Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And All That Jazz (Not Really)


Busy busy busy.

But hey, Salvation Denied is playing a show in Manhattan on Saturday!

To elaborate a bit:

Downtown Cabaret is a concert put on by a collaborative effort between many of the arts programs here at SUNY Purchase. My program (Studio Composition... but if you read this blog, that should be beaten into your head by now) has the biggest stake in the show; we have performances from 8 to around midnight, usually. There's a TON of fantastic performers playing, including longtime collaborator Kelly Izzo, my good friend Leila, my new favorite Purchase band The Bearing (who my housemate has been mixing for the past month, and who've been stuck in my head since then) and too many others to list.

We perform at 9:30 PM Saturday night. Should have a 25 minute set, give or take; Downtown Cab is still finalizing all of the scheduling issues. For complete schedules Friday and Saturday, click here and here, respectively.

Forgive if updates are a bit spotty for the next couple of weeks. I'm in the thick of film scoring now. Receiver,  Merry Christmas Eve, and the newest project I just got, Welcome To Willard, directed by Nicole Favale, will be occupying every waking hour from here until the first or second week in May. I'm incredibly pleased to be working with such talented directors; I like to complain about my work sometimes, but these three in particular are a blast. I'll have audio very soon.

You know what? Fuck it. I'm closing this blog post with The Bearing's newest single, lest you're too lazy to click on the link above. I hope you enjoy it (though they don't want to admit it, I totally helped mix it a little bit. Boosting guitars is my idea. But this time it WORKED)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Got $leazy, Swore, and Shook

Apologies for this not being posted earlier. Life likes to intervene in my blogging schedule. You know how it goes: somebody hands you a movie, and the next thing you know it's 5 days later and you haven't moved in roughly as much time from your keyboard. Though I'm happy to say, Merry Christmas Eve is coming along quite smoothly. I'll have themes for y'all next blog post.

Today's post, though, is all about live shows, of which there have been many this past week (fuck yeah, absurd sentence structure).

First, for those of you who don't attend Purchase, Culture Shock was this weekend. Culture Shock is our annual 2 day music festival, usually showcasing a wide variety of different acts. Key word being "usually". This year's festival drew a lot of criticism for its lack of diversity, which I wholeheartedly agree with. The vast majority of the bands fell into either the "let's all smoke weed and be happy with lots of clean delayed guitar tones and clean delayed vocals" indie category or the "WE'RE LOUD AND ABRASIVE BUT NOT SLOPPY, IT'S A VIBE THING" indie category.

Not that I have a problem with indie music. It has to be done right though. See Sufjan Stevens, or Stereolab.

One band stuck out this festival though. I'd had the pleasure of seeing them once before, and they never cease to be awesome. Enter Swear And Shake.

A quartet comprised of bass, drums, electric and acoustic guitar and male/female vocal interplay, the group writes wonderful singer songwriter-esque music, but without all of the pitfalls the genre encounters. Vocalists Kari Spieler and Adam McHeffey intertwine with a mastery of those twice their age and experience, the arrangements are well thought out without ever being overwhelming, and the group isn't afraid to drop bars at (pardon) the drop of a hat. Recommended listening? "Johnnie". Or anything off of their recently released EP, honestly.

Last Wednesday saw me finally going to see Ke$ha live. And let me tell you.


I think part of the reason I enjoyed myself so much was, much as I love Ke$ha, I was expecting it to suck. Let's be real for a minute; the girl has so much polish on her recordings, would you honestly expect her to be able to replicate it all live?

The funny thing is she CAN. And did. The show got off to a REALLY shaky start with Sleazy. The mix was off, the vocal performance terrible and the dancing stilted and awkward. Once she hit her stride, though,  the girl could do no wrong in my eyes. The biggest shocker? Almost all of the show was live. Drums, synths, guitar, backing vocals, all were handled masterfully by her backing band. Apparently Ke$ha is a much more talented musician than most people give her credit for as well. Throughout the set she played guitar, synthesizer, drums on occasion... and even theremin.

Fucking THEREMIN. Let that sink in.

Highlights of the show:
- This is how it started. Those glasses were awesome. It's a shame Sleazy wasn't better.

- Right before "Grow A Pear" she asked the audience, "Now... what man wants to be abused onstage by me?" Of course, the crowd went wild. She deliberated for a while before pulling up a young gay man dressed to the nines. Cheetah print top, boyshorts, ripped leggings, heels, glitter everywhere, you name it. He broke down and started sobbing onstage, he was so happy.

Then, of course, he got saran wrapped to a chair and beat in the face with a giant stuffed penis. So classy.

- The whole stage setup and presentation was awesome. Her roadies built up the stage so that everyone got their own section to screw around in, the lighting design was awesome, and all of the costumes looked like they were ripped out of rejected Combichrist designs.

