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

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.

Simian Mobile Disco: Exclusive Interview (Part 1)

smd460

The two members of Simian Mobile Disco have certainly been busy. Remix/production duo James Ford and Jas Shaw are in the middle of a summer-long world tour and just finished a new LP. Lucky for us, they found time to squeeze in a lengthy interview before a recent performance. Read part 1 below for their take on the song-writing process, why it’s dangerous to overwork, and the best part of being on tour. Part 2 coming soon. can be found HERE.

 

(James was in transit when the interview started, so Jas handled the opening questions.)

Tell me about the formation of Simian Mobile Disco. How did you decide to get together?

Jas: Before Simian Mobile Disco, we were in a four-piece band called Simian. I played keyboards and James was the drummer. While we were touring with that, the production side of it had quite a lot of electronic things going on. At the time it was very difficult to do that live. The band was really just a traditional rock band. I had one of those old organs, like the one the Monkees used. We had a few triggers and whatnot; but it wasn’t as electronic as we wanted to go, just because it was hard to do live. We had the choice of either playing off of triggers or playing to a backing track, neither of which were really cutting it. We were always really into electronic music. So while we were traveling around, touring with Simian, we started to get some gigs DJing. And we sort of took off from there.

 

What about the name?

Jas: The gigs came before the name “Simian Mobile Disco”. They called us and asked what we wanted to be called on the flyer. And “mobile disco” is slang for those cheesy performers you see at weddings or bar mitzvahs.

 

What was your musical background like? Did you have any formal training?

Jas: I had a bit of formal training. Not much, really. I studied violin for a bit. My uncle bought me a guitar and taught me chords, but mostly it was picked up. All of that stuff feeds into how you make music, of course. I think most of my musical knowledge just comes from working at it.

 

Do you think your approach helped?  Did you ever hit a point where you wish you had more training?

Jas: I think it works differently for different people. I know a lot of people who are really into music theory, and it kind of destroyed any sense of mystery. When I was in Simian I got some piano lessons, just to sort of brush up.  And the teacher was like “I know this chord is going to do this, this chord is going to do that” and it all felt really predictable.

I’m rusty on guitar now, but I find that when you don’t know what you’re playing—when you just sort of make a shape with your fingers and mess around— there’s something exciting about that. You don’t know what you’re playing but you like it. There’s something in that: not knowing exactly what you’re doing, but reacting in an intuitive way. Simian was kind of apelike. It wasn’t dumb, but it was visceral. It was music you got on a very simple level. It’s sort of carried through to the other projects we’ve worked on.

 

What is your song-writing process?  Do you build the songs chords or melodies, or do you write your beats first?

Jas: It’s a bit of both actually. What we like most about the stuff we’ve already done– the stuff that has to most longevity– is good chords.  Production and fashions sort of come and go, but good chords are what they are. There’s really no set way of doing it, but until we find some decent chords or a decent melody we can’t do much. I suppose sometimes if we find some wonky noise or something that might do the trick, but it’s got to be a really good wonky noise.

 

What is the rest of collaboration process like?

Jas: Both of us use ProTools, both of us know how to use the synths and all that stuff. Once you bring ideas in they never really come out. The way it normally works is one of us will start with something—a couple of chords, a part of a melody—or a sound, something from a delay pedal or a module. You start with one thing and work it from there. We kind of learned to do a lot of our original stuff from doing remixes. The process of remixing is very similar. You just take one thing you like out of a song and then slowly build all the other stuff around it so there’s really nothing from the original track there.

 

How do you decide which songs to remix?  Do people approach you with projects, or is it the other way around?

Jas: Almost always people come to us. Usually we just get an e-mail from someone in the band or someone at the label, the reason being that the remixes are usually for people’s singles. So the songs themselves aren’t out yet. By the time you hear it, we’ve already remixed it. When we’re asked to do one it’s just a gut reaction. It’s a real danger with the remixes though, when people get too many done. We get loads of offers and it’s a shame because we love doing them. We’ve just both been super busy. We will do more in the future.

 

How do you know when a song is finished?  There’s an expression in writing that says “you publish a rough draft.”  Is making music like that?

