An Izm, If There Ever Was One

Normally when an artist returns for a followup album, that album does one of two things: It either picks up where the debut album left off and sounds exactly the way you expected it to, or it branches off in an entirely new direction, and draws on a completely new set of influences. MSTRKRFT’s Fist of God sounded nothing like The Looks, both Simian Mobile Disco’s Temporary Pleasure and Boys Noize’s Power sounded more or less the same as Attack Decay Sustain Release and Oi Oi Oi respectively. Keep in mind, though, this applies only normally.

Skream’s followup to his 2005 self titled debut was released just shy of a week ago, and without even hearing it, I think we should all be able to agree that this Bristol-based producer is just about the farthest from normal one can get. Would you have thought to do what he did to La Roux’s “In For the Kill” vocal? Neither would I.

Had he been in compliance with the above pattern, there are two things we could have expected from Outside the Box. The first would have been twelve tracks of wobbling, abrasive, disgusting computer noise, and the second would have been something similar to the deep, minimalistic dub of Skream!, but like I mentioned, Skream didn’t get where he is today by simply meeting listeners’ expectations. After all, though it may never have occurred until now, one can assume the album is called Outside the Box for a reason.

To say the least Outside the Box surprised me. But I’m not going to say the least. I’m go to go all the way, and say that Outside the Box is the most innovative thing to come to the dubstep world since Fabric Live 37. Not only does Skream manage to cater to fans of both his heavy grime and his deeper, truer dub styles, but he simultaneously brings aboard an entirely new sound, perfectly crafted to nestle up close to the other two. What sound might that be? I’ve heard funky, I’ve heard poppy, and I’ve certainly heard 90’s ravey, but personally, I think it’s all that and more.

What do you think?

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Skream – Perforated

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Skream – How Real Ft. Freckles

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Skream – Reflections

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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Dubstep Becomes Electro

It really is shocking how fast the music industry of today evolves, especially when compared to the one the world knew, oh say, 50 years ago. Sometimes I become lost within my own mind, pondering the issue of whether it really is an artist himself that shapes the kind of impression he leaves on the world, or if it actually has more to do with the industry surrounding him. Let me explain:

The Beatles are known to a rather large portion of people as one of, if not the greatest band in history, and this is likely due, in large part, to the near legendary status the band has achieved through the extended amount of time they’ve spent in the limelight, the worldwide, simultaneous acceptance of their music, and to the stories that have thusly been passed down through several generations (although as of this month, the stories will very likely cease to be passed on, and will hereby be replaced by “Rock Band,” and quite naturally, an entire generation of children shouting, “Hey wait! How did those guys know Rock Band songs before the game was even invented?”). But let us, for the sake of this point, pretend that the Beatles had started their revolutionary work in 2009, rather than in the 60’s. If their music had been able to spread across the world in a matter of only a couple minutes, rather than several years, would they have made such a substantial impact? Or would would the constant music stimulation from blogs and instant media sources allow them to fall out of the mainstream just as easily as they came into it?

DUBSTEP

Either way, there’s no denying the fact that today’s music industry moves very fast. I recall a time only a few years back when dj’s who chose to drop an electro track at a party would quickly find themselves either spinning for an empty house, or would be continuously bombarded by the infamous, “Can you play something I can dance to?” request. And yet here we are today, listening to MSTRKRFT‘s Heartbreaker on mainstream radio and watching Will.I.Am morph into Zuper Blahq. That means that it took only three years for electro to go from completely unheard of to full on mainstream, and I’m convinced that this is, whether or not we want to accept it, the way of the future.

udachi

So what, you might ask, got me thinking about all this hypothetical junk? Strangely enough, it wasn’t the Beatles, and it wasn’t electro; It was dubstep. In thinking about this emerging genre, it is impossible to ignore the plethora of ties that it has to the electro world (and no, not it terms of sound, but rather of progression). Electro started out completely underground, and then gathered attention by including hip hop verses and associating itself with the mainstream hiphop world, and in an astonishing parallel, dubstep started out as a peculiar British phenomenon that struggled to fill even the smallest of venues, and has since gathered considerably more attention by associating itself with the electro world.

