The song my group has gone with for the Soundalike Project is In The Summertime by Thirsty Merc. I’m not a huge fan of the song to be honest - I find it a little mundane and uninteresting to research and aim to replicate and whatnot, but it is a good example of a ‘regular’ pop rock song, and there is validity in the fact that many people like and enjoy it, so it is still valuable to critically analyse (every song is I guess!).
The song begins with an intro of just guitar, bass and drums - for 2 bars worth (if the tempo is 78/79bpm as I tapped into Ableton, and the time signature 4/4). The guitar is playing the main riff of the song, in the same style as in the chorus. The rhythm of the riff emphasis the first two eighth notes of the bars (both with dowstrokes), and the ‘three e and a four e and a’, with pick up sounds on the sixteenth notes in between.
The dynamics are quite large for such a small section, before coming right down - the drums drop out as the guitar plays a solo, with the same riff as the verses (a variation on the main riff), for eight bars; playing the up and downbeats throughout. The vocalist has some spoken word moments in this break too. With the bass coming in at the beginning of the eighth bar and the drums, playing the snare and floor tom, coming in on beat three of that of bar - playing eighth notes in unison leading into the verse.
The vocals come in on the last sixteenth beat of the first bar. This is Anacrusis, as the beginning of the vocals, “I”, precedes the first downbeat of the second bar (with “don’t” on beat one of the second bar). The guitar continues the same riff. The drums play a cymbal crash at the beginning of the verse, and continues with a snare, kick and hi-hat rhythm. He plays sixteenth notes on the hi-hat, with snare on beat 2 and ‘3e’, 4, and 4a (where he alternates sometimes between snare and open hi-hat) - this rhythm is syncopated with the guitar.
In the fourth bar, there is a solo hi-hat part of the fourth beat where he plays the sixteenth notes.
The key of the song I would say is E major; believing E to be the root note, and the E major chord to work better than the E minor chord.
The verse goes for only eight bars, and leads into the bridge (or pre-chorus).
The bridge goes for four bars. The E Major chord changes to F# Minor for the first bar (four counts), then A Major for four counts, back to F#minor for four and ending on A major (for two counts). The rhythm of the guitar is also different to the verse, and is grungier than before. The ‘one and’ counts are emphasised, with the drummer playing cymbal on both those counts to add to the feel. At the fourth bar the rhythm stops, with a sixteenth note build up for two counts by all the instruments. At the third count the instruments hit then drop-out to leave the singer to solo the words “take me back to the”.
All the instruments come back in with a crash on the first beat of the chorus. The dynamics of the chorus, and bright feeling, are added to by the drummer playing the bell of the cymbal throughout the chorus (on the sixteenth notes).
B major leads into the chorus, and changes to E major at “sweet times”. The chord progression is as follows:
E major, C#minor, A Major, E Major (approximately two counts / half a bar each), then goes to F# minor at “summertime” (third bar of the chorus), and A major at the second “summertime” (fourth bar of the chorus).
The progression repeats itself for the second part of the chorus. At the end of that part the chord changes to B major for “that is where I’ll be”. The instruments drop out again after the first count of this bar to leave the singer solo.
After the chorus there are two bars of the all the musicians playing the verse parts, then just the guitar playing the riff for a bar, the singer joining in, before the second guitar, bass and drums re-enter with an anacrusis of an open hi-hat.
The second verse has the same rhythm and harmony as the first, but with different lyrics, and only consists of four bars instead of eight, before going again into the bridge.
The second bridge has the same instrumentation as the first.
The second chorus is also the same as the first.
It leads into a guitar solo break, which goes for four bars, with a wild vibe, a lot of crashing cymbals and snare fills and a whiny guitar sound. To contrast the next part, where the vocals are softer and almost talk-like, alone except for some softly played guitar notes with feedback and tremolo for effects in the background.
In the fourth bar of this break, the guitar builds with a crescendo of sixteenth notes, before the drums take over with a solo (of different lengths depending on versions of the song, but this one goes for only two counts). Ending on the third beat of the first bar of chorus three. With the vocalist singing “take me back to the-” solo again.
This chorus has the same format as the others, except that the third count in the eighth bar leads in to another chorus, which is the same again but with small quirks to seperate it from the others and give it a fuller, stronger sound - such as altered vocals on “everything is gonna be alright” and a mini emphasised bass sequence/solo that is brought out in the mix.
The riffs are also more loosely played, with harder hits and a more ‘rough’ sound. This last chorus tries to build a fun-spirited vibe, reminiscent of summer activities etc.
