The Brilliant B Sides of Vinyl

(click play to add color to the text) 😉

I was going through my vinyl collection the other day, listening to some old disco and early house stuff and just when I thought that I’ve played some tunes to death, I stumbled upon some really good tracks on the B sides of some of the vinyls.

While digitizing these new gems, I was thinking how much our listening and digging habits have changed. In the early days of vinyl we would normally fall in love with 1-2 tunes from the record and would buy it, regardless of the other “sub par” tunes that came along with it, only to discover later that those “sub par” tracks were actually pretty damn good, but they got overshadowed by the strong first impressions the main tunes left in us.

Now, when we have a slew of new digital releases coming out almost every single hour, this behavior is not very common anymore. And, of course, we do not distinguish between A & B sides in an online store, we just have tracks and we tend to buy each individual track vs. the whole EP. Because – you know – we like only 1 track from the whole release and why should we buy the whole release, right? Well, right, and it’s perfectly right even, only this is where we exclude even the chance of discovering something really great a few days down the road because we didn’t buy the whole EP with all the other “superfluous” tracks that we didn’t care about initially.

Our listening and research habits have changed, or, to be more exact, they are influenced by the medium with which we choose to explore and discover.

This is not a digital vs. analog debate, at this time this debate seems completely irrelevant to me. The choice is there for anyone to pick what works best. And to be fair, the B side serendipity that exists with records has a digital equivalent in the form of algorithmic recommendations of what one might potentially enjoy based on previous purchases, and one cannot deny that this is not a great way for discovering some great new things. Nevertheless, one needs to stop and consider the nature of the algorithm and whether it will steer you only in one direction, rather than suggest something completely random and not typical for you and which you might have only discovered by accident.

Algorithms…something to think about.

 

An homage to Disco – the most blissed out musical genre in history

It was during the Easter break that I was digging through my old record collection and rediscovered the beauty and magic that is Disco. Talk about synchronicity and coincidance eh? (Typo intended).

It was this Double Exposure track that catapulted me in a flash straight to cloud 9:

If you’re not familiar with this track, and if you’re a kid of the 90’s, then you might remember the remix M&S and the Girl Nextdoor did in 2001, very cleverly titled as “Salsoul Nugget”. (For those of you that are still riding the synchronicity wave, I would like to add a bit more to the mystique by noting that that M&S remix was also released in April).

Salsoul Records is one of the giant record labels of the disco era. If it wasn’t for this New York based label then house music as such would not exist, as it has drawn immense inspiration from it. Obviously it isn’t the one and only disco label — thankfully — but you will notice that a great deal of classic house tunes have sampled some delicious “nuggets” from old Salsoul songs, just like M&S and the Girl Nextdoor.

I mean, just have a quick listen to this:

Sounds familiar? Do you remember this? That’s Salsoul Records for you again. But let’s keep things in perspective here, there were tons of independent record labels that released some incredibly awesome disco tunes, so I think it would be only accurate to say that those who went and dug deeper were rewarded with some gems that only few people knew about.

Around 2007 – 2008 a whole new genre, that was based on sampling old and little-known disco records, started to gain traction. This music got coined as Slow-House and Nu-Disco. One of my favorites from this era was this one:

Two blokes from Scotland, sampling, mangling, editing, filtering and adding 21st century awesome sauce to some obscure, old disco tune.

The influence and might of disco is undeniable, whole genres were created from just tiny bits of it. Something incredibly strong and wonderful was unleashed in the 70’s and it is still percolating and influencing our lives to this day, taking us to incredible new highs with old and borrowed vibes through a contemporary mind’s eye.

Peace and love.

m.m.

I think an encore would be warranted here, ciao 🙂

Busting the myth of the writer’s block

Just like any other myth, the infamous writer’s block myth needs to get busted and re-busted from time to time. So in this post you will read either something you’ve read before, had a hunch about but haven’t quite had the chance to put into words, or if it’s the first time you’re reading a post on this topic, then I hope you’ll find something that will get you “out” of that particular state you are trying to resist so hard.

(click play and read on if you’d like to have some color in your mind ;))

A few years ago, on a Spring afternoon in a Paris cafĂ© -I know what you’re thinking.. that this smells like the start of your clichĂ©d romantic story that takes place in Paris, but it isn’t- I remember meeting this very strange guy who introduced himself as “Lothar” to me. A fairly normal occurrence in a big city like Paris where it’s very easy to meet people, and where it’s also a common practice to give fake names. It’s all fun and there is rarely any bad intention behind it, and, to be honest, I don’t even remember what I told him my name was.

What started off as your standard small talk between two random people developed into a very deep and philosophical conversation (as weird as it might sound, this too is fairly common in Paris). It turned out that both “Lothar” and “I” shared the same interests with regards to philosophical thought, we discussed Cusanus, Nietzsche, Zen Buddhism, Dave Chappelle and Jay Z, took the piss of Rousseau, Kant, Lady Gaga and Dr. Sommer Team of the German teenage magazine Bravo. It was a wild roller coaster ride filled with incredible laughter and moments of deep insight only to be followed with outrageous laughter again. As we danced all over the place and meshed all sorts of subjects, it was only a question of time on when we would bust the myth of writer’s block in art.

According to him, when artists complain about how they feel “depressed” or “uninspired” or “have nothing to tell” is all “bullshit” -try reading bullshit with a thick German accent. “You have to keep doing. You have to do what you feel like doing; if you feel depressed write about that, if you’re exalted write about that, but don’t just wallow around in how “uninspired” you feel”. And I agree with what he said, because inspiration is really everywhere, it’s just a matter of looking in a certain way.

