music tech

We come from the land of the ice and snow

Curi­ous about what songs I've lis­tened to most, I nav­i­gat­ed over to my pro­file and saw this:

Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin -

Do I love "Immi­grant Song?" Yes. Do I imi­tate its open­ing vocal, Robert Plant's rever­ber­at­ing war cry that gets as close to the heart of awe­some­ness as any lyric in the his­to­ry of rock? Fre­quent­ly. But have I lis­tened to it 3,000+ times in the past cou­ple of years? Rough­ly 5x per day?I mean, maybe? But there's some­thing about this ran­dom (and prob­a­bly wrong) sta­tis­tic that makes me won­der what kinds of facts and fig­ures will drift long into the future, passed from disk to disk, tied to my name, dis­cov­ered by future peo­ple and being puz­zled over. Some­one in some ver­sion of the future, comb­ing through old web stats, Immi­grant Song has become, like the nation­al anthem, and this per­son will think, "Doug LeMoine, man. What a maniac."


Friday milkshake: Panda Bear meets Atlas Sound

Fri­day for me usu­al­ly means James Brown and Stere­o­lab, but today it's Pan­da Bear and Atlas Sound, a guy from Deer­hunter. I have been play­ing the 1s and 0s out of their new thing. Warn­ing: It's going to give you a crav­ing to drink a milk­shake with equal parts Beach Boys, organs of the Motown vari­ety, and Ani­mal Col­lec­tive raspy echoes.Atlas Sound guy describes the begin­ning of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, from Brook­lyn Veg­an:

I toured for a peri­od in Europe with Ani­mal Col­lec­tive, whose band dynam­ic was very inspi­ra­tional to be around. On the bus, we often played impro­vised iPod games. We would take turns for­mu­lat­ing a theme or uni­fy­ing con­cept and then play three songs. The goal would be for every­one to try and fig­ure out the theme. Dur­ing one of these games, some­one played "What Am I Going to Do" by the Dovers. I was amazed at the hook — a weird organ thing with drums and elec­tric bass. I men­tioned to Noah that some­one should real­ly sam­ple that riff. He agreed and he taught me a lit­tle about sam­pling and match­ing up beats. This end­ed up as the col­lab­o­ra­tive effort "Walk­a­bout."

Via Tom Haver­ford, aka Randy, aka Aziz Ansari.

music the ancient past

The 90s obviously didn't totally suck

Karp, someone's apartment/bedroom/closet in Atlanta in 1996. This video makes me regret not ral­ly­ing to see them at Gilman Street even more. Thanks for the mem­o­ries, Jacob. PS, you may feel moved to add your own vocal track.

music tech

Simple sounds for hard times

The fall­out of greed and incom­pe­tence is once again trick­ling down to Main Street. Kiss my ass, you greedy Wall Street bas­tards. And you bureau­crats and cronies can kiss my ass, too. Is there any­one out there who thinks beyond the cur­rent eco­nom­ic cycle? Any­one? Is any­one try­ing to do any­thing oth­er than make them­selves rich, or keep their friends in office? Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrg. When I got laid off in 2001, I did a lot of soul-search­ing, ate a lot of Can­cun veg­gie bur­ri­tos (they were $3.29; they're $4.99 now), and did a lot of read­ing at Green Apple. One after­noon, I came across Woody Guthrie's auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Bound for Glo­ry. Now there was a guy who knows a thing or two about hard times. The title is deeply iron­ic, as Guthrie expe­ri­enced a lot of hard­ship, but through it all he had deep con­fi­dence in him­self and deep faith that he would do great things. Greed, incom­pe­tence and bad luck afflict­ed him, (and mil­lions of oth­ers), but life goes on. And if you're a per­son like Woody Guthrie, you take the hard les­son and you turn it into some­thing like Dust Bowl Bal­lads.[You should see a lit­tle Flash play­er below each song title; apolo­gies if you don't. Work­ing on it].

Woody Guthrie, "I ain't got no home" [Download]

[audio:guthrie_home.mp3] Of course, I was nev­er close to being caught out on a lit­er­al road with oth­er lit­er­al­ly dis­placed peo­ple, but this pas­sage deeply affect­ed me:

My broth­ers and my sis­ters are strand­ed on this road,A hot and dusty road that a mil­lion feet have trod;Rich man took my home and drove me from my doorAnd I ain't got no home in this world anymore.

