Archive of posts tagged with "remix"

December 28th, 2011

Secret(e) Soundscapes & Other Ethnomusicologoodies

tower in the sun
radio towers > ivory towers

This week in Cluster Mag I’ve got a piece that follows up on my late summer production & performance, at metaLAB‘s openLAB_03, of a personal(ized) archive of Boston’s radio soundscape. The centerpiece of “Love That Muddy Ether” is Boston Pirate Party, an ode to an increasingly diversified sound of the city thanks to insurgent transmissions, especially from Boston’s Caribbean core, in and around Dorchester.

     wayne&wax, Boston Pirate Party (mp3 | video)

Initially, metaLAB’s Jesse Shapins suggested something along the lines of the Mashacre and Smashacre, and I like how this latest mix builds on these previous takes on Boston’s sound (or similarly, for Kingston, Jamaican Radio Edit); ironically, and to its credit, Boston Pirate Party offers a more accurate representation of the sound of Boston than any collection of music recorded by people who happen to be from hereabouts (which is what guided the selections, however iconoclastic, on Mashacre and Smashare).

Love That Muddy Ether” presents a mix of reflections on the potentials and pitfalls of low-power radio in Boston (and the emphasis is definitely on power here) and an explanation of the poetics behind the mix I’ve made, which, though it has its moments, is not the typical zuper-smoove DJ mix; for all the looping and tweaking involved (and there’s a lot), it’s a bit more of a jagged and figurative thing. Might be best on headphones, or in a car. Anyway, let me lend you my ears for a minute and sing a song of Boston.

And here’s a video of the Ableton Live session if you want to visually track the audio objects —

As it happens, I get to share this latest endeavor in suggestive sound studies (which some might read as applied ethnomusicology) at the same time as some other fine ethno/musicological works are making the rounds. So let me point to a few kindred efforts — all well worth your time if your interests overlap with ours at W&W. (And I don’t say that sort of thing about ethno/musicological work all that often.)

The first is very much in the realm of remix-as-creative-archival-practice, and — it turns out — this very blog appears to have played a part in its genesis. After seeing A Tribe Called Red mentioned here, UCLA’s Nolan Warden got in touch with DJ NDN about working with samples from the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University. Having noticed that although the group “sample from a lot of Native American music” their sources tend to be “commercial recordings of drum groups,” Nolan made the rather ethnomusicologisty gesture (that’s vergleichendemuzikwissenschaftig in the original German) of offering, via email, to connect A Tribe Called Red with some digitized cylinder recordings featuring members of their respective tribes (Cayuga and Ojibway).

Read the rest of the story here and check out the audio and some pics here — or hear it direct via ATCR:

General Generations by A Tribe Called Red

The same new issue of Ethnomusicology Review includes an article that should be of interest to any who have been interested in the contentious discussions around “new” “world” music over the last several years. I first heard a version of this paper on a panel where I was a co-presenter at the 2007 meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and I’m glad to see it finally take shape and to circulate so publicly. David Font-Navarrete’s “File Under ‘Import’: Musical Distortion, Exoticism, and Authenticité in Congotronics” takes the remarkable international success — and marketing / discursive reception — of Konono No. 1 as its central concern, considering “promotional materials, press articles, reviews, and blogs” to argue that “representations of Konono’s music amplify and distort problematic issues of musical technology, exoticism, tradition, and authenticity.”

Along the same lines but focusing on the realm of reissues — or in today’s theoretical parlance, “remediations” — of the music of the world (out there), David Novak’s new article in Public Culture, “The Sublime Frequencies of New Old Media” is a crucial contribution to some longstanding debates. You can read a provocative excerpt here, and there’s also a supplementary page filled with linkthink. Also, as one who tweeted in annoyance when first noticing the full article resided behind a paywall, I’m happy to report that, like an increasing number of scholars, David has posted a pdf of the article on his page at UCSB.

[Next-day Update! I totally blanked on mentioning something quite important about the work of both Davids to whose papers I point above — and something that more deeply connects their work to the other stuff I’m highlighting here — namely, that both have been engaged in rather “applied” kinds of projects as well as bringing that knowledge to bear on their more formal/traditional scholarship. Dave Novak, no dabbler in electronic music, has himself done the sort of recording during his travels, for instance, that might make for a rather sublimey compilation of (putatively) foreign frequencies; and for his part, David Font-Navarrete’s Elegua Records releases sparkly, gritty, slowly evolving productions that take into their abstracted orbits everything from mbira, to flamenco, to punchy static made from scratch. It’s a tad remarkable that neither author situates their essays in these personal practices, but they are an important background to bear in mind when reading.]

Finally, I want to share the latest bit of edutaining YouTubery c/o Philip Tagg, “Harvest Song from Bulgaria,” which, in his words (to the IASPM list) —

simply demonstrates how those women’s semitones have nothing to do with discord, dissonance, horror films, stabbings in the shower or anything else commonly associated with such sounds in Western Europe, North America, etc.

