Friday, July 29, 2011

Faster, Harder, Louder, Stronger...

It's not unusual for modern records to be based around a sample taken from an earlier song. This isn't altogether a bad thing. The original artiste gets a nice royalty and perhaps an unexpected boost to their pension and the new artiste gets a catchy little ditty on which to hang their own tune. It's a collaboration of sorts and the original artiste will usually have the right of veto if they do not approve of their original riff being exploited inappropriately. All good, nothing bad.

Of course sampling is most commonly used in more recent styles of music - techno, house, hip-hop, ambient, rap and the like. These style generally have a quicker tempo than the styles they are borrowing from. The result is invariably that the sample has to be adapted in order to fit the modern style.

When you spot a sample in a modern record you may recognise it but it's often interesting to go back to what is often the rather obscure original and you'll invariably find it's not quite how you remember it. The new artiste will have played around with it - added a backbeat, bumped up the tempo and other digital trickery. There's nothing new or particularly wrong with that either. You might recognise and think you remember the actual riff but on re-hearing the original you'll be surprised how different it actually was at the time.

I was reminded of this when listening to the following tunes. The first clip is from the new song, and the second clip is the original track that was sampled.

The original song stood up on its own quite well at the time but now sounds positively funereal - it actually sounds like it's been slowed down. It sounds wrong. If you go back to the first song you quickly realise that no-one could play the horn section at the speed it's now being reproduced but it sounds right.

Do we do everything so much faster these days? I guess we do. Let's slow it all down a bit.

Friday, July 08, 2011


You would have thought one of the most important attributes of a politician is to have good judgement. The ability to intuitively smell a rat. An instinct to know right from wrong. The perception however seems increasingly to be that your judgement isn't really that important. All that you actually need is good PR.

Our prime minister - an ex PR man himself - employed as his director of communications the former editor of the News of the World - a Sunday newspaper with a notorious reputation for juicy and salacious tittle-tattle. It didn't acquire the nickname The News of the Screws by accident. Yet the prime minister obviously thought a former editor who could flog 2-3 million copies a week of this paper would have his finger on the national pulse.

Yes, he probably did know how to tickle the nation's fancy. But you only had to take a brief look at the newspaper he was producing each week to see that he was obviously a specialist in engaging the national interest by stimulating what goes on below their waistline as opposed to trying to engage with whatever goes on above their shirt collar. Aim low is what a man like this will tell you.

Given the choice between being seen canvassing the opinion of an intellectual academic or alternatively finding out what the latest nineteen year old pop starlet thinks, politicians increasingly want to be seen discussing matters with the singing poppet because, they will be told, it will guarantee they get that all-important male 14-55 demographic to sit up and pay attention. This is what hiring the former editor of a tits, gossip and sports tabloid will tell you.

Yes, it goes without saying that 90% of men's attention will almost instantly be diverted by the appearance of a good-looking young woman but that doesn't automatically mean we'll all instantly disconnect if we're presented with a slighly more intellectually rigourous scenario.

Tabloid editors know what sells and the brief they get from their bosses is to sell more of it and do whatever you can to get those sales. As the News of the World scandal rumbles on and politicians from across the political spectrum desperately try to work out how to redefine their relationship with the popular press whilst simultaneously trying to retain its support, we can only hope it leads to an outbreak of discussing important matters on their merits and not solely on whether it can conveniently be presented alongside a nice pair of tits.