Sound reflections

10/09/2011

After a very busy month of creativity, I choose to begin this post with my last exciting experience that I had just this past week – An intimate solo performance of Laetitia Sadier which I just mentioned some few posts earlier.
Who could believe? I wished so much to watch Laetitia live, and it happened much faster than I expected, and even so close to my home, in the Tel Avivian ‘Levontin’ venue. Only when I came to the place I figured this is a complete solo performance, an ultra-intimate – Laetitia and electric guitar only. If I knew it before I would probably not attend, because a large part of my interest in her creation is her unique production ways in a studio environment, of course, her individual voice, the music, and the arrangement as a whole piece – these are the things that excite me. And so, I must say that I stood with eyes and ears wide open through all the performance. I think this is such bold step to stand this way on the stage and serve the music in the most naked way, especially with an artist that was always screened through effects and sound manipulations (that I really admire and love). Well, I was genuinely impressed and excited to listen to her pleasant voice that has such wide range. I could hear some songs that I knew before and in that way to absorb their music in their most basic form. That thing causes me to appreciate Laetitia even more, and for the end, I bought myself a great gift for the holiday – Her current debut album on a vinyl record, and she signed me personally with dedication… such an honor 🙂

And now for something completely different – One of the most formative events that I had recently was my participation with a first and only exclusive gathering of the musical project ‘We are ghosts’, under the conducting of Benjamin Esterlis, AKA Morphlexis. As you can impress from the fantastic website that created for this project, we’re talking about gatherings that take place once in some several months, in a studio, stage, radio station or this time – a cave. Last August 18, the group met in Loozit cave that located in the lowland area of southern Israel. We came to the place in some late evening hour, while we unpacking our instruments and equipment there was a large group of young American ultra-orthodox Jewish men that entered the cave. This cave is constructed from several large spaces, and these young men started to walk between the areas, and they began to sing, and the natural reverb of the cave was coloring their voices in a mysterious atmosphere – that was a very significant forward for our session…
After we spread our audio equipment and microphones, checked our gear, the location of the players and instruments, we had a short dining break with the legendary Hummus of Benjamin. The session started with spontaneous vocal experiments around the cave spaces without any kind of instruments, then slowly everyone gathered sitting on the floor in a semicircle near the microphones that surround David Peretz who was in charge on the recording but also played and made other sounds. It’s crucial to mention that the recording conditions were pretty challenging – the players didn’t have headphones, a major part of this session goal was to cope naturally with the unique acoustics of the cave. In general, all the sounds in this course were entirely acoustic. One of the principles of this project, maybe the most important is the spontaneous aspect. There is no kind of any planned musical materials to play, everything is done in the session through the playing and beyond of that principle of pure improv, the participants in this project are not meeting frequently at all (this was my first meeting without knowing anyone personally).
I can sum it as an extraordinary experience, primal mutual intuitive creation at its best. I must say that the people, personally were amazing, it was a big pleasure to meet them and to cooperate in that kind of extraordinary experience. And this is not the end of the story… on the following weeks, Morphlexis edited and mixed the raw materials while he participates all of us with the procedure on every step that he does with every track, what would be on the front, what the length of the track, where a particular track would be located on the final album. I honestly never encountered with such a thing, a musician and an artist, resourceful with such leadership abilities, it is rare, and I tip my modest hat in front of him, I thoroughly proud to be a part of this project. 
You are most welcome to click on this link, and then you can listen to the full album, freely download it and share with anyone, there is even an option for eminent listeners – you can donate as you wish for forward productions, and then you’ll get a link for a bonus album.

And now the last thing for this post – a modest gift from me in the shape of a musical nugget. Further to spontaneous creation, which actually made a great impression and inspiration for me, I decided to create an exciting psychedelic weave that has no relation to the cave but is reflecting another vital rib of my private musical building.
Here it is:

