A disco queen has passed away. She will be remembered for innovating dance music. Her 1977 cooperation with the innovative producer Giorgio Moroder, which resulted in the single I Feel Love, has given her a legendary status. This was one of the first dance tracks produced entirely with synthesizers. It has served as an inspiration for countless of producers and dj’s through the decades and it still sounds fresh today. An amazing song:
A very short documentary that sums up in three minutes the importance of the Roland TR-808 drum machine for electronic, hip hop and pop music in the last thirty years. Originally designed in 1980 as a tool for studio musicians to create demos, due to its relative cheapness it became used in the then-underground electronic and hip hop scenes to compose beats.
The by now vintage, distinctive, artificial sound of the 808 not only gave birth to the techno scene (in addition to tools like the TB-303 bass synthesizer), but also influenced the evolution of all kinds of relevant styles in the last decades. By now, their sounds are available digitally, but original machines are highly sought after. If you listen, you hear those kicks and hi-hats everywhere.
Also check out this video, already blogged about earlier, demonstrating the possibilities of the 808.
Snoop Dogg has always been pretty much the only cool rapper around. The only one who takes the ridiculous misogynistic gangsta culture with an ironic twist, and actually makes decent music. I still think “Drop It Like It’s Hot” was one of the best tracks of the ’00s, in any genre. Not to mention his forays into country music.
And here he is: now dropping a house mix. Snoop Dogg goes electronic, and it sounds pretty good! Of course, house music has much in common with hip hop, so in a way it doesn’t surprise. And he manages to put his own style in the mix, which is very smooth, relaxed and funky, with lots of deep house and nu disco.
Listen to this, it’ll make you happy. Artists featured are Todd Terje, Tensnake, Martin Buttrich and Toby Tobias. Big kudos to Snoop!
Very lucid explanation of how you can distinguish between the different genres in electronic music. Personally, I’m more of the “steady beat” (techno, house) rather than the “broken beat” school (dub, drum ‘n bass), on which this presentation focuses, but anyway, interesting nonetheless. Wonder if there’s anything that accurately puts into the words the differences between current genres in techno and house music.
On December 12, 1981, krautrock guitarist Manuel Göttsching entered a studio in Berlin and recorded what can considered to be the first modern live dj set. Using only a drummachine, synths and a guitar he produced what would in 1984 be released under the name E2-E4. Throughout the recording a single motive is repeated for almost an hour, but with an extremely well crafted build-up and exciting variations it becomes a magnificent musical journey of repetition, much like a modern techno set by a great dj. The result is an entrancing and relentless piece of music. And although it loses some of its power when the guitar kicks in at about 30:00, as RA rightfully points out in this review of the 25th anniversary edition (although I think they are being a way too negative in that review for the sake of having an offbeat opinion), it’s still a very exciting and beautiful piece, even in 2011. The album served as a major inspiration for Derrick May and Juan Atkins and for numerous other later pioneers in electronic music. LCD Soundsystem’s album45:33 is a tribute to E2-E4. 30 years later Göttsching has this to say about it:
“And here I was with a finished, faultless recording, which I had written, played and produced within the space of one evening. Should I take the whole thing seriously or dismiss it as playing around and shove it away in a drawer somewhere: an intermezzo for the archives? I listened to the tape over and over again. It certainly was playing around, but pretty damn good playing around. I had no other choice but to give it a try. And anyway – I already had a great title.”
Somebody has uploaded what by many is considered the best techno documentary ever, Speaking in Code(2009), to YouTube. It’s narrated in German, but that shouldn’t be a problem for any Dutch or German speaking native (sorry if you’re not). The documentary won a couple of independent film festival prizes, so it’s more than just an insiders-only movie.
The film follows a couple of people, dj/producers as well as music lovers, in the European and American techno scenes as it existed a couple of years ago.
Speaking in Code is an account of people who are lost in music. Director Amy Grill follows a series of characters (including her techno-obsessed husband) over a number of years as some struggle to make it while others thrive in the world of electronic music.
