24.9.11

Fusion

This time we're going to talk about Fusion.
Musically, fusion is the joining of multiple styles to create a new one. When you hear the word, you generally think of the styles of the Bitches Brew album by Miles Davis, or Weather Report. The funk/jazz fusion is definitely awesome. But there's plenty of other good joining of genres. Most modern genres of music are fusions of earlier ones.

But even knowing that, there are some interesting ways to merge them. Here are some of my favourites, any new ones I should know about?
Funk Metal.
Orchestral Christmas Metal.
Celtic Punk.
For more of a thematic fusion, Pirate Metal.
The Gorillaz could be considered a band built on different kinds of fusion.
Steampunk Rap.
And for the big finish, Swedish Swing Opera Metal.

Awesome.

21.7.11

Awesome alert

I was introduced to this a few weeks ago, but didn't have time to talk about it much until now. This thing is so cool. It's a neat new way to create electronic music, and beyond just that, it's very trippy to just watch.

The Reactable

It's an interactive, collaborative and all around cool musical instrument. At first glance, a price tag of 9700 Euros seems like a pretty substantial investment, but musical instruments have never been particularly cheap anyway, especially for the good ones. Plus they have mobile apps that simulate it. I am HIGHLY tempted to get the app for my iPad, and I have no skill or experience with electronic music at all, if only because it's so cool and encourages collaboration.

They also seem to have a few installations at some museums and schools to encourage people(especially kids) to make music together, making it intuitively and have fun while doing it. That's pretty awesome.

If you want to see a couple cool videos of it in action, here you go: One and two

Watching it in action, I was immediately reminded of one of the great video games of the previous era that recently got an HD remake: Rez

26.6.11

Writing and delivery

Sometimes there are particular lyrics that are perfectly crafted. Evocative, meaningful, powerful, they hit you in all the right places.
Other times there is a performance by the singer such that no matter what they're singing, it's amazing. Their voice just has that perfect tone, the right emphasis, the testicular/ovarian fortitude to go where the song needs to go. And some very rare times, you get both at once. Great lyrics mixing with great performance is what most songwriters strive for, but few get there. For most, it's a bar or two in a single song where magic happens.

My favourite such moments are as follows, and I'd love to hear some of yours:

I Would Do Anything For Love
I doubt many are surprised by me picking a Meatloaf song. This one in particular is full to the brim of awesome lines combined with great delivery. Some specifics include "Some nights you're breathing fire, and some nights you're carved in ice" (2:00), "Some days I just pray to god of SEX AND DRUMS AND ROCK AND ROLL!" (3:45) and "Will you cater to every fantasy I got? Will you hose me down with holy water if I get too hot?" (6:10)

Always
Okay, I'll try to avoid power ballads after this one. Say what you will about Bon Jovi, he has his moments. The whole song is good, but my favourite line is "Well there ain't no luck in these loaded dice" (4:06). Wicked.

Poison
Gotta love Alice Cooper. My line from this song: "I want to hurt you just to hear you screaming my name!" (1:55) Oh man, that line gives me chills.

The Card Cheat
This whole song is made of this. One of the commenters on this song has the same favourite lines as I: "From The Hundred Years War to the Crimea with the lance and the musket and the Roman spear, to all of those men who have stood with no fear in the service of the King." (1:50)

Hurt
Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails raised a sceptic eyebrow when I first heard of it, but this is amazing. Particular mention goes to: "Beneath the stains of time the feelings disappear. You are someone else, I am stuck right here." (2:09)

This was by no means an exhaustive list. Please add more examples. It never hurts to have more awesome.

15.5.11

Nostalgia filter or technology?

One of the consistent conversations and debates I have with my bandmate Rob is about eras of music, and how much recording technology has to do with perceived quality. To clarify a bit, Rob is a man of the 80s. He loves 80s music, cars, movies, maybe not the fashion, but you get the idea. He loves to talk about how analog recording was far superior to the digital recording of today. It's an interesting topic and he and I have had car rides listening to music and then discussing it.

There is certainly some validity to his argument. When bands used it exclusively, analog recording often gave a sound that is much more whole(encompasses more decibel range, room echo, etc), required less post-production engineering(It took more time, but less usually needed to be done), and the quality of the music was high.

