DAZ76

March 30, 2009

KRAFTWERK REVIEW: LIVE DENVER APRIL 08

Filed under: What does Daz76 have to say about it? — daz76 @ 2:42 am
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I decided to re-post this because we are coming up on the 1 year anniversary of when I traveled to Denver Colorado from Austin Texas to see my favorite band Kraftwerk perform. If ou don’t know about Kraftwerk then go to www.kraftwerk.com and check it out. To say they are influential to all forms of modern pop music is an understatement, as bits and pieces of their sonic output created over almost 40 years are interwoven ubiquitously throughout our modern sonic landscapes. Anyway, I wrote this early morning after the concert, I was stone cold sober at the show but we definitely took it to the streets after and that may account for the dramatic writing style that follows.

Below you will find my thoughts in retrospect on the review. So here you go, my Kraftwerk live in Denver review:

Stefan rules. Florian live is a thing of the past. If I realized anything tonight at the Kraftwerk Konzert in Denver Colorado, the Mile High City, it’s that poor old Flo has become too much of the goofyguy in Kraftwerk and had to go. I made a joke about that in a recent post, but subconsciously it might have been reality based humor. After the show tonight I am more in agreement with my dumb joke. Tonight Kraftwerk were in very serious shape and I detected a new exiting nervous edge to the situation. Someone recently wrote that they thought the “new guy” was having some “Holy Shit, I’m in Kraftwerk” moments and at tonight’s show it seemed at times he was in the throws of an unselfconscious ecstatic death. I hate to say it, but after tonight’s performance I almost can’t wait for them to replace Ralf. Tonight KW looked and sounded more vital than ever. Sorry, old schoolers, I’m just being honest about what I saw and listened to tonight. The show was riddled with glitches. Really, really huge and embarrassing glitches that involved jarring and abrupt timing of song breakdown and ending/edits and I was so happy to see how live a Kraftwerk show is. As a long time fan and student of their work I could sense at more than a few moments just how close they came to musical disaster, and then coming back to a solution. Some songs resolved with CD accuracy and some, not so much. It was awesome to watch them squirm and correctly “twiddle the knobs” like you can’t see on the Min Max DVD. Their stupid curtain is the pink elephant in the room, and it’s covered in holes repaired with duct tape. Sorry to blow the mystic but these guys are just a bit rag tag these days, and you know what? It’s awesome. For all the fuck ups and awkwardness there were some amazing saves and intense interactive live action on stage, involving both band and crew. Worst things about the show: Weird and uncomfortable ending to “Music Non Stop” with minimal solos because “you know who” is gone and it’s a different thing now. Best thing about the show: All the fuck ups and the temperamental curtain. The amazing sound, and the fun new video and audio elements. It’s pretty obvious that like in the late 90’s we witnessed an end of a certain era of live KW performance. I have a feeling it wont be long before we see a “new wave” of KW music, style, and performance.

Darren Ryan April 08.

I pretty much called it on Florian not coming back, in fact not only did he stop being part of the live show, he quit the band all together. pretty cool thing to do after 40 years in Kraftwerk, go solo.

I now think the curtain may be rented city to city, and this is why it’s problematic. before I imagined it as part of their traveling “set”.

I was so wrong about “Music Non Stop”. Upon inspection of the rather amazing video that was shot that night at the Fillmore it becomes clear that the songs ends with uncanny precision just as Ralf’s foot hits his mark on the other side of the stage for his bow. Precision.

Kraftwerk are still on tour and are heading back to Europe from Latin America for more dates and festivals. As far as a new look/style, some things have changed slightly in the concerts such as mixes and sonics, some video elements, but it’s still the same Kraftwerk show that you can see on the Minimum Maximum DVD they put out a few years ago. I’m totally cool with it, I’d rather get good old Kraftwerk than some crazy new wacky concept, let Florian do that.

Also, I was going to change the last sentence because it it’s nonsensical and I’m really not sure what I was getting at. I left it in for drunken posterity.

March 20, 2009

Officially Screwed and Chopped, By Request

Somebody wrote to me on Facebook asking if I would write something about my take on screw music, and I thought that sounded like a worthwhile thing to do. I am so not an expert of the genre, but I love it very much and have done a certain amount of research on it so let me see what I can come up with.

