Category Archives: Gear

Boom Like 8/08/08

Roland TR 808Our fave electronic musical instrument blog, Music Thing posted a tribute to today’s date that doubles as a tribute to the boominist drum machine around, Roland’s vintage TR-808 Rhythm Composer. The machine became so ubiquitous in certain musical circles that it’s been referenced in song lyrics, song titles, and even band names. Check out Music Thing’s list: Today is 808 Day ->

The list includes one of DJ Flack‘s fave tracks, Boom Like an 808 by Blaque:

Since You’ve Been In This Club

DJ C; Since You’ve Been In This Club* ->

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Wayne pointed out this article by Sasha Frere-Jones on The New Yorker site about Auto Tune. It’s the Auto Tune 5software that makes singers on many of todays pop songs sound inhuman. It’s purpose is to artificially correct the pitch of sung notes, but when tweaks are made to the settings other-worldly effects occur. Think Cher’s Believe, or almost anything by T-Pain and you get the picture.

A couple months ago DJ Flack pointed out to me that he’d been listening to the hip-hop / R&B station in Boston and for an hour straight every track featured the effect. A bit annoying innit? Certainly it’ll sound dated next decade. Yet still, there’s something awesome about breaking technology to create newness.

In order to illustrate the Auto Tune effect Sasha went into a recording studio and sang Kelly Clarkson’s Since You’ve Been Gone. Engineer Tom Beaujour recorded him and then demonstrated various uses of the software on Sasha’s voice.

When Ripley asked if I was going to make a remix of Sasha’s cover song I have to admit it Usherhadn’t occurred to me, but then I thought it just might be the perfect accompaniment to the remix of Usher’s Love in This Club that I had been meaning to make.

If you haven’t heard yet, Love in This Club was made using stock loops from Apple’s Garage Band software. I went and found the loops and made this remix out of them. Those Apple Loops are royalty free right? So I can remix Love in This Club all day long and not have to worry about rights infringement? I guess that remains to be seen. I’m sure there’ll be more on that later.

Rainbow Since You’ve Been GoneTom Beaujour is featured on my remix explaining how the “Cher effect” is created and then Sasha sings “Since You’ve Been Gone.” In addition to the Auto Tune that Tom had already applied to Sasha’s voice, I also copied it to a second track and re-pitched the notes to create a harmony, but instead of Auto Tune I used Ableton Live to tweak the notes up and down by hand.

Full disclosure: I didn’t use the Garage Band or Auto Tune software in the making of this track.

MP3 Download
DJ C; Since You’ve Been In This Club* ->

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* ft. Sasha Frere-Jones & Tom Beaujour

BTW: Have you noticed how similar Love in This Club is to The Office theme?

BTWx2: Wayne also pointed to this absolutely awesome (slightly frightening) animatronic video version of Love In This Club:

More Vinyl

I started writing this as a comment on the last post about the death of the turntable, but it got too long. There are lots of great comments on that post already Edison Phonographtoo.

A friend just forwarded this article about the vinyl comeback from Boston.com. It’s worth a read. Apparently vinyl and turntable sales are sky rocketing compared to CD sales.

That kind of invalidates the title of my last post; Turntables No More. On the other hand, that post was specifically directed at DJs, whereas the sales boom in question is being driven by non-DJ consumers of indie-rock, pop, etc. releases with pressings of 10,000 and over.

I do think it’s an incredibly interesting phenomenon that vinyl continues to survive. DJ and punk rock (mainly 7-inch pressings) culture held the record pressing plants afloat through the past couple of decades, while CD sales soared. Now, as soon as all but the last few vinyl dance music distributors have closed up shop while DJs, labels and artists go online, there’s this resurgence which seems to be tied to the death of the CD.

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Turntables No More

Serato Scratch LiveWhat is the future of the DJ turntable? Most of my colleagues and I use tools like Serato Scratch Live when we DJ, allowing us to bring huge libraries of music to the party without hauling heavy crates of vinyl.

We’re still using turntables ’cause they’re what we learned on, so we’re comfortable with them, but it seems to me that the mighty Technics 1200‘s champion days are numbered. The next generation of DJs will have grown up without turntables and won’t have any need for them. Especially now that there’s a whole new crop of tools poised to replace the visceral experience of using turntables (see below).

Last november we posted a poll asking our DJ readers which format they prefer to use. 80% said they now use digital tools. The remaining 20% use vinyl only. So far only 21% use digital exclusively but I imagine those numbers will continue to tip away from vinyl.

Pioneer CDJ 1000Now lets talk about the tools that will replace turntables. I’m already beginning to be booked at some gigs that only provide DJ CD players (CDJs). The Pioneer CDJ 1000 was the first digital tool that really gave traditional turntables a run for their money by providing a touch sensitive platter that DJs can use to control the data on the CDs in a tactile way.

More recently a whole crop of USB DJ controllers have been popping up — self contained units with a mixer and cuing features built in. The best of these also have jog wheels and sound cards built in.

PacemakerMeanwhile there are tiny contenders entering the game too. Yes, some people already “DJ” with iPods but I mean full blown micro DJ Systems like the Pacemaker. And now that Apple has opened up the iPhone to 3rd party software developers I’m sure there’ll soon be some touch-screen DJ apps for that unit coming down the line.

