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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Music in Two Dimensions

Here’s a game I used to play in college when my friends and I were killing time before class. All it takes is a piece of paper, a writing utensil and some imagination.

Start with a topic everyone is familiar with (let’s do actresses). Now draw two intersecting axes and pick different adjectives that apply to that topic (say, acting ability and sex appeal). The finished product is a bastardized Cartesian plane that let’s you describe the topic using two different qualitative variables (is this getting too math-y yet?). Now here comes the fun part: start plotting points. You’ll get something like this:





Actresses Axes





Don’t agree with the graphic above? Of course you don’t. That’s the whole point of the game. Get prepared to spend hours arguing. Switch around the topic and adjectives until you run out of ideas. Some topics that have worked well for me include fast food restaurants, movies we’ve all seen—especially Disney movies—and (everyone’s favorite) the opposite sex. You can also try expanding this game into the third dimension (it gets very hard to draw) or even an arbitrary n-space (virtually impossible).

It’s fun to think about music this way, too. Imagine you’re trying to describe the sound of the Bloody Beetroots to a deaf person. What would you say? It’s hard to accurately describe music with words. And it’s impossible to do so using the method I explained above. Still, if I had to put the Italian duo’s sound on a made-up coordinate system, I think I’d draw something like this:





Sound Axes




These guys perfectly straddle the line between music and noise. I don’t mean that as an insult or a compliment, just an observation on their style. Someone actually once said to me “Is your computer skipping, or is the song supposed to sound like that?”

Below is a song from their recently-released Christmas Vendetta EP. It’s a perfect case study. The first seventeen seconds are just distorted guitar whining noises. The song itself is heavy, screechy and repetitive. You can tell Bob Rifo grew up listening to a lot of hardcore punk music. I think it sounds fantastic, but I can totally see why someone else might think it sounds like a broken computer. Love it or hate it, I definitely wouldn’t recommend listening to it after a night of heavy drinking.





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All Leather – Mystery Meat (The Bloody Beetroots Remix)






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

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

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.

It’s Not Always About the Music

Seeing as music is generally considered a purely auditory art form, it’s rather perplexing to see how very different the paths that artists take to a hit tune frequently are. One would think that an aspiring artist would be limited to a simple, “The better the song, the bigger the hit” formula, but it seems that with the advent of technology, this relationship has been stretched to its breaking point.

make the girl dance

Take a look back to the eighties; Michael Jackson (rest in peace, old friend), decided that simply playing music on the radio limited the potential that the art form had to provoke emotion, and thus, proceeded to pioneer the world of music videos by incorporating dance, and even story into his tracks. His approach was naturally a sensation, and thus, the concept of including visual creativity and dance as part of a whole “musical experience” caught on and has since continued to evolve (although the direction in which it is evolving is debatable) over the years. Throughout the nineties, for example, pop artists among the likes of Britney Spears, and her countless boy band counterparts used (or perhaps abused) the concept of dance and showmanship to a point where their stage strut was debatably more responsible for their success than the actual music itself. In fact, after discovering for the first time that many of these artists chose to dance at the expense of actually singing their own songs in a live setting, I began to doubt whether the exploitation of miscellaneous art surrounding the music industry could be any further exploited; Soulja Boy’s rise to fame in early 2007, however, served as proof that it could. Seeing as there is almost no feasible way that such a poor quality track could have made it to the top of the charts unassisted, it must be assumed that it was (virtually exclusively) the dance that went along with it that allowed it such success.

I suppose all I’m really trying to convey is that today’s industry relies on many more factors than simply the quality of an artist’s music, and though it’s generally true that an artist without musical talent is unlikely to encounter much success, one cannot deny the fact that the creativity involved with the image that the artist surrounds himself with can certainly influence the ease with which he rises to fame.

The reason I’ve brought all this to attention is that the aforementioned “image” aspect of music seems to have grown to envelope the world of dance music much more completely than it has the rest, and said world has thusly been transformed into one that refuses to believe that a DJ could do his job without having decked himself out in designer headphones and fluorescent American Apparel gear. Though this might seem a display of ignorance to those dedicated to purely the auditory world of music, I personally am intrigued by the competition this battle for style provides for. After all, who’s to say that artists like The Bloody Beetroots, with their symbolic masks and notoriously aggressive music videos, or Soulwax, with their night long Radio Soulwax parties, would even exist without their desire to stand out in such powerfully different and creative ways?

Make the Girl Dance

make the girl dance

Much in the same way as the aforementioned artists, French production team Make the Girl Dance have thrust their careers and reputations to an almost unreachable level with their recent single, “Baby Baby Baby,” the video for which is an astounding tribute to the culture of our beloved world of disco. Make the Girl Dance have managed to capture, in its entirety, a visual representation of the image of bold confidence, lack of boundaries, and general disapproval for rules, and regulations within music that drive the sweet emotion of the moment that disco was invented to stand for, and oh, does it look good…

Did I mention that this entire video was shot candid, live, and without permits on the streets of Paris?

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Make the Girl Dance – Baby Baby Baby