As a kid growing up in small-town Vermont , my first memories of becoming music-obsessed, oddly, started with rap. The first CD booklets I filled out were comprised of whatever was hot on MTV and BET: Trick Daddy’s “Thugs R Us,” Nelly’s “Country Grammar,” etc. The list of early popular 2000s classics are endless (of course, at my mother’s behest, all of these CDs were the non-explicit versions). Hooks and well-funded music videos drove my interest and fandom.
As my appreciation for rap became more focused, and the soft spot on my head hardened with age, I began to better recognize the producers of my favorite albums. Swizz Beats? DJ Premiere? Pete Rock? Who were these people? How were they making the music? Is this something I could do? My curiosity and list of questions grew (the answer to the last question was “no”), and the Internet became my guide to figuring out how my favorite songs were made.
The mythology behind the work blew me away. Stories of Madlib going on shroom binges, pitching his voice, and rap ping alongside his untreated vocals as Quasimoto, or how Dilla made thick, dusty kicks and snares by flicking raisin boxes into a microphone, gave their music an innovative dimension I hadn’t recognized before. I sought out their sample sources, listened to all of those artists’ records, and figured out the mechanics behind their music... and so on and so on, ad nauseam – it’s a vicious cycle that continues to this day, and has me looking like a friendly pale Gollum having spent the last 29 years glued to the computer.
My ghoulish features aside, this episode’s theme is an extension of a fixation with sound: music featuring homemade instruments and sound effects, whether obvious or hidden. Flying Lotus’ use of breathing machine noises on his record Cosmogramma fits in just as much as The Rah Band’s use of (what I find to be hilarious) lightning crash punctuations in their 1983 single “Messages From The Stars.” As long as the song features innovative uses of sounds from out-of-the-box sources, it belongs on this particular show.
Some of our guests are creators of strange sounds in their own work: Seattle based producer Chong the Nomad, made an entire song from recording sounds on a Sinapore Airlines A350 Jet; Jonathan Snipes, one of the members in the Rap group clipping, conjures all of the sounds in their instrumentals entirely from field recordings; avant garde musician Bradford Reed invented his own instrument, the pencilina, a ten-stringed zither which has shaped his discography in a completely unique way. Other guests, like Ryan, Angela, and Kayla, are more indirect appreciators of found sounds and ingenuity – quietly taking note of endearingly odd production throughout our endless search for more great music.
We hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed compiling it – you might even pull some glasses down from the cupboard and start tapping out some percussion grooves once it’s all over. Did we miss a song in this episode? Don’t be afraid to tell me about it over Twitter or Instagram – you might just end up on my message machine. Until next time...