Make a Track Without Leaning on the Genre

It’s getting a little hard to hark back to the days when dubstep was an emerging sound that was quietly gathering acclaim as a movement that housed some of the most creative and forward thinking electronic musicians in the world; impossible to pigeon hole, on the cutting edge of production technique and ideas, dubstep was an antidote to cookie cutter music and a constant pallet cleansing experience. In under six years from first poking its head above the parapet and getting hit by its first signs of mainstream acceptance, dubstep has become a victim of its own success and the public face of the genre is perhaps now amongst the most formulaic of any music in recent history, based almost solely around the visceral effects of hard synths and wobbling drops and eschewing any pretence of smart songwriting.

Keep the blueprint, change the tools

The original genre luminaries have largely disowned dubstep as an allegiance and are busy behind the scenes creating the same new, exciting music they always were, albeit without calling it anything in particular. The important point is that as soon as you define a genre by a specific sound as opposed to an approach or a philosophy, the walls close in, freedom gets reduced, and what was once an exciting, edgy side to a broad spectrum of music suddenly becomes cliched and, without different audio aesthetics to bounce off, samey sounding.

Still with me?! Good. This assignment is all about remembering what it is you love about making music by removing the most overused technique you have from your audio pallet. Do you make dubstep, and do you abuse that wobble formula a little too much? Glitch and breaks, and sit a little too hard on those auto beat stutter plugins? How about hip hop, and stuck sampling the same sounding records, with the same chops…

Throw it out! Try and approach the same goal with your music, without using your most overused tool to get there. Take a look at these examples of tracks that exemplify what I’m talking about:

Examples

I’m a nut for detroit hip hop, and to extend a cliche, J Dilla changed my life. A particular track that had a huge effect on me, however, was Slum Village’s Tainted, produced by Karriem Riggins. The soul, swing, and unmistakeable groove of my favourite sound is all over the track, but rather than being a sample based outing, the lead line is a live played electric piano. Getting the confidence to play instruments to create grooves rather than rely on records made me think about how I liked music to sound in a whole new light…

If you need any further inspiration to think outside the box and expand your style, Boonie Mayfield has taken the concept of moving from sampling vinyl to playing samples he would have looked for and run with it:

I’ve laid into dubstep a little bit today, but the truth is that because ‘dubstep’ was just a label that meant many things to many people, there’s really no canonical way of retelling ‘where it all went wrong’. At its most basic, though, I’d characterise dubstep as a genre that relied on laid back, even half time drum patterns, with the rhythmical drive dictated by bass. To that end, James Blake fits the bill and his particular brand of sub bass heavy, borderline experimental music is simply an approach to the same end as anyone else experimenting with halftime percussion and floor shaking sub frequencies…

We’d love to hear your assignments, as always. Let us know in the comments too if you’ve any particularly nice examples of music that is exemplified by its approach rather than simply aping the most popular contemporary sound!

Sebb Aston – Dirty Chillout Loops from the Crates

Grit, vinyl crackles, and bit crushed sounds. It’s vintage OD Music We Love this week…

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Mad Opal – Money Bubble

We’re not sure whether we’re missing a clever allegory slotted into Money Bubble and its tracks, but we’re certainly not missing the bounce… Continue Reading

Yung Miss – The J. Dilla Project

I know that Dilla tribute projects are ten a penny… perhaps more. It’s always easy to listen to some Dilla beats, but all too often the artists who jump on the tracks just aren’t up to scratch – and even when they are, the aforementioned glut of projects means that there tends to be a definitive version by that one emcee. Continue Reading

C2C – Down the Road EP

You may or may not know that in addition to all things music production, I’m also a turntable nut. C2C have thus been on my radar for a long time, considering they’re in strong contention for the greatest turntablism group act of all time, completely dominating the DMC Team Championships for pretty much the entire time they competed.

Unlike many excellent turntablists, who for whatever reason have either kept their DJ and production identities firmly separate or not quite been able to commit the excitement of their live performances to record, C2C have been able to cross over into the world of production and merge their quick fader fingers and record hands seamlessly into the mix.

Their latest EP – Down the Road – has been available for a couple of months, but promotion has been limited to their homeland (France) until now, when they’re gearing up for a big ole global release. What we love about C2C isn’t just the aforementioned ability to blend turntablism into their records, but their general ear for taking different sounds and mashing them into a coherent whole to create an almost genre transcendent record. Elements of hip hop, soul, dubstep, jazz, big beat, and more besides pepper the EP, and it sounds fantastic.

The video to F.U.Y.A. is pretty sweet too – not simply for the clever concept, but for giving you an idea of the separate parts of the production process. Check it out, and go get the full EP from iTunes, unless you want to wait for the UK Vinyl release on the 7th of May…

JuSoul – Rock Bottom

We’ve had our eye on JuSoul for a while now, and his recent offerings have been quality through and through.

