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electronic disco

February 05, 2014 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links, Videos

Black Devil Disco ClubThe other day I was at the Apple Store checking out some computers, and I met a guy who works there who is way into music. Apparently he has a massive collection of vinyl that he is in the process of converting to mp3. He mentioned to me that he used to work at a record store; I found out a bit later when talking to one of the managers at the store that he used to own the record store. That’s one of the interesting things about the Apple Store – the employees there all seem to have diverse and interesting backgrounds. At any rate, he had some a pretty interesting (dare I say eclectic) taste in music, and he was an interesting guy to talk to about the history of different genres.

During our discussion, this fellow mentioned to me that one of his favorite albums is Black Devil Disco Club, an electronic music production created by a Frenchman named Bernard Fevre in 1978. I’d never heard of it, so I mentioned I’d check it out. So I did… and it is really quite an incredible piece of music. Some parts haven’t aged as well as others (for example, the weird chopped-up vocals), but other parts – some of the interesting melodic electronic bits – were way ahead of their time.

I’m not huge into disco, but I do like checking out some of the classics, and this album – while obscure – is definitely one of them! Here is a video on YouTube of the entire LP.

liquid dubstep

February 21, 2013 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes

The Going Quantum PodcastThis morning I was pleased to see that another episode of the Going Quantum Podcast had appeared in my iTunes window.

This podcast is created by a Canadian guy (I think he’s from Toronto, like myself) who shares mixes of a variety of different kinds of electronic music. He focuses on dubstep, electro, glitch hop, and drum and bass, and also invites a bunch of different guest mixers to provide mixes for the show. His shows tend to last about 40 minutes. I find it interesting the variety that he provides on his shows… a lot of producers or DJs tend to stick to a single genre, but this guy is a little bit all over the place (albeit while remaining within the realm of the electronic) – some of his mixes will start off in one genre and then switch to another when the guest mixer starts to spin.

In my opinion, the reason these podcasts are so great is because of the liquid dubstep mixes – dubstep with a melodic edge. Seriously, this stuff is great! The two mixes that I have found are the best of the lot are episodes 50 and 75. If you’re into the melodic and the dubstep like I am, I recommend checking these two out.


February 15, 2013 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links, Videos

E2-E4In his 20 questions interview, Alex Paterson of The Orb indicated that the song E2-E4 by Manuel Göttsching was his favorite piece of music. I hadn’t heard this song before (or at least, I thought I hadn’t) so I checked it out on this YouTube video. You can listen to its six parts from this initial link. Interestingly, the song seems to be named after a series of chess tournaments in the United Kingdom.

It turns out that I had heard this song sampled in several ambient music mixes… one of them, in fact, might have been by Alex Paterson himself. It was also sampled on the song Sueño Latino in 1989, which I remember well – in fact, the main loop comprises most of that song. E2-E4 is a complete classic of course… an extremely chilled piece of music that, while purposefully repetitive, is complicated enough that it does not (at least in my opinion) get boring.

The question I have is… how the heck was this song recorded in 1981? This song was clearly well ahead of its time, and inspired a great many different artists… in fact, some say that it inspired the entire house music and, afterward, techno music genres of the late 1980s.

A true piece of music history!

history of dance music mixes

January 31, 2013 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes, Links

Historical BeatsI’ve been known to take a trip back to the old skool now and then, so I’m always happy to find a podcast full of free music mixes that can take me on that journey!

Here is a huge archive of DJ mixes for anyone who grew up listening to 80s and 90s house music, freestyle, dance and electronica like I did. Some of these mixes are fantastic, with a great selection of songs – the history of rave mix, the classic house mix, and some of the mixes created per year are especially good in my opinion. Some listeners might feel that some of the transitions between the songs go on a little long, but generally these mixes are really well made. Some of these tunes I haven’t heard for decades!

I hope that whoever is making these mixes continues to crank them out – I’d really like to hear a mix of ambient electronic music from the 90s if anyone out there is listening! And if you’ve found any other quality mixes of old skool music that you’d like to share with me, I’d be glad to hear about them.

