letter of astonishment to the Telegraph. Serpent has a shaky Splazsh-style rhythm but it’s bedded beneath layers of strings – in the true orchestral sense – and is the best example of why there's no other album like this in 2012. R.I.P is deep, metallic and, erm, dead good.

2 - Orbital - Wonky (ACP)

You wait eight years for a new Orbital album and one comes along at once. It is an unwritten rule of music criticism that comebacks should not work. Chinese Democracy. Free As A Bird. Dark Light*. They often give you the feeling you've been cheated. And yet Wonky (ACP) was Orbital’s best album since the mid-90s, leaving sweating fans everywhere throwing deep shapes of relief.

The throw-back moments are here, for example the Satan remix or the Belfast-style old tape loop reused for Stringy Acid, or indeed in the cut-up vocals starting One Big Moment or the skipping Distractions snares. But Orbital don't rely on these production details: instead they choose to rack up their live punch front-and-centre. New France is stadium dance music at its most euphoric, while title track Wonky is all build-up and build-up designed to wear out the soles of your disco crocs.

The two 2012 gig tickets in my pocket prove I am an Orbital junkie, so maybe I shouldn’t be placing them so high up in this top ten. But comeback albums of this quality are rare, and to top that, this album has a live anthem with as much potency as Chime and as much catchiness as Impact: album closer Where Is It Going equals their absolute best. They couldn't have done this better - and if you need one more reason for the Satan-bringers appearance in this top ten, this just so happens to be my 666th blog post on Fat Roland on Electronica. Even a top blog gives the right number etc etc...

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 7-5; number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

* You remember Dark Light, right? No?
Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2011

Dec 28, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: numbers 7 to 5

This is my count-down of the best electronic albums of 2012. Dozens of discs were whittled into a select ten that your reel-to-reel mp3 player should not be without.

Before we get stuck into the middle bit of the top ten, here are some albums that didn't make it through.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Some also-rans

It pained me to exclude two amazing albums from this top ten. The first was Leila's between-the-eyes electro on U&I (Warp), much of it worth checking out by Orbital fans, while Lukid's Lonely At The Top (Werkdiscs) is my number 11 in a list of 10.

I reviewed several albums for Electronic's debut magazine, and the one that sticks in my head is Sterac's smooth remaster of Secret Life of Machines (100% Pure) and Last Step's deliberately dream-driven Sleep (Planet Mu) in which Venetian Snares does accessible.

Thomas Datt's punchy trance album Picking Up The Pieces (Discover) was likeable,
The Gaslamp Killer's Breakthrough (Brainfeeder) wasn't quite the breakthrough I was hoping for but still had a smoky charm.

I need to mention Dave Monolith's Welcome (Rephlex) which I listened to too late for last year's countdown (it was first mentioned here and yes, it's a masterpiece), while finally I've never quite tuned into the critically-lauded Shackleton's wavelength (Music For the Quiet Hour (Woe To The Sceptic Heart)).

7 - Squarepusher – Ufabulum (Warp)

A welcome return to form from the brother of Ceephax Acid Crew. Ufabulum (Warp) may not forge new territory, but it brims with trademark chords, clipped snares and bonkers digitalism reminiscent of Go Plastic. The d’Demonstrator funk is reigned in as is the live bass, and this, uh, albulum is stronger for it. (That's now a word.)

Opening track 4001 is a hymn to hands-in-the-air IDM, a sound more evident in the first half of the long-player with much of the deformed compression saved for later in the record. In fact, his light touch is faintly comical, such as the computer game bleeps of Unreal Square, the Plone-style tunefulness of Stadium Ice and the punchy power chord theme-tune of Energy Wizard.

By the time we get to closer Ecstatic Shock, the melody is suffocated by farting bass and stop-start beats: it reminds us the machines are truly in control and we are a long way from the Squarepusher as the saviour of live electronics. Maybe he could have pushed more boundaries, but this is his best album since Ultravisitor and, whisper it, a bit of a relief.

6 - Vessel - Order of Noise (Tri Angle)

Vessel seems to have come from nowhere – well, actually, Bristol – to produce one of the surprise highlights of 2012. Not really techno, not really house, not really anything, he signed to the influential Tri Angle label to become labelmates of Balam Acab and oOoOO for his debut album.

The strength of Order of Noise (Tri Angle) is its understatement. Lache, for example, shuffles along nicely, while the slow breaths of Silten are quite lovely. But then Vessel will grab some Global Communication-style tones or Leftfield warmth from somewhere, or perhaps a simple drum fill, a suspended chord or a sub-bassline, and suddenly the simple motifs become something quite affecting.

Villane sounds like Thom Yorke in his death-throes, while I love the whooping halfstep dub of Images of Bodies. The chugging Court Of Lions is a highlight, all tick-tock disco and wafer thin ambience topped off with a late-in-the-day four-line refrain. Vessel commented on this site in 2008 that he was "trying his ass off". Taken as a whole, Order of Noise is such a complete vision and a triumph of ideas, it can be considered as one of the most effective debuts of recent times.

