Category Archives: For The Record

For The Record: Moby: Play

Oftentimes it is said by people (pretending to be) wise enough that the most beautiful pieces of art are products of despair, depression and crisis. I’m not going to go into this since 1. this is not the case with this record and 2. I do not want to pretend I’m wise enough for that.

The first time I heard Moby’s name was in a song by Eminem and as an 11 year-old I could not really see the point of being so angry at someone whom the man did not really know. At least that was the picture in my head. Small skip in time, I heard ‘Bodyrock’ in the video game Fifa 2001. I really liked its sampled lyrics  (“we rock the party, rock the party” seemed to do exceptionally well with a game on football – or soccer for the dear readers from over there).  Another timelapse later I got to hear “Natural Blues” when I was in a really bad period and hearing those achingly well-placed chords of strings and its driving dynamics with all the piano and staccato bass… I rarely cry only because I hear a piece of music… But this was so liberating yet saddening that “Natural Blues” evoked some sort of an emotional whirlwind in my mind and heart and forced me to register and process daily pain until I was well enough.

Everybody knows the story: ‘Play’ at first seemed to be a commercial disaster and because of the bad press of Moby’s previous effort ‘Animal Rights’ not too many music critics took the time and energy to even listen to the album.

“February in 2000, I was in Minnesota, I was depressed and my manager called me to tell me that Play was #1 in the UK, and […] Then it was #1 in France, in Australia, in Germany—it just kept piling on.” – Moby told Rolling Stone.

And this of course turned Moby’s fortune and life upside down. That’s not the point though. The why is so much more interesting. Moby’s early techno and ambient ambitions and records are somewhat known and loved or hated according to how receptive the listeners were to that sort of raw electronic, assertively pioneer sound he was aiming for but what had always been there was Moby’s sensitivity to harmonies and melodies, arches and emotional provocation in the good sense. (It’s enough to listen to ‘Go’ for instance, or ‘Hymn’.)

‘Play’ was recorded and released at the end of the ’90s and consists of 18 songs. It features sampling heavily and has mostly mid-tempo songs. Many of them feature blues field recordings’ samples or instrumentation pieces reminiscent of blues, supporting this are house/downtempo beats and synths. The meeting of these elements give us essentially some sort of a quintessence and looking back and yet, pretending to be wise, I risk saying zeitgeist at the end of a century.  A millennium. Everything got faster and more incomprehensible with the advent of the 21st century. ‘Play’ partly sums that up – there’s all the speed, dynamism and rage in that jump on the cover – but on the other hand the album evokes a pastoral, bucolic setting, out in great spaces.

If you find this hard to believe or too emotional, high-brow or pretentious, you can listen to ‘Play’ without having to believe in such big things. Listen to it only in itself and pay attention to yourself.

And this is where I shall return to a thought earlier: ‘Play’ in itself is liberating yet saddening. It evokes some sort of an emotional whirlwind in the mind and heart and forces the listener to register and process daily happenings (love, pain, loss, or only moods) until he/she can move on. It will not shout this skill out loud but sometimes it can help by taking us a bit down but bringing us back up a higher. And this is exactly how the album lets us off: ‘My Weakness’ is no depressive masterpiece. It’s the main character walking away because he/she had had enough and wants to overcome.

You can listen to the album below:

Videos: Pink Floyd’s ‘Why Pink Floyd?’ video vignettes

It has been long confirmed that Pink Floyd would release their back catalog in shiny new, at-least-

(image taken from http://www.pinkfloyd.com )

remastered versions. Of course there will be expanded editions as well, dubbed ‘Experience’ – extra disc with rarities and expanded booklet – and ‘Immersion’ – which will be “Lavishly packaged in a sturdy 29cm square box, the sets contain remastered, previously unreleased and audio-visual material, plus much additional content – reproduced memorabilia, brand new graphics, art prints, collectors’ items, lavish booklets and more” – Editions.

The remaster process is led and made by Nick Mason and James Guthrie at Abbey Road Studios.