Chinese reggae music

July 22, 2011 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes, Links

Reggae in ChinaI found the Shanghai 24/7 podcasts on iTunes a while back; I had been searching for drum ‘n bass mixes to listen to while working and found this one, a very good LTJ Bukem mix featuring some of his classics. Highly recommended.

after downloading this mix I checked out what else I could find on Shanghai 24/7’s collection of podcasts and found a reggae mix featuring all Chinese artists (available for free download as mp3 or Apple m4a). At first I didn’t realize it was created by all Chinese artists; I might not have downloaded it if I had. But I did, and when I listened to it in the car I was blown away by how strangely awesome it is – these are some very talented Chinese artists playing good reggae music, sometimes singing in English, sometimes in Chinese… one song, in fact, is by a Chinese group (Lions of Puxi) singing in French!

one interesting discovery – I studied Chinese as part of a Masters program and I was surprised that I was able to understand parts of some of the songs (and not just the songs in English, by the way!)… one song by Long Shen Dao, The Heart Guides the Way, was quite slow in tempo and featured some easy-to-understand phrases. So I would even recommend this mix to learners of the Chinese language.

be sure to check it out, and revel in the awesomeness that is Chinese reggae.

some killer acid trance mixes

June 05, 2011 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes, Links

Trance partyas evidenced by some of my previous posts, I’ve been on a bit of a retro kick lately, listening to a bunch of acid house and old skool music from back in the day – even going as far as to buy myself a x0xb0x to play around with the TB-303 sound. Yesterday I was idly browsing through the various podcasts available on iTunes and did a few searches for some acid music. And after a little bit of searching, I found some killer acid trance mixes!

Johan Nilsson, also known as DJ Irish, is a Swedish DJ who plays a lot of trance, hard trance and progressive. He also has a page of old skool mixes that are pretty incredible – these mixes are chock full of songs that take me back to the early 90s when I used to listen to a lot of this stuff. And they’re all available for free mp3 download.

featured on the page of old skool mixes are three Acid Trance Classix mixes, some Inspirations mixes with some old classics thrown in there (Union Jack, Sven Väth, etc), and also some mixes of Labworks and Hardfloor tunes. I haven’t listened to all of the mixes yet but looking the selection he’s mixed in they’re probably all pretty quality. I’ve really been getting into the Acid Trance Classix mixes – for some reason I especially like the third one.

I’ll definitely be checking Johan’s site now and again when I’m looking for that acid sound…

x0xb0x: the new face of acid

January 16, 2011 By: Brian Crawford Category: Gear

x0xb0x with clear panela few weeks ago I bought myself a x0xb0x synthesizer kit. The x0xb0x is a Roland TB-303 Bassline analog synthesizer replica that was reverse engineered by Limor Fried, the founder and engineer of Adafruit Industries, and a supposed unknown German engineer with an obsession for detail. The x0xb0x sources all of the original parts of the TB-303, including some very rare hard to find parts, and as such it is said to sound as close as you can get to an original Roland TB-303.

the way to get yourself a x0xb0x is to buy it as a kit of individual parts, including a case and faceplate, and then to solder the parts together. The kit is complete – all of the resistors, diodes, transistors, capacitors, LEDs, power supply, and rare parts that you need to create the synthesizer are included. From that point you’re on your own – albeit with help and advice from the helpful people on the x0xb0x forums.

in the spring of 2009 Adafruit stopped sourcing x0xb0x kits, but fortunately a fellow named James Wilsey, an American living in Taiwan, started sourcing the kits from his site Willzyx Music. It is from Willzyx Music that I purchased my own kit, which at this point is still packaged in its box. Before constructing the kit I’ve been practicing my soldering skills on some much cheaper electronics kits. This is something I recommend for anyone new to soldering electronic circuitry who is looking to tackle assembling their own synthesizer… I’d much rather fry a cheap hobby kit than to destroy some of the rare parts that come with the x0xb0x kit!

a few x0xlinks:

and, a couple of my favorite acid songs:

I’ll be moving overseas at the end of this month, and I’m bringing my x0xb0x kit and my soldering equipment with me. I’ll likely be posting some updates as I progress with the work.

don’t kill your mix!

December 13, 2010 By: Brian Crawford Category: Techniques

Technics SL-1200for a time during college I was a DJ at a radio station in Waterloo, Ontario. Something we were advised to do from time to time during our sets, aside from play a certain percentage of Canadian-made music (referred to up north as CanCon, short for Canadian Content) was play a short recorded clip of our radio station ID that broadcasted our callsign in between or overtop of songs. I did as I was told and added these “drops” to my mixes, but I didn’t like to do it – I felt like I was there to spin music for people, not to advertise our radio station. The fact that the listeners were there and already listening made it seem to me to mean that they didn’t need constant reminders telling them what station they were tuned into!

