More Pablo

Dip your toes into some MUSIC (part 1: Chip, Dub, #Deep, Mashup)

:: music, pablolife

One of the most fun parts of dating someone can be learning about the art that moves them and sharing the art that moves you. I’ve read books for people, eaten albums, played video games, binged TV shows, and generally been exposed to all sorts of amazing this way.

The Lady and I are, 11 months in, still finding new things to throw each other’s way, but one place we differ is what resonates with us. A frequent phrase I use is that I hear the world more than I see it, and she tends to see it more than she hears it. As an example, the other day we were in a long line and I knew it was at least 4 minutes because an entire song and a half had played.

After a bunch of conversations, it occurred to me wow, I’ve got a lot in this catalog. I thought I’d compile + share some categories and artists; maybe you find something you like? I tend to throw them all into one playlist; a friend referred to it as “whiplash-inducing.”

All of this is just me, sincerely describing things as I’m consuming them. My terminology/categorization can be exceptionally noob. But this is my space, dammit; there are no comments on this blog, Imma just be me.

That said, I am better than Pitchfork, which famously only gave Music a 6.8.

Chip Music

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The 8bits of Christmas album art Chipzel album art br1ght pr1mate album art

Remembering Chiptunes is what motivated this blog post; yesterday Karen and I were debugging a group’s WordPress install and it seemed like a fitting pick for the mood we were in.

Broadly speaking, Chip Music is making original music that largely integrates sound generated under the constraints of old consoles. The hip way to do this is with literal hardware, using something like Little Sound DJ on a Game Boy, but you can hack it by using software and sticking to the specifications of the hardware (Game Boy, NES).

I first got into this when some game publication (Electronic Gaming Monthly?) did a feature on 8bitpeoples when I was in high school. After that I downloaded a ton of their tracks, and found it in other places.

Selections

Some favorites of mine:

  • The 8 bits of Christmas album. This has Bit Shifter’s Let It Snow which was used in an Adobe promo video after I’d worked there for a few months 😛

  • I was also a fan of Information Chase, by Bit Shifter. A choice track is Reformat The Planet.

  • Chipzel is goddamned amazing. I first heard her work in Super Hexagon, also worthy of your time. Otis is probably my favorite of the soundtrack but you really can’t go wrong with any of her work.

  • Likely one of the most popular acts in the scene is Anamanaguchi. They don’t stick to strict chip music; they tend to layer it over guitars/drum/bass. Favorite of mine is probably Meow.

  • Last individual artist I’ll namedrop is David Sugar, who as far as I know only really made one chiptune album for 8bitpeoples years ago. That said, I loved it, especially Bang!.

  • Of course, actual game music from the period is amazing too. Mega Man 4 was the one I grew up with so it’s naturally my favorite, in particular, the Pharoah Man stage. Toejam & Earl, on the atypically-used Genesis, is also Up There. And WOW for such a forgettable game Silver Surfer squeezes the hell out of what that chip is capable of. Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest (famous for it’s WHAT A TERRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE line) is fun.

  • For new stuff, I tend to find artists by following the CHIPTUNES = WIN compilations.

There’s a ton in common with this and other “video-game nostalgia” subcultures, like Pixel Art. A lot of the same questions of authenticity and who follows what constraints are present, see this great article using pixel art as an example and note how it also applies to the music I’ve linked.

Dubstep

From this tutorial explaining dubstep, if you haven't seen it before.

I am hardly the person you want to consult about dubstep: it’s a hammer I reach for pretty infrequently. I jokingly refer to “Mad Wubz” when I hear it. That said, it was Dubstep that inspired this tweet:

I was doing ritual watching of over-edited Dota 2 highlight videos, and learned that I was actually getting pumped when I hear the intro to Skillex Reptile, like in this one.

So I have Skillex on some playlists and gave up trying to be #ironic and #cool about the whole thing. My first exposure to Skrillex was hearing Kill Everybody on IdrA’s stream when he played vs. MVP on Shakuras Plateau and miraculously won. Others of his that I like are Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, Bangarang, and Reptile. I also got into him more because we used so much of his music in the dance fitness program I was in training to teach, Pon de FLO. Of those we used Killa and Make It Bun Dem.

I also love self-reference, so I had this track by Dubba Jonny on playlists for years. The moment at 1:53ish is one of my favorites.

