Posts Tagged 'AmpLive'

SXSW Spotlights Artist-Fan Collaboration in New Film About Music 2.0


Over the last several months, MixMatchMusic has been busy working on a short film for South By Southwest, titled “Remix…A New Way to Engage Fans”. Well, we’re happy to announce that the film is now live and you are invited to see how artists and fans are turning to remixing to connect and interact with fans in a music 2.0 world.

Emerging hip hop artists, the Bayliens, are poster children for a music 2.0 world that is nearly as much about connecting with fans off stage as it is entertaining them onstage.  This film shows how they’re connecting with fans at an almost molecular level, by offering them the musical building blocks of their songs and encouraging them to remix them into new sounds and new songs. The film also features insights from AmpLive (of Zion I) and Trifonic on the power of artist-fan collaboration.

Musicians are navigating a dramatically changed music business landscape.  More than ever, they have to engage and involve casual listeners in order to build deep and lasting relationships with them.  The group behind the video, MixMatchMusic (aka, the dudes writing this post), is focused on helping musicians make those connections and deepening the bonds that link them with fans.

The Bayliens

Zion I Remix Contest Winners Announced

61rslzn4apl_ss400_2After carefully listening to the 35 remixes that fans made for the “DJ DJ” Remix Contest, Zumbi and AmpLive have made their decision. Congratulations to Hoyo, Orby Spectre, and Indecent the Slapmaster for winning the contest!

Hoyo was awarded the grand prize for his remix, which showcased a dirty electro twist to the song. Check it out here. The first runner up was Orby Spectre, who brought the funk with his remix. And, Indecent the Slapmaster was awarded the 2nd runner up prize, and gets Evolving Music’s nod for the most creative name for a remix: “DJ DJ Slapped and Slumped“.

All in all, Zion I fans had the best remixing chops that we’ve seen so far! You can listen to all the remixes, whenever you please, on Zion I’s Remix Wizard.

Zion I Remix Round-Up

Last week marked the end of the Zion I remix contest for the song off their new release The Take Over, “DJ DJ.” The contest was phenomenal, bringing out 35 quality new remixes of the track by fans and artists. At the beginning of the contest we explained the process and rules, and now it’s time for a quick glance at what some of the contributors produced.

The best part of this contest is the incredible range of sounds and styles that were brought to the re-envisioning of the track. Hiright came with a remix that brought in 808s and a drastic slow down on the tempo of the verse for his “808 Remix” while keeping the backing music uptempo. RockG went the opposite direction on his “Parents R Out of Town” remix, opting for a techno heavy delivery. Also on the electronic side of the spectrum, MixMatchMusic’s Gavroche decided on a “drumglitch” remix, subduing the source material under a pervasive layer of drum tricks. If those two don’t tend enough towards house music for you, DJ STINJ-E’s remix turns Zion I out into a serious rave sound. Inflect took the remix into serious video game sound territory, layering it with blips and beeps throughout before going heavy with the scratching.

While most of the remixes chose to slow down the tempo of the song, SliPro went the other way, upping the tempo behind an ascension of a grimy drum and synth march that sounds like a war march. Mike Ponticello stripped down the chorus over funky bass, and then built the chorus up around melodic synth parts and some haunting and airy backgrounds. Then you have the crunchy sound of the chopped up remix from Autobots.

My two favorite remixes were completely different, as one might hope from a remix contest. Hiright’s second offering is deep, relying on an eerie piano melody, descending space keys and a steady head nodding beat, even adding a dense verse of his own regarding his history with the music. This was the only use of an original verse that I heard in the remixes, which made it stand out. The NeoMob’s remix is the most club-ready in my mind, with great ascension and digitized voice samples.

To check out these remixes, you can visit the site here. And with the results not being announced until after March 25th, your votes still matter!

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 releases: For those of you who haven’t been following, MixMatchMusic recently launched , 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.

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.

