Category Archives: Covers

On Originality

This extra-long (but you’re getting used to that) post was provoked into existence by the comment James Copeland left on the post featuring his amazing remix of the Hillbilly Moon Explosion’s My Love Forevermore.

Thanks for the kind words. They`re very welcome as some fans of the original song didnt quite appreciate my particular take on the track and i started feeling sad about it because i really did my best to be respectful to the original. This makes me feel a whole lot better.

There’s a certain attitude out there, largely in established artists, but also found in those who use “analogue*” equipment to craft their music, that remixing isn’t creativity. If provoked, these artists will go even further than simply suggesting a lack of artistic merit, calling for these remixers and mashup artists to create their own “original” music. This carries over to some music fans as well. It’s generally found in older fans, ones who are averse to electronic witchery in all its forms (including rap, which is a.] most electronic and b.] “not singing”), finding something distasteful about those who use machinery to shit all over their preferred genres.

*Guitar/bass/drums

Beyond the casual disdain, there’s a strain of complete ignorance driving these statements. I’ve run down several of the ridiculous objections to quote/unquote remix culture previously, specifically in regards to the complaints about mashup artists. It always boils down to one simple, but thoroughly ridiculous claim: that these derivative works are not truly creative works simply because they are not “original.” Since there’s nothing quite as moronic as a hive mind with a superiority complex, let’s go ahead and start demolishing these arguments starting with the big one: originality.

[Some demolishing music for your ears whilst your eyes do the heavy lifting. This is Heaven’s Gate by the mysterious Stalker, which believe it or not, is Lady Gaga’s Pokerface pitch-shifted and run backwards, with some additional tweakage applied for maximum holy/unholy otherwordliness. (The “holy/unholy” thing with the abused forward slash means that this track teeters on the precipice of good and evil, like the devoted hymnal of a church that dabbles in black majicks to increase its congregation’s tithing percentage.)]

Stalker – Heaven’s Gate.mp3

ORIGINALITY

Apparently, if you don’t craft your music from the ground up (with standard instruments like guitar/bass/drums or regional equivalents [mouth harp/accordion/bagpipes/throat singing]), it’s not “original” and as such is (again, apparently) not “creative.” I’m not sure which claim is more offensive: the fact that only certain instruments are capable of producing “original” music or the fact that only “original” works are creative.

First off, placing arbitrary limitations on your creative toolset is your problem. Don’t project your issues on the rest of the creative community simply because you feel machines and software have no place in creating music. This is legacy bullshit that has zero basis in reality. Electric guitars, so often deployed by “original” artists, were once as unwelcome as Ableton. Thousands of years of music creation has moved us to a point where nearly any non-electronic instrument can be reproduced electronically. Not only that, but the resulting tones can be looped, reversed, reverbed, distorted, layered, stretched, sped up or simply used as a capable replacement for the oft-impractical need to have an entire band in one place at one time in order to lay down a track.

Secondly, who the fuck do you think you are? Honestly. Have you forgotten the thousands of years of music history already? Are you and your band of honest musicians truly trafficking in only “original” works and bristling every time you see me place quotes around that word? Do you seriously think that your “original” music stands alone, free from outside influences and your own personal music history?

No one creates in a vacuum.

We are all the massive beneficiaries of millennia of accumulated human scientific knowledge and cultural output, and not one of us did anything do deserve a jot of it. We’re all just extremely lucky not to have been born cavemen. The greatest creative genius alive would be hard pressed to create a smiley faced smeared in dung on a tree trunk without that huge and completely undeserved inheritance.

– Julian Sanchez, Things that are Irrelevant to Copyright Policy

Oh. I see. That’s not the same thing. So… it’s one thing to have influences and produce music that shows this and yet another to simply remix it?

Once again, we’re back to arguing about the legitimacy of certain instruments and pieces of software. It has nothing to do with “ripping off” the artists. It’s just that you’ve decided what you do is “creative” and the producer morphing your quotidian rock into a dance floor monster is simply offering up a simplistic variation. (So simple you couldn’t reproduce it if you tried, but still…)

[Speaking of remixes… Here’s the original version of Spiritualized’s ode to love, drugs and druggy love, I Think I’m in Love. Beautiful in its own lethargic just-home-from-the-methadone-clinic way.

