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Blog going into coast mode…

Sadly, I just don’t have the time to properly maintain this blog and advancements in social media have really made it almost antiquated. I still plan on posting occasionally and certainly want to keep the blog live for now as reference material and still as a place to host some of my multimedia content including mixes and tracks. This blog served me well for the past few years and it was a good learning experience, but alas, things have been moving rather quickly for me in a number of other areas, including on the music front, so I just can’t keep this regularly updated at this time. Thanks to those who have followed, supported and encouraged me on here over the years.

I also maintain a domain at Mojo Rising Music which will be more specific to my musical endeavors as Mojo Rising.

You can always keep up to date with my music at:

My mixes at:

Mixcloud and WaxDJ

My videos at:

Youtube

Or tweets:

Twitter

What I’m working on in February

Time is such a precious commodity, and this month I’m really spread thin, so blog posting will stay relatively dry. However, I am working on some interesting stuff.

1. I am taking a software engineering class and have been chosen as an assistant Project Manager. There is a team of 18 student developers as well as myself and the Project Manager. We are tasked with re-engineering a web-based software life cycle project management tool. The main goal of the re-engineering is to ensure that it conforms to the MVC (Model – View – Controller) standard. At this point we are redesigning the architecture of the database so that it is a truly normalized, relational database. We will be using a PHP framework called Yii so we can auto-generate the basic (CRUD) front end code and Yii is automatically an MVC compliant framework. What makes this project challenging is that we need it to be flexible enough to accomodate various software life cycles (e.g. Waterfall, Agile, iterative, etc.) and it also needs to be recursive so that multiple iterations of an entire project, or multiple iterations of just a subset of phases of a project can be reflected. So, basically I have a lot on my plate with just this stuff.

2. I’m also taking an Expository Writing class and am working on a Term Paper detailing research work done in the field of BCI (Brain Computer Interfaces), which is at least peripherally related to some of the content I usually post about on this blog. At some point I think it would be really interesting to work on a brainwave controlled or BioFeedback based music interface (as suggested by my music technology professor at Cal State). When I can find the time, of course.

3. My friend Steve, creator of the BeatSeqr, has kindly loaned me one of his BeatSeqr’s. And I am trying to document and demonstrate it working in a Windows environment.

4. I just wrapped up another Remix competition. I didn’t win, but I believe the tune represents my best effort to date in terms of overall production quality. Here’s the track:

Lank & Inkfish feat. Yota – “Let It Roll” (Mojo Remix) by DJMojo

I am in the process of trying to finish another remix piece by the end of the month, and of course, I will continue to work on remix competitions as there are some really interesting ones on my radar coming up.

5. I am still trying to flesh out my oldskool techno wiki…

So, got a pretty full plate at the moment… and that’s not even mentioning anything about my day job.

The Most Commonly Sampled Breakbeats – Techno Edition (Part 3)

My first post here in 2011 is a continuation of something I started late last year, which is a list of breakbeats commonly used in classic techno songs. Sorry for the delay, between the holidays and working on some music, this was the first opening I had to finish this. Hope the wait was worth it!

These last four breaks may not have been used as much as the first seven that were documented in part 1 and part 2, however they each deserve recognition in that they were used in several songs that were in heavy rotation during the golden era of oldskool techno. They are also all very distinguishable breaks; easy to spot once heard.

The Klymaxx Good Love Break

All girl 80s dance/R&B band Klymaxx brings us this funky break from their tune Good Love:

 

This loop was also used in a remix of Kariya – Let Me Love You For Tonight, but Klymaxx predates the Kariya track and so this is very likely the original source. This break is very distinctive and was featured in one of the most well-known techno classics of all time… Bombscare by 2 Bad Mice:

 

You can also hear this beat in DJ Phantasy and DJ Gemini – Never Try the Hippodrome:

 

As well as is in this rare, well sought white label by Schedule 3:

 

The Apache Break

This version of Apache is actually a cover recorded by Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band, released in 1974 without much acclaim. In terms of hip hop and drum & bass, this epic break ranks up there with the Amen, the Funky Drummer and the Think break. I cannot mention this break without featuring this historic clip of Grandmaster Flash cutting up Apache on the wheels of steel:

 

Like many popular hip hop breaks, it also found its way into several popular techno and acid house songs. It is very easy to recognize due to the powerful reverbed congas. Here it is in The Break Boys (aka Frankie Bones and Tommy Musto) – And the Break Goes On:

 

As well as Panic – Voices Of Energy:

 

Listen to the little breakdown at (:57) of Todd Terry’s Just Wanna Dance. There is the Apache in all its glory.

