Tag: feature

Squarepusher interview

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

I have an interview with the mighty Squarepusher, jazz bassist and musical programming geek par excellence [PDF], in issue #89 of the wonderful audio production magazine Tape Op.

Do you feel that you program like a musician or play like a programmer?

People will talk about “playing with feeling,” but what someone might describe as “feeling” is a particular kind of idiom to me. There are guidelines, and the people who do it most convincingly would probably brush away any kind of suggestion that they’re following guidelines. For a while I was trying to extract that – I was trying to play like a robot, with no feeling whatsoever; to extract all conventional idioms and make it sound totally mechanical, like a sequencer. One of the first things I did in order to achieve that was [record at half-speed and then speed it up], because it completely interferes with human fallibility regarding timing. The whole thing just goes unnaturally tight. That was governed by the influence of programming on my playing, but it’s not the only example. My album Hard Normal Daddy was an example of the process going the other way, trying to program like a player.

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Tape Op is awesome, so if you do not already have a free subscription, please sign up immediately. Squarepusher is also awesome, of course; if you have no idea why I’m so excited about this, start with the material I collected in the cheat sheet addendum.

Cap Yo Ass

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a roundup for eMusic about some of my favorite murder ballads.

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue – Where The Wild Roses Grow

“Why do they keep calling me the wild rose?” she keeps asking. “My name is Elisa.” You know the drill — boy meets girl, boy kills girl, boy plants rose between girl’s teeth. But what makes this so fascinating are the dueling accounts whereby both killer and victim describe in parallel each of the three days leading up to the murder. He says, “I kissed her.” She says, “He hit me with a rock.”

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Unfortunately I couldn’t include it in the roundup, but this article idea came to me while I was listening to “Old Judson,” a fantastic song by Charlottesville songwriter Peyton Tochterman‘s short-lived mid-00′s bluegrass trio Fair Weather Bums, in which peppery mandolin runs and subtle vocal harmonies populate a small world of places and characters only to slowly darken them on the way to the big reveal at the end. I really want more people to hear this.

Morning View

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Moments before the clock runs out on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, here’s an introspective and retrospective piece for the Voice about one of my coping devices at the time. If you like it, you might also proceed on to the companion interview with a somewhat confused rock star.

The most violent guitars turn up on a song about suppressing the urge to retaliate and trusting in cosmic retribution. This, of course, was not the way the 9/11 aftermath played out.

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On Blip Festival’s hard-on for hardware

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

nes-guitar

Well, here I am writing about chiptune music again, which must mean it’s time for the Blip Festival, NYC’s annual video game music bonanza. This time I previewed the lineup with a roundup of the specific game systems and the artists that use them.

Nanoloop 2 for the Game Boy Micro somehow packs unbelievably sophisticated filters and oscillators for subtractive synthesis into a gorgeous minimalist greyscale grid, which makes for one of the most soothing and meditative music composition spaces I’ve yet seen on any platform, bigger dogs like Pro Tools very much included. Nanoloop might actually be the best way for non-chiptune musicians to dip their toes into this world–you can’t very well duct-tape a proper keyboard to your acoustic guitar, now can you?
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Go West

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

high-places

In this week’s Village Voice, a feature on giving up formerly Brooklynite weirdo-pop duo High Places.

Bad news, folks: This new High Places album is easily their best yet. Since they no longer live here, this deals a blow to New York’s collective musical ego, which, quite frankly, might actually need a bit of a takedown post–”Empire State of Mind.” So here goes…
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Ghosts

Friday, February 26th, 2010

alan-lomax

A new piece for eMusic about Alan Lomax’s mammoth new collection of field recordings of Haitian folk music.

Album of the Decade: “Kid A”

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

kid a

From the Department of Obvious Things: there were other contenders here, but I came on fairly late for The L Magazine‘s “albums of the decade” article series and was a little shocked that nobody had already picked it, so I took the not even remotely controversial position that it was Radiohead’s Kid A.

Radiohead, having long cultivated and complained about and composed around these nebulous fears about our souls being liposuctioned out from beneath us — “Heat the pins and stab them in/You have turned me into this/Just wish that it was bullet proof,” and so on — had finally decided that since nobody was quite getting the message, they needed instead to embody it, themselves becoming something too challenging to be ignored, too terrifying not to at least be remembered, whether by way of a temple or a crater. So if you could find an emotion in the throbbing cryogenic Jell-O of “Treefingers,” maybe there was still a heart in there somewhere (by which I’m not really sure whether I mean in you or in the Jell-O, but either way).
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See also:
Ys by Joanna Newsom
The College Dropout by Kanye West
Silent Shout by The Knife
Funeral by The Arcade Fire
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco
The Con by Tegan and Sara

eMusic end-of-decade “Yearbook”

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

yearbook

I’m part of a really cool Yearbook project over at eMusic — they asked ten writers to submit essays about musical trends during one year from the last decade in an attempt to sum it all up. We were basically given carte blanche with regard to possible angles and approaches, so what resulted is an intriguingly varied set of reflections on and refractions of the last ten years, both musical and otherwise.

For example, my piece zeroes in on retro R&B and soul label Daptone Records, which put out some of its strongest in-house records thus far in 2007 while simultaneously helping coax out chart-topping releases from Amy Winehouse and Jay-Z. (This was actually the second time I’ve had a chance to shoot the breeze with Daptone head Gabe Roth, the first being the technically-oriented interview [PDF] I did for Tape Op that year inquiring about his production techniques.)

The other essays are all very much worth your time too, though. I suppose I’ve already done quite enough gushing over eMusic’s editorial crew, but it bears repeating briefly here — these are all writers whose work I’ve been following for years, so I’m delighted to have made the shortlist for this.

Archaeopterock and roll

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

archaeopteryx

Still stuck on the prehistoric animals: my recent profile of indie-pop duo Dinosaur Feathers in the Village Voice works in a quick homage to an old forgotten storybook, one of my childhood favorites, which narrated a day in the life of the highly unusual dino-bird Archaeopteryx. (This here would be the opening illustration.)

“I wanted to create something that seemed sort of fantastical, but when you broke it down into its elements, was still very organic,” explains [frontman Greg] Sullo, who immediately thereafter describes “taking a look back at those old ’50s and ’60s songs and reimagining them with modern technology that the Beatles and Os Mutantes didn’t have.” Either way, Dinosaur Feathers are evolving nicely—from this summer’s free-download Early Morning Risers EP to the full-length scheduled for March—but Sullo still worries about his favorite paleontological theory. “It’ll be interesting to see where that information goes in 20 years,” he says. “I wonder how much of it is getting into literature and textbooks and the sort of books you’d have as a kid. Maybe we can do our part to help.” Not necessary, guys: It’s already out there…
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On Anamanaguchi

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Anamanaguchi

In this week’s Village Voice, I profile Anamanaguchi, a four-piece NYU rock band in which piece #5 is a customized NES console which has been programmed to spit out complicated sequences of lo-fi beeps while the other band members play along with the more obvious instruments.

This is not as nerd-niche-y as it may sound. Ratatat turned into one of last year’s more curious indie-rock success stories by conjuring texturally comparable Fire Flower and 1-UP noises via guitars and keyboards; in 2007, Timbaland himself was caught illegitimately sampling an obscure chiptune composer for a Nelly Furtado backing track. Meanwhile, gamers have also grown more musically engaged through titles like Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution, boosting the career of Guitar Hero–buoyed metalheads DragonForce, suggesting a massive built-in fanbase ripe for the harvesting. If chiptune does finally go mainstream, Anamanaguchi will surely lead the charge.
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