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Music Education

Industrial 101

I’ve had a long term suspicion that many people are interested in noise and industrial music but intimidated by where to start. “Heavy” music has a kind of adolescent fascination to it, with everyone racing to find the most brutal and unforgiving music so they can say they like it. I’m not above this, adrenaline seeking is an excellent pastime, but I expect many people get turned off from these styles by the machismo of that culture, which is a shame because there’s some nuanced and even beautiful music underneath.

However, there isn’t a lot of easily accessible information on how to get into industrial and noise music. The best I could find when I went through my noise phase was this Pitchfork article. While it does a good job of highlighting industrial’s roots in the queer community and addressing some of the style’s faults, it does little to give you an entry point, as it puts some of the heaviest albums available next to party music, with little guidance as to where to start. There is another guide published a few months ago, but I think it’s a little rigid in its definition of noise and lacks diversity, so I’m making my own.

I’m going to give you a number of different paths into industrial music that suit a wide variety of tastes. Look for the one that meets your listening habits best and give these albums a try. Start with the first bullet point and work your way down each list, as they’re sorted by accessibility.

Categories
Music Education

Why Independent Radio Matters

There’s nothing like turning on the radio and hearing one of your favorite songs, especially if said song is not a Top 40 hit or “Highway to Hell,” which for some reason seems to be the song that every commercial rock station loves to air every ten minutes. No wonder we turned to other ways of finding new music. It’s pretty hard to discover fresh artists when the same handful have been played on repeat since 1975.

Steaming services have completely dismantled and redefined the music industry. I wrote a blog about this phenomenon a while back, but algorithms have changed the way we pay artists, listen to music and even write songs. With thousands of curated playlists at the tips of our fingers, it’s beyond easy to find new music nowadays. But where’s the human aspect? That lovely, warm feeling of requesting a track and then hearing it played for thousands of people is impossible to recreate on Spotify. Heck, that feeling is why I decided to become a DJ at WKNC (and why I love getting phone-in requests during my show).

Independent radio has an incredibly rich history. WKNC (then WLAC) started in 1922 as an experiment in NC State’s Communications department. From there, it’s morphed into a hub of community engagement and one of the only public sources of alternative music in the Triangle. Other college radio stations, such as KALX 90.7 for the University of California and Ithaca’s WICB 91.7, have had similar impacts in their own communities. Non-commercial stations that aren’t affiliated with a college or university still remain popular, some of the most notable being those with NPR programming.

Although, when it comes to music, indie radio has seen a significant decline. Stations to the left of the dial are commercial, and most likely owned by one of the major broadcasting companies, such as iHeartMedia or Entercom. These for-profit stations air commercials very frequently and generally stick to playing Top 40 and classics, pandering to the widest audience possible to increase listenership. Many of these stations have forgone live DJs and opted for customized, pre-recorded air breaks instead to cut costs. Turning on the radio doesn’t really feel like turning on the radio anymore. What’s the point of listening to the same songs over and over (with commercials breaks at that), if that personal, human feeling is lost? These types of stations threaten the beauty of radio as we know it.

WKNC has remained one of the most popular stations in the Triangle because we’re keeping the ridiculous, unique fun of independent radio alive. Yes, you may tune in and hear a new (or experienced) DJ fumbling over their words. There might be random, brief silences when someone forgets to turn the “aux” button on. And yet, we all come together for the music. Never mind hearing the same song twice in one day, it’s almost impossible to hear the same song twice in one week. Each DJ is unique in their style and truly takes pride in their sets. We’re a random, silly hodgepodge of alt college kids, but you’ll always find something new on 88.1.

Categories
Music Education

Witch House: Gimmick Or Genre?

I didn’t know what witch house was until very recently. I don’t like House, and the term “Witch House,” seemed to tell me everything: House music but spooky. However, the term kept coming up whenever I googled electronic bands, so I decided to look into it. It turns out that Witch House had very little to do with traditional House. I say “had,” because the genre was short-lived, existing briefly from 2009-2011, and actively tried to prevent any public interest in the genre. There was a mystery afoot, and I had to know more.

