Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teengirl Fantasy - Cheaters

I'm late to the draw on this one, I'll admit. If you follow electronic music closely you already know about Teengirl Fantasy's single Cheaters, heard the chattering, etc. For everyone who hasn't heard it (which was me until fiarly recently when I saw all the literature FACT Magazine has written on the song, including being their favorite song of 2010), it's a killer song and I also think a legitimately important song.

First listen to the source material of the main sample, the 1977 single by Love Committee "Cheaters Never Win." The vocals are already pretty damn impressive, not just the delivery but also the lyrics. But, this is a pop song. It's jangly, happy, and upbeat, but it has a dark gravity to it when you listen to the lyrics.

Now listen to Teengirl Fantasy's 2010 single "Cheaters."

Fucking brilliant. These guys take a relatively standard, momentous house beat and then take those vocals from "Cheaters Never Win" and turn them upside down. The result is that those vocals are in a completely new, epic context, rhythmically and tonally, and have much different things to say. Suddenly "they always get it" becomes mantra. The bridge reaches new heights of intensity. Something is telling me that this recording is really important. The obsession with warped soul/R&B samples in electronic music within the past couple years peaks here, folks. This is taking that shit to a whole new level. The "manipulation" is pretty minute. None of the high pitched stuff Burial pioneered and many other artists have experimented with. The pitch is slightly lowered and the sample is chopped up a tiny bit so it fits, but its mostly the same as it was before, just running free in a completely environment.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

.L.W.H. - The Tape Hiss Hooligan

I've heard the Amsterdam public library, Bibliotheek, likened to a colossal Apple store, in sleekness and modernity. I thought the person sitting next to me was watching porn, but it turned out to just be a very PG-13 scene in some tv show which I don't recognize. A lot of people do watch porn in libraries, though, or at least so I'm told. I recall the description of a row of computers labelled "Porn Alley" in a library where my father used to work because there were no security cameras covering the row, and old horny men would flock to this row to do their business or what have you, and the large exmilitary staff member would have to sneak up on these people and scare the crap out of them and warn them not to do that shit anymore. This library has a huge music collection, at least in comparison to the libraries I'm used to raiding the music collections of, though those are public libraries of towns that are much smaller than Amsterdam. They have obscure electronic compilations that I didn't even know people owned, let alone libraries. I'm hoping to come down here with my colossal laptop tomorrow and rip some CDs.

The album that's really striking me now is this album The Tape Hiss Hooligan by producer / independent filmmaker .L.W.H(odge).

It's a hip hop album, and it features many rappers including Main Attrakionz, Squadda B. and Shady Blaze. This is the second hip hop album I've talked about on this blog so far and it certainly won't be the last. It is my belief that from a production standpoint, hip hop and electronic music are very closely related, and that's becoming even more obvious as we continue to have modern beat-smiths like the Brainfeeder crew and others really straddling, blurring the line between the two. It's going to take me several more listens to really get to know The Tape Hiss Hooligan and decide what I think of it, but my first impression is that this guy is a really good producer. He's not doing anything terribly experimental here, really. Most of the other hip hop I've been paying attention to this year definitely is. It's not nearly as three dimentional and bizarre as Shabazz Palaces' Black Up or as rhythmically progressive as Knxwledge's Hexual.Sealings.LP, definitely a far cry from the layered, dramatic beats of Clams Casino. The Tape Hiss Hooligan is, both in beats and rapping, a direct and dirty album, but it's presented in a very classy way. The backing tracks really go all across the board, some minimal and hard hitting, others beautiful and melancholy and others still groovy. The rapping is solid, nothing outwardly spectacular but definitely good, steady and reliable, and also delivered with this world-weary, stoned out casuality. The whole thing's got this gritty, stark, realistic feel to it. It hits an exhilarating high with "Spinning 87," which is just achingly beautiful and groovy as fuck, behind rapping that has real command. I wanted to embed a youtube video of the song in this post but it doesn't even seem to be on youtube yet. YOUTUBE HASNT EVEN HEARD OF IT YET, THATS HOW FUCKING UNDERGROUND THIS ALBUM IS. .L.M.H. really lets this album go its own course, beats setting really distinct atmospheres for the rappers to go to town on. It seems to me like Hodge is communicating things that are different than what the rappers are saying, not necessarily bigger things but parallel things. Part of how he asserts his voice on The Tape Hiss Hooligan is by how he handles the intro, outro and interludes, and I won't try to break that down because they are definitely things you should experience without any prior knowledge of them. He's definitely showing and not telling, which is exactly how you write well and direct well so it makes sense that this methodology translates to music as well. So if you're into hip hop check it out, definitely.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Some important shows.

