Archive for February, 2009

Remix Pepper’s “Freeze” and Win!

Ladies and gentlemen, get your remixing chops ready. Starting Saturday (Feb. 28), Pepper is inviting you to make your own musical masheries of their song “Freeze”!

While Pepper originally hails from Hawaii, they now bring you their fresh mix of reggae, rock, and punk straight from sunny southern California. No, I’m not talking about Sublime here, but rather, the evolution of the brah brah music that they gave birth to. Pepper’s sound takes you from rum-fueled reggae party jams to warm coastal pop that makes you feel like you’re summertime chillin’ no matter the season. Freeze is a song from the latest Law Records release, Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations“, which was produced by Sublime producer and former Butthole Surfer Paul Leary.

Pepper has loaded the stems to Freeze into their Remix Wizard and now wants to hear what you can do! You have two options for making a remix: you can download the stems for free and use any software you want; or you can click on the widget’s MixMaker link to make a remix in MixMatchMusic‘s simple online music editor. If you’ve never experienced remixing before, or just want to see how Freeze was made, check out the MixMaker! Either way, make sure to you upload your remix to the widget so that others can listen to, vote on, and share it.

The Freeze remix contest runs from February 28 to March 28 (2009), and Pepper will hand pick three winners. If you win the grand prize, you get two VIP passes to the next Pepper show in your hometown for your friends, and the chance to shadow Pepper’s sound engineer for the day (from load in to load out at a show in your hometown). How cool is that!

The grand prize winner will also receive the T-RackS 3 Deluxe Mastering Suite and AmpliTube Fender® (courtesy of IK Multimedia); a Law Records backpack full of Pepper swag; one pair of SkullCandy headphones; an autographed photo of Pepper; their remix featured on Pepper’s myspace; and their remix released on an upcoming album from Law Records. The first runner up will receive a copy of AmpliTube Fender from IK Multimedia, and the second runner up will get a copy of the T-RackS 3 Standard Mastering Suite from IK Multimieda. Both runner up winners will also receive two VIP passes to the next Pepper show in their hometown; a Law Records backpack full of Pepper swag; their remix featured on Pepper’s myspace; and an autographed photo of band.

So what are you waiting for, brah? Enter the Freeze remix contest here! And, look out for Evolving Music‘s interview with Pepper early next week.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 10

For last month’s new music update, click here.

February brought some very excellent music my way. An update of 84 songs spanning most genres included some new music as well as some hidden gems from the years past. Enjoy!

Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: In their first studio album since 2005’s You Could Have it So Much Better, the Scottish blokes return with another round of rollicking, high energy rock music. The staples of their previous musical endeavors are all here, from the steady lock-step drums to the grinding and rapid guitars, all accentuated with Alex Kapranos’s distinct vocals that he ranges from soft caress to forceful leader to out and out yell. While the album doesn’t provide much in the way of evolution from previous work, that’s not to say it’s not solid. In fact, in an era where numerous bands change their face and sound from one release to another, a little continuity isn’t a bad thing. They slow it down nicely with “Dream Again,” showing a more melodic touch to their sound, and on “Bite Hard” they show their ability to start slow to build to a frenetic and recognizable chorus structure. Don’t Sleep On: “Can’t Stop Feeling,” “Twilight Omens,” and “Bite Hard”

Glass Candy, Deep Gems and B/E/A/T/B/O/X: This is a group I just heard about out of Portland, OR. They’re currently on the Italians Do It Better label, with B/E/A/T/B/O/X coming out in 2007 and the Deep Gems album of unreleased tracks released in ’08. With an eerie female lead vocalist in Ida No, this group specializes in a delicious mixture of 80s pop music fused with dark/deep disco sounds. The grimy bass grooves, melodic keys and moving beats create a vision of dark streets on a rainy night or a dimly lit club for slow dancing hipsters, but would also feel right at home on the Scarface and Grand Theft Auto 2 soundtracks. Imagine a collaboration between Tangerine Dream and Nine Inch Nails with Kelli Dayton, formerly of the Sneaker Pimps, on vocals. If you like 80s, or disco, or just some dark music you can listen to in your cruise to an unmentionable location, Glass Candy will keep your head nodding. Don’t Sleep On: “Feeling Without Touching,” “Etheric Device,” and “Touching the Morning Mist.”