Unfortunately, the mystery was entirely artificial. Witch House bands use a series of naming gimmicks and tricks to make finding them by accident next to impossible, ostensibly to keep the style somewhat underground. The most obvious is making their band names next to impossible to google, with names like “///▲▲▲\\\” “ʄ≜uxmuℭica” “†∆†” and the legendary “.” I actually have no idea if those symbols will display properly, so look at the Rate Your Music page on the genre for examples if your computer can’t render Unicode characters. This is (in my opinion) very stupid, and once the term Witch House was created by the band Salem in a Pitchfork interview, effectively driving interest into the scene by making it possible to research, most major players denounced the style and moved on to other styles. It’s the kind of frustrating scene antics that make you want to just listen to Top 40 for the rest of your life.

However, buried under all of this, there’s an actually interesting set of musicians with some cool ideas. Witch House is, despite the name, a genre of instrumental hip-hop born from the Chopped and Screwed style of DJ Screw. Goth electronic musicians pulling from hip-hop was novel at the time, and the auditory aesthetic would go on to influence our current wave of…um…there isn’t a term for whatever the heck Special Interest and Boy Harsher are yet, but give them a listen and you’ll know what I mean.

So, to answer the title question, is Witch House a gimmick or a genre? Well, if we’re being generous, we might say it was a genre with a gimmick attached. The active refusal to enter the mainstream and the lengths some bands went to avoid publicity were an effective marketing strategy, as it drew in far more listeners than would ordinarily care. However, there was music at the core, so I’ll give you the copout answer: Porque no los dos?

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Music Education

Susan Sontag Wrote Music

Alright, so I was doing research for another article and I got down this rabbit hole that I had to share. For those of you who don’t know Susan Sontag, she is a philosopher, author and general-purpose public intellectual from the late 20th century. She is most famous for her studies in popular culture, aesthetics, literary criticism and generally being right about everything, but she also dabbled in fiction history and producing plays for the Bosnian government. Her best musical analog would probably her acquaintance and occasional collaborator Patti Smith, whose liner notes Sontag occasionally wrote; she’s wordy, extremely intelligent and earnestly political. This is to say, she isn’t the very last person you would expect to see on the features list of a techno record, but she’s definitely pretty far down on the list.

However, as the title might suggest, Sontag did write exactly one published song in her career, a song by the American electroclash techno group Fischerspooner. If you’re unfamiliar, which any decent person would be, Fischerspooner was an indie art duo consisting of Warren Fischer, a classically trained musician, and Casey Spooner, an avant-garde theater kid (the worst subspecies of an already unfortunate group) that made artsy techno-tinged synthpop in the brief electropop craze.

Susan Sontag is a featured songwriter and vocalist on the anti-Iraq war song, “We Need a War,” off their second album. I actually have no evidence that Sontag provided the female vocals on this song, but I’m going to say it anyway because it makes me laugh. For reference, Fischerspooner were druggie club rats while Sontag was a poetry lesbian with a Ph.D. in her ’70s who my professors never shut up about. This should not work on any level, and yet the song is actually alright. It works partially because Sontag remains very restrained, singing only a few words and phrases to fill in the gaps of the music. Considering that Iraq War protest music was usually so unbearably on the nose, I appreciate Sontag’s commitment to the lyrical austerity of electronic music. It’s easy to read her lyrics in the context of political work, she is lightly implying that the United States fervor for war was a part of a proto-fascist cultural fetish for dominance and glory, but she manages to keep the words to a minimum, meaning that song keeps a sense of subtlety and taste that was so…so lacking at the time.

Sontag died in 2004, before the album was released, meaning that this is, technically, the swan song of her life. I’m not sure that’s a fitting end to such a widely varied career, but it’s at the very least an unexpected twist in a long life of innovation. Here’s to Susan.

Categories
Music Education

Songs to Weave To

By DJ Lil Witch

With the lockdowns a year ago, people have been getting crafty. Making bread, decorating, and making art was at an all-time high. I want to keep the quarantine hobbies alive and well. I am a fan of textile art, specifically weaving. It is a craft that is meticulous but satisfying. To that end, it is something you can get lost in for hours. I have found it is a great time to listen to albums all the way through. My vinyl collection has been getting more attention since I started weaving. But if playlists are more your speed, I have you covered with a mix I made with a relaxing folk weaving vibe as well as more electronic tracks to craft/weave to.