In the following weeks there will be some emotion-fuelled For The Record entries, commemorating these stunningly beautiful and inspiring albums, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, different 18-second spots have been made, I thought it would be fun to have them here in one:





















For The Record: The Winstons: Amen, Brother

In the first For The Record entry I called the percussion solo from ‘Last Bongo in Belgium’ the Amen break of downtempo music. But what is Amen break? The source of a whole a genre.

The Winstons (top right: GC Coleman)

In 1969 a soul/funk group The Winstons released a single titled ‘Color Him Father’ with a B-side called ‘Amen, brother’. The song is a solid, upbeat (136 BPM, a mystical number) funk song that lasts 2.33. Actually quite a regular song keeping the era and typical instrumentation in mind. However, at 1.26, drummer and singer Gregory C. Coleman performs a short drum break that changed history. Here’s the song:

Of course you knew that sample. It was first utilized by hip-hop dj’s off a break compilation titled Ultimate Breaks & Beats released in 1986 by Breakbeat Lenny. There the solo was edited such a way that dj’s with two turntables could do beat-juggling with it (its tempo was halved), thus creating a loop. When samplers and drum machines gained popularity, the song’s sample became even more famous. It had an impact on everything new and electronic: hip-hop, breakbeat, rave, jungle and of course drum and bass.

Here’s a short video with some details and demonstrations of the impact of the sample:

And here is what many consider the first drum and bass (not jungle!) track heavily featuring the Amen break:

For The Record: Incredible Bongo Band: Last Bongo in Belgium

Ladies and Gentlemen, the time has come for me to present the first-ever For The Record entry on Sound Arkivee. I always thought it would be about a – probably – Motown-released record from my own collection but when I found out about this song, I simply had to change my mind. The song is: ‘Last Bongo in Belgium’ by Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band. And believe me when I say it’s worth to be writing about a single song for what lies within this tune is the amen break of today’s downtempo and hip-hop music. (We are going to deal with the amen break, be patient.)

The Incredible Bongo Band was founded by Michael Viner, an executive at the MGM label. Viner was president of MGM’s sublabel called Pride and he was doing fine enough to start a project, in which he gathered session musicians and made unused studio time – looking back – incredibly beneficial.
The Bongo Band played funk music with a solid rhythm section, an emphasised brass section (most notably the saxophone) and some guitar solos were also present. So far, and listening to the tunes, we could say that it was not something too special. Of course, if we were at a festival tipsy or half-drunk at 6pm, we would definitely stay and watch them but it wouldn’t make us crazy.
The group released two albums (the milestone ‘Bongo Rock’ in 1973 on which ‘…Belgium’ was released and ‘Return of the Incredible Bongo Band the year after) but did not enjoy a long and happy life. In 1974 the group disbanded.

Michael Viner

It turns out that the most crucial and unforgettable element, which gives the band’s immortal legacy, is what we would thing the smallest: the bongos. And Viner. Because the middle parts of these already percussion-heavy songs contained some monumental percussion solos which had more groove and flesh in them than the remaining parts of either instrument.
These solos were later recovered by hip-hop pioneers in the ’80s and thus – as Will Hermes wrote in The New York Times – the national anthem of hip-hop was born by sampling ‘Apache’, another song off ‘Bongo Rock’.

However, at the end of the ’80’s another song went on to be a sampling superstar. Let’s listen to ‘Last Bongo in Belgium’ first.

One of the most influential percussion solos in popular history kicks in at 4.27 and the following bars are truly history.

Some examples for the sampling of this piece:
Beastie Boys – ‘Looking Down The Barrell of The Gun’ (off Paul’s Boutique, 1989)

Leftfield – ‘Song of Life’ (off Leftism, 1994)

Recoil – ‘Last Breath’ (off Unsound Methods, 1997)

http://grooveshark.com/widget.swf (Click on the link. It’s safe and it takes you to Grooveshark.)

And so on. Enjoy this groove, it’s one of the best.