& he adds,

Besides, personally I think those seven women kick proverbial butt with their semitones

Now that’s what I call ethno/musicology 2011!

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November 28th, 2011

Atropical Base

This week at Beat Research — now every TUESDAY at Good Life in downtown Boston — we’re enthused to host none other than NYC-based Dutty bredrin (and local alumnus!), Atropolis. Hailing from / representing Queens, Atropolis co-hosts regular parties (and expeditions) as part of Cumba Mela while pumping out remixes that get to the essence of the “New York tropical” sound — to my ears and hips, a contemporary reckoning with the city’s always-already Afrodiasporic soundscape, and as such, a beacon for “tropical” scenes in other transcolonial cities around the world.

Here are a few, if you missed em:

Atropolis’s Remix’s by Atropolis

In our redoubtable opinion here at W&W, Atropolis released one of the best albums of the year with his eponymous effort on Dutty Artz this spring. His tracks have been seeping into my sets for a minute now, so I’m really looking forward to hearing a full set of Adam’s distinct approach to world party music. For a taste, check his mix for Cluster Mag from earlier in the year:

Atropolis – Mix 001 by Cluster Mag

Oh yeah, dude teaches at Dubspot too, so you know he’s a Beat Researcher at heart. Proof in pudding, here’s one of his latest (ft. Brooklyn Shanti), h/t to the boys at Gen Bass:

Thornato-Barcelona ft. Brooklyn Shanti (Atropolis RMX) by Atropolis

We’re thrilled to have the open-eared & big-hearted beats of Atropolis in our underground dance lab this week. Hope u can join us!

Beat Research
ft. Atropolis!
Good Life Bar
28 Kingston Street
Boston
9pm-1am
FREE

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September 26th, 2011

Brinksmanship

2nite at Beat Research!

Somerville DJ Brinkley Sound makes his club debut after a long tenure spinning both punk and disco shows on left of the dial radio station WHRB, and making noise with local bands including The Sinister Turns and Hedge Fund.

In homage to his namesake, John R. Brinkley, founder of the nation’s most audaciously powerful “border blaster” radio stations, Brinkley Sound will bring a mixed and re-mixed bag of pan-American party-starting beats, with a nod to the sample-heavy sounds of New Jersey club music. Somewhere between hardcore punk and ‘ardkore rave, this is music for all-night dancing and all-night whosampled.com checking alike.


For a taste of the sui generis sound DJ Brinkley Sound has been developing, check his soundcloud for tracks that draw on juke, dancehall, clubb music, punk, and other forms of #blackswag, e.g. —

Rise Above (WBPLZ #blackswag rmx) by Brinkley Sound

Overboard Riddim (props to Messr. Crâne) by Brinkley Sound

Ooh Baby by Brinkley Sound

As it happens, Mr. Brinkley (aka Dan Thorn) took a class with me last spring and wrote a really great paper on the “Aural History of Jersey Club Music,” including trenchant observations on SoundCloud ecologies and the remarkable social life of the “bedspring” sample (which you might hear turn up in a track or two of his own). I’ve been pushing Dan to make a mini-mega-mix of the bedspring thing, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with a brief bit from his term paper, which I’ve been encouraging him to publish somewhere officialish (editors, holler):

From Atlanta to Baltimore to Newark (with detours into the Caribbean), the “Some Cut” sample is a prime example of Jersey club’s status as a unique subcultural genre that nonetheless transcends regional sonic signifiers. While the sample itself is heard as a unique feature of Jersey club, it also points to the music’s place in musical dialogue with many other localized dance music genres. By reusing “Some Cut” in novel ways, as a rhythmic element or as a subtle thematic comment, Jersey club producers have localized the song to a new context of use while adding value for future producers (who can now use the sample in the same or different ways), fulfilling Henry Jenkins’ requirements for “spreadable” media. Like Jenkins argues about this type of participatory media, Jersey club’s use of sampling emphasizes the agency of actors typically recognized as simply ‘consumers’ of music (in this case, high school students releasing music noncommercially) to change the meaning of media without overruling its previous definitions.

Despite the relatively linear timeline behind “Some Cut”’s deployment as a staple of Jersey club remixes, the genre as a whole can be only poorly understood by such a genealogical model, which requires distinction to be made between singular, original “texts” and subsequent adaptations. Rather, Jersey club remixes are what Jonathan Gray has called “paratexts”—materials that exist “outside of, alongside, and intrinsically part of the text.” Jersey club DJs rarely if ever remix existing club tracks; rather, they go back to the source material and create their own iteration, often within the same time frame as the first remix. It is therefore impossible to authoritatively say that any one Jersey remix of, say, Lloyd’s “Lay Down” is the exemplary text against which all others are adulterated versions—a fact that club blogs have admitted when simultaneously posting several remixes of the same source material by different DJs. If, as Devereaux has argued, Baltimore club music is an expression of an inclusive urban identity, Jersey club might be understood as an expression of an inclusive digital identity, an example of music as social life where the online production, reception and discussion of club tracks is inseparable from their production and reception in New Jersey and elsewhere. The social aspect of Jersey club must be understood as thoroughly as its musical features, in what Georgina Born has theorized as a “constellation of mediations—sonic, but also social, material and technological, discursive, corporeal and temporal—that together constitute what ‘music’ and musical experience are held to be.”

