22 Aug

Latin Drum Grooves

The full drumset is not really a central instrument in Latin music (as opposed to a bunch of percussion instruments), nonetheless many Latin grooves are playable on a drumkit, especially if you add a couple cowbells and woodblocks. Since I play on electronic drums, I can just add whatever sample I want on any of my pads, cymbals or pedals. I’m just getting started with Latin rhythms so here are some useful pointers:

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06 Feb

Apparat – Walls

Walls is one of those albums showing that two decades in, electronic music still has legs. There’s really good stuff coming from Germany these days. I haven’t been in Berlin since about 18 months after the fall of the wall (crap, I can’t remember for sure whether I went there in the summer of ’90 or ’91). By then civilians drove through from West to East unimpeded, but since my father was in the military we had to check in through checkpoint Alpha at the start of the Autobahn. It was the weirdest thing to lose 20 minutes to what was obviously an obsolete remnant of the cold war, what with the thousands of cars driving by freely and Charlie gone. Already different from the experience related by another “military brat” in 1988. In the fall of 1989 I remember feeling elated for Eastern Europe but thinking it would take a generation for Germany to reunite. It was only mildly comforting for my self esteem to be proven so wrong in company of people such as Mitterrand, the French president at the time.
East Berlin at the time was still a ghost town in some places, with drab buildings showing ugly WWII scars, grey figures looking at us through heavy curtains, Trabant testaments to Communist ineptitude. Cranes were starting to rise though and I’m sure it’s a very different city now. Berlin is a sprawling city ten times the size of Paris for just 50% more people, which makes it hard to wrap your head around, sort of Europe’s LA, giving you the cold shoulder and not caring one bit about you.
Remembering this trip makes me think of my late uncle Andr

20 Jan

Midi Madness

The key with digital music gear porn is to only wank to it and resist buying stuff you’re likely to play with for 30 minutes then forget in a closet. Still, here’s some fun stuff:

My fingers drool (controllerism anyone?) but the head and wallet say no. I may buy a Behringer BCF2000 later this year though, it’s a hell of a control surface for $200. We’ll see how Tascam reponds to it. (Maybe they did ? I haven’t followed the latest NAMM news yet.)
Only remotely related but I saw this while reading through a bunch of digital music blogs today: The eSession Experience: Online Recording for All.
Update: the devices I listed above betray my drummer bias, but there’s a bunch of DJ controllers coming to market too. I bought an XP10 a couple years ago but found that you really need to know your tracks before you dare mix them (duh), from their BPM to their mood to their key. See also:

  • Jazzmutant Lemur
  • reacTogon
  • Reactable
  • 15 Jan

    How Much Background Needed to Write Decent Reviews?

    Pitchfork’s review of Burial’s Untrue is mostly on point, though it’s funny to see a music reviewer struggle (or at least only intuit around) with well-known concepts such what a half-time beat is. If you play half-time on the drums, then by definition your accented snare or rimshot will fall on the third beat. That, and the fact Reggae is one of the rhythmic foundations of UK garage make the writer’s puzzlement at this album’s rhythmic structures feel a bit noobish. Feels like someone reviewing a blues album without knowing what a shuffle is. Because I’m such a nice guy, here’s a homework assignment for Philip Sherburne: Gavin Harrison’s Rhythmic Illusions.
    It’s fun to see how often this record ended up in the “best of” 2007 lists. Not that it’s a bad album, but 2-step with IDM fishbowl production values (thank god, because garage can be so cheesy) is basically music from ten years ago. It reminds me of this guy I once heard define funk as a genre from the eighties led by Prince…
    Anyway, I didn’t mean to pick on Pitchfork, and I’m sure I’m sounding pedantic. My point is, if you’re paid to write about music, it helps to know the basics, not just name-drop sub sub-genres of little consequence, all things considered (“speed garage” anyone?).

    27 Dec

    FXPansion BFD2: Oooh, Sexy!

    As hardware improved those last three years, live triggering of PC-based soft samplers has become a reality for edrums players. I’ve been having fun for a while with my Roland TD8 triggering Toontrack DFHS and EZDrummer, but I have to say that the brand new BFD 2 looks very attractive with what looks like strong support for hi-hat and snare nuances. If you think that electronic drums are just toys because they don’t look like good old acoustics, you’re late by at least half a decade. Yes you can play accented triplets and ghost notes on Es.
    By the way I recommend the Vdrums.com forums for people who don’t know much about VSTs and edrums but are interested in finding out.
    Too bad record labels don’t understand they should be in the music business. We so don’t care about records anymore, it’s not even funny. What matters is the underlying data and meta data. Music should be published with tracks split by instrument so that you can play on top of it with whatever instrument you’re playing muted in the original song. It is a testament to their utter failure to reinvent their business that there are just a few dozen drumless tracks available from a couple dedicated drummers such as Tommy Igoe, Dave Weckl or David Garibaldi.
    Unbundling albums into their individual songs is old news and does little to promote music. What would really matter is to unbundle songs in their constituent tracks. And no, the end game is not just remixes and mash-ups. Learn to play music already! This would promote music playing as it’s much easier to keep your motivation up if you can play over music you like — rudiment training by yourself gets old fast.
    Music records should get a clue from the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games (can’t wait to get mine!), or karaoke for that matter, but you can bet they won’t. They’re thinking that everything that’s not a big phat gold album is a tiny niche. Well it is because you make it so, dumbasses. More people playing music means more people buying music, there are strong network effects to be unlocked there. Plus, kids, playing the guitar or drums will get you laid much more than owning the latest Ipod Touch, guaranteed!