5 - Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes (Warp)

Describing the new Flying Lotus album is a bit like trying to describe the weather: we all seem to know what it looks like, what it feels like, and there are plenty of places on the internet where you can get much more information than from anything I can jab into my worn Logitech keyboard. Although I'm not sure Elijah Wood appeared in a weird amputee fantasy video to warn us about an approaching cold front (Tiny Tortures).

There was a danger with Until The Quiet Comes (Warp) that FlyLo would begin to believe his astral zodiac cosmogrammic shizzle and become as nakedly overrated as the proverbial emperor’s clothes. Think how UNKLE went. Instead, he has taken a small step away from the free jazz claustrophobia of his last work and produced a beautiful odyssey that is easier on the ears but no less fascinating.

The jazz is back as are the guest vocalists (See Thru To U), but the album really shines in the stranger corners: the playground insanity of Putty Boy Strutt, that beguiling “oh no” refrain of All The Secrets, and the African influences throughout, especially on the steel drums of Yesterday//Corded. Strange, thoughtful and delicate, and great for all weathers.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 10-8; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2010.

Dec 27, 2012

Best electronica albums of 2012: numbers 10 to 8

It's time for my annual rake through the detritus of the last 12 months: my top ten list of the best electronic music albums of 2012.

I don't know if it's the seventeen recessions we've been through, but this year's list feels quite different from the previous ones. Instead of the summer-tinged likes of Mount Kimbie or the chirpiness of Plaid, these selections seem more dour. A bit miserable. So something to look forward to, then.

Still, this represents what I am convinced is the best of the best. Let's start with some runners that didn't quite make it to the final fence.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Some also-rans

Four Tet sellotaped together some 12-inch singles to produce an album called Pink (Text), but it was too much like Mr Tet in workman mode for my liking. Despite the appearance of the godlike Jamie Lidell, and brilliant though it was, Simian Mobile Disco's Unpatterns (Witchita Recordings) didn't make it to the final list.

The psychedelic experimentalism of Juju & Jordash's Techno Primitivism (Dekmantel) was quite something to behold. Two acts turned my head this year but didn't produce albums. Still, it's worth checking out oOoOO's heroin-tinged beats on Our Loving Is Hurting Us (Tri Angle) and do grab the massively important collaboration of Hudson Mohawke and Lunice in the shape of the eponymous TNGHT (Warp x LuckyMe) EP.

The oldies were still at it. Underworld refreshed an old compilation to release the 1992-2012 Anthology (Underworldlive.com), which by default was full of brilliance, while less successful
was DJ Food's first album in over a decade: The Search Engine (Ninja Tune) was swamped with guest vocals and not much else.

10 - Ital - Hive Mind (Planet Mu)

Here we have a Thrill Jockey lad (watch Mi Ami’s Dolphins: yeah, that’s him in the gloves) who has left indie-crossover to inhabit a crystalline landscape of mid-paced house grooves and perfectly-pitched ambience that should, on first listen, pitch-bend its quirky way into your brainhole and stay there for some time.

Ignore the Whitney Houston sample – that’s entertaining enough – but instead listen in awe at Hive Mind (Planet Mu)'s Israel where warm washes shoot into curious new territory at the two-thirds mark, or the moody stomp of Floridian Void that gives in to heart-breaking synth washes, or the disorientating brokenness of Privacy Settings.

There are only five tracks – three of them are ten minutes long – so if you don’t want the opening phrase of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way over Footwork-ish wrong-key disco edited in some pretty basic software (Audacity, I believe), then maybe you should peruse the rest of this top ten instead. But for me, this was Planet Mu’s shining moment of 2012.

9 - Silent Servant - Negative Fascination (Hospital Productions)

“Stasis is death. See you on the other side.” These were the final words of industrial techno label Sandwell District at the start of this year. For one of their artists, the other side happened to include a mesmerising album called Negative Fascination (Hospital Productions), produced amid economic flux as Hospital found themselves closing their lovely blood-red record shop in Manhattan.

Silent Servant offers desolate dark techno with leanings towards post-punk minimalism. It could be just another Basic Channel-soundalike, but in this world there is enchanting magic: the beautiful persistence of Temptation & Desire, the deep suspended disco of Utopian Disaster (End) and the metallic clunk (no, it’s better than it sounds, honest) of Invocation Of Lust. This servant is lonely but alluring.

Even the unforgiving android barks of The Strange Attractor, which would leave most diving for cover, offer a strange allure that gives these gaunt, DIY rhythms the space and depth to let the imagination wander. Rarely in 2012 has an album given me so little on first listen then slowly hooked its rusty claws under my skin.