You can find my weaving playlist on Spotify, but one song to highlight is “Weave Me The Sunshine” by Peter, Paul and Mary. It’s the most thematically appropriate song for weaving in my opinion but your crafting songs could be anything from metal to ambient. Blast these tunes and we can get crafting.

Weave at Home with A Beginners Cardboard Loom Guide

You will need: A piece of cardboard, scissors, measuring tape, pen/pencil and yarn (one thin yarn for warping the loom, and others of varying colors and textures to weave with but other materials like paper or ribbon can be substitutes).

Step 1: Make the Loom

Gather the piece of cardboard, scissors, measuring tape and pen/pencil. Mark the top and bottom with dash marks 0.5 cm apart and 1 cm deep. Following the guides you just made, use your scissors and cut slits being careful to keep them a similar length. Now you have a cardboard loom. You can make these any dimensions but a rectangle is standard.   

All photos are self-taken.

Step 2: Preparing the Loom

For this step, you will take the cardboard loom you just made and some thin yarn or any material you have (I imagine floss could work well). Take the end of your yarn and make a double knot. Slip the knot into the first notch on the top of the loom, the side with the knot will be the back of the loom. Once that knot is secure, pull the yarn down to the first notch on the bottom. Thread the yarn through and around to the next notch on the top. Keep going until the loom is full or the width you want for your weaving. Both sides should be covered in yarn (called the warp).

Step 3: Start weaving

You are almost there. Now it’s time to begin the actual weaving process. Take a piece of yarn and begin threading it over and under the warp. You can leave a tail hanging out. Once you get to the end, bring the yarn to the next row by threading it the opposite way. Make sure to push each line down tight. It takes practice and you might mess up, but you can always pull the yarn out and redo it. After a while, this process will be second nature and intuitive. 

Once you run out of the yarn you started with you can add more of the same kind or a new color. You pull the old yarn to the back of the weaving on a stitch that goes under the warp, tucking it between the weaving and the loom. Then you can take the new yarn and tuck the end of it one strand over from the old yarn. Without tugging too hard, begin weaving with the new yarn, following the pattern you created. There will be two tails in the back but we can deal with that later.

Step 4: Additions 

As you continue weaving you might want to add things like tassels. Tassels are pretty simple. You just need a piece of yarn. Fold it in half so it looks like a lowercase “n”. Take one leg of the “n” and wrap it around and through the middle of the warp yarn. Take the other leg and wrap it through the middle and pull down. These can be over two warp strings or several depending on your preference. Try out a bunch of things and see which you like best. You can do a couple of rows of tassels to bulk it up or you can make shapes with them. 

Above are examples of two tassels I made.

Step 5: Take the Weaving off the Loom

Once you’re happy with your weaving you can cut it off the loom. Turn the loom over to the back and cut the warp in the middle.

Once the strings are cut you can gently remove them from the tabs on the top and bottom of the loom. There are a couple of ways to finish off a weaving. I like to take two strings and tie them into a double knot and go along until all of the strings are tied. It keeps the weaving from unraveling. I like the look of knots across the top and bottom but if you don’t you can tuck the strings into the back of the weaving with a large-eyed needle. As a final step you can take the tails you left out in the back of the weaving and tuck them into the back of the weaving. 

And you are done. You have a beautiful weaving to remind you of all the songs you listened to while making it. You can hang it up, turn it into a patch, bag or pillow. The opportunities are endless.

Categories
Music Education

Behind the Beat: Rising Producers

Photo of a Recording Studio by David Bartus. Free to use with Pexels.

When we discuss rising talent, it is not often that up-and-coming producers are mentioned. Producers hold a vital role in the creation of the music we enjoy and crafting the sounds that define Hip-Hop culture. Thus, it is important that we shed some light on the talent behind the beat.

ENRGY Beats

ENRGY Beats is a producer out of Michigan who has taken the sound of Detroit and Flint to the next level. His beats contain trunk-rattling 808 and a bounce that is infectious to people nearby. ENRGY is known for his production on tracks such as “Triple S” by YN Jay and Louie Ray, “Free Joe Exotic” by BFB Da Packman, and with artists such as Lil Yachty, Rio Da Yung Og, and many others.

