Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coming Home by Tavius

I have to first express my gratitude to Tavius for being the first artist to take part in this project.  I was put in touch with him by a friend of mine and when I asked which song he wanted me to listen to, Tavius told me to take a look at "Coming Home".  Click here to listen to the track that I'm going to be discussing.

If you would like to submit a track for me to review, please send me a message at 

One of my favorite parts of this endeavor is the fact that I have no idea what's going to be coming through my speakers when I hit that play button - no idea for style, tempo, tone, or artist intent. I just get to enjoy the creation without any bias.

So I have to say my first reaction to what I saw was "A 9 minute song!  Ok this should be interesting."  As it started to play I liked intro right off.  Beginning a song subdued and with some subtlety is never a wrong way to go, and in fact has been proven to not only draw a listener in, but also get them to turn up the song before the bigger hits in the music begin.  By getting the listener to adjust that volume dial at the very beginning of the song, the artist/engineer can almost create a musical bubble when the song finally reaches the first peak, as if to surround your listener and really pull them into the song.

It was the next few minutes that I found myself getting a bit lost.  I kept hearing the same looped creations cycling through nearing just about 4 minutes in. The loops in and of themselves I found to be creative.  Incorporating several different tones and textures for the drums, pulling string pads in and out while generally having a central tone in either keys or strings that would carry underneath the arpeggiated melodies. 

What caused me issue with the song was more about the fact that it never actually went anywhere.  There was no build beyond those first few seconds of the introduction.  Once that was over it was just transitioning from one loop into the next.  The transitions were not bad ones (as the artist has voiced concern over them before when I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted me to listen for), but they were so frequent it made it very difficult to really dive into any portion of the song because as soon as I got a feel for a loop and its beat, I was listening to the next transition and loop. 

I would have loved to see these loops spread out over more time.  Taking each one individually and as opposed to cycling them as frequently as was done, really spend the time to build them.  They have a great simplicity to them in the orchestration that makes this a very easy song to listen to, even for someone that isn't generally a fan of electronic music, but it lost me on the fact that there was no build or climax for the music.  The song transitioned in and then stayed on an even line for the next few minutes before hitting the final transition out at around 8:45.  I will definitely say that I really enjoyed the outro.  I thought it was a great way to deconstruct what had been happening before in the music.  The very end was a bit abrupt, but that's an easy fix. 

Overall, I would have liked to hear a little more texture in the instrumentation used.  Specifically, I would have liked to hear more than string pads and drums, and the use of more effects to create a deeper and wider listening environment.  I also would have liked to hear the song develop the loops more, taking the chance to construct the loops during the song as opposed to cycling the pre-built loops.  While all those are things I would have liked to hear, I still find myself clicking play for the ambient music in my earbuds while I'm working away at my desk during the week. 

It just goes to show a fact that many musicians and engineers often forget: a perfect track is nearly impossible to create, so build something that seems true to you and stand behind it.

Thanks again Tavius for helping me get this started.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Didn't Pay to be Insulted

When did it become a trend for new musical artists to force sarcasm to prove that they were clever or funny or edgy? 
I recently attended an independent singer/songwriter showcase of young artists (who shall remain unnamed) and witnessed something that I can only describe as the least professional stage presence I have ever seen. 

The first artist was extremely shy and forthcoming about it as she flat out stated that she was going to allow the audience to command her songs for the evening and would only pretend to look at her song list as a delay tactic until someone shouted out a request.  Now, I can understand that in an intimate venue like we were in (about 50 attendees) this was a great way to involve the audience, but to stand on stage without having done any preparation as to what songs you want to use to convey who you are as an artist to those that might not be familiar with your music just demonstrates to me that you’re not interested in commanding your audience while you’re on stage. 

This performer sang every song from beginning to end with her eyes closed, which never helps when you’re trying to connect with your audience.  I’ll write off a lot of this to just generally being young and inexperienced and needing someone to help her overcome all that by encouraging her and pushing her to believe in what it is that she’s doing.  However, the second artist committed stage sins that I just can’t fathom (as someone that has been both a band leader and a side man). 

She began her set by commenting on the fact that she prefers to have a microphone on stage because it allows her a physical item that demonstrates she’s better than her audience.  Between each song there would be a 2-5 min diatribe about either the origins of the song, or just banter between her and the audience.  These chat sessions would involve comments that were continually demeaning nearly driving me to leave, had I only driven myself to this show.  My “favorite” part of this was that after continually trying to show how witty she was by sarcastically insulting her audience, she then asked continually for them to support her by purchasing her CDs or other merchandise. 

All I could do was think to myself throughout her performance, you honestly expect me to spend more money on you?! You’ve shown a complete and utter lack of appreciation for those that paid money to come here and see you perform by a) insulting us and b) not actually performing for your entire allotted time because you had an overwhelming desire to chat.  So essentially, I’ve gotten to see 50% of your show because you elected to not do what I had expected you to do, which was sing, but you want me to support your career?  It’s artists like you that have no appreciation for those that have come before you or the audience that has worked hard to be able to afford to see you perform.  In essence, shut your mouth unless you intend to sing.  If I wanted to see a comedian I would have paid to see stand up.  I wanted to see some new up-and-coming singer/songwriters that had talent and drive.  Instead I saw young artists that have developed an unjustified overinflated ego about their value as a musician. 

And this is my message to young artists out there everywhere: you used to be a dime a dozen and now it’s probably closer to a dime per 50 – appreciate the fact that people are spending their hard earned money on you.  In the current state of the economy expendable cash is less and less in everyone’s pockets.  Don’t act like you deserve the attention more than anyone else out there, be thankful and grateful for the opportunity allotted you for the chance to play and be paid at all.  You’ve earned that right by being talented, and each show is a new opportunity to show people just how talented you are while being exceptionally humble about the fact that they are there to appreciate you.  Never forget that your career can be over in seconds if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time.  So please, keep playing, keep developing, and strive to create something new everyday, and appreciate the fact that someone, somewhere out there wants to hear it and pay you to do it.  If you can make a living being a musician you are one of the lucky few – don’t discount that and always remember that there’s probably someone else out there that can do exactly what you’re doing just as well if not better that would kill for your opportunity.  Check your ego at the stage door and just show me what you got.