8 - Monolake - Ghosts (Imbalance)

If the rasping snares of the opening title track haven’t ripped off your leg before the two minute mark of Monolake’s seventh album Ghosts (Imbalance), and the whispering industrial voices haven't sucked your weak heart from your chest, then you’ll probably survive the rest of this cold, cold, cold album.

The creaks and drips of Taku feels like you’re tiptoeing through an underground cave only to realise you’re inside a stomach, while the clinking Unstable Matter is pure horror film soundtrack. The slamming urgency of Foreign Object, cloaked as the sound of a distant choir trying to pickaxe their way out of a landslide, is so full of industrial swag, it would be best to take up the foetal position until the memory subsides.

Monolake debuts in one of my top tens because this time there is more of a solid rhythmic structure, and although it’s all rather disembodied, it gives me more to hook onto than other ‘lake offerings. A good starter for new Monolake listeners, perhaps. Insert journalistic ‘I believe in Ghosts’ ending here.

[Read other parts of the top ten here: numbers 7-5; numbers 4-2number 1. Click here for the whole lot.]

Further Fats: Best electronica albums of 2009.

Dec 25, 2012

Top ten ways to write a top ten music list


The first ever list was a load of commandments chiselled into stone and carried across the Red Sea by Moses (or something) and now in commemoration of that event, we have a season called yuletide in which everyone makes end-of-year lists.

You may think end-of-year lists just appear, as if it's blatantly obvious that Alt-J are more worthy than Jesse J. But these finely-tuned summaries of arbritary time periods are borne of much chin-stroking, scalp-scratching and cat-squeezing.

I am compiling my usual legendary run-down of electronic albums of 2012, due for publication before the new year. If you too are compiling a list, I can help. Here are my top ten ways to write a top ten music list.

Pay attention.

1. Um... er... I think that, er... um...

2. Be decisive. Grab your reader with your first choice. Work out what will appear first when people click onto your list, whether counting down or counting up. A list gives you a certain authority. And sound confident by not repeating yourself. Be decisive.

4. Don't miss numbers just to make your list appear shorter. This is like those newsagents that don't give a penny change so they can donate to a jar in their storeroom labelled 'foot spa fund'. It's all a bit of a con and, quite frankly, their feet will always stink no matter what they do.

5. Ensure one of your choices is something you hate but you saw a 400-word gushfest about it in a broadsheet once even though the journalist was probably sexing the bassist in a bath of Ben and Jerry's at the time. Make it your number two choice, thereby showing a sneering nod to the critic fashionistas.

6. Go to the riverside. Take a net. Hide in the bushes until you see a lesser-spotted adjective. Quick, grab it. Scoop up that little blighter. Gather more, add some great-breasted adverbs, lasso a superlative or five. Let your descriptions ring out as they flap and wheeze for air on the page. Then delete them and just compare everything to shoegaze or Skrillex instead.

7. Include a friend's band in the lower reaches of your chart. You go to their gigs to be polite, you know Nick Grimshaw will never play them, and the reason why you bought three of their self-copied album is because of basic maths: one for each dart.

B. Don't feel tied to a numerical system. Count in letters. Count in Greek letters. Count in the Mayan alphabet, which incidentally finishes at 7 at which point newspapers across their country donate all their column inches to pictures of slightly worried dogs beneath stormy skies accompanied by the heading 'ADOGALYPSE'.

9. Include one of your regular favourites whose material has deteriorated so badly over the years that you find yourself at their gigs surrounded only by fatter and more shell-suited versions of you. Include them because failing to do so would invalidate an important part of your identity. Include them in your list. Eat pies. Buy a shell suit.

10. Don't do an end-of-year list. Only an idiot short of imagination and long of time would resort to compressing a year's worth of other people's creativity into a meaningless chart which has neither the exposure nor the financial backing to make it any more relevant than a moth's cough. A worse offence would be to do a list about making the list: that alone is heinous with the emphasis on 'anus'. Anyone who barely even thinks of a number in a blog post, never mind include them should have the following things confiscated: their blogging account, the internet, their hands, ability to formulate thoughts, trousers.

The Fat Roland top ten electronic albums run-down will be published from December 27th. You could cut the tension with a kitten.

PS - joyful Chrimbnas to one and owl.

Further Fats: 2paW0r: The Warp Records anagram challenge

Dec 3, 2012

A creative meltdown means horrible bowls and don't you forget it


What the actual frigging actual?

I mean, SERIOUSLY to the max, uber-voltage SERIOUSLY, with some SERIOUS cherries on top?

While lazing around in my local Chinese takeaway, I spotted a stack of glossy magazines on a table just above a fiercely hot heater. It was actually dangerous. Being a sound citizen, I moved the magazines away from the heat source and, as you will understand, had to read them all in the process.

