How to make a dubstep beat

I’ve always wondered how people make dubstep, so I sauntered over to ye olde YouTube and found some tutorials. There are some really good ones, but so far my favorite and easiest to understand video is this one:

So now I understand, it’s all the same basic FM synthesis stuff that I’ve known about all along, but applied extremely liberally. Take the wobble bass, for instance. I had no idea that it was simply a triangle wave with a low-pass filter triggered by an automation track and dirtied up here and there with some bitrate desampling and other glitchiness. So cool.

But look how much work that is just for 8 measures. A full song would be, what? like 200 measures?

(140bpm / 4 beats per measure * 6 minutes)?

That seems like a lot of work for one song, although I suppose a lot of it is repeated and modified, so it’s not *as* much work. Still, it’s really cool that people invented this kind of music, because we need to scare more grandmothers.

A few of my tunes

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this here before, but I have put a bunch of songs onto Bandcamp. Check it out:

Mogwai’s Les Revenants


Mogwai sounds like Mogwai, and this latest release is simply a re-statement of why Mogwai is awesome and where post-rock went wrong.

Mogwai’s latest effort, the soundtrack to the French television show Les Revenants, is much different than their last full length release Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. But unlike what a lot of reviews have stated, it’s not really too far off of the mark of some of the work they’ve released in the past. The ambient “piano in a cave” sound isn’t new to Les Revenants, as evidenced by Radar Maker (from 1997’s Young Team), Oh! How The Dogs Stand Up (Come On Die Young), or even as recently as Get to France (from 2011’s Earth Division EP).

Seeing them demonstrate their legendarily bombastic show at the Showbox in Seattle was one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to, but my favorite Mogwai album is their subdued Come On Die Young from 1999. Mogwai has put out a lot of cool music over the past decade, not all of it rattle-your-fillings heavy metal dirges.

This is a perfect example of where post-rock went wrong. Name me the biggest names in post-rock (as it is played now), and I’ll show you a handful of bands who wish they were Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As good as GY!BE is/was, it was a mistake, albeit an honest one and certainly not their fault, for their particular brand of instrumental post-modern rock to be the most imitated. If the myriad post-rock bands around the world could show the versatility of Mogwai, the willingness to not pigeonhole themselves, the entire genre would be better off for it.

Their new soundtrack album sounds exactly like Mogwai, which is fantastic.

The Hukilau Song

If anyone says that the Hukilau Song isn’t one of the greatest songs ever written, then that person needs to find an active volcano and dump themselves into it.

I first heard the song a few years ago at a talent show, where my friend Ron (from Hawaii) played it on his obviously well-loved ukelele. It’s not an overly exciting song, but waves of warmth and happiness simply flowed into my earholes as Ron played it.

And now you too can recall to your friends and family how happy you felt when you heard this song.

You’d better, or I’ll find a suitable lava pit to dump you in myself 🙂

Laura’s Twelve Hundred Times

Laura is one of my all time favorite post-rock bands, despite the fact that a lot of people have never heard of them. Epic on the scale of Godspeed, but with less of the extended filler sections (Sorry Godspeed, you’re amazing, but seriously. If you tightened some of your stuff up, I’d listen to you more. As it is, some of the sections within some of your songs are like Robert Fripp’s noodling “improvs” in mid-era King Crimson. Probably fun at the time, but not really that musically interesting. But I digress.)

They’re heavy, soft, quiet, loud, intense and -->Insert post-rock adjective here<-- but to the best possible degree. Also, one of the rare post-rock bands that doesn’t mind having vocals. Andrew Chalmers’ voice kinda reminds me of Greg Lake of King Crimson/ELP, breathy and soothing, but with an edge. (Bonus points for two references to KC in one post! I’m on a roll!)

Anywho, new album. I’m in love!

While I’m at it: Death Cab’s Codes and Keys

While I’m on a roll, I’ll also let you know that I’m not disappointed by the new Death Cab album, despite that they employ many of the same techniques in their new album that Bon Iver does.

Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys album cover

There is a lot of reverb on the new album, and Ben Gibbard’s voice is pushed to the back quite significantly compared to their other releases. Codes and Keys is fairly heavily produced and mellow, despite the fact that the last we’d heard from Death Cab was the rocker “Meet Me on the Equinox” single from that stupid vampire movie.

And this is not a bad thing.

Gibbard somehow seems to fit singing about relationships with heavy production much better than most singer/songwriters, after all, this is the same singer who went completely digital for the Postal Service. Codes and Keys isn’t Give Up, and it’s not heavily techno or anything, but that final spit shine production on Gibbard’s voice and on the album benefit Death Cab’s music far more than it hurts.

Their last major release, the Open Doors EP, was very dry and the recording of Ben Gibbard suffered. It exposed the weaknesses in Gibbard’s songs, which weren’t particularly strong, and expected his voice to carry the album, which I don’t think he was up to.

Codes and Keys, however, let’s Gibbard sit back into the music and let it wash over him and the listener, absorbing you into the music and helping you along in the musical journey.

It’s not Plans or Transatlanticism, it’s not Give Up, but it’s good.

New Bon Iver Album. Kinda sucks.

I know everyone is all ga ga over the new self-titled Bon Iver album, and it’s sacrilege to denounce the bearded paragon of hipster virtue, but honestly, it kinda sucks.

Bon Iver's Self Titled Album cover

For Emma, Forever Ago

What made their debut album For Emma, Forever Ago so good was the “I was locked away in a cabin for months alone and this is what I came out with”-vibe. Of course, that IS exactly what Justin Vernon did when he made it. It was earthy, it was sad, it was melancholy, and while it was a bit pretentious, it never looked at itself and said, “Gee, I am a cool record.”

“I am Bon Iver. I am a cool record. Love me. Did you notice the beard?”

Bon Iver’s eponymous album, however, is so self-aware that I never feel comfortable with its pretensions. When I hear much of this album, I go “oh no, not again with the reverb”. Too many effects, too many ‘verbs, too much autotune, too much production. I would go so far as to state that I think Justin Vernon was channeling his inner Peter Cetera on the ballad Beth/Rest, with the sweeping reverby guitar, the saxophone, and the heavy-handed electric piano. It’s like they hired the producer of Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings”.

Please, put away the 80s

I want to hear Justin Vernon strumming his dirty guitar, bearing his soul into a dirty mic. I do NOT want to hear 1980s guitar solos rehashed with a lap steel in the background, Justin Vernon auto-tuned and soul-less. Listening to this album makes me tired and weary, wishing that they could just strip off the bull crap and let the songs shine through.

Watch these, and you will agree

Seriously, how can you compare this:

With this?

That last song sounds like REO Speedwagon!

Opening for Grand Hallway

Grand Hallway poster

I’m excited to open for the band Grand Hallway from Seattle. Hope the show goes well!