The Tipping Point

Did anyone ever read the book? It’s about how our entire lives and the world in which we live, especially in the digital age, is comprised of certain social epidemics–or perhaps just fads–that manage to explode out into public acceptance after months, or even years of dormancy. Myspace, and social networking in general, is a key example; In its early years, Myspace was, indeed, a practical networking site with a purpose, and it’s users were mildly entertained by the site, however, its existence was due largely to the constant support it was receiving by means of promotion and advertising. Were it to have discontinued these practices, there’s a solid chance that the site would have quickly fallen out of existence–that is until it reached the so called “tipping point”.

mnolo

The tipping point is the point of no return. It’s the point at which the number of users has grown just great enough that the growth rate transitions from the standard linear incline to an exponential explosion of new users, all of whom are telling their friends and thus pointing the curve even higher. After the tipping point, there’s no turning back. The number of supporters becomes so large that the phenomenon becomes a part of mainstream culture, and is thusly incorporated into nearly every facet of one’s life as is possible.

The reason I’ve brought this seemingly unrelated topic to the table is that it seems electronic music (and no, not just hip hop and classic top 40 pop) has reached this tipping point. Whereas only five or so years ago, electronic was a delicate, struggling blossom, shunned by the masses and considered soulless, we are now seeing it’s influences infiltrating even the most stubborn of genres, and while there certainly are more than a few unfortunate downsides to this upheaval (Imogen Heap‘s voice does not need to be ruined by some douchebag autotune RnB “singer’s” awful adaptations), a lot of the time it is actually pretty fascinating. It started out with bands like MGMT, who brought their eclectic, electronic sounds to the world of guitar-only rock enthusiasts, and since then, it has been allowed to grow and develop across the musical spectrum until only a few days ago, I came across what may very well be one of the most honest depictions of just how far we’ve come. Take a look.

Mnolo

Of all the genres that could have possibly meshed themselves with the electronic world, there’s one that, for some strange reason, never occurred to me, and the more I’m allowed to think about it, the more amazed I am that it hasn’t happened sooner: Electronic Reggae.
mnolo

Think about it. It’s really a prime candidate for the computer generation; It’s already been pushed through an entire phase of dub (which for the less reggae-inclined readers, was a genre in which original reggae tracks were altered and effected through the addition of large amounts of reverb and bass enhancement), so what’s to stop it from making the last little leap from effected reggae to full on electronic reggae? Clearly this is a question that Texas based artist, Mnolo, knows the answer to.

Though the guy gets my applause for simply having the courage to brave such unexplored territory, the respect pours in tenfold upon the realization that he’s not only managed to redefine music, but he’s also added an entirely new layer of depth and emotion to a genre that was thought to have been played out. If you thought you could never draw the same sort of feelings from reggae that you can from electronic beat masterminds like RJD2 and DJ Shadow, now’s the time to reconsider.

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Mnolo – Dub Love

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Mnolo – Positive Roots Rock

The Studio and the Stage

Dance Music Live

 

You know that awful feeling you get when you finally score tickets to see your favorite band perform and, after months of listening to their album in hopeful anciticpation, their live show just totally sucks? I’m sure you do; we’ve all been there at some point or another. The guitarists misses the chord, the lead singer can’t hit the right notes. Go to enough concerts and you’re bound to leave a few of them unsatisfied. The letdown of a live show is one of the worst feelings in the world. If you’ve ever stood at a concert thinking “I wish I had stayed home and listened to this in my room,” then the artist has, in some sense, failed.

Live DJing

The cliché “I heard they suck live” translates to “the band isn’t talented, their producer is.” But the expression takes on a new meaning with electronic musicians because most of them are producers. Even the musical acts that aren’t strictly DJs but still have an electronic feel to them, think Animal Collective or LCD Soundsystem, still do a lot of the production work themselves. Every musican leads a double life: the studio where he makes the music, and the stage where he performs it.

Both are important in different ways, and there’s obviously a difference between being a great live performer and a studio wizard. Live shows combine lights and visuals; there’s a lot more to a concert than just the music. The context of a performance can have a huge effect on the experience, too. But great musicians still have to be great performers above all else. And the best musicians are doubly talented at both producing and performing. The line is becoming blurry, thanks to software like Ableton Live that allows both in-house production and live performance. But the old adage is still true: live shows prove who’s really got talent. At a time when record sales are falling, concerts are especially important.

It’s funny to think of the Bloody Beetroots wearing their masks alone in the studio, or Daft Punk working on the new album from inside the Pyramid. But both of those groups are as popular for what they do in front of an audience as for what they do alone in the studio. Sure, they make great stuff behind the scenes. But let’s not forget about the live show.

