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Saturday, February 21, 2004

Ode On a Digital Boom-Bap 

How do I love electronic music? Let me count the ways. Ever since I first heard Paul Hardcastle's track 19, I was captivated by the possibilities that computers held for making block-rockin' beats. (Pic by the Voyager Interstellar Record.)

Twenty years later, I'm in deeper than ever. I'd say that at least 80% of my music collection is composed of music that is created mostly on computers. (I'm including hip-hop here, since the backbeats are frequently digital.) Classical, jazz, and my sparse country selections are the exceptions to the rule -- and they're in the vast minority.

Remember the cover of Strictly Business? They put themselves in the studio, in front of some computers -- while Run-DMC were in old burnt-out buildings; Eric B. and Rakim were lounging before money and cars; and LL Cool J was b-boying in front of "his" mansion. Idiotic Steve-Martin-dance song notwithstanding, SB was a solid record and it stands the test of time even as it sings the praises of electronic's influence over rap.

Indeed, the two worlds seem to have an intriguing symbiotic relationship -- plenty of DJs these days talk about how Kraftwerk influenced them; and many electronic artists affirm a lifelong love of Public Enemy.

One of the things I love about electronic music is that it (usually) can't be performed by humans. I'm not talking here about precision -- I mean the tempos, the intricacy of the constructions, the samples. Drum 'n' bass has exploded the possibilities of arranging traditional instrument sounds; Omni Trio's Music for the Next Millenium stunned me and stayed locked in my system for months.

Several years ago, I dreamed up this idea for a cool robotics project, and I just wish I had the skills to pull it off: Design a robot (or several) who could play D'n'B music in real time. How could would that be, to hear D'Cruze's "All Night Long" played out with real drums?

I'm on a big electrokick right now because Nate sent me a link to The Grey Album, which I would like much more if I were into Jay-Z. As it is, it's really cool and I like some of the tracks especially ("Encore" is tight); but I'm just not wild about it. As for "the ultimate remix record," I'd have to give the nod to Mad Professor v. Massive Attack.

Then today at MoFi, I stumbled upon Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music. If you've ever wondered what the difference is between trance and breaks; or what makes trip hop different from downbeat, this is the place for you! He's done an incredible job of mapping out the terrain of electronic music, while making it clear that some of the labels -- many of them, in fact -- are amorphous and fluid (and some are just silly). You'll find many, many samples of the different genres so you can yammer on about your favorite sub-sub-sub-genre with the most e'd out raver.

Funny side note: Back during the days of Anna Logg (Anyone remember that one? It had some good tracks that I still listen to once in a while) -- Sarasota, around '98 -- I sent a tape to my friend Karen in Virginia. She's not particularly into digital music, but I was pumped about it, and she was curious. She liked it and played it for her son, who is quite involved in electronic culture. After listening to thirty seconds of the first track, he said: "This guy's from Florida, isn't he?" I never realized the sound of the state was so distinctive.

Since I'm on the topic of myself and my music, I'll go ahead and put a plug in for my work. (I don't do this often, for fear of being obnoxious, narcissistic, or repetitive.) Check out dot com post to download all 16 tracks from my last album. (Actually, I've done a downtempo album since then, but I've never gotten off my butt and released it. One of these days!)


Garrett sent me this a while back, so thanks to him for the original link: 100 Things I'd Do If I Were an Evil Overlord. (The original is here, but the formatting is atrocious.)

Thanks to Diane for linking us to Shards O'Glass!


Check out these fun animated optical illusions. (Click on "Enter" and then "See For Yourself.")

Today I'm listening to: Digitally Imported -- Hardcore!