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tag: i-hop

Feeling the Hand on the Pad in Instrumental Hip-hop

Two tracks from the forthcoming album Subtle Busyness from Philadelphia-based Arcka

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Arcka, aka Shawn Kelly, the artist also known as Arkatron, and formerly as Y?Arcka, has a release, Subtle Busyness, due out shortly on the Twin Springs Tapes label. Two tracks have been posted to the label’s SoundCloud account in advance. Both are instrumental hip-hop, which is where Arcka lives, but they go in distinctly different directions.

“Lunar” is a blissfully steady two-minute beat with dreamy undertones. Nudges in the bass and swirly synthesized, zithery accents entertain psychedelic associations. Put it on repeat.

“Aerofloat” is more characteristic of Arcka, which is to say it’s more difficult to pigeonhole and a rewarding listen for that very reason. Early on the beat slows to a syrupy pause, like a hip-hop train losing steam as it comes into the station, and for an extended period you listen inside the audio, to warped elements and a richly irregular rhythm. Of course, then it nearly flies out of control — though not fully, because Arcka is at the wheel.

Hip-hop production has a reputation for being studio music, and that’s certainly the case with Arcka, who does much of his work on an MPC, the classic rap-music workhorse. However, it’s useful to remember what a tactile machine the MPC is, how beloved its pads are to producers. In “Aerofloat” there are, throughout, these pixie-stick triggers that are just enough off the beat that you can sense the hand of producer. The music of Arcka may be recorded and constructed, cut-up and arranged, but the life blood is self-evident throughout.

Here’s a shot from a few years ago of Arcka cleaning the insides of his well-used MPC:

A photo posted by ARCKATRON (@arckatron) on

The two-track set was first posted at soundcloud.com/twin-springs-tapes. More from Arcka at arckatron.us. More from the Twin Springs label at twinspringstapes.bandcamp.com and facebook.com/twinspringstapes. The album is due out, in a limited edition of 100 tapes, shortly. And here’s an interview I did with Arcka/Kelly, who is based in Philadelhia, back in 2009: “Young Communicator.”

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Police-Siren Violins, White-Noise Beats, Static-Laden Dub

Raz Mesinai is Ghost Producer

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Raz Mesinai has been busily filling out his ghostproducer.bandcamp.com account. On the 11th of the month he posted Freakatone Beats Vol. 1, a collection of broken white noise disguised as funk, 15 tracks that come with their own unique “parameters,” a mix of practical and theoretical constraints. This is Freakatone‘s “Nervous System”:

And these are the freakatone parameters — a beatcraft Oulipo, a downtempo Dogme 95, a drone Fluxus:

  1. The rhythm’s tempo is irrelevant, and can change without warning.

  2. The rhythm is constructed by a simple pattern, chosen for its importance in urban music for centuries, in festivals, ceremonies.

  3. There is no “drop”, however alluding to one is fine.

  4. No overdubs are allowed when producing Freakatone as the key to its power is spontaneity, improvisation and mastering the sound system as an instrument.

  5. Freakatone is often Produced with noise and dissonance in mind. Dissonance is important, and frequencies used are primarily rejected from Main Stream Sound Systems, such as streaming.

  6. Freakatone cannot be performed without a dancing audience.

  7. Noise must be generated within the very sound system used to produce Freakatone, either by feeding back into itself, adding other effect processors to the output of said instrument. Once the noise is revealed, the Producer must not end, but continue on and freak the tone.

The day prior to Freakatone Beats Vol. 1 came Sweet Dreams, Soundboy, a beatless collection of 16 industrial-ambient swaths, some harrowing, others lilting, all serrated. Here is the fourth in the otherwise title-less sequence, one of the set’s relatively lighter pieces, which to say the fear is at the far end of the dark corridor, rather than right in your face:

Especially welcome is the four-part String Quartet for Four Turntables, a Lincoln Center Festival commission in which the “quartet” was in fact four separate parts (two violins, one viola, one cello — the classic quartet format) recorded to vinyl and manipulated by two DJs. Here is part two — check it out around 5:50 when the scraping violin is made to imitate a passing police siren. The collection was posted on October 16:

A brief liner note explains the turntable audio’s provenance:

It was first performed by Dj Olive and Dj Toshio Kajiwara at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City in 2000 but was never recorded or released until now. Mesinai insisted on letting the vinyl sit, uncovered, for 15 years, so that the crackles and pops would be more present.