First, what is Screw music? Screw is a short hand name for “Screwed and Chopped”. We are talking about hip hop music here, specifically rap music from Houston Texas, but Screw has safely entered the mainstream and almost all new southern rap records have some element of the style. “Screwing down” the music means that it is slowed down, almost to half speed, thus creating an ominous, demonic feel, especially with the rappers voices. “Chopping” the track refers to a certain style of DJ technique, also known as cutting, where two copies of the same record are played at the same time, slightly out of sync yet still in time, and the DJ cuts the fader back and forth creating a stuttering, syncopated repetition in the beat. Then layer a good amount of swooshing flange, chorus, and phasing to the mix and voila, sounds like Screw Music.

The young man who innovated this style of DJing in the mid 90’s was a Houston native named DJ Screw. He was a prolific DJ and produced hundreds if not thousands of mix tapes that he used to solidify his reputation as the true pioneer of the style. Unfortunately Screw died from an overdose of prescription cough medicine, know commonly as “Syrup”, “Oil”, “Purple”, or just simply “Drank”. Drinking syrup is at epidemic levels these days, but it’s still championed in much southern rap music. I’ve never tried it but I know someone who nearly died from it. He said it was one of the scariest feelings of his life.

I’ve heard some rappers and producers from the Houston scene say that Screw music reflects the lifestyle in Houston, it’s often so hot that people move slower, they drive slower, and they talk slower. Car culture factors in to the equation too, with Screw music being the best, and most bass heavy music to “bang” on a high end customized sound system.

Screwed and Chopped is considered by most hip hop aficionados to be the first form of truly psychedelic rap music to emerge. Some challenge that by pointing at early Day La Soul, but they weren’t really psychedelic, they just dressed like hippies.

I could put a whole list of names of rappers and producers here for you to check out but I will only suggest DJ Screw, Screwed Up Click, Swisha House/DJ Micheal Watts and then you can go nuts from there with youtube and google. I will add that in my most humble opinion the most elegant, deep, and straight up moving example of the style is DJ Michael Watt’s version of David Banner’s “Mississippi Album”. Mind blowing.

So there you go, I hope you check it out because it is part of our cultural landscape here in Texas, and don’t even get me going about “Screwmbia”, that’s right, psychedelic screwed up cumbia music! It’s so fresh you can’t even google it…

That’s all I got, enjoy, and please stay away from Purple Drink!!

March 13, 2009

Band Update

Filed under: As a DJ,Austin life — daz76 @ 2:46 am

The whole starting a band thing is pretty crazy. One minute I am pondering the nature of my set up or how the drums will sound through the effects and then other times it seems like there is no way I’m going to go on a stage with a bunch of other dudes and make this sound. It seems inevitable and yet absurd. But people do it all the time, right?  Every night of the week, all day long people are playing music for others. The truth is that this performance concept was born of the inspiration I received when one of Austin’s top electronic music impresario said the me, “No one else is making electronic music like you do here in town”. It wasn’t a statement regarding the good or bad nature of my music, just that at the moment, in this place, it’s sort of unique. I would be stupid to not act, given this information.

The newest member, Jeff, who got back to me from craigslist seems like a very cool guy. He’s a percussionist and producer, and his specialty is Indian and middle eastern music. Cool! Also, he’s a student of holistic medicine. So essentially we have an in house medic in case anyone has a dub related injury or trips out too hard. I’ll meet with him tomorrow to get him a CD.

So right now less than two weeks from day one of this venture the band consists of me on electronics and live dub mix, Gerard on conga, Lane on timbal, djembe and percussion, and Jeff on dumbek. This shit is quickly going world, and that’s exactly as it was meant to be.

One of the amazing aspects of this project to me is the willingness of these musicians to work with my vision, letting me be the director and they are the players. I expected more trouble getting it across that I already knew what this was going to sound like live, but they quickly acknowledged that and seemed relieved that their was a vision, a direction, and a plan.

Also, my suggestion that the live drums would be mic’d and processed through effects was received positively. I wondered if that would freak out the drummers, but again curiosity and experimentation is fueling this group so we move forward.

We are going to have to create a new form of rhythm for this sound, a hybrid of styles but directly based on the Niyabinghih traditions that informs jamaican roots music. As long as that is clear I don’t care how it is achieved or on what instruments. I will definitely turn to Gerard to lead the drummers. I’ve seen him do it and he’s good at it. Gerard has other long running projects but both the other guys hinted at the concept of a collective forming, and I’m into that, because sometime I’d like to just be a musician too.

March 11, 2009

Rebel Rock Sound in the Area!

