The song mastering process (part 1) | Donal Whelan || converSAtions ||
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ACID HOUSE WHAT A faster, 'trippier' form of house. The word 'acid' refers to the distinctive squelches and burps of the Roland TB-303 Synthesizer, used to create basslines. American in Origin, the sound hit hardest in London, forming the basis of the 90s dance explosion.
ACID JAZZ WHAT Drawn from the 70s hybrid of funk, Soul and Jazz of artists like Curtis Mayfield, Lou Donaldson and Herbie Hancock. Later practitioners, such as The James Taylor Quartet, The brand New Heavies, Young Disciples, Jamiroquai, Incognito, D-influence, Corduroy, Mother Earth and Galliano, added Hip Hop elements and a pop sheen. Acid Jazz is also a record label, founded by Scenemaker Gilles Peterson, later head of competitor Talkin' Loud.
AMBIENT WHAT Ambient was coined by Brian Eno. Eno intended it to act as a 'tint' - altering or enhancing moods rather than dictating them. The slowly evolving textures synonymous with ambient characterized Eno's- Music For Airports (1978), inspired by a visit to Cologne airport in 1977, where he pondered the kind of music he would like to hear in that environment. Often scorned as mood Muzak, Ambient finally gained acceptance in the late 80s, thanks to acts like Aphex Twin. The Orb, System 7 and Future Sound of London, who merged Eno - inspired Ambient textures with House, Techno and Psychedelia.
COUNTRY ROCK WHAT A fusion of traditional Country Music with Rock 'n' Roll, combining elements of Bluegrass, Folk, Blues, and Pop. Pioneers of a sound incorporating pedal steel guitar and fiddle in to the traditional drums, bass, rythmn and lead guitar line-up included The Everly Brothers. These in turn influenced The Byrds, Dillard & Clark, Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers. A less country more Rock second wave was led by The Eagles, America, Brewer & Shipley, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Loggins & Messina as the 70s began. True practitioners such as The Remmingtons, The Desert Rose Band, The Cowboy Junkies, Jason & The Scorchers, Restless Heart and Electric Range show from their aptly selected names where their influences lie…Country Rock- influenced contemporary bands include REM, Teenage Fanclub and The Lemonheads.
DISCO WHAT Despite pioneering hit 'Rock Your Baby' by George Mccrae (1974), Disco `s roots were in soul: the lover-man raps of Isaac Hayes and Barry White and the sweeping strings of Gamble & Huffs 'Philly Sound' productions. Grown from club novelty to galactic phenomenon, it joined Punk in challenging Dinosaur Rock's domination: hence the 25- million-selling - Saturday Night Fever (1977) and attendant gems like Yvonne Elliman's, 'If I Can't Have You' and The Trammp's 'Disco Inferno'. Italian producer Giorgio Moroder pioneered a more electronic variant whose early highlight -I feel love- by Donna Summer -was a landmark on the road to House. Eroded by over-exposure and the emergence of Hip Hop, Disco's legacy is both ironic and inspirational.
DRUM 'N' BASS / JUNGLE WHAT Jungle grew from the British Hardcore Rave scene, mixing Dub, Reggae and Hip Hop samples in to a hybrid of furious beats and prolapse-inducing sub-bass. The aggressive sound of pioneers General Levy, Fabio and Groove Rider was given an epic twist by Goldie and his Metal Headz stable of early 90s artists, including Hotek and Dillinja, LTJ Bukem, long-time exponent A Guy called Gerald and Mercury Prize-Winner, Roni Size added Prettier Jazz elements, with the style gaining alternative Monikers Intelligent and finally Drum'n'Bass. It once looked like the future, but when David Bowie and even Eric Clapton went Drum 'n' Bass the style lost some of its underground appeal. Drum 'n' Bass has yet to make much of an impact state side, where artists like Goldie were absorbed in to the Trip Hop/Electronica bubble.
DUB WHAT Dub began when producers in Jamaica utilized the instrumental track of a vocal record for a B-side to save money, calling them 'Versions'. Talking artists such as U-Roy used them as their own backing tracks, then producers such as Lynford Anderson and Lee 'Scratch' Perry went a step further, adding spacey effects and echo-strewn songs such as Perry's 'Clint Eastwood' (1969). Electronics Engineer King Tubby became champion of the genre in the mid-70s, making the classic- King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1977) with Melodica Maestro Augustus Pablo. Although Dub fell from favour in 80s Jamaica, UK producers such as Mad Professor and Jah Shaka kept it alive, and it had a huge influence on Techno. Dubs Reggae renaissance came in the 90s via the British New Roots movement and engineer Bobby Digital in Jamaica.
