Motor’s Death Rave Redefines the Banger

At the end of 2008, I was fully convinced that there could not possibly be any other way to exploit the classic “continuous build” model for a track. (The one where a seemingly endless upward pitch bend serves as the fundamental element of the track) Though I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment, there was some point in time between the releases of MSTRKRFT‘s VUVUVU (one of the first to employ the style) and Sebastian‘s Motor (the ultimately simplified and most watered down version of it possible) wherein the repetitiveness of the tracks led us all to assume that someone must simply have leaked the book of electronic music formulas, and that innovation was no longer an important part of music production.

motor

Unfortunately for us (and mind you, when I say us, I’m referring to us tasteful folk to whom disco expands beyond the confines of a mere genre), the bedroom producers of the world took an extraordinarily long time to catch on to the lack of a market for this kind of work, and so for nearly the entirety of last year, all but a select few have been flooding the net with their obnoxious 4 bar pitch bends and nearly drowning our ears in an onslaught of overplayed sound.

With all this in mind, one must admit it seems a task of epic proportions to be able to create something derived from this same style, and at the same time keep it interesting and new within its small corner of a sub-genre. In fact, being the skeptic that I am, if you’d asked me a few weeks ago, there’s a good chance I would have dismissed it as impossible, however, this new wave digital underground of ours never fails to prove me wrong.

Motor

motor

Despite the fact that their entire single (appropriately titled “Death Rave”) consists of nothing more than a series of escalations and drops, Dim Mak‘s newly signed artist, Motor (and no, as far as I know, there is no connection between the artist and the aforementioned Sebastian track), has ripped a whole new meaning into the word “banger.” I can’t possibly explain where on earth the sounds they’re getting come from; perhaps their strange location (half Paris, half New York City), brought forth a sort of convoluted set of influences. Or perhaps they’ve just got a thing for making hipsters feel compelled to rip their hair out in a confused state of ecstasy. Either way, they’ve challenged the devil and accomplished the impossible, and their music is the evidence. Brace yourself: Death Rave brings a whole new meaning to the word “disgusting.”

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Motor – Death Rave

Watch for the release of their record “Metal Machine” this Tuesday on Dim Mak Records.

Nom De Plume

Hervé performs and releases music under so many different names it’s hard to keep up: The Count, Voodoo Chilli, Action Man, Dead Soul Brothers, Speaker Junk and Young Lovers.  Pen names are relatively common in the literary world.  But it’s unusual for a musician. Why would an artist perform under so many different pseudonyms? Maybe Hervé wants to avoid overexposure. This seems unlikely, since he explicitly lists each alias on his myspace.  He certainly isn’t hiding anything or trying to fool anyone.  Maybe he doesn’t want to get pigeonholed to one genre.  But he releases similar sounding club/electro/dance music under each different moniker, so this can’t be right.

 

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Sometimes pseudonyms conceal the fact that there are several contributors working together on a project. This is where literature and music differ. First, a larger proportion of music is made by groups of people. Of course, no artist in any medium creates in a vacuum. I’m sure every book in Borders was read over by dozens of people before being sent to press. Still, most books give one author sole credit. And when books do have multiple contributors, each is listed as a co-author rather than referring to them all as one “author collective.” When musicians work together, they have band names.

 

Machines Don't Care Cover Art

In Hervé’s case, my best guess is that he switches around his name for his own personal amusement.  But his best work may very well be the collaboration LP he released under the name Machines Don’t Care. It has Hervé collaborating with some big names in the scene including Sinden, Fake Blood and Detboi.  A second collaboration album is supposedly in the works, too. It was scheduled for release this past March, but with so many other things going on in Hervé’s career I’m starting to think it might never be released. Luckily, we have this gem to make the wait a little easier. Listen below for a taste of what great minds working together can produce.