And here’s the Chemical Brothers doing some “mere” remixing, taking the warmest parts of the “junk running down my spine” feeling and adding their own electronica-via-rocknf’nroll touches, including an amazing section of drums/bass/spiraling noises that sound very much ChemBros without completely eradicating J. Spaceman’s spacey rock.]

Spiritualized – I Think I’m in Love (Chemical Brothers Remix).mp3

[And as an added bonus in the the-best-artists-steal department, here’s Spiritualized quoting Elvis Presley in a new context, but not new enough apparently, as Elvis’ estate forced this track’s removal from subsequent pressings.]

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space (Deleted Version).mp3

These people you’re bashing? The remixers? The “derivative artists?” They craft their own originals as well. There are very few remixers out there who DON’T produce their own tracks. Even mashup artists, the ultimate derivative artists, have gone on to produce original albums, form bands and do production work for other original artists.

DJ Dangermouse went from The Grey Album (Jay-Z vs. the Beatles) to one-half of Gnarls Barkley along with several other projects. Belgian mashup duo 2ManyDJs went from infringing the hell out of nearly everyone to cranking out top quality dance music as Soulwax. Another pioneer of the mashup scene, Richard X., has gone on to produce hits for Annie, Kelis and the Sugababes.

Richard X./Sugababes – Freak Like Me.mp3

CONTROL

At some point, your music will be used to soundtrack something you don’t care for or condone, like furry porn or a pagan marriage ceremony. You CAN’T stop this from happening. The only thing you can do is choose how to react. Remember, just because they’ve got bizarre habits doesn’t mean they don’t venture out into the public to purchase music, attend concerts, etc., often without the colorful costumes and visible erections. Do you really want to cut off a potential source of income just so you can keep control of your “artistic legacy” or whatever you choose to justify hard-assian overreaction?

There’s only one way to control use of your artwork. Keep it unreleased and locked up. Not a great way to make income and an even worse way to express yourself creatively. This lack of control is understandably scary, but on the bright side, an internet’s worth of feedback is readily available. Most artists want their art to be seen, heard and experienced. But some want to control these interactions, and in this day and age, especially if your art can be converted to 1s and 0s, there’s no way to do this. So you have to decide how you’re going to react, keeping in mind that your reaction to “misuse” can often mean the difference between gaining fans and sales and being relegated to obscurity (or worse, infamy).

I’ve said before I think using other peoples’ recordings to make your own records is lame and lazy. It’s a cheap way into the game and it’s for suckers. That said, when I turn something loose into the world, the world will do with it what it pleases, despite my preferences. If a business gets involved, it has a footprint in a jurisdiction and I could raise a fuss if I wanted, but I don’t.

If you don’t want anybody riding your horses, keep them in the barn.

Steve Albini

Some artists treat this interaction with all the care of a cigarette-smoking driver piloting a leaking fuel truck across the only bridge in town. After their carelessness sets the bridge on fire, they find themselves with little more than an empty fuel truck and no road out of a town filled with enraged citizens.

EXPANSION

Here’s one thing remixers, samplers and mashup artists are willing to do that many “original” artists simply won’t: expose your music to new listeners. While these artists sit around, preaching to the converted and decrying various “ripoff” artists, these derivationists (BRAND NEW TODAY — THIS WORD!) are bringing (like James Copeland) swing to the dancefloor or (Hood Internet), the Black Keys’ garage rock to the hip hop crowd (and vice versa).

Hood Internet – Hard and Gone (Ace Hood vs. the Black Keys).mp3

The next time you’re wondering why your album sales have plateaued or ticket sales have slumped, perhaps you should consider the limits you’ve placed on yourself by limiting your creative output to the same static set of fans using the same static arrangements and instrumentation.

THE HELL IS WITH THE FANS?

It’s patronizing enough when artists decide their work is unfuckwithable, but it’s even more appalling when fans attempt to claim secondhand ownership of these creations. I’m already reeling in disbelief at the fact that some artists believe their work in completely unapproachable and guard it with the tenacity of a pit bull on Adderall, but I’m completely baffled by fans who decide (with or without a statement from the band in question) that they are somehow “protecting” the band’s “integrity” by piling a whole lot of hate on some remixer.

