Wrongsmith collects the “best” of Songsmith

Total hat-tip to Webomatica for this.

The web is slowly filling up Songsmith “remixes” of popular songs.

It’s a program recently released by Microsoft Research that purports to make anyone and everyone a songwriter. Just select a musical style and sing into a microphone and the app will automatically generate accompanying music. Arrangements and chords can all be customized.

Of course it didn’t take long for enterprising users to figure out that Songsmith accepts pre-recorded vocals as well. Just isolate them from the original recordings, feed them into the program and customized the settings. Songsmith does the rest.

The results can be hilarious and a steady stream of new mixes are making their way to YouTube. The website Wrongsmith [which is no longer online, oct 2012] is doing a pretty good job of collecting the best of them.

Here’s a few of my favorites so far:

Michael Jackson – Beat It

Envisioned as a spastic techno carnival.

Queen – We Will Rock You

A calypso anthem.

Billy Idol – White Wedding

Bluegrass style.

To its credit, the program does a pretty decent job of staying on key and and tempo. Though it’s not perfect, it’s often “close enough for rock and roll.”

Songsmith is one of my new favorite things.

Nine Inch Nails[remixed]

young trent reznor presents a remix

For nearly as long as there’s been an Internet, fans have been contributing to the nine inch nails experience. There’s something about the music that seems to inspire a devotional following (probably has to do with expressions of angst, contempt and alienation wrapped appealing pop sensibilities). Youthful rebelliousness and antiestablishmentism runs deep through both camps.

Indeed, the rise of nin and the net seems to have coincided perfectly with each other. There were discussions on Usenet about Pretty Hate Machine being one of the best albums of the year in 1989 and the earliest mention of a nine inch nails web site that I could find is dated Nov 1, 1994, shortly after the net was opened to the public.

1994, of course, was the year the The Downward Spiral took the world by storm, reaching #2 on the Billboard Charts and exposing nin to the mainstream. Long story short: Reznor took five years to release another album and while lost in the wilderness, the steadfast fanbase incubated around the Internet. Fansites came and went, trading bootlegs and rumors and tracking the handful of singles and soundtrack songs released in the interim.

By the time 1999’s The Fragile release cycle began, Internet culture had matured quiet a bit. MP3’s and broadband were just starting to be mentioned in mainstream, but the leading-edge nails fans had already adopted them. I downloaded my first fan remixes sometime in the 99-00 winter and some of them were really good (like The Day The World Went Away (peppy by ignorantLOSER). download it). On the official front, Trent made several remixes and exclusive tracks available at the nine inch nails website. There was even a remix contest held for the song The Big Come Down (the winner can be found here).

Fast forward another five years. The Internet and computer technology had advanced quite a bit further. The album With Teeth was released in the spring of 2005 and a month later, Trent posted the source files to the first single The Hand That Feeds to his website in Apple’s Garageband format, officially sanctioning home-brewed remixes of the song. Websites sprang up immediately to catalog and share the fan-created materials.

Which brings me to today. One of the predominant trends on the Internet is, to be sure, social networking and inter-site integration (some call it “web 2.0”). What happens when you mix web 2.0 with the nine inch nails online ethos?

This: remix.nin.com

Taking the home remix concept a step further, Trent Reznor has put together a site where anyone can sign up, listen to, vote on, make comments about and download nine inch nails remixes, both official (as in previously-released on CD) and fan made. It’s freakin huge. The more industrious fans can download master tracks and make their own remixes for community evaluation and sharing.

The site combines the nine inch nails community and do-it-yourself artistry with a heavy dose of modern social media technology. The entire site is built in Flash and follows the graphic spirit typical of a nine inch nails presentation. Music can be selected from a playlist showing the latest top rated songs or you can search or browse for a particular piece. When browsing, you can create your own custom playlists. I started to put together a complete instrumental version of Year Zero before I realized that Trent had already done it for me. Other available playlists include Top Rated Fan Mixes, Most Commented, Newest, and Most Listened to, among others.

remix.nin.com attributes

Once a song is selected, it begins playing in the browser and the song’s curriculum vitae is displayed along with it. If you enjoy what you hear, there’s a “download mp3” button next to the rating number. Users can also assign attributes to songs based on various continua such mellow vs aggressive or dense vs sparse.

Playlists as well as individual remixes can be shared. Playlists via RSS feed so you can publish your favorite tracks or keep tails on a favorite remixer. Individual songs can be shared via URL. Here is a decent remix of The Beginning of the End. The only thing that’s missing is embedable player, a la YouTube, for putting the mixes on your own site.

There is one thing I can’t help but grumble about (but good-naturedly): all those rare and unreleased songs for the downloadin’. Being the nails fan that I am, I’ve spent more a decade keeping up with all the loose-ended ephemera of the catalog. Imports, promos, versions, bootlegs and anything else rare and obscure. After all the work and effort, to my (light-hearted) chagrin, I come to find that a lot of it is now free for the taking. It took me six and a half years to find a copy of the Aphrodite remix of The Perfect Drug, but you can have it just by clicking on this link.

But hey, the fact that it’s available at all is pretty freakin cool.

Ratatat – Loud Pipes single: Another smooth creation

ratatat loud pipes

I don’t know how I missed it, but Ratatat quietly released Loud Pipes as the third single from Classics a couple months ago. The record is out on vinyl only and, in addition to the title track, it features three attractive and compelling b-sides:

  • Loud Pipes (Outtakes).
    Bears only the slightest resemblance to its namesake. The beat and instrumentation are there, but otherwise, it’s a whole other song.
  • Kennedy (e-rock remix).
    E-rock is Ratatater Evan Mast’s brother. He turns in a competent re-working of Kennedy (also from Classics). His version sounds a little repetitive, but it has got some big sound behind it. There’s also a nifty breakdown around the 5:20 mark.
  • Goose.
    New track. Rhymes with Noose, the b-side from Germany to Germany. The song is the least-stated in all of Ratatat’s repertoire. In stark contrast to the band’s enormous sound, Goose is barely there. A simple baroque-esque melody over a quiet, high BPM thud-thud-thud. At less than two minutes long, the song is over before it gets started.

