"These are the elements of life/"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review of "People People Music Music" by Groove Collective

Here is a review of PPMM by Groove Collective that I wrote for the KUCI website in 2007
(not exclusive content anymore, as it was never published)

Groove Collective – People People Music Music – Savoy Jazz Worldwide – 2006

Groove Collective brought us in 2006 their sixth studio album, the Grammy
nominated “People People Music Music”, released on the legendary Savoy
label, after a long wait since 2001's “It's All in Your Mind.” Groove
Collective was born out of the jam sessions between DJs, MCs, and live
musicians at the now classic Giant Step parties in New York City. The
musicians at these parties, funk players from Brooklyn and jazz players
from the Lower East Side, decided to form a group and thus conceived
Groove Collective. While best known as a hard-hitting acid-jazz band
from the mid-nineties, with a big horn section that could clobber you to
death, and music that exemplified not just the sound, but the
multifaceted culture of New York City, these last two studio recordings
have showcased a paired down Groove Collective. They are a band which
effectively uses their loss of members to other projects to their
advantage. This is heard in how “It's All in Your Mind” explores an
ethereal, other-worldly vibe, not possible with a huge 14 piece band, and
“People People Music Music” flaunts Groove Collective's ability to
perform straight-ahead jazz. In 2000, when members began to leave for
other projects, such as “Turntables on the Hudson” and solo jazz careers,
all that was left of Groove Collective were the core members of Genji
Siraisi on drums, Jonathan Maron on bass, Barney McAll on keyboards,
Chris Theberge on percussion, and the reduction of a five-piece horn
section to just Jay Rodriguez on saxophones and Richard Worth on flute.
This is the line up that recorded “It's All in Your Mind”. Then Richard
Worth left the band to pursue an existence far from the city, climbing
rocks out in the wilderness, but he was replaced by the return of Fabio
Morgera on trumpet. This is the line up that appears on “People People
Music Music”, and the trumpet/saxophone front-line is the perfect
catalyst for the most straight-ahead jazz-like album by Groove Collective
thus far.

On “People People Music Music”, Groove Collective perform Herbie
Hancock's “Speak Like a Child”, originally heard on Herbie's album, and on Jaco Pastorius' self-titled solo debut. Groove Collective approaches the song in a super-mellow manner, with thick Fender Rhodes chords, spiritual bells
jingling, and long, sizzling ride-cymbals. The horns come in soft yet
bold, and the whole song grooves like a 3AM after-concert jam-session in

A wonderful addition to the Groove Collective line-up is the legend Fred
Wesley on trombone who guests on a couple tracks. Most famous as the
band leader and trombonist for James Brown, and also as the horn arranger and trombonist for George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic groups, he
brings some super delicious licks to tracks such as “DFU”, an incredible
piece of Afro-Beat a la Fela Kuti.

The song “Tito”, obviously dedicated to Tito Puente, came out of a riff
that the band would sometimes spontaneously go into while performing one of their many other Latin-jazz tunes in concert. Here they have expanded
that theme into its own song, and featuring Jay Rodriguez, the sax
player, on vocals, they have recorded one of their best salsa tracks.
“Mambo Mongo” further shows GC's ability to spice things up, with their
version of the Mongo Santamaria song. Yet rather than a non-stop salsa,
Groove Collective explores the melody in a more cerebral way, and comes
up with some fine Latin-jazz with lots of changes, and an excellent flute
solo courtesy of Jay Rodriguez.

Of course Groove Collective wouldn't be Groove Collective without some
cutting edge funk, and that is heard very strongly in “Set Up”. In this
piece, Barney McAll and Jonathan Maron perform a super-heavy bass line in unison on an analog synth and a fuzzed-out bass, respectively. Genji
Siraisi goes all out with a broken beat drum pattern, and Jay Rodriguez
blasts us with bombastic baritone sax phrases.

“What If” features DJ Spinna on production, and while definitely having a
DJ Spinna vibe, it still is reminiscent of Groove Collective's classic
vocal anthem club hits, such as “Lift Off”, “Up All Night” or
“Whatchugot”. Unfortunately the lyrics are a little silly (the line
about technology), though they do contain a good, conscious message, and the delivery of the vocals is top-notch. Jonathon Maron's bubbling,
super-syncopated, octave-jumping bass line is incredible, and just
classic Groove Collective.

The standout track is “KOG”, the unofficial single that has been getting
heavy airplay on various jazz radio stations. Even though it is
propelled by Genji Siraisi's extremely syncopated, high speed, live
Drum-and-Bass drumming (a rhythm that was actually explored by jazz
drummers long before Jungle music), the song takes on a very mellow vibe. Barney McAll again soothes our ears with lush Fender Rhodes, and he
takes us on a sonic voyage with his Moog solo. The highlight of the
track is Fabio Morgera's trumpet solo, which is exploratory, and so pure
in tone.

Groove Collective tickled our desire for more of their amazing music
through many official live releases between 2001 and 2006, but the final
arrival of their latest studio recording has left us finally satiated.

