Bangin’ Beats Back From Botswana

At 1.29, you’re going to hear the word ‘yeah’ spoken by a young boy. I pitch-shifted the vocal up slightly, so he sounds younger than he was, but he was young nontheless – 8 years old.

I think it’s sweet and appropriate that this song has come up today. I saw this same boy (my cousin) yesterday at a family event, and he is in the midst of a post-GCSE summer paradise. Went to a festival last week, going to a festival next week, got some girl he’s maybe seeing (although it absolutely ISN’T a thing). And he’s a proper teenager, almost as tall as me (that isn’t an achievement), voice pretty much dropped, fully allowed to drink at these family occasions now. I remarked to him that over this year his progress from boy to Boy With Aspirations Of Being A Man can be succinctly summarised by that last point. A year ago he’d be allowed one glass of something, then people would take the piss and say he was drunk. Now he casually helps himself to a beer.

Anyway, this festival he’s going to is more like a 3 day rave. And they play drum n bass mainly. The alliteratively named Bangin’ Beats Back From Botswana is pretty much my only attempt at drum n bass, made 8 years ago, when I was my cousin’s age, and also listening to that genre. It feels like a long and very insignificant circle has been completed in the fabric of our lives.

Following on from What You Want (2) this is further evidence that electronic music was beginning to make its mark on me. 2008 was when everyone I knew got into dubstep, as it made its lumbering, disappointing journey from the underground

to the bright shiny world of the US of A.

We got into it around the middle stage – lots of wobbly bass and slightly comedic vocal samples:

Anyway, I still pretty much only approached electronic music production in a tongue in cheek way, as evidenced by BBBFB’s ridiculously ominous hook and that childish ‘yeah’. This was actually another song made with my friend from my band, in our sub group ‘Happy Happy Fun Twins’. But it’s actually quite fun, no? I mean it’s not cool or inventive, but it’s alright. If you like dance music, and you’ve seen how shit everything else has been on this list, you’d be pleasantly surprised, perhaps. I really like 1.53 when the song gets destroyed by that filter. It’s difficult to listen to, but it packs a punch. There are little moments of detail in the song that are almost certainly the result of my friend being there – he was always interested in small things like technique, and the perfection of each sound. Good interests to have.

I was more like LET’S FINISH IT AND SHOW OUR FRIENDS.

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What You Want (2)

This is the second version of a song written in the same US trip as All Along. The first version exists, but is too similar to bother posting as well. So you’ll be delighted to know you’re listening to something with slightly better drum programming than I was actually capable of in Summer ’08.

Are you a ‘Death of the Author’ style critic? Are you all about close reading and intrinsic criticism? Or is it all about new-historicism? Is context inescapable and all-important, and do words mean nothing on a page in a vacuum?

The former type of person would say this about What You Want: its lyrics clearly form part of the most significant trope of all electronic music: sex. It’s man + woman promising each other sexual paradise, with driving, euphoric, hypnotic music accompanying and heightening the impact of this promise.

The latter would say this: yuck, is that his sister he’s singing to?

Yes it is. Being the most gifted and available female vocalist on my family holiday in America, I did indeed get my sister to sing the main ‘What you want’ hook in this song. It was my first foray into this sort of music, and I thought I should probably stick by the rulebook, lyrically. I then added in the reply, ‘I’ll give it’, to complete a harmonious and potentially incestuous picture.

Now, obviously, to me this wasn’t problematic. We were just playing dress up in song form, singing lyrics so bland they carry no real message. But there has always been a slight tension in showing people the song who might be able to spot who the two vocalists are. ‘Yes it is my sister.’ ‘No I don’t think it’s weird.’ ‘Yes I know it’s a good song, thank you.’

Anyway, biographical context aside, there is something fun about What You Want. It builds steadily until it becomes genuinely quite euphoric. The electronic production means there are no dodgy instrument moments. The repeated vocal samples mean there are no dodgy singing moments. I enjoy the predictability of it. You know that after every 8 or 16 bars, something else is going to come in.