 

Laidback Luke

Laidback Luke

Here’s a great example of an artist who knows how to work the studio and the stage. It’s hard to “put on a show” as a DJ, unless your name is Steve Aoki and you spend most of your time standing and screaming into a microphone. Laidback Luke stands out as one of the premiere producers and performers working today. The Netherlands native has really taken off in the last couple years. His success is well-earned. He’s ridiculously talented at making original songs and remixes; and he performs with an energy you won’t find many other places. Listen to some of Laidback Luke’s stuff below. Then do yourself a favor and go see him live.

 

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MSTRKRFT – Heartbreaker (Laidback Luke Remix) UhOhDisco.com

 

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Major Lazer – Pon De Floor (Laidback Luke Remix) UhOhDisco.com

Who Wants to See Oizo Spin for free?

Yes my friend, you did indeed read that title correctly. And in the very likely event that you’re now sitting at your computer wondering, the answer is yes: With a little bit of luck, you will most definitely be flattened, hollowed, and converted into a muppet-like character in preparation for your building of a very special bond with the one and only, Flat Eric.

Mr. Oizo

For those of you who don’t quite speak the language of the scene, you should know that the above paragraph, all ridiculousness set aside, is a rather momentous piece of news. Why, you ask? Let me explain:

Not only is Mr. Oizo a key part of the indie house electronic genre that has grown so unfathomably large over the last several years, but he is also essentially the founding father of the genre itself. Take his early single “Flat Beat” for example; The track was released more than a decade ago, and yet the sounds he used are still so relevant to the music scene today that it fits nearly seamlessly into mixes alongside works popping fresh out of sequencers today. Essentially, this leaves only two possibilities: Either

A) Oizo owns an exspensive-ass piece of equipment which allows him to look quite clearly into the future, and thus steal the ideas thereof.

or

B) Oizo himself invented this genre, and it’s largely due to him (and please, calm your temper, I’m not denouncing the significance of other pioneers) that the modern day disco scene is filled with the glitches, whacky lo-fi samples, and ADD flip flops that we’ve come to love so very much.

Considering either one of these possibilities (alongside the fact that the man lives in France and so rarely visits the US) gives this Frenchman an enormous allure, you should be delighted to know that the man himself, shall be lending his talents to the Avalon in Los Angeles this coming Friday, October the 16th, 2009. And if even that isn’t enough to get your hair standing up on end, perhaps the notion of free tickets will?

Win a Free Pair of Tickets to See Mr. Oizo

The first two people to mention @uhohdisco along with their email address and the words “Oizo Contest” on Twitter will be the proud owners of respective pairs of tickets to see Mr. Oizo at the Avalon this Friday. That’s right, you get two(count ’em) two tickets!. So what are you waiting for? Let’s hop on it, and with a little luck we’ll be seeing you a-twitchin’ and a-glitchin’ to some flat beats this Friday.

Mr. Oizo – Bruce Willis is Dead

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Mr. Oizo – Positif (LFO Remix)

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Electronic Music for Gamers

“Playing music is, I think, one of the most fundamentally joyful experiences that life has to offer. Just about everyone tries at some point in their life to learn to play music: piano lessons as a kid, guitar lessons as a teenager, or whatever. The overwhelming majority of people give it up after six months or a year in frustration, just because it’s too difficult to learn to play music the old-fashioned way. […] Consequently, this profound joy that comes from making music is only accessible to this tiny percentage of the people of the world. We created this company to try to invent new ways to give music-loving non-musicians—the millions of passionate air-guitarists in the world—[a chance] to play music.”

That quote comes from an interview with Alex Rigopulos, co-founder of Harmonix. He still serves as CEO of the company that developed games like Frequency, Karaoke Revolution and Guitar Hero. I think the quote tells us the proper way to look at music video games. Harmonix games are not a perfect substitute for “real” musicians, they’re just a way for non-musicians to get a taste of what they’re missing. Nobody plays Guitar Hero and thinks he’s a guitarist. It’s also important to remember that Rigopulos wants his games to be fun, a way to avoid the hours of practice that are needed to master a real instrument instead of a plastic controller with colored buttons. Judging from the 25 million units sold and $2 billion in sales, he’s succeeded.

