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Music Production: Remixes
11/09/2005 Remixes: Thrilljockey

A few days before this, a friend emailed to point out that there was a little contest going on over at Thrilljockey. While I've been intensely busy, it made sense to throw something together, so rather late the night before the due date, I pulled a bunch of the Thrilljockey stuff in the collection (Tortoise, Brokeback, and Tom Verlaine's Warm and Cool, which has been reissued on this fine label. I grabbed a few loops I liked (notably the drum beat from "Seneca" on Tortoise's Standards, some classic TV moments from "Saucer Crash" and "Sor Juanna," and some other nice stuff), dropped them into Ableton Live and an hour or two later, had something worth checking out.

Then I went back and read the rules again--they didn't want .mp3s necessarily, but were mainly looking for lists of pieces to play simultaneously (or instructions as to who to offset them). OK, so I overachieved. I wrote out a recipe, more or less:


Seneca from Tortoise - Standards
Saucer Crash from Tom Verlaine - Warm and Cool
Glass Museum from Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die
Lives of the Rhythm Experts from Brokeback - Morse Code in the Modern Age
Flat Handed and on the Wing from Brokeback - Morse Code in the Modern Age
Dear Grandma and Grandpa from Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die
Sor Juanna from Tom Verlaine - Warm and Cool
The drum beat a minute into "Seneca" goes with the organ drone of "Lives of the Rhythm Experts," embellished by bits of "Saucer Crash" and snippets of "Glass Museum." Bring "Sor Juanna" in at 20 seconds, and scroll around through the solo of "Saucer Crash." Then layer the drones of "Lives of the Rhythm Experts" and "Dear Grandma and Grandpa." End everything but "Dear Grandma and Grandpa," and layer over it the end of "Flat Handed and on the Wing."
I included a link to the mp3. After a week or so, I saw that someone from Thrilljockey had checked it out, and the next day I learned I'd gotten one of the second place slots. (I got the OOIOO canvas 12" record tote bag, and they threw in a "from the desk of Helen Bach" notepad.) More notably, they linked to the .mp3, so it's cool for me to link to it here.

In retrospect, the second quote from "Saucer Crash" toward the end was a mistake, but overall it hangs together rather well, and I really like the ending combination of the Brokeback and Tortoise drones. Thanks to Thrilljockey for digging it, too. And, hey, free tote bag.

05/07/2004 Remixes: Bring Me the Lion

Being in a bit of a remix frame of mind, I couldn't restrain myself from entering this spring's Bowie mash-up contest. As part of the rules/promotion for the latest album, one had to choose at least one new Bowie song. Sadly, they're largely uncompelling, but I picked "Bring Me the Disco King," which had a decent trip-hoppy vibe, and still had some dynamic range left in it--it's astonishing; everything else is squashed flat and clipped all to hell.

Perhaps inevitably, his people didn't dig what I was doing, and it never got to the finals. The general concept seems to have been taking two Bowie songs (one new one required), beat-matching them, and playing a bar or two from one, a bar or two from the other, blah blah blah. It seemed waaaay too easy, so I got rather more granular. What they wanted was people taping pages from two books together, but I was more interested in slicing things up at the letter and serif level. That's a challenge.

I imported the new tune sample into Ableton Live, along with some other stuff from "Heroes." I went through the tunes looking for good little loops, and isolated some in an .aiff editor, but in practice I ended up grabbing bits from the full tracks from within Live. I took a basic loop from the new track to set up a reference groove, and then put the other stuff over the top. Initially, it concentrates on that groove, but I then drop out pieces, throw in the other stuff, and torture the samples with pitch and time distortions. I couldn't use Live's grid feature, though, as a lot of what I was doing required very small samples arranged at brief intervals--I went all IDM on this stuff. I think it hangs together, even though the contest people weren't into it.

Until I'm told otherwise, the result can be found here.

03/30/2004 Remixes: Red Fiber

A month ago, I was at the Life In Balance CD release party at the Quiet Storm coffeehouse along with Jeff Kowal and Ben Cox, and it was quite a nice evening, although it was also the first night of the Evil Cold which claimed my voice for the following week. At one point, Life in Balance's Steve Sciulli bantered with the audience, and someone made The Ironic Song Request for Skynyrd's "Freebird." People chuckled, and Jeff said to me (ironically), "you know, I'd like to hear you remix the guitar solo from 'Freebird.'" Being the obstinate, perverse type I am, I thought, yeah, that would be interesting. So I did it.

The general approach was to go through the song, find loopable snippets, and then organize them in Ableton Live into different combinations I can flip between as scenes. The original idea was to capture a live performance of it, although the show I first did it at had sub-optimal monitoring, so I stayed up a bit later once I got home and did the canonical version. One variation went one iteration too long, so I edited down the two-track result. It begins ambient, and then gradually adds more signature licks until it's obvious what we're dealing with. Parts of it sound like Glenn Branca guitar-army stuff; others sound like brain-damaged boogie. Mr. Funky points out it's kind of like the guitar afficionado version of what breakbeat folks do. It was fun.

Ironically, when I ran the piece by Jeff, he didn't recognize the source. A month had passed, and he hadn't expected me to do this. An entertainment lawyer's pointed out that I can't sell this, but you can hear "Red Fiber" for nothing. Enjoy. (And if you find it interesting, drop me a line.)

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