Author Archives: djmojodojo
Before we dig deeper into the breakbeat vaults, first… a quick correction on Part 1. The break used in Isotonik – Different Strokes, Bass Construction – Dance With Power, Blow – Cutter (Acid Mix), Rabbit City #1 – Cutter Mix and Smart Systems’ The Tingler (State Side Swamp Mix), actually comes from a breakbeat loop record released by Warrior Records. Warrior released a series of loop compilations beginning in 1989, credited to The Original Unknown DJ’s. The break in question can be found on their 1991 Warrior Sampler E.P. I believe it is a modified Think break, but this Warrior Records series appears to be the source of this particular loop. You can hear it much more clearly in Quadrophonia’s The Man With the Master Plan:
Continuing on with our exploration of breaks used in classic techno tracks, here are four beats which were also featured frequently during the oldskool heyday between 1990 and 1992.
Let It Go (Part II) is a song by disco funk legends KC and the Sunshine Band. Their second, self-titled studio album, which is known for classic hits That’s The Way (I Like It), Get Down Tonight and Boogie Shoes closes out with Let It Go (Part II):
You can hear this break in the song Lock Up by Zero B:
The Beginning of the End is a band consisting of three brothers and a bassist hailing from Nassau, Bahamas. The 1971 track Funky Nassau (Part I) became a hit in the U.S. reaching #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #7 on the Billboard Black Singles Chart. The tune also hit #31 on the UK Singles Chart in 1974. This particular break is literally a funk monstrosity which is easily spotted due to the clanging ride cymbals and booming kick drum.
DJ Mink’s Hey! Hey! Can You Relate? uses the the Let It Go break along with the Funky Nassau, as heard here:
This powerful break, which is pitched up for techno tempos, comes to us courtesy of soul icon Barry White from his 1973 single, I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby. The song is a great exemplification of Mr. White’s smooth vocal stylings. Amazing to think that such a rough break evolved from this mellow and shall we say “intimate” work.
Check out the I’m Gonna Love You Break as used by Rhythm Section in the 1992 classic Comin’ On Strong:
This break may be a bit more controversial. I did quite a bit of research and it appears as if Moby is the creator of this particular beat. If anyone can verify or correct this, it would be greatly appreciated. For now, it appears as if Moby, himself an immensely important member of the techno pantheon, deserves credit for crafting this incredible beat. Here it is in Moby’s Go!:
Moby and Jam & Spoon collaborated and remixed each other’s work, which may explain the use of the Go! break in Jam & Spoon’s immortal masterpiece Stella:
A more innovative use of the Go! break is exemplified here by Acen, who cut it up to great effect in their massive hit Close Your Eyes:
There are several more influential break loops put to dynamic effect during the oldskool era that we will look at in Part 3 to close out this discussion.
The mighty breakbeat. That funky, syncopated rhythm which is the backbone of so many dance-oriented tunes; culled from dusty crates of old funk and soul records where the drummer is given a moment to shine in a drum solo, a song intro or a rhythmic bridge. These moments of funk bliss were intitally looped by hand on the turntables of the early hip hop DJs. Once samplers became available, finding these breaks, sampling, looping and cutting them up became an art form all unto itself.
The use of breakbeats in hip hop music and drum & bass has been well documented and it is relatively easy to find lists breaking down which breaks were used on which songs on the web. When it comes to finding such lists for oldskool techno, it’s a bit more challenging. This list is an attempt to document several of the more common breaks used in techno. Many of these breaks are breaks also frequently used in hip hop, although typically pitched up or played at a faster tempo. I’ve always found it fascinating to hear the original songs, some of which are so different from the pieces in which their drumbreaks are sampled. The following list indexes the original source of a break and several of the techno tunes which used it.