Speaking of touch screen DJ apps. Check out the Atigo TT by Scott Hobbs:

This thing looks really fun but there’s an argument to be made here about portability. If it’s the same size as a turntable why not bring the real thing?

Nothing’s perfect yet but sooner or later there will be an all-in-one DJ controller that’s got everything for a visceral DJing experience in a portable package. Perhaps the Numark NS7.

Numark NS7

Or maybe even better, or at least cheaper and smaller, the Vestax VCI-300

Vestax VCI-300

Both of these controllers are slated to come out this summer and both work with Serato software. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, give a listen to this 100% vinyl DJ mix by Wanklerotaryengine:

MP3 Download
Wanklerotaryengine; What is my Purpose? ->

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History of the Future

Thnk ahead just 50 years, perhaps, to the day when everyone will appreciate the nuances of electronic music”

What the Future Sounded Like… dreaming of a future sound-scape of London”

-What The Future Sounded Like

Electronic music pioneers in the mid 20th century invented the tools that are now so ubiquitous that they have a profound effect on the sound pop music today. This short documentary on London’s EMS (Electronic Music Studios) presents an informative overview of developments durring the post-WWII era and beyond.

Watch What The Future Sounded Like

This Is My Jam

Echo Nest LogoMy friends over at The Echo Nest have done it again. This time they’ve got a wacky new web 2.0 music app called “This Is My Jam.” It’s still in beta, actually I think it may still be in alpha but they’ve given me the go ahead to share it with y’all.

Here’s how it works: Use the search box to find music you like and then drag favorite tracks into your “jam.” Once you’ve got a bunch of tunes lined up, hit the button and the app makes a beat-matched mix of the tunes you selected. That’s right, the internets can now beat-match! Bye bye DJs? Well, maybe not yet. The mixing is far from perfect, but check it out, there are actually some interesting blends. Here’s one of my “jams”:

If that amazing mix has got you just begging for more you can check out my other jams too. And while you’re there why not sign up to make your own jams and socialize by befriending other folks who’s jams you like. You can even subscribe to RSS feeds of people’s jams.There are obviously some kinks to work out of the system still but I’m excited to see where this thing goes. If you do go try it out I’m sure the Echo Nester’s would appreciate your feedback.

Year-End Look-Back

XLR8R Dec 07 CoverXLR8R magazine asked me to contribute to their annual Best Of poll this year and some of my comments are published in this month’s issue. I thought I’d share them — plus a bunch of the ones that didn’t make the cut — with y’all here:

Best Artist
South Rakkas Crew

I’ve been digin’ these guys dancehall productions for a minute but their “Mix Up” release on Mad Decent is completely untethered.

Best Album
Durrty Goodz; Axiom EP

Durrty is one of the most dynamic and talented rappers in the grime game, and many of the beats on this EP are stellar too.

Best Single/12″
Dude N Nem; Watch My Feet

The emerging juke sound has quite a few bangers bubbling up around Chicago, but this one is a true piece of pop-genius. It’s got the classic half-time/double-time, hip-hop/ghetto-house combination, and really fun party lyrics.

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Jeremy Fish Serato Controllers!

Just copped these guys today: super-limited Serato Scratch picture disc controllers designed by San Fran-based illustration superstar (and Aesop Rock collaborator) Jeremy Fish. Apparently limited to 500 2×12″ sets (retailing at $50), they were up on Turntable Lab for a super-short while until Rane caught wind of it and made a big stink. Everything is the same as a regular Serato record, except they’re puuurdy.

DJ Poll: Vinyl or Digital?

The past couple of years have been a volatile time in the DJ world. TurntableThe technology is changing rapidly and many DJs who had once been hardcore vinyl-only-heads have made the switch to using digital DJ tools like Serato Scratch Live. Of course some DJs have been spinning with digital tools like CDJs etc. for years, and some combine everything at their disposal, using all available technologies equally. We’re curious; what’s your preference?

Vinyl or Digital?

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Update: Ripley has written a related article over at Wiretap.org:

Spun Around
Digital innovations have turned the vinyl-centric deejay world around. But is life in a “Serato” world really better?

Rock Star VJs

Zombie, Robotkid, and RNDM at Beat Research Halloween ‘07Oh, Boston! It was good to see you.

I started out last week’s journey to my old stomping grounds, partying with my peeps at the Beat Research halloween party where Flack, Wayne, and DJ RNDM threw down hard. RNDM did a VJ set using the Ms. Pinky vinyl DJ system to do live music-video mashups. If you’re having any trouble visualizing what I mean, you’re in luck. Robotkid was in the house documenting the festivities (Flickr pics), and now RNDM’s entire set is immortalized:

RNDM and Robotkid also happen to work at Harmonix, the company that designed the popular Guitar Hero video game, and is about to unleash its latest creation, Rock Band. Robotkid was kind enough to invite me over to Harmonix headquarters so I could get a sneak-preview of the game before it’s released on Txgving day. And man, was it fun! I’m really not much of a gamer, and have never played Guitar Hero but I’ve heard a lot of hype so I was excited to see what this is all about.

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