Filed under: As a DJ,Austin life — daz76 @ 4:52 am
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve really been ignoring my blog lately. I started making these little web videos and that was satisfying my need to discuss all my thoughts on everything publicly in it’s own way, and as I’ve said before writing is kind of hard for me… That’s not true, writing is easy. It’s the whole spelling, grammar, making sense thing that gets me.

I started a band.

About two weeks ago a local booking agent, I won’t say who just yet, contacted me about performing at one of their curated events as a sound artist. It turned out the event was specific to laptop music, and I don’t use a laptop. I might be if I decide on a set up, but now, no laptop. They said, “Cool, we’ll get back to you for another event”.

I said, “Cool, talk soon”.

This initial contact made me stop and think, “Damn, I need to get a fucking show together ASAP”. I listened to the music I wanted to play and tried to picture the vision of a live stage version and of course immediately Pink Floyd came to mind, billowing red, baby blue, pink, and black smoke flickering in the strobes. Done. Stage atmophere sorted.

Then I tried to imagine how to recreate the songs live and I realized I can’t. Not yet anyway. The music only exists in the speakers, meaning no hi-fi, no song. That’s not so worrying for me because I am a DJ and understand sound system culture and ideology. Some music needs to be played on an instrument to be effective, some songs are only effective in the speakers, the sound system is the instrument and I control that sound.

But I didn’t stop there. As I envisioned my “band” on stage amid the flickering light there were other figures there besides me. Drummers. And a dancer. Yeah a dancer. Every cool band has had a dedicated dancer, Happy Mondays, 808 State, Meat Beat Manifesto, Public Enemy, the list goes on. It just so happened that I met a break dancer a week or so before at a hip hop night and we were talking about making a video.

The first person I contacted about the show idea was a friend from when I was studying afro-latin percussion, playing in our local samba school and with a small folkloric group specializing in Puerto Rican and Haitian music. Gerard’s opinion and experiance is heavy in these matters, and I sought his guidance in an email. I invited him to be part of the sound.

I then contacted the dancer and he was very into the idea, even stating that he “strobes” which I guess is a form of popping. He also mentioned costumes, which had not even entered my mind, but of course, costumes!

I wanted to hear back from my friend Gerard from the folkloric group for his advice on the matter. He’s an old school drum guy and knows the Austin scene well. After not hearing back from him for a few days I thought he blew me off as a freak or missed the email. I decided to hit craiglist in search of drummers.

Before I posted the message I spent a few nights putting together a rough mix of the the program. Right now the show runs about 23 minutes and I’m shooting for a half hour with additional songs ready to mix in after as DJ set. Point being the musicians would be able to have a recording of my mix (minus dub effects and other live elements I will add) for the show, hopefully easing up on rehearsals. So even then I had a really good idea what everything was supposed to look and sound like.

I was bummed I never heard back from Gerard, but I moved ahead anyway.

I posted a simple message in the musician section of craigslist for drummers interested in Jamaican roots and dub music, and I mentioned that I was performing a digital version of these rhythms and wanted to experiment with live dub mixing.

Two guys contacted me, very curious about the electronic aspect of the music. Both are full on gigging percussionists and one also produces ambient dance music as well. So far so good.

I was encouraged by the contact, but still disheartened that Gerard didn’t care about my new music project, I wanted his blessing. I had begun communicating with the other drummers about the project and then with perfect timing came Gerard’s response. A very considered reply, he had really given my idea some thought. Long story short he’s in, and I met with Lane, one of the other percussionists a few days ago and gave him the CD of the show mix. Cool guy, like minded and curious.

I feel good about Gerard and Lane and I am still not %100 about the other guys, but we’ll see about that. I put together a small collection of links that I sent the guys to show them where I’m coming from on a musical and mental level.

We will wait out South by South West before we actually rehearse, although a meeting is planned in a couple of weeks. Not a formal rehearsal, just a loud introduction…

Do I need to suggest how exciting this is? I have been waiting for the right time and place to try out some of my new music ideas and it’s moving ahead. So by late summer (next September) we will be playing some chill psychedelic dub, and I’m sure I’ll get all hot and sweaty, and I hope you do too!

Next up, naming the sound system. All suggestions welcome!! Here are the videos I sent out to the other guys:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV_tKUoWZak

This one shows the drum style I’m after.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HPgcmHtiwA

Real dub recording session from Kingston mid 70’s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansions_of_Rastafari

This is discussing the influence of Rastafarian and African ritual drumming on reggae and roots music in Jamaica. Check it out.

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