 

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Machines Don’t Care – Afro Jacker

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Machines Don’t Care – Jugs

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Machines Don’t Care – Spycatcher

Felix Cartal – Skeleton EP

Felix Cartal

At the risk of forever being labeled as a complete fool, I’m going to be 100% honest and say that prior to the release of Felix Cartal‘s Skeleton EP, my expectations for the Canadian boy could barely be lifted off the ground. I’m not quite sure why, however, I feel it’s safe to say that my insensitive assumption could not have been entirely my fault; Up until quite recently, his tour fliers have depicted him as “opener material” by consistently placing him second to artists like MSTRKFT, Steve Aoki, and LA Riots, a spot that would likely have otherwise been filled by Them Jeans or Dan Oh and the like. Not that I have anything against the guys; It’s just that they’ve all been supporting each other as remix artists for such an extensive amount of time, that it has become unusual to regard any of them as an actual recording artist, capable of releasing a fully fledged and independent album.

Felix Cartal

Needless to say, every one of my assumptions was shattered and surpassed on levels that I didn’t even have a clue existed. Not only has the young wrecka created an EP that embraces and fully displays the sounds of modern dance music, but he’s also made the art of innovation stylish once again. That is, where I expected to hear a collection of four songs that all resembled his (and everyone else’s) past work, I was startled to experience the charitable use of complex rhythms, character of sound ranging from his trademarked banger synth to lighter, poppier noises not dissimilar to that of Simian Mobile Disco, and elegant eight bar chord progressions that work hard to draw every last piece of energy possible out of those 24 bits. Long story short, it took Felix less than a minute to establish himself in my mind as far more than just a Reason remixer. Skeleton EP is wonderful. Felix is wonderful. Dancing is wonderful. Group hug.

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Felix Cartal – Redheads

Considering the poor boy put so much time and energy into this EP, I can’t bring myself to post more than a single song. If you’ve fallen as deeply in love as I have, spend the four dollars to grab a copy, and of course, don’t forget to make your way out to Cinespace tonight for the Dim Mak Tuesdays “Skeleton” Release Party!

Simian Mobile Disco: Exclusive Interview (Part 2)

The wait is over. Here’s the second half of our exclusive interview with Jas Shaw and James Ford, the duo that comprises Simian Mobile Disco.  (Of course, don’t forget to read Part 1.)

SMD

Do you choose a setlist before you go out, or do decide the songs on the fly?

Jas: It’s a bit of both actually. The way it works, it’s not like DJing when you can literally just swap things around. Usually we’ll get out setlist within one or two songs. We might miss one or play one a little earlier. The main thing is keys—we’re quite fussy about things mixing in key. If you have another bassline that comes in and it’s a half step off, it sounds awful and clashes. There’s loads of other variables in terms of the mix and the structure, so it almost just makes more sense for us to play in a rough order. But sometimes we’ll play two songs in order and then not know what’s going to happen. We’ll just be jamming away. We can change the order of the songs, but it requires some thinking beforehand, just because of the way we have everything laid out. In order for things to be smooth, it’s not just like pushing a crossfader across.

What’s your live set-up like?

Jas: The way it works is one person will have some parameters or some stacks to mess around with and another is on the synth. There’s lot of detail changing in just a single track (pass) of sound. I guess maybe we get a lot of the detail that way. It just seems like an easy way of doing it. It’s so much easier to do it on the spot. We have a lot of equipment on stage. It’s quite a pain in the ass to move it around. It’s a bit of a brainfuck sometimes, trying to figure everything out and getting from point to point.

Do you notice a difference in European crowds compared to America crowds?

Jas: Yes, very much so. It’s not even as homogenous as that; it’s different from town to town. You can’t really narrow it down to “folks in the States are like this” or “folks in England are like this.” Going one town over will be different.

Do you have any favorite cities to play?

Jas: Manchester. Glasgow is always a killer. Anywhere in Ireland is always messy and involves a lot of food. London is easy because it’s our home town. But the clubs are great there—Fabric, The End. There’s loads of great places. Tokyo, too. Just the fact that it’s Tokyo. It’s fantastic.

