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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Monthly Archives: April 2000

Big Beat Boxed

The British label Skint is best known for Fatboy Slim’s hits (“Praise You,” “Rockafeller Skank”), which tend to lay sampled vocals atop the heavy electronic percussion that typifies so-called “big beat” music. The Brassic Beats USA compilation will excite fans of that sound with a dozen cuts that adhere to Fatboy’s formula, like how Midfield General (on “Devil in Sports Casual”) finds unwitting funk in the phrasing of a man who talks about the Satanic purpose of dance music. Or how Dr. Bone (on “I Came Here to Get Ripped”) turns a few plays on the word thumpin'” into a memorable chorus that has more in common with the pub rock of, say, Dave Edmunds than one might want to ponder. Fatboy himself contributes “Sho Nuff,” built around a disco sample, and also remixes the Midfield General track. Electrelane, a relatively traditional rock band (you remember, guitar and drums), lends some diversity to the mix with some ’60s-style organ riffs. Among those also present are Lo Fidelity Allstars, Space Raiders and experimental DJ Cristian Vogel, working with Jamie Liddell under the name Super_Collider. The poppy context provides an opportunity to revel in the rudimentary tweaking of found sounds.

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Dramatic Percussion, Discrete Tones

The self-released Compositions album by New York-based composer Steven (J.) Kane, who studies music at Columbia University, contains a mix of acoustic and electronic work. The acoustic music is contemporary classical: relatively a-temporal in its relaxation of metrical constraint, but more melodic than that of the composers whom it suggests (Olivier Messiaen, Morton Feldman and John Cage among them); at times, Kane’s dramatic percussion and tantalizingly placed notes recall the more experimental soundtracks of composers Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin. Three of the album’s eight tracks are experimental tape works, titled “Scratch,” “2′ 10″” and “La Machina Verde in Stereophonic Hi-Fi (aka Destination Battlestar).” Though the array of static and otherwise unrecognizable sonic elements aren’t directly reminiscent of the acoustic tracks’ instrumentation (violin and orchestra; flute, clarinet, harp and percussion; clarinet and string quartet), the parallel between the two styles is fascinating to observe, especially in Kane’s focus on surprisingly placed discrete tones, which tend to punctuate his music. “2′ 20″” appears to present highly distressed vocal material, and the effect of the overlaid sounds can be truly frightening. “La Machina” works campy TV and radio samples into the mix. (A RealAudio file of “Scratch,” the most patient of the three electronic pieces, is available at the following link.)

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