Among the bland hot OK air of thin people in their mansions was Take A Break, which had this gem of a "groovy idea" (pictured):
"I found some vinyl records in my attic and wanted to re-use them. I put a record on a heatproof bowl and placed it in a warm oven until it began to melt. Then I carefully moulded the warm vinyl around another dish and left it to harden.
"Now I have a retro bowl that's perfect for storing my keys and loose change."
As a house full of busybodies write letters to trite lifestyle magazines saying "look what memories I destroyed today to avoid putting coins onto the many convenient and robust shelves and surfaces throughout our well-equipped home", a poor dead uncle is looking down on his old classical collection as it is melted into warped plant pots, faux-trendy wall clocks and horrible dog bowls.

Because when I look at a record, I suddenly think my pockets are too heavy and maybe their scratchy contents would look good spinning at 33prm on knackered vinyl. I mean, SERIOUSLY. In other news, I now store all my Facebook photos inside a corrupted mp3.

We're a quarter of the way through an octuple-dip recession, so re-use and recycle by all means. But I am truly horrified.

I should never have moved those magazines away from the heater. That's right, reader: I would rather my local takeaway burn to the ground than have some enterprising creative make an old thing into a new thing because they want to. That's the kind of person I am. That's the kind of person this 'retro bowl' has made me.

Oh I'm annoyed. I'm going for a walk.

Now where are my keys?

Further Fats: Do you pay for your record collection?

Nov 6, 2012

Spring cleaning in November... it's crazy, I know

Pass me that feather duster. Thanks.

In a week's time, I'll be spring cleaning a few corners of my blog hovel. FatRoland.com will become something quite different, and will cover all of my internet sites rather than just this here blog.

It means that Fat Roland on Electronica will return to a mere blogspot address, as it was when it started. You won't notice a difference other than some of you will see a different URL.

Wait. Don't fall asleep.

Also, I will be retiring one Twitter feed and one blog, neither of which you probably know about - and if you did know about them, you won't have twigged it was me all along.

All will be revealed next Tuesday (which happens also to be the 8th anniversary of this blog).

The FatRoland.com web address is over ten years old. It's time to investigate the wrinkles...

Further Fats: Blog 1 website 0 (late result) (2007)

Nov 5, 2012

Some dogs are better than others


I hate dogs.

Many breeds of dog are vile and potentially dangerous. I do not understand a world in which it is normal to domesticate creatures that are capable of savaging and killing.

I don't think it's cute when friends post pictures of their dogs on Facebook. Oh look, here's Buster dragging his bum across the baby's face, how cute. Eeeugh. And no, I don't want to say hello to your dog when I meet you neck-deep in the brown stuff on a poo-strewn pavement.

There should be a dog licence which includes training for owners in pack mentalities and dog behaviour. Most of my dog bites - and I've had a few, believe me - have been from mutts that "wouldn't bite". Of course they bite, you silly owner, it's what they do.

You're waiting for the punchline, aren't you? You're waiting for the moment I spin this around and say I meant clogs and sorry for the typo.

There's no punchline. There are two exceptions, though.

Firstly, The Black Dog (pictured) are quite unvile and lovely. Their influential early albums showed me that dance music could be emotive and intelligent: Temple of Transparent Balls and Bytes were a deep and involving antidote to the two-dimension dance smash of the same year, No Limit by 2 Unlimited.

What's great is they're still making amazing music. The Black Dog are a good dog. Here, have a bone.

Secondly, my next-door neighbour's dog Wilf loves me. Even if I am miles off, he goes insane at the sight of me. His tail tells me in impatient semaphore that I am the best thing that has happened to his day. He only does this with me and one other neighbour. He doesn't even show the same level of shuddering, dribbling uber-joy for his actual owners, the duplicitous wee beastie. Wilf is great.

Wilf and The Black Dog are exempt. All other dogs can go to their basket and think about what they have done.

Further Fats: Temple Of Transparent Balls and the black, brooding Book Of Dogma

Oct 28, 2012

I am having a constructive conversation on Youtube about the KLF

Click here (or the picture) to make this bigger so you can read it with your eyeholes. And naturally, I'll keep you updated on the discussion in the comments below this here post.


Further Fats: This is not a brave new world: it's just another house group

Oct 11, 2012

Rihanna has ruined everything


Rihanna's latest single is the death of creativity.

That's it. It's over. Unplug your guitar. Put down your paintbrush. Leave that ice sculpture for the sun. Rihanna has ruined everything.

It's bad enough that the X Factor bursts with so many brands (the contestants' phones, Syco, the hotel they stay in, more Syco, even the cups on the desk in the US version) that there's barely space for the soundwaves what with all that money flying about.

But now Rihanna has released an advert and it's got to number one. An advert.

I'm not naive. I'm used to Levi jeans once belting up the the charts and Mr Latest Bling Bling Hippety-hop getting jiggy with cars and expensive fizz, but the Rihanna thing is quite unbelievable. Let me explain.

