Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Day At The Library

If you're a DJ, or even just a music enthusiast, you could relate to the music discovery process. Whether your crate digging through a friends vinyl collection, or listening to new releases on the radio. Finding new music becomes vital for planning your next setlist. Online resources such as YouTube & SoundCloud have been discussed extensively. Rather than rehash those great tips, I'd like recommend one of my own, take a moment to visit your local library.

That's exactly what I did just the other day. I managed to walk by the prominently displayed music section on the first floor at the Elkhart Main Public Library. Sparked by curiosity, I honestly did not have any expectations of finding of what I was looking for. Which was what exactly? Not yet entirely sure myself, I would only know it, until I came across it. I began casually browsing through the various genres, an assortment of Classical, Blues, Jazz and Pop Music.To my surprise, I stumbled upon a few CDs just awaiting for the next library cardholder, namely:
Right there at the touch of my fingertips were not one but three Armin Van Buuren album releases, and a Ministry of Sound album, you know, just chilling. While perhaps I wouldn't go out of my lengths to requisition these older releases today, it was nostalgic to read the track titles on the back CD cover. Sitting here at the library and cataloged under sound recordings this was it.

"Underground dance music?" I contemplated to myself. This was in fact what I was searching for.

This moment suddenly became very insightful, the library becomes a wonderful resource for any aspiring music mixologist. In fact I was grateful to the soul who has gifted the community this share piece of music and culture, so that others may share and experience. I've been inspired to give to my support to sustain and grow the Underground Dance music community in my hometown. I encourage and challenge you to get a library card and see what you find under the Subject: Underground dance music.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Artist Interview: Norman Andretti a.k.a Quarill

Two weeks ago on CrossTempos we spotlighted the February 10th, 2014 release of the Hungarian Allstars EP. Today, it is my pleasure to release the transcript interview with Norman Andretti better known as Quarill.


Cross Tempos: From your bio I’ve read your early influences stem from some of the harder styles of Techno & House music. My knowledge of those genres tends to be high energy, high beats per minute. If I recall correctly Nation of Sheep was produced at 128 BPM, which happens to be a very versatile range. What was the deciding factor on the BPM?


Norman: It is a tricky question though. Every time I start a project, there is no particular concept behind of it, unless it is a remix of course. Nevertheless, it always depends on my mood whether if I work on a slower, more modern sounding track or if I go for speedier stuff. I reckon every producer works the same way. Speaking of “Nation of Sheep” the main factor of choosing a 128 BPM must have been the fact that the other artists’ tracks appearing on the same EP have the same sort of speed, and if I would’ve come up with something faster, it would have lolled out from the rest, hence it may have failed to deliver the overall message to the audience we’ve planned getting to. 



Cross Tempos: Tell us about your next releases, I’ve heard it will be harder and faster. Might this be a tribute to your earlier influences, or could we anticipate a flurry of hard banging track releases?


Norman: Thankfully I’ve got a lot of releases coming up this year on several known labels, so I really don’t know which one to mention. It is a bit off the subject, but as you may have noticed, my artist name includes two aliases which I run parallel, hence requires even more effort. When I’m producing as Norman Andretti, the result will be around 137-140 BPM including a variety of heavy kicks, complex tribal loops, artificial stabs, melodies and so on. Sometimes I’m not afraid to bring elements of e.g. Tech-Trance to Hardgroove or Funkytechno. But my “Quarill” projects are totally the opposite of what I just said. Their tempo doesn’t go beyond 130 BPM for House related stuffs. I often use samples from classic funk tunes from the 70’s, 80’s, and I like to combine them with jackin’ [house] loops and sometimes lively slapped guitar basslines. When the time/weather/mood is right for modern Techno, I must say I have to forget about everything of any other styles, because that is the most fragile from all. Speaking of which, nowadays the Techno profession is very thin, everyone seems to find it the best path towards fame, but on the other hand it’s very difficult to make something outstanding…and that’s what I’m working on hard. To sum it all up, if you look back to any of my previously released tracks, one track is always completely different from another.


