Friday, November 17, 2017

There are always amazing things out there you can learn about music: two examples

I had no idea that Phil Collins basically invented the gated drum sound, and with it, the entire damned 1980's.  I can't count the number of times that I heard "In the Air Tonight" but in all those listens, I never once thought of whether I could name an earlier song that used the same drum sounds.  Maybe it's because I never liked the song very much, and never bothered to enter into deep thinking about a song I've long been sick of. But the drums quite obviously are the star of the song.  There aren't any flashy solo parts or even a vocal melody that works outside of the context of the recording.  It's all about paranoia of the first half, and the drums crashing in for the second half.  This was never really the case for any of the countless 80's hits that followed, where the huge, gated drums were buried under maximalist keyboards and FX-laden guitars.


There's been no more sobering realization of the speed that time flies (musically speaking) than the spate of 10th anniversary tributes to Burial's "Untrue".  Has it really been ten years?  Typing it out does nothing to make it seem less impossible. 

I can't argue with those who have called it the most influential electronic music record of the past decade either.  Nothing sounded like it when it was released, and nothing sounds like it today.  Much like the Caretaker, or the early Aphex Twin records, Burial's style is a lo-fi, reclusive personal studio production that seems like it'd be very easy to copy, and yet nobody has ever managed to do it.

Resident Advisor's digital essay on "Untrue" (a first for them!) dives into the origin of some of ghostly, alien samples on the album, and it turns out that some of them are Beyonce and Usher samples that have been staring me in the face all this time.  I suppose I would have known this if I had listened to a complete Beyonce or Usher album or ever browsed an online thread dedicated to sniffing out Burial's samples.  But I never did, and learning how the sausage got made only makes me appreciate his work even more.  Anyone can be a hero by sampling something that nobody else can find, but a genius takes what's in plain sight and makes art that nobody else thought about doing.   

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