Jersey club producers turn the most ubiquitous of the pop songs forced upon listeners worldwide into raw material for remixes that present those songs for what they ultimately are—bursts of possibly interesting sounds competing for one’s attention among a multitude of others. Their remixing practice can therefore be understood as a decommodification of music acting alongside and against music’s commodification in the form of CDs, MP3s and other formats. The music increasingly takes the form of noncommercial, Creative Commons-licensed tracks for free download on SoundCloud, which demonstrate not only their young producers’ skill with media production technology (one form of ‘media literacy’) but also their canny ability to approach pop music as a means for acts of individual creativity, without being intimidated by the professional aura that rearguard critics like Andrew Keen mistake for a sign of a work’s quality.

Yeah, kid got an A.

Also, he had this to say about Dubbel Dutch’s great Screw Jersey mix from a little while back —

Screwing (Jersey) club is a pretty clever idea, since many club tracks sample vocals from slower pop/hip-hop songs without changing the pitch – the end result is music at close to the same tempo as a fair amount of the sample material, but this time with all the vox in that distinctive screw range. It’s an interesting way to hear the songs again (I especially liked hearing “Obsessed” after this process) and I guess it couldn’t have worked so well if club music pitched its vocal samples to match the tempo.

Expect to hear all of this and more tonight at Enormous Room as Dan takes us to the Brink.

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June 16th, 2011

Got That Spanakopita

Joining the illustrious ranks of “Pan con Queso,” here’s another hilario cross-lingual take on a contemporary club banger (apropos of this, via @carolyneweldon) —

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June 10th, 2011

Crashing Two Bumpy Dances

Yesterday Cluster Mag posted my second contribution to what we’re calling a “multimedia mash-up series.” (The first was my Lambada mega-mix.) As with my “Gasodoble” remix, this mashy montage sources related clips from YouTube — in this case drawing from Colombian (and a Dominican) choque vids and a variety of folk (mostly US-based) doing the bump — and collides them together (artfully, I hope) to pose some fun questions about symmetries, genealogies, and notable departures.

If you liked my lengthy post on choque from a couple months back, or if you’re a longtime devotee to the bump, I hope you’ll <3 "Bump con Choque.”

Here is the text from the Cluster Mag piece, which is no longer online (though also archived here):

It’s almost perfect in its simplicity: bump against your dance partner, once every beat or so, repeating as desired. In the 70s, they called it “the bump.” More recently, in Colombia, it goes by “el choque” (alt. “shoke” or “choke”) — the Spanish word not for “bump” but its more severe cousin, “crash.” Looking at the dances side-by-side or, if you will, transposed together as I’ve done in the video above, you get an immediate sense of resemblance, perhaps even genealogy.

But despite a few stray correctives on YouTube comment threads, I’ve yet to see any evidence linking the moves Colombian kids are doing with the disco fad from three decades prior. When I tried to get to the bottom of the bottom-bashing dance from Buenaventura, its obvious antecedents were reggaeton’s perreo and dancehall’s daggering — both serving as clear but muted points of departure for the choque’s nimble-hipped rhythmic thrust. Seems more plausible, despite that plenty kids in choque videos could have parents who remember “el bump,” that we’re talking instead about a case of convergent evolution, two kindred dances springing from the same age-old seed. I mean, it’s a pretty obvious move.

Indeed, the dance seems so universal that all manner of folk claim it for themselves, declaring the most popular choque video to be everything from East African to West Indian. [Alas, the video is no longer online, but see my post for some screenshots of comments.] And yet these spectacular collisions can divide as much as they conjoin, especially when conveying different modes of masculinity and sexuality. Superficial as it may seem, the choque has served as a transnational site of debate, which might be more than can be said for three decades of the bump.

And yet, while one might argue that the choque is an interestingly “equal opportunity” dance — especially given how strictly macho the perreo and daggering tend to be — any such leveling of the dirty-dance playing-field applies to the bump as well: butt to butt, side to side, hip to hip, it can be silly, deflective. Even the president can do it, and with a teenage girl no less! Most choque videos possess a nonchalant playfulness, showing the dance to be, among other things, a fun way to hang out and goof around with friends and family. As I think this mashup shows, the bump has long served that purpose too — even, or maybe especially, thirty years removed from actual dancefloor drama.

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April 18th, 2011

¡Qué Geko!

Ok, mis local locos, tonight’s the night! We’re kicking off the Together Festival 2011 with none other than Geko Jones, Dutty Artz bredrin and co-host of Que Bajo?!, NYC’s awesomest Afro-Latin dance party (& honestly, probably the best night I’ve ever had the pleasure to play at).