FUNK WHAT The straight jacket of soul could only contain James Brown for so long. In 1967, his boundary bombing extended beyond exhilarating live shows to heart-stopping hits like 'Cold Sweat'. Heart felt harmonies were toppled by bass- driven hence 1970s key classic 'Get Up'. George Clinton and Sly Stone added psychedelic lunacy to the stew: the flamboyant counterpart to R&B in 70s black music. Their legacy lives on in innumerable Hip Hop samples and impressionable white boys like Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Brand New Heavies.
FUSION WHAT Often tarred as musicianly meandering, Fusion refers to a blend of Rock and Jazz. Miles Davis led the way, followed by John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham and Chick Corea, blasting off in to sometimes exhilarating, sometimes interminable 'explorations'. Though now a commercial dead duck, elements of Fusion survive in Acid Jazz acts like Jamiroquai.
GANGSTA RAP WHAT The grand tradition of music clashes reached a lethal low in the mid- 90s. Rival Rap label bosses Suge knight and Sean 'Puffy' combs got irate, then figureheads Tupac shakur and The Notorious BIG got dead. Simmering resentment between Puffy`s New York and knights California was gleefully reported as an East v. West Coast war-the flames fanned by releases like Ice Cubes battle crazed- WestSide Connection (1996). It was a messy end to Gangsta`s first decade, in which the genre progressed from cause celebre, through chart champ, to cliché. Though the music evolved from hard- as- nails Hip Hop and George Clinton -Esque G-funk to radio- friendly R&B, the themes remained unchanged- Gangsta`s guns, drugs and sex being essentials of the 'playa' lifestyle espoused by platinum - sellers Foxy Brown, Jay-Z and Master P.
GLAM ROCK WHAT When frumpy mods slade and hippie wannabe Marc Bolan failed to set charts alight, they followed David Bowies lead: dabbing on glitter, pulling on platform boots and promptly plundering the hearts and wallets of a generation of teenyboppers. Glam`s hallmarks were lyrical ludicrousness, musical unsophistication and visual excess, epitomised by Gary Glitter, satirized by David Bowies 'Rebel Rebel' and appropriated by Kiss. The genre died at the feet of punk, although a mid-80s revival under the Heavy Metal umbrella spawned poison, Guns 'N' Roses and, to their subsequent embarrassment, Pantera.
GRUNGE WHAT No one paid much attention when punk- crazed kids like Melvins, Dinosaur Jr and Mudhoney fused adolescent inspirations Neil Young, Black Sabbath, Husker Du and Black Flag to create Grunge. However, when soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam added radio- friendly melodies and choruses, a globe-gobbling phenomenon was spawned. Overnight, plaid shirts, split ends, lyrical angst and monstrous riffing were jostling Michael Jackson at chart peaks. Though Grunge trampled in to Indie and Pop, its most cataclysmic impact was on Heavy Metal: Glam poodles like Motley Crue were supplanted by Ersatz Grungers like Stone Temple Pilots. It also shot a new breed of girl groups to the top of the pile: Hole, L7, Babes In Toy land and - in the 'Riot grrrl' uprising - Bikini kill and Huggy Bear. The death of Kurt Cobain ended Grunge`s glory, but it lives on, to the dismay of purists, with Mega-sellers offspring and Bush.
HEAVY METAL WHAT "I sure as hell don't think Metallica`s Metal, or Guns 'N' Roses or kiss it just doesn't deal with the ground opening up and little dwarves coming out riding dragons. Though wary of the tag, Gene Simmons and his band kiss embody many Metal hallmarks - blood and thunder shows, loud guitars, critical disdain and huge popularity. Traced to author William Burroughs, the term was popularized by Steppenwolf`s 'Born To Be Wild'. "Heavy Metal Thunder" evoked the Harleys of- Easy Rider (1969), on whose sound track it appeared, but described a genre initiated by Riffmeisters link Wray and The kinks, develop by Jimi Hendrix and The Yard Birds and taken to the top by Black Sabbath. Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple kept the flag flying, followed Stateside by Aerosmith and kiss. In 1977 Van Halen stormed in, their legacy mid- 80s bands like Poison. When radio resistance crumbled, even the uncompromising Guns 'n' Roses ascended the platinum pile. Metals broad church now welcomes Pantera and Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails and No Doubt. No longer defined by Satanism and Sex, it retains the world `s biggest, most loyal audience.
