Paul Wall feat. Big Pokey - “Sittin’ Sidewayz (Clams Casino Remix)”
The original version of Paul Wall’s signature hit “Sittin’ Sidewayz" is couched firmly in the Houston / Memphis style, with a thick, viscous bass undulating beneath a loopy little keyboard hook. It’s such an ardent disciple of it’s predecessors that its hook isn’t just a chopped-and-screwed sample, its a chopped-and-screwed sample of a line from a DJ Screw track. It’s a musical devotional candle to all things UGK, Three 6, and slowed-and-throwed.
It’ll probably come as no surprise that producer Clams Casino’s remix of the track jettisons all of that, save the sample in the hook. Clams’s is the sort of artist who has such an identifiable style that you’ve probably already imagined what this remix would sound like before you even heard it. You probably imagined a flowing, gauzy remix that somehow makes Paul Wall coexist naturally with an Iasos sample or something.
Instead, he basically turns in into a mid-00s crunk joint????
I know! I’m as surprised as you are! Clams’s place as the originator and figurehead of a distinct style has, in a way, pigeonholed him. His music is so distinct and revolutionary that it’s actually jarring to hear him make something that doesn’t fit within the Clams-Casino-shaped frame we’ve all unconsciously put him in.
And yet, his remix of “Sittin’ Sidewayz” is pure 2004 Atlanta strip club crunk. Who knew that Clams could use crisp synth snaps, bass booms, and staccato synth stabs as well as anyone? You could totally pass this off as a Lil Jon track. No one would blink an eye if you somehow timetraveled back ten years and threw this on a playlist between YoungBloodz’s “Damn!" and Petey Pablo’s "Freek-A-Leek.”
Essentially, this is a track that’s remarkable because of it’s relationship to the other work of the remixer, not that of the original artist.
There will never be a consensus on which of the endless versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is the best rendition of the song. But no matter if you prefer the original, or the Jeff Buckley version, or the John Cale version, or any other version of the song, I think we can all agree on one thing: Bono’s version is the worst. I mean, have you pressed play on the track above yet? You really don’t even need get any farther than the first line / trumpet blat. This thing is obviously a trainwreck from the get-go.
"Yes!" Bono replied. "But, only if I can experiment with trip-hop!"
"Wonderful! There’s no way that could ever ever ever in a million billion years not work out! Get to work!"
Ugh ugh ugh, the whole track is just Bono doing open-mike-night growl poetry over what sounds like the first beat he ever made on a drum machine. I’d make a William Shatner joke here, but Shatner’s recordings are just so much better than this Hindenburg of a track. And the only time Bono stops being a cartoon of a coffee house spoken word act is during the chorus where he switches to an keening falsetto that’s somewhere between a bad Robert Plant impression, and a hawk screaming. And that trumpet part? What is that? Is the trumpeter really really really drunk? Or a toddler?
I really wish I had a time machine so I could back and watch all of Bono’s yes-men listen to this song and then struggle to come up with ways to praise it. You know that he’s been in that super-rich / super-successful zone where no one will disagree with him, so a whole bunch of people must have had to lie to his face about this fucking nightmare of a track. Then I would punch all of them in the face for letting this musical Bubonic plague out into the world.
Rappers love to promise blockbuster collaborations, but they seem to hate actually fulfilling those promises. Sure, every now and then a team-up will actually happen but those cases are few and far between. For every Watch the Throne, there are a dozen T-Waynes, or EarlWolfs. One rapper, though, is particularly notorious for promising collaborations that never actually end up happening: DOOM.
You want proof? Where’s the new Madvillian record that he’s promised us once a year for the past decade? That’s just the reality of being a fan of Daniel Dumile’s music. You never know if he’s actually gonna do what he says, no matter if it’s actually showing up at a concert or making a full-length collaboration with Ghostface Killah.
And that’s what we’re here to talk about today. Though they’ve been talking about it off and on fornearlythreeyears, all we’ve actually heard from DOOMSTARKS1 is the track above and a “Madvillianz Remix" of it.2 Although, I would advise you not to get your hopes up about this project, the track is fairly enticing.