It dates from 2000, when it was performed alongside work by the X-Ecutioners, as well as a quartet consisting of DJ A. Vee, DJ Frankie, Kuttin’ Kandi, and Christian Marclay playing versions of John Cage’s “Imaginary Landscape No. 5.” I mentioned it here back in 2009. And I interviewed Mesinai back in 2006.

And then there’s the far more expansive and varied Time Is Just an Update, also from October 11, 13 tracks that include attenuated drones, hauntingly sublimated orchestrations, and extremely slow chamber music. This is a track, “Tag Hash,” seemingly made almost entirely from vinyl crackles, repeated and echoed into a dubby matrix:

The music is streaming for free, and available for purchase: $9.99 for Sweet Dreams, SoundBoy (there’s also a $35 “endless cassette” version), $4 for the String Quartet (there’s also a limited-edition $200 vinyl edition), $7 for Time Is Just an Update, and $5 for Freaktone.

Mesinai, a prolific experimental turntablist based in New York City, is at ghostproducer.bandcamp.com and twitter.com/razmesinai.

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Serbian Beats

Jazz breaks over a loping beat, straight outta Paraćin

Perhaps the simple fact of broken jazz samples repeated gently over a loping beat will, someday, lose its charm. But for the time being, the charm remains as powerful as ever. What DJ Krush, and DJ Cam, and DJ Premiere, among others, have provided as a means of lounge-oriented introspection remains a powerful sedative. There’s something about hearing analog-derived materials set on mechanical repeat that is inherently enticing. The repetition draws out their fragile, intricate, unique surface features and turns them into purposeful metric tools. Here, in the track “Collage,” it’s little more than a trap set and an electric piano filtered by the Serbian producer who goes by Ogi Feel the Beat.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/ogiftb. More from Ogi, who’s based in Paraćin, Serbia, at ogifeelthebeat.bandcamp.com.

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Loop These 45 New Seconds from DJ Krush

A brief/endless taste of the forthcoming Butterfly Effect

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Now, 45 seconds isn’t much on which to judge a track, let alone a record. But it’s been over a decade since DJ Krush released an original full-length studio album, 2004’s 寂 -Jaku-, so we’ll take what we can get. A full three years since he last updated his SoundCloud page (soundcloud.com/dj-krush-official) comes a pair of samples from the forthcoming Butterfly Effect.

The lounge-friendly, self-forwardly romantic “Future Correction” is on the more populist end of Krush’s approach to hip-hop/soul production: steady beat, lilting piano, shimmery washes of sound. It’s very much W Hotel lobby music, but a dramatic fissure early on suggests some promise, as do stereoscopic effects and the way that piano at times pierces the background-music veil and risks irritating the ear at a high register.

The real treat is the far more muddy, dire, and percussively inventive “Probability.” I played this on loop for an hour shortly after Krush announced the upload on his Facebook page. At first the track is marked primarily by the fundamental loping beat common to downtempo instrumental hip-hop. But on repeat listens, so much emerges from the darkness: deep glottal chanting, castanet-like finger snaps, backward-masked sweeps of nervous sound, deliciously peculiar sonic squiggles, and many more delectable little touches. After an 11-year lull, the sheer detail of “Probability” is proof that DJ Krush has, in fact, been very, very busy in the recording studio.

Butterfly Effect is due out September 26. “Probability” segment originally posted at soundcloud.com/dj-krush-official. More from Krush at his official page, sus81.jp/djkrush. Bonus: the album cover is by accomplished anime director Koji Morimoto, who cut his teeth on Akira.

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Tokyo Beat Playlist

Collecting the daily ritual of Hideyuki Kuromiya

After two days running posts of elegant beats by Tokyo-based Hideyuki Kuromiya, I corresponded with him, and asked if he might put together a playlist of his beats, so they’re all in one place and easy to follow. He graciously did just that, and he added a new beat for today, “hb24,” in which the vocal sample is more evident than in the prior two. That vocal is a bit of moaning melisma that is crunched between sandpaper percussion, vinyl-skip plosives, and a sharp short-circuit shock. I’m covering these three days in a row because while I occasionally report on regular woodshedding projects by folks like Madeleine Cocolas, Taylor Deupree, and Marcus Fischer, featuring such work in an immediate sequence does a better job of making an impression of the effort involved, which in Kuromiya’s case is daily.

Set of beats originally posted at soundcloud.com/kuromiya-hideyuki. More from Kuromiya, who is based in Tokyo, Japan, at twitter.com/hideyukitchen.

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