HIP HOP WHAT "Hip Hop", Says Public Enemy's Chuck D, "is the culture of whatever black people create." Before Rap, that included black parties ruled by DJs like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, graffiti, scratching and breakdancing. From Hip Hop came 'Electro'-electronic dance music owing as much to James Brown. However, when Flash dropped the groundbreaking 'reality rap' single 'The Message' in 1982, Hip Hop 'b- boys' switched from party to protest and Rap swiftly swamped the genre.
HOUSE WHAT House came from nowhere to change everything. It first soundtrack gay discos in Chicago, blending Euphoric Soul with mechanized beats. DJs Frankie knuckles, Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk, Steve 'Silk' Hurley and Marshall Jefferson battled to patent the sound. Farley was first on to record with 'Love Can't Turn Around'. Jefferson was first to hit with 'Move Your Body', Hurleys 'Jack Your Body' was first to hit no 1. All but ignored in the USA, House found a home in Europe. In Britain, its effect was as revolutionary as Punk, as krush, Coldcut, Bomb The Bass and S- Express stormed charts. On the continent, Italo-house gave rise to classics like Black Box `s 'Ride On Time'. House also rocked Rock: The Beloved, kLF, Primal Scream and Happy Mondays were just some of those who crashed the party. Even U2 hitched aboard, with the pulsating likes of 'Lemon'. Meanwhile, House spawned Garage, Handbag, Progressive, Euro House/Euro-Cheese. See? It changed everything.
INDUSTRIAL WHAT Rooted in the experimental violence of 60s/70s German Progressive Rock,' Industrial' was first coined in1976 by British noise anarchists Throbbing Gristle. Industrial began as 'anti music', mixing electronics with found sounds, often originating from machinery. Musical and visual extremity remained a central theme - Gristle's grinding assault was accompanied by films of pornography, fascism and death. Post-Punk practitioners Cabaret Voltaire, Foetus and Einsturzende Neubauten emphasized electronics and atonality. The former heavily influenced later technological industrialists like Skinny Puppy and Front 242. The most commercial industrial artists are Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, who edged the style closer to Metal, while elements of the genre popped up in Depeche Mode.
MERSEYBEAT WHAT Early 60s Merseyside-based beat bands put US R&B and Early Rock 'N' Roll through a chirpy Pop filter to create Merseybeat - led by hitmakers like The Beatles, Gerry & The Peacemakers, Billy J. kramer & The Dakotas, The Searchers, Swinging Blue Jeans. The Fourmost and The Merseybeats, but also including lesser-known bands like The Big Three, Farn Flamingos, Howie Casey & The Seniors and Freddie Starr & The Midnighters. By 1965, the basic Merseybeat sound, which had helped to changed the face of pop music, became unfashionable: groups disassociated themselves from it and the term was mothballed.
PROGRESSIVE ROCK WHAT A pompous extension of Psychedelia, Progressive Rock could be characterized by the expensive experimentalism of 'krautrock' groups like Can and Faust, or by ugly men with long hair, interminable musicianly noodling and 'amaaazing' productions, man. King Crimson's- In The Court Of The Crimson king (1969) was an early peak, but Crimson bassist Grey Lake's Emerson Lake & Palmer took instrumental exploration to yawnsome extremes. While Prog's theatrical side was demonstrated brilliantly by Genesis, Rick Wakeman`s- The Muths And Legends Of king Arthur And The knights Of The Round Table (1975) provoked few complimentary first-night reviews. Save for stubborn types like Hawkwind and Gong, Prog was taken aback by Punk in1977. But it still haunts the Earth in the stadium-filling likes of Pink Floyd, the wilful misery of Radiohead and the youthful widdling of Mogwai.