Aside from the simple thrill of hearing these two luminaries spitting rhymes on the same track, “Victory Laps” is a very promising blueprint for DOOMSTARKS. The beat (produced by DOOM himself) is ominous, endlesly striving, and rather RZA-esque, full of murky percussion and ghostly vocal samples. It sounds like getting chased through a dark, foggy alleyway by an unknown pursuer. DOOM and Ghost’s verses are, of course, excellent. DOOM opens with a verse that plays with idea of circles. On particularly inspired line equates the idea of “surround sound” with running laps around an opponent.
While their villain / hero alignment and the general competitiveness of rap might lead you to expect that DOOM’s opponent would be Starks, it’s clearly from the get go that this a “+" collaboration not a "vs." one. There’s a clear camaraderie between the two from the get go, with Ghost throwing in a few ad-libs during DOOM’s verse, and DOOM ending his verse by introducing Ghost. Ghostface’s verse is also worthy of praise, particularly the line about how his "…hits be immaculate and accurate" which is an interior rhyme for the ages.3
After that, DOOM returns for one more knotty, assonance-filled verse that’s full of the unique phrasings and tightly woven rhymes that’s he’s known for. He sounds as locked in as he’s ever been, and he doesn’t get lazy or sloppy with his delivery. I’m tempted to say that he’s making sure he holds his own against Ghost, but I think that one track isn’t enough to make that assessment.
Ultimately though, “Victory Laps” is a bit of empty promise. Each month that passes since July 2011 makes it seem less and less likely that this project will ever see the light of day. As enticing and exciting as this track is, I’m not going to get my hopes up.
But, I’d love to be proved wrong.
1. If you’re not a comic book / Wu Tang fan, their name is a combination of DOOM’s (obviously) and “Tony Starks” a nickname that Ghost has used for years. Both are derived from Marvel Comics characters. DOOM’s is a reference to the villain Doctor Doom who wears a metal mask similar to Dumile’s. “Tony Starks” is a slightly altered form of “Tony Stark” the alter ego of Iron Man.
2. And technically, they’ve been talking about a collaborative album of some form since 2005.
3. He also makes what seems to be a shout out to former Denver Broncos quarterback (and current handball player) Jake Plummer. While it isn’t a great line, Jake the Snake is one of those sports figures that I have an odd amount of affection for, so I really love that reference.
Jay-Z on Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”
On his still startlingly confessional track “Big Brother”, Kanye West rapped “On that ‘Diamonds’ remix I swore I spazzed / Then my big brother came through and kicked my ass.” He is, of course, referring to Jay-Z’s guest verse on the remix of Kanye’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” from his star-cementing sophomore album Late Registration.
But frankly, Yeezy, I’m going to have to disagree. In my opinion, it’s hard to call “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)” anything but a tie.
The case for Jay is that his verse is lyrically dazzling in a technical sense. There’s rap stunting and then there’s rap stunting, if you get what I mean. Sure, sure, sure, he’s basically just talking about how he and his boys are the best, but he’s doing it in fresh, vivid imagery and clever wordplay. He’s comparing himself to the Rock of Gibraltar and talking about how he’s so rich that his hypeman’s a millionaire. And, of course, there’s “I’m not a businessman / I’m a business, man” line, which might be Jay’s best line ever. Would you be that surprised if a past-tense version of that was Jay’s epitaph? Basically it’s just a damn good guest verse.
But did he kill Kanye on this track? I’d say no. While Jay’s verse is all about lyrical backflips, Kanye’s is remarkable because of the ambiguity and self-conflict that it contains. It captures the rather elusive emotion that comes from recognizing a flaw or negative aspect of something you love. Specifically, he feels conflicted because he loves diamond jewelry, but he’s aware of the exploitation and violence that can come from mining them. He asks “How can something wrong make me feel so right?” What I particularly like about the verse is that it isn’t about how blood diamonds are bad. It takes that as a given after its first few lines and instead examines his own complex emotional reaction to it. In doing so, he presents a verse that’s far more interesting, engaging, and far reaching than a direct lecture on the subject. His verse engages not only with the issue of conflict diamonds, but also with any other issue that elicits the same feelings. This is a damn good verse, and no one got their ass kicked on this track.
But ultimately, comparing the two leaves out the best part of the track: the transition between their verses. Kanye starts the second verse with a few couplets about conflicts or splits in the Roc-a-Fella family, ending with him imitating a reporter asking “What up with you and Jay, man? / Are y’all okay, man?” Then, the beat abruptly vanishes as Jay cuts in with the answer “Yup. / I got it from here K, damn,” before launching into his own verse as the beat resumes. It’s the rap equivalent of a smash cut, launching the listener out of one verse and into the second. It’s a brilliant move that still works even if you’ve seen Jay’s feature credit on the track. You just don’t see sudden left turns like that within verses themselves that often in hip hop. I honestly think it’s the best part of the track, and also the most telling moment of a song that owes its greatness to both of the rappers it’s credited to.