This can easily be called the granddaddy of all breaks. The genre of drum & bass, and its pre-cursor Jungle, owes heavily to this beat and there are literally thousands of tunes which feature this break in some form. This breakbeat plays such an important role in the evolution of electronic dance music, a gentleman named Nate Harrison recorded an entire video devoted to the history of this breakbeat which you can watch here. I am sure many people who are even passingly familiar with electronic music have seen this video, but if not, it is highly recommended viewing. The original source of this break is from a 1969 B-Side by The Winstons called Amen, Brother.
One of the earliest uses of this break in the dance music arena was Success-N-Effect’s Roll It Up:
Roll It Up was caned by Carl Cox in the well-known tune I Want You (Forever):
Other tracks featurning the Amen Break include: First Prodgect – Right Before, Atomic Brain – Atomic Brain, Skin Up – A Juicy Red Apple, 2 For Joy – Let The Bass Kick and Sys’tem X – Wind It Up (Bumpy Mix) (No YouTube Clip Available).
The Think Break
Think (About It) by Lyn Collins is a treasure trove of breakbeat goodness. This 1972 funk song was produced by James Brown and featured his backing band The J.B.’s. Probably the most well-known use of a Think loop is in the popular 1988 hip hop track It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. There are actually 5 separate sections of the record where breaks have been sampled from:
Here is the entire song, for context:
One of the earliest variations of a think break is on the acid house track Hip This House by Shadows J (and their particular edit of this loop was further used by DJ Splix in Nasty Rhythm and Rhythm Section in Perfect Love (2 AM):
Here is another techno classic using one of the Think loops, Da Juice – C’mon C’mon (Mental Bass Mix):
All of the various Think loops have been pitched up and down, cut and otherwise manipulated to the point of being barely recognizable. For example, Isotonik’s Different Strokes, in which the Think break is somewhat difficult to spot due to the layering of other drum hits:
Finally, here’s a list of other classic techno tunes, all using some variation of one of the Think breaks: Greed – Give Me (Quadrant Mix), Bass Construction – Dance With Power, E-Lustrious – Ragga Tip, Petra & Co – Just Let Go, Blow – Cutter (Acid Mix), Rabbit City #1 – Cutter Mix, The Gonzo – Lost and Smart Systems – The Tingler (State Side Swamp Mix)
Bobby Byrd is a funk and gospel artist and is credited with “discovering” James Brown. An instrumental dub of the track Hot Pants is the source of the final break we will be looking at in this episode:
This beat was actually featured in the song Fool’s Gold by alternative britpop band The Stone Roses; their drummer Alan “Reni” Wren played live with the Hot Pants loop in the background, as heard here:
This particular version of the break, with the live over-dubbed drummer, was actually lifted and used by The Ya Yas on their 1991 techno track Looove (Quadromania Mix):
However, there are a number of songs that feature the original raw Hot Pants break, most notably The Prodigy’s Charly:
You can also hear a heavily reverb-drenched version of this break in Meat Beat Manifesto’s Radio Babylon, which itself became a heavily sampled tune:
Other tunes featuring the Hot Pants Break include: Addis Posse – Let The Warrior’s Dance, Nebula II – Seance, Lab Technicians – Sweet Perfection, Bizarre Inc. – Plutonic and The Future Sound of London — Papua New Guinea.
These three songs, in and of themselves, form the basis for countless techno tunes. In Part 2, we will examine several other important breakbeats which provided the rhythmic glue for many other oldskool techno classics.
Been working on a new project, which is the website oldskooltechno.com. The site will feature a blog, forum and wiki devoted completely to all things oldskool. The wiki is a pretty ambitious undertaking; I’m hoping to index oldskool tunes with corresponding video and sound clips to try and create a comprehensive, listenable, searchable catalog of tunes. I’m hoping to recruit other collectors of the music to assist me in entering tracks. So if you’re interested, please drop me a line.
This video introduces the Hybrid mode on the Denon DN-S3700 CD decks for use with Serato Scratch. This mode allows real-time control of MP3s without any time coded vinyl or CDs being necessary. I think that’s a huge step forward. The tricknology is being performed by UK DMC champ JFB.