At the end of this chorus they add two extra phrases of “in the summertime” (with a different before finishing with “that is where I’ll be”. Before ending with one final riff (four counts worth) and a unified hit at the end.
In general with the production and mixing, the track is very vocals based. The song isn’t very bass heavy, though it gets more so toward the end of the songs and within the choruses. The drum sound is very clean and crisp, with the high-hats and cymbals being emphasised (with a high, tinny quality). The guitars are more gritty and muddy (especially in the chorus), sitting in and around the middle of the mix.
The sound doesn’t seem altered a lot - I think the producing was focused more on corrective editing and mixing, rather than creative or experimental producing - the song has qualities of a live, normal rock sound, so should be okay to aim to replicate!
I think the hardest part will be replicating the guitar sound because it is very prominent within the song, though not extremely unique so it should be doable!
I plan to research the guitars and guitar equipment used more thoroughly in continuing this assignment!
Well I started this remix with the thought that Ableton was really not a friend of mine - I have previously found the program difficult to work with, and have usually ended up not being hugely pleased with what I have created through it. The remix began quite tiresomely; getting used to the program WHILST aiming to create a cool-sounding product was not easy.
As I progressed through this remix, however, I started to find the program quite satisfying to create music in! I greatly enjoyed making this remix! Ableton enabled me to be creative and experimental, so it’s a good DAW I conclude.. I think I’ll even continue using it of my own accord.
Anyway,To begin with, I worked with the stems I received from Honey Buckets’ original song (Let Me Down); editing the parts and warping them. I made short sequences that I liked and looped them. Once this was done I thought I’d better throw in some music around it… I started by creating my own synthesiser sounds; using Operator and Analog to build simple MIDI loops along to the Vox and Bass parts. This gave me a grasp of where the sound was heading, so it was easier to continue with the additional features.
As I was playing the MIDI parts, I thought the track started sounding like Fame by David Bowie, so naturally thought it would be groovy to add a bit of that brilliant track in there!
I had way too much fun and spent too much time literally messing about with Bowie’s vocals; making strange sounds to add an oddity to the song.
Throughout making this track, I took ear-and-brain-breaks, and also re-centralised by listening to electronically-produced music that I enjoy - especially Alt-J. On an occasion listening to Taro, I thought I’d love to add the very beginning of the track (an absolutely beautiful sound) somewhere in my remix! It flowed well as a bridge between two parts, and a random divergence from the song thus far.
By the end of my arrangement, I realised there were quite a lot of parts and random sounds I had made that I didn’t end up using in the final edit, but it was good to have a selection of musical phrases to choose from - I like arranging music so it made that process more complex and interesting.
Before my final edit, I showed Nick (the friend who gave me the stems from the Honey Bucket recordings) a draft of the song - he 'approved' it, and said how he likes the style of it and how it differs from the original (which is something I wanted, so that's cool).
I'm looking forward to showing the band!
And after all those words, here is the track -
For my EMP remix, I am currently working on a song entitled Let You Down, recorded by a young Melbournian band called Honey Bucket.
As yet, the original song is unreleased, so I cannot link to a published post or anything of the sort, but here is a wav file of an excerpt of the track (produced by Nicholas Elliott) -
I picked the song mainly because I dig the melody, and really love the singer's voice - it's full of feeling and natural genuinity. The whole track's a nice groove too. I'd like to maintain these aspects through my remix, so I am planning to keep the vocals basically identical to the original performance (with a similar, if not same, tempo), like a sample being used by Moby or something (as previously discussed). I also want to incorporate the original bass line, and possibly the guitar part (depending on how it will suit the style of the remix) because it's a great performance.
In terms of a particular remix 'style', there isn't a specific genre or anything I am going to try to emulate, but there are certain artists and songs whose style I enjoy that I aim to draw from... Folks I've spoken about (behind their backs) in my past blog posts - namely the Gorillaz and Radiohead - as well as some I haven't, and also a few here-and-there tracks that inspire me creatively.
I listen to Alt-J Alo-t and that's because their music is so pleasurable to listen to. The balance of their tracks is so pristine, and they have a wonderful integration between acoustic and electronic, to make extremely complex, creative and interesting tunes. Plus the rhythms are absolutely mental! The drummer is extremely unique, and the syncopation throughout the song is completely absorbing.
Hunger Of The Pine has a wonderful undercurrent of intertwining synths that give the song its strong base, and round, full presence (the song also employs an awesome use of sampling: the female vocals, first at 1:20, are from a Miley Cyrus song!)
Hunger Of The Pine, from the LP This Is All Yours (2014).