Decca and the Dectones - “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
If you’ve never read about the Mitford sisters, I’d highly recommend that you do so. The offspring of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and his wife Sydney, they were a hybridization of eccentrics and debutantes who wound up becoming fixtures of British society during the interwar period, and stayed there for the rest of their lives. The sisters’ political views are particularly infamous, with different sisters ascribing to Fascism, Communism, and Nazism with what can only be described as fangirlish fervor.1 Perhaps the most famous anecdote regarding the sisters states that while Unity (a Nazi) and Jessica (a communist) shared a bedroom, they drew a line down the center of the room, and competitively decorated in favor of their cause, eventually going so far as to etch swastikas and sickle-and-hammers into their windows with diamond rings.
Today, we are interested in the latter of those two sisters: Jessica, who went on to be a noted author, journalist, critic, and political activist. She also became a far, far less noted musician far, far later in life.
Before we get to her musical works, allow me to touch briefly on her writing and activism. Her nonfiction book The American Way of Death was a scathing take-down of the American funeral home industry, which she viewed as exploitative and excessively expensive. Since its publication it has gone on to be considered a major work in the creative nonfiction canon.2 Equally popular is Hons and Rebels, her account of her and her siblings’ childhood, from which that anecdote in the first paragraph of this post originated. One of her biggest fans is Harry Potter series author JK Rowling, who even named her daughter in honor of Mitford. She was also a longtime far left activist. In the course of that advocacy, she wound up refusing to testify before Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, and once spent a night pinned down in a church by the KKK with a group of civil-rights leaders and supporters that included Martin Luther King, Jr.
At the age of seventy-seven she recorded two covers under the name “Decca” (an old family nickname for her) supported by a “kazoo-and-cowbell orchestra" called the Dectones. One was a rendition of the Strawbs’ "Grace Darling.” The other was the song above: the Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
Luckily for us listeners, the “kazoo-and-cowbell” descriptor appears not to be a particularly binding one. Mitford’s backing band includes piano, drums, backup vocals, and guitar, along with the occasional cowbell hit, and some surprisingly bearable kazoo.3 Instrumentally, the track isn’t a major departure from the original, save a slight dip into lite-rock / easy listening territory. The most major change (aside from Mitford’s vocals) is that they replace the song’s two most striking elements: the literal strikes of a hammer on an anvil in the chorus, and the early Moog synthesizer in its outro. The hammer strikes are replaced by the group’s supposedly signature cowbell, and the synth part is performed on an almost country-n-western twanging slide guitar.*
But, the real focus here is on Mitford. Her voice clearly betrays each and every one of her seventy-plus years, equal parts creaky and brassy. But on the other hand, her performance does have an absolutely ageless sense of giddy energy, and an impossibly endearing commitment to her part. She’s utterly locked in, throwing herself into the track (and particularly into the chorus) with a gleeful abandon. Her performance may not be the sort that you appreciate or enjoy on a technical level, but I find her enthusiasm both winning and admirable. Any artist who’s able and willing to undertake such a left-field project at such an advanced age is worthy of commendation, regardless of the quality of the finished project. The life of an artist is an endless battle against complacency, and I’d call this track a clear victory for Jessica Mitford.
1. This footnote is just to stress that no one at Dolphin/Shark is a Nazi or likes Nazis or thinks Nazis are cool or has any positive opinion about the National Socialist Party. Once again: Nazis suck. Hitler sucks. All that stuff is awful. (Oh and fascism sucks too.)
2. BIH and I both studied it while getting our undergraduate degrees.
3. The supposed kazoo parts honestly sound more like soft, wordless harmonizing to me, but what do I know. I mean, I’m no kazoo expert! Who knows, man? Who really knows? Does anyone really know anything? [NOTE: This footnote was written by a high college freshman in a MADtv sketch.]
*ADDITIONAL BIH FOOTNOTE: The original track actually also contains a very twangy electric guitar part, an example of the Beatles’ late period interest in American country music that can also be seen in tracks like “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “I Will.”