Producer Tag: “ENRGY Made This One!”

Low The Great

Low The Great is a producer from Los Angeles, California that has credits with numerous artists from the city. He creates bright piano melodies with drums that punch hard through your speakers. Low The Great is known for songs such as “Mafia Bidness” by Shoreline Mafia, “Proud of U” by 1Take Jay, and has worked with artists such as Drakeo the Ruler, Blueface, and others.

Producer Tag: “Low The Great”

ATL Jacob

Coming from Atlanta, Georgia, ATL Jacob is a force to be reckoned with. He is a master of the trap sound and knows how to make beats that will move a crowd. He is known for his works on songs such as “Get Ugly” by Lil Baby and “Sup Mate” by Young Thug. He also has a number of works with artists such as Future, Lil Durk, Juice WRLD, and a number of other major artists.

Porducer: “ATL Jacob, ATL Jacob”

Groove

Coming out of Durham, North Carolina, Groove made an impact on music with the production of “Sacrifices” off of the “Revenge of the Dreamers 3” album by Dreamville. Groove creates tracks that enhance emotion and are very soothing to the ear. He also recently produced a song for the hit movie, “Judas and The Black Messiah.” One thing is for sure, Groove is a producer to watch out for this year.

Categories
Miscellaneous Music Education

Zamrock

In the 1970s a cultural wave was preparing to wash over an entire nation. It wasn’t disco, the Vietnam War, or even anything to do with America. This wave of change was happening in Zambia, a country in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa. Following their independence from England, Zambia was about to create a new, beautiful style of music that was almost lost forever to the turbulent fallout of the post-colonial African instability. 

Zamrock is a blend of western psychedelic rock with a strong native Zambian influence. In the time that the country had been under English rule, bands like The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd had grown popular in the UK, whose music eventually made its way over to Africa. Musicians initially learned to play the guitar through listening to this music, from which they incorporated their own style to blend the two major characteristics of the music. 

After independence Zambia quickly took advantage of their ability to export copper, which allowed for a bit of economic stability in the country. As younger people found themselves with more money in their pockets, they flooded to bars and nightclubs where Zamrock musicians showcased their work. At this point the genre was so underground that the only way to hear it was to see the bands live. However, this would change as Zambia attempted to strengthen their national identity, part of which involved the mandate that 95% of music over the radio had to be of Zambian origin. As the genre grew, so did the craving for strictly Zambian music. People loved the idea of supporting something that they could call their own, and within a few years Zamrock had tied the country together through its unique and original sound. 

Around this time is when the genre peaked. As the 70s progressed, Zambia saw more and more instability due to external conflict with neighboring countries, the reduced price of copper, and the outbreak of the AIDS crisis. Almost every member of the original Zamrock bands have died because of AIDS, however their legacy lives on through the work that they did to unite a country through music. 

Some of my favorite Zamrock songs include “You Better Know” by Witch, “Khala My Friend” by Amanz, “Running” by Blackfoot, “Changa Namwele” by Machine Gunners, “Born Black” by Chrissy Zebby Tembo,” and “Musi-O-Tunya” by Musi-O-Tunya. 

Hope you guys enjoy the tunes, 
-DJ Chippypants

Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czrPRJehmdA

Categories
Music Education

So What Is Hyperpop Anyway?

Keeping abreast of all the latest buzzwords in music can be disorienting. The growth of internet subcultures has created a bourgeoning vocabulary of microgenres with differences too minute for the average normie to grasp. Metal is usually the butt of the jokes about this (blackened death-doom: a real genre name), but electronica is guilty of much the same sin. If you were to ask me to differentiate Chillwave, Synthwave, and Dreamwave I wouldn’t be able to give you much more than ‘I don’t know man, it’s kind of like Duran Duran with no hooks.’ I’m not sure whether the same can be said about Hyperpop. Love it or hate it, the music is… distinct.