Color frolicsome

05/08/2011

It’s been a while since my last post; it is quite a hard month. This is the right time to refresh with something light. One of my greatest dreams as a musician is to produce a well crafted Disco album. Some may lift their eyebrow for this idea that joins to some of my other archaic loves. I was born in the pick year of the Disco – 1978. In our home, the music wasn’t important issue, and actually, until I was 13 I didn’t have a stereo system. I had a portable suitcase record player from the early 1960s (my father probably got it for his Bar Mitzva). It was located in my room since I remember myself – I’ll tell about it later in another chance. Anyway, most of my records were Pop and Rock music from the 1960s that my father bought as a teenager, and maybe some children music that my parents bought for us as kids. My parents never listen to music initially from their will, and therefore they never thought they should acquire a stereo system. But we had a radio of course, and it worked most of the day hours. In the morning we woke up to the mythologic radio program of some famous Israeli actor and presenter, and in the rest of the day, the radio tuned to The Voice of Peace station. About ten years ago when I worked as a clerk in the long gone Tower Records store, there was a new album release of a collection of songs and jingles that used to be played in The Voice of Peace station. When I first listened to these old jingles, I had such chills, and I went over the age of 5… I think then the notion came – The reason that I have such a great affection to Disco even though it has that bad reputation of a cheap entertaining genre. I think that at least half of the broadcast time of The Voice of Peace dedicated to Disco and the Funk of the 1970s. The basic groove that always accompanied this time is the first beat of the bass drum and the second of the snare and the handclaps.
In Discomat nugget I focused on this notorious genre, I collected some of my favorite tracks and thought that some of them could give you the proper example for a decent Disco. I think the most of them are not very familiar or maybe less familiar as hits. I included some interesting versions of the more familiar songs, and I guess that some of you will recognize some sounds that sampled through the last two decades in many newer tracks. I don’t know if it is the right place to mention, but many ‘serious’ musicians that are not considered as mainstream necessarily, using pure Disco motives in their current music.
Personally I especially enthusiastic about the full orchestral arrangements that sometimes could be even symphonic like. There is a common playing character, especially with the strings sections that designed in that era, I guess it is related to the way producers and sound engineers chose to execute the recording methods. Another thing that is so delectable for the ears is the quality of the players, and even the songs, even though they are very light and sometimes shallow from the textual point of view, musically they are just excellent.
Hit the PLAY:

Roots refreshment

06/07/2011

In an entirely spontaneous whim, I decided that I want to upload some old recorded materials of mine from the past. When I was in high school, and a little bit later, I had the great honor to have a band that played my own materials. One of the names of this group was ‘Karbaney ha mada’ which I can try to translate to English as The Science Coollerstandables. These were very talented musicians at a very young age they ventured with their musical abilities. I’m talking about Nadav Kats (who played on the bass, guitars and also done the audio mix on a 4-track cassette recorder!) and Sh’lomee Lavee (drums). Later Ory Gabay came to play on bass.

We played for hours each time in a space we’ve been given to in a factory in Haifa bay area. You can even hear it – the recordings been made live to the tracks, and I think some of them been recorded directly to a ¼” stereo reel to reel recorder and only later we added more tracks on Nadav’s 4-track machine. Anyway, these recordings are remarkably improvised, without any real professional equipment and without any digital based editing. I’m so excited to hear those recordings each time, what kind of boldness and dedication. Soon I’ll upload some more nostalgic pieces. Meanwhile, you’re welcome to click on this link:

‘Shir Teesh’rey’ is one of my favorite Israeli songs, and this was our instrumental version of it.
Colossal enjoyment for everybody! This is me in 2002 in the pic…

Urban surprises

03/07/2011

This post was about my personal experience from the ‘White Nights’ celebrations in Tel Aviv. In this English section, I rather summarize my words from this experience – I’ve listened to some concerts of both current artists and some very respectable Israeli musicians from the past. This experience reminds me how I love this music and led me to create a new nugget mixtape that dedicated for these giant musicians from the great era of the 1970s and early 1980s in Israel. It’s important for me to mention that this music is not an Israeli folklore music, but a more artistic type of music which we can relate to Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock, Folk, Ethnic and even Jazz.

A Lemonade on the balcony

17/06/2011

How nice is it! The summer is here, even though, as everyone knows, the summers in Tel Aviv are not always that kind of a blessing. I, anyway, will be glad if they give them to me to enjoy as long as I can. 🙂

As I promised earlier, the pleasant series “Sunshine Voice” is here again for another refreshing nugget. Go out to the balcony, to the garden or the park with headphones on your head with this nugget playing; a glass of lemonade with ice cubes and mint leaf biting your palate. The summer is smiling for you.

Playing in foreign fields

09/06/2011

And here we arrive at another festive stage in my general mixtape nuggets celebration, the Folklorella series, that resembles another course of my deep-loving musical inspiration. Now you can discover the best authentic musical phenomena from around our globe. This mixtape contains folklore music that sometimes can’t be really called 100% authentic, but it definitely doesn’t leak to the ‘world music’ genre; that unfortunately doesn’t always contribute honor to the roots.