So what does this mean? Has today’s music industry really changed the way music itself evolves? It it still possible for a single artist to remain at the forefront of the industry for more than a couple years? How far will dubstep go? Will it follow the same evolutionary path that electro did?

Here are a couple of pieces to get your mind thinking electro/dubstep hybrid. And naturally, should they provoke any interesting ideas, feel free to share.

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TC – Where’s My Money (Caspa Remix – Jack Beats Re-Edit)

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Udachi – Jellyroll

Perhaps Our Compass is Broken?

Over the past four years since the mass popularization (so to speak) of modern dance music took place, we’ve been a part of an extremely dynamic and evolving industry. In fact, I do believe that the major contributor to the success of the genre was the plethora of new ideas and sounds found lurking around every corner, seemingly having something with which to cater to everyone’s own personal taste. Artists like MSTRKRFT and their (now nearly classic) album “The Looks” drew public attention through their ability to build electronic, dance music with strong rock influences, while at the same time Ed Banger, Dim Mak, and even just Daft Punk toured the world to show people that the term “electronic” can simply be about the party, and that it does not always have to be associated with “trance” and “rave.”

ed banger dim mak

Indeed, over several years, this little disco genre grew out of it’s status as an underrepresented and disrespected fad and began to earn itself a name, each day garnering a wealth of newfound believers. And the best part about it was the fact that everyone who chose to participate was able to build off of something someone before him had already done, and to keep us all moving forward. Boys Noize‘s debut album, for example, taught the world that a loss of bit depth is not necessarily a loss of quality; Oi Oi Oi was full of beautifully destroyed, and often times disgusting sounds that, when combined with an appropriate beat, came together seamlessly. And it certainly was not just Alex doing the work. For a while, it seemed like every new album release was a revolution in itself, and that dance music itself had become untamable.

boys noize power

Unfortunately, this “booming prosperity” (if I may) seems to have changed as of late. And while I’ve heard from many different people on many occasions that, “everything has been done, and it’s all just boring now,” this isn’t what I mean in the slightest. Rather, it seems that all the artists that we’ve grown fond of over the years have continued to provide a steady stream of great quality, creative compositions, but that they’ve somehow lost the ability to build off of and be influenced by other artists, and have become stuck making music in the exact same vein as all of their past work. To put it concisely, it’s almost as if the creativity and originality is still working strong, but that we’ve lost our compass, and with it, our sense of musical direction. Thus, for the last several months, we’ve been stuck wandering in circles like a line of ants with a stick strewn across its path. Sure, the music still sounds great, but where is it–and where are we–going as a collective?

Fake Blood Fix Your Accent

If anyone feels compelled to share thoughts, ideas, or even music, I’m confident that the rest of us would welcome your ideas with open arms.

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Fake Blood – Think I Like It

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Felix Da Housecat – Kickdrum

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Boys Noize – Kontact Me (Removed as per request)

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Boys Noize – Gax (Removed as per request)

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Boys Noize – Nerve (Removed as per request)

The Proxy and Beetroots Wreck The Reality of Music

There is a range of musical taste in which things tend to stay within the reaches of what we tend to consider “normal.” This range typically spans a great deal of territory, beginning on the leftmost side at “soft” and “gentle”– an ambiance typified by artists like Sigur Ros and The Album Leaf–and progresses to the right, all the while becoming louder and heavier, until it culminates at a point where many people (generally those above a certain cutoff age) see fit to classify it simply as “noise.”

Now this scale is one that composers and producers try with all their might to fit in to, largely due to the fact that each point on the scale has its own respective crowd (or if you will, “scene”) which it corresponds to, and that making music to please a certain “scene” is a surefire way to pull a hit out of the hat. As such, this electronic world with which we associate ourselves is full of remixes and collaborations who’s authors’ styles balance each other nicely, and cause the final result to rest neatly within the scale of acceptance.

