Stop Telling Me What to Do!

Has anyone ever considered how weird it is that by choosing to take part in a particular musical/physical scene, certain genre’s of music (and sometimes even individual artists) are automatically selected for you as “acceptable listening material” while others become “blacklisted?” Check this out.


You just put a quarter in one of those Zoltar fortune-telling machines, and I’m about to pull the last five years of your life out of thin air. The year is 2005, and if the 2010 version of you were to travel back in time and inform old you that in five years you’d be listening to music that’s made almost entirely on a computer, the ghost of Christmas past would likely be heading home with broken nose. You are a firm believer that all good music is centered around a guitar in some way shape or form. That’s not to say that you’re morally opposed to synthesizers in a band’s lineup, but electronics can only compliment guitars and drums, not replace them altogether. Your collection of music includes a couple of electronic musicians here and there, though to be fair, most of them are the ones that are talented enough to prevent you from ever considering how their music is made.

You may permit the occasional M83, The Album Leaf, or perhaps you’re younger than that and are more keen on the untamable shrieking of the Blood Brothers. But mostly you’re attracted to bands like Bloc Party, Midnight Juggernauts, and VHS or Beta. Bands that are rather talented and trick you into forgetting they’re electronic at all. Long story short: while you may be able to pull it off on rare occasions, the majority of the time you wouldn’t be caught dead listening to anything more than The Faint for fear of being associated with (shudder) techno.

Then 2006 comes around and suddenly Daft Punk is okay. What’s the deal with that? They’re completely electronic, and there’s no getting around it, but for some reason, everyone you know has their discography, and it is not cool to make fun of them for it, nor is it cool for you to point out the fact that Homework was released in 1999. Nope, you’re supposed to eat your words and act like all three albums were released that very year. So what do you do? You accept it for what it is: Daft Punk = cool. Infected Mushroom = still not cool. Titanic theme song techno remix = definitely not cool. You’ve officially added all of Daft Punk’s albums to your collection. Other than that, not much has changed. You’re still wearing your hair like the dude from AFI (a haircut that would later make it’s way into the electronic music scene in the form of DJ Paparazzi), and you still can’t tell me what a four on the floor beat is. But here’s where the line really starts to blur.

Late 2006- Early 2007: The year your one friend who happened to know about the Hype Machine at the time discovered __________ (insert either MSTRKRFT or Justice in the blank). Now, this kid was always a little strange with his music taste, so when he hands you one of his two earbuds and plays you (Easy Love / Waters of Nazareth), you’re reluctant at first. That is, you know it sounds good, and you know it’s fresh, but at the same time, you’ve spent years defining yourself as one of those guys that respects music too much to sink down to the level of electronica, and you’re not about to just up and say you like it. You decide that “sounds interesting” is the appropriate response, and you put it on the back burner, intending to forget about it. But it haunts you. Every time you finish an album and consider the ever present “what should I listen to next?” enigma, your mind jumps to that “The Looks/Cross” torrent you downloaded a week ago. Is it the right time? Are you feeling confident enough in your musical masculinity? Eventually you cave, and you give them album a once over to get it out of your system–except your plans change, and somehow, it makes it into your daily rotation, and before you know it you’re listening to an entirely electronic album just as much as you listen to everything else. What’s going on? You’re not allowed to like this. You try even harder to convince yourself that you don’t like it, but it’s impossibly clear that you do, and there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do to change it. This feels even worse than that time you got caught telling your shampoo bottle to “Move bitch, get out da way.” The stone cold realization hits you: You’re going to have to change scenes, because (and trust me, there’s definitely no pun intended here) the “scenesters” just aren’t going to accept the person you’ve become.

Before you know it, your Misfits shirts have gone out the window, and you’ve replaced them with graphic tees depicting mostly naked women. (And it’s okay because the look is “artsy” and “in good taste.”) You’ve discovered house music, and with each new album you acquire your pants become a little bit more colorful. (I’d say they got tighter too, but that wouldn’t be fair to those who had already maxed out the slim cap by stringing dental floss through their leggings.) Suddenly, you find your music collection is growing as though it had invested in Google. By the time another year has gone by, not only has your music collection doubled in size, but you also find that listening to Avenged Sevenfold just doesn’t seem appropriate anymore. Even further, you now find yourself slightly repulsed by those who haven’t managed to follow the same path you did, and you’re constantly asking yourself how they can be satisfied listening to the monotonous drone of same-sounding guitars, when there’s a world of unlimited potential for sound into which they haven’t even considered wandering. However, the one thing you don’t consider, and likely still haven’t considered even now as were moving through 2010, is the impact that your transition into the hipster scene has had on your perception of music in general.

