About Rowan

Perpetual student/ compulsive music collector/ 90% Hair. www.twitter.com/schroeder1988 www.last.fm/pistolsatdawn88 www.soundcloud.com/rowancooperdavies

2012: A Synth Odyssey…

We’re still putting the finishing touches on our brand spanking new site, so for the mean time, here’s a futuristic sci-fi inspired playlist we’ve cobbled together- so sit back, relax and let the music take you on a fantastic otherworldly voyage,,,

Hip-Hop: A force for evil?

In light of an upcoming barbican debate we ask what effect hip hop is having on society.

Next week sees a panel discussing the cultural merits (or demerits) of Hip Hop at London’s Barbican. Whilst it’ll likely be an interesting panel we couldn’t help but start throwing the question around between ourselves here at The Phonograph.

The three main criticisms Hip Hop, from a societal point of view, that we came up with were misogyny, a focus on the attainment of wealth, and its glorification of gang culture. It’s not easy to separate out these criticisms into clear cut categories because they quickly become entwined within the music.

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Persona(lity) Crisis: The troubles of performing in character

What’s in a persona. Rowan looks at the masks musicians like to wear.

The persona is key to the performing arts; it allows the artist to escape the confines of their own personality and become someone else (or at least an exaggerated form of themselves).  Similarly the audience’s knowledge that the within the performance the characters are not representations of the artists themselves, but creations, allows the audience to enjoy the piece as one of fiction.

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Drip.fm – a fairer deal for labels

breaking down why labels can bank on their fans using drip.fm.

Drip.fm was conceived by those at the helm of experimental electronica label Ghostly International as a means of distributing their music to their fans, and launched early this year. The service differs from standard music stores in that you subscribe to a label’s catalogue instead of purchasing individual albums. It is currently in beta, and as such only has a select number of labels involved (watch this space..). So what is it that makes this platform such an exciting proposition?

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The magic in producing extraordinary sounds from everyday objects.

 

Hal Blaine 'the most recorded drummer in history' famously played orange juice bottles on a Beach Boys track - check out his album 'Psychedelic Percussion' for more sampling madness.

Though most would agree that sight is our most prime sense, sound also plays a huge (and often underestimated) role in how we make sense of the world; indeed we hear our mothers in the womb, before we have seen them, and can distinguish their voice from others.  Despite this, many everyday sounds go unnoticed; this one of the reasons why I found 356daysofsound such a fascinating blog.  Each day the author recorded a sound (some of my favourites include ‘bike wheel rubbing against mudguard‘ and ‘pouring water into a glass), usually not from, traditionally ‘musical’ objects.  As such without being presented as worthwhile many of these wonderful sounds would go otherwise unappreciated.

Inspired and armed with my trusty Zoom H1 recorder, I set about recording my own sounds using objects found lying around my house.

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An Imagined Soundtrack: The Acid Western

Gary Farmer and Johnny Depp in 'Dead Man'

Though I am primarily a music fan, my obsession over the concept of genre is something which extends into the realm of cinema. The ‘acid western‘ subgenre is particularly interesting in this regard.  ‘Acid’ is used both in reference to the often surreal imagery, dreamlike pace and bizzare plotlines (see Alejandro Jodorowsky’s masterpiece ‘El Topo’) but also to the ideals of the counterculture movement that popularized the drugs use; these films often subvert the ideals of the classic western films: Western imperialism, macho culture, capitalism.  For example, Dead Man (perhaps one of my all time favourite films) is critical of not only the treatment of Native Americans by Westerners historically, but also their portrayal in film as barbaric and uncivilised; very few films have allowed Native American characters to be more than two-dimensional stereotypes. Dead Man, on the other hand, is famed for its not only sympathetic stance and thorough research but also for being unpatronising towards Native American cultures.

One way in which this twin meaning of ‘acid’ is manifested is in their soundtracks. Continue reading

The Death of Obscurity

I’m often accused of being a music snob; someone who listens to music on the basis that it is ‘obscure’, and would not dream of listening to anything mainstream.  Now whilst I’ve begun to find these accusations tiresome and boring, It got me thinking- I don’t think of most of the music I listen to as obscure.  Amongst my group of friends the jazz groups Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland are well known and in this sense are not obscure to me.  However, I am a stranger to many of the artists in the top 40 – when I checked the UK chart I could count the number of songs I recognised on one hand.

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Lo-Fi: The Futile Quest for Authenticity

‘Lo-Fi’ is a production aesthetic that embraces the sound of lower quality recording than is considered standard, as such it begs the question – why would musicians want this? It is contrary to what one would expect.  A simple answer would be that ‘they like the sound’, but I think this is too simplistic and creates the further question of why some musicians prefer lo-fi. Some might say that the crackle and extra noise adds character and energy to the mix, but what is the nature of this character?

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Some People Think Little Girls Should Be Seen And Not Heard..

… But I think OH BONDAGE! UP YOURS!” Poly Styrene (RIP), X-Ray Spex

Poly Styrene

Music has the amazing potential to inspire social change; one only has to look to James Brown‘s endorsement of the civil rights movement, 1976’s Rock Against Racism campaign, or more recently Khaled M and his support of the Libyan revolution. Why is it then that sexism continues to fester within the rock community? Rather than combat sexism, much of the community seems to accept the status quo. Why?

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Amen, Brother: Reverse Engineering Breakbeat Culture.

The ‘Amen Break‘ from 60’s funk band The Winstons ‘Amen, Brother’ is certainly one of the most famous drumbeats of all time- sampled by artists as far flung as Aphex Twin to NWA. True, there are other perhaps equally popular drumbeats (James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’ springs to mind), but  I cant think of any other six seconds of music that has spawned entire genres – namely Jungle/Drum & Bass and their various subgenres.

Using this breakbeat in a sampler allowed producers to do things rhythmically that weren’t thought possible for a human drummer. However, this has now come full circle with humans attempting to imitate the machines that some (foolishly) feared would make them obsolete. Jojo Mayer describes this process as ‘reverse engineering breakbeat culture’, and requires not only overcoming the physical obstacle of the speed and intensity of drum and bass but also a rethinking of technique in order to achieve the intricate rhythms originally impossible without the use of samplers.

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