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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Sloop Clint E - Gorillaz vs The Beach Boys

Sloop Clint E by IronicHide

Gorillaz 'Clint Beastwood' (Ed Case / Sweetie Irie Refix) vs The Beach Boys 'Sloop John B'

Written by Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, Teren Delvon Jones, Brian Wilson

Arranged by IronicHide

(c) Capitol Records 1966, Parlophone 2001

Sometimes, as I'm strolling around with my walking moustache on, youths will stop me to say: "IronicHide, you be full of that fresh musical knowledge and frontin' nex'man's chat about diminished sevenths and Mixolydian scales an' shi', but I'ma arks you dis - where all mad ideasdem be comin' from?"

After correcting their grammar and warning them against gang violence, I tell them about an ice-cream I once saw advertised as chocolate and liqorice, together. Most of them put down their alcopops; they know I'm talking about the need for a jumping off point.

Theoretically, a mashup can be any two songs you or I care to imagine stuck together. Certainly, like a double ice cream scoop, not just any pairing will work (though if one could invert the Tutti of one's Frutti or amplify a pistachio, this metaphor could stretch further).

If you're going to eat a horrible gelato, there should be an amusing concept behind it as the flavours clog your throat. (The metaphor here is the ear-vomit that a pointless mashup can induce.)

So, yes, jumping off points. Right now, I still have a full-on concept album in the works: Denomination of Music (X) vs Musical Artist (Y) because of reason (Z). When (X vs Y) is rubbish, hopefully (Z) will carry the interest.

Looking through the earlier posts here, I can recall how the concept album got me fiddling with Ministry tracks and it was nothing but serendipity that got me putting them with the Klaxons. From there, I spread to heavy metal and high-end production dance music (but you'll have to wait for that one, homeslice).

Back in that South Ealing basement I was working with the first handful of acapellas available to me, two of those were Mary Wells and Blackalicious, and auditioning music to go with them also threw up the Donald Byrd vs Herbert mashup (that, for legal reasons, is, as yet, unavailable).

The Watchmen mashup was a self-contained idea and the closest mashup I have to (Z) so far. Or an ice-cream you'd eat because it has a clever name.

So, six of the eight tracks that should form the first album (at time of writing, I'm calling it Lowly Works, if you get the reference, treat yourself to an alcopop): Three born of fortune, two out of necessity and one begining from geekdom.

Sloop Clint E was just two tracks shuffled next to each other on my MP3 player that I wanted to force together. Speeding up The Beach Boys (by about 30%) didn't ruin the track and playing the first few bars together with the Ed Case remix made Mrs IronicHide smile, so I stuck at it.

They also both had men's names in the title. I may or may not add in the trumpet solo from Kevin Carter by Manic Street Preachers later.

It's also the first mashup on here that is entirely a product of Willesden.

Most of the track was made in a maddening day-long slog, starting at morning brekky and going through to sunset without lunch, a cigarette or a hand of canasta to distract me. Such Stakhanovite ways should be taken advantage of by the person who stands back at sunset to survey what has been achieved. In reality, the second half of such prolonged labour will leave one deaf to musical judgement.

Given that the track was a (largely) linnear production (made the first half first, then the middle bit, then the end), this meant a real dive in quality from the first chorus onwards.

The production had begun with what I think of as hand-stitched beats. The Gorillaz remix does not have a bar of percussion in it without some noise - electronic organ or garage MC - over the top. The beat you can hear here for the first 45 seconds was reassembled from individual hi-hats, kicks and snares duplicated from other parts of the original track.

The production ended with a garbled drone of the Wilson Brothers and glockenspiel underneath a rap about "babylon" and "irie". Chocolate and liqorice. All perspective had been lost, all sense of what made good music was now only theory and noise, happening a long way away from my computer desk. The honest thing to do was chop off the dead wood and find a funny line to go out on. Hence: "This is the worst trip I've ever been on".

There are parts of this thing, though, that I like and think work. Such as the second chorus.

There are parts that don't but I shan't point them out to you, dogg.