Lake, Oh, The Places We’ll Go: This relatively new (at least in terms of mass release appeal, just signed to K Records) lo-fi indie pop/rock group out of Olympia, WA caught me by surprise. Taking liberally from multiple genres and mixing it up with lyrics from both a male and female vocalist, the album doesn’t fit any one mold. There are hints of Say Hi to Your Mom, Death Cab for Cutie and Peter Bjorn and John here, but also moments of quiet melody that hearken to Feist or Sia. Some of the more uptempo indie moments on the album bring to mind Throw Me the Statue. Pianos, guitars, handclaps and horns find their moments at various points throughout the album, leading to a well-rounded and easily enjoyable album that is effortless as a listen. Don’t Sleep On: “Minor Trip,” “Dead Beat,” and Bad Dream.”

Telefon Tel Aviv, Immolate Yourself: While I’ve been listening to Telefon Tel Aviv since their sophomore release Map of What is Effortless, it wasn’t until I heard about their newest release that I learned about the death of one half of the laptop duo, Charles Cooper. Unfortunately, not much is known about the circumstances surrounding his death, other than he was missing for about a week before he was found, but given the dense emotional contexts of the group’s music, it isn’t hard to see where some levels of despair may have existed for Cooper. While Map brought their electronic sounds to a simple and accessible short format, Immolate Yourself is a densely layered piece that screams of despair behind towering walls of sound, melancholy synth work and distorted and echoed lyrics. At times beautiful for the music and others simply horrendous because of the distress the music belies, Immolate Yourself is a perfect study of what happens when depression meets a talented musician who simply can’t get it all out on paper. No word yet on what Joshua Eustis plans to do, but having been a long time friend of Cooper, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a bit difficult to go back to the studio without him. Don’t Sleep On: “Your Mouth,” “Helen of Troy,” and “M.”

Zion I, The Take Over: Having already written a review of this album (that you can find here), I won’t say much other than to mention that the songs grow on me a bit more each listen. Don’t Sleep On: “The Take Over,” “Antenna,” and “Coastin'” featuring K.Flay.

The Singles Artists: These artists didn’t get full albums on the music update, but they definitely had a hit or two that got thrown in. For hip-hop fans, check out Kool G Rap (“On the Rise Again,” “What’s More Realer Than That”.) If you like old time classic rock and roll but have grown weary of listening to your Led Zeppelin albums over and over again, check out the new throwback work of the Golden Animals (“Queen Mary,” “My My My”) If you’re an indie rock listener, give Ruby Isle a try (“How It Hurts,” “One Trip.”)

MixMatchMusic Tra.kz releases: For those of you who haven’t been following, MixMatchMusic recently launched Tra.kz , a URL shortener for all things music. As part of that release, a number of bands released new music using the site, to tremendous results. The Expendables, Giant Panda Guerrila Dub Squad, Trifonic, and Pepper all released some new tracks. From Trifonic, we got “Gutter Box,” as well as a smoking remix of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown.” Pepper brought a soundboard recording from a live concert with “Too Much.” For those with more interest in Pepper, we’ve got an interview coming up, as well as a remix contest, so stay on the lookout for that.

Another great month for new music… can’t wait to see what March has in store. Keep listening.

New Orleans Mardi Gras in the 40s and 50s

Happy Fat Tuesday everyone! As you prepare to give something up for lent, watch people you know go through the process, or just enjoy the festivities surrounding the occasion, I leave you with a glimpse of the early days in New Orleans:

Open Mic – Where?