PUNK WHAT Punk should, by its very nature, be uncategorizable: a volatile, indefinable thing. However, its origins can be traced to America's mid- 60s garage bands, who made incompetent but enthusiastic stabs at post- stones R&B. The Seeds fuzzy classic 'Pushin' 'Too Hard' was the bench- mark until MC5, The Stooges and The New York Dolls added jaded lyrics to the agenda in the Early 70s. From there it was a short step to the Sex Pistols seething malice and slashing guitar- a DIY destruction of traditional tunesmithery without which Rock would have sunk in musical virtuosity and lyrical vagueness. State side, it became New Wave-a catch- all term for acts as diverse as Television, Patti Smith and The knack, united only by their youthful dissimilarity to the Eagles or any other contemporary mega-seller. Punk's legacy is best measured not by the success of chirpy revivalists like Green Day and Rancid, but the world-shaking impact of The Specials, Joy Division and Metallica - groups who approached Reggae, Rock and Metal in new ways that might have gone ignored had Punk not destroyed so many conventions.
R&B WHAT Once upon a time, R&B was Rhythm 'n' Blues-a descendant of the raunchy elements of Jazz and jauntier bits of Blues. When black musicians diverted in to Doo Wop and Soul in the 50s, the genre - exemplified by cuts like Elmore James' 'Dust My Broom' - was appropriated by white acts, notably The Rolling Stones and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. Beyond these impeccable limitations, R&B died a slow death…only to resurface as a catch-all-term for the early 90s mishmash of Swing. Soul and Hip Hop, whose only connection with Rhythm 'n' Blues is that its principal practitioners are black. But amid the pleasantly poppy work of Babyface and Puff Daddy, a new generation of artist added authenticity to the genre notably the sultry, jazz-tinged Blues of Erykah Badu.
RAP WHAT "Rap is skillz", says Ice Cube, "Everybody Wanna flex they skillz. Everybody wanna say they rhyme to have all the other rappers say, 'damn, I woulda never thought of that,'" Rap sprang from the political poetry of Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets and the self- aggrandizing DJs at Hip Hop block parties. It assumed the form we recognize today in 1982 with Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel `s monumental 'The Message', a lyrical snapshot of America's underbelly with a seductively stark backbeat. Run DMC added arrogance, turned up the drums and set a sonic revolution in motion that led to the nerve-shredding noise of public enemy. When Gangsta and G-Funk swept Rap, politics and sonic innovation took a back seat, but the complex wordplay and sparse production of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep kept rap's original values alive amid Puff Daddy `s poppier onslaught.
REGGAE WHAT Much as 'rock' covers a multitude of sins, Raggae became generic name for all Jamaican music. It emerged in 1968 when the slow beat of Rock Steady gave way to the faster, more jagged groove of Raggae. The first record to use the term was The Maytals' 'Do The Reggay' though the first singles to use the beat were Larry & Alvin`s 'Nanny Goat' and Bop & The Belltones' 'No More Heartaches'. The word is reputed to be a corruption of 'streggae', Jamaican slang for a woman of easy virtue. Raggae became popular with the UK skinhead movement, which embraced the mad instrumentals of Jamaican producers like Lee 'scratch' Perry and Harry Johnson, and Trojans- Tighten Up compilations. Raggae changed again in 1970 with the arrival of DJs, the dominance of Rastafarian themes and the arrival of slowed- down skank around 1971, Raggae has since seen periodic amendments like Dub, Lovers Rock, Rockers, Steppers and Flyers, Dancehall, Raggae and New Roots, yet somehow retained its original title.
ROCK 'N' ROLL WHAT Though -Back To The Future traces its origin to 1955 and Michael J. Fox `s proto- chuck Berry stage antics, the Rock 'N' Roll story is an Old Testament- style epic, which began when African music was transplanted to America in the 18th century by slaves. There, it incorporated elements of European music but retained driving rhythm. Call-and-response shouts and scales with dissonant notes, known as 'blue notes'. Having acquired the name 'rocking and reeling', it filtered in to American culture, mixing with the Scottish and Irish Folk of European settlers. In the 20th century, black church singing mutated in to Gospel and vocal harmony groups. Rural Bluesmen made it to the cities and discovered electric guitars and Boogie Woogie, while bandleaders like count basie added horns, solos, and volumes - the origins of Jazz. Blues and Jazz fused in the 40s with the rougher 'Jump Blues' style of prototype Rockers like Lionel Hampton's 'Flying home' (1942). But in a society founded on racial segregation, it inevitably took a white man to turn this experimentation in to a commercial phenomenon. DJ Alan Freed played black Doo Wop R&B to mainly white audiences and called it 'Rock 'n' Roll. He later tried to copyright the term, although The Boswell Sisters had recorded a song called Rock 'n' Roll in 1934 and it had been a Blues Euphemism for sex since the 40s. In 1954, The Crew- Cuts whitened up The Chords' 'Sh-boom' and country bumpkin Bill Haley, having recorded the pioneering 'Rocket 88' in 1951, hit with 'Rock Around The Clock'. In 1956, Elvis Presley `s 'Heartbreak Hotel' smashed the chart and nothing was ever the same again.