There's even a part of me that thinks this isn't a half-bad mashup and deserves a bit of exposure to show what young, virile, handsome Londoners can do. If Lowly Works has a single, maybe this is it.

Then again there's a part of me that will forever taste chocolate and liqorice in my ears when I hear this.

What part of it can you taste?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

End My Thrill - Billie Holiday v The Smashing Pumpkins

Billie Holiday 'You're My Thrill' vs The Smashing Pumpkins 'The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning'

Written by Jay Gorney, Sidney Clare, Billy Corgan
Arranged by IronicHide

© Decca 1950
© Warner Bros 1997

Hurm, I'm late to this Watchmen party, aren't I?

(Technically, I probably read it before you did but that's a micturating-up-a-wall contest for another day.)

Remember when the first trailer hit? I do. Yes, it looked like the entire film was in slow-motion but it sure put some of the iconic panels from the book right up on the screen, all moving around and being real and that jazz. Squee.

Given that Watchmen references Bob Dylan, Wagner, Devo and Philip Glass among others, the idea that the trailer ignored all of these in favour of using The Smashing Pumpkins was a joke. Literally. 'The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning' is used in Joel Schumacher's campfest Batman Forever, based on other popular (DC) comic characters. The choice seems to be screaming "For all the literary weight of the source material, this is a comic book movie" (and is even nerdier when you consider that the trailer premiered before Chris Nolan's pompfest The Dark Knight). 

Any old how, the music, with lines chopped to fit the images, sold the trailer to me. I went back to that old bedroom in Brentford and dug out my Batman Forever CD (alongside Tron: Legacy, Slumdog Millionaire, Moonraker, and Heat in the category of soundtracks I own but don't actually have the movie to watch). That Pumpkins track became my jogging tune of choice for the remainder of 2007. Good, chuggy stuff.

Before and after seeing the Watchmen movie, I had, and hold, a lot of reservations about the choices that were made in it (definitely, a chat for somebody else's blog or somebody else's mother to listen to) but there appeared an obvious mashup opportunity to bring the book and the film together, if only to catch the wave of merchandise and popularity in 2008. (Missed that, yeah.) 

The Pumpkins would represent the movie and it was an immediate choice, without review, to use Billie Holiday's 'You're My Thrill' (a favourite tune for the nostalgic and self-doubting retired superhero Nite Owl) with it. Holiday's track was cut, roughly, in to two parts, with the first half inverted to drown the bass notes and bump up the vocal, and the whole song slowed by about 25% to fit. This goes against my normal rule that, when mixing two tracks, it's better to speed up to match the faster song, making the mashup shorter and one's work on display to the public for as little time as possible.

'The Beginning...' was an easy instrumental to make, having at least four different passages each a couple of bars long without Billy Corgan singing. Once chopped, I could use them like Lego bricks to work with Holiday.

I later discovered that Philip Glass's 'Pruit Igoe' (from Koyaanisqatsi, referenced in the book and used in a second trailer) actually fits 'The Beginning...' much better. You live, you learn, babe.

Almost the entire mashup was made in under an hour. That was 2008, I could have caught the brief uber-popularity of Watchmen (remember the t-shirts in HMV?). I could have cobbled together a silly video for YouTube and by now you would be watching me on TV, in awe of my godliness. Them's the breaks.

Unfortunately, I have spent the last three years tweaking this thing. Some tweaks worked - individually highlighting notes from the double bass on 'You're My Thrill' and de-amplifying them, duplicating Holliday's line "Where's my will" and substituting it in to the final chorus (the original changes key at that point). Other tweaks didn't - four hours' work adding 'Pruit Igoe' and Alan Moore reading Rorschach's diary in to the mix. And some tweaks - just how long should the breath before the final chorus be? - I still don't know about.

So, as ever, enjoy or don't. Use the box below to quibble. Or don't. Just be thankful I didn't write this blog without a reference to Dr Manhattan being naked.

(And, yeah, of the many options of a title for this mashup, I went with one that sort-of references the deathwish of one of Watchmen's moral objectivists. Ronch.)