Cross Tempos: Focusing onto your role of Management and A&R, tell us a bit about what you may looking for in terms of style and direction of your label Corrupted Data Recordings.


Norman: Corrupted Data is a traditional label, and was established in 2006. Since then the Techno [genre] has gone through several alterations. My partners and I in management are still trying to keep this faster, more old-school sound alive, including the Funk and Groove based styles. Despite what whatever happens to popular today in the current market, we believe that there is still remains many highly talented [producers] out there. On the other hand, we refuse to sit and watch while this genre fades away. This is what we've grown with, and has influenced us, so this is where we belong. There are only a few labels left releasing this type of Techno, and we are proud to be one of them. Although we feel this way, we are aware that we may not get far by keeping things the same. If we as a label want to stay on the market, at some points we have to start following the newer generations interests and taste. To answer your question, our profile is Hardgroove and Funkytechno at least for the rest of the year. Then we will see.


Cross Tempos: I see you that your workstation of choice is FL Studio. It’s mine too! What words of wisdom would you give aspiring producers looking to make their first label release?


Norman: First rule is not to start producing right away just because you think you can do it. Of course you need a big portion of courage but that comes in later. A few years of research is mandatory to define yourself and discover what artists you want to model yourself after, I'm not saying copy, but to rather find inspiration into your music. [Today] there are way too many DJs and producers doing exactly that [imitating one another], especially in Techno. Just being another one of them is pointless. All to often, I have that Facepalm moment when listening to new [track] releases. I'm shifting and sorting through a hundred tracks just to spot maybe 5 playable ones…that's ridiculous. My other advice is to watch several tutorials (released by proper studios) to achieve that certain sound and quality you're looking for. Also some good luck…you'll need that too. ;)

 

Cross Tempos: I have to ask, what are your thoughts about Techno/Tech-House scene in Hungary in regards to growth, movement, and influences? Is it something that is growing or still in the underground, or is there crossover into other genres like Electro House, Trance, and Hardstyle.

 

Norman: The current status in Hungary is disastrous, and not just because mainstream [EDM] is storming. The Hungarian [Techno] community and scene is poor at supporting each-other or even sometimes just tolerating one another. Envy and selfishness has grown enormously. Promoters are no longer interested in giving a chance to new talents, caring only about profits (although that is somewhat understandable). Promoters line up the same big names weekend after weekend, simply to draw in large audiences and play for the masses. Venue owners seem either oblivious or indifferent about which big name is playing. Let alone care about who may be the best. It seems there is a growing trend in Hungary, where you face the possibility of having more DJs than the crowd very soon…and I'm not even joking. Personally, I would rather go play live beyond Hungary's borders like I have in the past. There are clear agreements and expectations between the promoter and the artist and things like expenses and compensation are defined. Additionally while being abroad as an artist, you stand a good probability the people in the crowd will recognize you, because they admire you and acknowledge of what you have already put on the table, which seems unlikely in Hungary. I believe these negatives contribute to the existing Hungarian club scene's opinion in terms of what demanding music is. Considering how small this country is, the peoples view on it, is very diversified. I do eagerly hope that it will change eventually and I am happy do whatever needs to be done to make it happen.


Cross Tempos: Thank you Norman for your time and input, we look forward to your upcoming releases on Beatport and TrackitDown.



You may catch Quarill/Norman Andretti's previews and latest track releases at his SoundCloud page.

 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Track Review: J. Phlip - Say My Name On Acid Feat. Aidan Chambers (Remix)

Disclaimer, this review has been sitting on desk for 3 months now, yes I'm that lazy.

When I sit down and talk about House music today, it becomes painfully obvious of my youth and ignorance. I just might NOT have an actual Effing clue what I am talking about when I say "House music."