It’s always made me think of a relaxed daytime beach bar, or a journey sometime in the late afternoon. Which is why I’ve attached a blurry picture of a boat sailing into the sunset. It’s a stock-image type of song, I think.

It never really felt that significant to me, at the time. I think it’s because I had no desire to make music like this when I was 16, nor did I listen to much music like it. But as I got older it grew on me. Vague memories a few years later of a friend walking round in circles to this song, a song with similar but better emotional rises:

whilst in another room a different intoxicated friend and I listened to What You Want on headphones and he told me how great he thought it was.

And then, only a few months ago, someone told me they had been in Newcastle at a friend’s flat when a song had come on the speakers. She was convinced she had heard it before so she asked him what it was. He said she definitely wouldn’t know. But she went over to check, and it was What You Want. He had downloaded it whilst it was still up on my original Soundcloud, which is astonishing given that it had less than 200 plays in total, and almost all of them must have been from friends and family.

So, it’s a song that is mildly good. And now that I do like music like this more, I guess it is potentially one of my favourites up until this point.

All Along

This is a big one. Potentially the catchiest real song I’ve ever written, All Along is a basic pop number which clocks in at a truly absurd 5 minutes 5 seconds. A big reason for this is the completely unnecessary 8 bars of filler at the end of each chorus. I can imagine I might have made a mistake with the length of the verse when recording the guitar, and then just decided to make all other instruments follow suit, rather than going to the huge effort of rerecording the take.

It’s interesting listening to it now, being absolutely aware that All Along is a pop song. I reckon I was in denial at the time, which might explain why I haven’t adhered to the typical 3.5 minute length limit for this genre. The song uses the 1-5-6-4 chord sequence, for god’s sake, the one made infamous by this video:

It’s pretty much impossible to write a melody which isn’t catchy over those chords, and All Along is no exception, especially because it’s so long you probably know the whole thing off by heart by the time it finishes.

In 2008 I was very much not listening to music that sounds like this, and the song was never really meant to exist in this state. I wrote it on a holiday in the US, and I originally conceived it as a kind of shiny happy sarcastic bitter number, with the music acting as a sickly backdrop to the lyrics, which repeated:

‘And it’s what I’ve been thinking all along,
You can’t survive without me, if I’m gone’

I was halfway through recording a demo when I realised it was going to upset my girlfriend. This genuinely happened. I changed the lyrics so that the second chorus would resolve all issues and create harmony for everyone everywhere:

‘And it’s what I’ve been thinking all along,
I can’t survive without you, if you’re gone’

ENTER LOVE SONG

Then came some bland verses about living and flying, and a bit of picked electric guitar in the 3rd verse that is EXACTLY the same as this: (I honestly don’t think I meant to copy it, I was shocked when I heard the song again later and realised what I’d done.)

But one line remained the same: ‘And I don’t know why I’m feeling so heavy’.

Sounds a bit like happy. But it just isn’t. ‘Heavy’ is not a word you associate with feelings of deep love. Your heart is not ‘heavy’ with love. It’s ‘heavy’ with dread. With regret. Sorrow. The best connotation it can possibly have is probably one to do with reluctance. ‘It is with a heavy heart that I deliver this message.’ ‘It is with a heavy heart that I break up with you.’

The sad truth is that my relationship with this girlfriend was on its way out, and I knew deep down that the fact I had thought I needed to change those lyrics was a sign itself. But the word ‘heavy’ remained – a slightly disconcerting pearl within a happy and over-sized clam.

The song wasn’t fully recorded until a year or two after it was written. Which is maybe why there’s a syncopated guitar riff in the last chorus which is actually a bit good. Also, there’s one moment in the song that I’ve always loved. It’s as I go into the second chorus:

‘We’ll find a way, to meet some daaayyy’

Is it just me or do I sing ‘daaay’ quite nicely? It’s almost like I gathered up the vocal chords and said look guys, we may never sing vibrato again, but just for this second, can you give me a tiny bit of it at the end of this word? Can you hear it? It’s subtle I know.

Anyway, terribly sung the rest of the time, as usual.