The Bloody Beetroots

Let’s say the scale is a pretty boring one, and goes from 1 to 10. That puts a few of the most eminent acts at the moment (to name a very small number of them) at:

  • Kid Sister: 5
  • Rusko: 8
  • Dj Mehdi: 5
  • Boys Noize: 9
  • Miike Snow: 3
  • Royksopp: 4
  • MSTRKRFT: 8
  • Soulwax: 7
  • Simian Mobile Disco: 7
  • The Bloody Beetroots: 9
  • Tiga: 6

Now, when these guys decide to remix each other or work together, they usually tend to be pretty complimentary styles. Let’s take a look:

Simian Mobile Disco & Kid Sister – Pro Nails
Heavier electronic combined with milder, peppier hip hop
Result: 6

Boys Noize and Tiga – Move My Body
Tiga track with a solid beat, given the Boys Noize treating yields a pretty heavy mix.
Result: 9

Rusko & Kid Sister – Pro Nails
Kid Sister earns some wild dubstep bass.
Result: A grimy 7

Miike Snow & DJ Mehdi – Burial
Mehdi’s househop links up with a mellow pop tune.
Result:4

I suppose you probably get the idea by now. The results are usually within reason; That is, two differing styles and melded together to yield a new tune that falls somewhere else within reason on the scale. I must however, encourage a large amount of weight to be placed on the word “usually”, for due to an event not dissimilar to what I expect the apocalypse to feel like, the laws of reason and logic by which I had previously lived my life were beaten (and in particular, kicked) into nonexistence.

the proxy

What happened you ask? I suppose you could say curiosity got the best of the cat; That is, the disco world finally grew tired of the predictable results of combining two different points on the scale, and decided to see what would happen not only when two very similar parts were combined, but pushing insanity even further, to see what would happen when two artists, both of whom are nearly bursting off the top end of the scale already, combine their power. The result:

The Proxy (nearly a perfect ten himself) & The Bloody Beetroots

The Proxy & The Bloody Beetroots

Never before in my life have I encountered the kind of anger and abrasive noise. Naturally, the track entitled “Who Are You” (though I would have deemed it more appropriate to call it “What Are You”) cannot be contained within the boundaries of our precious scale, but seeing as the track is so deafening so as to pose the potential risk of opening a rift in the space time continuum, to analyze just how far off the end it travels would be reckless foolishness.

Get your ear plugs ready.

Proxy – Who are You (The Bloody Beetroots Remix)

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SMASH YOUR STEREO | Who Are You (The Bloody Beetroots Remix) – Proxy from WeHeartHouse on Vimeo.

MSTRKRFT remixes Lil Wayne

It was only a matter of time, right?  I’m actually surprised there aren’t more Lil Wayne dance tracks, given the popularity of the rapper. His latest LP, Tha Carter III, was the top selling album of 2008 and got him four Grammy awards. It seems like he appears as a guest rapper on every hit single out there. The sheer number of tracks he releases (six studio albums so far, along with countless mixtapes and singles) should mean he’s all over the electronic music scene. There’s certainly enough material to remix. But the handful of attempts at Lil Wayne dance remixes that I’ve heard are mediocre at best.

Keri Hilson and Lil Wayne

Well, Canadian remix kings MSTRKRFT have decided that Lil Wayne deserves to be heard at 130 beats per minute. Okay, okay: this is technically a remix of a Keri Hilson song featuring Lil Wayne.  Still, the song gives us a full verse from the rapper and only a loop from the female singer. MSTRKRFT seems like they’re on a mission to prove that every genre (hell, every song) can be made danceable.  Just turn up the tempo, add some drums/guitars and bam!– another banger. They’ve already conquered the rock remix; now they’ve moved on to rap.

mstrkrft-sl030409

But I must say I’m dissapointed with their latest effort. It’s conservative and ordinary; there’s really nothing new or exciting here. Save for the Lil Wayne vocals, it could be any other MSTRKRFT song. Is their formula getting stale? It’s hard to say. I loved their latest album, Fist of God, but I think I’m in the minority. I read some pretty terrible reviews. I think their sound is just very hit or miss. Unfortunately, this new track just doesn’t do it.

I’m interested to hear what our readers have to say about the song below.  Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments section.

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Keri Hilson feat. Lil Wayne – Turnin’ Me On (MSTRKRFT Remix)