So Now What?

So here we are now. We’ve arrived in the present, and are now faced with a new set of rules. Give me an artist, and I’ll give you a number between 1 and 10, indicating how acceptable it is for a member of the hipster scene to listen to them/him/her (1 being completely unacceptable).

Daft Punk: 10
Slipknot: 1
Laidback Luke: 10
Sigur Ros: 9
Green Day: 3
Oasis: 7 (They’re not electronic, but they’re one of those bands that is, for some reason, accepted as remixable.)
Massive Attack: 7 (Electronic, but not so hipster-y. Minus three.)
Royksopp: 9
Paul Van Dyk/Oakenfold: 5 (Electronic but dated; better left for outsiders and the uninformed.)
Rusko: 9 (So-called purists would likely protest)
The Bloody Beetroots: 8 (Used to be a ten, but they’ve since been rejected by the mainstream opposition.)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s: 8 (For the same reason as Oasis. though to be fair, remixes are more acceptable than originals.)

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. The big picture themes are nothing more than:

A) Electronic dance music is always okay, unless it’s trance, drum ‘n’ bass, or was produced before 2006.
B) Rock is sometimes okay, depending on what the people in the band look like, and how remixable their material is.
C) Classics are allowed, assuming you either remix the tunes, or use them tastefully.
D) Metal, and all it’s derivatives, is never allowed, unless you make it with synthesizers and call it dubstep.
E) Dubstep is okay, unless it sounds too much like metal.
F) Punk is okay if it incorporates some kind of electronic component.
G) Hip-hop is treated like a controlled substance. It essentially boils down to circumstance, and depends on how far-removed from electronic dance music it is. Artist intelligence is also a contributing factor.
H) Classical is okay, as long as you listen with confidence.
I) Most everything else is neither acceptable nor unacceptable, but if you get too into any of it, it’s just weird.

So that’s how it works. By reading this blog, you’re defining yourself as a hipster, and as such, your music of choice is not, in fact, music of choice at all. It’s chosen for you. And just like so many of us were missing out on electronic music when we were busy convincing ourselves that it wasn’t okay, who’s to say we aren’t still missing out on a world of fantastic music by allowing our hard drive’s to be brain washed by the momentum of expectations? I won’t stand for it!

Today, for the sake of liking good music for good music, we’re bending all the rules and listening to all the tunes we technically shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot poking stick. And who knows, maybe tomorrow, we’ll still be doing it.

Spor – Aztec
[It’s Drum N Bass, and I don’t care]

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Me Gusta – Megadrive
[It’s Hip-Hop, and I don’t care]

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Flux Pavilion – Got 2 Know
[It’s trancy, and I don’t care]

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Rusko – Da Cali Anthem
[It’s both massively mainstream and poorly produced, and I don’t care]

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More Genre Bashing

I love it when people wreck genre walls. It doesn’t even matter which genre they’re wrecking, just so long as everything I “know and love” about it is crushed into an ambiguous pulp and rearranged to look like something straight out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s worst nightmare. I’m talking bulldozer and wrecking ball status. That’s what really makes music appealing. You thought you liked genre’s for what they are. You thought you fell in love with disco because you loved those relentless, won’t-stop-for-nothing beats. You were wrong.

nosaj thing

It’s not what music is that makes it good. It’s what it isn’t. Justice blew up in 2006, and if you ask anyone, they’ll tell you it was because their sound was heavy and distorted whilst also maintaining a disco type groove, however, this is more an explanation of their approach to the solution, rather than the solution itself. Justice made it big because of what they weren’t. Sure, they were dance music, but they most certainly were not cheezy house music. They used the same synths everyone else was using, but they weren’t making bad techno remixes of 90’s movie theme songs. And sure, they were all kinds of heavy, but they didn’t bother with the cliche guitars, flesh eating monster tattoos, and neck beards. Justice was a piece of everything we’d already heard, and yet these guys were brand, freaking new, because they broke all the rules of music, and ended up spewing out a couple tunes that sounded like nothing anyone had ever heard before, and (FACT) that’s what makes good music.

