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.
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.
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 teasinggoal for the matter. Anyway, I’m going to order these albums on vinyl the first chance I get. 🙂
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
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’.
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
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. Still, 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.
Here 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!!!
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 be follow, like I mentioned in Sunshine Voice, short space too small to contain all the ideas 🙂
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.
This is my first ‘nugget’ that I present for the show. Actually, it isn’t a mixtape I created but an old recording of a radio show that produced and broadcasted in the late 1960s in Israel. This show was produced for the Passover holiday and the period of the Sheaf – the symbol of the harvest that begins in this era of the year. I decided to upload this recording almost as it is, although I had to cope with the problematic quality of the recording which was made from an AM frequency radio station on a pretty worn reel-to-reel tape. Here you can listen, like me, to the authentic sound of the young Israeli country, valuable and musical. This collection of songs contains an interesting variety of arrangements for the traditional songs: woodwinds ensemble, choirs, chamber orchestras and even a jazz-funk ensemble.
I hope that any of you who don’t enjoy listening to this kind of archaic vocal presentation will leave it aside and pay attention to the fascinating instrumentation and arrangements. Listen to the epic arrangement of ‘Ha Lakh’ma anya’ (this is the bread of poverty – the Matza bread) and the entertaining arrangement of ‘Dayenu’ in jazz style with the use of the vibraphone, which in my opinion was a very innovative choice for that period in Israel. The amazing orchestral symphonic for ‘Avadeem hayeenoo’, which can be translated as “slaves we were in Egypt,” sounds like a fancy film soundtrack when the lead instrument is the cello. There are many more interesting examples.
This collection is a great model for the performances that were made for those important songs. A lot of them created by Matityahu Shalem, who was one of the leading songwriters of the new Israeli nation in the age of its establishment in the late 1940s. His creations based on the traditional stories from the Bible but with a new kind of secular interpretation and adaptation that fits the general atmosphere of pioneering.
For me, what was very interesting to find in these recordings is the absence of the accordion, which is a blessing since this problematic instrument ruled in most of the musical documentations in Israel until the 1960s. From the late 1960s and onward, the Israeli musicians no longer felt the need to use this instrument for the benefit of other instruments of any kind. I guess it was a better time because the intensive use of the accordion in the earlier age of Israel was a result of sporadic conditions, such as the absence of amplification systems or appropriate acoustic venues and the general need to perform in ‘battlefield’ conditions.
For those reasons, this radio show presents the beautiful and creative side of the music creation and performance of the mainstream culture that was produced for the public in the era. Here you have a link for a ZIP file that contains all the songs in separate mp3 files.
My blog is on-air.
Here you can catch up on my ‘notorious’ deals in the music world and get little treats in the shape of “nuggets”. This time, as a result of the opening celebration, I let myself do a double feature: once for the Jewish holiday, and the second is the first appearance here (this post is being published on the Pesakh Eve, the Jewish Passover holiday)
Feel free to comment and share as you wish…at least until I decide otherwise. 🙂