The film reveals six intertwined character studies and raw vérité views of new music. It’s a window into a world filled with warehouse parties, endless gigs, international travel, risks, inventions, triumphs and breakdowns.
The characters are: Modeselektor, a producer duo, jettisoned from playing a tiny room in the US to playing to 20,000 people at the Sónar festival in Barcelona; journalist Philip Sherburne, who leaves America to find a more complete techno lifestyle in Europe; The Wighnomy Brothers, catapulted from their idyllic world in Jena, Germany to face their breaking point on camera; Tobias Thomas of Kompakt, who contemplates the near-end of his career; and Monolake, an inventor of the Ableton software that nearly all electronic musicians use to create their music, who continues his steady yet quirky approach to a life in music. While back in the US, David Day (Grill’s husband) tries tirelessly to turn Boston from a rock-centric town to a techno city. Day’s wanton attempts to make electronic music popular put strain on his marriage to the director.
And the soundtrack, I must say, is brilliant. If you got time, check this out:
Here’s one sentiment I can say I don’t share: missing the pop monoculture. According to Toure at Salon.com, our culture is “poorer” today because we don’t have gigantic acts like Michael Jackson and Prince anymore, that everybody can gather around to and collectively love. This goes hand in hand with the decline of big TV and radio stations that everybody used to watch. There are no “massive music moments” anymore when, for instance, an album becomes a big hit. There is no real shared pop culture anymore with larger-than-life figures.
Well, personally, I have no longing at all to go back to that time. As a millennial, I’m old enough to remember the time when you only had one or two music stations on TV; a couple of radio stations; and the charts that were based on album sales. The time before The Internet, when you were dependent on this small set of big media to enjoy pre-selected pop music. Nowadays, I almost never watch TV or listen to the radio anymore, and why would I? It means listening to crappy music catered for the masses. I have the Internet.
What the author at Salon calls the “balkanization” of pop culture I totally applaud: the Internet has allowed people to get exposed to more music than ever before, and that is of great value. In fact, that’s the only real argument in favor of illegal downloading, I think: exposure to every possible music style of the past and present, expanding your knowledge of pop culture and, if you’re an artist, re-packaging that in something new. I think it’s great that a kid nowadays can listen to Joy Division and actually like it.
Of course, the negative drawback of this mass online availability of past music is the incessant retromania that has dominated the first decade of the twenty-first century. There was a time when music used to look forward, be futuristic, but that is no longer the case: instead, every past musical niche gets exploited and is re-packaged. The hipster is the ultimate personification of the Internet era: no longer think of something new, but re-use past styles again and again. Nowadays I think only electronic music is still forward-looking, but even there you find more and more retro tunes and vibes. I wonder when something that is totally new will emerge; but before that, I guess first the entire musical and stylistic past must be dug up and re-used again.
That’s something else, however, than missing the time of mainstream pop culture. I’m glad the domination of the musical-industrial complex is over, thank you very much. If that means missing what Toure calls “generational moments”, well, so be it.
I live for those times when an album explodes throughout American society as more than a product — but as a piece of art that speaks to our deepest longings and desires and anxieties. In these Moments, an album becomes so ubiquitous it seems to blast through the windows, to chase you down until it’s impossible to ignore it. But you don’t want to ignore it, because the songs are holding up a mirror and telling you who we are at that moment in history.
These sorts of Moments can’t be denied. They leave an indelible imprint on the collective memory; when we look back at the year or the decade or the generation, there’s no arguing that the album had a huge impact on us. It’s pop music not just as private joy, but as a unifier, giving us something to share and bond over.
Actually, I should say I loved Massive Music Moments. They don’t really happen anymore.
The epic, collective roar — you know, the kind that followed “Thriller,”“Nevermind,”“Purple Rain,”“It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” and other albums so gigantic you don’t even need to name the artist — just doesn’t happen today. Those Moments made you part of a large tribe linked by sounds that spoke to who you are or who you wanted to be. Today there’s no Moments, just moments. They’re smaller, less intense, shorter in duration and shared by fewer people. The Balkanization of pop culture, the overthrow of the monopoly on distribution, and the fracturing of the collective attention into a million pieces has made it impossible for us to coalesce around one album en masse. We no longer live in a monoculture. We can’t even agree to hate the same thing anymore, as we did with disco in the 1970s.