eskmo

Take a look at the evidence: Justice‘s debut prompted a slew of impressionists to attempt to make their millions doing exactly what Justice had already done, but instead of being respected for make music that sounded almost exactly the same, these guys were despised and have long since been forgotten. In fact, each subsequent act earned just a little bit less respect than the one before it did, despite the fact that they were making the same stuff.

What’s my point? How about this: It’s not what you put in your music that makes it good. It’s what everyone else doesn’t.

Check these couple of tracks. Not only is San Fransico’s Eskmo making some of the most well produced beats I’ve ever heard, but he’s also doing to dubstep what Justice did to disco. Who would have thought dubstep could work in 3/4 time?

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Eskmo – Hypercolor

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Eskmo – Harmony

And then there’s Nosaj Thing, who’s somehow taken flying Lotus’s approach to tempo and beats, and made it just as friendly to IDM fans as it is to dubstep fans. How? Only an mp3 can tell.

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Jogger – Nice Tights (Nosaj Thing Remix)

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Nosaj Thing – IOIO

Blood, Beetroots, and an Infinite Controversy

Let’s face it: There’s virtually no point in doing a piece on The Bloody Beetroots latest (and massively leaked) album, “Romborama.” [Dim Mak] Though I did consider it for a brief moment, I came to realize rather quickly (after having scoured the countless other pages offering the leaked material) that the opinions people have to offer (or at least the ones expressed in writing) regarding the style, intent, and success of the infamous Italians are scattered about in nearly every possible direction, and as such, whatever “wisdom” I could potentially offer as a result of an article would likely be deemed callous and assuming by the large percentage of people who do not share the exact same opinion that I do.

Romborama

As a result, I’ve become content with the notion that there simply cannot be a unified perception of these outlandish noisemakers. Where bands like the Beatles (I know I know, outdated reference. I chose it because of its irrefutability.) or, as a more contemporary example, Justice, can generally be considered “revolutionary” and “talented” whether or not you actually like their tunes, The Bloody Beetroots are forever destined to be those two guys that either ruined, or revolutionized the disco scene.

So here’s what I’m proposing. Take a good hard listen (if you haven’t already) to a few of the more enterprising tracks found on Romborama, and then if you please, let us all know exactly how you feel about the direction The Beetroots haven chosen to embody. Is it brash and unnecessarily noisy? Are they simply cultivating a field of sound and putting a beat to whatever they can get their machines to spew out? Or are they still the praiseworthy, pioneering geniuses that took control of electro back in 2006 and showed us how to really “do it hard?”

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The Bloody Beetroots – House N° 84

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The Bloody Beetroots – Anacletus

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The Bloody Beetroots – Mother

We’re Out of Control

During the great depression, and throughout all this country’s wars, we had music to keep us sane. What happens when music becomes both our depression and our war?

Icould just go ahead and dump another stale track out of my giant trash bag labeled

dance-music-that-all-sounds-the-same1

onto the playing field here. I could very well reach into that bag, pull out a track, and without ever having looked at it, I could tell you what it sounds like:

  • There’s a sample. It’s taken either from a hip hop vocal, a nineties house vocal, or the latest indie rock release, and it’s looped ever so poorly; That is, fifteen seconds is all one needs to become confident that the track would likely have been greatly improved by the removal of the sample in its entirety.
  • Then there are some crumbly, Justice knock off drums (can you believe we’re still living amongst a world of producers attempting to reproduce the sounds of 2006?), that seem to make the notion of simply listening to Cross all over again a pleasing alternative.
  • Finally, there’s a peculiar, pitch-bent, synth melody, likely far from in key with the rest of the “track”, that either sounds as though its producer has yet to discover the concept of “stereo”, or perhaps like he’s simply let the split and pan technique invade (and thusly ruin) the body of his sound.