Tessellate (2012) is just an insanely cool meshing of parts and pieces that individually are great, but even more astonishing in conjunction. I will never fully comprehend the brilliance of the group as artists, and their production team - the music is really at the pinnacle of where I'd like to be production-wise one day.
Tessellate, from the LP An Awesome Wave (2012).
Teardrop is a song I loved from first listen. Its sharpness and lucidity are really alluring, and it has a graceful air to it, whilst being powerfully fervent. The electronica presents as effortless; all the features lay within the mix so at ease and concerted
(and what a great video clip goodness).
Teardrop, by Massive Attack (from Mezzanine, 1998).
This one is a real suave one, and definitely a song that brought EMP to an area of real admiration for me. The opening synth riff hits you immediately, and the funk maintains throughout the track. From the 80s drum-machine fills, to the Jamaican-style steel drum breaks, the wobbly modulating synth that sounds like a video game soundtrack, and the highly reverberant claps - it's a feel-good, loose track full of speckled electronic goodness.
I hope its sense of joy will rub off on the music I make.
Heartbeats by The Knife (from the album Deep Cuts, 2003).
I tried thinking what these songs have in common that draw me to them, and I think it's that they each boast a sort of faultless simplicity and clarity - there's not a great deal of sound invading the ear space at any one time, and you can always focus in on the individual parts.
They are nicely balanced and composed, and thoughtfully arranged... This will also hopefully be a description of the track I am to produce (wishful thinking).
They also mainly have a stand-out riff or melody to hang on to, so I will compose something of the sort, and a rhythm that drives the whole song.
I will depend on these artists and songs to act as guides for this remix of mine, considering this is the first I have ever attempted - I am going to need help, professional help.
I will also be keeping contact with Nicholas, who 'lent' me the this song to remix (also with permission from the band), and he will pass on a draft to the band to give the thumbs up, or the please-start-again-this-is-hideous, or the ol' changed-our-minds-please-leave-our-song-alone one.
Hopefully it is an all okay though, and I will ask for any feedback they can give, to hopefully produce a final product they are happy with! After all, it is their song.
Speaking of 'them', here are the lads on Facebook and Soundcloud !
There are several artists I greatly admire in their ability to effectively use sampling in their music-making. Two of these people are Moby - a.k.a Richard Hall - and Fatboy Slim - a.k.a Quentin Cook.
When I think 'Moby', my mind conjures clean-cut, masterly simple mixes with sombre tones.
He generally uses sampling as a means to heighten the expression he aims for in a song - it's about kindling people's emotions through music for him I think.
And I'd say he is successful in that aspect because there is great unity between the samples and the music he builds around it - it makes the music pleasant to the spirit.
I specifically really love his work on Play (his fifth album, released in 1999). There are such gems on this record, including Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?, Porcelain and Natural Blues.
The story goes that Moby was introduced, by a friend, to a collection of CDs entitled 'Sounds of the South: A Musical Journey from the Georgia Sea Islands to the Mississippi Delta' (1993) - full of field recordings of folk music (made by Alan Lomax).
Listening to the recordings, it is evident why they were so inspiring and intriguing to Moby as samples.
They contain extremely rich and tonally interesting voices, without other instruments cramping the recordings - they're clean vocal takes; lending them well to remixing (with greater space for creative composition and control).
What I find so admirable in the way Moby sampled these traditional vocal performances is how true he kept the samples to their original tone and timbre.
He did not over-produce them, so they have maintained their unique and soulful quality (this also gives Play its identifiable style and tone... Genius).
I like that the singers' vocal performances are therefore still very recognisable as their own.
He gave them new life, and brought them into a contemporary era of music.
You do not need to scour Play's songs very long or far to hear the recordings' influence - they're the crux of the songs. He made them the feature, and it seems as though they were the stimulus for the rest of the music, which sounds based around the sample.
The way the samples are edited, also, using effects such as Reverb and Delay, blends the vocals with the added features, and makes the song sound entirely devised in the same creative space.
Here is Natural Blues (1999), for which Moby sampled Trouble So Hard by Vera Hall (recorded in 1937!); bringing southern American, Gospel-type soul into Electronic music.
I dig when artists can seamlessly blend genres and styles into an alloy of a song - it's creativity at its finest, and interesting because it gives us something different to experience.
In Natural Blues, soul, electronic, pop, blues and gospel are inventively harmonised.
He couples the original sample with devised synthesis - his composed rhythms and melodies - so wonderfully that it somehow brings out the beauty in the original vocal performance - as if, if those vocals were performed today it would be for/with that music (like, Vera Hall would be proud of it-type-thing).