2001 was no Dust Bowl, and I was nowhere near as des­ti­tute as Tom Joad. But the feel­ing of alien­ation and dis­il­lu­sion real­ly rang true to me, the sense that "a mil­lion feet" have trod a much worse path gave me com­fort, I guess. (Guthrie also hat­ed Wall Street bas­tards more than any­one, which gave me a great deal of com­fort). So the next track is all about turn­ing the cor­ner, find­ing hap­pi­ness, and being bound for glo­ry. It's from an incred­i­ble col­lec­tion of music called Art of Field Record­ing, Vol. 1, a col­lec­tion of record­ings made in rur­al homes and church­es over the past 50 years. 

Lawrence McKiver and the McIntosh County Shouters, "Jubilee" [Download]

[audio:mckiver_jubilee.mp3] For me, this track is an excel­lent reminder that a few peo­ple with a lot of spir­it and some knee-slap­ping can make some­thing deeply affect­ing. It doesn't take much. And that's the first step, per­haps, to being bound for glory.

music tech web

Auto-Tune / An evening on the Internets

We have a house guest this week, and we've been doing a lot of hang­ing out while read­ing and lis­ten­ing to music. Last night, the dis­cus­sion turned to Auto-Tune, and it quick­ly revealed the beau­ty of being at least some­what Internet-literate.

Houseguest - Dave ZohrobSpeak­ing of Inter­net-lit­er­ate, this is our house­guest: Dave.

It start­ed with Lil Wayne. I men­tioned to Mara and Dave that Stere­ogum has an irri­tat­ing post about Lil Wayne's use of Auto-Tune on SNL. It was irri­tat­ing because, to me, there's a dif­fer­ence between using Auto-Tune to com­pen­sate for your own inabil­i­ty to hit the notes (e.g., Kel­ly Clark­son in "Since U Been Gone"), and using it to increase the funky quo­tient, as Lil Wayne does in "Lol­lipop." Any­way, Dave recalled a Pitch­fork inter­view with Neko Case in which she has some salty words on the sub­ject of Auto-Tune. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty]

Neko Case: When I hear Auto-Tune on somebody's voice, I don't take them seri­ous­ly. Or you hear some­body like Ali­cia Keys, who I know is pret­ty good, and you'll hear a lit­tle bit of Auto-Tune and you're like, "You're too fuck­ing good for that. Why would you let them do that to you? Don't you know what that means?" It's not an effect like peo­ple try to say, it's for peo­ple like Sha­nia Twain who can't sing.

(It gets even salti­er). Then the con­ver­sa­tion turned to Auto-Tune's first major splash, which was recent­ly dis­cussed in a Sasha Frere-Jones piece in the New York­er [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty]

The first pop­u­lar exam­ple of Auto-Tune's dis­tort­ing effect was Cher's 1998 hit "Believe,†pro­duced by Mark Tay­lor and Bri­an Rawl­ing. Dur­ing the first verse, Auto-Tune makes the phrase "I can't break through†wob­ble so much that it's hard to discern.

Of course, then we had to hear "Believe," so Dave sug­gest­ed Fav­tape. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty] Bin­go; briefly, we revis­it­ed 1998. Then, it seemed like it made sense to lis­ten to Bedhead's cov­er as well. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty] It fea­tures a touch-tone phone as an instrument.So what's the sto­ry with using Auto-Tune on "Believe?" Did the pro­duc­ers seek it out because Cher couldn't hit the notes, or did they just want to get funky? [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty] The Inter­net has your answer, sort of. It's from a 1999 arti­cle in the British mag­a­zine Sound on Sound, but the prob­lem is that the pro­duc­ers don't admit to using Auto-Tune; it was still a trade secret at that point:

The … obvi­ous vocal effect in 'Believe' is the 'tele­phoney' qual­i­ty of Cher's vocal through­out. This idea came from the lady her­self — she'd iden­ti­fied some­thing sim­i­lar on a Roach­ford record and asked Mark if he could repro­duce it.He explains, "Roach­ford uses a restrict­ed band­width, and fil­ters the vocals heav­i­ly so that the top and bot­tom ends are wound off and the whole vocal is slight­ly dis­tort­ed. It took a while to work out exact­ly what it was that Cher liked about this par­tic­u­lar Roach­ford song, but in the end we realised it was the 'tele­phoney' sound. I used the fil­ter sec­tion on my Drawmer DS404 gate on the vocal before it went into the Talk­er to get that effect."

Actu­al­ly, we now know the truth. It was Auto-Tune. All of this hap­pened in about 15 min­utes; we explored the arc of Auto-Tune in pop­u­lar songs, with exam­ples of ear­ly incar­na­tions and deep dis­cus­sion about how and why it was applied. Nice. [tap­pi­ty-tap­pi­ty]