Hey, anybody. First, check out this group called “Data Romance”, who’ve been advertising themselves around Spotify lately. They’re an indie-electro group comparable to Crystal Castles or Purity Ring, with a dash of Bjork’s “Vespertine”. I could call this group what I wanted out of Purity Ring but never got.
Second, I’ve started another Tumblr site I’m calling “The Animation Critic”, where I do a non-graded review of every cartoon episode I watch. No really, every cartoon episode I watch. It’s been quite fun so far.
I feel alternately honored and terrified to work with a track by the xx. They are without doubt my favorite band; I love all of their music to death, and “Angels” may be my favorite of their songs. I ended up naming all of the Audiotool components of this song “Romy”, “Ollver”, and “Jamie” after the band members.
As much as I was terrified, this track is definitely my best work to date. It’s got some of the coolest sounds I’ve ever created. One of the most common techniques I used on this track is the “industry secret” reverse reverb: record a sample, reverse it, apply reverb, and reverse it again. This causes a “fade-in” reverb effect that sounds absolutely breathtaking. I also applied reverb to a forward sample and then reversed it - those three opening washes at the start of the piece are the main treble motif and the breakbeat with heavy reverb applied and then played in reverse, with reverb applied again.
Double reverb all the all the way across the mix! That distinctive snare drum is, indeed, from Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die; the sample occurs against a bare enough mix just before the second verse. The main breakbeat is an Audiotool sample, but the one at the end is from a specific edit of Paul Van Dyk’s remix of the theme from Mirror’s Edge.
Everything in this track rises and falls; I wanted to give the sensation of deep breathing, of a trance state, of a reverie. I also wanted to communicate the lyrical concept of the tension between blissful affection and fear of separation; this is also helped by the contrast between the two samples, one from a song of despair (Born to Die) and one from a song of hope (Still Alive). Incidentally, this means that the track ends on a note of hope but still on a suggestion of uncertainty.
The more I sing this song, the more the lyrics take on a specific meaning to me. To me, “Angels” communicates the feeling of a naive teenage crush; the three verses take me through the three major ones that I experienced in high school. I can project the vocals better in an upper octave, but I chose to use the lower octave (despite this requiring two months to get the vocals exactly right) because I think it blends with both the mix and the mood better.
You’ll see another xx track on the Bronycon release, but this track is a true milestone for me, for two reasons. First, it’s my swan song with Audiotool. Farewell. You’ve taught me so much. Second, it’s definitely the best and most complex work I’ve put out. I’m extraordinarily proud of it.
Thanks for listening.
I really should repost some of the music I’ve made since I was last active on Tumblr. You’ll get it soon, whenever I’m ready to pour my heart out about it. <3
I am literally unable to get over how cool the name “Kindness” is for one’s musical act. It has this fantastic combination of aloof mystique and personal warmth to it, plus it’s simply a cool-sounding word. If I were to label Adam Bainbridge, the adopter of this wonderful pseudonym, as a genius, it would probably be partially because of the name.
Kindness makes hazy, laidback neo-disco; it looks like he takes his primary influence from soul and funk, if this documentary he made about Washington D.C.’s Go-go scene is any indication. He also has this kooky-knowingly-ironic-pop-singer vibe, which I think is what attracts me to him (apparently at last year’s SXSW he played air drums during a rhythmless bit of a song, which is totally a thing I will steal sometime). His latest album is called World, You Need a Change of Mind. It’s alright. Not necessarily my forte, but it’s alright.
Except for that piece of brilliance you hear above.
“House” took a little bit to grow on me, but it’s a wonderful 3:37 piece of pure gold. Oh, that piano riff. Oh, that thick and comfy beat. Oh, that wonderfully off-kilter synth passage. Oh, that gorgeous, gorgeous chorus.
I like “House” on a few levels: 1) it’s a good song. I like the instrumentation, I like the melody and harmonies, I like the organic feel of the keys, I love those percussion sounds. 2) I like its brand of gentle feel-good writing. It’s got catchy, simple lyrics and it works with the feel of the song. But, most importantly, there’s 3), which is the subversive strain running through Kindess’ whole deal.
You see, there’s a double irony to Kindess. (HIPSTERISM WHEEEEEE!) A good two-word phrase that sums up general critical opinion of Bainbridge is “achingly hip” - an almost calculated iteration of all the things that are trendy with the cool kids. Neo-disco, retro vibes, authenticity, aloofness, ect. But I think that’s the point. Kindess makes fun of his own hipster nature, and turns it from something “fake” or “put on” into something genuine. By pretending to pretend, he comes off as charming and endearing rather than snarky.
