Saturday, 1 December 2012

SINGER WANTED

I don't subscribe to either false modesty or over confidence, so when I say I'm a talented vocalist I genuinely feel it to be so and I've yet to hear otherwise.

No idea who that man is, seemed funny to me though
- thanks google image search.

I'm a relatively decent guitarist in that I nail a tasty sixteenth note-funk chop-strum eh thing and can pentatonic up a solo like pretty much any other adequate player, just don't ask me to transpose on the fly.
That sentence itself lets you know I have a fairly vague grasp on music theory, yet a grasp nonetheless.
I've written and produced a lot of music from singer/songwriter stuff through to banging techno, but to be totally honest with myself, none of it is particularly original or special. Only my abstract work is of any significant value, to my mind at least.

What's my point?

Well, basically that I love singing and I do it well and I want to sing. And I want to sing well. just... how?

Bear with me for a minute...

Albeit untrained, my voice is very versatile and I have quite the range (3 and a half octaves starting from an octave below middle c, as I write - just checked). But! Working alone I have rarely utilised the full scope my voice actually offers.

In musical composition I am 'melodically challenged' for a start. My songwriting style begs for a particular style of singing which either sounds too Bono (very much to my chagrin) or Nick Drake; Jeff Buckley at best (which, although I do appreciate, I realise is derivative and limiting).
I have rarely found a place for proper vocals in my electronic productions, and when I do, I still slip into that same rut of Bono-esque vocal style. The fact that I can sing like a rock god or disco diva does not bear influence on how I allow myself to sing in my own work. I could quite squarely place the blame for this on my lyrics, the themes of which invite a more sombre tone in the vocal.

What I need, or more specifically, what my voice needs, is external influence. A collaboration with a person or people who can provide decent melody and other material (including lyrics or at least an alternative perspective to jar my lyric writing style) as well as guidance and direction (sing that *this* way with more 'gruffness' etc.).

Why don't I just answer a 'SINGER WANTED' ad?

Many reasons.
First and foremost a band without a singer is a band. And that band have a style of music but the last thing I want is to commit to being a rock or soul or idfk, reggae singer (*shudder*). I'm looking for a genuine creative collaboration where the artists in question come together at the same level bringing various qualities to the 'mix', not to fill a space at the front of a stage.... which is not to say I wouldn't enjoy performing in a band if the format commanded such a thing.

Second, a band who require a singer usually require that singer to be a lyricist. Yes, I'm up for collaborating on lyrics, but as discussed, me writing them alone results in that limited vocal style I described.

Thirdly etc. blah blah many other excuses like "they'll be dicks and hate me and I won't like them either and it'll be awkward and they'll all be mid-twenties at the oldest and I wouldn't fit the image and they're crap anyway and it would be weird fuck that shit and I don't audition for nobody tyvm".

Any ideas? Sparked any inspiration for a project? Know someone or people on the same vibe looking for the likes of yerz trooly?

Comments, interest and suggestions are welcome.
The reason I post this here is because I knew it would sit better here than the facebook group format from which most of the views for this post will come; plus I can forward the link to people outside of our group to have a peruse.

Thanks for reading guys! And if you just happened across this, thanks as well and I invite your feedback too.
Hopefully I'll be posting an update in the near future.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Apropos of nothing

If you are using Windows 7 and you are an adventurous sort/bored out of your mind, try this:
  1. Install http://www.stardock.com/products/objectdock/
  2. Set objectdock to "Load at Startup" and "Hide the Windows Taskbar". This is in the settings tab.
  3. Install http://insentient.net/
  4. Change the shortcut for "begin session" to "Alt + Tab". Can be found in the "Shortcuts" tab of Switcher.
You are welcome.

What you have gained:
  1. Way more screen real estate.
  2. No eye straining ugly taskbar nonsense, less clutter and a more relaxing environment.
  3. Way better task switching.
  4. Computer-Tech-Fu™ kudos.
Disclaimer: This may break your computer setup. This may leave you in a bewildered and confused state staring mindlessly into your computer screen.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Polyrhythms


What are they and why should you care? According to the New Harvard Dictionary of Music:

"Polyrhythm is the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms, that are not readily perceived as deriving from one another, or as simple manifestations of the same meter."

A verbose way of saying two or more pulses that start and finish together. I prefer their explanation. Rather than try to explain it, the wiki link for polyrhythms and a nice intro tutorial.

Not only do they sound great as rhythmic patterns in their own right, they are found everywhere in music, from Chopin to Meshuggah, ABBA to Planet X. Polyrhythms can be a pain, as the concept is quite simple but performing them isn't. It's the old, pat-your-head-with-your-left-hand-and-rub-your-belly-with-your-right-hand-at-the-same-time thing.

And here comes the plug...



A free Android app on Google Play that helps you learn and understand polyrhythms.

