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Monday, 27 June 2011

Blue Air Tonight - New Order v Phil Collins

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - Blue Air Tonight.mp3

Blue Monday - New Order vs In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins

Written by Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Phil Collins

Arranged by IronicHide

(c) Factory 1983, Virgin 1981

You remember that song about the song about the guy who saw the guy drowning? That was me. I'm your biggest fan.

Drowning. Not singing a song. Phil Collins saved me from drowning.

I'm glad you asked.

Ever since this year's ZooFights began, with its 1980s themes, I knew I would use Blue Monday by New Order. Duff-duff-dededededede-duff. Unlike Creep or Teen Spirit, it's an overplayed song that doesn't get old or doesn't fade in to musical wallpaper. It just keeps going. It's an enigma. And, best of all for a mashup maker, it has long stretches of ponderous instrumentation with an atomic-clock-accurate beat.

Ever since I got sneaky previews of the contestants, Teslacorn was one (of three) that I was teeth-grindingly excited about making something for. Dr Manhattan crossed with My Little Pony? Winning.

The good thing about making an '80s mashup about an animal that flies is there are a gorillion songs with 'air' in the title. There was no trial-and-error procedure, I was always going to mix this with Walking In The Air by Aled Jones, which I'd already started manipulating.

I'd taken the first verse and chorus, bounced them down a couple of times, inverted and duplicated, and put through a filter that left pretty much just the piano and Jones' voice floating in this reverb-heavy ether. It sounded like it was floating in from a mile away.

The snag was that, although Walking In The Air and Blue Monday sound in time (without much manipulation), they're not. Two bars of Blue Monday is about 1.8 seconds long. A bar of Walking In The Air is 1.2. Laying one over the other, they will sync up but in an artificial tempo of 3/8, sort of.

The other snag is that, after weeks of planning this, getting excited with early experiments, and cutting up nearly eight minutes of Mancunian proto-electro, one tends to go a bit blind to what does and doesn't work. The night before I was due to publish, I played the track to Mrs IronicHide (my intermittent quality controller). She put me straight. Like a surly child without cake, I didn't speak to her until the next morning.

She was, however, quite right. A few days before, I'd published a track before it was anywhere near finished and regretted it. Now I had about four working hours to come up with something else entirely. Drowning, not waving.

So, of all the songs earmarked 'For Flying Beests' in my home folder, Collins' number was one of the first to be rejected. Speeding it up (from about five minutes to three) to fit Blue Monday made it sound ridiculous. The last chorus after the Big Drum Bit, would not sync at all.

Later, in frothing desperation as the metaphorical salty waves dragged me down, I gave it a last whirl and realised something: Whether on purpose or not, there's an extra half-beat in the first two bars of the last chrous. Go on, listen to In The Air Tonight. Right after Those Drums, there's a false step before the snare picks up the timing.

The rest of the song is easy to work with. An inversion trick won't isolate the vocals but doing it and giving the bass a boost will go some of the way. Beyond that, taking a profile of the opening bars and then cancelling that sound in the rest of the song will leave you with an (affected, metallic-sounding) acapella plus that 'pock' percussion sound that marks the on-beat.

So, that was doubled up with a muted original version of In The Air Tonight, and put over the Blue Monday framework I'd built for Aled Jones. Though the verses could have been, kept, something had to be chucked to keep this thing short and everybody knows the chorus (and I am a sleazy commercial whore desperate for exposure). Though, for the sake of not being called lazy, the three choruses you hear are all from different bits of the song, not duplicated.

That was it. The man from Hounslow (where I used to live and mash, and Hendrix recorded two albums) had thrown me a life ring, wrapped an arm around my chest and pulled me to the shore (of the Thames, somewhere between Kew Bridge and Olde Isleworth).

Pulling seaweed and prophylactics from my hair, I realised I would have no time to finish a mash begun for Teslacorn's opponent, Achilles Eel.

Luckily, for you and I, the eel also flies and is electric. So, please, consider this mashupas a soundtrack to the fight between horse and eel, rather than dedicated to either.

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