The Hip-Hop Van

A friend of mine had "Where is the Love?" by BEP stuck in her head, so I looked up the video on YouTube and realized it was yet another hip-hop video with the group rolling around in a van! I decided to do a mini-compilation of all (3) hip-hop videos I know of where a van plays a prominent role, and discovered an even more interesting trend, that it seems a prerequisite to having a van in your video is to have the word 'Black' in your group's name.

So let's get started with a classic single from 1991 by Black Sheep, "Flavor of the Month". Be sure to blast this, because the beat is BANGIN'! True school realness right here, and I especially love the little dancing girl; she's so cool!

Moving on to the obvious choice, we have "Definition" by Blackstar. Best part of the video: when they get pulled over (was this staged or real?) and the officer asks "Are you deaf?" and Mos Def replies "No, he's Hi-Tek" lol

And now finally, of course Black Eyed Peas "Where is the Love?"

Please comment if you can think of any other hip-hop videos with the crew rolling around in a van! The older the better, as now I am on a quest to find the original van video! Which reminds me, didn't A Tribe Called Quest have a video with Ali Shaheed playing his turntables from the back of a moving truck? But that doesn't count; it needs to be a van. :)

P*ter Funk

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Year6581 is quite possibly the greatest band ever.

Edit to the header: Yes, the website for Year6581 is still in existence, and it offers both a player and the ability to download what sounds like the higher quality new mixes of their songs. End edit.

The following was written in 2008; unfortunately I don't think their website works anymore, but I believe the MySpace is still there, and on the positive side, there are now many more videos of them on YouTube. Maybe I'll add their mp3s to this post in the future so that they can still be available. Edit: no need to, as their website still exists. Plus, they finally have a real music video up on YouTube! For "Hyperspace". Check it out!


So classic video game nostalgia is pretty common now, and 8-bit fashion is the ultimate trendy style, but back in the day, you were the ultimate lame nerd if you liked anything older than your friends Nintendo 64 or Sega Saturn. Then slowly, us like minded people started coming out of the cracks, and we attended conventions like the Classic Gaming Expo or Vintage Computer Festival, and we listened to radio shows like "6581 SID" on KDVS hosted by Justin Beck aka Hard Hat Mack. There were still the haters, with their Playstation 2s, who pretended they were Tony Hawk, and would post videos on the web of blowing up old Mac Pluses because it was "hilarious", but now us oldskoolers were large enough in number to not become dismayed, and we held tightly to our ethos that respected and praised history without becoming Luddite.

Now fast-forward ten years, and classic video games have been bastardized into a commercial empire. You can buy plug-and-play joysticks loaded with hundreds of classic Williams or Namco arcade, Atari 2600, or Commodore 64 games, making the actual consoles unnecessary. You can go to Hot Topic, and leave sporting a vintage looking Atari shirt. You can watch G4, and see a cartoon that takes place during the 80s rendered in blocky sprites, complete with health statii and score fields. You can tune into your favorite station and hear Nelly Furtado sing over a track that Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley ripped from Glen Rune Gallefoss' C64 version of Janne "Tempest/Damage" Sunni's Amiga MOD track, "Acid Jazzed Evening".

But like saints descending from that heavenly land of Norway, the duo known as Year6581 has redeemed us, saving us from the blatant commercialization and trendification of our sacred pastime. Year6581 consists of two Norwegians who sing over back up tracks programmed on their trusty Commodore 64. The MOS 6581 analog synth lines bubble euphorically underneath hyper-nerdy lyrics consisting of tractor beams, gravitons, and cylon detectors.

Admittedly, these melodies and chord changes on more conventional instruments would make me want to puke, as they are similar to those found in the pop-punk genre, but presented like this, it just makes me so happy! I pogo around to this!!!


The songs on their myspace are better mixed, sound a lot better, and must be newer versions, but on their website they are downloadable, plus about twice as many.

Also along the same lines, but much more intense and less happy, are 8-Bit Weapon. www.myspace.com/8bitweapon

Praises to Year6581!!!

Obama and Racism?

Yesterday I was asked if I was racist because I was wearing an "Obamunism" T-shirt. It's really scary that many of Obama's devout minions will not allow free thought that challenges their claims. This middle-aged Caucasian male was attacking my political point-of-view with unrelated material. Suddenly it is EVIL to challenge the authority. With Bush, it was ILLEGAL to challenge the government, but now it is EVIL and it is enforced by the people. Never mind a police state; we're enslaving each other. This will make it very easy for the Illuminati to carry out their plan of world domination.

Not to mention that the logo on my shirt could go either way; ironically I originally bought the shirt in favor of Obama, but now that I've learned more about the truth behind his administration, I wear it in opposition.

Firefox is annoying

It is upsetting how Mozilla Firefox thinks it needs to jump on the bandwagon of impressive looking version numbers. I remember when IE tried doing this to look more advanced than Netscape; IE was suddenly 5 and then 6 while Navigator was 4.5. Of course Navigator was much better, as IE was based on Mosaic, but the absurd thing is that people really fall for it. They are easily brainwashed and influenced by update numbers. Case in point, the recent update of FF to 5 was received with fanfare in the comments regarding the version number, people stating "haha we'll show them...we're more updated." But it's just a name! It's still just as bad as 4, as it's more like 4.1, and deserves to be replaced with a downgrade back to usable, light FF 3.x.