If you’re under 25, you’ve never felt a true Massive Music Moment. Not Lady Gaga. Not Adele. Not even Kanye. As the critic Chuck Klosterman has written, “There’s fewer specific cultural touchstones that every member of a generation shares.” Sure, Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” spawned several hit singles. Adele’s “21″ and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” were massively popular. Kanye’s brilliant “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was beloved and controversial and widely discussed enough to give a glimpse into the way things used to be. But those successes don’t compare to the explosive impact that “Thriller” and “Nevermind” had on American culture — really, will anyone ever commemorate “21″ at 20, the way the anniversary of Nirvana’s album has been memorialized in the last month?
Numbers don’t tell the whole story about how these cultural atomic bombs detonated and dominated pop culture. But at its peak, “Thriller” sold 500,000 copies a week. These days, the No. 1 album on the Billboard charts often sells less than 100,000 copies a week. What we have today are smaller detonations, because pop culture’s ability to unify has been crippled.
I miss Moments. I love being obsessed by a new album at the same time as many other people are. The last two albums that truly grabbed an enormous swath of America by the throat and made us lose our collective mind were “Nevermind” and Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.” They sprung from something deep in the country’s soul and spoke to a generation’s disaffection and nihilism. They announced new voices on the national stage who would become legends (Kurt Cobain and Snoop Dogg) and introduced the maturation of subgenres that would have tremendous impact (grunge and gangsta rap).
No connection is made. Pop music has historically been great at creating Moments that brought people together. Now we’re all fans traveling in much smaller tribes, never getting the electric thrill of being in a big, ecstatic stampede. It’s reflected in the difference between the boombox and the iPod. The box was a public device that broadcast your choices to everyone within earshot and shaped the public discourse. The man with the box had to choose something current (or classic) that spoke to what the people wanted to hear. Now the dominant device, the iPod, privatizes the music experience, shutting you and your music off from the world. The iPod also makes it easy to travel with a seemingly infinite collection of songs — which means whatever you recently downloaded has to compete for your attention with everything you’ve ever owned. The iPod tempts you not to connect with the present, but to wallow in sonic comfort food from the past.
Back when MTV played videos, it functioned like a televised boombox. It was the central way for many people to experience music they loved and learn about new artists. Thus MTV directed and funneled the conversation. Now there’s no central authority. Fuse, where I work, plays videos and concerts and introduces people to new artists. But people also watch videos online, where there’s an endless library of everything ever made but no curation, killing its unifying potential.
These days, there are many more points of entry into the culture for a given album or artist. That can be a good thing — MTV, after all, played a limited number of videos in heavy rotation. Now there’s the potential to be exposed to more music. But where there used to be a finite number of gatekeepers, now there’s way too many: anyone with a blog. This is great for the individual listener who’s willing to sift through the chatter to find new bands. But society loses something when pop music does not speak to the entire populace.
Hollywood, too, is struggling to unite us. “Star Wars” and “The Matrix” and “Pulp Fiction” were so big they changed American film — as well as our visual language and Madison Avenue. You didn’t need to actually see the films to feel as if you had consumed them. Their impact was so pervasive, they seemed to bang down your door and announce themselves. The Harry Potter films and “Avatar” stand out for the size of the marketing and ticket buying associated with them. But did they bring large, diverse swaths of America together? Did they speak to something deep in the American soul?
It really seems to speak from a deep-seated insecurity of the author, doesn’t it? Please, go explore music that isn’t spit out over the masses and find a niche you like!
A while ago, we presented y’all a documentary on the early 1980s origins of warehouse raves and techno, Real Scenes: Detroit. Now, get ready to submerge in the following documentary on its British successor movement: acid house!