A few years ago, Emporio Armani launched a fragrance called Diamonds. Cue a launch party with Beyonce, Josh Hartnett getting his nips out in black and white commercials. and a forthcoming tie-in with MTV.

Diamonds is, according to its maker's website, "inspired by both the past and the present, the traditional and the modern". Such unique selling points are "particularly reflected by the ingredients". Better the actual 'ingredients' than, say, the bottle coming with a buffalo that constantly points at a watch as it screams "don't think about the future, NEVER THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE" in Buffalese.

Meanwhile, in another corner of the empire, Rihanna designs things for Armani: bags, pants, jeans, that kind of thing. It's an odd profession for someone who wears so little of anything, but she will earn a universeful of cash as did her preceding shill Posh Spice.

Nothing new, just people doing stuff.

So I can only imagine the writing process with Rihanna's latest single (no, I'm not calling her RiRi: she's not a panda), because she really has jumped the shark, punched the buffalo and bashed the bishop on this one.
RIHANNA: Shine bright like a... Shine bright like a... like a... I'm really struggling with a simile to finish this chorus.
PRODUCER: Star? Sun? Giorgio Armani's tanned face?
THE LIGHTS FLICKER. THE ROOM GETS COLD. ARMANI FLOATS INTO THE ROOM.
ARMANI: Someone mention my name?
RIHANNA: Georgie boy, we're struggling to finish--
ARMANI: Get a load of this.
ARMANI SPRAYS THE DIAMONDS FRAGRANCE INTO RIHANNA'S FACE. HER EYES GLAZE OVER. MEANWHILE, THE PRODUCER RUNS SCREAMING FROM THE BUILDING. HE RETIRES FROM WORKING IN STUDIOS, ALTHOUGH IN 2019 IS SPOTTED IN AN EARLY X FACTOR AUDITION DRESSED AS A BAD LEO SAYER.
"Shine bright like a diamond" it is. And that, dear reader, is how Rihanna's new single Diamonds came to be named after her employer's fragrance Diamonds, with both snuggled so close on this screenshot on the Official Charts Page (below), they could mate and give birth to, um, a parallelogram.

Well done, Rihanna. More than anyone in the history of the charts, you've reduced the number one spot to a commercial. Let's hope you do the same when you're saggy and old and advertising Farmfoods.

(Click for bigger.)

Further Fats: Rihanna will knock out a cover version of Hangable Auto Bulb as soon as she claps her eyes on this pile of blog waffle (2007)

Oct 1, 2012

Labour 2012: massive eyeball ballpit horror

I worry that I don't blog about music enough, so I scribble resolutions to myself to try harder. And then I get distracted by the Labour party conference and the resolutions flutter into my recycling bin.

I like to think of Labour as my natural party of choice. I was born in the great industrial city of Manchester, and my childhood memories include the smell of bike oil and dad coming back from t'pit at t'weekends. Okay, I liked about t'pit and t'weekends. But I was into T'Pau for a bit.

Actually, I haven't voted for Labour in a general election for 20 years. Tony Blair put me off: too blue. I felt he sent old Labour drifting down the river like Phil Silvers in It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World with Tony Benn as the solitary floating hat reminding us of a once great party.

Still, that didn't stop me spending half of this week at their conference venue setting up a bookshop. And because it can be hard work and because a lot of people I meet might be quite bonkers, and because the set-up has done my back in a bit and I'm in a bad mood, you're going to get the brunt of my Labour conference experience in the shape of a few roughly-honed blog posts.

Let's start gently because it's early days. Here are some photos from set-up, Watch this blog for more updates in the coming days when things, y'know, actually get interesting.


1. We all get little stands like this. Our bookshop, which you'll see in later blog posts, takes up several of these little stands.

2. There is a stand called Everything Everywhere. There was nothing in it when I took this photo. Perhaps it's irony. Do politicians do irony?

3. Some nice person had left a bit of paper on their stall. It says SMILE. I wonder if it's the bank. Or maybe it's a dentist thing and they're going to fashion their stand into a gaping, toothless mouth for children to play in, complete with real saliva.

4. The RNIB wheeled in their Eye Pod on Wednesday. There are two eyes, not quite aligned. I think the inside will be full of massive eyeballs - like a ballpit, only horrible.



5. This is a camera. On the other side of this wall is the room in which all the speeches are made. There tend to be camera people lurking, hoping for that crucial shot of Ed Balls belly dancing or of John Prescott mainlining pork pie jelly.

6. Sky News are here. Last time I saw their conference stand, it had Boris Johnson in it. Not at the Labour conference, I hasten to add.

7. I think these are hats.

8. This is the main speeches room under construction. The big, dark rectangle is a video screen on which they will display a permanently rotating head of Neil Kinnock as he rabbits on about the soil in his garden and how his Ocado delivery was late this week.