Again, my general theme for assembling this jigsaw is my love for interesting melodies, harmonies and, of course, uncommon rhythms and grooves. It is very interesting to find some similar musical characteristics between distant cultures and times. The first track, for example, is from Japan and could be very confusing. There is a clarinet there with a mounding melody that could easily remind you of eastern European Polka, even slightly Jewish. The Japanese insanity increases with the track. In a track from Kyrgyzstan, we can listen to an interesting mix that can accidently mislead you to think that we hear a South-American melody. I also included some traditional classics from Rumania, a piece that is very familiar to the Jewish east European culture (this musical piece was usually played with a violin as the lead instrument, and here I chose to put the version of Zamfir, the pan flute player). This nugget is closed with a Yemen-Jewish representation with an honorable presence I can’t miss.

Stereophonic Job

05/06/2011

It seems that I’m more of an astronaut than I think I am. A few days ago I met with my friend Alon Brayer, an artist through and through. He updated me about two albums that came out during the last year. One of them is Stereolab’s ‘‘Not Music’’, and the other is ‘’The Trip’’ by Laetitia Sadier, who is Stereolab’s leader. So, thanks to Alon for the tip.

In the last decade, one of my greatest musical influences has been Stereolab. In my opinion, they include all the best raw materials for modern music creation: authentic integration of acoustic elements (every acoustic instrument, human voice or natural sound source) with electro-acoustic (electric guitars, electric basses etc.) and pure electronic (analog and digital) in one music piece.

I think their music outstandingly resembles the musical artistic trends of the last two decades – playing, sampling or manipulating existing materials and reorganizing them in a manual, sometimes primitive way. And that’s even though they have all of the current computerized luxury that make this kind of work much easier and neater. Obviously, Stereolab is far from being pioneers in these kinds of matters of sampling and sound editing. These techniques started way back in the 1950s over magnetic tapes; the page is too short to hold the story of recorded sound design. The special thing about Stereolab, in my opinion, that sets them apart from many contemporary electronic music artists is their massive live playing, and that’s even if sometimes they leave the marks of imperfection in the final recording I think this is part of their magic. You can hear the ‘dirty’ playing performance in ‘‘Silver Sands.’’

For those of you with a sensitive ear, it will be easy to detect the human character of the synthesizer that begins the track. Most musicians these days prefer to create this kind of musical part with computer software, even if the instrument sounds like a vintage one. This way they can fit the part of the playing in the rhythm grid (“quantize’’ in the professional jargon) and then the playing would sound tight and sterile. Here we can listen to a very brave choice. On the border of Sisyphean (tedious) in the way that they choose to perform – the result is live and human, even though this track has a completely electronic approach.

This track originates from their previous album, ‘‘Chemical chords’’, and actually it is very hard to find any resemblance between the original and the current version. For my own opinion (and many other addicted fans of the Lab), “Chemical Chords’ was a true disappointment compared to the other albums they issued since 1996. Stereolab started in 1991, but only in 1996 when their album “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” debuted did they make an interesting shift from a band that played monotonous Drone Rock to one that created melodic and very richly arranged and produced songs and pieces. They joined John McEntire from Tortoise as a music producer and additional player – this way you can distinguish his marimba and vibraphone typical playing and arrangements for strings and brass, which were absent in their pre-1996 albums.

“Not Music’’ completely deviates for the last formal Lab release in 2008, “Chemical Chords.’’ After this release, the band announced they were disbanding. “Not Music’’ is actually a collection of leftovers from the “Chemical Chords” recording sessions, and it is really fun to discover that these leftovers are much more interesting than the materials chosen for the actual album. In general, it really thrills me to discover each time how this band is so fruitful. Along with their musical activities, they used to do several collaborations with other artists. For instance, Laetitia collaborated with Blur in one of my favorite songs of theirs, “To the End.’’ And if I mentioned Laetitia, she owns a big credit too for her first solo album, “The Trip.” Laetitia had some unpleasant reasons to begin working on this album – her sister’s suicide. Apart of the very personal and touching lyrics, I think this is the first time that I can pay attention to her singing as a writer rather than another musical layer as she used to appear on previous works. Until this album, Laetitia’s voice was screened with a lot of sound effects and manipulations, usually her vocal part in the sound mix was quite low, and for me it was like another musical instrument, not mention that her French accent made the lyrical comprehension harder for me. I think the texts were in weaker priority in previous works, and Stereolab naturally preferred to put the emphasis on the music.

Here in this album, her voice is very present, and so the diction and the accent were much more taken care for in a way we can understand the lyics better. Pay attention to the song “Statues Can Bend.’’

I was so amazed when I heard it the first time. Laetita always sounded so happy and positive to me in her previous works, like a shiny smiley sun, and here suddenly you can hear a completely different side of her, dark and fragile. This song is a type of sorrowful Trip-hop, outstandingly exciting.

