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

Beat Battles Meet the Sitar in the Soundcloud of Doom (MP3s)

Week 205 of the Stones Throw Beat Battles involved a bit of what appears to be Turkish music, a woman’s voice heard over flanging sitar and rattly percussion. In the hands of the Beat Battles crew, those raw materials experience a sonic diaspora, headed every which way. By a rough count, 50 or more different tracks built from the same shared source material were uploaded — presumably each by a different producer.

The first rule of the Beat Battles is “flip the chosen sample any way you want,” which happens here, ranging from pop-ready technofied hip-hop, to old-school afternoon funk by J Dilla acolytes, to some seriously out sounds. It was the late Dilla’s birthday (February 7) that this particular week’s battle coincided with, and today, February 10, is the fifth anniversary of his death, but his influence would have been heard no matter what the calendar read. He hovers over a substantial number of submissions every week.

There’s a special pleasure to just listening to one remix after another, each snagging different parts of the original — a drum sound here, a peculiar inaccuracy in the vocal here, a tiny rifflet there — and making new wholes from them. Here are a handful of favorites from the week 205 bunch:

Thingkyng‘s is something of a suite, opening with warbly, reverse-time samples, moving into a stuttered vocal snippet. It may make better use of the voice than any of the other entries:

My flipped track ( osmaniye ) by Thingkyng

OLOS‘s is a minimalist delight, this razor thin spring-like sound set on repeat against a thumping bass:

Say What, Say What STBB205 by OLOS

The track by uPprhand is the most blatant in its affection for Dilla, who is named repeatedly against a bleat beat that gets sliced with tiny little vocal bits, those narrow moments jutting in like stray memories. It’s a great effect put to good use:

STBB #205- Dilla Reflection by uPprhand

While its stroboscopic back’n’forth can be a bit hard on one’s sense of orientation,a heavy thump of a beat centers everything on G.HahD‘s entry, along with ghostly vocals and a distant wood block:

DwayBuChi-BB205 by G.HahD

“205” by Jondis has the most swing of the bunch, a loping swell that has your head bouncing side to side, using the original material in a manner that may be familiar in its structure but that rejuvenates the form by dropping in unlikely sample selections:

205 by jondis

For more, check out the discussion as the various renditions were uploaded, and read up on the voting process. Since around October 2010, all of the beats have been flowing at (they were previously located at, which is now defunct).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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