He brought out the meaning in the lyrics, and the sincerity of the original - which is still the shining grace of the tune - and even did so in the film clip; bringing a new context to the authenticity of the original vocals...
It is a very genuine use of sampling I think.
Here's another cool track from Play, where he took a folk-song from Southern America to build a dramatic-sounding, tough hip-hop-style tune.
I think he did it so well that the vocals don't even sound sampled - it presents as if the singing was performed for this track.
The way the music comes in and out, and intertwines with the vocals, and the layering of the synth parts - it's really quite brilliant in my humble opinion.
Another example from the album that shares very similar sampling methods is a real funky song called Honey...
A fellow sampling master of the 90s-00s is Fatboy Slim. I am also a huge fan of his music and sampling, he has made some very timeless Electronic tunes I think.
There are similarities to Moby in the way Fatboy Slim employs sampling, but he also has his own distinct method and style.
Whilst Moby, in Play specifically, often uses particular samples throughout his song that are the significant element (and adds mostly his own instrumentals and synthesis), Fatboy Slim takes a more composite approach; collecting from various sources and having more than one sample featuring in each song.
Fatboy Slim's songs also seem to have more sections - the track varies throughout. Whereas Moby often loops samples over and over; making more sample-repetitive songs (it's quite cool then really, that he can keep our interest despite constantly repeating 8-bars of vocals, for example).
With Praise You, Fatboy Slim incorporates six seperate samples from various sources into the one song. He uses Camille Yarbrough's voice from Take Yo' Praise for the vocals, which have not been over-produced (only slightly sped up). The original sample is clear and unobstructed - like Moby, Fatboy Slim selected vocals that are not surrounded by music (for cruisy re-use).
As for the rest of the song, the main piano riff came from JBL's Sessions LP (I absolutely love how he sourced this!), the feature at 2:20 seconds was taken from the Fat Albert theme song (slowed down), he sampled keys from Lucky Man (the Steve Miller Band) at 2:12, the drums of the song came from Running Back To Me (by Ruby), and, probably most hilariously, the funky guitar riff (first played at 1:17) is from a Mickey Mouse: Disco track.
These six songs sampled are all from the 60s and 70s - like Moby, Fatboy Slim is also into resurrecting past songs.
It's quite unbelievable actually that he managed to integrate all these random and disjointed sources into one flowing piece of music - it's like a puzzle that he managed to fit together perfectly... I'm kind of in awe. It seems fun actually I'd like to try this.
I would be interested to know how and why he sourced the particular samples! Even the organisation alone is praise-worthy - he must have had a sound sample library that he continuously added to, and drew from as he needed.
Other songs from that same era of his also sample a large number of tunes: Gangster Trippin' (1998) sampled sounds from 10 different songs, Weapon Of Choice (2000) - 8 songs, Rockafeller Skank (1998) - 6 songs.
And for a favourite use of sampling, below is an example of Fatboy Slim taking a vocal snippet from the film Strange Days (1995) and making it the chorus of a song, with the perfect touch of beautiful strings from the 1970 song Ashes, the Rain and I (by James Gang).
I think it's one of the most amazing songs ever made.
All sampling examples sourced from the "Who Sampled: Exploring the DNA of Music", and the brilliant website that it is - www.whosampled.com
Gorillaz are just a mighty cool entity, in so many ways. They're a virtual band, and the most successful ever... They're in the Guinness Book of Records for goodness’ sake. Most importantly though, their music is brilliantly innovative, and their use of synthesis is very praise-worthy.
It's the sort of style I'd like to emulate in my own EMP (specifically the Baseline project).
Gorillaz are the brain-child of Damon Albarn, Blur frontman (and all-round pretty genius muso), so the music has a soft/prog-rock, pop vibe, with hints of that funky, spirited Britpop; harking 90s Blur.
Gorillaz creators Jamie Hewlett (Visual Artist/Designer/Animator) and Damon Albarn.
Being a new, contemporary endeavour though, the Gorillaz's music is based more heavily on creativity through digital sound.
Their most recent album, for example, The Fall (2011), was created almost entirely on an iPad (Watkinson, 2011).
Whilst that's extremely impressive, the Gorillaz work I mostly enjoy (especially in the way they use synthesis) is the group’s ‘transitional’ work (I guess you could call it) - where there is a blend between 'real' and 'virtual', analogue and digital.
In general, I prefer when electronic synthesis is used in partnership with acoustic instruments; each imparting their distinctive character to the whole (which then becomes an interesting soundscape of miscellany and assortment).