Here’s a project that was done by Youtube user svenisnumb that uses the Microsoft Kinect as a Midi Controller. His Project was coded in C#. This is similar to my AirDeck Wiimote theremin. I don’t have an Xbox, so I haven’t been been able to fool around with the Kinect yet… but this intrigues me.
Moog, the historic analog synth manufacturer named after pioneer Robert Moog, has released an app claiming to replicate the authentic Moog sound on your iPhone (or iPod or iPad). The app, called Filtatron, sells for 5 bucks. Sound too good to be true? Judge for yourself in the preview video below.
Blu Mar Ten, an exceptional drum & bass (among other things) production outfit, recently hosted a remix competition for their track Believe Me. This was done in anticipation of their forthcoming album Natural History: Revision, which will feature a number of remixes including ones by the winners of this contest.
Unfortunately, I did not win. However, this was an epic track to work with and I learned a lot in the process. In the meantime, I am going to continue trucking along. I am seeing incremental improvement in my work as I continue to do these contests… and that has really been the main goal all along.
Here’s my remix:
Blu Mar Ten – Believe Me (Mojo Remix) by DJMojo
Here’s the original, for context:
Blu Mar Ten – Believe Me by Blu Mar Ten
And here is a collage of the three winning tracks:
Blu Mar Ten Remix Competition Winners by Blu Mar Ten
Reactable is an object based musical platform that uses the shapes of objects on a multi-touch like surface to create musical patterns and effects. They have now made a mobile version for iPod, iPhone and iPad. How cool is that?
20 finalists will be selected to have their tracks reviewed by D-Nox & Beckers. The top prize is an iPad. I won’t lie… as some of you know, I wish to move into development of musical apps, so having an iPad would be a big step in that direction. The tricky part about the selection of finalists is that 10 will be selected by Beatport staff. The other 10 will be selected by votes. I could really use some help here. You do have to have a Beatport login to vote, but registration is realtively quick and painless. I would really appreciate any help readers of my blog can muster!
If you just want to listen to the track:
Pulsing synth lines, frequency sweeping pads, earth-shaking wobble basses. These are a couple of examples of LFO at work. LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator is one of those mystical acronyms in synthesizer jargon that can be somewhat intimidating to new synth users. But at its heart, the LFO is a pretty straightforward concept to understand. In this post, I would like to break it down.
Sound is produced as a series of waves and the frequency, or rate of wave cycles occurring in a given span of time, is what determines the pitch (note value) of a sound. This is measured in Hertz (Hz). The average human can hear sounds that fall between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.
Those booming low sub basses we hear in hop hop and drum & bass usually fall somewhere in the range between 20 and 100 Hz. These are the kinds of basses you “feel” more than hear. Anything below 20 Hz is too low for human hearing. So why would we care about using waves in these ranges?
This is the beauty of LFO. LFO allows you to use its waveform to modulate (control) a parameter of another sound. For example, if we use an LFO sine wave to control the pitch of a different sine wave that we can hear (oscillating at an audible frequency), the pitch of the sine wave we hear will rise and fall steadily. This audible sine wave is now being “shaped” by the lower frequency sine wave, which is the LFO. Modulating pitch in this manner is how siren sounds are produced. Here is an audio example:
Other attributes besides pitch can be controlled in this manner. Here is an example of amplitude, or volume, being controlled by an LFO sine wave. This gives us that swelling or pulsing effect:
These are two of the most fundamental uses. However when used in combination with other synthesizer modulation tools such as envelopes or filters… well, here is where the full power of an LFO can really be unleashed. Here is an example of an LFO modulating a Low Pass filter, on a saw wave (which is richer in harmonic content than a sine wave). This gives us that classic sweeping, phasing effect we all love:
All of the above examples use a sine wav as the LFO. A sine wave has a very smooth up and down shape and thus produces a very smooth up and down sound. But we are not limited to only using a sine wave. Other wavefroms can be used, each with their own characteristic shapes, resulting in their own characteristic sounds. By looking at the shape of the waveform, one can get an idea of what the resultant sound would be.