One of the highlights of Drake’s fantastic 2011 single “Marvin’s Room” is the piano outro by pianist Chilly Gonzales, one of the songs co-writers and one of Drake’s fellow native Torontonians.1 It’s a delicate and haunting riff on the song’s central melody, and allows the track to gracefully fall away. As a result, the song feels slightly open-ended, trailing off rather than saying a firm “Goodbye” (kind of like a drunk phone call…).
If you love that track (and that section of that track) as much as I do, then you’ll probably enjoy the version I’ve posted above. It’s a short, Erik Satie-esque piano riff on the the main melody of “Marvin’s Room.” And while it’s a completely different take than the one that ends the original track, it definitely captures the same mood. The higher notes playing the melody cut through the murky lower notes. Gonzales seems to be mimicking the cloudy bass / distinct treble production style of Drake’s producer Noah “40” Shebib.
Mostly, though it’s just a pleasant little trifle that doesn’t demand that much attention or focus. While that may sound like an insult, I assure you that it isn’t. Sometimes a certain modesty or lack of overwhelming ambition can be quite nice, and that’s definitely the case here.
1. Isn’t Drake’s unerring Canadian pride really endearing? He seems like a nice young man. Also, this post was written by my grandma.
Well, folks, here it is: the worst feature in the history of rap. Yes, more cringe-tacular than Swizz Beatz’s verse on “Lord Lord Lord.” Worse than that dude on Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. It’s even worse than every Gudda Gudda feature. And that’s fucking saying something.
It’s Marilyn Manson’s guest spot on “Pussy Wet” from Gucci Mane’s Diary of a Trap God mixtape.2
It’s so bad.
So very, very bad.
Don’t even listen to this unless you want to hear the mall metal icon croak out epically lame and monumentally gross lines about vaginas. I mean the chorus is just him yowling the phrase “Gettin’ pussies wet” over and over and over and over again. I’m now convinced that hell is a place where they play that chorus on loop forever while Manson and Gucci stare at you nodding their heads and smiling “can you believe how dope this is?” smiles.
Surprisingly the weirdest part about this track isn’t Manson’s presence; it’s how excited Gucci seems to be about this track.3 Listen to him. Guwop’s fucking hyped! He loves this! You can practically hear him beaming during his verses. For some reason that’s unfathomable to me, Gucci seems to be invigorated by trading lines about solid gold pussies and cameltoes. Apparently the dude who made “The Beautiful People" and the one who made "Lemonade" are just unlikely kindred spirits. Gucci once said of the collab:
That’s my boy man. We got the dopest record in the world, me and Marilyn. Me and him got one of the craziest records ever made. We made it whatever day Spring Breakers came out in Cali. He came to the sneak premiere, and after we did the red carpet and watched the movie, me and him went to the studio and made us a record. That’s the day that we met and began being friends. He’s cool as hell, I fuck with him hard. He ain’t the averagest white boy. He got swag. Me and him together, he don’t get on my nerves. I can stomach being around him. He cool.
I don’t know what to tell you. At least it seems like they had fun making this unbearable abomination.
1. This track is also known as “Fancy Bitch (Pussy Wet)” depending on the source.
2. Official List of “Trap [Position of Authority]” Titles That Haven’t Been Used As Mixtape Titles Yet: Trap Chancellor, Trap Empress, Trap Viceroy, Trap Alderman, and Trap Poet Laureate.
3. Then again, he did do a full-length collaboration with V-Nasty, so….
Napoleon XIV - “!Aaah-Ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht”
Last night I watched Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris.1 In one of the film’s pivotal scenes, Soderbergh employed one of my favorite film-making tricks: creating a quiet sense of eeriness by filming action backwards, then reversing the film.2 It’s a maneuver that you see in everything from Carrie to Mad Men to Evil Dead. This technique gives the scene a slight sense of the uncanny. It looks off, but if you aren’t privy to this camera trick, you can’t quite put your finger on it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll come back to this in just a minute.
I think it’s quite likely that you’re drawing a blank on the name “Napoleon XIV” but you’re almost certainly intimately familiar with his most famous track. Here’s a hint: read the name of the track I’ve posted above backwards.
Yep, he’s the guy behind one of the most notorious novelty recordings in history: “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” I used the term “recording” because it’s really more a feat of sonic manipulation than it is an actual musical composition.3 Aside from the song’s vocals, it’s solely comprised of a basic snare and tambourine beat occasionally joined by the sound of wailing sirens. But the real appeal of the song was how its vocals were manpulated.
