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Category Archives: Math

Complex, intricate and a slow one to digest. But well worth it.

You hit it, I’ll stand by and admire.

Drumming. Is there anything more impressive than seeing someone play a ridiculous drum beat that leaves you gaping moronically and seething with jealousy? Guitar solos are obviously wondrous and arguably more expressive, but they are ten a penny. When a drum solo provoking absolute incredulity is witnessed (granted it is performed in small doses with instrumental breaks), a crowd reaction is usually much more exuberant. People will lose their shit at the sight of it; a person of supreme rhythmic abilities is usually a showstopper. I vividly remember, from the days in my teenage band, Beaver, how the Guernsey youth (and elders) would all marvel at our prodigal drummer, Spud, beautifully flailing his limbs as he soloed during a cover of Wipeout.

billy-cobhamSo, to the purpose of this blog:  I have the utmost admiration for drummers, keeping a group of musicians together with impeccable timing and inventive rhythms. Putting the party piece solos to one side, it is the seemingly endless variation of beats, the tonal quality captured on record or live, the ability to completely turn a chord sequence or melody on its head, the movement it provokes from your body. I put down my adulation down to two factors:

  1. I don’t have a natural affinity with numbers. Mathematics causes me stress; my brain fizzles out with a defeated whimper when presented with a numerical calculation of any sort. Transposed into musical abilities, it means that rhythmic dictation has always been a complete pain in the arse for me. It quite literally does not compute. And yes, I’m aware that it is essentially just counting, but I’d be grateful if you could stifle your sniggers more quietly please.
  2. I’ve tried playing drums and it’s bloody difficult. How often in your life do you perform a daily task which potentially requires the use of both arms and legs, moving at different times and speeds? Why is the control of one’s limbs so tough?

With all of this in mind, I will now highlight a few songs where the drums sing to me for different reasons.

If you aren’t already acquainted with the genuinely insane abilities of our man in the picture above, Mr. Billy Cobham, then now is the time to break that duck (lord knows how you’ve been all trying). Ever since I was a young’un, I have never truly gotten my head around the intro to the great Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Vital Transformation; it’s where my terrible counting skills fully come to light. Anyhow, The Inner Mounting Flame is a masterclass in drumming; an astonishing tour de force of musical reverie.

A band I religiously listened to in my university days, RX Bandits boast a top notch drummer. And with Tainted Wheat, found on their album …And The Battle Begun, we find a man at the top of his game. Swerving between high energy technicality (the entire intro essentially, with particular attention to the bass drum work between 0.12-0.15), a juicy hip hop-esque beat (0.23 onward) and rolling snippets (1.05-1.06 of the chorus), the recording of his kit on this album is, for want of a better word, fat. The cheesiness of the American vocals may be grating at times, but look past it if necessary for the excellent thumping.

First and foremost, Dave Grohl is a drummer. And with his contribution to Queens Of The Stone Age’s deservedly vaunted album Songs For The Deaf, he gave, in my humble opinion, one of the finest drumming performances ever for a studio recording. I’m getting excited just writing this! This album sounds MASSIVE, largely in part to how extraordinarily well the drums have been captured. And when you’ve found the secret formula to bringing down monumental structures with your recording techniques, you should probably bring in a drummer with awesome talent to bash the absolute crap out of the kit. I don’t need too tell you how great this album is, nor is it a surprise as to which track Monsieur Grohl shines like a blinding ball of fire, but if you’ve been living in a windowless room with no contact with the outside world for the past twenty years, then absorb the beauty of this spectacle immediately. Duh duh de duh duh duh at 3.45; at 5.31, you may orgasm.

Don’t forget the excellent live version from the 2002 Glastonbury Festival, which my friend Jack unfathomably slept through while laying on the grass.

For some reason, this beat always sticks in my mind. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

I devoted an entire post to this Chicago group way back when, but it would be criminal for me not to mention Maps & Atlases when it comes to drummers. Just listen to 1.24-1.51 of Ted Zancha and hopefully you’ll see why I couldn’t leave this out.

To sign off, I’m going to super controversially leave you with music that most of the general population would abhor, but what do they know? Dan Foord, drummer of SikTH, does not operate on the same plateau as most mere mortals. His limbs know no bounds, his mind unlimited in what beats he can conjure, his double bass drum skills particularly phenomenal. For those that cannot stand to sit through this normally, I ask that you simply hone in on the astounding drumming.