During the late 1980s, acid house, with its distinctive sound produced by Roland bass synthesizers and drum machines such as the TB 303 and TR 808, presented the first full-blown electronic dance music movement in Europe, including a booming underground scene. It also presented the first coming to the surface of ecstasy, which contributed to the summers of 1988-9 being called the second Summer of Love (after the lsd-fueled first one in 1969). Acid house parties took place in warehouses and out in the open, thus continuing the Detroit phenomenon of the “rave”. Fueled by sensationalist media reporting, however, British authorities came crashing down on the acid house scene.
This great documentary from the BBC’s World in Action strand is like a full blown acid house flashback. Broadcast in 1988 at height of acid house fever, it follows the typical weekend rituals of a group of very young fans, tracks the working life of an illegal party promoter, speaks to some of the producers of the music and charts the the then-growing moral panic which surrounded the scene and its copious drug taking. Raving, and acid house, had a huge (if subtle) effect on British culture, bringing people together in new, democratised contexts free of class and social boundaries, opening people’s ears up to a new world of music and opening their minds to new ideas.
Uitgaan in Utrecht is ruk. Tenzij je houdt van overvolle studentenkroegen met domme muziek, of tenten voor asocialen met nog dommere muziek, is “de stad ingaan” in deze plaats meer survival dan lol. Jarenlang mooi gevonden, maar op een avond word je ineens wakker, kijk je om je heen, en realiseer je je: ‘Wat is dit kut.’
Voor een beetje aardige muziek, bij voorkeur elektronisch, en dito mensen dient men zich dan ook te wenden tot het illegale circuit, de hoofdstad, of tot de vele festivalletjes die er, toegegeven, steeds meer komen. Sinds enige tijd echter gloort er ook meer hoop aan de horizon: Strand Oog in Al!
Dit stadsstrand met houten strandtent kan omschreven worden als een kleine oase: de Utrechtse versie van het Berlijnse Bar25, waar wel leuke dj’s draaien, en geen vervelend volk komt. Zich verheugend in toenemende populariteit, maar nog steeds redelijk onontdekt. De zon die ondergaat tegen het industriële decor zorgt voor romantische taferelen.
Maar niets is zo leuk of het moet weer verdwijnen. De vergunning voor Strand Oog in Al loopt af, en de gemeente wil deze niet verlengen. Als Utrechter ben je dus zo dadelijk weer veroordeeld om te kiezen tussen deze of die lompe toko. Een groot verlies, dat het coolheidsgehalte van de stad zeker niet ten goede komt. En dat terwijl het zo’n leuke en mooie locatie is.
Pretty cool: an iPad app fully dedicated to the history and here-and-now of Berlin as electronic party paradise. Explore food joints with Modeselektor, urban architecture with Ben de Biel, day parties with Kotelett and Zadak, as well as hidden pieces of street art, the process of gentrification and hardware shopping.
Electronic music as an art form is often credited to start with the likes of pioneers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer, in the 1940s and 1950s. However, one guy in Egypt was there earlier: Halim El-Dabh (1921), who in 1944 hit the streets of Cairo to record ambient sounds and music, and experiment with it afterwards.
While Pierre Schaeffer is often thought of as the father of the electronic music form known as musique concrète the gentleman above, Halim El-Dabh, actually got there several years before, 1944 to be exact. Born in Egypt in 1921, El-Dabh studied agriculture at Cairo University while playing piano and other traditional instruments as a pastime. One day, the student and a friend borrowed a wire recorder — a device predating magnetic tape — from the Middle East Radio Station and hit the streets to capture ambient sounds. El-Dabh recorded a spirit-summoning ritual called a zaar ceremony and ultimately found that he could use the sounds as the raw ingredients for a new composition.
An excerpt from the 1944 composition called “The Expression of Zaar” is here below, credited as ‘the earliest piece of electronic music ever produced’. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it sounds very ambient and cool. Not too surprising if you realize you’re listening to a spiritual ceremony from 1940s Cairo:
The Electronic Music Foundation has an interview with El-Dabh, who is currently Professor Emeritus of African Ethnomusicology at Kent State University. About the 1944 piece:
We had to sneak in (to the ritual) with our heads covered like the women, since men were not allowed in. I recorded the music and brought the recording back to the radio station and experimented with modulating the recorded sounds. I emphasized the harmonics of the sound by removing the fundamental tones and changing the reverberation and echo by recording in a space with movable walls. I did some of this using voltage controlled devices. It was not easy to do. I didn’t think of it as electronic music, but just as an experience. I called the piece Ta’abir al-Zaar, (The Expression of Zaar). A short version of it has become known as Wire Recorder Piece. At the time in Egypt, nobody else was working with electronic sounds. I was just ecstatic about sounds.