The thing that happens during writer’s block is that we tend to oppose and resist the flow in which we find ourselves. As artists, we cannot only act on our volition, imposing our will to do something in some specific way, to create something of some specific nature and character. There is a time for going with the flow and there is a time for making waves. As clichĂ© as it might sound, but balance really is key. Yin Yang brothers and sisters, Yin Yang.

So my fellow artists, the next time you feel like you’re going through writer’s block, just try to do whatever it is you feel like doing, even if it’s not “on brand”. Which is complete bullshit because the source of those creative energies is the same, so the challenge, in terms of branding, would be to learn to integrate that new aspect into your brand and make it richer and more complete.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re doing everything right and just enjoy every minute.

Peace out,

m.m.

 

Kawaii and the long tail of the web

One of the striking things that I’ve recently noticed is that I keep hearing less and less people complain about how “there is no more good music produced”. Remember those types? There was quite a bit of that talk making the rounds a few years back, but I guess now that folks got more comfortable with exploring the abundance that our ephemeral and elegantly hyperlinked web has to offer, the “problem” of “bad” music has disappeared all by itself. All thanks to the wonderful nature of the long tail and thw prosumer revolution.

(press play and read on, to add some color;) )

It was only a few months ago that I’ve discovered the world of Kawaii and the hot-new-genre-on-the-block vaporwave. Kawaii, as you might have suspected, is intimately related to the Japanese culture, and vaporwave, I would say, would be its very close cousin. Both are characterized by heavy use of samples from Japanese songs, old disco and funk tunes and sounds from all sorts of places including video games. There is a distinct nostalgic and innocent charm to the tracks that manifests itself through the choice of sounds, the visual artifacts of the cover artworks and videos.

A plug for Pepsi you might say, but come on, wouldn’t you love to see those Pepsi cans in stores again? I know I would. (Maybe something worth considering for the folks over at Pepsi ;)) oh and yes, Pepsi!

Apologies for the shameless endorsement above but every blogger knows that an endorsement here and there doesn’t hurt, when done in good taste of course.

Anyway, if you want to explore Kawaii and vaporwave a bit more and discover some really nice tunes then I would suggest to check out the guys listed below on soundcloud and bandcamp. Have fun and do share some tunes that you have freshly fallen in love with!

http://keatscollective.bandcamp.com/

The Risks of Remixing

Blind Justice

Everyone is familiar with the following story:

  1. A group finds an obscure old record in a second hand vinyl store.
  2. They find a 10 second riff that they like.
  3. They Sample it and then build a whole track around that sample and create something that is truly unique and creative.
  4. A record label likes it and releases it

This happened to Djuma Soundsystem, an electronic music duo from Denmark. Only Djuma got sued by the copyright owner of the riff that they sampled, and have been fined by the Danish court for 100 000 Euros, thereby setting a precedent for music copyright cases in Denmark. (read the full story on the Copenhagen post online).

The case is very straightforward yet to some extent it is complicated. The reason the group got sued in the first place was because one of the members contacted the person that owned the copyright to the sample, only after the remix got released.

The band obviously has not made a lot of money from the record as it was released on an underground music label so the copyright fine can be rightfully considered disproportionately big. But on the other hand, the band was aware of what they were doing and should not have let their conscience get to them and should not have started searching for the copyright owner to clear the samples only after they’ve released their rendition.

But it is too late for should haves. Yet in cases like these you just realize how stupid the copyright law really is.

Djuma took a 10 second sample and spent a lot of time and energy on turning the sample into something new, something unique and something very personal. And now a guy comes along, who is not even the creator of the original but just the owner of the copyright, and asks for money?  I guess justice is blind. And so is the judge who made the decision. Because according to him there is no difference between the original and the remix.

Well see for yourself:

The original

The remix (start from 2:20)

Is there a difference? Obviously there is, but I guess the prevalence of the guitar riff throughout the Djuma track makes it identical with the original… Apart from the obvious problem of copyright law being very flimsy, examples like this where underground artists get fined ridiculous amounts of money for using a sample “illegally” also point to copyright law’s nature of limiting artistic freedom of expression and creativity.

Does R&B know it’s not R&B anymore?

It’s been an ongoing trend for some years now that R&B and Hip Hop artists started to collaborate with electronic dance artists. P.Diddy, Flo Rida, Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Rowland and all the other usual suspects have done it and now Rihanna has joined the club too.

Rihanna has always had some elements from dance music in her songs but her latest “we found love” single sounds simply like your standard dance song. So why still call it R&B when it has absolutely nothing to do with it anymore? Well, because electronic dance music has bad PR.

The association with crazy underground club culture, hippies, drugs and sex don’t make it very appealing to the mainstream consumer. Yet the irony in the whole thing is that, in reality, the R&B and Pop world is much more messed up than the EDM scene.

In any case, the trend is undeniable. Pop and R&B are becoming more electronic, much faster and the only thing “organic” that is left in the songs are the vocals. But I am sure that it is just a matter of time before the vocal verses become just one line sentences repeated over and over and over and over again until they lose all their meaning.

Let’s just face it R&B went from Rhythm and Blues to Electro and Trance. Or just ET if you like.

Digital distribution just got easier

Baseware is the name of a new digital distribution company that focuses “on empowering emerging electronic music artists and labels to reach their fans and the global market”.  Based on the limited information that is available on the company’s site, it seems that the company will spread the music of up-and-coming artists and labels to platforms such as “iTunes, Beatport, Spotify, Rdio, Stompy, mobile and tablet applications, and whatever comes next”.  It’s probably not an NGO so all the services will be offered in exchange for some fee, hopefully a reasonable one for up-and-coming producers.

If this is executed well then this will take away the hassle producers have to go through for obtaining ISRC and EAN/UPC codes for their releases in order to put them on iTunes and other digital retail stores.

The details will be revealed on October 20th at the Amsterdam Dance Event so let’s just wait and see how this will unfold.