Are you surprised when you go as far away as Tokyo and find an audience?

Jas: Yeah. Maybe less so now than I was at the start. We went to Chile and were wandering around and it was all salsa and local music. I didn’t hear anything like us at all. But with the Internet it’s obviously different. The geography is less important. Kids in any country can get access to more or less anything they want.

You usually leak out songs in anticipation of an album.  Is that your choice?

Jas: No, not really. I mean we put it out, it’s not really leaking. You can’t stop it; tracks are bound to go out. We really don’t think about it much. We just have to get the record done and put it out as quickly as possible. We’d probably just put it all online if we had a choice. There’s certainly no master plan behind it.

(James Ford, the other half of Simian Mobile Disco, enters)

What about the future of music sales and distribution?  Will the industry find a way to consistently make money off file-sharing and downloading?

Jas: I don’t know. No one knows. We were talking about it the other day. I can’t really comment on it because I don’t know how it works in terms of paying artists and not paying artists. It is really difficult because the real pitch is really with small indie bands who don’t make any money from touring, not really DJs. And I love small indie bands.

James: I think there will be a generation of people really soon who don’t even care about owning mp3s or music on their hard drive, let alone owning an actually boxed set. I think people are just going to be happy to consume music in whatever way it comes to them and people have to learn to accept that and live with it.

Jas Shaw (left) and James Ford

Jas Shaw (left) and James Ford

What about the role of music blogs?  What effect have they had on your career?

Jas: Definitely helped us overall. It helps to spread the word without a doubt. I think about the stupid loops people would have to go into to get their songs on the radio. And how much do I listen to radio now? Not much in comparison to, say, how much I look on blogs for new stuff.

James: It’s almost like magazines in a way. It’s really just coverage. People like the music enough to write about it.

What can you tell us about the upcoming album?  Is it finished?

Jas: Yes, we’ve finished it. The release date is sometime in August.

How does it compare sound-wise to the previous album?

Jas: The idea was that we put a couple of tracks out on beatport just for the people who were watching. You know, no big deal or anything. Just put them out there for anyone who’s been waiting for stuff to pick it up. The two tracks we chose are quite techno-y. The rest of the record is actually very poppy. Not poppy in a cheesy way, though.

James:  We kind of weirdly went down a road of making a lot of techno, disco-y stuff. And we still have a lot of that stuff lying around in the b-sides and rarities pile. But I think it’s just the songs we like the most. Maybe it’s because we’re used to producing albums for other people. But the way we felt that album worked the most was just a collection of songs. I think a lot of that techno-y stuff will be sort of be stretched out and will see the light of day pretty soon. I think the vocals maybe pulled us away from doing a full on disco album. Though we had visions of it for a little bit.

Tell me about the “Synthesise” video (watch it HERE).  How did that come about?

Jas:  Kate Moross is the creative director. She’s great. It’s really nice having someone who you can talk to. One of the issues she identified with on the last album was that from our view, we had these kind of ideas for what it was all supposed to mean and I don’t think we articulated those ideas very clearly or cohesively in all the various mediums. For example, we would meet people who had a copy of the record but didn’t realize the cover was made out of spoons; they would think it was daisies. Clearly somehow the message didn’t get through. So the idea with Kate was that we could sit down and have a chat about what we think visually and all the other stuff. And then we don’t have to be watching over the website or anything.

What are your long term career goals?

James:  I don’t think we have any. Just enjoy it.

Jas: One of the things we want—that I just saw the other day—is a massive light; I think it’s called a sky-scanner and it comes on a trailer. And you don’t plug it in, you put diesel fuel in it. So that’s pretty much what I’m working towards. Maybe we’ll grow beards. Or wear capes. (laughs)

What current musicians excite you?  What have you been listening to recently?

Jas:  Loads. We had Lindstrøm over recently and his new stuff is just great. His old stuff is great as well, actually.

What are some of the best live shows you’ve seen?

Jas:  Jamie Lidell has a great live show. Hot Chip. Magma has a rocking live show, but I don’t think they’re coming to the states.

