TOTW: Reggie Watts, Flying Lotus & Mark Rebillet

Sorry for the delay with my track of the week. Over the next four weeks, work commitments are going to be busy and this may have to take a backseat if I can’t find the time.

I’m breaking many a couple of rules this week. Not only is it a few days late, but this isn’t a track. It’s a live performance on Youtube.

I decided to break the rules because I simply had to highlight this performace from three great musicians and fantastic live performers in their own right. Mark Rebillet & Reggie Watts are both best known for thier entirely improvised sets. Flying Lotus more so for his albums and production work.

Over the hour forty five minutes of this performance, we’re shown the fluidity of them working between each other, which creates completely improvised music that is truly a blend of each artist’s sound and style.

It has two different styles of comedic irreverance that both Rebillet & Watts have in their music, along with a smattering of all three artists approaches to electronic music production. Add to that, it’s improvised nature and the musicians’ joyous ireverance throughout, and your left with a video that is not only fun to watch but great to listen to.

Its incredible that technology has got us to a point where this level of production can be accomplished live but technology is not doing the heavy lifting here.

The skills required from the three performers comes from thousands of hours of practicing in the equipment they are using, just like you would any instrument.

Truly a sight to behold; modern virtuosos of their own creative approach to instrumentation and a demonstration of what is possible when musicianship is applied to modern computer technologies.

TOTW: Skee Mask_ Rev8617

The album “Compro” by Skee Mask was a favourite of mine from a few years ago. Although it works well as a complete collection of tracks and their order within the record is really well designed, a handful of standout tracks are well worth listening to in their own right.

Rev8617 Is one of my favorites from the record. The track focuses on a synth 4 bar pattern that loops with slight tweaks throughout the majority of the track. This fluid synth pattern is then anchored with a shuffling drum section that works its way around the synth line creating an energy and variety that keeps you hooked on the pattern.

After the first third of the track, once the melody and the drums are truly cemented in your conscious skee mask then pulls them apart turning the textures of the synths into wider ambiances and stripping parts of the drums down as some low end comes into the track.

He continues to play with the tracks elements through to its conclusion, taking a short idea in many directions, removing and weaving different elements together so although the track its built up around a 4 bar sequence it never gets tiring. A masterstroke in how you can eek out great electronic tracks from small electronic ideas:

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TOTW: Telefon Tel Aviv_ I Made a Tree on the World

Over a decade after its creation, the album “Immolate Yourself” by Telefon Tel Aviv is still one of my favourite records. Its dark aesthetics and brooding analogue synth lines pack an emotional punch that still holds up to this day.

This is an analogue electronic record through and through. This is not just in choice of instruments, but in how they were recorded and processed. You can almost hear the clunk and whir of the tape machines; the electricity passing though the very circuitry itself.

Through its warbling synth lines and softer aesthetics you can really feel the tactility of the instruments and equipment used. No better is this exemplified than in my track of the week ” I Made A Tree on the World.”

Melodically, its structures are rather simplistic, but its the way they drift through the piece, building in power as filters are slowly opened up to create underlying drive and aggression. This aggression is then released in the final third of the track with a raise in octaves and looping vocals that merge into each other creating a wide sonic landscape that slowly fades away into the distance.

Although its more of an “album track” and provides a link between more traditionally constructed tracks on the album “I Made A Tree on the World” is still my favorite from an impressive bunch. It manages to create a world that I have enjoyed returning to countless times over the past twelve years:

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TOTW: John Frusciante_ Usburp Pensul

John Freuschiante may be best known as a guitarist in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but outside of this world arena touring act he has also had many side projects, covering many different genre.

On his album, Maya, he creates new music that feels authentically representative of 90s Jungle music. Chopping up breaks with a competency reflective of many of the greats of the genre, he wraps them around simple yet effective melodies.

I think the beginning of the record is the project at its strongest, with the opening two tracks being my highlights.

Usburp Pensul is the second track, and a more aggressive piece, chopping up one break with relentless abandon to create a high energy work. It keeps up that energy throughout its playtime without overstaying its welcome:

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TOTW: Porter Robinson_ Wind Tempos

I liked this track on Porter Robinson’s album “Nature”. It manages to blend the saccharine production found throughout a record with an experimental edge.