So let’s apply that same idea to the upcoming DJ Hero. The game is exactly what you think it is: Guitar Hero for turntablists. It comes complete with a peripheral gaming controller– a four-button turntable and a plastic mixer with two corssfaders. I can already tell this game is going to polarize people. It doesn’t come out until October 27th, but I’ve already heard a lot of talk. For the most part it’s been positive. Paul Oakenfold loved it and David Guetta is signed on to promote it. Still, it’s hard to say whether the enthusiasm is valid or just a way to bump up sales for a game they both get paid to appear in.

DJ Hero gameplay

I’ve also heard some complaints that the game “dumbs-down” the art of DJing. Let’s just make one thing clear: nobody in his or her right mind is going to perform live with this thing. It’s just a video game. So all the arguments lobbied by “real turntablists” against, say, Ableton Live or Serato Scratch Live don’t apply here. Similarly, nobody who plays DJ Hero is going to mistake himself for an actual DJ using Technics 1200’s and a Pioneer DJM-800. Playing an Xbox 360 game isn’t the same as doing this. The people who complain about how playing DJ Hero isn’t the same as using an actual set of turntables and a crossfader are correct; but their complaint is irrelevant because it’s so painfully obvious. I’m sure some people are going to get a little too into this game (just like those Guitar Hero superfans), but they won’t mistake their gaming skills for DJing skills.

DJ Hero Peripheral Controller

The biggest hope I have for this game is that it gets people more interested in electronic music. Who knows? It might even inspire people to try their hand at “the real thing.” If the game gives us our next great musician or just a larger group of people buying concert tickets and supporting “the scene,” then I’m all for it. And if it doesn’t? Hey, at least it’ll be a fun way to spend your free time.

 

DJ Shadow

Endtroducing Album Cover

All this talk about DJing got me thinking about one of the legends in the genre, DJ Shadow. He’s also included in DJ Hero as a playable character, something I have to give the game programmers a lot of credit for. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of DJ Shadow, especially his first album Entroducing, the first ever sample-only album that he released 13 (13?!) years ago. Nothing but a pair of turntables and an MPC. It still sounds as fresh today as it did back then. I won’t spend any more time praising Endtroducing. Enough has been said about the album already. There’s really not much I can add other than to say that if you’ve never heard Endtroducing, I strongly suggest you go listen to it in its entirety. Here’s one track.

 

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DJ Shadow – Midnight in a Perfect World

Win a Copy of Deadmau5’s New Album!

Despite what the non-participating public might think, the world of dance is not just one giant collective community. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. Dance music has evolved so rapidly and in so many directions since the birth of it’s single common ancestor (disco) that we have now reached a point in which most of the individual “scenes” lose a great deal of credibility for even associating with another sub genre.

deadmau5

Don’t believe me? Let’s pretend for just a quick moment, that I decided to start posting Paul Van Dyk tracks on Uh Oh Disco. Chances are that in less than six months, I’ll have gone the way of Missing Toof.

So that’s how it is, and this is how it’s going to be. Disco is now like 1940’s America, to the point where we’re all now refusing to even be in the same tent at music festivals, and it seems like it’s planning on staying that way. Trance is never going to have a place with the hipsters. Electro is never going to have a place with the minimalists. Minimal is never go to have a place with the (how you say…) dubstepers, and Deadmau5— (tires come screeching to a halt)– wait what?

I think we’ve always known there’s something strange about this giant red mouse, but (at least in my case) it was only in the planning of this update that I was able to finally realize exactly what it is that so powerfully distinguishes him from the rest: He is one of a very small number of artists who have, likely with the help of an extremely rare and recessive gene, conquered the boundaries of electronic sub genre, and have been able to appeal to nearly every electronic music fan, and he’s got the visa stamps to prove it. How many other artists can say they’ve spun hipster events like Hard, raver events like Monster Massive, and (soon to be) pure techno events like the Belgian, I love Techno? I challenge you to think of more than just a couple.

The Contest

Anyway, considering this musical phenomenon has just released an album, I figure there can’t possibly be a better way to celebrate the Mau5 than to win your own personal copy of the work. So check this:

Below this post you’ll find a comment box. You are to leave a comment explaining the most interesting, fascinating, ridiculous, stupid, or hilarious Deadmau5 fact, story, or personal experience you can think of. It can be any length you wish, and can literally contain anything you want. The only requirement is that it be amusing. After one week, the UhOhDisco team will pick their favorite, and hook them up with a copy of Deadmau5’s latest album, “For Lack of a Better Name,” and some swag.

[Unfortunately, we can only mail within the US]

And if that’s not enough to get you feeling motivated, perhaps you’ll enjoy the (genius?) music video for Ghosts ‘n Stuff.

That’s it that’s all. Let’s get storytelling!

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Deadmau5 – Strobe