All in all, another fine release from Ratatat. Now when can we expect that next album?

Loud Pipes: $7.00 from Turntable Lab

Listen to Loud Pipes (Outtakes):

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Mouse on Mars: Turn the Dark Up [twift]

This song is perhaps the greatest mystery in the entirety of my music collection. It’s a fairly sophisticated remix of the song Twift Shoeblade from Mouse on Mars’ third album Autoditacker (1997).

The tempo is a little faster, the arrangement has a little more punch and it has been resequenced slightly. Not to snub the original at all, but I must say I pretty much prefer the remixed version.

The strange thing is, in the seven years I’ve had it in my collection, I’ve never been able to track down any information about it. If I could remember where I got it, that might help, but honestly, I have no idea where I it came from. The song is old enough that it could be from the original Napster, but either way, that wouldn’t help.

Surprisingly, because tagging wasn’t a common practice at the time, the file came with some decent ID3 information:

Name: Turn the Dark Up
Artist: Mouse on Mars
Album: mixed by the big chopper
Year: 2000

Still, even armed with this information, I’ve been able to track down nary a clue about its origin. Google is completely useless, turning up seven results for the phrase “turn the dark up,” most of which are about theater.

Searches for “The Big Chopper” and “Mixed by the Big Chopper” don’t reveal much either, mostly with regards to motorcycles. I’ve found one music-related reference at musician and noted producer Don Flemings’ Instant Mayhem, but Surfin Halloween doesn’t sound anything close to what I’m looking for.

The iTunes Store has a rapper by the name of Big Chopper, but I don’t think that’s it either.

So, whoever you are, Mr. Remixer, I salute you. I guess this is one riddle that will have to remain unsolved.

And to all you readers, here’s a treat: Turn the Dark Up, mixed by The Big Chopper. Enjoy.

Download:
Turn the Dark Up

The Beatles + Nine Inch Nails = Come Closer

The Beatles vs. Nine Inch nails Come Closer Together

I was tempted to let this pass without comment, but it’s just so intriguing. It’s a mash up of the Beatles Come Together and Nine Inch Nails’ Closer by DJ Zebra. The ending is a bit flubbed, but overall this is a very good combination.

It’s particularly noteworthy since both sources are rock songs and it’s rare to see good rock mash ups. Because of the way most rock songs are written and performed, its harder to effectively combine two of them than it is to lay rap lyrics over a riff or rock vocals over a hip hop beat.

Ratatat in 60 seconds

ratatat in 60 seconds

So I was itching for something to do this evening, and inspired by WFMU’s recent 10 Albums in 10 Minutes contest, I decided to cram the 45 minutes of Ratatat’s self-titled debut album into a 60 second playing time.

Here’s the result. It’s a pretty smooth overview:

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At the risk of turning this into a Ratatat blog…

…here’s the Ratatat remix of Shout Out Louds’ The Comeback. I actually listened to it last weekend, but didn’t hear anything half as interesting today, so consider it a retroactive song of the day.

This mix illustrates perfectly what I love about Ratatat’s remixing style. They’re not content to just throw a house beat behind the song, or chop it up until it’s unrecognizable. No, Mike and Evan take full possession of the original, reshaping it in their own image while not losing the core of the source material.

The Comeback – Big Slippa remix by Ratatat

Shout Out Louds - The Comeback - Single - The Comeback (Big Slippa Mix By Ratatat) big slippa remix by ratatat

Beck – Lloyd Price Express

where it's at single

Beck’s song Where It’s At took the world by storm in 1996, forever banishing the idea that he was a one hit wonder and showing that he was an innovative and exciting musician. Several singles of the song were released during the year, each featuring a different set of remixes (for a total of seven), including an infamously lame version by Oasis’ Noel Gallagher.

That’s OK though, the Make Out City version more than makes up for it, full of horns and bombast. But here we’re going to get a little funky: the John King remix of Where It’s At, entitled Lloyd Price Express:

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The Nine Beats of Ratatat

ratatat - 9 beats

It’s a bit of a cosmic coincidence that I happen to be on a huge Ratatat kick right now and a new Ratatat bootleg has happened to suddenly surface around the net. It’s titled 9 Beats and is apparently a rare look at the band’s early/demo work. How early? It doesn’t say, but it probably pre-dates their 2004 debut.

The tracks on the album aren’t songs per se. They’re mostly extended loops of beats and melodies that last between one and two minutes. Then, just as you’re starting to really get into them, they just stop. Most of the unnamed tracks don’t even get a fade out. Banagale has more info.

It’s pretty interesting stuff.

Here’s a taste for you. It’s track “two.”

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::

Update 3/29: Some tracks from 9 Beats have turned up as the backing music on Ratatat Remixes Vol 2. Specifically:

  • Beat #1 is used for Memphis Bleek’s Alright.
  • Beat #2 is used for Young Buck’s Shorty Wanna Ride.
  • Beat #3 is used for Notorious B.I.G.’s Dead Wrong.
  • Beat #4 is used for Young Buck, T.I. & Ludacris’s Stomp.
  • Beat #6 is used for Slim Thug, Bun B, and T.I.’s 3 Kings.