Lawrence Lessig, The Colbert Remixes and Where We Go From Here

Early in January, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert sat down with Lawrence Lessig. The interview was typical Colbert tongue-in-cheek, but good for a laugh. For those of you not closely following the implosion of the music industry and subsequent recreation as a more inclusive forum, Lessig is the author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, a book that examines methods of creating revenue out of creative work. The example Lessig used while talking to Colbert was Flickr which allows users to post pictures which Flickr can then create revenue from. But Lessig’s primary argument is that the war on Peer-to-Peer file sharing has failed (he’ll get no argument here) and that the copyright laws are outdated with the vast number of increasing ways people can share, remix and alter original work while making something new. In a way, every blog does this. This post in itself is a remix of two interviews, the functions of two websites and my arrangement of these facts with my thoughts. It’s about as close as I come to making music. The DIY explosion in music is part of the culture that has helped spawn mash-ups like Danger Mouse’s Grey Album (The Beatles’ White Album/Jay-Z’s Black Album) and AmpLive’s Rainydayz Remixes (AmpLive remixing Radiohead‘s In Rainbows.) The point is that technology and the rapidly evolving music industry need to find common ground with artists, and not just other musicians, but all artists, as the mixed media medium is something that can only grow from here.

Well, when Colbert was very specific about becoming “possibly litigious” should anyone take portions of his interview and remix it with a dance beat, he had to do so knowing full-well that someone would. He wasn’t disappointed as two days later, internet upstart IndabaMusic jumped into the fray with a full site devoted to remixing the Colbert/Lessig interview. But it didn’t end there, did it? With Colbert, how could it? Never being one to avoid an opportunity to poke fun at himself, Colbert remixed a video of his own work to a pulsing dance beat, and told the remixers to lay off again, to of course encourage them to remix more. Enter Dan Zaccagnino, head of Indaba who had an interview on Colbert the other night (interview at 14m in) to talk about the remix culture. Of course, these types of remixes are nothing new over at MixMatchMusic, which has had success with their Remix Wizard. While the Indaba/Colbert remix contest is excellent, it is Indaba based. MMM’s Remix Wizard is a free widget that can be set up and used by any artist on their website to host remix promotions. It doesn’t even need to have anything to do with music, as evidenced by Remix Sarah Palin.

While Colbert’s thoughts in the interviews with Lessig and Zaccagnino are clearly meant to be humorous, they serve a larger purpose in that these episodes help create buzz for a rapidly growing and increasingly important segment of the music industry: collaborative pieces brought about through alternative means. Indaba has managed to create a large community of musicians from around the world who are engaging in internet based musical collaboration, and this is a huge first step in breaking down barriers within the recording industry.

But with every broken barrier comes the question of the next frontier. While Colbert asked Zaccagnino what happens to girlfriends breaking up bands if the musicians collaborate on the internet, he failed in his attempts at humor to get to the root of the issue, namely monetization of content. While not many musicians will actively think internet collaboration as a means to avoid break-ups with their significant others, a most serious topic of interest to them is how they can profit from their work. No artist likes the idea of losing control over their work, but if knowing that the usage of their work by others would create tangible income for them, the concept of collaboration and other artists who liked them enough to mix them with their own pieces becomes a much more appealing, and therefore widespread trend. As with the foresight of their DIY remix widgets, MixMatchMusic provides the ability for artists to monetize collaboratively made songs, as well as contribute stems to their social sample library to earn royalties.

The monetization of artist work and internet collaboration is the next step in the rebuilding of the music industry. As fans become more involved with the artists because they are part of a shared internet workspace, the desire to support an artist will increase. Add to that the ability to remix their favorite artist’s work, and the fan interaction with the music becomes uncaged. Forget making a mixtape for a friend. Imagine taking your favorite songs and going Girl Talk on them. This interest and desire to support the artist would in turn funnel revenue back to the musicians.

The recording industry would say that this has been the goal of their war on file sharing, but that is an outrageous lie as most artists never see a dime of the few settlements the RIAA succeeds in obtaining. Little wonder then that the RIAA is backing down. In fact, one could argue that the backlash against the recording industry has been fueled by the consumer perspective that the artists aren’t seeing the profits they should. Furthermore, as revenue streams move away from the major labels and into the artists’ pockets, the majors will be forced to work with both musicians and consumers on more viable distribution and revenue models.

But forget about the money and the labels and the upheaval in the industry. How will this help music evolve? As more artists turn to internet collaboration because their work is safe and profitable, the inevitable evolution of genres and musical landscapes will grow exponentially. Think The Beatles and Jay-Z were cool? What happens when you can take a French hip-hopper’s lyrics, a tribal drum beat from a musician in Africa, a flute melody from Tokyo and a guitar piece from Columbus, Ohio, and add it to your piano piece from the comfort of your home and computer? Sure, you could make money, but look at what your collaboration has created musically. When internet collaboration is monetized and all-inclusive, the community becomes the music industry, and the listeners become the musicians.

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