So it is with “House”. If you’ll notice, the track isn’t actually a house song - it lacks some of the fundamental properties of the genre, most notably a 120-130 bpm tempo. So it’s got ironic hipsterism to it. But Kindess does infuse it with elements of house - repetitive riffs, an emphasis on the kick drum in the last portion of the song, hook-laden vocals and instrumentation, ect. So it becomes un-house house music. And it’s totally lovable as such. What really makes it special is that it takes this house-ness to Kindess’ own territory of soft and warm bear-hug soundscapes, something that not even Deadmau5 in his most sunlit trance form can achieve with the degree of success Bainbridge reaches.
The song’s sort-of music video ups the ante on Bainbridge’s double irony by undercutting itself. It starts with an almost clinical examination of Bainbridge’s surprised appreciation of the “good 5%” of pop music. Suddenly we find out that “the good 5%” is his own track, further enhancing the illusion of snark. But then Bainbridge begins deconstructing the elements of the song with the help of a 9-year old and the seeming elitism breaks down into a compelling and downright humble picture of the offbeat but meek, loving, and, well, kind Bainbridge underneath.
“I can’t give you all that you need, but I’ll give you all I can feel.”
Hey, anybody. I really need to start using Tumblr more, it’s a great streamlined “replacement” of sorts for a big ol’ blog that I have to manage all the time. So I’ll probably be more active here from now on, posting music I like, music I make, and other things I feel like posting. Whatever, it’s the internet. <3
I’m going to go ahead and try to interpret an Atoms for Peace song - specifically “Dropped”, the fourth track on their debut Amok - for myself, because heaven knows we’ll never know what it really means, because Thom Yorke, the frontman of this supergroup, makes it a habit to write opaque things and then refuse to tell anyone what it’s supposed to mean. To me, “Dropped” is the sound of someone who is dancing in some high-profile club in L.A. out of sheer physical compulsion, who internally has no idea why he is doing so at all, and in fact secretly despises the music and the club as mindless, heartless, and just plain stupid.
And why shouldn’t he? Mr. Yorke is no doubt sickened by Los Angeles - after all, Amok’s cover and promotional material depict the city being obliterated in a highly stylized apocalypse. He’s the fulfillment of every single “jaded and socially conscious” archetype you can think of. He pays no mind to what labels and fans expect from him, he refuses to explain the meaning behind his music, he refuses to play his own work the moment it starts to define who he is rather than the other way around, he approves of capitalism about as much as he approves of getting shot in the face, and he keeps an iron grip over artistic control when in the studio with whichever set of bandmates he wants to bring in that day. Amok thoroughly demonstrates that last point - you’ll hear his longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich’s signature shifty production, and you’ll certainly hear the warm tones of bassist Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Atoms for Peace’s other high-profile member), but this music is far and away a certified Thom Yorke product, to the point where it sounds almost painfully similar to his solo album, The Eraser.
I say “almost”, mind, because this is top form Thom Yorke material we’re talking about here. Well, nearly top form; like any self-respecting music junkie/armchair critic, I judge Kid A to be entirely unsurpassable. At any rate, the man is a music genius. We’re not about to get anything mediocre out of him, for two reasons. First, Atoms for Peace is signed to XL, which basically rules the universe when it comes to the artistic quality of its roster (they’ve got Adele, Jack White, Peaches, Sigur Ros, Beck, AND the xx, for heaven’s sake). Second, he’s entirely in his element here. Amok infuses The Eraser’s material with more non-electronic instrumentation, resulting in an earthy and organic but still characteristically twitchy IDM record.
My favorite track on this album is “Default”, the band’s first single, which I embedded above (unfortunately, XL practices having a delay between an album’s release for purchase and release on Spotify). It’s a pitch-perfect distillation of Amok’s sound: dense, uneasy, and persistent percussion, one or two big and hazy synths, deep bass tones, snippy, erratic effects, and the frail sound of Yorke in his upper vocal register holding its own the foreground. The only thing not here are the sounds of an urgent guitar or a scruffy bass, which crop up fairly frequently elsewhere on the record. Altogether, it’s a heavy and melancholy affair - not as stark as Yorke’s solo work, but certainly quite reminiscent of it. The warmth provided by the electric instruments is a nice counterpoint to the chilliness of the electronic ones, evoking something like Madonna’s Ray of Light, another fabulous record which explored blending the two styles.
My only complaint is that the sound gets a little repetitive and tired in places - particularly, on the tracks “Ingenue” and “Unseen” - but this is quickly rejuvenated by the standouts. The album’s brevity is a major asset - twelve or fifteen songs worth of this would be a few musical calories too many and leave the listener with indigestion. The nine tracks here are just the right portion size for something this dense.
Here’s hoping the band comes back to the US to support Amok - I’d really love to see how the band works with the material live. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to seeing where, if anywhere, Atoms for Peace takes its sound on future releases.
I wish you all could hear this new song. I really love the direction I took with it and I think it’s far and away the most exciting work I’ve done yet. The only thing is I have to hit F above middle C two consecutive times. Soon, my friends. Soon.