When this track was released in 1966, listeners were still new to the idea of manipulating the sound of a recording in a way that couldn’t be produced live. They’d already heard the sound of vocals that were pitched up to impossible levels by speeding up a recording on Ross Bagdasarian’s Alvin and the Chipmunks songs, but this track took that technique another step forward. It featured vocals that were altered by a variable frequency oscillator, which was able to shift the pitch of a recording without changing the tempo. The result is that the pitch of the vocals on this track go up and down as the song goes along in a smooth glissando.
But, once again, I’ve fallen off track. We’re not here to talk about ”They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” We’re hear to talk about “!Aaah-Ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht,” its b-side.
As you’ve probably already deduced, “!Aaah-Ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht” is just “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” played backwards. And I kind of love it. You see, Jerry Samuels (aka Napoleon XIV) didn’t just make the song on the b-side a reversed version of the one on the opposite side of the record, he even made the label on the b-side a mirrored version of the a-side label. Click on the picture of the record above, and you’ll see that even the Warner Bros. logo is reversed. While just putting ”!Aaah-Ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht” on the b-side might have come off as lazy, the fact that he made that side of the record a complete mirror elevates it into a knock on the fourth wall. Oh, you put the record on backwards? Well then it’s gonna play backwards! It’s subverting the expectations of the listener in a way that calls attention to the nature of its medium: the single song record backed by another, lesser song.
But, what about the song itself? Divorcing ”!Aaah-Ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht” from the way it was originally presented is tough, but that’s the job I signed up for. You gotta make sacrifices when you write about music on the internet, you know?
That brings me back to that first paragraph. (The one you read a few hours ago? About reversing film? Ring any bells? Eh? Eh?) Well, I think this track possess a similar quality. While the original is jokey and cheesy, the reversed version takes on a strangely menacing quality. The reversed vocals become a terrifying rant of glossolalia, and the drumbeat turns into a jackbooted march to hell. The beat of the original has a slightly militaristic bent to it that’s amplified for some reason when its reversed. Perhaps the slight crescendo on the drums invokes the sound of people marching in step. And, of course, the sirens certainly contribute a sense of panic and paranoia.
The result is that the reversed version actually elicits a visceral reaction, while the original mostly elicits eyerolls. Between its creepiness, and the way it attempts to break the fourth wall, I honestly think it’s the superior version of the track.
(Feel free to make a joke about how they need to come and take me away, if you’d like.)
1. I’ll stick my thoughts on the movie here in case you want to hear them. If not, you can skip this footnote.
It’s difficult to keep from comparing this film to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, even though it’s technically another adaptation of the same novel rather than remake of the film. It certainly bests Tarkovsky’s glacial pacing, but does so to the degree that it seems rushed. Both are very thoughtful films, and while Tarkovsky may have given the viewer too much time to consider it, that now seems preferable to the dearth of breathing room in Soderbergh’s version.
Furthermore, Soderbergh’s film spells out its religious themes to an almost painful degree. (Especially that one shot that invokes Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. Woof.) While Tarkovsky’s version certainly had religious undertones, they were expressed in a far, far more subtle and, in my opinion, more effective way.
Finally, on a purely technical level, Tarkovsky is a director whose films are full of visual poetry. His Solaris opens with a shot of billowing seaweed that foreshadows the undulating surface of its titular planet. Soderbergh is a director whose style is the polar opposite of that. His films have a cold, surgical precision to them, even when they aren’t set in a sterile, all-metal-everything future. There’s not an objective way to cite one of these approaches as superior to the other, but subjectively, I prefer the former.
I’d be interested to hear the reaction of someone who hasn’t subjected themselves to a glacially-paced, forty-year-old Russian film that’s nearly four hours long. So feel free to message your thoughts if you fit that bill.
2. BIH and I just really love reversing video footage in general. I think anything we’ve ever filmed, we’ve wound up watching backwards, including all of the 40 minute long film we made in high school.
3. I know I know I know. We’re more than a half century past when John Cage taught us to embrace all sound as music, and dismissing something as “not music” is basically the most bullshit opinion a person can have. Ex: Basically anyone that dismisses rap as a whole. And this song is sort of kind of proto rap, right? But anyway, I’m not making a value judgment on Napoleon XIV here. I’m just saying that the appeal of the song lies mostly in the then novel way that he manipulates his voice. (Although the chorus of the original is strangely hooky.)
