Here’s one for all the synth geeks out there: keyboard maestro Jan Hammer on the BBC TV show Rock School 2 in 1987, giving some advice on how best to play the keytar, or rather, his Yamaha KX5 remote keyboard.
Learn it and learn it well, children. As Jan is careful to point out, the key to getting his trademark note-bending synth style is not about a specific kind of keyboard or synth:
it’s really not [about] a particular instrument or a particular patch, it [could be] something with a sharp attack, with a reasonable amount of sustain, that is going through some sort of distortion device or an amp. And then it’s about what you play.
Most people only know Jan Hammer through his work on Miami Vice, but he was responsible for some brilliant music before the era of the-white-suit-with-rolled-up-sleeves.
‘Don’t You Know” by the Jan Hammer Group from 1977 is a classic break and a gorgeous tune in its own right, a beautiful slice of psych-funk that will wipe the smirk off any Hammer-doubters listening (even if it leaves his unfortunate comb over intact):
The cult Italo/synth disco label Italians Do It Better have just re-released a remastered version of their classic 2007 compilation After Dark, featuring music by Chromatics, Glass Candy, Farah, Mirage and Professor Genius, for free through Soundcloud.
Label boss Johnny Jewel explains why IDIB decided to give the remastered re-release away for free:
Over 5 years ago we released a slow-burning label sampler at midnight on my birthday. The original pressing was a demo CDR that Ida No colored with markers & glued cutouts of my hand spraypainting our names on the world. It was supposed to be a limited edition of 237 copies meant for the merch tables of Texas & California. It exploded overnight. 77 minutes of analog electronic music mutating through Italo Disco, Krautrock, Electro, Giallo Cinema, & Pop. By now, After Dark seems like it’s in its thousandth pressing…(we lost track a long time ago). And as we prepare for the release of After Dark 2, we wanted to share with you where it all began.
The last 5 years seem like a beautiful blurry dream. Since the October 15th release date was announced back in July, everyone has grown increasingly anxious for the hard copy. At that time, we didn’t know Karl Lagerfeld was going to commission Chromatics to choreograph 27 minutes of music for the Chanel runway. We also couldn’t have known that Symmetry was going to be asked to score a top-secret motion picture for 2013. There is so much music we can’t wait for you to hear. For the diehard fans, we’re going to start leaking tracks next week.
After slowly chiseling away at it since the spring of 2008, After Dark 2 is finally right around the corner. Thanks to everyone for being so enthusiastic & patient. I promise it’s worth the wait. In the meantime, download the fully remastered version of the first After Dark here. I blended it together at 5 am this morning. Enjoy!
I really can’t recommend this compilation highly enough, it’s a treat for all those who love dance music of the past and the present, even those who prefer their “dance music” to be enjoyed in a distinctly horizontal position, perhaps with some herbal refreshments. And if you’re a fan of Ariel Pink and John Maus’ lo-fi, retro sounds, there is much here to savor:
This vintage footage of Vangelis playing around on his synthesisers at Nemo Studios in London, is equal parts beautiful and terrifying. What an incredible, intense, truly psychedelic sound he is creating! And what a crazy head space he must have been in to live and work in this environment every day.
As I mentioned previously, I am transferring all my dj mixes and mixtape compilations from Soundcloud to Mixcloud (I have been having a lot of bother with Soundcloud lately, in fact it’s making me wonder if a premium account is really worth it?) But in doing so I came across this mixtape I made in late 2009, and thought it was worth sharing.
In contrast to my previously posted disco and 808-based mixes, this Is the more downtempo side of what I like to play and listen to. I guess you could call it “chill-out” (though I find there’s something cheesy about that term.) Dream On is a compilation of synthy, woozy, dreamy, lo-fi-kinda stuff that will appeal to fans of Ariel Pink, John Maus and other “haunted” acts. There’s also a smattering of lo-fi, post-crunk and alternative rock in there too. Remember, this mix was made two and a half years ago, back when Fleet Foxes were still kinda cool.
It’s also pretty fitting for the amazing night skies we have been having lately, what with that beautiful glowing supermoon and all. So don’t classify this mix as being “shoe-gaze”, think of it more as being “sky-gaze”...
