Posts Tagged ‘electronic music’

Underworld – Stagger

January 20, 2011

As far as blog posts go this one feels a bit like cheating.

Here’s the background for this one, then: for the first time in quite some time, I have a DJ gig coming up tomorrow! It’s actually going to be a first for me – I’ve never played a gig strictly with music in digital formats. In fact, this time I won’t even be bringing along my trusty Technics. Therefore this gig (actually a private event for the Boulder College of Massage Therapy) is opening up new possibilities for me, and I was digging through the music in my library when I came across this one — Underworld – Stagger (link directs you to a youtube upload of the track.) It’s a great track from Underworld’s Second Toughest in the Infants, an absolutely massive album and one of my all-time favorites. (Go buy the album if you don’t already own it. You have to have it, trust me.)

I really just wanted to post the lyrics to Stagger – really my sole motivation for this post. (I don’t know how they came up with the lyrics on this album, but I’ve heard they sometimes juxtaposed random text or snippets of recordings or conversations they captured; not too sure on this one.) And here it is:

Album cover for Underworld's Second Toughest in the Infants

orange in the mouth again. straighten.
wearing stonewashed denim again. straighten.
carrying something wrapped in plastic. straighten.
curled on the blue velveteen again. straighten.
straighten.

siteless yellow highrise. bethnal green. straighten.
corner tubeless dark and wet. straighten.
ten tons slowly then again. straighten.
with its glass eyes a blue formica halo.
stainless steel between the fingers. straighten.
pissed and leaning ponytail. licking
colonel sanders fingers.
the naming of killer boy.

everything’s going west nothings going east. straighten.
there’s no need to be so uptight. straighten.
make up for all their messes.
I could listen to you all day. what a laugh.
cut me I bleed like you. ha ha.
the naming of killer boy.

cover your teeth. I love you.
don’t bite me yet. I believe in you.
I found you shopping in Europa on
wardour street. not phoning packwidth.
guilty as sin. straighten.
scratches on paper. pissed in a tube hole. straighten.
smelling of deep-fried beans and whispering your name.
tube hole wind in my face. thunder in gentle distance.
reactor. reactor. do you mind. straighten.
this is a random feature. random feature.
this is a random feature.
naming of killer boy. wired up.

That is all.

forecast for 2011: ill music ahead.

January 8, 2011

…and another post about fresh and exciting new music. Welcome to 2011.

I should admit at the outset that musically it’s hard for me to contain my excitement; for some reason it just seems as though all the music I’ve been hearing lately is amazing. And quite a lot of the electronic dance music I’ve been hearing is really beginning to unsettle a lot of my assumptions about what that category really means. There’s just a lot of good music coming out lately. It’s an exciting time to be interested in producing music – really an exciting time for absolutely anyone interested in envisioning the future of what the “music industry” might be like.

New stuff I’ve been hearing is fresh, and interesting, and dope – and more and more, blurring the lines between genres of electronic music faster than new ones can be created. And some of the new “genres” that have been cropping up reflect (at least to me and my ironic sensibilities) some serious grasping at straws. I mean, “brostep?” “Post-dubstep?” “Future bass”?

Actually, I think the latter is sort of innovative…but overall, what does this ever-abounding and increasing proliferation of genres really signify?

And if it almost seems like a sign of desperation (this persistent generation of new categories that struggle to keep up with the unclassifiability of the more hybrid and unclassifiable new frontiers of electronic dance music today), isn’t such desperation perhaps a positive indication? It seems like our capacity for naming things is frenetically being outpaced by the creativity and originality of a lot of the newer dance music of the past couple of years. (And I’m not just referring to developments in “dubstep,” “UK funky,” and “future bass” but also to newer stuff I’ve been hearing in the somewhat more well-established genres of drum & bass, minimal house, techno, grime…really the list goes on and on.) All I can say is, wicked. Bring on the freshness for 2011!

Commence my list of some of the freshness that’s been gracing my ears lately:

First to top off the list is IKONIKA. Ikonika, a.k.a. Sara Abdel-Hamid is KILLING it right now. I really liked her track Dckhdbtch (click the link to give it a listen via Boomkat). Definitely buying some of her stuff. She’s also going to be playing a few dates stateside and at MUTEK this year, so watch for that, especially if you’re in NY or LA.

I have Resident Advisor to thank for the following lead: a cutting-edge label from Germany called Fachwerk (myspace | mix / interview via RA).

I know it’s 2011, but I’m still craving more Basic Channel (site | digital releases via Boomkat ). I just bought a couple releases from the Scion sessions. Deep, deep, deep.