4. I just want to point out that the tags on this piece are a perfect summation of Dolphin/Shark. You wanna talk about a 1960s novelty song? Well, you just have to reference John Cage, Michelangelo, and Andrei Tarkovsky.
Way back in the heady days of 2009, the year of swine flu, chillwave, and Avatar,1 back before the massive “212” and the endless internet drama events,2 Azealia Banks was just a New York City high-schooler with a MySpace page, and rap aspirations. Using the moniker Miss Bank$, she recorded the track above over a beat by skully riddem dancehall producer 77Klash, and oh my god it is so filthy.
Really, man, be super careful about playing this song. If you grandma accidentally hears this track, her poor little heart will explode and you’ll feel eternally guilty for being the reason that “Raunchy Rap Lyrics” were listed under Cause of Death on her death certificate.
<Honestly, I don’t think that its possible to overstate how obscene this track is. I mean, it’s called “P-U-S-S-Y” and Azealia isn’t exactly Will Smith. But this track gives Khia a run for her money.
ANYWAY, in hindsight, this track looks like a clear predecessor of the sort of music Azealia’s made since she started using her real name, and blew the fuck up. She always had a clear predilection for rapping over dance-influenced bangers, and she already had a deft way with words. You can see the sound repetition that eventually became her trademark is already starting to crop up in lines like “I’m me from the feet to the stitchin’ in the weave.”
But, she still had a way to go. The rapid-fire, syllable-spewing flow that made her later tracks so distinctive is wholly absent here, as is her wild vocal shifts. Instead, she goes with a more laidback (and far less distinctive) style. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with what she’s doing on the mic here, it’s easy to see why this wasn’t the song that catapulted her into the spotlight.
Thus, as is often the case with an artist’s early work, “P-U-S-S-Y” is a work that shows glimmers of what’s to come, and also highlights the variables that they needed to discover before coming into their own.
If you’d like to download it, it’s available here.
1. In descending order of terribleness. (ZING! ZING! ZING! It’s funny because I implied that two slightly maligned cultural artifacts were worse than and epidemic that killed more that 14,000 people! ZING-A-ZING-ZING!)
2. From her Wikipedia:
"Banks has also taken part in feuds with fellow musicians T.I., Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, The Stone Roses, Iggy Azalea, Kreayshawn, ASAP Rocky, Rita Ora, Shystie, Sam Sparro, Jim Jones, Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Disclosure, Funkmaster Flex, Lily Allen, Dominique Young Unique, Pharrell, past managers such as Troy Carter and Dave Holmes, and novelist Amanda Brunker."
Her page also details feuds with Perez Hilton, Angel Haze, Diplo and Baauer. At this point, couldn’t you believe that Azealia got into an internet fight with just about anyone? “Azealia Banks Slams Gordon Lightfoot!” “Azealia Banks Goes on Anti-Casey Affleck Rant!” “Azealia Banks Attacks Brobee From Yo Gabba Gabba on Twitter!”
In 1994 Mark Malamud and Eric Gavriluk approached renowned record producer and ambient musician Brian Eno to create a commissioned piece. Eno once described the proposed project by saying:
“The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 31/4 seconds long.”1
They wanted him to create the sound that played when you started up Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system. He accepted.
After nearly a hundred drafts, Eno finally came up with the micro-song above.2 I expect most anyone reading this will have some sort of faint memory of this sound, unless you were briefly Amish during the mid-nineties, or were born after 1995 and are some sort of computer using infant or something.3 But, I’m sure that you’ve now listened to the mp3 of it that I posted above and have considered it in a completely new light. After all, how often to stop to appreciate the beauty of the sounds of machines turning on?
Instead, I’d like to off this as an example of how constraints can actually help the creative process. Everyone bemoans the existence of editors and producers who strangle the creativity of artists by not giving them full control of a project. And that can certainly happen. But, other times, constraints can actually help an artist, by giving them a distinct problem to overcome or a clear framework on which to base their work.
Eno has said that he took the project because he was having trouble with his own music, and found that the limitations of the Microsoft project helped him gain creative momentum that allowed him to finish those other compositions. Instead of limiting him, only having a few seconds to work did just the opposite.
Remember, kids, no matter what your punk friends say about corporate mercenary jobs, they can apparently sometimes wind up having a positive impact on your creative life.