This one is pretty interesting if you stick with it; what you no doubt initially take to be a precursor to the 8-track is playing cartridges loaded with ribbon-based analog records(!!!). The macro-lens bit at around 5:20 gives you an example of both the sound (pretty damn solid) and the mechanism (OMFG! Wünderbar!) Hilarious remote control, too.
(FYI, that caption was Wordpress’s suggested—and I love it!!!)
o_OThe thing that makes this one, for me, is how the strings are anchored in the eye sockets(!!!) The Met has several of these—from different generous donors and almost certainly different artisans—and they all use the eye sockets and brow ridge as a saddle and bridge. Humans, amiright?
N.B. that, according to current expert opinion, this thing—which is indeed from Central Africa, where it was crafted in the 19th C by a native artisan—was produced for no other purpose than to sell something fantastically “primitive” and “savage” to European tourists/anthropologists (and thus inform European opinions of these nations and, in all likelihood, form the foundation of the moral justifications for brutal colonialism). I invite the reader to meditate on their own how this might mirror our current situation with imported polarizing/fake news, and who the greater savage might be: The supplier who makes the ersatz evidence, or the customer who furnishes the demand and shells out the cash?
I’m a mixed Jew who’s lived in the American Midwest for his entire life. I think these songs, more than anything else I’ve ever written, are honest about that experience.
Another Dark Xmastime (FUN FACT: I wrote this during my first year as a fundamentally unemployable stay-at-home dad; my son believes it is an accepted part of the general Xmas Music Canon.)
Dreidel Bells (FUN FACT: The beat here is an original GameBoy running an early German Nanoloop cartridge. Both voices are obviously me, but the filters for the robot voice badly overburdened my iBook, causing significant lag–which is why Mr. Roboto struggles so badly to hit his marks.)
DreidelDreidelDreidel (FUN FACT: The beat here is a vintage analog Boss DR-55 once owned by POE, crammed through a heavy-metal distortion stompbox.)
—but it also super-duper creeps me out, because it sorta seems like
the speaker is a sociopath who
is confessing to a crime in song.Like, I think the narrator of this song is maybe that realtor who had that woman chained up “like a dog” in a shipping container on his property in North Carolina. And finally, I’m a little worried that
maybe this is Rick Springfield confessing in song—has anyone heard from Jessie’s girl lately? I mean, shit, do any of us even know her name‽
Anyway, still a catchy tune—apart from the weird little record-skip repeat at around 1:30, prior to diving into the B-section.I love the B-section and breakdown—especially because it then leads into, like, a “C” section(?) with a weird momentary Truck Driver’s Gear Shift and serviceable guitar solo—but that repeated bar near 1:30 has always sorta driven me nuts.
…you and I don’t appear to really have much anything in common, m’man—apart for our mutual love for whatever the hell it is we each individually think of when we think of “Freedom”—but you are a human untroubled by any insecurities of any sort, and I applaud that.
I’m interested in artistic formulea of all stripes, so my ears perked up when I stumbled across this blog post exploring why it is that every pop song I hear as of late seems to feel the same, even when they sound totally different.The key: A little earwormy melodic alternation embedded into the hook.Here’s the article’s kick-out—although the whole thing (which is rife with video examples) is well worth your time:
[T]he Millennial Whoop evokes a kind of primordial sense that everything will be alright. You know these notes. You’ve heard this before. There’s nothing out of the ordinary or scary here. You don’t need to learn the words or know a particular language or think deeply about meaning. You’re safe. In the age of climate change and economic injustice and racial violence, you can take a few moments to forget everything and shout with exuberance at the top of your lungs. Just dance and feel how awesome it is to be alive right now. Wa-oh-wa-oh.
Having read this, I wondered how persuasive such a simply piece of patterning might be. So, in five minutes I sketched out this little tune and, whaddya know, it sounds like the outro of basically anything I’ve stumbled across while tuning across the dial during the last several long summer car trips:
For the curious, there’s literally nothing going on in this song: The left hand is just a straight C Major chord alternating with whatever you call that lazy F Major where, instead of actually moving your hand up, you just skooch your thumb and index fingers up one white key each, so that you pick up F Major’s F and B while keeping C anchored as the bottom note (maybe that’s an “inversion” of F Major?)The right hand, as per the “Millennial Whoop” formula, is alternating between the G and E two octaves up—i.e., the V and III in a progression where C is the root (i.e., I).The lyrics (which, depending on your speakers, might be hard to hear without headphones; I’m shit at mastering) are just whatever popped into my head, and the whole thing was recorded using my cellphone.The only “studio magic” (done in Garageband, and largely without any digital pixie dust) is “doubling the vocals” (see below—which is an excerpt form my book Junkyard Jam Band )—especially important in this instancebecause 1) I can’t sing for shit (which double-tracking tends to obscure) and 2) the mic on my cellphone didn’t pick up my voice particularly clearly, on account it was sitting on top of my keyboard’s speaker.Even if it had caught my singing, I likely would have doubled the vocals anyway (which are actually quadrupled by the end—listen with headphones, and you’ll hear two extra voices, slathered in “chorus” effect, that come in on the second round of Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ohs), since that sorta lush studio overkill is baked into this running-’til-the-break-of-dawn! summer-hit genre.
So what’s going here? Some of it is standard steampunk greebles (e.g., that faux wind-up key, the old vacuum tube being lit with a modern LED mounted behind it, some obtuse knob and mounting hardware choices), but the guts are a combination of totally legit early prototype circuits from my book (e.g., a four-step version of the Bleepbox Sequencer, of which only three of the steps can be pitch-controlled) and simple versions of a few others I hacked together on the spot (the voice is a stripped-down Single Chip Space Invader Synth driving a simplified Dirty-Cheap Amp).
Why did I do this? ’cause Emmy Jackson asked me to. Emmy is a really swell guy, and did me huge solids at both Motor City Steam and Penguicon (where he both handled book sales for me and the other authors on hand, and offered a safe space for my son if he should lose track of himself or get freaked out). He showed up at Motor City Steam with four rejected violin bodies, on the condition that I rework at least one to fit in with his Dieselpunk aesthetic. I gladly gave it my damndest (another instrument from this same weekend, the Diddley Fiddle, is still in development—as is, it’s a fine lil diddley bow, but damned if I don’t want it to be at least a tad more electromechanically rad-as-hell).
Here’s some video of me presenting the Non-Violins Synth to EmmyJ at Motor City Steam Con:
No CGI, no digital effects, no computer even; just some electrical testing equipment and an audio recording. Pretty neat and a lot of fun to watch—so neat and fun that I was, in fact, pretty dubious at first. So I borrowed an oscilloscope from my local public library and tried it out—AND IT WORKED!