Do come out and welcome Geko to town & help us show him how Boston gets down —

Beat Research w/ special guest GEKO JONES
& hosts Wayne & Flack
Enormous Room (567 Mass Ave)
Central Square, Cambridge
9pm-1am, FREE

To get ready, here’s a recent remix cooked up by Sñr Jones that I turned up over here; as Juan Data describes it —

In preparation for a Colombian carnaval event happening in New York, DJ/producer (and Qué Bajo?! co-brainchild) Geko Jones grabbed this bullerengue song by Colombian folklorist Maria Mulata and mashed it up with Frikstailers‘ “Dancehallete” from their latest EP Bicho de Luz.

Pa la Escuela Nene (Geko Jones vs Frikstailers) by remezclamusica2011

The track above is rather appropriate to share today, for as it happens, I’ve roped Geko into sticking around through tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon in order to join me at a lecture-discussion I’ll be hosting in conjunction with the Together Fest (which has organized a number of free daytime events in addition to all the stuff at night). In discussing remixes like this one, Geko will be helping me to tiptoe through the tricky turf of “electro indigeneity and powwow rhythms” — in other words, what are the implications (the pitfalls, the possibilities) of “Remixing the Traditional and the Indigenous” in our digital age?

Here’s the deets:

Northeastern University
Fenway Center
77 Saint Stephen St.
Boston, MA
3-4pm

Hope to see some of you there! You can’t be as excited as I am, but you can try.

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April 12th, 2011

Lambada Is a Feeling

I’m happy to report, just in time to soundtrack that new spring in your step, that I’ve cooked up a new mini-(mega)-mix! This one follows the circulation and permutation of a song I’ve tracked here before, “Llorando Se Fue” — better known to the world as “Lambada.”

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You can get some sense of the history here, but that Wikipedia page only scratches the surface (for now; here’s hoping this bit of mixxage can help aid expansion). I’ve been hearing the tune turn up in some unexpected places over the years — in hardcore dancehall reggae, for instance, which despite a certain capaciousness still surprises with what seem to be far-flung borrowings. As with similar projects, I’ve grown fascinated by the way such a spreadable song can draw attention to the inflections of individual interpreters as well as the very conventions that give genres their ability to uniquely address an audience.

What I’ve put together here is hardly comprehensive, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. For one, 15+ renditions is already pushing the limits of monotony, I suspect, despite the subtle twists and turns the tune takes in new settings; moreover, it would be quite impossible to catalog the song in full, especially given how it continues to spread. (I’m sure that J Lo’s global imperial club version will inspire many more.)

So, like Nguzunguzu’s magisterial Moments in Love, which I think of as offering another bit of inspiration for this effort, Moments in Lambada is simply an attempt to give a sense of the shape-shifting the tune undergoes. Who knows? Perhaps someday there will be a part two. (Feel free to bring to my attn any versions that seem conspicuously absent; only learned this morning that I left out a new Don Omar take!)

Whirling together a world of Lambadas is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but the impetus finally came in the form of an invitation to contribute to a new online magazine devoted to creative engagements with contemporary music and arts, Cluster Mag.

Go check out the post to grab the mix and scan the tracklist — and don’t miss my little write-up, which concludes thusly:

[Update (April 2016): alas, Clustermag seems to be down; you can find the archived post here, and the audio is here (or via the button below). I have reposted the entirety of the original text at the bottom of this post.]

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Over the course of the mix, we dip into forró, UK funky, dancehall, reggaeton, lambahton, lambow, norteña, global guettatech, panpipe pop, and other club-ready confections that may or may not have real or invented genre tags, with some delightful, surprisingly recurrent nods to vintage house. Palimpsests push their way through the texture, as when J Lo seems to retrace phonemes from “Llorando Se Fue” before singing along with Vakero’s everyman adaptation (“la la la la la”). Her zigzag jetset cartography in “On the Floor” could as easily be following the circulation of “Lambada” — Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza, straight to LA, New York, Vegas to Africa — but the earthy sentiments that Vakero expresses in a local tongue — “vamo a beber, vamo a joder” — are just as global.

Finally, after giving a listen, I challenge you to dispel the wriggly earworm embedded in this sweet song of a thousand dances, forbidden like fruit. Lambada is a feeling. Enjoy! (<-- MPfree)

Originally printed at Cluster Mag (April 2011):

Nodding to Nguzunguzu’s magisterial Moments in Love mix, which knits together countless covers and echoes of a seminal Art of Noise track, I’ve threaded along a similarly diverse collection of related riffs. Moments in Lambada retraces the flexible but familiar contours of one of the most popular melodies of the last 30 years. A 1981 Andean pop song (“Llorando Se Fue” by Los Kjarkas), popularly translated for Brazilian audiences in 1986 (Márcia Ferreira’s “Chorando Se Foi”), and transformed three years later into a worldwide worldbeat hit by French group Kaoma, “Lambada” was the unauthorized anthem that inspired and propelled The Forbidden Dance, a film which opened on the same day in 1990 as a rival bit of bandwagon-hopping, the less salaciously titled Lambada. In the years since, the tune has hardly receded from earshot, cropping up in both predictable and unexpected quarters over and over again.