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Boonie Mayfield: Boon Documented

After independently releasing one of our favourite LPs of last year, Black Koolaid, Boonie Mayfield is back with another project – this time on film. Doing things independently has gone way past just music in the past couple of years, with independent video makers utilising platforms like YouTube and Vimeo to create their own video shows, series, and even banding together for independent online video networks. Boon Documented is reality TV without the wannabes, and gives viewers an insight into Boonie’s life and musical path. In this first episode Boonie makes the dream of many a soul producer a reality and buys his own Fender Rhodes, and we get to go on the journey to find, collect, and install it with him. Boonie and friends’ talent and enthusiasm is portrayed superbly  throughout the show, and we’re really excited about having an interesting, independent video series to watch over the coming months. Watch it below, and subscribe to Boonie’s YouTube channel to get new episodes delivered to your YouTube homepage as they become available! (You’re subscribed to the Oh Drat YouTube channel too, right?!) You can also read our interview with the man himself here when you’re done…

Cappo

Interview: Cappo

Cappo is a prolific emcee and producer hailing from the UK whose last album, Genghis, was entirely self produced and his latest work introduces a new style and an entire new persona: Gusto Grizwold. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on working as both an emcee and producer, how he feels about diversifying, and some invaluable tips both for emcees and producers working with other artists…

 

Oh Drat: Hi Cappo, so how’s things – how’re things going with the new release?

Cappo: It’s good; we had a couple of problems with the CD manufacturing, because the ink on the CDs themselves was changed from the original plan and someone made a mistake at the manufacturers so they’ve gone back… but everyone who’s preordered up to now will be sent one of these CDs that’s not the ‘right’ colours, so although they don’t know it those CDs are super rare – there’s only about 30 of them in existence.

“Before Genghis I was a different artist”

OD: It’s funny how things work out to create these little special limited things.

C: It is yeah, the quirky ways that make things rare; sometimes it’s the tracklistings that change, or slight differences on vinyl or something… hopefully if Gusto goes the way I want it to it’ll be something that’s worth its weight in gold [I’m already treasuring mine – Chris] so to speak.

We did the launch in Notts the other day and had lots of people come out to support and that was a good feeling, because the new music is a new type of sound for me – stories about my life and such – but people seem to have received it well, although it’s not the same as a Learn to be Strong or a Fire With Fire type track, but people who purchased one then will be amongst the 30 or 40 with one of the rare originals, so that’s good.

OD: So as you say, the Gusto Grizwold persona is a little different to what you’ve done previously, and I’ve seen you say the Genghis LP was your ‘opus’… would you say that working on a project like that for so long [2010’s Genghis was the first official solo Cappo LP since his 2003 debut Spaz the World] helped you to turn over a new leaf?

C: Yeah it did, you’ve hit the nail on the head there exactly. Before Genghis I was a different artist. In a lot of ways I was frustrated about how music was going and how things were working out, and I think people who are frustrated haven’t reached that certain point where they’re at ease with themselves because they’re working as hard as they can or they’ve achieved what they want to achieve. Genghis took a long time to make and there was a lot of meaning and a lot of enigmatic flows; it was a lot of my life at the time. When it was finished I saw the matrix of my own music and I achieved something that I didn’t think I was going to achieve, and it was a point in time when I needed to do it for myself, really, nobody else, just to prove I could do it on my own. I learned so much from the album, not just performing it live but the promotion around the release and stuff that gave me a lot of insight into how I wanted to do my music from there.

“I want to see where I can take things with the same formula and the same ethics as hip hop, but changing up the beats entirely”

At the same time Styly Cee and I were doing the Fallout album, so had that as a ‘backup’ after all the detailed, intricate production and lyrics for Genghis I had The Fallout lyrics to let things go and work out a bit of difference in my music. More and more I’ve been working on being as prolific as I can, and for the new stuff, pattern wise I want to change things up drastically. I’ve done a lot of tracks in a 4/4 signature type of beat, and whenever I hear something like that in that 4/4 style, that’s my heart, where I grew up and what I know – so it’ll always be my homeland in music, that’s me. But what I’m trying to do is expand myself. I’m 32 now and I’m trying to expand on my production and my rhyme flows; my rhyme flows are more important than anything and I need to keep rejeuvenating them and to keep things moving on. It’s like what Styly said when we did The Fallout, he’s ticked all the boxes of things he wants to do with hip hop so now he’s making different decisions about what he wants to make, and I’ll say the same thing. From Spaz the World to Genghis I feel like I’ve achieved a lot, and I want to see where I can take things with the same formula and the same ethics as hip hop, but changing up the beats entirely and working on different soundscapes that will inspire me to bring something different out of myself.

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anotherdimension

Another Dimension – Jellyfish Recordings

We love a good label compilation.

 This collection from Jellyfish Recordings revolves around dusty, head nodding hip hop influenced beats

There’s always a thread that ties the tracks together, and it’s interesting to take the tracks in and figure out what that thread is. This collection from Jellyfish Recordings revolves around dusty, head nodding hip hop influenced beats, but beyond that there’s a diverse arrangement of the playful – Wunderkut’s Arches and Axiom’s Seventimental spring to mind, the spacey –  Blocktreat’s Aloe Kitty Mau Mau and Galaxaburn’s Rod DeVoe amongst others, the exotic – Geewut’s Sunset, Headspace’s It’s Coming Together, and a whole lot more to boot. What’s more, the majority of the proceeds from the release will also go to a youth organisation local to the label. One good deed deserves another…

Simiah - Purple Dreams

Simiah – Purple Dreams

Time for some instrumental hip hop. Full of dusty breaks, tape noise, head nodding beats and occasional, yet expert, cuts, Purple Dreams is a superb free album. Get it.

Full of dusty breaks, tape noise, head nodding beats

Excuse the brevity in this Friday’s music post, but the Oh Drat studio is on the move this weekend and there’s a lot of work to do! Have a good weekend all!

 

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