A triangle wave has a linear up and down sound. This results in a smooth up and down progression, even smoother than the Sine when used as an LFO.
A sawtooth features a rise and then a sudden drop to silence.
A square is merely on or off, kind of like a binary function applied to sound. This switches the sound on and switches the sound off.
Finally, by matching the LFO frequency to the tempo of our song, we can get incredible timed patterns, that almost make our LFO act as a sort of sequencer. Most modern synths or synth software have a sync function that allows you to easily input the timing of the LFO rate. In other words, do you want the cycles to occur on quarter notes, eighth notes or through a whole measure?
So we have seen how LFO is used to alter the attributes of a given sound and how the waveform chosen for our LFO offers different sonic options. By combining multiple LFOs or having the same LFO control multiple synth parameters, some incredibly crazy sounds can be dished up. The LFO is an incredibly versatile and effective tool to liven audio productions. It’s amazing how something we can’t even hear can offer us so much power. Kind of like our imaginations…
A Guy Called Tom (yes, that’s his name on Vimeo) is using the TouchOSC app on his iPhone to control a modular synthesizer. Pure Data is doing the heavy lifting, converting the data to MIDI. Here is what he says about it:
TouchOsc iPhone app sending osc data into PureData Extended, where it is converted to midi and sent to the Doepfer MCV24 which converts it to voltage and controls the modular synth.
TouchOsc XY Pad controls the pitch of two Thomas Henry VCO-1 which also crossmodulate each other.
TouchOsc Sliders control Elby Steiner filter cutoff, Plan B Model 10 env cycle speed, Doepfer BBD feedback and delay. Thomas White LPG used in both mode for amplification. Delay is a Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai. Sorry for the video quality, its done using a photo cam.
Using TouchOsc is fun, there is a lot of control right at your fingertips. Actually it can control way more than i have to control :) Really cool app. Disadvantage is the steping in the control voltages that you can hear quite well, especially when controlling the pitch of oscillators. Not sure if its the midi resolution, the mcv24 or the application itself.
This is very cool. I was experimenting with TouchOSC during my Special Projects in Music Technology class last quarter. I was just using my iPod to control some sounds in Pure Data, this is taking it to the next level. Maybe even the level after that.
Yes, I just recently wrapped up work on the Sunchase remix contest, and I already have the bug again to work on another one. Not drum & bass this time… this one will be some funky tech house. Details of the contest, sponsored by Beatport and Baroque Records, can be found here. I have most of my remix finished, just adding details at this point. And of course, still need to mix down and master it. I will post a link as soon as it is closer to completion.
On another note, some may have noticed the Soundcloud icon above my sidebar, and the fact it is not working quite the way it should. I wanted to add a Follow Me on Soundcloud link, but the CSS in my WordPress theme is pretty complicated, so I don’t have it working quite the way I intended. Will hopefully have that fixed when I get a chance to work on it.
Welcome to the future. This is a concept I have been playing around with in my head and on paper for some time and now Pablo Martin has brought this vision to fruition. Basically, Pablo has created a software interface called Emulator that allows Traktor to receive multi touch data, freeing it up from the confines of just the mouse and allowing it to be used on a multi touch surface. That right there is cool enough.
Rodrigo from Chile is developing the multi touch surface you see in the video, which is called Töken. Between the two of them they have put together one hell of an incredible DJ rig.
Shout out to simfonik for turning me on to this.
I reworked the remix a bit, wanted to make it a bit less “abstract.”
I haven’t done a Drum & Bass mix in quite a long time, but overall I am pleased with how this turned out. Mostly new stuff with a few old classic favs thrown in for good measure. Mostly liquid but a little bit of everything and I throw some harder stuff in at the peaks.