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Saturday, 21 May 2011

I'd Like To Battle Toads - David Wise v The New Seekers

Free MP3 download: idliketobattletoads.mp3

Battletoads Pause Music vs The New Seekers 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing'

Written by David Wise, Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Bill Backer, Billy Davis

Arranged by IronicHide

(c) Rare 1991, Elektra 1971

Well, champ, I'm taking a nasty, brutish and short hiatus from my debut album (titled Lowly Works, three-quarters of which can be found here) to work on the ZooFights website. Expect one more track from the album at summer's end then the whole thing is go.

I've been a ZF fan since before I can remember. Then again, I did start drinking heavily about two years ago.

If you're not familiar with the premise: Every summer 16 horrific beasts are imagined and pitted against each other in a knock-out tournament of one-on-one fights. Members of the ZooFights forums and somethingawful.com are then invited to argue/vote/blackmail/threaten/traumatise as to who would win such a contest of guile and strength. These points are weighed up and the ZF team put out the fight in words and pictures, playing out to the whims of the hooting masses. Classic.

Each year's tournament has a different setting - the apocalyptic wastegrounds, outer space, underwater (sort-of) - and this year it's the 1980s. Bodacious.

And this year, ZF are getting some music and a bit more animation in their grisly riot. After much pleading and begging and bloated promises, Major Failure (he who what runs the beasties) is letting me have a crack at intro music for some of the contestants, and maybe a few other bits.

My first assignment was to get a minute-long piece together for Croaka Cola, given the biography here and directions from the Major.

Initially, trying to limit myself to only the 1980s, I went with the Frog Chorus but it felt a bit light alongside The New Seekers' classic coke jingle. I remember being hit with the idea to use David Wise's pause music from Battletoads (itself an internet joke): I was in a meeting about tax administration and may have been too loud in exclaiming 'OH HELL YES. GODDAM BATTLETOADS'.

Such exaltation, as ever with a mashup, will always wither and die within two minutes of actually starting to remix a piece of music. Go on, sprog, imagine any piece of music. Your favourite piece of music. Hum it to yourself. Now hum just a bit of it. Not the most memorable bit, the most hummable bit. Hum it again. And again. Once more, at a slightly different speed. Again. Twice over. Four times over but deliberately fractionally quieter for one measure. Do this for five minutes with any piece of music, Rachmaninov or Portishead, and your soul will soil itself in your head.

Now, imagine doing that with a piece of music that only goes "n-ksh, n-ksh, nnn-ksh-ksh-ksh". For infinity.

Happily, I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing is a fun juxtaposition full of sweeping bass guitar fills, merry-making and a rag-time swing not unlike some of the best Mamas & Papas (more on them in a later post).

Having only a mono recording of The New Seekers limited what I could actually play with but the sound was compensated by duplicating the recording, sticking one in the left channel, one in the right, boosting the frequencies around 200 khz (roughly the pitch of a human voice) and sticking some compression on the whole thing. This also accentuates that bass line, a good segue for all music historians looking for the progression from McCartney-style hooks to P-funk.

I also took the song in four-bar increments, slightly upping the volume each time until the crescendo after the first backing vocal of "...the real thing". From there, the volume is plateau'd but I wanted to also emphasise the new voice that comes in with "...and keep it company" about 45 seconds in.

Taking the drums out altogether didn't work. Neither did running an EQ filter. On a whim, I rearranged the nn's and ksh's at random in a new session - hand-stitching two bars of a new beat. It sounded awful so I ran it backwards. Just for giggles. That's what you hear.

So, expect a flurry of furry fury (not the shiver-inducing kind) on here for a couple of months, then normal service shall resume.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Waiting On - Marvin Gaye vs Fugazi

Marvin Gaye 'What's Going On' vs Fugazi 'Waiting Room'

Written by Al Cleveland, Ronaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye, Ian McKaye
Arranged by IronicHide

(c) Tamla 1971, Dischord 1989

Why aren't there more mashes of Fugazi's Waiting Room? That's what mashup legend Party Ben once asked.

I'm afraid I don't have an answer beyond not enough people knowing Fugazi's work. Or there's a stumbling block with Waiting Room.

As PB points out, there's a lot of instrumental parts to the track. The trouble is that the chorus isn't one of them. Normally, as you know, compadre, we'd just duplicate and invert the stereo tracks, have ourselves an insta-instrumental. That doesn't work for Fugazi. They're punk, amigo, and that means gang choruses. That means the inversion trick will slightly amplify the voices. (Well, it does on my machine, chief.)

So what you can hear here is the penultimate swing through the chorus riff (which doesn't have voices), replicated at the requisite points. I'd hoped to churn out a straight A+B mashup for once but seeing as I was forced to chop and change Fugazi I thought I'd get cheeky and repeat the intro (my favourite bit) halfway through as a makeshift breakdown (with a bit of bass amplification to smooth things over).

I like to think that Marvin Gaye and Ian MacKaye would be good friends. It's hard to think of two individuals who were / are more passionate or committed to their music and to the message that their music can bring. Both men have seen greater sales and bigger trophies go to contemporaries who have been happier to pick up a paycheque than push their musical palette.

One was a Motown prodigy who wanted to challenge the talent around him to play to the highest standards and spread a message of peace and understanding. The other was the punk who started Straight Edge but went off on a conceptual-compositional minimalist tangent.

Both liked letting The Man know just how fed up with him they were. Both seemed to stop short of ever storming a barricade over it, though. I'd imagine they'd both like to sit down with The Man and make him aware of their concerns. There would even be biscuits. I would pour the tea. This is still my imagination.

Similarly, there was an uck-fup with the version of Gaye's acapella I had to work with. I was assured it was the famous studio acapella that had been floating around Detriot in the '70s but there was still a crackle of music behind him (that I erased to the nearest nano-second) and the first chorus has a big glitch in it. What you can hear is the second chorus sung by Gaye, used twice, but cut to sound different and jive and loose and all that.

There's also a lot of Gaye's scat cut out of the mashup, certainly to fit the running time (the shorter the better) but more because he starts throwing in some chromatics and notes that are off-key for Fugazi's unwavering pentatonic. The "Be-bop"s and "Alright"s you can hear over the outro weren't meant to be there, they were cast-offs that I'd just slid out of view over to the right of my screen before adding in the last chorus and the end of Waiting Room. I only remembered they were there at all when listening back to the segue from chorus to outro (in to which they had mistakenly overlapped).

I liked it and, without too many tweaks, kept it. It sounds like Gaye approves of what MacKaye, his band and his track are doing.