- Of course, the setlist. All of her hits, plus a couple of songs that were made a LOT better by a live band. "Dinosaur" sucks. But was really cool live.

So, if you get a chance to go see her in a standing room venue, DO IT. Definitely worth the thousands of shrieking preteens and their disgruntled parents.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Madness Is Quiet

Not 5 minutes before I started writing this blog post, I was made aware of some very upsetting news. One of my favorite live bands, RX Bandits, just announced that their upcoming summer tour would be their last. If you aren't aware of who RX Bandits are, you're doing yourself an incredible disservice. The Bandits started off as your run of the mill ska band, but gradually warped into something rather unclassifiable. Equal parts rock, psychedelic, progressive, reggae and a whole host of other genres mashed together in one large melting pot, the group has a habit of recording all of their albums live, with a minimal amount of overdubs. Which, if you haven't done before, takes an extreme degree of talent to pull off at the level that they can.

I've seen them at least once every year since my sophomore or junior year of high school (it's been a while) and they're by far one of the best live shows I've seen. High energy, the entire crowd sings along, and the band never stops for a second. It's sad to see them go, but I'm sure their final string of shows will be among the best.

Onto happier news:

Kelly and I recently completed another rough arrangement from Alice Unraveled, entitled "Rose Petals". In the musical, it details the main character coming home from the party where she was just assaulted, and her slow descent into madness and Wonderland as she attempts to cope with what just happened. It's dark, yet oddly beautiful and poignant.

Kelly's original scratch track was in E minor and much slower than it is here. I decided to speed it up a bit, roughly 15 bpm, and changed the key to F minor. F minor is much darker sounding, contributing to the vibe we were going for. The BPM change happened in order to provide more variety to the arrangement; the original repeated the same arpeggiating pattern over and over, whereas the new alternates between quarter note and 8th note grids.

Laryngitis while recording a scratch vocal track was an issue for Kelly, but she still managed to turn in quite a beautiful performance. We left her voice bone dry, in some contrast to the rest of the arrangement, and it sits wonderfully in the scope of the mix: right in front of your eyes and backed by a harp, string trio and an assortment of electronic noises and drum hits.

The arrangement's still not finalized yet; the end in particular needs some work, when the electronic elements kick in full force, and the large drum hits we agreed on are far too big for the scope of the song. However, I think it's a pretty good representation of the final product, and I can't wait until we can put together an ensemble and hear how it sounds on all live instruments.

Rose Petals by Michael Hart

The rest of my week is taken up by scoring Merry Christmas Eve, of which I just received a rough cut. It's a monster at the moment with a 45 minute runtime, but Alyssa's going to be trimming, trimming, trimming over the next week or two. I have some great ideas for the score already, some involving my favorite 30 second decay reverb patch. AMBIENCE.

I'll update you all again at some point this week; it contains our school's biggest festival of the year, Culture Shock, and Ke$ha live in concert for me tomorrow. I'm incredibly excited.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Place About To...

It's Friday, Friday!

Boy, THAT sure lasted a while, didn't it? Though I'm amazed it somehow managed to get over 72 million views. Even still, looks like her 15 minutes of fame are up.

No, today, with my drink in my hand and in my stomach, I figured I'd pay tribute to Ke$ha's newest outputs: her video for "Blow", which apparently released much earlier than I expected, and her latest album, a remix jaunt entitled I Am The Dance Commander + I Command You To Dance: The Remix Album.

"Blow" was far and away my favorite song off of Cannibal, and I totally called it to be the next single. Go me.  As for the video... Miss Ke$ha seems to be taking a page out of Lady Gaga's playbook. Unicorn heads on human forms? Subtle romantic cues? Absurdist lines such as "edible lactose gold"? All here. However, while Gaga has a flair for being able to take something out of the ordinary and run with it, Ke$ha falls flat. Too much of the video is focused on her, as opposed to her surroundings. Yes, it's a pop video, she's the star, yada yada yada... but look at the video for "Bad Romance" (if you don't check the links, its up there). The focus is on the pop star, but it's done in such a way that you notice the surroundings, and you notice how bizarre the whole thing is. The appeal is enhanced tenfold.

Ke$ha, on the other hand, spends too much time prancing around backlit trying to act all sexylike. We get the schtick already. By the time we hit the climax of the video, where Ke$ha and her male counterpart, so lovingly referred to as "James Vanderdouche", start fighting each other with guns that shoot rainbow bullets, injuring/slaughtering many of the unicorn/human hybrids frequenting the establishment, its too little too late. Interest has been lost. Though the end is kind of incredible in a psychotic kind of way, the rest of the video pales in comparison.

Song's great though. Awesome beat, catchy as hell melody, good use of pop form... it's an obvious single.

As for the remix album?


Except for the "Blow" remix. Listen to that.

Now, off to a grunge thesis. Enjoy your FRIIIIDAAAAYYYY.