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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, 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, pop jav 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.


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!

one of the first techno songs?

March 21, 2010 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links, Personal, Videos

Information Societylast year I posted something about how I first got into electronic music; one of the songs I mentioned was this one, Information Society’s Running (Instrumental Version). I thought I’d elaborate on that post here, simply because I feel Information Society’s instrumental version of Running was a truly groundbreaking song. I still remember hearing this song in Toronto during the 80s and being quite blown away by it – there was nothing much like it at the time. I also remember subsequently hearing the “true” version of the song (with lyrics) and being horribly underwhelmed. To my young mind, the magic of the song was lost once they started singing overtop of it.

I’m wondering if Information Society (or someone else) were to make a version of this today, how well it would perform in the clubs. It would need a better drum kit – a deeper kick, some better compression, and some cymbal sweeps – and a more thorough bass sound, but with a little work I think this song could bring people to the floor in clubs today. Heck, it probably could right now, as it stands.

this may of course be one of those cases that my own sentimental value of this song outweighs its true value – I’d appreciate any feedback on that! And speaking of nostalgia… what the heck is with the clothes Information Society is wearing on their album cover? If we bring back classic dance tunes from the 80s, let’s not bring that part back as well…

the Amen Break

March 05, 2010 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links, Videos

Color Him Fatherhere is a very interesting video about what is likely the world’s most popular breakbeat (when you hear it, you’ll know it immediately). Popular in techno, hip hop and jungle, the Amen Break is a 40 year old breakbeat that was first featured in a tune by The Winstons called Amen, Brother, the little known B-side track on the Winstons’ Grammy Award winning hit Color Him Father.

while the Amen Break is not as widely used now as it was in the 90s it certainly played an essential role in the development of modern electronic music (and, when sliced apart and sped up, pretty much kicked off drum ‘n bass), and for that it holds a special place in the hearts of many, including myself.

smack this

January 14, 2010 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links, Videos

Liam Howlett of The Prodigyhere’s a quick link to something bunmun forwarded me that I found both interesting and entertaining; a video demonstrating how to recreate the classic techno track Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy. It was created using Ableton Live 8 by Jim Pavloff, a Ukranian producer with some time on his hands. It’s fascinating how, piece by piece, the song gradually comes together.

what amazes me the most about this exercise is how Liam Howlett, the front man behind The Prodigy, originally found all of the extremely different samples he used in the track, cut them up, filtered them, mashed them together, and churned out a tune as massive as this one. I’m lucky if I can find myself a good kick drum, let alone create something on this epic a scale.

some studio tutorials for trance

December 17, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links, Tutorials, Videos

Sander van DoornSander van Doorn, a well-known trance producer from Eindhoven, has put together some pretty good studio tutorials for people interested in producing their own trance music. Like many professionals he uses Logic Studio for Mac to produce his music, so the tutorials have a bias toward that combination of tools. Regardless, his tutorials are fun to watch, feature some great tips, and also give some advice about what specific synthesizers and software synths trance producers might want to invest in.

his studio sessions can be viewed on his personal website (in the members section), or on YouTube, which is where I’m going to link to them. I’ll also describe what you can find in them, in case you’re looking to learn something specific, or want to learn more about the tools and sample sets he uses. I’m writing this post for my own benefit as much as for anybody else’s; it is interesting to me to see what kinds of instruments and techniques other producers use to create music.

Episode 1: Sander gives a brief tour of his studio before starting in on a track. He loads up a kick on his software sampler and lays it down in Logic, then uses Klopfgeist to produce an amped-up drum bassline. He then adds some distortion with Logic. He adds a clap and a hi-hat from the Vengeance Minimal House sample set via the EXS-24 sampler, then ends with a simple percussion pattern.

Episode 2: Sander works on the melody of his new tune, and adds some reverb. He chooses a good trance-oriented sound for this melody using the Rob Papen Predator software synth, then adds a sub-layer bass and quantizes it. Finally, he selects a strings sample from the Spectrasonics Omnisphere software synth for this layer.

Episode 3
: Next, Sander adds compression to give punch to the kick, and side-chain compression from the kick to the melody, before putting a limiter on the output. Next he demonstrates the use of the Neve compressor in Logic. Then Sander introduces some of his synths; the Access Virus C, the Waldorf Blofeld (which I use myself), the Minimoog Voyager (rackmount), the Nord Lead 2X, and finally, the Dave Smith Evolver PE. Okay, I admit it. I’m more than a little jealous of this fine collection of synths.

Episode 4: In the final installment, Sander answers viewer questions about basslines, track composition, minor keys, sound creation and quantization. In the process he demonstrates the Delay Designer and Space Designer in Logic. I’m still jealous of those synths by the way.

overall, quite useful information, so if you’re just starting out creating techno music I do recommend spending the time to go through the lot of them (which will take about 45 minutes total).