SOUL WHAT Although the term 'Soul' has gathered dust since the catch-all R&B rose to power, the music remains sweet relief from the hard noise of Rock and Dance. From the rapturous roots of Gospel, it assumed a recognizable from in the mid- 50s when James Brown and Ray Charles added the earthy lust church music lacked. Soul historian Peter Guralnick pinpoints its blossoming to "the 1961 success of Solomon Burke`s 'Just Out Of Reach"- a pioneering smash for Souls flagship label Atlantic. Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin followed Burke's lead, while rival label Motown added Poppier elements. In the late 60s, mavericks like Sly Stone and Motown producer Norman Whitfield added Rock to the mix and by the end of the 70s - despite the success of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and producers Gamble & Huffs 'Philly sound' - soul had split in to Funk and Disco. However, it lives on in the sweet harmonies of acts like Brownstone, Sounds of Blackness and Kirk Franklin.
SWING WHAT When super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis abandoned the sumptuous Soul of the SOS Band for the harder beats of Janet Jackson, two new teams followed their lead. LA& Babyface scored with their smooth Sunset Sound, epitomized by Karyn White. But New York producer Teddy Riley hit harder, popularizing New Jack swing with smashes like Keith Sweat's 1987 hit 'I Want Her' and his own group Guy. It blew up Bobby Brown`s 'Don't Be Cruel', making the style the first challenger to super -sellers Heavy Metal and Country. When Michael Jackson hired Riley to toughen up 'Dangerous' (1991), every Pop act in the world took notice, hence Take That's loping 'Sure' (1994). Even Jam & Lewis got in on the act, with Janet Jackson's swinging Janet (1993). Along the way, New Jack Swing - poppy, radio friendly Funk -evolved in to Swingbeat, now known as Swing if you don't want to sound like a geriatric. Though it encompasses moist- eyed ballads and dirty dealings of the carnal variety. Swings key element is its head- nodding tempo- a beat perfectly suited to the laid - back Rap of the 90s. A platinum- certified phenomenon, the crossover is characterized by the work of Riley's new supergroup BLACKstreet with Rap stars like Dr Dre and Foxy Brown.
TECHNO WHAT In 1981,when Kraftwerk rebuilt Pop with a mechanical and electronic brain, the effect was seismic. Europe fell to Synth Pop. In the USA, Derrick May Kevin 'Inner City' Saunderson and Jaun 'Cybotron/Model 500' Atkins heard it and saw a future where the bleeps and blurps of synthesizers replaced the primitive guitar. A future called Techno! With junk store equipment, they DJed around Detriot producing there own mechanized Dance Music. Ignored at home, their influence crossed to England, where Nightmares On Wax, The Black Dog, A Guy Called Gerald, Aphex Twin, David Holmes, LFO, Orbital, 808State, Dave Angel, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers and Prodigy mangled the clean lines of the original blueprint. Elsewhere, Belgium's R&S label became Techno heaven, releasing the Detriot masters' tunes and inspiring England's ultra- adventurous warp label. While Saunderson`s Inner City hit the UK chart, Techno mutated in to speed- crazed Hardcore, German- led Trance, Techno Popsters and Electronica.
TRIP HOP WHAT: Just as on one would voluntarily describe themselves as 'Goth', so the banner- carriers for the Trip Hop would rather bury the term. "Anyone here like Trip Hop? Enquired Tricky of one audience. "Well, f*** off, then." However, Tricky was just as much to blame for the phenomenon, given his links with England` s wild bunch posse. When they evolved in to Massive Attack and made Stoned Soul a critical and commercial sensation, the stage was set for Portishead and Tricky to score too with scratchy samples, jazzy ambience and drawled vocals. When wannabes like Morcheeba and Sneaker Pimps stopped in, Trip Hop promptly seemed more like marketing than musical term.