Lesson Learned

Digits first described himself to me as a darker, more reflective version of Hot Chip. Now usually in this day and age, when the first words you hear out of an artist’s mouth are a comparison to another artist, it’s a surefire guarantee of unoriginality. I recall an era in which practically every producer liked to cite Justice as an “influence,” when in reality what they were trying to say was, “I try to make all my music sound as much like Justice as possible.” The producers of today are no different, and needless to say, somewhere in between then and now, I learned to make quick assumptions about music I read about. I thought they would lead me to the places I wanted to be in my search for new music. That’s what I thought. Only now am I coming to realize just how wrong I was.

I listened to Digits. I listened to the guy, and for three full minutes I sat, stunned, unable to do anything else. I should never have assumed. His music was beautiful, and his caparison to Hot Chip nothing short of apt: Hot Chip to Digits is but a gentle, delicately tapped source of inspiration applied to his own beautiful and wholly original work. Digits‘ cleverly restrained sort of music is a world of its own, and it breathes deeply where most other synth pop doesn’t breath at all. It’s smart, groovy, and filled with catchy melodies and brilliant songwriting.

It takes a lot to make me reconsider my musical standpoint, but Digits managed to do it. And for this guy, all it took was a gentle nudge.

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Digits – Lost Dream

Where’d The Groove Go?

I want to start this inaugural post off with a simple “Hello!” My name is Alex Vickers, a friend of the crew and a recently added contributor. I’m a DJ by trade stationed up at UCSB, but I’ll be moving down to LA once I graduate. Now that we’ve exchanged pleasantries let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

I was recently on an epic escapade through Europe, and one of my most cherished memories was in Berlin. I initially despised the city, but the Capital of Kurrywurst redeemed itself with this very story. I was with my British friend Charlie, who I’d met while abroad, and we’d been desperately trying to get into nightclubs around the city. We attempted Berghaim, the “best club in the world,” on our first night and were told “We don’t like your kind here.” I found out later that it was a gay nightclub, but at the time I thought those ungrateful Germans forgot about World War II. We soon ran into a problem, there was a vicious cycle of pregaming, getting rejected, and then ending up somewhere that just wasn’t our scene. That was until the last night…

That Tuesday night it finally happened. We get up to the front of the line, clearly a tad saucy, and the German bouncer starts speaking to us in German. We reply we can’t speak it, which was the usual cue for “you’re not getting in.” But this time Charlie called an audible, claiming he was a writer for MixMag and that he flew in from London to review the club. He said he’d ran into his friend DirtyDumbo (me!) who flew in from Los Angeles to do a gig. This dimwit bouncer let us in, without asking for a card or anything, and we had made it. I drained the last of my Euros on deliciously overpriced drinks and a sweaty night of awesome groovy Deep House and Disco. The DJ had two Technic 1200s, two CDJs, and a ridiculously antiquated mixer that looked like this:

This DJ absolutely threw it down. This mixer had zero effects and he was frantically moving form deck to deck. It was Deep House how it was meant to be heard: on a sweaty Berlin dance-floor, with a vodka tonic in hand  and a gay couple making out next to you. The line to the bathroom took 20 minutes because everyone was “riding the white horse” instead of doing their business. The music was really relaxed but everyone was going nuts. At 4 a.m on a Wednesday morning, the DJ ended his 3 hour set with Donna Summer’s classic “I Feel Love.” I had to catch a plane to my last stop at 2:00 p.m the next day, which was not fun.

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Donna Summers – I Feel Love (Original 12 Inch Mix)

Yo – Joss Moog

When I arrived, I was more than happy to be back. I could rage with my UCSB friends, who I haven’t seen in months, and enjoy an easy ass quarter. While my return was an absolute thrill, I was shocked at the state of the music scene in the wonderfully grungy college community I call home. During Del-Topia, the Beach Bacchanal that harkens back to the forever banned Floatopia of years past, I was walking around hanging my head. These kids were blasting the most ridiculous mix of “Complextro” and “Brostep”  off their blown-out Mackie soundsystem going absolutely nuts. I walk a little further down the block, and I hear the all too familiar “One, Two, Woop Woop” and witnessed a spontaneous candy stomp dance off. The thing that pained me most was that I was one of those kids once, and now I look at them and try to hold back laughter. It just seemed ridiculous to me that a combination of a big kick drum and a Hoover synth line somehow inspired these kids to “bro-out.” I was left with one question: Where has the groove gone?