To my defense, I'll claim my age as an excuse for ignorance (born in '86). Childhood sheltering prevented me from even understanding and comprehending what was going in Detroit or New York during that time. However there are no excuses for ignorance today, not with resources such as YouTube, and Wikipedia. With every genre a new wave and era comes with a new generation and what we call House music today.

In fact Today's modern house music comes a long way from the original House. For those of you reading, I'm talking about the real deal, Chicago House. So before I began this review I had to take a musical history lesson, and understand what make House, House. That of course would be the Roland TB-303 Bassline Synthesizer, so popular and revolutionary, it is still being manufactured and being re-released today.

Thankfully, there are a few individuals out there that stay true to the roots yet continue to create nostalgic yet original House music. One artist in particular happens to hail from town called Springfield, Illinois. Close to enough to hear the influences of Chicago, yet far enough to develop a unique sound. I'm talking about Dirty Bird Records  very own featured artist, J. Phlip.

I want to highlight the February 4th, 2014 release track release of J. Phlip - Say My Name. The original mix kicks off quickly with a tech-house 4 beat loop and pronounced snare. This first minute has that funky signature minimal tech-house sound I've come to grown fond of from Dirty Bird Records. What comes next is what defines Chicago's flavor of House music, that squelched TB-303 synthesizer bassline, also known as Acid House. J. Phlip delivers a fresh but nostalgic twist of acid house on her original mix. A great track, but I just couldn't quite put my finger on it. In fact this track was almost lost on me, as I was not able to fully appreciate it. Thankfully, San Francisco's native Aidan Chambers helped with that. His remix provided that bridge for my current tastes of today's house music to that of 1985. A remastered bass kick provided that extra big room feel to J. Philp's original mix, and just the right amount omph to make this a club ready track and staple to my setlist.


Why I don't DJ Weddings.

Let me kick off this piece by saying Weddings are fantastic. If you're an upcoming Disc Jockey looking for work in the music entertainment business, Business is good, really good in fact. Today's cost of entry has never been cheaper for mobile DJ's. I've recently discovered a service called Thumbtack that provides great leads for DJ's looking for gigs. It's much better than going it the hard way and spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on websites, advertisement. After a few gigs you can make you're return on investment on your initial hardware purchases.

Before we go further on the benefits of being a mobile/wedding DJ, I ask that you take a moment to understand where I come from. The Art of mixing records and the technology behind it was fascinating at an early age to me. I essentially became a DJ when I bought my first controller, A Hercules RMX in 2011. The rest is history. I became a highly successfully globe trotting success overnight playing to thousands of scream fans almost overnight. Sounds like "bullshit" right? Well that's because it is.

I spent the years of 2011 and 2012 playing to almost anyone who would give me the time of day to spin records, Mom's backyard, friend's basement, anywhere would I could play my favorite tunes of the week. Many thanks to all the friends and family for those moments. Looking back retrospectively, I was pretty awful. Sure I did my research and read great sites like Digital DJ Tips and DJ Tech Tools religiously, downloaded the Beatport Top 10 and the Top 40 Billboard Chart, yet I was still terrible. During those formative years I wanted desperately to play somewhere, anywhere, yet disappointment set in quickly and often. Something had to change, I thought to myself, perhaps my mixing is terrible, well it was. Going back to bedroom, I practiced and self-studied music theory. Learning a few things along the way, it wasn't just how well I could blend two tracks together, it was which tracks did I drop and when that really mattered.

One day I was faced with a dilemma. Is my drive to play for a crowd the most important reason to DJ for me? Someone offered me to DJ a wedding. Here's the paid opportunity I was waiting for! Or was it?  The theme and music format of the event was American Country Music.

Oh Sweet Mother of Jesus... 

I just spent around two years worth of building a library of Trance & Electro House music. There was just no way I was ready to spin country music. How does one even mix country music? The answer is you don't. Play one track after another and quick radio fade, something an iPod can do. Due to my inexperience or perhaps poor communication the gig fell through and another DJ replaced me, Bummer or so I thought.

