Friday, February 24, 2012

LINER NOTES: Effaman 2

Effaman 2

A.K.A. Return to the House of Flying Daggers? Hardly.

One of our regulars, Sarah K., kept asking for "real songs," like in the first effaman. The first time around tickled me immensely, so I was happy to oblige. Check the above post for a brief backstory, but the long short is it was a response to my friend Karen's mix for me, Girls, Girls, Girls (it's a wonder why we never commiserated over Spector back in the day). Well, maybe response-of-a-response is more accurate? The actual response was boys, boys, boys. But in making that mix, I felt a need for some balance. Hence... you get it.

As much as I liked the concept, I never felt satisfied about the first effaman. Given the strength of the title, songs like Kellee Patterson's "If It Don't Fit, Don't Force It" felt inappropriately gentle and Wendy Rene's "After Laughter" was plain out of place. No pun intended, but the idea needed more teeth.

Not that the second round is a definitive K.O., but it's a step in the right direction. Big Mama Thornton, though she didn't get shine during the session, was central for guiding the tone. Thanks to: "I Smell a Rat" ("You won’t tell me where you been / Whiskey running all down your chin / I smell a rat baby"); "Just Like A Dog (Barking Up The Wrong Tree);" and "You Don't Move Me No More." Those songs contain a balance of hurt and fury that blueprint (see, Maya? Noun becomes verb!) a range of expression, from the uptown cool of ESG's "Erase You" to the poli-angst of Huggy Bear's "Herjazz."

I initially looked for songs with the knives out, but what I found was better: a slowly simmering pot of pathos. Ann Peebles' "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down" wins off the strength of the song title's visual alone, but Willie Mitchell's Hi-Rhythm production sounds so fucking cool being recast from Rev. Green coos to Ann Peebles' stern warnings.

Of course, shit-talking is practically a pasttime paradise for me, so Lily Allen's "Knock 'Em Out" ("Nah I've gotta go 'cos my house is on fire / I've hot herpes, no I've got syphilis / AIDS AIDS, I've got AIDS!") is a charm. And didn't every girl and guy know Tyrone's homie?

I'm happiest most about rediscovering the Persuaders' "Thin Line Between Love and Hate." I'd dimly remembered this song as an AM staple/low rider anthem. In other words, I had attached a mood to it -- one I had mistaken for romance. The storytelling is painfully deliberate and, a word I'm loathe to use, "cinematic." Raekwon level, god. The twist is perhaps comic, though, when you think about it, fitting and beautiful. The song also convinced me there had to be other examples of men admitting fault. Guess what? Like Anti-Pop, there weren't many I could find! What I found were gems. Kels' "When A Woman's Fed Up" has a remarkably resigned and humble tone that is so uncharacteristic by late-'00s Kels standards. And Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire's verse on the "Unthinkable" "RemeX" is one for the ages. That part about throwing up in the bathroom of the McDonalds on Delancey?? Whoo... Unfortunately, it makes "Blame Game" sound positively lame and whiney, so I was more than happy to fade that out.


So, I didn't realize until afterwards that we had mostly women in attendance. I do think that was a coincidence as it didn't seem like everyone knew the theme beforehand. I got nervous that the music was too serious, b/c the room was pretty quiet. But Nate noted head-bobbing on his side of the room. And given the amount of newcomers and strangers in attendance, there was a remarkable amount of sharing after the drawing.

All right, we'll be back in mid-March, probably back to a Wednesday. Stay tuned for deets by hitting us up on F-book or get at me to get on the e-list.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 17, 2012

LINER NOTES: New Directions

New Directions playlist.

Let's begin with a word about the name: yes, I've seen Glee. Considering how many eps I've seen, I could justifiably use the present tense. I opt to use the past tense mostly out of saving face. In my defense, I've opted to stop watching the show b/c I have seen (more than) enough to understand the show's appeal and form an opinion.

See? All in the name of "research."

I'm not particularly upset that Glee's New Directions choir is a model for t(w)een expression, teamwork and friendship. Sure, it's saccharine and delusional, at times. And that garish Broadway sheen makes Celine Dion appear comparatively subdued. But there is a tremendous amount of irony in Fox unwittingly endorsing a progressive view of copyright and gender/race relations. So, if the show inspires a few kids to embrace their voice and find a new way to spin an old tune, I'm for that.


I enjoy finding new ways to listen to familiar music. An easy way is to change the context: move a song from the bedroom to the car; remove the headphones and bang a joint out at a BBQ; place Cash after Timbo instead of Cash after Paycheck; and on and on and on. Perhaps my favorite approach is to hear individual tracks of a recording -- thank you, multi-tracks! I started my serious voyage into music with an instrument in my hand, so instinctively I am compelled to return to the individual instrument. Let me hear Duane Allman's solo. Now let me hear Slowhand's solo. Now let's put them together.


I started collecting a cappella versions of songs for the same reason every other hip-hop/club-style DJ does: to use as DJ tools. Blend a Rakim verse over fill-in-the-blank flavor-of-the-week beat, scratch a KRS line, etc. They're useful, they're fun.

I've always had a hard time making out voices in music. I can sit with instruments endlessly -- I'll patiently loop a fragment of a Coltrane solo to figure out a 4-note lick. But going back and repeatedly listening for an indecipherable lyric? I get stuck. Only then do I feel that backing arrangements become an interference. I, literally, cannot hear the words.

Which is probably why I find a cappella versions so useful. They strip the parts I naturally gravitate towards and force me to pay attention to the elements of music I pay the least attention. 


No surprises then that much of the set contained verses by rap gods, beach boys, and covers of the Beach Boys. Surprising myself, I remembered the brutal English folk and turn-of-the-century murder ballads I've been coming across lately, which made for a lovely bridge to UGK's hood blues.

I'm far less familiar with choral music. That version of "Clair" was picked up simply to hear how Jay Dee/Dilla flipped it. And who would pass up the Amandla! soundtrack? But these tunes, along with the odd Van Halen end helped give the night a bit of variety. So, be you a rapper pining for your teacher, a smart alec with grand, royal references, or a rocker with a penchant for slide whistles, there was something for everyone.

I wanted this set to culminate with the "highest" use of the voice: the voice as substitute for an instrument. I'm not talking about scat or Bobby McFerrin bleep blops. I'm thinking Meredith Monk. Or Bjork (weirder still that I should actually tip the hat to Todd Rundgren instead of Bjork b/c he got the jump on Medulla's all vocal approach in the '80s). We ran out of time, so I wasn't able to use much of this, but Rundgren's Hall-&-Oates-ish "Something to Fall Back On" made it in, which tickled me to no end.


Next session, we'll come back to an old familiar: Effaman! (if you don't know, get the knowledge) Consider it the post-V-day m-finger antidote.

Labels: , ,