You’ve uploaded your stems, been collaborating with others, publishing your music on MixMatchMusic… things are going well! So what else can you do to get noticed? Have you ever attended an open mic? What? You don’t know where to go? No worries.

Openmic.us, like MixMatch, is dedicated to helping indie musicians find places to play and be heard. Also, there are all sorts of tips for musicians on the site. How to rock an open mic, tips on recording, editing & mixing and more. The OpenMic.us site is comprised of 43 local city web sites. Go to the site, scroll down and check out the open mics available in your city. Who knows… the right person could be grabbing a drink while listening to you jam.

The OpenMic.us Network is operated by Open Mic Entertainment, the premier operator of live-music open mic events in the U.S.

“Citing a severe shortage of reliable open mic information in the Web, we decided to verify the accuracy of every open mic that we could find”, stated OpenMic.us founder, David Craver. He continued, “Since we have over 13 years of experience in running live music open mics, we felt that we really understood the needs of the open mic musicians in our country”.

“We like to support anything that helps musicians”, stated Electro-Voice PR Chief, Guy Low. He also said, “The OpenMic.us Network is a valuable resource for musician hobbyists and professional musicians alike.”

RemixComps.com: Remix Contest Tracker

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We recently stumbled upon another solid resource for all you remixing aficionados out there. RemixComps.com is a new site that finds all the remix contests going on and tracks them for you. That’s right – it tracks them for you. Go ahead, be lazy. Just bum around on the site and find stuff to remix. Browse contests easily by Top Rated, Closing Soon, Quick List etc and even access old contests in Just Ended or the Archives. Or, for the ambitious UGC-prone among you, you can also submit your own contests or ones that you find.

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Once you are sold on the concept and create an account, you can comment on and rate the contests. That’s how the good ones end up in Top Rated, obviously.

This service goes hand in hand with MixMatchMusic’s Remix Wizard for those who set up their remix promotion as a contest, i.e. set a deadline, include prizes. For example, Zion I’s remix contest is currently being featured on RemixComps – it ends March 12 and features some pretty kickass prizes like the winning remix being featured on Myspace and played on a radio set/podcast, plus signed copies of rare Zion I vinyl and more. Definitely worth a shot!

What a great way to delve deeper into DIY remixing culture. Rather than wasting time scouring the internet for songs to remix and sites that allow it, you can spend your time actually splicing and dicing the music and creating your own killer mixes.

For more info, check out their blog and follow them on Twitter.

Zion I – The Take Over Review

In 2006, Zion I released their album Break A Dawn, an album previously released only in Japan and brought stateside following the release of their collaboration with The Grouch, Heroes in the City of Dope. And then, radio silence. Without question the group was staying busy with live performances, interviews, AmpLive’s foray into remix work with the Rainydayz Remixes of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, but the gap between Break A Dawn and tomorrow’s release of The Take Over has been the longest drought of new Zion I material since the gap between 2000’s Mind Over Matter and their sophomore 2003 release Deep Water Slang. And the good news? The Take Over shows what ten years of maturity, musical comfort and genre influence can do to two people dedicated to their craft. The bad news? It clocks in at under 50 minutes, and when it ends, you can’t help but wish there was more.

While The Take Over doesn’t carry with it the same continuity of thought that made Mind Over Matter an intro to outro listen, it does bring the most eclectic genre influences into the music since that album. AmpLive’s creativity with his hip-hop and stunning ability to incorporate other genres helps create a musical backdrop for Zumbi’s lyrics that transcend plain hip-hop or rap. Following the intro, “Geek to the Beat” kicks off the album with a mixture of tribal drums and background chant sounds that are mingled with electro synths and heavy 808s. While it would be very easy for other artists to fall into the trap of using one of these sounds at the expense of the others, Amp has managed to find the balance, alternating between the very simple beat and chants during the verse and then bringing in a heavier electric feel for the chorus. The video below has a snippet of the song performed live on Friday night in Oakland.

