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Top 50 Tracks of 2010: The #1 Track of the Year

January 1, 2011

Once in a great while, a happy accident results in a great track. Acid house pioneer Phuture yanked the batteries out of his TB-303 bass emulator, kicking it into “failure mode” and bypassing the original settings to tweak out a screeching, wobbling unnatural noise henceforth known as “acid.”

The result? Acid techno and acid house that added  noisy vitality to a nascent club scene.

As some point a guitarist leaned into a hot amp and be rewarded with a high-pitched blast of white noise — feedback. Soon a long string of musicians would come to consider this a “feature” rather than a “bug.” That piercing tone has colored the work of everyone from Jimi Hendrix to A Place to Bury Strangers, the latter of which has adhered to the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “feedback as lead guitar” blueprint.

Other some fortunate glitches exist. New Order rides a drum machine test pattern to the top of the charts with Blue Monday. Prince hears a mix of When Doves Cry without the bass mixed in and likes the sound so much he leaves it off permanently.

The happy accident/experimentation behind the #1 track of 2010 begins in Houston’s hip hop scene, way back in the early 1990s. Local producer and cough syrup aficionado DJ Screw begins producing his own “chopped and screwed” remixes of local rap acts. In an attempt to synthesize the narcotized sleepwalk of a good sizzurp buzz, DJ Screw manipulated his makeshift cassette-deck-and-turntable setup to crank out incredibly slow reinterpretations of various rap artists, turning their gun/crack-slinging boasts into demonic incantations backed by drip-drying electronic smears and jet black, molasses-thick beats, bearing a cursory resemblance to playing a 45 at 33-1/3. Thousands of imitators hopped onto the Screw bandwagon, each of them offering their own stabs at the patented “chopped and screwed” sound.

One such fan of Screw’s was Romanian programmer Paul Octavian Nasca who wished to decouple speed from pitch, thus allowing him to create new tones from existing material without dragging everything into a low-end, somnambulistic slump. However, no such software existed. Being the avid tech-head he was, Nasca decided it would be simpler to write the software himself, cranking out the open-source “Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch.”

With this tool, producers could create unearthly tones more closely related to the upper echelons of ambient music rather than the darkened, druggy alley of “screwed” remixes. At some point, a bedroom producer got ahold of this software and did something truly amazing while simultaneously doing everything wrong.

How wrong?

Is this any sort of ingredient list for creating something transcendent and the best track I heard all year?

1. Grab the biggest slice of commercial cheese available.
2. Crank all settings to “illogical.”
3. Allow software to work its magic.
4. Click “play.”
5. Ho…ly…shit…
6. Release into the wild.

Justin Bieber – U Smile (Shamantis 800% Slower Mix).mp3

[Give it a little time. It’s 32 MB. But totally worth it.]

Just because Shamantis didn’t spend days or weeks crafting this track doesn’t make it any less impressive. It’s a minor miracle that it works this well, especially considering the source material.

It sounds like This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance, Sigur Ros, Slowdive, Brian Eno, Richard D. James, the Cocteau Twins — basically any artist who regularly gets termed “ethereal” and “transcendent” on a regular basis.

It would seem to be a chore at 35 minutes, but I swear to god, every time you think you’re going to shut it off, something shifts and you find yourself allowing another wave of sound to wash over you.

It’s like a supernova trapped in a glacier during a slow thaw. Time slows, freezes, warms, expands, contracts and pulses.

How many other tracks would you give 30 minutes of your day away to?

[Many thanks to The Decibel Tolls for posting this way back in August. Also, thanks to Frieze Magazine for additional background information. And last, thanks to you all for reading and listening. If you managed to make your way thru 50 tracks without hearing anything you liked, may I direct you to Justin Bieber’s left hand for further directions.
And a huge, huge thanks to MEK, who bailed me out when Shamantis’ track mysteriously disappeared from the internet entirely. I always thought it’d be there forever. Like LiveJournal. Or Geocities. Without him, there would be no number one track this year.]

-CLT

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21 comments

  1. It is my pleasure to be the first online to wish you a Happy New Year, Capitalist!

    “It’s like a supernova trapped in a glacier during a slow thaw. Time slows, freezes, warms, expands, contracts and pulses.”

    If only Einstein were still alive and young enough to read/appreciate that line. Since I’m ‘first’ allow me to express the 1st “that was fucking brilliant!”


    • Thanks, elizabeth and a Happy New Year to you as well! If Einstein were alive enough to stumble on this lightweight blog, I’m sure he’d state something along the lines of “You can’t stop time. You can only hope to contain it.”


  2. How many other tracks would I give 30 minutes of my day away to? I once gave what must have been hours to Morrison belting out The End while tripping on 3 hits of acid. Then there were a couple of Grateful Dead live ‘incidents.’ I don’t think any of these were actually 30 minutes (or hours) but I sure thought they were at the time.

    You just made me want to stab Justin Bieber a little less. Thank you.

    Happy New Year CLT!!


    • Scott, if you discount the Doors and the Dead, no one’s made a 30 minute track in the last 40 years other than the Orb, who topped the charts with “Blue Room,” a 45 minute single.

      What I love about this track is that it shows the importance of fucking with parameters. 99% of the time you get garbled, unlistenable shit. With this immense slowdown you get unearthly tones that seem nearly crystalline and tangible, as if you could actually grab them and hang them on the walls.