Run’s House Break

This drumbreak is a hybrid creation of two other well-known breaks, with some additional flair such as a booming sub-bass and was featured in the song Run’s House off RUN DMC’s Tougher Than Leather album:

The two breaks in question include James’ Brown’s Funky Drummer, which rivals the Amen break in terms of overall usage in hip hop, drum & bass and techno tunes:

The second break is from the song Ashley’s Roach Clip by funk group Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers:

Ashley’s Roach Clip is yet another very recognizable and well known loop that has been used in countless hip hop and even mainstream songs, probably most famously in Eric B. and Rakim’s Paid In Full.

The Criminal Minds used the Run’s House break in the 1992 ragga techno hit Baptised By Dub:

It is also featured in Urban Shakedown’s Some Justice:

And again in Naz AKA Naz’s dark proto-jungle work Organized Crime:

Get Into Something Break

Last but not least, there is this funky little break from the Isley Brother’s Get Into Something:

The break is somewhat similar to the Think breaks with the background voices, tambourine and snappy snares. We hear it on one of the very big tunes of the day, 4 Hero’s Mr. Kirk:

It can also be found on Nation 12’s Electrofear(unfortunately, no YouTube clip of this version of the song is available).

The breakbeat is, and continues to be, a powerful weapon in the arsenal of dance music producers worldwide. While these samples have powered the energy behind many hip hop, drum & bass and techno tracks, it is also important to recognize and acknowledge the incredible drummers who were the original sources of these loops. I believe it is also interesting and worthwhile to listen to these loops in the context of their original songs. There is a wonderful history that flows from these rhythmic interludes. Thanks for allowing me to share at least a little bit of this history with you. I also hope that this will broaden people’s musical tastes into some wonderful work that, while clearly stylistic departures from the tunes which sampled them, are incredible gems that deserve to be enjoyed in their original glory.

The Most Commonly Sampled Breakbeats – Techno Edition (Part 2)

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.

The Let It Go Break

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:

 

Other songs that use this break include: DMS – Vengeance, The Scientist – The Exorcist and Fierce Ruling Diva – Rub It In. This is one of two funky breaks used in DJ Mink’s Hey! Hey! Can you Relate?

The Funky Nassau Break

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:

 

Other tunes featuring Funky Nassau are: Sonz of a Loop Da Loop Era – Far Out and Nebula II – Flatliner.

The I’m Gonna Love You Break

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 can also be found on Rabbit City #3, TronikHouse – Uptempo and Is That It? – ICTOT.

The Go! Break

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:

Finally, this break is also used in Rabbit City #1 – Beyond Control and M D Emm – Get Down.

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 Most Commonly Sampled Breakbeats – Techno Edition (Part 1)

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.

The Amen Break

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:

Think 1
Think 2
Think 3
Think 4
Think 5

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)

The Hot Pants Break

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.

So what the hell is an LFO anyway?

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.

Lower Frequency

Lower Frequency - Middle C (261.63 Hz)

Higher Frequency

Higher Frequency - 2 octaves above middle C (1046.50 Hz)

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:

LFO modulating pitch

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:

LFO modulating amplitude

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:

LFO modulating low pass filter

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.

Examples:

Triangle wave

Triangle wave

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.

Sawtooth wave

Sawtooth wave

A sawtooth features a rise and then a sudden drop to silence.

Square wave

Square wave

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…

Light Blog Posting through May

Blog posting has been and will be light throughout this month. I am battling Assembly Language for a Machine Organization class this quarter and it is taking up a lot of my spare time. The good news: I am taking the summer off and should be able to increase post frequency as well as kick off some other projects I have been considering.

Happy New Year!

May 2010 usher in a new decade of hope, innovation, art and dreams fulfilled. We have so much potential, much of which is unfortunately wasted in the wash of pettiness and ignorance. Let us look forward with a new purpose, the wind at our backs, to deliver and accept the rewards of our creativity, effort and love.

Presentation Links

JSyn synthesis API:

http://www.softsynth.com/jsyn/

WiiUseJ API:

http://code.google.com/p/wiiusej/

Johnny Chung Lee’s blog:

http://johnnylee.net/projects/wii/