I hope that I achieved my teasing goal for the matter. Anyway, I’m going to order these albums on vinyl the first chance I get. 🙂

Electrifying sound sense

21/05/2011

So I thought it would be an easy task for me to make an electronic mixtape…so I thought. Apparently, it’s a really hard job to find appropriate tracks. I really love electronic devices and instruments, but from the other side, I like the combination of electronic sounds with the intervention of the human hand, the acoustics, and the solid physical sense in the way they are easily distinguished.

I went over several tracks and songs from different times and musical genres and chose these that really move something inside my body. Every time I’m surprised at how the music affects me. I can be very impressed by sophisticated production tricks, electronic or not, but in the end, if the music, harmony, and groove don’t integrate into one complete exciting and fascinating music piece, then the sound doesn’t leave me with a deep impression – such impression that will lead me to include it in that kind of a mixtape.
Electronovox collects inside some tracks that we can’t tag them as Electronic par excellence, they don’t have any historical or artistic importance. Some of them have nostalgic scent (Yes…. I love sometimes kitsch) some performed by known artists, some less. The continuity of this mixtape was important to me and I think I made it well done

Israely Groove

10/05/2011

Without much explanation, now is the right time to publish one of the most interesting mixtapes that I always wanted to share. It seems that the working musicians in the late 1960s in Israel were impressively connected to the sounds that had been made abroad, especially music from England and the USA. This time I’ll concentrate on a specific music genre. No music creator or performer from those times could ignore its emergence – Funk. It’s amazing to think about the fact that more than 40 years ago, a time when people didn’t have TVs (TVs weren’t used in Israel until 1968) let alone the internet, not to mention the telephone. As far as I know, there were only 2 or 3 Israeli radio stations where a chunk of broadcast time for non-Israeli Pop music was something about 10%. Still, musicians who were hungry for new music succeeded in getting some updated records from abroad, and thereafter, new music instruments and sound effects fulfilled their visions.

Pay attention to the superb playing, the arrangements and orchestrations. Even if the archaic singing style could sometimes irritate, or, in a better situation, sound funny, still the groove exists. Don’t expect to hear some authentic James Brown type of Funk, but the influences are there.

You can find here some pearls I discovered later, some of them are even rare. I hope that you be able to ignore the problematic quality of some of the tracks – at least half of them were converted from old vinyl records and reel to reel tapes that I own. Some of them didn’t survive time with the optimal conditions. Two of them recorded were recorded from an AM frequency radio. Anyway, I did my best to clean and restore in a way that everything will integrate to one tasty ‘nugget’.

Elite Analogic

01/05/2011

A year ago I had a guest post on my good friend’s fascinating blog: the multi-artist, polymath Benjamin Esterlis, AKA Morphlexis. This post represents one of my greatest loves for the analog mediums in the world of sound.

Benjamin wrote an intro for my post:
Some months ago I got an email from Amir in which he told me how he takes my mixtapes and records them over magnetic tape reels in a way that he can experience them at their full potential. Wait a minute. I read this line over and over again to be certain that those were the words. “Reels” and “magnetic?” Is there somebody out there who listens to these mixtapes exactly as I imagined how this type of mixtape would be played in a perfect world?! It took me a few minutes to wipe the excitement and sweat off and to come to my senses to write reply with a little quest: Tell, demonstrate, take photos!
The positive reply from Amir would soon come, and he even told me that his photographer friend Maya Kapel got into the plot and they were going to document the process soon. A few days ago, just for my birthday, (Amir, you don’t have a clue how happy you made me) I got the full demonstration: “How to convert digital mixtape and get it out to the open analog space”

 From digital slavery to analog freedom

Mac browse I
Over a one year ago I discovered this sacred wonderful blog. I found that Morphlexis was dealing a lot with issues I could relate to as a musical creator. I decided to sample from the presented mixtapes. First, I was so impressed with the delicate work of art created from the interesting overlaps between the tracks. The fact that the mixtape streams through continuous line without any silent breaks, and the incredible creativity and well-chosen selection of pieces – all surprised me. I was immediately completely captivated with the rest of the mixtapes on his blog. People who are familiar with me know how difficult it can be to please me with music… and Morphlexis does it for big!