This setback turned out to be a very important experience. Discovering the answer to my earlier question was absolute, I do care what I play. Therefore what I play is more important than just finding a place to spin records. Time did not stand still, and I had to move on. Experimenting with a broader spectrum of music I found myself, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. No longer shackled to playing for to generic mainstream crowd, I had the opportunity to really define & discover myself in terms of tastes, likes, and most importantly, appreciation for music.

Therefore, I have resolved to leave weddings to the mobile entrepreneurs who can appreciate or at least tolerate a wide format of hip-hop, country, pop-rock, and mainstream dance music. At the end of the day it is a business that takes hard-work and dedication. To me however, so much of the spark and fun of DJ'ing a wedding get's left out. Getting on the Microphone and being a good Master of Ceremonies has much more value than mastery of special effects and four-deck mixing. In my view, a good wedding DJ is not only defined by how much fun his customer is having (the wedding party) but also how much fun he or she is having as well.

As for myself, I still continue to spin my own sets and play for the fun and appreciation of Electronic music. Tight blends, harmonics, track selection, and energy level management is just so much more important to me, then allowing for strange requests from the tipsy bridesmaid.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Huns are coming.

Let's talk about Stereotypes for a moment. If I'm looking for some Electro, I might generally expect big name producers from the Netherlands. If I'm in the mood for something heavier and with Hip-Hip influences the United States has plenty of mainstage Trap artists. Narrowing down to cities, Chicago & New York have their house, Ibiza has it's signature Balearic chillout, and Prague has it's Trance.

 The list goes on, but let's get to our roots here. Techno? yes Techno. Detroit is the first location on the list, after all the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit is one of the greatest Techno festivals in the world. Period. Everything Detroit aside, my second choice and perceived Mecca of Techno, Hard Techno, Tech-House, and Minimal would arguably be Germany. Dozens of Berlin based Techno DJ's dominate the European club circuit, and for good reason, but here is the part where I tell you my stereotypical views have been challenged.

I've somehow managed to overlook Hungary. I know, I'll have to answer to my girlfriend on that later. Especially after having the opportunity to experience the Budapest techno nightlife firsthand, but don't take my word for it.  A prime example is the annual Bonusz Electronic Music Festival whose 2013 line up featured a talented roster of Techno DJ's like Derrick May, Dubfire, Mark Knight, and Ida Engberg. You might say sure there were other EDM or non techno exclusive A-list artists at Bonusz too, but this is where I tell you take a closer look at the flyer. Whom did you see as the Headliner? Is it your typical Trap, Trance, or Electro House artist there? The answer is no, headlining last year was none other Techno legend, Carl Cox.

Fast Forwarding to today, I found myself channel surfing through DI.FM, checking out new artists, and enjoying new tunes. Nothing really stood out or struck my fancy, that is until I tuned into the Techno station and landed upon this gem, Quarill - Nation of Sheep. Needless to say this track immediately got my attention like a needle drop on a vinyl record. I just had to Google this track and fast. Upon finding the Beatport release on the label Keep on Techno Records it was refreshing to learn this EP was produced by an exclusive roster of Hungarian artists, none of which I had ever heard of before. After giving the whole EP a listen to, twice. I just had to add it to my shopping cart. This whole experience has taught my a very valuable lesson.

The Huns are coming.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SoundCloud Track Finder