9. A messy set-up for the union chaps. They do have more red paint than any other colour.

10. "Perspex Labour Party G-Mex." This was a piece of wood raised to head height with no perspex in sight. I think it's a puzzle to be solved, like the Da Vinci Code.

11. Marks and Spencer have built an entire shop in the middle of the venue. This is a man pointing at a light and saying it's a light and his friends are saying yes it's a light, we can all agree on that.

Further Fats: In the belly of the beast - a week in Tory politics

Sep 13, 2012

A complete guide to the 2012 Mercury music prize nominations


The Mercury Prize nominations filled me with so much excitement, I literally vomited myself inside-out.

But as I lay there in a bloody mess of colons and juices like an M&S advert from hell, I began to reflect on the list. Did I care? Had I heard of any of them? Shall I have sausages for tea?

The 2012 Mercury has pulled off the amazing feat of leaving me almost universally apathetic. Last year was great, with Metronomy, Everything Everything and Lady Peej of Harvey. I liked The xx in 2010, while recent years have given us Burial, the Klaxons and Hot Chip.

But where's Rustie? Where's Kuedo?

Maybe the Mayans are partly right, and in our brown depressive post-Olympic world, every one of us is three months from dying of boredom.

Still. I am a music blogger and I have to do my duty. Here, my sweet reader, is my complete guide to the 2012 Mercury Music Prize nominations. There is one slight problem: the list bores me so much, I've just guessed at what they're like instead of listening to them.

But, y'know, I'm a pretty good guesser.

Jessie Ware

Jessie was famous in the late 1980s as the Voice Of Gurning Rave, and with her album Devotion, she covers many club classics such as Nomad, Rozalla, the KLF and Don Pablo's Animals. Because of a bourbon biscuit addiction during a cold turkey phase in the 90s, she let herself go a bit. A lot. But sometimes, the gasping and the wheezing sounds a bit like DJ scratching, so it's okay.

Django Django

Following the critical acclaim of several shows in the West End written by monkeys with typewriters, hopes were high for the debut album by Django Django (pictured). Despite being a panda in Edinburgh Zoo, Django Django produced a truly human album, full of emotion and hope. Could have done without the twenty-minute bamboo drum solo, though.

The Maccabees

Forced circumcisions! The destruction of pagan altars! The murder of powerful Seleucid figures! These musical founders of the Judean Hasmonean dynasty may not be a cheerful bunch, but their barbershop quartet packs a punch. A guest rap from Ptolemy VI of Egypt on the benefits of the iPhone 5 is possibly just product placement, but hey, it's got a good beat.

Roller Trio

Disco. On Skates. Obviously.

Richard Hawley

My name is Richard Hawley. You remember me.
I was in Pulp for a bit, but after they were sorted for E
s and Wizz. Yes? No? Well stuff it, those times are long gone.
I was in the Longpigs too: we went on and on and on.

My name is Richard Hawley. You remember me.
I was beaten by the Artics in the 06 Mercury.
I haven't got time. Must rush, must dash. I really really oughta
Wax my hair and do 50s things with Elvis Presley's daughter.

Field Music

Ah, the sound of the field. Crickets chirping. Birds singing. Worms, erm, crawling. But don't be fooled by the pastoral name, because Field Music sound like the darker underbelly of the countryside. Cows being slaughtered. Crop dusters mowing down film actors. Farmer Giles falling into the blades of his combine harvester. Wildfires. Lynchings. Snakes. Basically, they're John Craven with a crossbow.

Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka made his name as the lead singer of Aphex Twin. The band's acrimonious split happened when Michael was possessed by demons accidentally released on the set of the video for the chart-topping pop hit Come To Daddy. His subsequent breakdown saw him recuperating with dozens of John Legend and Otis Reading records. He describes his solo album as extreme chillcore.

Ben Howard

It was never going to go well for Michael Howard's son-- sniiip. Ed.

Plan B

Plan B, or Nathan Plainsocks as he's still known in da hood, loads a wheelbarrow with bricks and smashes a bunch of windows on a Brixton estate. The residents come for him armed with baseball bats, machetes and unusually sharp sticks of carrot. Plan B is prepared. He launches into his album Ill Manors, a collection of smooth soul songs in a Timberlake stylee. They don't listen. He is destroyed to death.

Alt-J

Triangles within triangles inside a massive triangle balanced on the uppermost tip of a snooker triangle made from triangular bandages trying to play the triangle whilst shouting in a triangular voice "try angles" at the angles of a triangle whilst watching on a triangle television screen the 2009 Bermuda Triangle-themed horror film Triangle. Now imagine Mumford and Sons singing about that. There, you've got Alt-J.

Lianne La Havas

Don't bother: she's an anagram of 'Aha! Anal Snivel'.