I listen to a lot of techno mixes, mixtapes, trance music podcasts, etc, and I notice that there seem to be a lot of drops included in today’s mixes. Some of them are tastefully done; others are not. I like listening to DJ mixes by Ferry Corsten, for example, but I find his drops to be annoying – after you’ve listened to a few Corsten’s Countdown podcasts you come to recognize the highly repetitive drops, and they really seem to pull me away from the music. Not to mention they’re way cheesy.

I used to like listening to the mixes of Steve Helstrip, aka The Thrillseekers, and I gave some props to his podcasts on this site some time ago, here. Since then, however, Steve has taken to adding numerous “shout-outs” to his podcasts – poor quality recordings of people calling into an answering machine, saying stuff like, hi Steve, I’m from East London, your music rocks, this goes out to my girlfriend, and so on and so forth – to the point that I can’t listen to his mixes anymore. I’ll be listening to a great groove, and suddenly, poof – the mood is gone, and in its place is some answering machine message. I don’t see the appeal of it.

my recommendation is to do what Andy Moor does in his Moor Music podcasts – give a short drop at the beginning of the mix, a short drop at the end of the mix, and otherwise, let the music play. It makes for much better listening and replayability. A few short words put in here and there about what songs you’ve been playing and who they’re by, and maybe a bit about what you’ve been up to and where you’re going to be spinning live sets in the future isn’t so bad, but as a listener I prefer this sort of thing to be kept to a minimum. I’m there for the tunes, not the chatter.

maybe that’s just me – but I thought it was worth bringing up in a post!

dance music, mixed by Sharam

November 09, 2010 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes, Links

Deep Dish

a while back I was listening to the Area channel (now called Electric Area – personally I preferred the name Area) on SIRIUS|XM radio. A segment called the Yoshitoshi Show came on by a DJ named Sharam that I had never heard of… and I was pretty much blown away by how much this guy’s style matches with my own tastes in electronic music! Turns out I shouldn’t have been surprised, as Sharam is Sharam Tayebi, half of the DJ duo Deep Dish, and Deep Dish I was quite familiar with (though obviously not familiar enough to recognize the name Sharam when I first saw it), because they are awesome!

Sharam’s mixes are available for free online at SHARAM, his official website. They are all quite deep, featuring tunes with some excellent drum machine work and catchy vibes. Two of my favorites are Wildcast 23 and Wildcast 21. Wildcast 23 is the podcast I first heard in my car, and what an intro to Sharam’s mixes – some great progressive house tunes capped off by Chemical Brothers and Underworld! Meanwhile, Wildcast 21 features a mix of grooves by a variety of artists who, for the most part, I have never heard of, but together they form a great mix.

definitely worth a subscribe!

fun with Logic Pro 9

September 05, 2010 By: Brian Crawford Category: Songs, Trip Hop

Futurists – FwL1 (September 5, 2010) (download here).

I mentioned a few posts back that after a few years of using Ableton Live 8 for PC, I’ve started to move toward using Logic Pro 9 on the Mac as my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice. This is not to say that I’m switching over – Ableton Live has tons of great features, is awesomely tailored toward performing live sets and DJ mixes, and has a great selection of sounds and audio samples in its own right. However, as I’m more interested in the sequencing and recording of electronic music, I think Logic will be more suited toward my tastes.

for fun and for education, my son (who is seven) and I have been going through the Apple Pro Training Series: Logic Pro 9 and Logic Express 9 textbook. It’s a book geared toward earning Apple’s Logic Pro 9 Level 1 certification, but more than that it seems to be the best resource out there to help you learn Logic Pro or Logic Express 9 – it’s jam-packed with tips, tricks and tutorials.

in the very first tutorial (yes, we haven’t gone very far yet) the guide takes you through creating your own trip hop song by using a selection of sampled loops. For fun, my son and I used the guide, but instead of the instruments (bass, electric guitar, drum loops, etc) that the book suggested we use, we found our own. And in fact, it wasn’t me who found them, but my son – I simply let him pick out whatever sounds he liked the most. After the first little bit of tutorial was done my son and I took over and got to work customizing the song, placing samples where we thought they sounded best, and so on. And in the end we had our own Logic tutorial-inspired trip hop song!

I think the tune turned out half-decent, especially considering just how random these samples we’re using were, and considering the majority of it was conceived by a seven-year old. There was really no rhyme or reason to the sounds we put together, but in the end the song turned out pretty neat. There’s not much I can do with it of course – after all it’s a song composed entirely of Logic Pro 9 sampled loops – there’s not a lick of my own sounds in there. But still, it’s pretty trippy (and hoppy) and might work well as background music for someone’s YouTube video – and it’s copyright free!