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

Who Shapes the Artist?


[It brings me great grief to have to mention this, but this article was written prior to the death of Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM. We at UhOhDisco were all greatly affected by the loss of our good friend. May he rest in peace.]

Bibio

There are thousands of reasons for which a modern musical artist might be praised. These reasons span an enormous range of natures, reaching from those having been derived simply from lifestyle admiration (DJ AM owns clubs and drives Maseratis) to others, for flat out musical genius (artists like DJ Shadow and Royksopp are said to have created unparalleled works of art), and for the better part of my life, I (and likely a rather large number of the rest of us), have allowed myself to believe that these artists were all receiving this praise, or to take it a step further, receiving these labels (DJ AM: Celebrity DJ, etc…), due to the annoying tendency of today’s music industry to need to qualify and quantify everything into a mess of titles and genres. However, if the recent explosion in popularity of the electronic music has taught me anything, it is that I have been grossly misguided, and that from start to finish, an artist has complete control over the labels which he will later bear. And this is not to say I was previously unaware that an artist was free to pick his genre, but rather, that the niche he eventually ends up in is entirely determined by the artist himself.

Luke Vibert
Luke Vibert

I suppose this might prove a rather difficult riddle to decipher at first, but I assure you, there is [usually] a reasonable amount of sense in my speculations. You see, I’d always imagined the most successful musical artists to be the most musically wise. More specifically, I had assumed that a determined musician’s long term goal would generally be to fully comprehend music in and of itself, and not merely the music of the nooks and cranny’s he’d been placed in. Thus, the acquisition of such a “celebrity dj” or “synth master” etc. type title would seem to prove both offensive and counterproductive. I have, however, realized my mistake:

People don’t find their niches by sacrificing all other genres and styles for one that they like best. No sir. Instead (at least in the case of the more respectable musicians I know), the artists is bombarded with a nearly infinite amount of music throughout his life, all of which eventually serves as fuel in the creation of one final product; That is, the music an artist releases, and thus his genre, style, and labels, are all a product that that particular artist considers to be the absolute best combination of everything he or she has ever heard or been influenced by.

At this point, I’m wondering whether I’ve made a point, or if I’ve merely succeeded in uselessly rambling for far too long, but either way, it seems only fair to share with you the reason for my ineffectual pondering:

You see, I’ve fallen in love with happiness.

This morning I discovered a layer to my music collection that I was previously oblivious to, said layer being the one holding the key to the emotional state of the composing author. My eyes were closed, my headphones were on, and I sought to fill my mind with the music that would carry me through the day. My music was playing in no particular order, so each new track was a surprise, however, one of these songs proved to be especially surprising: It was a song I’d heard many times before, and yet this time through, it brought to me a warmth I had not felt before, almost as if I were seeing the world anew through the eyes of its author. And the best part about it was that the author was happy. And not the fleeting, feigned kind. This artist was truly satisfied with the way of the world, and with his or her place amidst it all, and hence, so was I.

I shall forever love the multitude of themes, styles, and emotions expressed in music. The horrifying giddiness of the Bloody Beetroots will always be a brilliantly engineered thrill, Felix Cartal‘s angry build ups and abrasive basslines will always fulfill the need to be an untamable creature of the night. And people like AM and Aoki will always offer a habitual dose of Los Angeles, live-in-the-moment, careless partying. But in the end, it’s happiness that’s rooted itself in my soul.

I hope I don’t need an excuse to let these tracks wander a bit from the usual genre.

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Broken Social Scene – Major Label Debut

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Luke Vibert – We Hear You

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Bibio – Fire Ant

A Bit of a Relief

There’s no doubt that nearly everyone that reads this blog is reading it for the same reason: we all end up at the same shows and parties, we all have friends that walk around wearing fedoras, Puma’s, rolled up jeans, and shirts with colorful drawings all over them that, for some reason, you just can’t seem to make sense of, and most importantly, we all can’t resist the lure of a shining, winding, grinding synth lick that’s just begging for some foot stomping. But on that note, I think it’s safe to say that there are definitely moments where the last thing anyone wants to hear is a 4-4 kick drum. I mean, yeah, a solid 90 percent of the time, it’s all good and well, but when you find yourself driving home at four o’clock in the morning after a solid six hours of turning vinyl, and not even that case of Red Bull in your trunk can sort you out, it’s always nice to treat your throbbing brain to something kind and (in comparison at least) gentle.

World Wide Renewal Program


If you’ve ever felt like the only thing that can really set your senses straight is a smooth ride through DJ Shadow‘s Entroducing or a bit of RJD2, you might be excited to know that you’ll no longer have to be limited by the fact that those two artists have only put out a combined total of about ten albums; Adult Swim has, as of last month, completed a solid project they’ve titled the “World Wide Renewal Program.” What are they renewing? Why, your musical stamina of course! The track list starts out with a bit of that smooth, media and ego free hip hop that both of the aforementioned artists have taught us to love, and then progresses into several quicker and choppier (although still very head friendly) beats that are in some ways strickingly similar to that of Germany’s Modeselektor. It’s the perfect sound track to your sunrise drive. You’ll find the entire release available completely free, compiled as an album with cover art and everything, on the World Wide Renewal Program site, so you’ll have no excuses. Go grab some goodies.
Here are a few of the dirtier sounds I found rather intriguing…

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Via Tania – On Sawyer (Agrape Dope remix)

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Push Button Objects – Breaker’s Delight

Of course, we all know that once you do make it home, you’ll hop in bed, and wake up at just about the right time to head out and start it all over again, and that being the case, you’re going to be needing a topping off in the Disco department.

Danger


I really did believe that when A-Trak released his remix of Boys Noize‘s Oh!, that there would, or rather, could never be a better remix of that lusciously vocoded dripper. I’m not one to say whether or not I should be taking that back or not, but what I will say is that Danger‘s taken a shot at it, and he’s come damn close. Sweeping side-chained synths: Epic, as usual.

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Boys Noize – Oh! (Danger NeOh!Pen remix)

Kitsune Tabloid Compilation


Also, it wouldn’t be very fair to give you something to listen to on the way home without giving you anything for the way there, would it now? No, it wouldn’t. Not only because you’d probably end up quite bored, but also because you’d be missing out on Kitsune‘s recently completed Tabloid Compilation. In short, the German revolution known as Digitalism has been called upon to create a mix that they believe “tells a story”, and the resulting album has, as of ten days ago, been released for your listening pleasure. I’ve been told the boys have infused an exceptionally summery story into their work, so expect to see more than a few sunroof-smiles on the road the next couple weeks…

You can preview the compilation on Digitalism’s Myspace, and once you fall in love, you can pick up a copy through Kitsune’s site.