That track I just grabbed out of my trash bag has become common place. It can be found creeping all over the net, in it’s many shapeshifting forms, but when it really comes down to it, it’s easy to see it for what it is: Beneath its cloak of origins, languages, and personalities, it is a product of all seven of those deadly sins as they’ve chosen to manifest themselves in the music industry. It represents nothing more than the truest feelings of apathy toward music culture itself, it is the thing that no one in their right mind would openly choose to associate themselves with. The sad truth, however, is that had I taken that lifeless piece of noise and allowed it to be the focus of todays note, the world would have been content.

Have our minds simply given up? Have we become so used to the constant influx of fame-driven audio that we’ve forgotten to check to make sure a piece of music is even good before we add it to our ever growing supernova of a music collection? What happens when the supernova collapses? What happens when the last remaining producers that continue to take pride in the work they release become lost amongst the tidal wave of kids armed with Reason and a myspace account, leaving nothing but remixers with nothing to remix? If only this generation valued patience and knowledge as much as it did fame and money…

I sense a future full of pink noise and quiet. What are you going to do about it?

My Sanity Check

skywriter

A world of congratulations to Ekleroshock‘s Data for having the ability to be inspired by a particular sound without flat out ripping it off. Almost exactly one year ago, the French producer teamed up with Sebastian Grainger to produce “Rapture,” a track that, at the time, was a huge leap forward in the developing disco scene. Seeing as most producers don’t have the mind to even think up a melody before calling it quits and proceeding to spam their address book with promotions, Data‘s heartfelt tune turned more than a couple heads in his direction. One year later, (that time being now) he’s decided to drive it home with his first ever album release, Skywriter (2009), which (at least in the opinion of a lowly blogger) vies strongly as a candidate for the best album of 2009 (though Royksopp‘s release provides for some steep competition. The simple fact that the guy has made an album (in the truest sense of the word) comprised of pieces that function as songs every bit as much as they do as tracks should be more than enough to keep us all from returning to The Hype Machine for days.

Data makes music. His music will make you feel things. His music will make you think. His concepts are both familiar and unfamiliar, but even when they’re familiar, you feel as though you’ve never heard them before. Why?

Data is a musician.

Data – Skywriter

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Data – One In a Million

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Data – Nightmare

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I and I Brings a World of Color to Electronic Music

I‘m pretty sure at this point it has become impossible to deny the fact that we live in an increasingly tone-deaf world. It seems like every step we take away from 2006 brings us deeper and deeper into a realm of dance music that focuses so heavily on “dance” that it nearly dismisses the fact that “music” is even a part of the genre at all. And sure, beats and breaks are a great part of music as a whole, but surely we can’t survive entirely on sampled and chopped-to-groove bits of old tracks forever, can we? What happens when everything in existence before the advent of sampled dance music is used up?

life
such is life…

It’s almost scary to see the things that pass as good artistic work nowadays. And that’s not to say that talented disco producers do not exist (because they most certainly do), but rather that the combined efforts of The Hype Machine‘s popular chart (which ranks tracks based simply on the number of little red hearts our tone deaf generation has chosen to donate to tracks chosen by an unfiltered and largely ulteriorly motivated crowd of bloggers), and the onslaught of half assed, Justice/Boys Noize/MSTRKRFT inspired, production duo’s (or perhaps quintets? Have we seen that yet?) have led to the watering down of the quality of output of music over the last several years, the image of which is summarized perfectly in the words of Remix Mag‘s Kylee Swenson:

“[…]I started to get into what [Tolle] said about the human ego and how it sabotages our happiness. How true. Celebrity is everything. Fame and money are the big prizes in life. So much so that we find ourselves wasting time obsessing over promoting ourselves rather than actually making music and improving our songwriting, playing and production skills. Fifteen years ago, none of this viral-promotions stuff mattered. No one spent an hour Googling themselves and getting depressed when they realized that they weren’t more famous today than yesterday. Seriously, what are we doing?”