Dubstep is also responsible for the worst B section of a pop song of all time. Hyuna’s Bubble Pop is a decent K-Pop song from the era and was a mainstay with HuK’s StarCraft fanbase. But goddamn is that a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad B-section.

#DeepTrance and #DeepHouse

This… is a tough one for me. A more typical name for this is probably just modern rave music. Guess what, I started going to raves in the last year! But I find the music not to my liking. In my various years of knowing people submitting work to writing groups and not getting mad enthusiasm I always used the metaphor of playing Coltrane to a bunch of dubstep fans: they’re listening to what might be brilliant work but calling it insufficient because it lacks THE DROP or HEAVY WUBZ, when that’s obviously not what the author was going for.

I feel like this music doesn’t fit what I usually go for. I ranted about it on Twitter. But I’m trying; I find it lovely to code to since it’s continuous and totally inoffensive, and by merely being exposed to it so much I’m finding elements I’m enjoying.

Here’s a lineup of a festival I was just at, for which I did some pre-listening. Joe Foxton and Renegade Masters are pretty good examples of this. Caravan Gitane has thrown a party or two with a great lineup.

Art of Olga Klimova

I’ll mention two anecdotes that might help frame how I’m approaching this: while at IFEEL, we ran into the art of Olga Klimova. I’d just dropped some acid but hadn’t felt like I’d come up yet, until I noticed the art was breathing. For a while I wondered if it was an effect of the artist: there were blacklights shining on it, and wondered if it was painted in layers, or there had been layers of canvas with fans behind it. No, stupid, it was the acid; but it was enthralling.

It hit me that these paintings were made with people tripping in mind, so maybe the music was too. My core criticism against most of what I heard at these parties was “there’s no sense of progression.” Most music I love bumps, bounces, sways, stabs, falls, slips, and feints; most of this shit just lightly thumps forever. But those paintings weren’t an animation, they were paintings. With acid, they had movement, and the experience was almost spiritual. Maybe you’re supposed to just fill in the blanks with your trip.

(On the other hand, I’ve also long felt that "if you need drugs to enjoy the music; maybe your music could be better).

The other anecdote supports the above and comes from another party. Karen and I went there hearing it had a great lineup, and felt a bit let down that all the music sounded similar to everything else we’d heard. We gave up on some of the other party spaces, found a chill space, and ended up losing ourselves in heart-to-heart conversations. Four hours had passed before I knew it.

I came out feeling like "maybe this is what the music facilitates." That connection + ambiance to have conversations like we’d had that night, and the kind that lead people to divorce their parakeets after Burning Man.

(The raves/parties are a new thing. I have a lot of reactions, but that’s for another time or post. A great read related to this is the fine advice of Rave Grandpa).

Mashup

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MOUTH SOUNDS Electrolemon photo

I feel like mashup as a concept is one of the most exciting things about being alive when we are. The 20th century gave us recording medium as a whole but the digital revolution really democratized what’s possible with it. Mashup precursors required a ton of labor and a fair bit of capital to have a decent media library and what’s needed to alter it (thinking of splitting tape, per Come Out’s court testimony, Public Enemy’s sample-based work, or the super-fun lesser-known Emergency Broadcast Network using VHS tapes). Computers enable a huge number of people to create pretty remarkable stuff.

About mashup, I used to say (arguably cynically?): what if you only took the best parts of most songs and put them together? Like the “only marshmallows” bowl of Lucky Charms? Take the melodies/hooks of songs and leave nothing else 😛

Selections

Back in the day I really enjoyed Super Mash Bros., with a few great albums. Hard to find official-looking web presence, the closest being this SoundCloud.

Neil Cicierega, known for a ton of great Internet treats like BRODYQUEST, its criminally underappreciated Mashup Megamix, and Potter Puppet Pals, has released a few entire mashup albums: Mouth Sounds, Mouth Silence (a prequel), and Mouth Moods (a “zequel”). His work is silly and satisfying.

One of my favorite people of online is Demi Adejuyigbe, who has made a ton of mashups. My favorites are when he made “Yakety Sax” into a wedding march

and then added DMX:

Not my favorite example of artful mashup, but Vinyl Fantasy VII and The Ocarina of Rhyme hit nice nostalgia buttons.


There are a ton more, but this is long enough. Stay tuned for more parts.