The polyrhythm is visualised using the beat circle shown at the centre of the screen. This circle contains two types of beats. The beats are represented by coloured shapes placed along the circle's circumference, and are colour coded green or blue. When the green beat is heard you tap the screen on the word "Green", and likewise when the blue beat is heard, tap the word "Blue". When you are happy you understand the polyrhythm you just stop tapping and the application will tell you how well you did.

There's also a paid version ;)


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New Music

In terms of music, I sometimes struggle as a listener. Of the very little TV and radio I'm exposed to, not a whole lot is catching my attention. I could end the post here, but I won't because I found a temporary reprieve from the colourless drone emanating from the media devices around me.


If you have not already, get your hands dirty. By hands, I mean ears.

To get you started, I've compiled a list of artists you may want to listen to.

http://soundcloud.com/thejivemonkeycartel
http://soundcloud.com/derek-cornett
http://soundcloud.com/alexpfeffer
http://soundcloud.com/andybenz
http://soundcloud.com/ilkae
http://soundcloud.com/chickcorea
http://soundcloud.com/dj-paternoster
http://soundcloud.com/dave-mckeown
http://soundcloud.com/gary-willis
http://soundcloud.com/vim
http://soundcloud.com/adimiron
http://soundcloud.com/mike-leghorn
http://soundcloud.com/matthew-whiteside
http://soundcloud.com/pocvecem
http://soundcloud.com/rudolf-schmitt
http://soundcloud.com/torbenhansen

Also, if soundcloud isn't your thing.

http://shnabubula.bandcamp.com/
http://cloudkicker.bandcamp.com/

Monday, 27 August 2012

Living in the past (living in your head)...



The following is an excerpt from an article by Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda and Lillis (2006). The full reference is given at the end. The article is really dense, but this passage stood out with a sparkling aphoristic quality.
The social demand for reason giving and the practical utility of human symbolic behavior draws the person into attempts to understand and explain psychological events even when this is unnecessary (Hayes, 2002). Contact with the present moment decreases as people begin to live ‘‘in their heads.’’ The conceptualized past and future, and the conceptualized self, gain more regulatory power over behavior, further contributing to inflexibility. For example, it can become more important to be right about who is responsible for personal pain, than it is to live more effectively with the history one has; it can be more important to defend a verbal view of oneself (e.g., being a victim, never being angry, being broken, etc.) than to engage in more workable forms of behavior that do not fit that that verbalization. Furthermore, since emotions and thoughts are commonly used as reasons for other actions, reason-giving tends to draw the person into even more focus on the world within as the proper source of behavioral regulation, further exacerbating experiential avoidance patterns. 
 
Again psychological inflexibility is the result. In the world of overt behavior, this means that long-term desired qualities of life (i.e., values) take a backseat to more immediate goals of being right, looking good, feeling good, defending a conceptualized self, and so on. People lose contact with what they want in life, beyond relief from psychological pain. Patterns of action emerge and gradually dominate in the person’s repertoire that are detached from long-term desired qualities of living. Behavioral repertoires narrow and become less sensitive to the current context as it affords valued actions. Persistence and change in the service of effectiveness is less likely (p. 7).

Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(1), 1–25. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2005.06.006

Friday, 24 August 2012

Amsterdam Purchase #2

Time for some more learnings you may or may not have ever been even mildly inclined to hear about.

First up some abhorrent dance-music genre clarification and categorisation.

Although this album (purchased for 4 euros at Waterlooplein, Amsterdam)...

...is marketed as a 'House music' album, this term is pretty much purely geographical in nature.

Stylistically, this is a 'techno' album.
Because the producers and labels were generally based in Chicago where House music originated, the album was marketed as such. Like House it is directed towards the dancefloor, but unlike House, this music does not particularly draw its influence from disco, nor the dancefloor specifically.

For those of you who don't know your 808's from your 303's, essentially, House music was a way to repopularise and recreate disco, relying heavily on cheap synthesizers and drum machines (as opposed to the expensive live musicians, studio setups, singers and even orchestrations of disco).

Up the way, in neighbouring Detroit, kids were inspired by the mechanical sound of House music and made music whose influence was drawn from the fact that it was purely mechanical or computerised. Their music was for dancing to, sure, but that was not its aim. Its aim was more artistic expression of 'science fiction'/intellectual concept.

THIS, my friends is the essential two differences between the two styles of music. Geographically, and stylistically speaking.


...and stylistically speaking, this is a TECHNO record.

Actually, it's two.


The entire first 'slab' of vinyl is an absolute rehash of previously successful techno ideas. I have never heard of any of the six tracks or anyone associated with them before. By all means I will cast the highly judgemental assumption that they were all made by dudes who heard techno, realised the basics of how it was made and cookie-cut their rip off of what had gone before.
It's essentially six tracks of lads shouting generic phrases about 'jacking' or 'grooving' or some such crap about partying all night long over a drum machine & synth loop already heard done three or four times by two or three other producers in the previous year (1987).
It is total garbage. I should melt it into a bowl and use it as an ashtray for all use it is to me.