    16 Jun

    Icky Thump Thumps, Ain’t Icky

    10 years on, the White Stripes rock on. Their latest album is an instant classic.
    Saying you’re enjoying rock albums is the self-inflicted Carbon 14 for music listeners, right? Well at least I know how to get them before the official release date, so people under 30 who read this, give me a bit of credit, ok? If I had bought the CD I’m sure that would have been the old fart trifecta right there.

    31 May

    Most Satisfying Jazz Listen in Weeks

    It’s been a while since I’ve been really enthusiastic about something I’ve listened to (admittedly for some reason I’ve been less aggressive at consuming new music these days), but Fly, a record released last year by an eponymous jazz trio, really did it for me. Jeff Ballard on drums charges on without overwhelming Larry Grenadier on upright bass and saxophonist Mark Turner. I’d sure like to see them on stage, maybe on a hot summer night in Key West, laid back but focused, with just a slight buzz from a couple rum-based cocktails after a light meal of spicy rice.
    From reggae (Black Uhuru) to pop/rock (The Police) to jazz (countless examples), there’s a lot to be said in favor of trios. Their tightness can provide both space and energy, given proficient and connivent players. Maybe the triumvirat is actually an effective way to manage projects and organizations? (Sorry I suddenly got all Latin on you.)

    29 Jan

    Random Music Recommendations

    It’s been a while since I last posted pointers to music that got my attention, so here we go:

    I can’t recall much else making a striking impression those last couple of months, though admittedly I haven’t finished listening through the whole list of Best of 2004. I’ve tasted lots of good stuff mind you, such as Steve Coleman, Lou Donaldson or Lonnie Liston Smith in the jazz/funk realm, but I could use recommendations, especially in electronic music where nothing seems new or inspiring lately. Meanwhile let’s see what 2004 brought to country music, a neglected part of my collection. But I have to admit it’s going to become harder to discover things radically different from anything I’ve heard.

    15 Oct

    Some Hip-Hop Is Still Hip (Knowing You Don’t Know Much)

    The overwhelming commercialization of hip-hop shouldn’t hide the gems from sight, just like a famous Kenny G doesn’t mean jazz is dying. There’s value in popular mediocrity though: you can quickly tell whether someone knows anything about the genre they profess to love (my readers who praise Eminem will recognize themselves and silently shame themselves into acquiring some taste).
    This week I listened to Cee-Lo‘s first album and to a Sixtoo compilation released earlier this year. Both are well worth the attention, the second is significantly darker than the first (not unlike a DJ Shadow for instance – not that’s there’s anything wrong with that in my book!). What else? Dizzee Rascal’s second record was good so there’s substance behind the hype while De La Soul’s latest was underwhelming. This tells me one thing, I have to discover other new names who got started in the last 5 years or so. Seems there’s a whole wave of quality indie hip-hop I’m only peripherally aware of.
    Being an ecclectic music lover (the soundtrack for this post is Limehouse Blues by Grappelli and Kessel) is a blessing but it also gives you the true measure of your ignorance. It’s a long road before you’re anything but a dabbler in any genre. My mp3 collection is currently at about 61,000 tracks but if I look at the jazz slice within it which accounts for about 21% of the total, well that’s only 1,400 albums or so. Jazz alone is so big that this is but a drop in the sea. Ok, probably a good sample because I started from best-of lists of supposedly essential records and I took it from there in several directions (be bop, fusion of various strands, soft jazz, there are many ways to dice jazz). To put things in perspective, there were 8,000 new jazz CDs published last year alone.
    And of course there’s not just jazz, or just music, or just art, to learn and enjoy and create. The idea that we humans have to die only a little less ignorant than at birth is revolting and it’s our destiny to do something about it.

    14 Aug

    Italian Renaissance Jazz!

    Gianluigi Trovesi - Around Small Fairy Tales

    Gianluigi Trovesi’s Around Small Fairy Tales is an eerie fusion of 16th century Italian music and jazz. If you like both genres, you’ll fall under the spell of this sophisticated breeding, which despite the centuries, sounds uncontrived. When the best of Europe and America meet, the result is Western civilization at its best. Here’s hoping the two continents will keep listening to and learning from each other.