Hyperpop is a quasi-genre of delusional gay screeching atop loud, sometimes unpleasant noises. Big names in the field include 100 Gecs, Charli XCX, Sophie (RIP), Dorian Electra, Slayyyter, Hannah Diamond, etc. The sound is polarizing. Many people love it, and just as many are utterly bewildered as to why someone would be interested in such an unquestionable train wreck of a music scene. Now, considering that delusional gay screeching is both my native genre and primary form of communication, I thought I’d take you on a trip through the historical roots of this kind of music, and see what it is that makes Hyperpop unique.

Industrial

Arguably the earliest precursor to Hyperpop is traditional industrial music. While heavily associated with 90s alternative metal and rock, the original wave of Industrial musicians worked in what we would now refer to electronic music. The progenitors of this sound, British group Throbbing Gristle, were fairly low-volume and subtle. The music was less punishing than the noise music that would come later, and the overall effect was more creepy than destructive. This style was initially tethered to art galleries and the weird hipster parts of West Germany, but it would spill over into dance and metal music in the 80s. Hyperpop sensibilities fall firmly into the dance music side of things, which is where the association between gay and trans subcultures and noise music first developed. Gay clubs in the Chicago area began playing exaggerated and energetic forms of early Industrial music and imported obscure experimental recordings from Europe into America for the first time. This “Wax Track” Industrial is an important touchstone for Hyperpop and related genres.

Electroclash

This is probably the most obvious forerunner to Hyperpop. Electroclash was a very small scene and has been talked to death, so I’ll be brief. At its core, this music is a stylistic fusion of 80s New Wave and 90s Techno that emerged in the early 2000s. It used the technology and sound palate of techno but was more geared towards song structures and weird artistic experiments, the artistic ethos of the new wave. Like New Wave, it also utilized visual and multi-media aspects, and a lot of the hype for Electroclash came as much from breakthroughs in fashion and video as it did from the music. As a result, the term was almost immediately rejected by those it described, and it has gone down as a quintessential example of blogosphere hype that the purveyors of Hyperpop might note.

Electropop

The most recent and significant influence on Hyperpop comes from the barely past-tense genre of Electropop. This is less a genre and more of a descriptor for a specific era in mainstream pop from around 2009-2012. This includes artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kesha, and a host of less remembered and less liked imitators. If you do a quick survey of the age and, let’s be honest, sexuality, of most Hyperpop artists, you probably know where this is going. Most Hyperpop musicians would have been tweens to young adults when this hit the mainstream, and the nostalgia factor for this music bleeds over into Hyperpop. A defining feature of Electropop is the kind of surreal sincerity of its stars. All of these women gave off the impression that they were smarter than the music they made, but they did so without ironic detachment or devaluing trashy pop music. Lady Gaga was also many people of our generation’s introduction to the very concept of gay people, giving her music a kind of cultural importance to a lot of young queer people. I suppose Katy Perry introduced kids to queerness as well, but let’s just say “I Kissed a Girl,” is not even the most questionable song on that topic she released

Hyperpop

So now we get around to the history of Hyperpop itself, and to tell that we have to talk about one Mr. A.G. Cook and the PC Music label. Cook is the founder of PC Music, an indie label in Britain, and the proximate cause for this whole genre. He rose to prominence as the attaché and producer for Charli XCX, and his personal collaboration with SOPHIE cemented this status. From here, he has basically become the A&R master of Hyperpop, identifying relevant artists and networking them together While the label doesn’t have any big-name signees, the orbital of remixes and collaborations orchestrated by Cook encompass basically everyone who could conceivably be called Hyperpop.

Does any of this music have a future? Internet microgenres are pretty limited in their scope, and despite the insistence of many critics, it doesn’t appear any closer to the mainstream in 2021 than it was two years ago. Personally, I have my doubts about whether Hyperpop will ever become the dominant ethos of radio pop. However, this disguises something that’s perhaps relevant: the defining ethos of mainstream music is Hip-hop, and it has been for some time now. I am hardly the first to point out that mainstream pop radio is an increasingly desolate wasteland of people who are not actually famous. The only big names I can really think of to emerge from radio pop in the last 5 years are Dua Lipa, Lizzo, and Billie Eilish, and of those three, Lizzo got her start on the independent hip-hop circuit, and Billie Eilish would honestly be considered a Hyperpop artist if she didn’t have such universal support from the industry. Pop is rapidly becoming a secondary genre, in the vein of country, metal, and what little remains of rock, so why not declare that the independent artists are the scene? In that sense, Hyperpop isn’t Pop Music’s future, it’s pop music’s present.