Firstly, 2.51 until 3.30 of the Let The Transmitting Begin version of Hold My Finger.  The slowing of the snare and kick drum, followed by a subtle cymbal hit at 3.05-3.08; the return to a driving beat at 3.12; the lightning quick double bass blast at 3.16-17; the spine tingling roll of the kit between 3.20 and 3.22. It instills a sense of joy in me which I can’t fully define.

Secondly, Scent of The Obscene. Check the intro (up until 1.19) and then the glorious ending (3.57 onward). For a slower pacing, the middle section (1.51 to 3.25) demonstrates the breadth of talent on show here. Pretty sweet production too I might add.

Enjoy!

As a bonus passing note: A band frequently cited throughout my previous blogs, Battles have amongst their ranks a drummer who is almost certainly a human metronome. John Stanier’s playing is completely on point and devilishly accomplished, therefore I would always heartily suggest wrapping one’s ears around first album Mirrored for drumming bliss and the punchiest of bass drums. To my untrained ears, the beats seem so perfectly knitted to the other instruments that they could be programmed in for complete matching. Watching this man perform on a stage is one of life’s small pleasures.

 

 

 

 

Windy mcbindy

Ah Chicago, you have thrown up something great yet again. Aside from Maps & Atlases, and Billy O’Neal, we now have Monobody.

monobody

It’s nimble, tricksy, and bloody infectious. Peppered with little funk melodies, jazz interludes, and what could be Jazz From Hell outtakes; we have a winner.

Enjoy!

Library additions

Earn money – spend money – tune abundance.

Le_Rex-2015-2bw-credit_Kapuly_Dietrich

American heavyweights Battles have served up their third album, La Di Da Di, following what seems like an eon since Gloss Drop. Though their music has noticeably failed to reach the heights of debut album Mirrored, what they lack in melody and cohesion is swept away by the superb drumming of John Stanier.

So while we have this……

…..it unfortunately does not quite live up to this.

Nevertheless, the new album is worth a good listen.

Purchased just this second from those good people over at Cuneiform Records, Le Rex are living Swiss proof that a string free society could be a good thing.

With their full length debut album, A Beautiful Life, out this winter, Let’s Talk Daggers have very quickly become a favourite of mine; I await the album with hyper eager anticipation. For people who enjoy simplicity.

Should you wish to help them out by pre-ordering their album (always a good thing), there is a very short amount of time with which to do so: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/letstalkdaggers

Arrivederci.

Another sound for sore ears

I have the good folk over at Musical Mathematics to thank for coming across this little gem of a band – Oakland, CA based Feed Me Jack.

feedmejack

There is something about our friends across the pond that really comes through in the production of their records and songwriting style. While Britain’s tone seems dirty and gritty fairly often, America feels like a shimmering sunny breeze. Not always in a good way, but the majority of the time working to great effect. Cue the group’s EP Anatolia.

So what to listen to? Opener Knight Fork is a clear highlight, all trickling keys and tumbling jazz chords. The vocals serve to enhance the infectious smoothness of it all, grabbing your attention as it fleetingly passes you by, hitting home with the ending crescendo. And coming in at just over a minute, (Da Da Da) is mostly certainly worth your time, because it’s just bloody lovely really. As far as plucky guitar melodies go, this finds the sweet spot.

Released way back in October 2013, following their raw and less focused debut album Chumpfrey back in 2010, Anatolia is a pleasure to listen to.

Enjoy!

Twiddlydee and Tweedledum

Come the 18th of August, I will be watching a reunited Fall Of Troy supported by an evolving Rolo Tomassi. For the latter, they just haven’t been the same since the two Joesphs left, ……but that’s a different discussion point for another day.

Completing the bill, and first up on the night, is a wee Yankee outfit by the name of Chon. Now, this band have got me thinking, and I mean really thinking. Anyone who has the unfortunate pleasure of being acquainted with myself, or who might have ascertained from posts on this scruffy blog, will be aware that I am rather partial to a slice of mathy goodness. And when I say ‘partial’, I actually mean it’s in my veins. Have I said that before on here? Strangest sense of deja vu there.

chon

Anyhow, Chon fall into this category. They are four supremely talented musicians creating three minute expert chunks of wholesome music. It stops, it starts; intricate passages pass by with a flutter; incredibly focused drumming is accentuated by each carefully selected bass note. I should bloody love this! And I do…….to an extent. The problem is, taking into consideration my naturally pessimistic attitude and the quartet’s American sunshine vibe, is that it’s all a bit twee. And twiddly. The Twee Twiddlers if you will.