Let me give you some background. The majority of my material used in my DJ sets is purchased on Beatport. As a Bedroom DJ or music enthusiast, this can quickly turn into a very expensive hobby. Sure there are music pools I could join. Yet music pools can be sketchy or simply doesn't have what I'm looking for. What I never recommend is torrenting or unauthorized downloading. It really hurts the artists who make such great music and make a living and use it to put bread on the table and pay rent. Luckily, there are many artists and labels that provide free tracks for us to discover and enjoy. Enter SoundCloud where are artist provide free music, free as in gratis, not libre (although you could search for creative commons material too). SoundCloud has become very popular with it's easy discovery, sharing, and music playback. Despite SoundCloud's fantastic interface discovering new samples and material can still be very time consuming. Thankfully, SoundCloud has an application programming interface (API). I decided one Sunday with encouragement and support from my girlfriend to fire up my Ubuntu virtual machine and write some code. It took me a while, but it turned out to be a great learning exercise for Python. Something I've been meaning to do for years. While it's simple, and a long way from being finished. Eventually, I plan on making a full working web interface with drop down menus and an integrated player. Here's what I have so far. Feel free to drop a comment for any questions on actually getting this to work or interests in it's further development. Here's a screen shot.



Sample Code explained:

1) Logins into SoundCloud with a Developer app Credentials (I removed my login information for security purposes, feel free to register for your own credentials)
2) Display who is logged in as.
3) Search:

  • Genre: Ambient
  • Return 50 Results
  • Track is set to Downloadable (Determined by artist)
  • Tracks between 3-10 minutes (In order to eliminate DJ sets, podcasts, and previews)
  • Playback Over 250 in order to find popular tracks worth listening to.
4) Catch any errors and move on 
5) Display the Results

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Track Preview: Far East Movement & Sidney Samson - Bang It To The Curb (Bighouse Edit)

The crossover between Electro House and Southern Hip Hop is nothing new, but the 2010 decade has ushered in a new genre of EDM Trap music that continues to encourage booty shaking on the dance floor. For some producers the genre was an experimental phase, for DJ Bighouse however, it is a lifestyle.

Independent artist DJ Bighouse is no exception to the Trap genre. Dedicated to a career of spinning records and producing new tracks at a dizzying rate, the South Bend, Indiana native delivers a new remix with Far East Movement & Sidney Samson's latest release, Bang It To The Curb. The original mix, delivers a thick 808 bass and heavy synths. Simple and effective, yet there seemed something was missing that I couldn't exactly pin down. DJ Bighouse made it clear when he saw the opportunity for a new arrangement . The marimba intro was extended to around 30 seconds and he layered it with a nice snare. Pointing out the obvious of a short 10 second long intro in the original mix. What really makes this edit shine is how DJ Bighouse inserts his breakdowns.  Breaking up the loop in this manner effectively builds up anticipation. This resulted into a higher energy level and making Bang It To the Curb on the shortlist of club ready tracks.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Track Review: Gai Barone - Half Tower

What makes Progressive House unique? How do I know when I've discovered it? More on that in just a minute. During one of my ritual music discovery days, I came upon a preview sample of Gai Barone's latest release. Four seconds into the sample, it was an instant buy, no second thoughts, just an immediate click 'add to cart', and move on. Half Tower was released with Voices in my Head as a two track E.P. on December 2, 2013 by the Berlin based, Afterglow Records. Known for it's roster of Trance and Progressive house artists, becoming a seminal release. 

Progressive House in 2013 has come in such a wide variety it's very identity becomes confusing.
Many track releases under the Progressive House genre tag could be equally considered (at this time of writing) on one end, mainstream Electro House or Trance music at the other end, respectively. For myself, Progressive House should fall somewhere neatly in between. Without extreme leanings to towards either/or of the sub-genre spectrum. 

Half Tower has some of the best elements of Tech-House, a rhythmic polished bass beat that rolls nicely around 60 Hz, a well mastered snare with reverb, and clean but not over powered hi-hats. Gai added his signature layered complexity with a Conga drum that gives Half Tower it's rhythmic depth. Gradually, a nice harmonic synth flows gently with the rhythm and Gai layers in some subtle arpeggio plucks. What makes this track unique was Gai Barone's fantastic breakdown. The melody enters with a string like synth. Gai's classical music influences were wonderfully showing, as it became clear of brilliant melody arrangement. After the breakdown the beat was dropped like smooth Techno. Silky, Deep, Techy, and with a melodious synth that harmonizes; this is what Progressive House should be.