Sam Lee

Sam and Lee, you'll remember, were the wacky pair that fronted SM:TV Live, hence the programme's name. They performed quirky skits such as Here's Me Singing Off Rhythm, Larks Mother That Sounds Funny and What's That You've Put In My Trousers. Their best known folk song is George Colin, named after the two presenters Sam and Lee had killed to get the spot on SM:TV. Sample lyric: "Oh ye olde lover of mine, stick that arsenic down yer bloomers, best kill all the viewers too, for thems be startin' rumours."

Further Fats: They say you can't keep a good tune down (the 2006 Mercury Prize)

Sep 9, 2012

Chris Martin and his band The Coldplops are what the Paralympics need


My favourite bit of the Paralympics closing ceremony was when Chris Martin walked into the stadium with his band The Coldplops, set up a wobbly trestle table and spent four hours applying paste to several miles of wallpaper.

I don't know if this actually happened. I don't even know if it's been on telly yet. I live inside the shell of a walnut where no telly gets in and no odour gets out.

But I can definitely say my favourite bit of the Paralympics closing ceremony was when Chris Martin walked into the stadium with his band The Coldplops and began cutting several fields of grass with a blunt Swiss army knife with most of its bits missing.

I'm assuming the Paralympics closes tonight. I've not had a telly for ages. You're watching it and I'm not. I've no idea. Clueless.

However, my favourite bit of the Paralympics closing ceremony was when Chris Martin walked into the stadium with his band The Coldplops and sorted his cutlery drawer into order, messed it up, arranged it neatly again and continued in this vein until the black hole at the centre of our galaxy formed into a giant replica face of 1988 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Steve Davis who then turned to Chris Martin and said precisely nothing because he couldn't think of anything to say.

If you were "boredmatised" (bored and traumatised) by The Coldplops in the closing ceremony, console yourself with the satisfying breaks on this great little release from Ninja Tune: Shuttle's Halo. It's a bloke who's played with Passion Pit or something and it's guaranteed to be a million times better than Martin.

Further Fats: Mmm, Underworld, the world loves you (Olympics opening ceremony)

Aug 31, 2012

Video: "Orbital sample Stephen Hawking"




I don't know where to begin. Underworld's music for the Olympic opening ceremony had me teary-eyed and gobsmacked. It led to a gushy post a month ago in which all I could write about was toast.

And now Orbital at the Paralympic opening ceremony. With Stephen Hawking. Wearing Orbital glasses.

Truly speechless. Between the two ceremonies, 38 million viewers got to see my favourite bands. And that's not counting the many millions more beyond our borders.

Apparently some sport is happening too.

My gob is thoroughly smacked..

Further Fats: My review of Wonky, which includes Where Is It Going, used in the above clip.

Aug 28, 2012

Greenbelt Arts Festival and why it matters to me


Written at Greenbelt Arts Festival at 8pm on Monday August 27th 2012, with some adjustments added later:

Twenty long years ago, I stood freezing in a rain-knackered field of mud-o-geddon watching the Proclaimers bang out songs of fishing, fornicating and fighting (possibly: I wasn't listening).

Yesterday, I found myself passing through a muddy field at the same festival wondering why so many people were gathered in their hundreds, their camping chairs floating in brown lakes of intestinal parasites and typhoid-ridden worm feces.

Yep. It was the Proclaimers again. Charlie and the other one that looks like Charlie got really Scottish with their guitars. I accidentally stayed for the whole gig, rooted to the spot by an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and whimsy. I could see myself two decades ago; I wondered if time had become a loop.

This blog post is not a review of the Twin Godfathers of Del Amitri Pop Jangling. It's a reflection on Greenbelt, a festival which is as much a part of my DNA as that probe suppository those aliens gave me last time I saw Squarepusher.

If you need a bit of context, you can read about Greenbelt in other blog posts, such as the time I went to some toilets, or when I spoke a man, or when I went into a tent for a bit. Oh, the stories I'll be telling my grandchildren.

Greenbelt is a Christian arts festival with lashings of liberalism. This year, they had Robin Ince, Speech Debelle, Nitin Sawhney, Frank Skinner, Asian Dub Foundation and Peter Tatchell. There is plenty of churchy stuff too if you like that kind of thing. There is music, there is art, there are tea tents, and I've attended almost every one since 1992. Loads of attendees have been to many more than that.

The festival tends to attract music artists on career-slides, although they were quick to get the likes of U2 and Moby before they went stratospheric. Neither is it big on electronic music, although I heard some filthy dubstep on one of the three music stages on Monday.

Greenbelt also causes consternation among anti-gay and anti-Palestine campaigners. A devotee of a more evangelical festival once warned me that Greenbelt was full of "gays and witches". He was wrong about the witches.

But it's there's more to Greenbelt than the content or its supposed political stance or its boundary-poking.

Greenbelt is where I live; it's where I centre myself.