Now, we’ll examine one of my deepest ’scratches’ – my compulsive love for analog audio equipment. I guess most of you confirmed music lovers, know the general notions about analog recording formats. Now, I’ll present you my method for taking these digital mixtapes and making an improvement to the analog world.
Since I’ve become familiar with them, it was clear to me that they must receive their appropriate musical honour. Let’s say that I have spare time to sit and listen to music at home (unfortunately it doesn’t happen much). I’m really upset with the thought that I’ll listen to music on my computer, even though mp3 file conversion satisfies me these days. Akai 1700 IStill, the notion that I’ll sit and listen to music that breaks out from digital decoders really decreases the musical value for me. I believe that when music plays as a complete product from digital format it loses it’s life and the resolution quality doesn’t matter. It’ll be better to have the maximum resolution possible, since digital ‘out of tune’ is not audible. When we play music through analog format, it will always have a chaotic influence from the environment – temperature, gravitation, friction, etc. The advantage of analog format usage is inaccuracy. In the 1980s and 1990s, when there was a digital alternative for analog recording, the general perception was that this analog inaccuracy was a disadvantage. No one bothered to mention that this analog inaccuracy is chaotic. What turns it to be unmeasurable, it can change from any external cause. I compare it to playing on an acoustic instrument. Any hit, pluck or blow never repeat its previous one, no matter how we try to do it accurately. It will always have a different physical effect on the performance. Therefore, live playing is much more hypnotic and appealing to the ears than listening to sterile digital synthesised programming. Like acoustic musical instruments, the analog audio equipment restores the audio documentation each time from scratch. It will always add a slightly different change, an unpredictable, chaotic characteristic. This is what gives the music an added value when live. (I guess not every person will agree with me, but there are plenty of others who will prefer the frozen sterility of digital audio devices, and this is a matter of taste of course). So I decided to convert these mixtapes into analog format since I have the equipment and a lot of appropriate medias (I refer to reel-to-reel audio tapes and tape recorder)
I started the job immediately:

You can watch the video above. I downloaded the files of a mixtape, then opened my media player on the comp when it was connected to my stereo system constructed from decent parts: an analog receiver from the 1970s, a special model of Technics turntable from the 1970s, Akai reel-to-reel tape deck and ancient Wharfedale loudspeakers from the 1960s.

When the music plays through the receiver, I prepare my recorder and put a reel tape on. The audio reel tapes are exactly like the more familiar cassette tapes in their way of usage, the reels are just bigger and like cassettes you can record and erase over and over again. Then I put the recorder to ‘record’ mode but paused it. I watch the recording level meter and pay attention as it swings across the ‘0 dB’ mark. This is another advantage with analog recording: it can absorb ‘peak’ level sparks that digital format can’t deal with. When you have peaks on digital recordings they’ll play as distorted clips. I set the reel to a place I want the recording to begin (again changing the mode to ‘record’ and pause the machine), go back to the computer, set the mixtape to the beginning, release ‘pause’ on the reel deck and press ‘play’ over the computer. This is how the conversion is done. It is important to say that dealing with such equipment takes time and regular maintenance, but the final pleasure is more than worth it.

Philips N4416 IIHere I present some other process pics from and another cute device that I collected recently, the Philips N4416. It is more sophisticated than the featured Akai and works with an electronic mechanism while the Akai is completely mechanical. Still, I prefer the Akai sound because it works with vacuum-tubes, which only for themselves gives another chaotic colour for the complete sound experience. In general, I’ll add and explain more, and I make the recordings in the lowest recording speed over these recorders. Usually there are 3 speeds for recording on the domestic reel-to-reel recorders that were in production from the 1950s to the 1970s. As you lower the speed, the sound quality decreases. You lose the higher frequencies, but you gain more playing time and the analog side effects are bolder, which increases the analog experience for me.
Long live analog!!!

Reel to Reel

Sabbath playing

29/04/2011

Aloha!
There’s nothing like the Israeli Friday afternoon to present the following mixtape nugget.
Before the twilight time, when the strong sunbeams entering through the curtains and this typical Friday peace, even if technically it doesn’t exist like in my current apartment, this time of the week does something for me. I think this mixtape is a great representation of the vibe I’m talking about. Some of the lyrics in these songs are melancholic, some of the tracks are mellow, personally all of them are making something really good in their calm way, and here we’re dealing with a series of mixtapes to follow, like I mentioned in Sunshine Voice, short space too small to contain all the ideas 🙂

Sounds of the rising sun

19/04/2011

And here you have my second “nugget” that was created by my compounding tools: Before the summer I added this “nugget” for the sunshine hours. This type of collection raises refined heat, a sort of good and calm feeling like laying under a big tree and staring at the sun flickering from under the leaves.
Since I found several tunes that can fit to this puzzle, I let myself declare that this is the first mixtape in a series that’s continues in the future.

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