A stretchy bit of ear candy, the song has been reworked like so much tropical taffy, twisted and folded into an impressive array of styles, sometimes as part of the same release. To maximize exposure across club scenes, Kaoma’s version was itself made available in remixed form, entering the world in several shapes and styles at once, including two “Dub” mixes, an “Extended” mix, and a “Club” mix (all of which I’ve worked into Moments). Although we begin — after a brief Incan incantation and station identification — with Los Kjarka’s 1981 recording, the mix doesn’t proceed in chronological order. Instead, tempo and formal correspondences dictate the direction. Certain segues demanded creative, but not inapt, tweaking: to stay in key (loosely speaking), a cumbia version needed to be pitched down, a procedure resonant with rebajada tradition; likewise, I’ve dubbled dub mixes and made club edits of club edits.

Over the course of the mix, we dip into forró, UK funky, dancehall, reggaeton, lambahton, lambow, norteña, global guettatech, panpipe pop, and other club-ready confections that may or may not have real or invented genre tags, with some delightful, surprisingly recurrent nods to vintage house. Palimpsests push their way through the texture, as when J Lo seems to retrace phonemes from “Llorando Se Fue” before singing along with Vakero’s everyman adaptation (“la la la la la”). Her zigzag jetset cartography in “On the Floor” could as easily be following the circulation of “Lambada” — Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza, straight to LA, New York, Vegas to Africa — but the earthy sentiments that Vakero expresses in a local tongue — “vamo a beber, vamo a joder” — are just as global.

W&W, Moments in Lambada

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Tracklist
Los Kjarkas, “Llorando Se Fue”
Inca Son, “Llorando Se Fue”
Jorge Rico, “Llorando Se Fue”
Grupo Chiripa, “Llorando Se Fue”
Red Foxx and Screechy Dan, “Pose Off”
Wisin y Yandel, “Pam Pam”
Kaoma, “Lambada (Dub Mix)”
Max le Daron, “Lambahton Remix”
Kaoma, “Lambada (Extended Mix)”
Kaoma, “Lambada (Llorando Se Fue?) (Dub)”
Kaoma, “Lambada (Club Mix)”
Metal de Durango, “Llorando Se Fue”
Elephant Man, “Hate Mi”
Vakero, “La La La (Lambow)”
Kiko e As Jambetes, “Chorando Se Foi”
Terror Tone, “Kaoma – Lambada (Terror Tone Remix)”
Jennifer Lopez (ft. Pitbull), “On the Floor”

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March 30th, 2011

TEDxIrie

Happy to be headed back to Kingston this weekend to be a part of this

Readers here are no doubt familiar with TED talks, those little video gems of infotopian brain candy. I’ve certainly enjoyed and admired a few. As you may know, TEDx events are independently organized and produced, but the most popping presentations are eligible to go up on the main TED site.

TED’s tagline is “ideas worth spreading,” and I can think of a number of ways this applies to Jamaican music (which, natch, will be my subject). Moreover, as you can see, the local organizers of TEDxIrie have appended the slogan with another resonant phrase for thinking about the extraordinary impact and resonance of reggae: “Small Island. Big Ideas.”

Accordingly, I’ll be trying to give a snappy, 18-minute overview of what are, to me, some of the biggest ideas that have come out of Jamaican studios and soundsystems and soundscapes over the last 50 years. More specifically, though I won’t give away too much here today, I’ll be discussing how Jamaican musical innovations have contributed to a collective reclamation and recognition of “Songs as Shared Things” (as I’ve put it before) in age of music’s technological reproducibility.

I’m thrilled to be speaking alongside some distinguished and promising panelists, including the ever contentious and controversial — and I mean that in a good way — Carolyn Cooper, not to mention brilliant young artist, Ebony Patterson, whose recent exhibit Gangstas, Disciplez plus the Doiley Boyz offers a striking and poignant portrayal of skin-bleaching and other transgressive, if commonplace, cultural practices in Jamaica.

Thanks to the people at Panmedia for putting this together. See you in town?

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March 17th, 2011

Tribal Greengo

I’m happy to announce, and not a moment too soon, that I’ve arranged some festive music for today.

When I put together my first St. Patrick’s Day mix some years ago, it was an obviously tongue-in-cheek gesture. You might recall that I began with House of Pain before bringing in the romping stomp of the Timelords’ (aka KLF’s) “Doctorin’ the Tardis” — a formula-breaking (if formula following!) ravetastic classic that seems to anticipate mashups and jock-jams alike.

Consistent with the track’s logic — and often in shuffle-step with its triple-time roll — I mushed together a bunch of iconic Irish jigs & ballads and (corn-)beefed them up with electronic dance propulsion. Not all the festive selections had the 6/8 swing that interlocked with the proto-shaffel Timelords track, so I teased it in and out of the mix. Here ’tis again:

wayne&wax, “doctorin’ the guinness” (9 min / 9 mb)

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But that was then, and this is now.