BEN BUTLER & MOUSE PAD - E-Ship
TODD RUNDGREN - International Feel
TODD RUNDGREN - Never Never Land
FRANZ FERDINAND - Ulysses (FoxGut Reshuffle)
BJORN TORSKE - Brus
BRUCE HAACK - National Anthem To The Moon
NITE JEWEL - Kamera Songs
EYES - Clown Lady
LOUTS - The Bubbles
THE BEACH BOYS - Fall Breaks and Back To Winter
MIAOUX MIAOUX - Hrvatski
CHROMATICS - In The City
DAFT PUNK - Night Vision
JOHN MAUS - Do Your Best
DESIRE - Under Your Spell
PHANTOM BAND - Island
FLEET FOXES - He Doesn’t Know Why
If you want to hear more of my mixes, you can find them on this page on my blog Niallism, or you can follow me (The Niallist) on Mixcloud.
Here’s a great video for “Under Your Spell” by Desire, as featured on the mix above and also the soundtrack to last year’s fantastic noir/thriller Drive (which tapped in to the whole haunted/synth/retro thing brilliantly.) This clip features one of the best scenes from the film, the staggeringly tender-yet-brutal elevator scene. If you have not seen Drive, be warned, this gets bloody:
More synthesizer-based disco lushness, this time with a punk/new-wave twist.
The Units were one of the first synth-punk bands to appear out of San Francisco in the late 70s and “High Pressure Days” is one of their best-known tracks. It’s a slice of neurotic punk-synth-funk that’s brimming with pent-up energy.
Todd Terje hails from Oslo in Norway, and is one of the most respected re-editters/remixers in nu-disco and house. His recent EP release It’s The Arps is definitely worth checking out.
When these two got together it was moidah. This remix of “High Pressure Days” has just been released on 12” by Opilec Music (with more remixes on the flip by I-Robot), and can also be found on the exhaustive Units’ remix album Connections:
The Italian music maestro Giorgio Moroder turns 72 today.
In a career that spans well over forty years, Moroder has a strong claim to being one of the most influential producers ever. His ground-breaking work with Donna Summer brought electronic music to the masses with the smash “I Feel Love” in 1977, while the duo’s earlier collaboration on “Love To Love You Baby” set in stone the template for the extended, orgasmic disco mix.
Then there are his seminal pop productions for the likes of Blondie, David Bowie, Sparks and the Human League’s Phil Oakey, plus his revolutionary synthesiser scores for Scarface, American Gigolo and Midnight Express (which bagged Moroder an Oscar for Best Score in 1978.)
Often written out of “serious” musical history because of his poppy tendencies, Moroder’s incredible legacy speaks for itself and has defiantly stood the test of time.
Here’s one of my favourite Moroder tracks, the less well-known “Utopia, Me Giorgio” off the album Giorgio from 1977 (here given the extended re-edit treatment by Disco Beard.) 19freakin’77 - that means this track is now 35 years old, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound as fresh now as it did back then:
Giorgio Moroder “Utopia, Me Giorgio (Disco Beard Anniversary Edit)”
…or flip that headline around and it could read Purple Naked Ladies is the soul of Odd Future.
Purple Naked Ladies is the first album by The Internet, nom-de-artiste of Matt Martians and Syd Tha Kid. Syd is best known as dj and beat-maker for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and Tyler The Creator. And those guys are controversial, right? Notorious for their misogyny and homophobia, it’s hard to make those ideals square with an album that is co-written, performed and produced by an out-lesbian who sings songs that are explicity about relationships with other women.
OFWGKTA’s music is complex, bizarre, and most definitely not pop in any way. In contrast, The Internet is not so much a rap group as a modern soul outfit, one that lies closer to the breathy vocal sensuality of Erykah Badu and Aaliyah than the melismatic histrionics of Alicia Keys, but which shares with Tyler et al a kind of dizzy modern psychedelia that’s utterly divorced from the pastorailsm of the hippies and weened on a diet of Cribs and animal tranquillizers. It’s also the most musically-accomplished release from the OFWGKTA camp to date - dare I say it’s accessible, even?
There are two videos taken from the album that can be watched sequentially. Both are directed by Matt Alonzo and featuring Syd and her girlfriend/accomplice as they alternately rob diners á la Pulp Fiction or snort drugs at the fairground. The first is called “Fastlane” and is featured below. The second is “Cocaine” which is after the jump, where you will also find a 20-minute documentary/interview with The Internet. You can buy Purple Naked Ladieshere.
The Internet “Fastlane”
After the jump, “Cocaine” and The Internet interviewed…