James: Dan DeaconDaft Punk was pretty good.  We’ve seen them a couple times actually. Jas has actually been inside the pyramid. Haven’t you?

(laughs)

Jas: It’s not as cool once you’re inside. I thought it would be like finding utopia.

Anything else you want to add?

James:  Drive safely.

simian-mobile-disco-4

That’s it for the interview.  Don’t forget to check out Simian Mobile Disco on their summer tour. Here’s a preview of what the new album has in store.  August can’t come soon enough.

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Simian Mobile Disco – 10,000 Horses Can’t Be Wrong

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Simian Mobile Disco – Synthesise

And I can’t help but post another favorite remix:

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Peaches – Downtown (Simian Mobile Disco Remix)

Simian Mobile Disco: Exclusive Interview (Part 1)

smd460

The two members of Simian Mobile Disco have certainly been busy. Remix/production duo James Ford and Jas Shaw are in the middle of a summer-long world tour and just finished a new LP. Lucky for us, they found time to squeeze in a lengthy interview before a recent performance. Read part 1 below for their take on the song-writing process, why it’s dangerous to overwork, and the best part of being on tour. Part 2 coming soon. can be found HERE.

 

(James was in transit when the interview started, so Jas handled the opening questions.)

Tell me about the formation of Simian Mobile Disco. How did you decide to get together?

Jas: Before Simian Mobile Disco, we were in a four-piece band called Simian. I played keyboards and James was the drummer. While we were touring with that, the production side of it had quite a lot of electronic things going on. At the time it was very difficult to do that live. The band was really just a traditional rock band. I had one of those old organs, like the one the Monkees used. We had a few triggers and whatnot; but it wasn’t as electronic as we wanted to go, just because it was hard to do live. We had the choice of either playing off of triggers or playing to a backing track, neither of which were really cutting it. We were always really into electronic music. So while we were traveling around, touring with Simian, we started to get some gigs DJing. And we sort of took off from there.

 

What about the name?

Jas: The gigs came before the name “Simian Mobile Disco”. They called us and asked what we wanted to be called on the flyer. And “mobile disco” is slang for those cheesy performers you see at weddings or bar mitzvahs.

 

What was your musical background like? Did you have any formal training?

Jas: I had a bit of formal training. Not much, really. I studied violin for a bit. My uncle bought me a guitar and taught me chords, but mostly it was picked up. All of that stuff feeds into how you make music, of course. I think most of my musical knowledge just comes from working at it.

 

Do you think your approach helped?  Did you ever hit a point where you wish you had more training?

Jas: I think it works differently for different people. I know a lot of people who are really into music theory, and it kind of destroyed any sense of mystery. When I was in Simian I got some piano lessons, just to sort of brush up.  And the teacher was like “I know this chord is going to do this, this chord is going to do that” and it all felt really predictable.

I’m rusty on guitar now, but I find that when you don’t know what you’re playing—when you just sort of make a shape with your fingers and mess around— there’s something exciting about that. You don’t know what you’re playing but you like it. There’s something in that: not knowing exactly what you’re doing, but reacting in an intuitive way. Simian was kind of apelike. It wasn’t dumb, but it was visceral. It was music you got on a very simple level. It’s sort of carried through to the other projects we’ve worked on.

 

What is your song-writing process?  Do you build the songs chords or melodies, or do you write your beats first?

Jas: It’s a bit of both actually. What we like most about the stuff we’ve already done– the stuff that has to most longevity– is good chords.  Production and fashions sort of come and go, but good chords are what they are. There’s really no set way of doing it, but until we find some decent chords or a decent melody we can’t do much. I suppose sometimes if we find some wonky noise or something that might do the trick, but it’s got to be a really good wonky noise.

 

What is the rest of collaboration process like?