Record two however, I had actual optimism for and I was not proven wrong.
Even producers unknown to me came through with some impressive, creative and far more original stuff.

'Give It Up' by One on One Crew, the first track, is a love song (wow, not literally banging on about 'housing you to the bone?' - my mind is blown). And unlike the base double-entendres obviously relating already crude dancing styles to sex, this tune is sexual innuendo parading as spirituality over a thumping beat parading as unabated sensuality.
Also, they even use piano. Wow!

Next is an instrumental chugger, also by One on One Crew (produced by Lesley Lawrence) (who I'd never heard of). It has some lush but light synth-pads and a jingling glock melody with a warm fuzzing bassline as foundation.
It's really very sweet. Maybe to your ears it sounds like that 'repetitive dance music they started doing in the '80's and still sounds the bloody same today', but I can hear the subtle comparisons to Juan Atkins and Mr. Fingers in there, still feeling its own original creativity.

Finally, on this side, is the one tune I was most expectant for.
It's an Armando number, remixed by Mike Dunn. These names may mean nothing to you, but Daft Punk does, right? Know the song 'Teachers' on their first album? Those guys are mentioned in there. And for good reason, they are Jackin' House legends. (yeah, I know I said this was a techno record, just ignore that*).
Armando and Dunn unleash the banging 909 beats over, under and through some loopy acid spasms ('acid' denoting the use of a Roland 303, often set to a fairly random pattern, looped and constantly tweaked to sound futuristic and alien) and the off-beat rhythms of over-driven single-note bassline I have such a muso-boner for. Good work lads, you haven't failed me yet. *jacks body*

*Let's not ignore that as the tune plays out. My distinction here lies in the fact that this music is, like techno, rooted in its machines, yet, is unlike techno, but like disco, pointed directly at the dance floor. However, it doesn't give a fuck for disco or techno... it just wants to make the dancefloor explode with sexual tension. This is Jackin' House.

The final side has two in a row from DJ Pierre (who is also mentioned in 'Teachers'). In his still on-going career, DJ Pierre has not been one to define a specific sound and stick to it, and these two tunes, both released in 1988, confirm that his interests (although purely four-to-the-floor 'House music') encapsulate alternating styles.
First is an acidic love song about the sub-zero chill of infatuation called '20 Below'.
Second, 'Unity' by Phortune, is a mellow instrumental number which starts like an ambient track. The rhythms aren't a far cry from the loungey/tribally (yawn) house often heard in trendy bars even now, but the brilliance of the production is unmistakable. I hear Prince and Michael Jackson in there. I hear Brian Eno. And I hear DJ Pierre's peers and contemporaries too, but indeed, it is an original tune, in an entirely different style to the preceding track, and rightly so, released under an 'alt moniker'.

It was, and still is common practice for dance music producers to use a few, if not several different 'artist names' to release records. The fact that this may be a legal necessity to release for various labels goes hand in hand with the different styles of the different 'production personalities' and suitability of the releases in terms of labels' particular styles.

And in this vein, I have never heard of Nebula, title and artist of the final track on the album. He apparently also released under the moniker Cesare (and went on to be in the Stereo MC's no less). The tune isn't exactly mind-blowing, but the rhythms, minimal synth beeps and use of vocal samples are something which may well could be considered seminal at the time of its release.

And since I am assuming all of the above will sound all the same to you, I will post just that song as a decent sum up of 'Chicago House music' in 1988.



Needs more 'less'


Four euros is a lot to spend on two massive ashtrays, so I for one am bloody thrilled that the second disc turned out to be very impressive. To me anyway.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Amsterdam Purchase #1

('Italo') disco is not my most heterosexual of interests, but I do enjoy a good boogie irrespective of my sexual orientation (straight btw, not that it's any of your business).

Having listened to a record I got in an Amsterdam 'flea market' (Waterlooplein Flea Market) recently called 'Hot Disco Takes - 4' (priced at 7 euros)...

ooh, I wonder what drew my attention to it 


...I decided to (finally) look up Bobby Orlando on the wikeepedjas. Three tracks on the album are credited to Sir Bobbert.

Here is some interesting information about a man you may never have heard of nor had any inclination to even do so.

"Orlando declined a classical music scholarship to pursue his then current musical interest, glam rock. In the late 1970s, his professional interests turned to disco and shortly thereafter, he established his own record label, "O" Records."

That wows me.
It's true that Bobby knows his music. He wrote, arranged, played, sequenced etc. almost everything he ever produced all on his own. On the surface it is not the most complex of music, so it does surprise me to hear he passed up free classical training to go on and produce some of the most 'obvious sounding' tracks ever made.
Makes me want to have a good old proper listen to his work.

This track is on the record I got:



Needs more cowbell


Another fact that surprised me (mostly because I didn't already know) is that Bobby O produced West End Girls.

Needs less Tennant


Hmm!