This past weekend, a group of artists played two shows in Wroclaw, Poland as a part of the European Culture Congress in honor of legendary modern composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The two featured artists were Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and electronic music pioneer Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin. The show that Greenwood collaborated on was on the 9th and the Aphex show was on the 10th. Pitchfork linked up to some videos from both nights, and I will post them here.

This is Aphex's interpretation of Penderecki's seminal piece "Threnody for The Victims of Hiroshima."

And here is a recording of Aphex's reworking of Penderecki's "Polymorphia," entitled "Polymorphia Reloaded."

This particular excerpt seems to be a sort of remix of Avril 14th off of 2001's Drukqs, and it's about as gorgeous as the original, though in a different way.

The fans over at the Aphex Twin board on the We Are The Music Makers forums seem to have compiled the entire show in its various parts for easy (uneasy?) listening. If you liked that Avril 14th mix, the entire thing is there.

Frankly, the entire concert series seems like an amazing idea to me: two legendary modern musical innovators paying homage to a godfather of modern classical music. Putting these artists on the same bill just seems wholly appropriate, and it is wonderful to see both Jonny Greenwood and Richard D. James growing musically into high class professionals. Wonderful stuff.


Another important concert happened over the weekend, specifically on Sunday the 11th, which is a very big day for us Americans. The Wordless Music Orchestra performed a series of pieces at the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. These pieces were thematically focused on loss and remembrance, in honor of the victims of and hardships incurred by the events of 9/11/2001. Among these pieces was "dlp 1.1" by another great composer, William Basinski, off of his album The Disintegration Loops which is very intimately connected with 9/11. You can stream the entire show or individual parts of it over here at NPR.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The past week or so has been a huge blur, distinguished by an overall lack of sleep, a haze of altered states and a flood of new friends, locations and concepts. Amsterdam is beautiful. There are lovely canals (with swans swimming in them) laced with brick alleys and bridges, lined with green trees and gorgeous old buildings.

It is Wednesday and my second day of classes, but I had some trouble finding this morning's class and didn't end up making it. I am signed up for five classes now, but one of them does not start until the next "block" in November, and the way the school works I am required to drop one of them within two weeks. If I happen to drop one of my Tuesday or Thursday classes, I will only have class for two days a week, but this is unlikely. I'm probably going to end up dropping Amsterdam in the Golden Age, a history class that I hear is pretty intense.

There are many subtle differences in Europe/the Netherlands, but it is still a Western country and the basics are pretty much the same. The Dutch people seem very nice and like 85% of them speak English, mostly good English, which is very helpful. I've found that in Europe, I tend to not have full meals so much as modest snacks. My diet has mostly consisted of bread and cheese of various kinds, as well as small amounts of meat, fruit and vegetables. Eating out is incredibly expensive. We went to a mexican restaurant near Centraal and I got a burrito that cost nearly 15 euros, which is f'in ridiculous. Alcohol is nearly as pricey, costing anywhere from 4-7 per drink, so pregaming is simply more economical. Bud seems much more modestly priced, but that might be an illusion of confused exchange rates.

I haven't had as much time to listen to new music since I got here. I did listen to the new Apparat album, The Devil's Walk, and I found that every song sounded like it could be the last song, so I was always asking myself, was that the end? I don't think that is a good sign. I'm listening to the new Plaid album Scintilli now and I'm really impressed with it. Oh yeah, and the new album by the Field is pretty nice too.