Jas:  I disagree with that. I think you get to a point when the job is done, and the job of a producer is to know when the song is done. It’s quite weird, and I find it very difficult to articulate the feeling you get like “OK, this is done now.” Usually there are diminishing returns. You work on a song and you get to a certain point where you keep changing things but it’s not getting any better. It may be at that point the song still isn’t done, but we work so quickly that it’s rarely an issue. We’ll get an idea started in a day and then finish a song the day after. We usually start loads of tracks and come back to the ones we like.

I think it’s really dangerous to overwork. Not just that you drive yourself mad (it’s obviously not pleasant to go over and over something), but I think that you lose that spark you have when you first get an idea, when you’re full of ideas. By day four, you’ve tried every drum machine on there and every different synth and you just get a bit jaded with it. And I think sometimes you can hear that jadedness. You can mix the life out of something, make it too smooth.

I know particularly with electronic music it’s a real trap that people fall into—stacking on too much and piling on all those extra noises. I think Nigel Godrich says he has a 24 channel mixer. So if you can’t achieve your sound on 24 tracks then there’s a problem. I think particularly with electronic stuff, people compensate for the fact that they’re using loops by using a lot of loops.

 

What has the current tour been like?  What has been the best part so far?

Jas:  The best part has got to be traveling around. Before doing this I used to go on holiday and travel around. It’s weird though, because you’re always so busy. Especially with DJing, it usually ends up that we fly in quite late or really early in the morning. It’s frustrating because you get to go to these amazing cities, but you don’t get to do the tourist run. But often the promoter will take you out to a couple of his favorite bars and you get to see people and the way they live. In many ways I think you get a better picture of the town that way.

 

Do you feel like a tourist when you’re on the road?

Jas: It’s a bit of both tourism and business. You don’t always get somewhere and want to go out. Sometimes you get to a town and you’re super hungover. And sometimes, like today, it just rains all day. Touring can be very repetitive because even though you go to different cities it’s really the same set up everywhere.

 

MSTRKRFT’s Jesse F. Keeler recently said that he liked DJing because he could play anything he wanted, but when he toured with his band he was limited to playing only songs they had written.  Would you agree?

Jas: It’s interesting because when we were still touring with Simian, we were enjoying the DJing for precisely that reason. When you’re DJing its very different each time.  What the crowd is like and what time it is—all of these things impact what you’re going to play.

It’s very rare that you play the same set twice.  There might be four or five songs that you usually play, but in a two or three hour set that’s like a drop in the ocean. It was something that we really wanted to carry through with the live show for SMD. We wanted to make sure it was very versatile. We’re not very good showmen; and if we’re bored, then we look bored. So we’ve made it that we can play things differently each night—longer and stretched out, or more techno-y.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it for part 1 of the interview.  Be on the look out for part 2 to read their takes on the future of the music industry and when we can expect the new album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Muse – Knights of Cydonia (Simian Mobile Disco Remix)

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CSS – Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above (Simian Mobile Disco Remix)

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The Go! Team – Ladyflash (Simian Mobile Disco Remix)

Beetroots, Aoki, Oizo, and a Bunch of Other Textual Nonsense

You know what the best park about the music industry is? As counterintuitive as it may seem, the highlight of it all–the selling point that causes it to attract such wonderfully colorful people–is its failure to have become organized in any way at all. Make a comparison to the other (largely lamer) forms of media out there: You’ll notice that film, for example, looks like a prison compared to music, what with its organizations dedicated to delivering “official” ratings and awards and such. What gives a corporation the right to tell me how good my movie is on the one to ten scale. Hasn’t art always been subjective?

music

Now you’re likely itching to point out that I’ve failed to notice the giant corporations that surround the music industry as well, and you’re certainly not wrong in letting your mind wander so, however, you’re failing to factor in one important observation: the music industry is awful. Point and case: iTunes can give my favorite tracks whatever rating they want, and it’s not going to mean a thing to any of us. Danger’s 11h30, undoubtedly a stepping stone on the path to electro as we know it, was given 1.5 of 5 stars upon its iTunes release, and all this says is that Steve Jobs (and the loyal fan base of tone-deaf tools which he’s managed to create by means of the iPod) doesn’t care for electronic music, which (I can only assume) doesn’t play much of a role in choosing whether or not to buy a particular track. Naturally, this lack of agreed upon ratings keeps music, and the creation thereof a dynamic process: People (at least the ones who care enough to realize that songs that are played on the radio are not necessarily required listening) have never been restricted to the cut of tunes deemed “appropriate” by some hypothetical checklist. Needless to say, we’ve been quite lucky.