Readers here are no doubt familiar with tribal guarachero, the Mexican techno mutation centered in Monterrey and DF, which has enjoyed an enthusiastic, international reception among DJs, listeners, and bloggers in the last year. You might also be aware that the genre’s distinctive rhythms happen to line up perfectly with some of these jiggy Irish jams. Or maybe that’s never occurred to you. Given this tempting correspondence, I decided to cook up a little tribal irlandese for El Día de San Patricio — or, if you’ll permit an irresistible but probably awful pun, tribal greengo.

Before I launch into the backstory, let me present the 2011 version for your St. Paddy’s party pleasure (some standalone tracks are available at the end of the post, FYI):

wayne&wax, “tribal greengo” (12 min / 27 mb)

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You may have heard the story, recounted here, that the term gringo derives from 19th century pop songs sung by Yankee invaders that began with (and repeated in every chorus) the words “Green Grow,” a sound that became so associated with foreign presence, it became the name for it.

John Ross, the longtime resident of Mexico (City), American activist, and recently deceased author of the epic El Monstruo (which I’ve quoted here before), tells the tale of the “greengos” in a section of the book bearing the heading, PINCHES AMERICANOS. “Of all the invading armies,” writes Ross, and he recounts a great many in Mexico’s history, “the Yankees were the most annoying.”

The US had long coveted and sought to annex, as Ross carefully puts it, “the vast, sparsely populated (except for 200,000 native peoples) northern territories of Nueva Galicia that Mexico had inherited from Spain.” In the mid-1840s, the “expansionist” President Polk began taking action. As Ross explains, despite its association with another set of conquistadors, “greengo” was not always clearly an epithet:

With his headlights set on the 1848 election, Polk promised the American people a “short war” (where have we heard that one before?) and orchestrated a Gulf of Tonkin-like provocation at Matamoros, drawing Mexican troops across the Río Bravo where they managed to whack a few Americanos. Polk wept at the death of the Yanqui soldiers — “our blood has now fallen on our own soil” (sic) — and organized a five-point invasion of Mexico. The U.S. Navy sailed into San Francisco Bay, and Los Angeles was besieged by Kit Carson and his irregulars in Alta, California. Marines landed at Mazatlán on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Zachary Taylor would swoop south from Tejas, and grizzled old General Winfield Scott landed in Veracruz and followed Cortez’s footprints to the Halls of Moctezuma.

Starting out in the spring of 1847, General Scott directed his army to take Tenochtitlán, encountering, as expected, little resistance from the Mexicans. Indeed, like Cortez, Scott forged alliances with disaffected Mexicans along the route — the “Polkos” rejoiced in the Americano invasion. As the Yankee Doodle Dandies climbed into the antiplano (highlands), the sang the popular songs of the day, one of which, “Green Grow the Lilacs Oh,” became their signature tune, and forever they would be known as “greengos.” (71-2)

Whether affectionate or pejorative initially, the term survives today, and over the years I think it’s safe to say that it has taken on some real sting. (That gringos remain perennial invaders of Mexico can’t help.) And why shouldn’t it sting? What we in the US call the Mexican-American War is remembered in Mexico as “El Gran Despojo — the Great Robbery.” Here’s Ross again, taking stock of what was settled by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (signed on 2 feb 1848), which

ceded the Americanos all the land from the Río Bravo to Wyoming, 13 western states from Iowa all the way down to California where gold had just been discovered, 1,572,741 square kilometers, a land grab the size of western Europe and fully 51 percent of Mexico’s geographical territory. Mexico got nothing in return. (74)

The story of the “greengos,” regardless of its veracity, offers a provocative opening for a little musical project I’ve been plotting. The prominence of music in the term’s myth of origins is, of course, a nice touch — not to mention the color green. But the Irish-Mexican connection, and the significance of this story (and this war), is deeper than a colorful coincidence. Irish people have been living in Mexico for centuries. (Indeed, an image search for some fodder for this post turned up a small cottage industry around “Irish-Mexicans” — with or without injunctions to kiss one.)

Perhaps the best known Irish arrivals in Mexico are a group of soldiers who famously switched sides during the Mexican-American War. These notorious turncoats, a preponderance of whom were Irish, are known (fondly in Mexico) as St. Patrick’s Battalion, or El Batallón de San Patricio — national heroes of a sort, whose sacrifices (many were ultimately hanged as traitors) are celebrated every September 12 on the agreed-upon anniversary of their executions, as well as on March 17, today: the feast of Saint Patrick, patron saint of the Irish in general and this battalion in particular.

Many reasons are given for their extraordinary act: not merely deserting, but taking up arms for the other side. Like their European compatriots in the Batallón, Irish immigrants enlisted in the US army in exchange for pay and land, many having fled the Potato Famine. Mistreated at the hands of Protestant superiors, some soldiers found themselves more sympathetic to the cause of their Catholic brethren in Mexico. (Notably, Catholic churches in Texas were terrorized in the years of provocation that became the “run up” to the war.) Indeed, such sectarian appeals were allegedly part of a Mexican recruitment campaign. They fought bravely alongside Mexican militia members — sometimes a little too bravely: a few desperate San Patricios, refusing to surrender (for it was death on the battlefield or death by hanging, perhaps after a good lashing and branding), physically rescinded their comrades’ attempts to wave a white flag, even killing a couple Mexican soldiers in the process.