Jas: Both of us use ProTools, both of us know how to use the synths and all that stuff. Once you bring ideas in they never really come out. The way it normally works is one of us will start with something—a couple of chords, a part of a melody—or a sound, something from a delay pedal or a module. You start with one thing and work it from there. We kind of learned to do a lot of our original stuff from doing remixes. The process of remixing is very similar. You just take one thing you like out of a song and then slowly build all the other stuff around it so there’s really nothing from the original track there.

 

How do you decide which songs to remix?  Do people approach you with projects, or is it the other way around?

Jas: Almost always people come to us. Usually we just get an e-mail from someone in the band or someone at the label, the reason being that the remixes are usually for people’s singles. So the songs themselves aren’t out yet. By the time you hear it, we’ve already remixed it. When we’re asked to do one it’s just a gut reaction. It’s a real danger with the remixes though, when people get too many done. We get loads of offers and it’s a shame because we love doing them. We’ve just both been super busy. We will do more in the future.

 

How do you know when a song is finished?  There’s an expression in writing that says “you publish a rough draft.”  Is making music like that?

Jas:  I disagree with that. I think you get to a point when the job is done, and the job of a producer is to know when the song is done. It’s quite weird, and I find it very difficult to articulate the feeling you get like “OK, this is done now.” Usually there are diminishing returns. You work on a song and you get to a certain point where you keep changing things but it’s not getting any better. It may be at that point the song still isn’t done, but we work so quickly that it’s rarely an issue. We’ll get an idea started in a day and then finish a song the day after. We usually start loads of tracks and come back to the ones we like.

I think it’s really dangerous to overwork. Not just that you drive yourself mad (it’s obviously not pleasant to go over and over something), but I think that you lose that spark you have when you first get an idea, when you’re full of ideas. By day four, you’ve tried every drum machine on there and every different synth and you just get a bit jaded with it. And I think sometimes you can hear that jadedness. You can mix the life out of something, make it too smooth.

I know particularly with electronic music it’s a real trap that people fall into—stacking on too much and piling on all those extra noises. I think Nigel Godrich says he has a 24 channel mixer. So if you can’t achieve your sound on 24 tracks then there’s a problem. I think particularly with electronic stuff, people compensate for the fact that they’re using loops by using a lot of loops.

 

What has the current tour been like?  What has been the best part so far?

Jas:  The best part has got to be traveling around. Before doing this I used to go on holiday and travel around. It’s weird though, because you’re always so busy. Especially with DJing, it usually ends up that we fly in quite late or really early in the morning. It’s frustrating because you get to go to these amazing cities, but you don’t get to do the tourist run. But often the promoter will take you out to a couple of his favorite bars and you get to see people and the way they live. In many ways I think you get a better picture of the town that way.

 

Do you feel like a tourist when you’re on the road?

Jas: It’s a bit of both tourism and business. You don’t always get somewhere and want to go out. Sometimes you get to a town and you’re super hungover. And sometimes, like today, it just rains all day. Touring can be very repetitive because even though you go to different cities it’s really the same set up everywhere.

 

MSTRKRFT’s Jesse F. Keeler recently said that he liked DJing because he could play anything he wanted, but when he toured with his band he was limited to playing only songs they had written.  Would you agree?

Jas: It’s interesting because when we were still touring with Simian, we were enjoying the DJing for precisely that reason. When you’re DJing its very different each time.  What the crowd is like and what time it is—all of these things impact what you’re going to play.

It’s very rare that you play the same set twice.  There might be four or five songs that you usually play, but in a two or three hour set that’s like a drop in the ocean. It was something that we really wanted to carry through with the live show for SMD. We wanted to make sure it was very versatile. We’re not very good showmen; and if we’re bored, then we look bored. So we’ve made it that we can play things differently each night—longer and stretched out, or more techno-y.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it for part 1 of the interview.  Be on the look out for part 2 to read their takes on the future of the music industry and when we can expect the new album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Muse – Knights of Cydonia (Simian Mobile Disco Remix)

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CSS – Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above (Simian Mobile Disco Remix)

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The Go! Team – Ladyflash (Simian Mobile Disco Remix)