Thomas Fehlmann is a Swiss composer and producer of electronic music, born in 1957. His career has been stellar: after joining the German avant garde band Palais Schaumburg, he moved to Berlin in 1984, where he built a home studio to focus on electronic music. Four years later he founded the label “Teutonic Beats”, to which among others the pioneering German techno dj Westbam belonged. In 1990 he started working with the epochal British ambient techno group The Orb (he is credited for such tracks als “Little Fluffy Clouds” and “Blue Room“), as well as playing in the infamous Berlin Tresor club. For Tresor Records he worked among others with the first wave of Detroit techno dj’s, such as Juan Atkins and Blake Baxter.
Fehlmann has a string of albums of his own, moreover, such as Visions of Blah (2002), Lowflow(2004), Honigpumpe(2007) and Gute Luft(2010), all on the Cologne-based German minimal techno Kompakt label. The latter two albums are full of delightful minimal techno music, filled with little sounds and musical textures, like it seems only Germans (or in this case, the Swiss) can create.
So just now, he released the brilliant minimal track “DFM”, which can be listened to over here. As Pitchfork has it:
“DFM” is a reworking of “Du Fehlst Mir”, which was a cut from Fehlmann’s 2002 release, Visions of Blah, and bears all the hallmarks of his classical counterparts, as scrapes of discordant violin and twinkly vibraphone ripple across his gently burbling surface drones. It’s around the 3:40 mark of the nine-minute-plus track that the ideas really coalesce into something magical, as a burst of percussion lifts the song beyond its ambient origins and sends it twirling into airy wonderment. Impressively, there’s a lightness of touch at work here despite the classical riches at Fehlmann’s fingertips, and the song never feels cluttered despite the dovetailing strings and loops in its final third, which reaches a heart-crushing crescendo via a delicately worked violin coda somewhat reminiscent of Sean O’Hagan’s arrangements for Stereolab.
Listen to it. Ideal for chilling in the grass in the sun.
Some interesting visuals and sounds in this trailer. Download the beta here.
FRACT is an atmospheric adventure game set in an abstract forgotten world of analog sounds, samples and glitches. Myst + Rez with a heavy dose of Tron.
FRACT is a first person puzzle game – very much in the vein of the classic Myst titles. The player is let loose into an abstract world built on sound and structures inspired by electronic music. It’s up to the player to resurrect and revive the long forgotten machinery of this musical world, in order to unlock its’ inner workings!
NEWPORT, RI—Audience members at the Newport Rock Festival were “outraged” Monday when rock icon Bob Dylan followed up such classic hits as “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Maggie’s Farm” with an electronica set composed of atonal drones, hyperactive drumbeats, and the repeated mechanized lyric “Dance to the club life!” “We came here to see the authentic Dylan, the one with the Stratocaster guitar and signature wild blues-rock band behind him,” audience member Robert Hochschild said. “Then he walks out with these puffy headphones, some turntables, and a laptop? The guy’s a Judas.” When asked later about his musical transformation by reporters, Dylan said he had nothing to say about the beats he programs, he just programs them.
Last week I showed you a speech by the brilliant musical inovator Karl Heinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). Now take a look at the following interview by Wire magazine. It was taken in 1995, when Stockhausen was still creating sounds and making music. Prior to the interview they sent some tapes with “modern” electronic music from that era, including artists like Aphex Twin, Plastikman and Scanner. Then they asked Stockhausen, the “inventor of electronic music” in the 50′s, about his opinion on the songs.
Can we talk about the music we sent you? It was very good of you to listen
to it. I wonder if you could give some advice to these musicians.