It keeps you guessing as it jilts between instrumentation and elements of sound design all with the glossiest forms of production that verges on an almost hyper pop aesthetic.

Give it a listen Here:

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TOTW: Sufjan Stevens_ Celebration III

Surfjan Stevens latest work “Convocations” is a large collection of instrumental music over two and a half hours long.

It could be a lot for many to listen several hours of melancholic instrumental music but this stuff is right up my street. It works well as an ambient collection of forlorn tracks you can have on in the background sound tracking your daily activities as it amorphously shifts between instruments and styles.

Celebration III comes about halfway through the work and gives you a good idea of what you’re in for if you listen to the whole thing so I’d recommend it as a good place to start.

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TOTW: Oneohtrix Point Never_ Nothing’s Special

I’m always going to listen to anything OPN puts out and more often than not its going to end up as my track of the week. His ability to have a unique style and yet keep it fresh with rampant experimentation have struck a chord with me over the past decade and then some.

His latest track “Nothing’s Special” uses the same sounds you’ve heard in his work before, It exited previously in a different form on his album “Magic Oneohtrix Point never” but this time the changed elements are collaboration with Spanish singer Rosalía.

Her vocals create a powerful organic counterpoint to the colder electronic circuitry that makes up the instrumentation of the track. This results in a strong and mournful feeling that’s extenuated by the tracks tempo:

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TOTW: Kölsch_Gray

The first time I heard Kölsch it was on his fantastic double single “Speicher 93,” which I have already brought to your attention on a previous track of the week. Gray was one of the tracks on that record.

However, it’s far more aggressive a version than the one you will hear on his album “1989,” which I’ve decided to highlight as my track of the week.

The instrumental elements are found on both versions of Gray, but the aggressive leading brass sound, found in the single version, mixed beneath a collection of woodwinds, gives the track an airier vibe. This continues throughout other production decisions, including a slightly less compressed kick drum and stripped down piano in the breakdown, with fewer chords and larger reverb tales.

The two versions show how much a track can change with a few production decisions; both great in their own right but each with its own atmosphere and direction. Listen to both below:

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1989 Version Of Grey
Speicher 93 Version Of Grey

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TOTW: Radiohead_ Fake Plastic Trees

It may not be their most critically revered album but The Bends is probably my personal favorite Radiohead album. It may be because it was the first of their records that I heard that it has such a connection for me, but I don’t think it’s the main reason.

Looking back at historical reviews, you get the sense that many critics at the time believed that this was the work of an Indy band trying to move into “stadium rock” and follow along the likes of U2, who are mentioned in several reviews at the time. In hindsight, I think they were both right in the sense that it elevated Radiohead towards the the huge success they are now, but also wrong in their assumption that this album marks a turn towards “stadium rock.” Instead it shows a band who are starting to experiment in ways that they develop a lot further on their next album “Kid A”.

“Fake Plastic Trees” is my favorite track from the album and a great example of the experimental elements starting to push through in their sound. You can hear clearly that the origin of this piece comes from a singer songwriter approach, with acoustic guitar and vocals forming the center or the track. You add to that electric guitar, bass, strings, organ and percussion, and it has the basis of what you would expect to hear on a “stadium rock” track of the 90’s, but their implementation and compositional structure is far from it.

Initially, the mix on the majority of the track is fairly space with many of the elements of the track mixed so low in the mix that you can only sense hints of them.

When they are all brought to the front and center of the track in the second third of the track, they have the sonic signature weight of what you would expect from stadium rock. However, they are doing things very differently to what you would expect from that sound.

The lead guitar sound is a great example as it distortionally falls over itself compositionally far closer to a “sonic youth” or “MBV” then anything you would expect to see on the closing act of a main stage at Glastonbury at that time.

It’s this experimentation that has marked Radiohead so far apart from other bands of that time on the same scale. Although the critics didn’t seem to bite onto this part of their sound at the time, its clear to hear now that Radiohead were sharpening their teeth – all be it subtly – on this record for their later works.

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