While reading up on the Battalion, I discovered a felicitous fact: they “first fought as a recognised Mexican unit in the Battle of Monterrey on 21 September 1846, as an artillery battery.”

Battle of Monterrey? Artillery battery? Sounds like 3ball to me!

The foregoing isn’t intended as an elaborate bit of cultural baggage to freight some frivolous mixing and mashing. I simply mean to share some of what goes through my head as I work on such a juxtaposition and reflect on what it means for someone like me to make something like this. Far as my relation to the San Patricios, it’s not all that clear to me that we’re not already embroiled in a war with Mexico (and one with a grossly disproportionate deathtoll), but if the US ever did formally declare war on our neighbors to the south, I’m pretty sure where my sympathies would lie.

Beyond the connections I trace above, and the shared rhythmic sensibilities of jiggy & guarachero shuffles, tribal irlandese cultivates other types of possibly productive symbolic ground too. For just as St. Patrick’s Day and Irish heritage more generally (at least in the US) have been blown up into cartoonish proportions (certainly a sickly green sometimes) — in a sort of auto-essentializing practice — tribal/3ball producers in Mexico frequently play with figures of “tribal” identity whether Aztec or African (and often both, as Jace notes in his excellent profile of the scene). I didn’t go so campy on this mix as with Doctorin’ the Guinness (which includes a version of “Danny Boy” for chrissakes) but I want to note that a certain kitsch factor is unavoidable given my points of departure.

Essentially, what I’ve slapped together here is a series of mashups, in both mini-mix and standalone form. I didn’t have a lot of time to work on these (and, at bottom, it’s still a novelty act — I don’t expect these to be listened to beyond mid-March, or just today), so I went looking for relatively easy correspondences, matches that didn’t demand too much pitching around, tempo tweaking, or super-precise attention to form (though, naturally, I’ve attended in some detail to all those things).

Given that these contain such large chunks of other people’s productions, let me give an extra big thanks to: on the Irish side, Column MacOireachtaigh & the Irish Ceili Band, the Dubliners, and Tommy Makem & the Clancy Brothers — from whom I’ve generally borrowed whole tunes; & on the Mexican side of things, from whom I’ve borrowed a mix of loops and partial tracks, Shark DJ, Erick Rincon, DJ Mouse, an uncredited producer (on an MP3 CD I bought in DF) who made an awesome track called “Raspale” that sounds like it samples Buju’s “Walk Like a Champion,” and, last but not least, a brief bit from 3ball ambassador Toy Selectah‘s new album (which is a major banger, btw).

If nothing else, mashups always offer a ripe opportunity for playing with titles. That said, I present to you: the mini-mix (again) & three standalones (y’know, just in case you’re DJing just the right gig tonight) —

W&W, “Tribal Greengo” (12 min / 27 mb)

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W&W, “Watagataroscarbury” (2:00)
Column MacOireachtaigh’s “Roscarbury” + Shark DJ’s “Toca Toca” & “Tumbao”

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W&W, “Scarce O’Tacos” (1:21)
Column MacOireachtaigh’s “Scarce O’Tatties” + Shark DJ’s “El Saxofon”

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W&W, “Merrily Kissed the Guarachera” (2:46)
Column MacOireachtaigh’s “Morrison Merrily Kissed the Quaker” + Unknown, “Raspale” & DJ Mouse “La Noche Es Tribal”

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I could have stuck to more percussive sections of the Mexican tracks, but I wanted to represent tribal bass and melody too, so I was glad when a needling guarachero synth melody seemed to dovetail with the pentatonic heterophony of the jigs and reels. I’m not saying these things ever really match up. There’s a fair amount of strange stuff going on here, harmonically speaking. Pardon any sour notes in your doctored Guinness! Generally, I hope I’ve been able to do the main things I wanted to: 1) let you hear these two musics alongside each other, and 2) give your St. Patrick’s Day just a little extra push in the tush.

If you’ll permit me one final dedication: to San Patricio, his Batallón, and leprechaun-like dancing shoes!

Oh, and here’s a video of the mix as assembled with Ableton, just in case you’re curious as to what’s what and how I’ve chopped things up —

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March 14th, 2011

Musical Encounters of the Fifth Kind?

NASA’s announcement in December about our impending arsenic-based overlords caused quite a stir, followed by a fair amount of disappointment. Despite oddly worded reports suggesting that “NASA has discovered a completely new life form that doesn’t share the biological building blocks of anything currently living on planet Earth” (his emphasis), it turned out that NASA scientists had not encountered an actual extraterrestrial lifeform, only that they had (allegedly) “discovered” — more like, tricked into being — a form of life that departed enough from conventional understandings (by processing arsenic in place of phosphorous) that it is practically alien, and as such has implications for the study of extraterrestrial life: namely, that we need not expect life from elsewhere in the universe to look quite like it does here.