Fall, taken from the band’s first full length release Grow, is my favourite track: the production is excellent, each instrument resonating with ample room to breathe; the tone of the guitars is a magnificent blend of nasal cleanliness and softened, compressed overdrive. Get to 0.49 and it really kicks in. The end may tail off a little with some arbitrary synth, but who cares! This is it, keep it coming!

And so, the gentlemen oblige accordingly. Grow is completely laden with inspired fretwork, lightning fast legato and understated bass backed by metronomic beats. And in doing this, it all becomes a little formulaic. How is it that a group can produce music where you have no idea what to expect with every passing second, but it all sounds very familiar at the same time? Maybe this is an unfair criticism. I listen to this genre of music incessantly but, for some reason, I cannot help but feel I knew a twiddly guitar line was fast approaching with Chon in a predictable manner. This is not something I normally think.

My esteemed Colombian pal (and tub thumper in our band) has gone as far to say it reminds of him elevator music. This is quite harsh, so I’ll take his opinion with pinch of salt. Quite honestly, if I heard this music in a lift, my ears would be pricked. However, I can ever so slightly see what he means, in terms of muddling along with slightly nauseating melodies.

Right, enough. I feel like I’ve talked myself into a stupor, when really I should just enjoy it for the sheer fun of great musicians playing compositions like this, regardless of the mood. And if you heard the riff at 0.58 from Perfect Pillow in a lift or trying on your next pair of black slip-ons from Clarks, then you are a lucky person. Because it’s a goodun.

Enjoy!

Sweden’s finest export

If I’m not careful, this could end up being a Cuneiform Records blog. Having become smitten with The Claudia Quintet, the independent label based in Washington D.C. have supplied the goods again. Goodness knows what else I could pick from this label, but if it’s anything like Mats/Morgan, then I’m going to make it my mission to become their main shareholder.

MatsMorgan

This Swedish duo are insane. Their music defies categorisation. A complete mish-mash of styles and genres, unbelievable musical talent in the form of keyboard and drums and a good dose of all out weirdness, this is music made for pure fun.

As I am reliably informed by Cuneiform’s website, Mats/Morgan have just released [schack tati], their first album in nine years. Rubber Sky is the opening track. It’s Battles, Acoustic Ladyland and Jazz From Hell rolled into one, and if it doesn’t hook you from the first second, then there is something chemically wrong with you. Even the creepy singing interlude.

I haven’t taken the following track off repeat since purchasing it yesterday – Sinus, from the album Thanks For Flying With Us, boasts a rather uplifting Nintendo melody (kicking in at 0.39) that has glued itself to my brain. The opening octaves are very familiar, but aside from that, it’s golden the whole way through.

There is more to Sweden than Abba and meatballs……………bloody love these guys. Enjoy.

Sorry, what was that?

Quick fire blogs, huzzah!

For some, a tune that you can’t remember after one listen isn’t worth its salt. If you can’t even hum something after five listens, it could send a minority of people into a full-blooded rage. There are songs that you can’t work out after even twenty listens………and I bloody love it when that is the case.

Coming to a living room near you soon.

Coming to a living room near you soon.

Two parts ex-Rolo Tomassi (an absolute favourite of mine in their original form; guitarist Joseph Nicholson, a mind bendingly brilliant musician, and the abundantly talented bassist Joseph Thorpe), one part ex-Antares (guitarist Calvin Rhodes) and completed by Ryan Bright on drums, Body Hound are not in the business to repeat anything. Each song must contain nigh on 1500 riffs. This may seem like a bad and overly pretentious ideal, but there is none of that here. It plays with your brain and ears, giving you absolutely no inclination as to where the hell the tune might take you next, working to great effect in building mini math prog epics that exude energy and heavy intricacies. And the drums somehow follow all this woven stringed madness note for note! How?!

Two tracks in particular stand out – Systems firstly, with its plectrum scrapes to high stabs at 0.30; the brilliant break down from 0.59 onwards; the tricky rhythm from 1.34; the lightning quick guitar run followed by cascading drums from 2.28; the chord work til the end. As you might have ascertained, I think rather highly of this tune. The second highlight, Perseus Arm, has thee very nicest intro I’ve heard for a math tune in a long time. I’ll leave it at that.

 

Cast aside all preconceptions and damning thoughts, have a go. The band’s EP is available for download on Bandcamp at whatever price you choose (be kind).

Enjoy!