-Remix, October 2008 (Click here for full article)

Essentially what I’m getting at is that the world of electronic, do-it-yourself music has all but taken the mystery and magic out of a good lot of the indy scene. Producers are much more heavily set on forcing their individual releases upon the world in hopes that they might see airplay by an artist who has several well done albums under their belt, rather than creating an album of their own, and because of this, the notion of a unique and cohesive album coming from a small, indy artist has become something uncommon enough to weep for.

I and I

I and I

I and I

Alchemist Records producer(s), I and I, is exactly that artist. That is, their work has the depth of thought that allows it to expand beyond the confines of the “ten minute sensation.” Not only does the Oklahoma based group refuse to conform to “The Book of Electronic Music Standards and Practices” within each of its individual tracks (which frequently consist of sounds and melodies that are simultaneously beautiful and unheard of), but they also boast their massive artistic prowess through their having completed a nine track album (White Noise/Black Music) that knots all their ideas together to form a collective world of their own. Said concisely, White Noise/Black Music makes it easy to fall into I and I‘s realm of harmony that drips Doppler Effect all over its complimentarily poppy rhythms and distant vocals, however, I’ll advise you venture into this one which a good amount of free time available; Finding your way back to real life is not so easy.

I and I – Venus

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I and I – The Top

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I and I – Thought Counts

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The Mainstream May Have Found a Hero

kid sister

Nine times out of ten when a previously underground-ish artist makes the cross over to mainstream music, it almost entirely ruins their image in the eyes of the truly musically zealous, and though I’m continually trying to deny the fact that publicity can change an artist in my own eyes, I fear that my attempts are becoming more and more pathetic with each new development in the industry. After having witnessed the nomination of Justice’s remix of MGMT‘s Electric Feel for the category “Best Remixed Recording of 2009”, it has become impossible for me to believe that ceremonies like the Grammies even make an attempt to represent the outstanding achievements in the industry (due to the fact that naming the aforementioned remix the “best of 2009” proves a massive ignorance to a large collection of tracks more worthy of the title); Rather, the nominations are probably derived from a small pool of artists who have, at this point in time, already become well known enough to draw in the required viewer quota, and thus ensure full and complete payment to the men in suits. Not cool.

But don’t let my annoying pessimism get to you. Despite these unfortunate ulterior motives that permeate the industry, it’s every artist’s duty to cling to the belief that at some point in time, the structure of our current system will be gutted and rewritten, and after seeing a couple of the artists that are currently on the rise, I feel it is safe to say that time could very well be quite soon.

Kid Sister

dreamdate

At this time last year, we were just beginning to witness the start of our adorable Chicago hip-hop visionary, Kid Sister’s career. No doubt, we were all quite aware (due both to the fact that nearly every track she released was at some point melded into a dirty electro remix, and to [bleh] Kanye West’s guest drop on Pro Nails), that she was quite a bit more than a passing fad, however, I don’t think any of us could have predicted the extent to which her sassy vocals would travel. Over the last few months, Kid sister has been spoon fed to me through every media outlet I can fathom, including, but not limited to, every music related site on the internet (and that includes both the ones run by the kids with the dunks and the kids with fedoras), the radio, and even (gasp) MTV, and while a turn of events like this one would normally have me on my knees, wishing it weren’t so, in the case of Kid Sister, I couldn’t be happier. Something about her refusal to dwell on the overplayed and heavily promoted current hip hop style gives me the confidence to believe Kid Sister won’t let her tracks be tainted by the grimy hands of the media, and that being the case, I don’t believe I could think of a more suitable artist to put a stop to the totalitarian reign of the great (yet not necessarily good) Kanye West as the dominant and recurring artist of the industry.

I advise you to pay close attention to this first track, seeing as it’s the first single off her debut album entitled Dream Date, and it could very well be the tune you’ll be humming whilst your impressionable eyes make note of the next trendy fashion statement. (Although if it’s anything like those ridiculous shutter shades, there’s a good chance this post is going to be rewritten with a very dissimilar connotation.)

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Kid Sister – Family Reunion (Feat. David Banner)

And while were on the subject, can I mention how much I love the fact that Kid Sister is always down to drop a verse on a remix? No one did that before she made it cool…

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WTF feat. Pase Rock and Kid Sister – Nadastrom On Drugs Remix

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Green Velvet – Shake and Pop (W/ Kid Sister’s Guest Drop)