What You Feel (Chris Simmonds Mix)

The Isla Vista scene, which is heavily influenced by the EDC/HARD rave culture down in LA, is trying to recreate a “massive” every weekend. We’ve traded in actual dance moves for jumping up and down and fist bumping. The current scene is about getting people to go as crazy as possible. Just last weekend I saw a DJ play Skrillex’s “Cinema” to a completely empty dancefloor. While this has made me miss that fateful night in Berlin, I’ve found my new love: Deep House. In a Freudian sense, I think I’m reacting to the craziness of Isla Vista and playing the chillest possible music. Or maybe I’m just still holding onto that one night in Berlin. Peep these tunes, and hopefully you’ll see where I’m coming from.

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Hang (Dj Madskillz Mix) – Sender & Pavloff

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Vague – Stojche

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Gina And Elvira’s Theme (Original Mix) – Jose M. & TacoMan

This collection of tracks is a mix of Deep/Jackin’ House, some old, some new and all around groovy. Hope you guys enjoyed my first post, and more importantly I hope you enjoy the tunes!

The Closest We’ll Get to a Prophet

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’re probably familiar with my opinions on mainstream music. The music that is currently at the forefront of the industry itself is upsetting not only in and of itself, but also due to the fact that it’s nothing short of insulting to the charting topping musicians that came before.

Lil Wayne and The Beatles have both shared the same spots on the charts, but to compare them as musical artist is, well… I’d rather just not think about it. It’s in terrible taste.

And before you call me unfair and accuse me of judging music just because I don’t like the genre or style itself (which happens not to be true), let me set the record straight: Mainstream music is not bad because of the direction it takes or the sound it has, or even the lyrics. No, mainstream music is bad because the people who make it, with a small number of exceptions, have ZERO musical talent. They’re tone-deaf, rhythmless, and frequently don’t even have the ear to tell the difference between a hi-fi recording and a youtube video. And as of late, even artists that DO have talent have been shunning it in favor of an easy buck. Anyone heard Beyoncé’s new track? Cuz that ain’t a sample if you ask me. It’s an entire ripped tune with a vocal laid on top that has so little to do with the song itself that I’m wondering whether she just recorded the vocal without a song at all, and then just found a track to put under it later.

As such, I’ve had to close my eyes and take deep breaths for years, ever since this became the norm, just hoping that one day there would emerge some sort of breakthrough artist with a completely new approach. One that would rewrite the face of mainstream music for better and for good. This past March, that day finally came.

The Weeknd

There’s this R&B (hold your fire, it’s not what you think) singer from Canada who came out of nowhere and shotgun blasted us with an album that may as well have dumped a bucket of white paint all over everything in the mainstream before it and painted a whole new picture for the face of R&B, leaving only the gentle emboss of the old R&B underneath as a hint at influence. He calls himself The Weeknd, and his album, House of Balloons is a masterpiece. It’s brilliantly thought out, has a rather disturbing but excellently executed motif, flows like an album should, and is beautifully produced with the somber hands of a morning after soldier. And the best part? The Weeknd’s approach is so unique, no one can figure out whether to call it underground, indie, or mainstream, because it just can’t be forced to fit into any single one of those, though it has a lot to do with all of them.

Wait, did I say that was the best part? It’s not. The real best part is that his album is available to download for free from his website. It’s not even one of those “you pick the price” kinds of free, it’s just straight up free.

And if after all this, you’re still not inclined to head to the-weeknd.com and get your copy, you’re a fool.

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The Weeknd – House Of Balloons / Glass Table Girls