I-HOP MP3: Scouring the Internet for free downloads leads to unintended mashups. This often occurs when various websites with embedded background music play simultaneously: a little rhythm here, some beats there, some atmosphere. If websites and pop-up ads persist in including background music, someday we might see the emergence of browser DJs.
Anyhow, as a result of these commonplace chance overlays, discovering a particularly dense and layered, structurally complex track can lead to doubt. Take “B-Boy Portrait in Spain” (MP3), which the Lex Records label posted as a promotional teaser for the album Beat Journey by Dr Who Dat? (That isn’t a question. The punctuation is part of the studio moniker of Jneiro Jarel.) The nearly three-minute piece opens with staggered beats that never quite match up, before being scratched into an extended bit of hazy trumpet, a la late-period Miles Davis, all atmospheric and tonal. There’s so much going on, it seems almost too good to be true. More info at lexrecords.com and jneirojarel.com.
The home page of the estimable, dub-minded label the Agriculture (theagriculture.com) includes a little tagline that casually denotes the company’s aesthetic realm: “roof music.” The phrase suggest an urban refuge, above the fray, which is exactly what the best of the Ag’s releases, from DJ Olive to Sub Dub, have provided. A late July entry on the site mentions the availability of a free, 15-track compilation, the second in its Re:Up series, with no Sub Dub, but plenty of Olive, notably the retro insouciance of “Alley Way/Yard Swing” (MP3), and Wally (check out the fusoid indie pop of “A Stroll Down Sutter Avenue,” MP3), plus Lunchbox, Nettle, David Last and more. Info at theagriculture.com/reup.
Alessandro Bosetti went to Africa and, like many travelers, he brought along some CDs. He also brought along some recording equipment. He played the CDs — which contained largely abstract music by the likes of Kevin Drumm, Ryoji Ikeda and Harry Partch — for locals and he recorded their responses. Then he grafted the two sets of audio together, playing simultaneously what his test audience heard and how they responded, often with imitative zest. To hear children mimic the flutter of microsound, or a single voice echo the rhythms of digital percussion, is to hear electronic music’s equivalent of Graceland, the Paul Simon album that found common ground between American and African pop.
I once had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African vocal group whose performance on Graceland was among the album’s highlights. I asked him what the nonsense syllables were that his group sang, and he explained that he and his group were imitating animals. God knows what animals were imagined by Bosetti’s interviewees.
In the process of constructing what he titled African Feedback, Bosetti has produced what would easily be one of the year’s most compelling documentaries if the audio were accompanied by video, and also one of the year’s best commercial releases… were it not entirely free. A 45-minute rendition of this cross-cultural exploration is available courtesy of the Third Coast Festival (MP3). More info at thirdcoastfestival.org and at Bosetti’s site, melgun.net. A book based on the project is reportedly due out later this year from the publisher Errant Bodies (errantbodies.org). (Special thanks to Aaron Ximm, aka quietamerican.org, for having recommended Bosetti’s African Feedback to me.)
I just created my first command for yubnub, “a (social) command line for the web” (more info at yubnub.org). The command “bpm” in yubnub now searches the artist field at bpmdatabase.com, the user-created database of BPM info (that’s “beats per minute”) for various singles, which is helpful for anyone who likes to create music out of pre-existing music.
Yubnub, like Tivo and RSS, is something so useful that it’s difficult to describe. Just imagine being able to do routine tasks, most of them search-based, from a single webpage. For example, “group aphex twin” in yubnub brings up the listing for Aphex Twin at allmusic.com and “discog autechre” brings up the Autechre discography at discogs.com. (Yubnub isn’t just about search. For example, “random” followed integer X produces a random number between one and X.) In any case, the new “bpm” command now makes the search for the perfect beat a little simpler; it also reveals, unfortunately, that there’s no Kid Koala or Daedelus in the bpmdatabase database, at least not yet.
So many everyday sounds come and go in i-hop, the instrumental realm of hip-hop, most of which is produced entirely in the studio with computers, turntables and found audio cues. There’s the acoustic handshake of a fax or modem, the click of a typewriter in full noir mode, the explosion of gunfire. All of them bring attendant culture associations, social context and unique sonic qualities. Infamy, a film about graffiti culture directed by Doug Pray (whose Scratch documented turntablism), features a theme song by DJ Z-Trip built around that tumble of percussives specific to the jangle of spray paint (MP3). The beat is stealthy yet bold, true to the graffiti artist’s state of mind; the occasional verbal sample appears to have been pulled from the documentary footage. And that sample of the spray can pops up occasionally, like nothing so much as a pair of dice. Since Z-Trip is best known for his pioneering “live mash-up” style, which finds unlikely parallels between various pop songs, it’s welcome opportunity to hear an original composition, this one a collaboration with Garron Chang. More on the film at infamythemovie.com and on Z-Trip at djztrip.com.