Even if the band has stated that they are unhappy with remix of song X, your “job” as a fan is not to simply repeat the company line. If you don’t care for the remix either, so be it. But to take a personal tack is to presume that remixer X crafted his or her version SOLELY to piss off the band and its fans. Remixes are usually done because the remixer digs the source material, not because he wanted to shit on someone’s creative output.

But most frustrating of all is the survivors of legacies who guard the former artist’s output with the same ferocious tenacity, swollen with secondhand entitlement and a staggering amount of presumptiveness. They proclaim themselves the mouthpieces of dead artists, an idea that would be laughable at a seance, much less a boardroom discussion with an artist seeking to use part of their work. Of all the people that I loudly wonder who in the FUCK they think they are, these would top the list.

One of James Joyce’s heirs spent several years bullying anyone who attempted to do anything with his work, including peope who were just trying to celebrate Joyce’s literary legacy by *gasp* READING HIS WORK ALOUD. He’d likely still be threatening Joyce’s fans if several of the copyrights hadn’t expired in 2012, 70 years after Joyce’s death. Apple Records has made using any of the Beatles’ songs in film or TV nearly impossible, demanding outrageous amounts and passing out several hundred no’s for every yes. Because the Beatles hated people enjoying their music, if the label’s lawyers and surviving members are to be believed.

So, your choices as an artist boil down to this:

1. Embrace the inevitable and realize that artists build on their predecessors’ work. Some just build in a more direct fashion.
2. Surround yourself with bristling lawyers and an openly hostile attitude towards other artists.

Which choice is more likely to gain you fans?

-CLT

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Filed under Commentary, Covers, Electronica, Hip Hop, Remixes

Dinowalrus – Godstar (Psychic TV Cover)

You’ve gotta love it when a band you love covers a song you love, especially when the song covered is one of the prettier moments in a sprawling, inconsistent back catalog. Dinowalrus take on Psychic TV, one of the weirder groups to ever find itself lumped in with the industrial scene (mostly due to lead singer Genesis P. Orridge’s previous band: Throbbing Gristle).

Dinowalrus – Godstar.mp3

Godstar is an ode to former Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones. Why Psychic TV felt compelled to craft a sonic shrine to Jones is open to speculation (maybe it was the mutual appreciation of loads of drugs), but no matter the reasoning behind it, it was probably the closest Psychic TV got to pure, unadorned pop. And in Dinowalrus’ capable hands, it veers even closer, shimmering with a pristine brightness that belies the troubled subject of the song. (Brian’s doing lines with the angels now…) But the best thing about a cover like this is that it gets you looking into Psychic TV’s recorded output again. (That’s if you’re me. RESULTS ARE NOT TYPICAL.)

Along with about a million live albums, Psychic TV released several albums of near-industrial psychedelia. The oft cross-dressed P. Orridge never shied away from confrontation, controversy or following his muse down a few dead ends. Of all the cul-de-sacs Psychic TV ended up in, none was more inadvertently entertaining than its brief foray into acid house.

Two albums, Jack the Tab and Tekno Acid Beat were released as pseudonymous “compilations.” Along with Towards Thee Infinite Beat and Beyond Thee Infinite Beat, these albums  saw PTV exploring Britain’s exploding club music scene. It was a misguided exploration, though, as Genesis came to the not-altogether-erroneous conclusion that the “acid” in “acid house” referred to LSD rather than the acidic tones of brutalized Roland TB-303 bass emulators. An easy mistake to make, especially if you’re a tourist. Drug use was not unheard of in the club scene (UNDERSTATEMENT), so perhaps the confusion was inevitable.

However, PTV’s two “acid house” albums went long on their slightly-off take on house music and were completely bereft of “acid,” not counting P. Orridge’s no doubt prodigious intake of LSD. So while these albums don’t stand up on their own merits (that being: acid house albums), they do stand up as a curiosity permanently relegated to the outside of the scene. In terms of PTV’s output, the Jack the Tab albums (along with the/Thee twin Infinite Beat follow-ups) are a driveby two-off (like a one-off, only with two albums dedicated to misunderstanding the scene). There’s a sort of a tuneful darkness to some of the tracks (Black Rain) and some naff house tracks (much of the remainder), but there’s also a few keepers.