“Takeover” follows “Geek to the Beat” and provides a much more traditional hip-hop sound. Amp brings in a boom-bap beat with simple keys in the background and a cut up sample that creates a feel of building in the song while you shrug your shoulders to the sample and then feel the beat come back underneath. Zumbi sounds effortless in his lyrics, and as it goes to chorus, the “takeover” sample mixes with undulating synths and a soulful sounding male vocalist sample. As the song fades and goes to outro, Amp’s musical skills are once again on showcase with a funky electro sound that sets up one of the singles off the album, “DJ DJ.”

This track is certainly one of the more out there cuts on the album as it uses techno and fast paced electro sounds with a chorus snippet in Spanish provided by Deuce Eclipse. Amp on here pays homage to his craft by sprinkling in something of almost anything he can find, including 80’s synth work that could have worked in almost any dance hall. What is perhaps most exciting about this track is that it goes in so many different directions, yet the potential for the evolution of the song is further enhanced by the fact that the group has released the stems to the songs online for fans to remix their own versions. Below is a brief clip of their performance of “DJ DJ” from Friday night.

This goes into one of the most solid songs on the album, “Antenna” featuring Amp’s main collaborator on the Radiohead remixes, Codany Holiday. On this track, Holiday’s refrain of “make me feel brand new” sounds at once both current and retro, a heartfelt line used more as hook than as chorus. What’s fantastic about it is that Zumbi appears to have felt it too as he structures his verses around Holiday’s hook, the simple and in places sparse beat and Amp’s synth work which here sound like falling sheets of rain. The result is a reflective song about Zumbi’s current situation and thoughts, with ascending vocoder sounding samples through the chorus. The electro remix and distortion at the tail end of the song helps to break it down before leaving you with the full beat and hook as it trails out. Video of Friday’s performance of the beginning of this song below.

From there we go into the track duo of “Caged Bird Pt. 1” featuring Brother Ali and “In the Mornin’ (Caged Bird Pt. 2).” These two tracks work as contrasting pieces. The uptempo and refreshing strings provide the melody for a moving and full sounding hip-hop track with a sample-heavy chorus complete with scratch effects and chop up by Amp. The lyrics focus on the idea of something better, and the feeling of the song as a whole is that the street and the cage provide the lyrics, but the music helps open it up and make flight possible. The easy, soulful and bluesy transition to the beginning of pt 2. then gives way to a grimy and deep sound with a much heavier beat. Pt. 2 sounds a bit less hopeful and upbeat than pt. 1, as if pt. 1 is meant to help the caged birds sing, and pt. 2 takes a view of the grind that creates the cage. What’s amazing here is that using the same melody and samples, Amp weaves two completely different songs together with such precision that the split between them is virtually invisible.

“Radio” takes a page from the “Hey Ya” book in that it incorporates a traditional drum/clap sound and acoustic guitar strum, making it sound like a hybrid of hip-hop and 50’s pop music. Zumbi raps about genres and musical evolution on this track that is really a retrospective of radio music and pays homage to the great artists of the past, from Miles Davis to Jimi Hendrix. And on the following track, Amp attempts to bring in a good portion of this retrospective with “Gumbo,” a brief interlude song steeped in horn work and Ragtime influenced jazz. But careful never to let his genre influence tilt too far in one direction, Amp takes the horns and decomposes them to electronic fluctuations of a space jazz variety.

“Country Baked Yams” featuring Devin the Dude is probably the largest departure from Zion I’s signature sounds on the album. It’s a song that will probably do very well on the radio and will have followers, but for me is a bit off. This isn’t to say that I don’t recognize the attempt at something different here and praise the attempt, I just personally don’t think it works. The track is steeped in bubble gum synths and the vocal alteration to a higher pitch makes it feel almost a bit childish. But the chorus is finely crafted with a simple vocal part and a very nice guitar melody with a nice bass line. It’s certainly closer to pop than I’ve heard from Zion I, but as an exploration and experiment, it shows that they’re willing to cross lines and try new things, which I’m never opposed to, even when the results fall short.