I have two main problems with his argument, though. The first is that he is listening to music through the filter of time. The only consistent way to determine music that is good and long-lasting is if people are still listening to it on a wide basis 5, 10, 20, 50, etc years down the line. Sugar, Sugar was the #1 song of 1969, but I guarantee more people listen to Led Zeppelin's first album these days than the Archies. There was definitely a lot of bad music from the 80s that Rob is not applying his recording technology ears to.

My second problem is analog recording itself. It was(and still is) REALLY expensive to record on analog. In one way, Rob is right, because in order to do it within a reasonable budget and time, you had to be a decent musician, from a technical standpoint anyway. Fewer mistakes while playing meant less time and money wasted. But because of the cost, you needed a lot of money just to get in the door, and labels were the only ones with the capitol to secure enough recording time. This severely limited who got to play on an album, and thus applied another filter even before the time filter arrived.

The beauty of digital recording is how cheap it is. To give a relevant example, a year and a half ago d'Archangel recorded our first song "Situations" in Brian's basement on a laptop. Was it a high quality recording? No, but it was a recording that would have cost thousands of dollars in a studio in the 80s. Recording is still not cheap, even with digital, but it is order of magnitudes cheaper than with analog.

That means that the barrier for entry into the recording business is much lower. That means more studios doing recording, it means more artists getting recorded, and more music for people to listen to. This is a good thing. Yes, it's true that this low barrier means music that many consider just terrible gets produced, released and distributed. But it also means there's a lot of room for parody, homages and other experimental music.

7.5.11

Rammstein

So, with tomorrow being the Rammstein concert, I wanted to take a moment to discuss why I like them and why I'm so excited for this show. To put it in one word, that word would be showmanship. And fire. So two words. Showmanship and fire. Til Lindemann is a pyrotechnics expert and the live shows play to that. Hard.

They are one of the few heavy metal bands to incorporate a keyboard and do it well, the lead singer has an amazingly deep and rich voice, they manage to get different sounds every album(this avoiding the AC/DC syndrome), and are just plain clever with a lot of their lyrics and music videos.

Their song Links 2 3 4 sounds like a "right wing" marching song to a lot of people, if only because it's in German with a marching beat. It's actually about how left wing they are. They can be tongue in cheek, such as with their songs Amerika or Mein Teil. Hell, even their flagship song Du Hast is about marriage vows.

My personal favourite song of theirs is actually one of their newest songs, Haifisch, the video especially. It's a subversion in all kinds of ways, from the oddness of the funeral, to the altered flashbacks to previous music videos, it's a perfect sum up.

I am SO STOKED for this concert.

26.4.11

Best of Chuck's iPod 2

I don't know if this title is particularly appropriate anymore, since my iPod actually died. But I need to actually write something, since I've been busy/lazy/sick and that has cut into blogging time. Busy is good, lazy and sick are less so.

Today, we're going to look at one of my favourite songs of all time from my favourite soundtrack of all time, and the timing is somewhat appropriate: Heaven on Their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar.

If you're unfamiliar with the tale itself, it's a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber about Jesus's final days as told from the perspective of Judas. This song is the opening anthem that establishes the situation and Judas' politics and opinions on it all. But enough exposition, let's analyze.

Lyrics

"I remember when this whole thing began, no talk of God then, we called you a man." It's pretty clear that Judas is very worried about the direction Jesus and his teachings are going, that the message is getting lost in the man. Judas also seems to be fairly genre savvy about the story itself(which shows up later in the more famous song form the musical, Superstar).

""Tables, chair and oaken chests would've suited Jesus best." It's definitely a perspective on Jesus that is not voiced often, describing him more as a great but ambitious man than as the "SON OF GOD!" told everywhere else, wondering if everything would have been better if Jesus had just stayed a carpenter's son.

"It was beautiful but now it's sour." Fundamentally, this song is about difference of vision for an organisation. Judas is more concerned about keeping things going, growing slowly, doing the good they can when they can, and he sees Jesus as someone whose reach exceeds his grasp and endangering things as a result.

Voice

Oh man. Carl Anderson has an AWESOME voice. He conveys both the worry that the tone of the song requires, but there's still a nice edge, foreshadowing Judas' ultimate decisions and fate regarding Jesus.

Form

Very 70s rock with some funk styles, especially in the bass. Has a good swing. An interesting bridge where the time signature changes to 7/8.

But that's most of what I wanted to say about that song. I'll probably have another post this week or early next week.

3.4.11

Bah, busy.

New post coming soon, worry not. In the mean time, enjoy.