I wish those musicians would not allow themselves any repetitions, and would
go faster in developing their ideas or their findings, because I don’t
appreciate at all this permanent repetitive language. It is like someone who
is stuttering all the time, and can’t get words out of his mouth. I think
musicians should have very concise figures and not rely on this fashionable
psychology. I don’t like psychology whatsoever: using music like a drug is
stupid. One shouldn’t do that : music is the product of the highest human
intelligence, and of the best senses, the listening senses and of
imagination and intuition.And as soon as it becomes just a means for
ambiance, as we say, environment, or for being used for certain purposes,
then music becomes a whore, and one should not allow that really; one should
not serve any existing demands or in particular not commercial values. That
would be terrible: that is selling out the music.
I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be
very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic
music, and a young boy’s voice singing with himself. Because he would then
immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would look
for changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeat
any rhythm if it were varied to some extent and if it did not have a
direction in its sequence of variations.
And the other composer – musician, I don’t know if they call themselves
They’re sometimes called ‘sound artists’…
No, ‘Technocrats’, you called them. He’s called Plasticman, and in public,
Richie Hawtin. It starts with 30 or 40 – I don’t know, I haven’t counted
them – fifths in parallel, always the same perfect fifths, you see, changing
from one to the next, and then comes in hundreds of repetitions of one small
section of an African rhythm: duh-duh-dum, etc, and I think it would be
helpful if he listened to Cycle for percussion, which is only a 15 minute
long piece of mine for a percussionist, but there he will have a hell to
understand the rhythms, and I think he will get a taste for very interesting
non-metric and non-periodic rhythms. I know that he wants to have a special
effect in dancing bars, or wherever it is, on the public who like to dream
away with such repetitions, but he should be very careful, because the
public will sell him out immediately for something else, if a new kind of
musical drug is on the market. So he should be very careful and separate as
soon as possible from the belief in this kind of public.
The other is Robin Rimbaud, Scanner, I’ve heard, with radio noises. He is
very experimental, because he is searching in a realm of sound which is not
usually used for music. But I think he should transform more what he finds.
He leaves it too much in a raw state. He has a good sense of atmosphere, but
he is too repetitive again. So let him listen to my work Hymnen. There are
found objects – a lot like he finds with his scanner, you see. But I think
he should learn from the art of transformation, so that what you find sounds
completely new, as I sometimes say, like an apple on the moon.
Aphex Twin then reacted to Stockhausen’s remarks at a later time:
Following Stockhausen’s advice to our Technocrats, we decided to play them
excerpts from the compositions which the German composer suggested they
listen to and learn from. Here’s what they had to say…
Aphex Twin on Song Of The Youth
Mental! I’ve heard that song before; I like it. I didn’t agree with him. I
thought he should listen to a couple of tracks of mine: “Didgeridoo“, then
he’d stop making abstract, random patterns you can’t dance to. Do you reckon
he can dance? You could dance to Song of the Youth, but it hasn’t got a
groove in it, there’s no bassline. I know it was probably made in the 50s,
but I’ve got plenty of wicked percussion records made in the 50s that are
awesome to dance to. And they’ve got basslines. I could remix it: I don’t
know about making it better; I wouldn’t want to make it into a dance
version, but I could probably make it a bit more anally technical. But I’m
sure he could these days, because tape is really slow. I used to do things
like that with tape, but it does take forever, and I’d never do anything
like that again with tape. Once you’ve got your computer sorted out, it
pisses all over stuff like that, you can do stuff so fast. It has a
different sound, but a bit more anal.
I haven’t heard anything new by him; the last thing was a vocal record,
Stimmung, and I didn’t really like that. Would I take his comments to heart?
The ideal thing would be to meet him in a room and have a wicked discussion.
For all I know, he could be taking the piss. It’s a bit hard to have a
discussion with someone via other people.
I don’t think I care about what he thinks. It is interesting, but it’s
disappointing, because you’d imagine he’d say that anyway. It wasn’t
anything surprising. I don’t know anything about the guy, but I expected him
to have that sort of attitude. Loops are good to dance to…
He should hang out with me and my mates: that would be a laugh. I’d be quite
into having him around.