Um, earth to NASA…

Of course, tantalizing as it may have seemed, NASA’s press release was also, in retrospect, fairly dry and careful, promising no more than “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” But for those who nonetheless had fantasized about a closer kind of encounter, do I have news for you.

Better than news, actually: remixes.



Put aside for a moment your suspicion that aliens might be sending us interstellar 419 scams. Why not audio edits? We did, after all, launch a big ol’ golden phonograph into space some 33 years ago. What if the Voyager record found its ways to alien “ears” (or intelligences, anyway) after all? What if the response was to scramble and reassemble our own sound and syntax and to send it back earthwards? And why not send remixes with a cosmic twist of the critical dagger?

That’s the contention, anyway, of the SETI-X collective, a group of scientists exiled from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence consortium responsible for the ’77 Voyager record. SETI-X has released a CD, Scrambles of Earth, which purports to present a collection of decoded remixes from outer space:

In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft, fastening to each a phonograph album containing sounds and music of Earth. If the best calculations are to be believed, one of these records was intercepted and “remixed” sometime in 2005 by extraterrestrial intelligences on the edge of our solar system. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence in Exile (SETI-X), a dissident offshoot of the better-known Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, in 2010 finished decoding signals believed to be transmissions of these “remixes.” Scrambles of Earth, unauthorized by a skeptical SETI, is SETI-X’s document of these audio signs of possible alien intelligence.

If we are to take the researchers at their word, this record would constitute no less than a close encounter of the fifth kind (though some might dispute the expansion of Hynek’s three-level CE model). In the words of CE5’s greatest proponent, Steven J. Greer, a close encounter of the fifth kind is “characterized by mutual, bilateral communication rather than unilateral contact.”

But beyond that, what’s striking about the discovery of these transmissions is that they would appear to offer a critique of everything from the original project’s colonial overtones to the absurdity of the copyright regime’s claims on the record. As the liner notes speculate:

It could also be that the aliens were unmoved by Voyager’s musical program and sought in their version to reprimand Earthlings with an obnoxious response to what Sagan and others modestly termed, in the title of the explanatory coffee-table book, Murmurs of Earth.

There are some stunning procedures on the disc, including a selection where the amplitude envelope of an excerpt from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier is apparently used to modulate the pitch of Andean drums, or a number of looping sections that perhaps suggest, as the careful liner notes point out, “artifacts of earthly deconvolution technologies.” And yet —

Even through the translatory medium of all-too-human audio algorithms, however, it is apparent that the aliens are playing fast and loose with complex intercultural questions and flirting with copyright violation on an interstellar scale.

Take, for example, “Fifth World”:

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Here, the aliens have worked with classically ethnomusicological recordings of two fourth world peoples, the Navajo and the Yoingu residents of Milingimbi, Australia. The resulting fusion of a Diné night chant with “Devil Bird” may at first hearing remind the listener of “world music” fusions, though unlike most of those efforts, here the indigenous voices are not snipped into small bits/beats. Rather, it is the chordal composition of a member of the first Viennese school, Mozart, that has been so treated. This interpretation depends, it must be said, on imagining that aliens parse figure and ground in ways similar to the purveyors of worldbeat music, whom, evidence suggests, they loathe.

The people at SETI-X are looking out for additional transmissions and transpositions. Let’s just hope, if any come in, they don’t start sounding too phishy.

PS — I’m pleased to report that representatives from SETI-X will be joining us TONIGHT at Enormous Room for a special Beat Research session. To help celebrate their stunning discovery, Flack and I have invited some local friends to dig through the cosmic bins of their record collections and unearth all their deep space footage. So in addition to the SETI-X reps, Tim of A Stack of Dusty Records, the co-owner of Mystery Train Records in Gloucester, MA, will offer some thematic accompaniment, VJ Dziga will mix’n’mash rare NASA footage and other alien sights on the big screen while TDOGG explores further levels of photon manipulation. It’s gonna be out of this world!

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March 7th, 2011

Unauthorized Oz Wizardry

Tip of the virtual cap to “sharebro” and jazz wiz Josh Rutner for these —


c/o MOVIEBARCODE

c/o pughtube

The Wizard of Oz + Dark Side of the Moon…. many folks have tried to put these two together and succeeded, sort of. The people that even know about this probably still argue on which lion roar to start the album on…wait, do you start when you drop the needle on the record or when you hit play on the cd player, shit?! I put it on Vimeo so no one has to worry about syncing this ever again…This is for all you stoners and once was hippies.

– Per your requests, I have extended the movie to it’s actual running time and looped the album throughout the film. It’s actually quite surprising how many moments line up later in the movie, but it doesn’t happen as frequently as the first time through.

– If you have an hour and forty five minutes to kill you could spend it watching this urban legend. Personally, I can only watch the first rotation of the album. I like Pink Floyd and all, but my human brain is only able to withstand around 45 minutes of concentration. …

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Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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