At first, I thought that the new number (5) was some scam by a hacker, haha. Too bad it wasn't. Firefox saddens me because it has abandoned it's niche in the market. For people who want a flashy browser with no ability to control, just to surf, they can use Chrome. For people who want a powerful but resource light, highly usable browser, they can use FF. But now there is no option for users of the second category, other than using older versions of FF. I agree with the consensus that FF 3.x was the last great FireFox.

Just as an example of how great the previous versions of FF were, I use FF, the last version before 3, on a 400MHz Win 98SE machine! This version was the modern version in the fairly recent year of 2008. It was meant to take advantage of multi-gigahertz machines running Vista, and yet is resource light enough to be a great browser on this vintage machine from 1999.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Video Game Music

Here is an email I sent to the ClassicGaming.com mailbag back in 2000. I like the essay I wrote, so I will share it with you here, as it's lost forever in archive-land right now, and may even eventually be deleted:

From: Froggymee
Subject: Video Game music

Yea, I am finally writing to the mailbag after reading it for a very long time! This is in regard to video game music. I love the music from games. That is, the real, synthesized stuff. I'm not really into Redbook (CD) Audio. I like to be impressed by the computing power of the sound chip and the technical virtuosity of the composer/programer.

The first music from a game that I was impressed with was the music from "Digger", a Mr. Do!/Dig Dug clone by Windmill Software in 1983. The song was a cover of "Popcorn" by Hot Butter. All other sounds from my PC at that time (and for a long time afterward) were beeps and boops, but somehow Windmill was able to create multitrack sound that sounded like real instruments out my PC speaker. Later, games I got with the RealSound (tm) technology, were able to put digital sound out of my PC speaker too, but this method required a more powerful system then what I had (an 8088). To get past this problem, I would start the game in turbo (8 MHz!). This would trick the software into thinking that I had a more powerful system, and would start the game with the sound going, but then it would quickly stall, so I would be left with a jukebox. To actually play the game, I had to be in 4.77 MHz mode, which would bypass the sound procedures and be silent. Early on, I was also impressed with the music from Zelda on the NES, and I would like to play Rad Racer just to pause and listen to the "radio" (also on the NES).

On the SNES, I found it very cool that the composer used the same reoccurring theme through out the game "Super Mario World". On PC's, Adlib/Soundblaster FM Synthesis can create some awesome music. Especially check out the music from Tyrian, which even comes with a jukebox, and Continuum (also known as Alpha Waves in Europe). All of the instruments are programed as opposed to sampled, and I think that the composer is limited to 9 single voice tracks. Of course it doesn't sound real, but that is how it is supposed to be. The computer is the instrument. Another awesome PC method of music making is the MOD, originating from the Amiga. Unlike FM Synthesis, this uses sampled instruments. I personally enjoy making MODs.

I don't really like MIDI though. If I'm playing it out my keyboard hooked up to my computer, it is ok, but for the most part, they sound crappy. (How many people have a keyboard hooked up to their computers? Probably not many.) They lack the technicality that MODs and FM synthesis require, and on the hobbyist side of things, most MODs are exciting originals, while most MIDI's are crappy covers of pop tunes.

Lately, I have been getting deeply into the Commodore 64 music scene. The 6581 SID chip is one amazing synthesizer! Limited to just 3 channels, the composers still create masterpieces that are fully orchestrated and arranged. And it is very versatile, with a filter, infinite volume levels, and the ability to play both (analog?) programed instruments as well as digital samples. I am blessed to be in reception range of the only Commodore 64 music show on the radio in the world. I listen to KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, CA, USA. But if you live too far away from Sacramento to get KDVS, never fear, they broadcast on the internet! You need to go to http://www.kdvs.org/ and listen to Hard Hat Mack's show "6581 SID". It airs every Tuesday from 8PM to 9PM Pacific time. This is some GOOD music. On a good, booming stereo, it sounds really neat! And he uses real SID chips as opposed to emulation. But emulation is not bad at all. In the meantime, while waiting for his show, I still enjoy SID music via an emulator. Please download a SID player and the High Voltage SID Collection. The High Voltage SID Collection is a very huge collection of 12,500 SID files arranged in subdirectories by composer, and is ever expanding as new songs are written! (the C64 scene is very alive!). It includes songs from demos, intros, games, and just for the sake of writing music. Go to http://www.hvsc.c64.org/ for more info and to get it (the download is only 20 MB zipped and expands to about 80:) And most of the *.SID files will have sub tunes for different parts of the game. Like "Commando" by Rob Hubbard has 3 songs in it. So there is a lot of music to listen to. And most of it is good.

I am getting tired (it is 3:30 AM! :) so I will close by listing a few arcade games I like the music from: Do Run Run, Gemini Wing, that short, single voice intro at the beginning of Phoenix, and (not classic, but good) the music for the London stage in Crusin' World (very early 90s British house:)

The email, along with other readers' submissions to the mailbag is located here: