Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Skrillex. "He's quite Raw"

I dabble. I'm a dabbler. In music, let's be clear. All types. So I am compelled to write at least one post about electronica or dance or techno music (not a huge fan of the names of the latter two classifications, mainly because of an impression those names invoke...more on that later). Closer friends and fam know of my interests and I usually don't discuss or play this music for anyone other than myself.  Frankly for many I can understand why it doesnt work for them outside of a bar/club/gym.  People have a hard time relating to it.  I get it.

Not sure why I am drawn to it but I am, and even if I don't like a particular track from any given artist it usually at least intrigues me. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of crap out there and its hard to decipher which is going to be good or make you feel like you're in a PS3 game. But some of the sounds or distortions or other EQ tweaks are kind of amazing when you realize the effort it took to make that 1 sound (customized) among the 10s of thousands of other sounds (also customized) in that 1 track. I'm not going to get into the how (truly I only have a basic understanding of it, let alone the know how) but I am going to get into the what.

Today's what is Skrillex. I know, sounds pretty intimidating, scary and hard, right. Calm down. No really, calm down. What if I told you Skrillex's really name is Sonny Moore and he's a young 22 year old...and you could totally take him if things got rowdy? See, isn't that better *pat on the head*. Ok, moving on....the tracks ARE hard and aggressive (some of them anyway) and he has said that he likes the "scariness" of some of his sound. He doesn't have just one dymension, which is unusual on this side of the music spectrum and a bit refreshing. His sound varies from.....*head scratch*.....ok, let's try this this way:

[Brief side explanation] - So yeah, before I categorize, I wanted to try to break this down a little. Saying "techno" is like saying "rock", its waaay too broad and leads to misconceptions. There are tons of different styles of electronic music and while I am sure there is a far more technical or musically appropraite way to describe them, here is a quick crash course:

Club - probably the most mainstream of styles. If you hear it on the radio, its probably a club remix.
House - think of a funkier more disco style of club. The beats per minute ("bpm") are slower.
Progressive - the songs tend to build from start to finish or within them, generally a faster bpm than house or club.
Trance - faster and more aggressive than club, and heavy on drums and base, but not Drum & Base (see below)
Drum & Base - you'd know it if you heard it.  The tracks are mainly driven and comprises of...[pause]  loops of drums and base.
Glitch - it usually involves amplifing qualities that most top 40 artist try to avoid, like that crispy sound of a record, or background noise or other sounds you'd hear in a pre-Mastered record.
Dubstep - lots of looped and varying base lines with sampling and vocals.

Sorry, I hated that as much as you, but it was sort of necessary...I could go on, but I won't for your sake.

Skrillex predominantly swings in the Dubstep category but also performs and mixes in a reggaeish style called "Moonbahton" (disregard how stupid that sounds, and despite the fact that that word is a fabrication, it has a valid reason for its name...focus in the fact that it has a reggae back beat, a faster beat....see, better). One of his more recent tracks from 2011 was "First of the Year (Equinox)" on a re-release to the album Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, called creatively, More Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (what he lacks in record naming he makes up for in production).  This track is in the Moonbaton fashion, and then turns into a little Dubstep as it picks up. It starts rather chill and bouncy, with a nice piano introduction then builds into this intense electronic explosion of glichy samples, looped vocals and almost robotic/machiney chorus. Its a pretty solid mash up of his styles. Best of all there is an official video he made which is of decent quality and production value. Not going to review the video too but, ill say this: its one of those videos that you start watching and right away you say outloud, "oh no, this does not look good", and gives you the creepy douche chills to the point where you feel like maybe you shouldn't watch (having watched, I suggest you continue, its twisted but not like you think it would be from the intro). Here's the link First of the Year (Equinox)...watch and come back.  See, pretty solid, huh? Not what you thought it would be and kind of puts a spin on things when you listen without the video.

His other big track is "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" of the title album of the same. It's probably the one that he is most well known for (its been used in commercials). The title really explains the sounds of the song, which goes back and forth, almost like a battle, between this scary sounding electronic voice/noise (the "Scary Monster") to a higher pitched sprite like melody response (the "Nice Sprite"). Some forums/reviews claim that the entire track, in both the monster and sprite vocal loops is nothing more than the lyrics "i'm just like you" played in reverse...with obviouslky different treatment and alterations to them respectively.  This lyric is also played at the end of the track...only forwards....fun fact. There are more fun facts, but i'll let you discover.

An older song, that is also used in many media applications, is "WEEKENDS!!!"  It's a straightforward Dubstep track, no more no less.  "I think you and my friends should hang out on the weekends!" is such a reasonable lyric. Not pushy, not too presumptuous. Ok, maybe after it's said 73 times in 4 minutes and 45 seconds it may sound pushy. But I'm still going with sincere...he was in a EMO band before this project, so you know he's sensitive (he was lead singer in a band called "From First to Last"...got into too many drugs (allegedly) has some throat surgery from all the coke (allegedly) and all before he was 20 (true)).

That aside, he's remixed for some big acts, Adele, Nero, Lady Gaga, Snoop, some of which can be found in various websites. Beatport.com is where Skrillex made his bones and is probably your broadest option as far as his variety of track. iTunes has a few of his albums.  That said, I don't recommend buying any of his albums in their entirety. As a general rule in this land of music, artists will have 1-3 different main tracks on each album (mainly because despite what people say, creating these aren't super simple) and then 4-7remixes of 1 or all of those tracks, some of which are drastic from the original. So just because you like the original does not mean you will like the remixes. Skrillex is no exception and has s few tracks worth checking out:
1. Equinox (First of the Year)
2. Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
3. Rock & Roll
5. Kill Everybody (note, while I like this track, I don't recommend it if this title offends. It's not graphic or lude, but is repetitive. If you get past the title and consider the song as a hole, it's a decent track. Trust me, its nothing you haven't heard Stewie from The Family Guy say).

So, while I don't expect any of you to actually like Skrillex, don't deny yourself a listen.  He actually just came out with a new album about 2-3 weeks ago that I have previewed and its solid (called Bangarang).  He's doing something right having 5 Grammy nominations, a record label, top of Dance Charts, and winning a couple of MTV and European music awards, ALL under his belt under the age of 22.

"Join me next time" when I promise that I will not be talking about electronic music...promise...unless you ask me to...nicely.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I want chata. More chata!

You just can't say "no" when this one says "mo Chata",
not with these dance moves and style!

.....is what she is yelling once White Sky (track 2) starts playing. Why you ask? Because her (my 3 year old who turns 15 in a few minutes) favorite song, Horchata, just ended and she's got the need for more stomping and dancing across the living and dining rooms. The kid's got taste; it's one of the better tracks on the Contra album (as a continuity note, she also likes Kick Drum Heart, Avett Bros.)...[oooh, see what I did there]...

This song reminds me so much of summer: the start, the middle, the end. Lyrically, the song kind of all over the place but as far as I can tell it's about Mr. Vampie being in a hot climate when...remembering the cold of December elsewhere (probably why it would look pyschotic wearing a balaclava (ski mask)), drinking Horchata...and then moving on to the heavier alcoholic drink, an aranchiata. Such a great song, such a horribly structured and blahhhcck drink (its rice juice.  I'll say it again, rice juice.  R.i.ce. j.u.i.c.e. I don't care how you think it should, could, or is prepared, you can't avoid the fact that it's juice make from rice....oh there's cinnamon too.  So rice juice and tree bark, happy?).

Long tangent...and we're back;  Many reasons come to mind why it still reminds of summer. It's that catchy pump you up for a bbq, party, sunburn booze fest beat that you blast en route to Burger Fest in NYC for example (complements of Messrs. Ryan Koenitzer and Randal Stanco), but also, because whenever my daughter was getting to the end of her car seat tolerance on the way to the York or Wells beach Maine (we lived in Boston only a few months ago), putting on this track bought us at least 3 minutes and 27 seconds...until we hit repeat.  It is a favorite in our house.

So when you turn this track on, dance a little, with your kids too [end sentimental part] and try not to vomit when you think about Mr. Vampie (seriously I think that is the lead singers name, isn't it?) sipping on tepid rice juice on a humid tropical island, dreaming of a New England winter (8 degrees this AM, awesome).

"Join me next time" when I plan to flip back into music review mode and reveal an artist that is exploding world wide that you probably have never heard of from a genre you don't often consider...if ever.  With an open mind to music, I think you may enjoy it at some level.