Archive for the ‘periodic tinnitus (aka “song of the week”)’ Category

The Workman’s Friend (A Pint of Plain is Your Only Man)

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

homebrew-stout-IMG_8456

An Irish drinking song, rescued recently from cassette tape. Written and recorded as a lark to 4-track cassette in winter of 92-93 (20 years ago!) by my then-girlfriend (may she rest in peace) and I during my college years in Dublin.

Lyrics taken from Flann O’Brien’s poem “The Workman’s Friend” in his marvellous book At Swim-Two-Birds. If the head on the pint of plain looks frothy, that’s because it’s a home-brew Irish stout I made with a friend and not a Guinness properly poured by a Dublin barkeep. Uploaded for St Patrick’s Day 2013.

And, here’s a spoken version of the same poem that I just found today, by the Dubliners.

A brief history of Chef Menteur, part 2.

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Here is part 1 of this post. 

I hadn’t played a live show in what seemed like ages, and the most technology I had ever used onstage was using a distortion pedal AND a delay pedal on my guitar. Now I was leaving the guitar behind and bringing a mess of pedals for three keyboards (Farfisa organ, K2000 synth/sampler, 1980’s Yamaha toy synth), going through a mixer. Fortunately it was “just a house show” at our friend Chris Crowley’s Flophouse® and there was minimal external pressure… but having come from a indie rock background I honestly didn’t know if we could pull this electronic thing off live.

Countless hours were spent loading samples and patches into the Kurzweil K2000. I had Mellotrons and Moog samples as well as keymapped snippets of pieces of Art Bell’s AM radio show “Coast to Coast” where he’s talking about aliens and the Quickening.

The Quickening by Chef Menteur

People weren’t really doing laptop live shows quite yet—at least not in New Orleans—but my work Powerbook G3 was used with a microphone and a borrowed projector to make psychedelic improvisations based algorithmically on the music, using a visualizer named MacCthuga. (We later moved on to a more advanced visualizer called G-Force, later integrated into iTunes) — this was before visualizers were commonly built into iTunes and WinAmp, so the idea that the projections could reflect the waveforms of the sound we were playing was quite revolutionary at the time.

The visualizers we used could be pre-scripted as well as “played” live to a degree, so that you could set it up to have a better chance of showing the kinds of patterns you wanted to see, and could use keyboard shortcuts to advance color palettes or animations to the next one in the list. I spent a lot of time practicing this, but in the end it was too difficult to pay any attention to the video and still make a half-decent effort at performing, so although we did get some help at shows from a couple of friends, essentially it ended up on autopilot…. but still interpolating from the actual music being played through the microphone, which was the main point. I wanted to have a video member of the band that was of equal import to any of the musicians—especially (a few years later) after seeing Stars of the Lid perform at the Mermaid Lounge, who not only did that but did it with vintage film equipment.

Our first show was a success I was told, although it was a total blur for me. Our next couple of shows we tested in real live local rock clubs: the Circle Bar and the Mermaid Lounge.

Another song that we played for the first few shows was based on a Chinese pop vocal sample from my friend Mack that we had improvised over, put to a club beat, recorded to 4-track, edited and looped:

Chun-Li by Chef Menteur

Before moving on to part 3, I realized I’d forgotten another gem from our pre-live days that should probably be in part one. Probably the most acid/house of all our tracks (thanks to the 303s) it nonetheless is really rooted more in dub:

Terra Incognita by Chef Menteur 

Stay tuned for part 3. Meanwhile check out the tracks above to see what Chef Menteur started out sounding like and how far we’ve come— and please, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A brief history of Chef Menteur, part 1.

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

I’ve been involved with a lot of different musical projects, as songwriter, collaborator, hired gun, organist, guitar player, engineer/producer, and so on, but for the past decade, my main musical project has consistently been a band called Chef Menteur.

Chef Menteur started at a time when I’d tired of indie rock band clichés, and wanted to do something different: focus on experimenting and improvising instead of writing the perfect 4 minute indie/pop/folk/country tune. Having been spent some concentrated time in London’s electronic music scene, I had never been able to get that out of my brain, and technology was finally allowing those of us who couldn’t afford the vintage gear prices to do rudimentary sampling and sequencing for much less.

Listen to “Shotgun”.

At Rue de la Course, a coffehouse on Magazine Street in New Orleans, I saw an ad that mentioned My Bloody Valentine, John Coletrane, Sea and Cake, and John Zorn. And so, Chef Menteur started out with drum machines, keyboards, synthesizers… sounding like some weird mutation of Stereolab, the Chemical Brothers, Bruce Haack and weird Ninja Tune b-sides.. with fuzzed out guitars/bass that could be from Sonic Youth’s Sister.

Listen to “Chef Menteur Hwy”.

A four-track Tascam tape recorder was used to capture live sounds and Pro Tools Free was used to edit and mix. The plugins could take 4 minutes to render 10 seconds of audio and the Mac 8500 we were using would often crash, forcing a complete reboot. Each song took ages!

Listen to “An American Favorite“.

We put some tunes up on mp3.com (this is before myspace) and claimed we were big in Japan. We started getting some plays on WTUL and well-loved and respected DJ Chris Crowley offered us a show at the the Flophouse, which was kind of a communal living/party space.