Categories
Music Education

What Your Music Taste Says About You

For some of us (*cough* WKNC DJs), music is heavily intertwined with our identities. But how did we develop our taste in music? Where did it come from, and what does it mean? Of course, there’s no perfect way to measure personality, but we’ve come pretty close to pinning down what exactly our unique music tastes say about us as individuals.

In 2003, researchers Peter Rentfrow and Samuel Gosling were curious as to how our personalities correlate with our music taste. After conducting a test with over 3,500 people, they were able to identify four major personality categories based on music preferences: reflective and complex, intense and rebellious, upbeat and conventional, and energetic and rhythmic. Since this study, other researchers have refined these categories even further:

1. Refined Observer

Favorite Genres: jazz, blues, folk, classical

Personality Traits: Refined Observers are introspective, analytical and creative. They appreciate music for its complexity, structure and “genius factor.” They also prefer abstract, emotionally rich topics.

2. Heated Defiant

Favorite Genres: heavy rock, metal, grunge, punk

Personality Traits: As you could probably deduce from their title, Heated Defiants tend to be rebellious and explosive, though they may not show those traits outwardly. They also value the spontaneity of new experiences and unconventionality.

3. Easy-Going Conventional

Favorite Genres: pop, country, religious music

Personality Traits: This is for all those G105 listeners out there (no shade). Easy-Going Conventionals tend to be light, warm and optimistic. Rather than looking for the complexity in music, they prefer simplicity and catchy tunes.

4. Outgoing Mingler

Favorite Genres: hip-hop, rap, funk

Personality Traits: Energetic, sociable and friendly, Outgoing Minglers appreciate music with a strong rhythmic and lyrical feel. They’re natural extroverts, enjoying the company of others in all types of gatherings.

5. Serene Enjoyer

Favorite Genres: world music, electronica, soft indie

Personality Traits: Last but not least, the Serene Enjoyer loves music that is unconventional yet chill. They tend to be laid back and unafraid to venture into unknown musical territory. Though they’re very creative, they prefer music that airs on the lighter side of things.

Of course, this is not an extensive measure of personality by any means. Many of us like tons of different genres! Either way, it’s fun to see how your taste might correlate to certain personality traits. What’s your personality type? Do you have more than one? Let us know!

– DJ Butter

Source for the information in this blog.

Categories
Band/Artist Profile Miscellaneous Music Education

Carolina Beach Music

When you bring up the topic of beach music, most people immediately think of The Beach Boys and perhaps lesser known bands such as Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Lively Ones, and The Tornadoes. However, there is a distinct difference between these styles. The Beach Boys had a much more profound “doo-wop” sound to their music. In fact, lead singer Brian Wilson even said that he disliked when people described the Beach Boys as “surfin’ music” just because they were from California. Is his mind, they were their own subset of beach rock. 

The “surf music” that Brian Wilson was so ready to be detached from was pioneered by Dick Dale in the early 1960s. Around this time, Fender had just incorporated the reverb sound into their amps, allowing electric guitars to mimic the sound of a wave. This can be heard in almost every surf rock song. Dick Dale popularized this effect, while adding Mexican and Middle-Eastern influences to give us the surf rock sound we know today. 

While this was all happening on the west coast, a much lesser-known style of beach music was taking hold on the east coast, particularly in North and South Carolina. This style of beach music found its influences through blues and rock R&B. While surf rock exhibits the use of electric guitar, Carolina beach music incorporated more brass instruments, such as the trumpet and the French horn. All of this music was closely associated with “the shag,” which was a popular dance at the time. 

I was first introduced to this music by my parents, so some of my favorites that they used to play include “I Love Beach Music” by The Embers, “Give Me Just a Little More Time” by The Chairmen of the Board, “Ocean Boulevard” by Band of Oz, “Mrs. Grace” by Tymes, “Myrtle Beach Days” by The Fantastic Shakers, and “Summertime’s Calling Me” by the Catalinas. 

Hope you guys enjoy the tunes,
-The DJ Formerly Known As Chippypants

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beach_music#History
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surf_music