So He Just… Plays Records?

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you either are, have been interested in, or know someone that has decided to seek enlightenment through the art of dj’ing. That being the case, chance also says that at some point in recent history, one of your friends (likely one with less than half as many cool points as you) has made the foolish mistake of asking you the forbidden question: What exactly does a dj do, and why does he get so much credit for it?

Of course, the intolerant anger starts to well up in your stomach. How could someone even ask that question? Isn’t it obvious just how much of a phenomenon it is that a single man can capture the hearts and minds of musically ignorant crowds on a nightly basis, purely through his use of music? Does this ignorant inquisitor really think his record playe–ahem–iPod can give him that same experience that a DJ can? Unfortunately, the answers are no, and sadly, yes, respectively. And the worst part is, you’ve got nothing to say that’ll make him think any different; Or at least you didn’t, until now.

What does a dj do that makes him so special? How is spinning a record, (or to be more politically correct with these a-changing times, pressing play on a midi keyboard) such a respectable deed, and what exactly is is that keeps the creatures of the technicolored night so faithfully returning? It is the plain and simple fact that no matter how many DJ sets he’s studied, and no matter how many times he’s encountered success in the past, there simply is no correct and guaranteed-to-work method of DJing. In contrast with all other forms of media, a DJ cannot simply make a playlist out of fivestar-ed iTunes songs and rest assured knowing his audience will be satisfied. Rather, DJ’ing is the art of adapting to an audience, and convincing them that though their minds tell them that they aren’t particularly fond of a particular song, that their bodies perceive every minute of it as exactly what they want to hear.

The Bloody Beetroots & Steve Aoki

Steve and Beetroots

So how does all this relate to anything at all? It’s quite simple, really. See, in a scene where musical taste is so incredibly inconsistent, it becomes important to get a grasp on the general reception of each particular release, despite the enormous difficulty associated with doing so. For example, releases like the latest from Simian Mobile Disco are frequently propelled into a massive collection of opposing poles, comprised of those in love with, and those disgusted by the band’s new direction, which makes it difficult to assess a particular individual’s response. There are, however, exceptional cases, one of which happens to be the latest Dim Mak release entitled “Warp”. When a track has been featured in a mix tape by just about every major artist before its actual release, has been remixed by that same lot, as well as by quite a few lesser known producers, has seen the attention of more than one false music video, and (here’s the kicker) has an official music video that grants us the privilege of staring at Steve Aoki‘s screaming face for a solid 20 seconds, it becomes clear that there shall be no controversy over the response; A thousand sweating bodies is all the five star rating I need.

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The Bloody Beetroots – Warp (Feat. Steve Aoki)

I’m wondering just how many regulars I’ve lost due to the drastic increase in the text to music ratio on this site. Perhaps I should step it up in the way of audio contributions…

Oizo‘s Back

oizo

Although, whether he even left in the first place, I’m not quite sure. The guy’s approach on music is certainly a strange one. While most prominent artists (granted most fail to withstand the test of time) make a conscious attempt to produce music similar to that which has already found celebrity within the disco scene, Oizo has chosen to cling to the sound he pioneered nearly a decade ago, and to allow it to drip through its hypothetical IV so as to maintain a constant presence within the club scene.

Brilliance, consistency, and a wicked beard. What more can you ask for?

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Erreurjean feat. Error Smith (Original Mix)

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Mr. Oizo feat. Uffie – Steroids (Mr. Oizo Remix)

One last thing. I feel the need to give my greatest respects to those who have somehow managed to actually read this highly nonsensical post. Seeing as much of my writing makes so little sense upon looking back, having done so seems a most notable accomplishment.