Listen to “Betty B Free”.

We said yes, but were terrified: this changed everything! How could we play live sounds that were so studio-based?

Continue with part 2… Meanwhile check out the tracks above to see what Chef Menteur started out sounding like and how far we’ve come— and please, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project!

 

Generative Music, an experiment (no. 16)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I’ve recently (as in, over the past few years or more) been fascinated with the concept of generative music, something that Terry Riley first brought to my attention (see my blog entry and version of his aleatoric/generative composition “in C”) and that of course Brian Eno has championed. Eno has found success with many different generative systems, most recently and notably a series of iPhone apps including Bloom which compose random ambient music based on a handful of parameters the user defines.


Wanting to tackle something like that myself, but wanting to start simple, I found that I can do this with Ableton Live and the sample devices that come with the Max for Live package… without even opening Max itself.

Max For Live's MIDIgran effect

The Follow Action feature with 8:1 odds of repeating vs stepping back to the previous clip.

Using the randomized sequencing trick I used in “In C”, plus the Max for Live MIDI effect “Max MidiGran” I was able to take a simple 2-note passage (that forms the main drone) — playing only very long notes of C and F alternating which you can here, below — then separately for each of 2 additional “solo” synths, repitches randomly and remaps to a note on the C major pentatonic scale. These come and go randomly based on probabilities I set up and on multiples of 8 bars.

Then I added a drum machine loop, which also comes in based on random probabilities.

Finally, I added another Max effect that brings up some random feedback to the main drone and the drum machine at unexpected moments. Might be too jarring for the effect I was originally going for though.

It’s also number sixteen in the ridiculously optomistic “song of the week” project, but better late than never…

DOWNLOAD:

#16 Opalize (mp3, 24MB)

UPDATE: Here is another mp3 generated by the same setup. Very similar of course, but different!

#17 Opalize (reprise) (mp3, 24MB)


Vuvuzela! (USA Wins 1-1 vs England)

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Vuvuzela

If you’ve watched any of the current World Cup, you have an opinion about the plastic horns that the fans use to blare on and drone throughout the matches. Surprisingly, all of my friends seem to like the background noise they provide and find it somewhat soothing. Others, or so I’ve heard, find them extremely annoying and liken them to the sound of attacking hornets. Okay, I will admit that they do sound like a swarm of bees, but I actually like the sound of bees. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure that it’s not a coincidence that the word “drone” is used both for male worker bees and the droning sound that bees make.

So whith that in mind, here is a Vuvuzela-heavy remix of the US-England game this past Saturday, or at least the last 14 minutes of the last half. You can hear the US score the “winning” goal at 5:15 (thanks to British goalie Robert Green, who I offer my sincerest condolences to).

Vuvuzela (mp3)

Iron Chef of Music

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

What a cool idea.

Take a short sample, and give anyone the chance to dice, slice, layerand mangle it into a new composition.

And give them only two hours.

I found out about this just today, hours before today’s friendly competition. You can hear my entry and others’ here: http://ironchefofmusic.protman.com

orange clouds (no. 13)

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

an IDM track put together on the day in mid-december when this photo was taken.

#13 Orange Clouds (7.6MB mp3)

composed with monome 64 and ableton 8 using stretta’s polygome (for max for live).

l’ancien régime

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

I’ve been pruning my digital music collection in preparation of moving hard drives, and coming across lots of old Chef Menteur mp3s that we had intended to do something with, or were otherwise interesting, but never saw the light of day for one reason or another. Some are unfinished tracks, some are live versions of tracks, and some are finished but just didn’t make it on a CD for one reason or another. At one point we thought there might be a reason to go back and release some of these on some kind of official compilation, but since we have two full albums of new material we’re still working on, it’s not likely going to happen, so I think it’s time to set these free to the world. I am going to upload them as I come across them on the Chef Menteur blog here:

chefmenteur.org

marlowe rides the rails (no. 12)

Monday, June 1st, 2009

this is a simple west-african/carribbean sounding blues riff on the 12-string acoustic that seemed to suit the lovely spring weather we were having in new orleans a recent saturday afternoon.

listen also for: the sound of a distant train and christy petting marlowe.

marlowe, very content.

The Guild is tuned to open G, I believe.

at noizefest ’09 (no. 11)

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

This was not a “song”, at least insofar as I did not rehearse for it other than to check my equipment that morning. (This will very apparent to you after listening to any portion this.) But it was noizefest, so there ya go.

noizefest placard

Sign by Ray Bong, who through the miracle of the internet knew about my other life as an Apple developer and a certain pissy email that I got from the CEO-emeritus Steve Jobs. I don’t really think that makes me his “enemy”, but it was good stagecraft, and was probably the most interesting part of the set.

So here’s the recording of what turned out to be my first completely solo set ever, clocking in around 12 minutes, and titled thanks to Ray Bong. You can hear him shout out at the very end!

#11 “Enemy of Steve Jobs” (Noizefest NOLA 2009) (17.6MB mp3, 12:49)

Thanks to Phil of Slobodan for letting me use his amp (that’s his feet in the picture above). Setup was 6 string electric through overdrive, looper (Boomerang), then echo (Memory Man) into the amp. Most of the noise is the Memory Man delay loopback.