More music updates to follow shortly. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Portishead will make their move back into the studio and put out new material in the foreseeable future. Their last album, while different and perhaps challenging in certain ways, was good – at least, I liked it a lot, and so did other Portishead fans I talked to. I’m looking forward to hearing new stuff coming out of the Duck Down camp (will most likely be copping Buckshot’s forthcoming book – and speaking of hip-hop literature, the forthcoming book from Malice of the Clipse called Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked will be on the “must cop” list as well.) Overall I don’t even have much to say about hip-hop right now except that I’m well behind the times – but I do think this is a great time for hip-hop. There is tons of great stuff coming out and a high likelihood of lots more in 2011.

What else, what else? Oh yeah – I’m still really behind on the dubstep front, but one name has already captured my attention: Ramadanman (siteApplePips podcast). Great producer, and awesomely cool name too I might add. I just purchased the Ramadanman E.P. from last year, which he put out on his own imprint, Hessle Audio. I can’t resist posting the video for the last track on the E.P.: breathtakingly awesome jungle amazingness:

And, of course, there is so much more good music that’s been coming out that I’d love to write about. But it is now the following day from when I began this blog entry (no, I wasn’t writing continuously – I put it on hold last night to buy mp3s and go mix at a friend’s house), and now the shower is calling. Happy 2011 to all my bassheads, friends, and people everywhere!

obscure beauty from the black sun

August 9, 2009

That title probably made this post sound more interesting than it will actually be.

I’m listening to a song off an E.P. I’ve long wanted to listen to but never had until last week: Black Sun Empire‘s Smoke E.P. on DSCI4.

The track that inspired this blog post was the title track, Smoke. Those who aren’t drum & bass heads might listen and wonder what the big deal was about, whereas drum & bass heads might contemptuously respond simply by asserting that the track is “old” (yeah…so?).

This track is a classic example of the style of tech-step pioneered by DSCI4. It doesn’t necessarily transgress the sort of general boundaries of that style, but I think it does exemplify the style almost perfectly. I love how Black Sun Empire can sit their drums perfectly in the mix; they don’t rely on ultra-compressed, distorted kick and huge snare to carry the entire dynamics of the track, but rather the breaks feel restrained. Instead of feeling cliche, as in many drum and bass tracks, the breaks occupy just enough space to provide structure and flow to what’s happening – and what is happening always involves some melodic intelligence and transition.

After thinking about it, though, I think what most impresses me about Black Sun Empire – and this track in general – is the way they integrate all the elements together in the mixdown. That careful precision of the mixing – to me – is as much an element of style as the aesthetic defined by their choice of samples, especially that definitive sounding stab…and it is this sense of controlled precision (at odds with the sort of menacing ambience so often evoked by the synths / samples they select) that more than anything else at that time evokes techno. (The sharpness of their drum samples and the uber-compressed cymbals that punctuate them have become a much more familiar trope by now, but I think this is something that Black Sun Empire really innovated in many ways).

And plus, this track does something else I love. Listen for the change in the second break right before the bassline comes back in…

This probably sounds overly technical, nerdy, and slightly irrelevant – all of which it is. But the feeling I had that prompted me to write this blog isn’t.

While I have been guilty of it as well (and so I’ll avoid polemicizing overly much), I think there is a widespread conceit (no doubt a proper direction for deconstructive critique) in our culture as I understand it, at least, that holds art – and especially music – to be something that offers an almost mystically transcendent experience…and this is especially evident to me in the way musicians are idealized, as though gifted with some prophetic or visionary insight somehow inexplicably lacking in the rest of us (from John Lennon to Bob Marley to Jim Morrison to 2Pac – not to mention Michael Jackson, there seems to be a cult of personality associated with music almost unparalled by anything else I can think of).

But great music isn’t achieved only through some intangible wellspring of creativity (and I would dispute those who idealize either this supposed “quality” or the process by which it is thought to produce the tangible product we ultimately enjoy so greatly). There is also the (much-reviled) technical knowledge – and experimentation, and innovation and yes, discipline that plays a role. When electronic music is stigmatized or marginalized, I wonder about the extent to which an aesthetic is at play that fetishizes the inexplicability of human processes of expression – and ultimately, I would argue, the human “creator” as well – as privileged agent of creativity. When what is heard is not solely or primarily the result of vibrations produced in a tactile, physical manner by human hands, feet, or breath, but mediated instead by systems of circuitry, software (and furthermore is often comprised of auditory objects already recorded), and sequencing – it would seem that for some, the media produced can no longer unreservedly be regarded as “music.”

And yet, to denigrate electronic music (usually out of ignorance – and perhaps also out of fear?) is to kill the messenger.

Now how the hell did I get on this tangent?

There’s something about the mechanization of rhythm in this Black Sun Empire track on an obscure EP released by DSCI4 in 2002 that is just lovely – and, I think, a precursor of things to come. Now, if you haven’t already, go click the link and listen to it at least once through.

DSCI4