Gorillaz have proven how perfectly they can balance these two aspects. All the separate parts, whilst being different and often contrasting, have their own space, and perfectly compliment each other (synths often adding to the thickness of an acoustic part).
Synthesis adds depth, as well as speckled diversity to the songs - they do not overtake or outshine... It's a healthy union.
Gorillaz use of analogue and electronic means they are able to perform live, using 'real' instruments and performers, with the electronic and virtual side of their music and image incorporated.
Plastic Beach is the group’s third album (released in 2010) and is an unbelievably creative product of unbelievably interesting collaboration.
Most exciting in my point of view is the inclusion of Paul Simonon of The Clash! The odd and eclectic list of collaborators is reflected in the complete mash-up of styles across the album -
From the soulful howls in Stylo (by the brilliant Bobby Womack), the Brit-style spoken lyrics in Rhinestone Eyes, and the chaotic nature of Glitter Freeze, to the surprise of oriental, Arabic-style rhythms coupled with rap on White Flag - it’s just a genuinely eccentric and inimitable collection of songs.
It is devoid of a single genre; unrestricted and without 'rules' -
hip hop, pop, rock and alternative come together with electronic in an all-inclusive, somewhat conceptual, album (complete with virtual characters entwined in a narrative).
Here's a real interesting behind the scenes video - "The Making of Plastic Beach" - the whole clip is long but worth checking out if you're.. interested.
(Stylo section at 10 minutes is very side-note great; hearing Albarn's idea behind the song... And also in Syria at 19 minutes).
The use of synths on the album is very diverse and creative, and some is evident within the video - at 22 minutes you can see Albarn playing a melody on a MIDI with a bright, sparkly synth sound (for the song To Binge), and from 29:30 is a snippet of synth playing with added modulation (for the title song, Plastic Beach).
"The Making of Plastic Beach". URL: https://youtu.be/Itp1lkxRA8s
Gorillaz do mostly employ MIDI to generate their desired synth sounds.
They perfectly layer MIDI tracks to create an interwoven synth image - without over-production - just a bunch of unique and cool individual sounds that work well within the whole sound.
What I really dig about Gorrilaz's use of synthesis is that it's not a huge synth-party of convoluted clutter (although that is nice sometimes). Rather, they create instrumental features really - catchy riffs that spur the song, the melody itself, the back-beat and even the solo break - it's how regular instruments would generally be used, but with customised sound thanks to synthesis.
Like the wicked bass-y, fuzzy, riff in Stylo - one of my absolute favourite Gorillaz tracks, and such a fine synth performance. It really is the song, like how a killer guitar riff is - it gives the song it's vibe, and it's the line that you recall and remember.
The synth is a harsh, powerful and prominent sound that drives the entire song (haha.. cars), and almost evokes an engine.
The brilliant synth undercurrent (first played at 39 seconds) so perfectly complements the riff - the chords played on a MIDI with a simpler-built synth, more reminiscent of a regular instrument. It sounds like a piano mixed with a woodwind instrument, with an extending sound (long sustain), and gives a hollow, calming, grounded quality to the song.
The layering and how the space is filled is wholesome but not over-busy, even though the track is densely intricate and multifaceted.
There are even all the added effects and samples, which emphasize the feel of the song alongside its clip (you can almost 'hear' the film clip). Such as the siren sounds, and the vibrato being created through frequency modulation (FM) synthesis, that is implicative of a helicopter (first coming in at 20 seconds).
Everything still works collectively and fits ingeniously - with synths, an integral part, also maintaining a level of unanimity (the silent hero).
Stylo (feat. Mos Def And Bobby Womack) (Plastic Beach)
On Melancholy Hill is another track from Plastic Beach that I find extremely well-crafted, with an elegant use of synthesis.
It sounds quite gentle and simple, with the main light and chirpy MIDI riff (coming in at 51 seconds). I like how softly it overlays the constant synth part that underlies the song - the long-sustained chords with tremolo - and that it is sweet and simple. It is an extremely catchy melody (which often the simplest parts are).
On Melancholy Hill (Plastic Beach)
Diverting from Plastic Beach - a special mention to my favourite synth part in any Gorillaz song -
the funky break that comes in at 1:20 in Dirty Harry (released in 2005 on the album Demon Days).
It's pretty great by itself, but it's its integration within the whole song (and that wicked rhythm) that makes it so ridiculously cool... and makes ya dance.
Dirty Harry (Demon Days)
Watkinson, Mike. (March, 2011). “iPad”. Sound On Sound. Retrieved: http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/ipad