Psychic TV – M.E.S.H. (Meet Every Situation Head-on).mp3

M.E.S.H. (Meet Every Situation Head-on) is the power of positive thinking as relayed by a drug-addled man in a full-length dress. Jigsaw has a nice minimal funk to it. But if there’s one song to keep from these albums, it’s Joy with its filtered and phased “J-O-Y” refrain and its filtered and phased everything else. Hardly danceable but also hardly anything but a dance track. You can dance to it, but your moves will have more in common with Ian Curtis’ near-epileptic movements (the only way to dance to Joy Division — see also PTV’s tribute to Ian Curtis, I.C. Water) than today’s raver staples (like that hand thing – if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about).

BONUS OBSERVATION: Witch house impresario(s) and all-around mystery men Mater Suspiria Vision seem to be borrowing a page from PTV’s design manual. You can’t sell the brand without a logo. Compare the following two images:

A wonderful stroll down memory lane, as far as that goes. (About 700 words, it would appear.) But we’re here to talk about DINOWALRUS, are we not?!!? We are! So… let’s do exactly that.

A new memory lane.

If I’m not mistaken I was first pointed in the direction of Dinowalrus by ultra-fine music blog Waves at Night which, up until recently, sported a revolving set of background images that would occasionaly, without warning, fill your entire screen (other than what you were reading) with bare female nipples. The site is now much S’er for W and the quality of the music featured remains high, if a little disco-heavy.

The descriptor “drum and drone” caught my eye, as did the band name, an unlikely match of animals, the likes of which the world hadn’t seen since the underrated Cabin Boy, which featured a mythical Halfsharkalligatorhalfman.

Then there was the track title: Electric Car, Gas Guitar.

A very short internal conversation followed. “There’s no way we’re not listening to that!” Sounding pretty much like Hawkwind allowing Lemmy to make all the creative decisions, ECGG is an exhilarating sonic headbutt, not miles away from the muscular post-DFA1979 spacerockfunk of That Fucking Tank.

But the track that took me from fist-pumping rookie to fist-pumping acolyte was Mae Shi’s remix of Nuke Duke’Em, which dials back the speedometer a bit while applying plenty of low-end thump.

Dinowalrus – Nuke Duke’Em (Mae Shi Remix).mp3

Then, of course, there was Actually, the best Spiritualized song ever to not appear on a Spiritualized album (click through for some more CLT wordage).

On top of all this great music and stylistic shift, Dinowalrus is one of the better reads on Twitter (this feels like the most left-handed compliment of all, but I assure you, it is not), ranking right up there with That Fucking Tank (again) and HEALTH (some grains of salt and a strong stomach occasionally need with this last one), all three of which are lively and active enough to remind you that an ACTUAL FUCKING HUMAN BEING is running the Twit, rather than just some PR flack pressing “SPAM” repeatedly.

/s/CLT

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This Ain’t No Disco: Distant Locust – I Feel Love (Magick Edit)

Distant Locust folded in 1996 but not before leaving behind this all-too-jaded cover of the Donna Summers’ classic that sounds too much like “now” to be safely ignored. One of the few bands from Australia that allowed itself to use more than four letters in its name, Distant Locust toured with such other CLT favorites as white soul tech-heads (no. srsly.) Clock DVA and the original death of rock and roll, Christian Death. Bowie was a fan, or so the bio says. (This is probably true. Bowie has been known to like stuff.)

To the business at hand: DL’s cover goes pretty much as note-for-note as a three-piece band can without the studio enhancements of Sir Giorgio Moroder. Oddly enough, this is the so-called “edit” of their cover, which runs nearly twice as long as the unedited original. While the instrumentation is respectful enough, the vocals undermine any sort of ‘tribute,” sounding like a seen-it-all vocalist playing his 200th show in 200 days. “World weary” would be a nice way of putting it. (“Arch” would be the not-so-nice way of putting it.) The front Locust sounds like he’s about a half-beat away from saying “fuck it” and exiting stage whatever. Sort of the way Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has sounded for the last 15 years when singing “Creep,” assuming he can even be bothered to sing at all.

Distant Locust doesn’t “feel love.” They probably feel nothing at all. (But! … They are giving away their back catalog. Just visit the DL Discography.)

/s/CLT

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