It's a place of discovery: my talents, my sexuality, my careers, new friends. There are certain folk I only ever meet in Greenbelt's real ale tent (called The Jesus Arms), and when I see them it's like arriving home, opening the door and seeing family. Even though I only speak to them once a year. It's seems illogical and it's hard to explain.

Greenbelt matters because it gives me roots in a world of judgementalism and homophobia, in a world where people use religion to enforce their own power and prejudices. It makes me feel valued and to want to be a better me. I also get to do fun things like run events with Sanctus 1.

Next year, Greenbelt celebrates its 40th festival. I will have been to half of them (and will be celebrating 40 years of me too). Just writing this blog post finds me rooted to the spot by a sense of nostalgia and whimsy, as I was in that muddy Proclaimers field as I mentally battled their damn infectious melodies. I'm a techno-head... must break away... a-hah, a-hah... gaaaaah, stop it.... Yeah, I know, I'm not proud.

I do need to stop. I have to make the 130-or-so mile journey back to Manchester shortly. Not 500 miles. Just 130.

Meanwhile, I'll be processing my amazing few days at Greenbelt 2012 as I wash the mud from my clothes. If you want to read more about the festival, see Robin Ince's take on Greenbelt here.

Pictured: a fizzy drinks fan at the Tiny Tea Tent

Further Fats: the time I live-remixed a communion service

Aug 13, 2012

Because / a melon / only slightly: birthday thoughts


Another birthday is crushed underfoot by the hippo of time, so it seems appropriate to look back over the last 12 months and ask myself some important questions:

- Why?
- What with?
- Did it hurt?

Among the many highlights of the past year was the moment I was crowned Miss Manchester. It all seems a blur, but I do remember being hoisted through the city streets on palm leaves, feathers and heavy-duty scaffolding. The sash matched my varicose veins.

In December, I trapped all of Manchester's police in the sewers and injected explosives into all the concrete. I then imploded our American football stadium before making a man in a bat costume climb up a bit of a wall.

The other week, I gave up my Fat Roland moniker and became Thin Malcolm for a day. This time was largely spent flat on my face weeping furiously into the threadbare weave of my carpet. I then went on Jeremy Kyle and fought myself for custody of myself. Good times, good times.

Birthdays are about presents, so here are two things. Firstly, a Hounds Of Hulme track I recorded today (see below). It's a bit rough-and-ready, relying too much on preset instruments, but I like it. The energy from the track largely rose from watching the awful Olympic closing ceremony on iPlayer. In the words of Twitter's ever-reliable funny bloke Vivmondo, "I suppose we'll simply never know why David Bowie turned down the opportunity to appear alongside Ed Sheeran and a tape of Kate Bush."

Then after the music, why not click here for a series of inspiration quotes I bombarded by Facebook friends with over the weekend. I hope you too will find them inspiring enough to find your place on the carpet, that sweet spot in the dust and the fluff and the skin.

It's just a bit of a wall. I don't see what all the fuss was.



Further Fats: Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool (my birthday three years ago)

Aug 1, 2012

Snoop left his old name lion about somewhere


Kanye Leopard.

LL Cool Jaguar.

Busta Panther.

Notorious BIG (CAT).

Ghostface Puma.

This is the world in two years time.  Snoop Doggity-Dogg, best known for his hits My Name Is Snoop Dogg, Snoop Dogg Is My Name and Drop It Like It's Snoop Dogg Yes That's My Shizzling Name, has changed his name to Snoop Lion.

This is the biggest name change in popular music since the Morning Benders toured the UK to gales of laughter. Snoop Puddytat probably phoned Prince to ask for advice, although all he'd get is crackles on the line and sound of the paisley berk drawing squiggles on his face in crayon.

I like cats. Scratchy, Simon's Cat, Snarf, Stimpy, they're all great. But other than Orbital's talking ones, I'm not sure I want them in my music. 'Caterwaul's a word for a reason, you know. Before others start changing their names, I hope they paws for thought. Paws. Pause. Hello? Is this microphone on?

And it's the weird transition. Eek-a-Mouse wouldn't change his name to Eek-a-Buffalo, and neither would a dog turn into a lion. If they did, the local park would get much more interesting very quickly. And not in a good way.

Snoop's real name is Calvin. He's even got that wrong. That was the boy; Hobbes was the lion.

Still, he's working with Major 'Diplo' Lazer, the chap behind MIA's ear-busting Paper Planes who describes his own music as Hare Rama James Bond Ethiopian lumberjack. And as long as Snoop Liony Lionn doesn't start rhyming his name with "iron" and "zion" (why, Bob, why?!), we should be okay.

KRS-Ocelot.

No, it doesn't work. It just doesn't work.

Further Fats: Homoerotica *and* analogue ambience: my levels of internet presence (in which I plug a website that has since, wisely, changed its name).