“Coastin” featuring K.Flay follows, opening with and carrying through piano that sounds heavily influenced from Amp’s work on Radiohead’s music. The drum clap gives a background for K.Flay’s smooth and somewhat smoky voice and the lyrics by Zumbi sound like he was without question coastin when he wrote it. Amp mixes in some crowd sounds to complete the track. The result is a driving song, perfect for late night with the sunroof open or mid-day with all the windows down. See the clip below:

The last single of the album, “Juicy Juice” comes next, and is the first song that I actually heard off this album a few months ago. The deep 808s and the hyphy feel come out on this Bay Area track that could easily have been placed as the opening track in place of “Geek to the Beat.” The sing-along worthy track, “Peppermint Patty” follows and has the vocal singalong part backed by horns and an eerie melody behind Zumbi’s lyrics. Next is “Bring in the Light” with a grim outlook on the current state of the world, including the bleak but all too familiar thought in the lines “Killing for oil/protest for peace.” Throughout the track, Amp brings jazz touches in, which go full steam ahead in the last minute of the song as he experiments with digitally distorted samples from the song mixed with a jazz piano and more space jazz sounds. While all of the tracks are solid on this album, the outros and interludes are where Amp really shows what kind of producer he is and how well grounded he is musically. They end the album with “Legacy” featuring Ty and Jennifer Johns, a jazz/lounge/pop fusion that draws on some of the tribal beats that show up throughout the album.

All told, there’s something for just about every listener on this album, whether you’ve followed Zion I since Mind Over Matter or if The Take Over is the first time you’re hearing about them (in which case, which rock have you been living under?) Latin, Jazz, Techno, Dance, Blues, Funk and Rock all find a place here, and even when they may not work for a particular listener, the desire to try and experiment with everything can’t be overlooked and is part of what makes the album great. What’s important to note is that while the song by song break down goes to describing what can be found on the album, it doesn’t do justice to the music here. Zumbi’s lyrics are introspective and conscious enough to get better with every listen, and similarly, AmpLive’s production work incorporates so many genres and layers to the musical tapestry he creates here that it’s hard not to constantly pick up new pieces to the sound that you hadn’t heard before. The Take Over drops tomorrow.

Zion I Remix Contest from The Take Over

Bay Area hip-hop duo Zion I is well known over the course of their discography for exploring musical sounds and genres not typically associated with the sounds of the streets. Zumbi’s introspective and intellectually based lyrics have found an excellent match in the musically curious mind of AmpLive, who aside from remixing Radiohead’s In Rainbows album has brought soul, funk, electro, house and rock vibes to hip-hop in a way that makes Zion I both incredible and enlightening to listen to.

Silent on the discography front since their 2006 collaboration with The Grouch, Zion I has poised themselves for a new group release, their first since they brought the Japanese only release Break A Dawn over the Pacific for a stateside release in ’06. Their new album, The Take Over, is scheduled to drop next Tuesday, and in keeping with their format of engaging their fans and examining ways to evolve their own music in our current remix culture, they have launched a remix contest for one of the tracks off the new album, “DJ DJ.”

Today, Zion I released their stems from “DJ DJ” to the general public, using MixMatchMusic‘s simple Remix Wizard. If you’re an audio wiz already, just download the stems and work them out, but even for those with less musical experience or musicians not interested in downloading the stems, the MixMatch wizard provides the stems and the mixing interface to make this contest accessible to anyone with a computer. What’s excellent about the format here is that it doesn’t require any previous experience, as the wizard is very intuitive and easy to use.

Finish your remix and upload it by March 12th and you’re in the running for some excellent prizes, including a spot for your remix on Zion I’s Myspace page and lots of great Zion I stuff for the winners. For more information or to enter the contest, click here.


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