      If Bieber takes Shamantis with him to produce his next album, I’ll put the knife away for good.


  3. Just so you know, I’ve come back and listened to this monster 4 times now. That’s 2 hours if you’re keeping score at home folks. It gets better and better every time and I’m not even smoking any weed presently.

    It’s just surreal. Ethereal. Beautiful.

    I think it works so well with his voice because his balls haven’t dropped yet.


    • This probably explains all the incoming searches for “prepubescent.”


  4. “GO BIEBMANTIS!!”

    (…?)

    ps. I actually saw this earlier, but thanks to my mother’s love of all things “Slow Tech”, my thought-provoking (read: more prolific and less dumb) words never made it past the first “Post Comment” click.


    • It still works, unlike your mother’s internet connection which apparently doesn’t recognize anything from outside the AOL-sphere.

      Thanks for attempting to comment prolifically, bschooled. It’s really the effort that counts.


  5. Wow, The Crocodiles and I have so much in common – name-checked twice in the list! Take that Bloodbuzz Ohio and you National fellows! In your face, Spoon – and write that in reverse. Tough shit, Dr. “James” Hellier and Puppy Mills Present that, you Gay Blades, and… heh, well, I think you know what I’m getting at… All joshing aside, great list, CLT.


    • Ha! Well, I can only blame the lack of the National, James, Spoon and the Gay Blades on an overabundance of musical riches in 2010. Seriously, WTF? I can’t remember a year with so many great releases in it:

      Crocodiles
      The National
      Holy Fuck
      Rraaiillss
      Whitey
      ritualzz
      Groove Armada
      Chemical Brothers
      Lazer Crystal
      Siriusmo
      James
      the Gay Blades
      Spoon
      Bitch House
      Cyan Tablets
      Brian Eno
      HEALTH
      King Dude
      SALEM
      Superpitcher
      Tobacco (2 of them!)

      The list literally goes on and on.

      Thanks for the visit, comment and invaluable assistance with the Top 50. Always a treat to see you.


  6. Further evidence that anything can sound good if you’re high enough.

    By the way, have I told the Justin Bieber’s Brush With My Fame story here yet?


    • You haven’t. Or maybe you have but I zoned out around the 700-word mark. Either way, I don’t think I can stop you.


    • I want to hear the story.


    • As a special treat, I’ll give you the under 1,500 word version, if only to prove I can.

      Because of a relative geographic proximity, on several occasions, I’ve come across said Bieber while plying his trade on the street to a completely disinterested public. On those occasions, I’ve probably seen a thousand people walk by him and pay more attention to the cracks in the sidewalk. That same disinterested public now claws each others eyes out to get as close to The Bieb as I was and pays thousands to buy one sneaker (yeah a single used sneaker) of his. http://www.cp24.com/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110404/110404_bieber_shoes/20110404/?hub=CP24Entertainment

      I actually marginally appeared in 2 of his “viral” homemade videos. One was via a reflection in the glass. The other was a walk-through. But even that is enough to launch a career. I’m hoping Black Mountain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mountain_%28band%29 gets a similar Sedate Me Career Bump from an (ultra-marginal) appearance I made in one of their videos. I’d be a lot more proud of that.

      Anyway, the most influential encounter was when I stepped out of the throng of pedestrian traffic that day and stood right next to the bench Bieber & some of his other NAMBLA-bait pals were preparing to busk from. I was thirsty, so I turned to the female lucky enough to be accompanying me that day and said, “Woman, fetch me a libation from that shopkeeper over yonder.”

      While I was waiting for her to return, I decided I would check out the aspiring local musical talent. Unfortunately, Bieber was the only one close to being ready. The rest were still setting up. Bieber knew he had a captive listener that was going to get away. He looked up at me with the same look a puppy gives the Alpha Dog just before piddling himself.

      The female returned with astonishing quickness and enthusiasm (which was rewarded later, in private). Bieber had been watching all this like an eager young pup watches it’s master’s every move. He saw my confidence and my sheer sexual magnetism and carefully took note.

      Not 2-3 months later, he appeared at a local mall and pandemonium resulted. Bieber Fever was born. What can I say, he learned from the best.

      The world has my heartfelt apologies.


    • You had me all the way up until you mentioned busking. I’m trying to imagine how many handlers and songwriters it takes to craft a successful busk(?).

      And thanks to you, whenever it is that Bieber finally loses that precious virginity, he’ll preface it with something like, “Fetch me a drink, woman, and I’ll give you the best 90 seconds of your life.”


    • It would have made for a better story if you had asked the Bieb to fetch you a drink (and maybe thrown in a grope or ass-slap).


    • I assure you that every sentence in that story is the truth. If I was making shit up, it would be far a better, more entertaining and considerably longer story than this one was. (I’m actually privy to a little more on Bieber’s making, but that would require a breach of professional ethics. I ain’t saying any more than a curt “Despite the rumours, I’m not that baby’s daddy…unless Ma Bieb was a legover I was too drunk to remember.”)

      Bieber had his own mini-entourage and a lone, over obsessed, female fan. It was actually a lot like Flight Of The Concords. They had keyboards, speakers, and everything else an aspiring superstar would need on a sunny weekend busk. I always wonder what happened to the rest of his crew; if he’s brought them along to share in his success, or if he cut them lose to fend for themselves once he started making millions.

      Bieber may have taken notes on me, but he didn’t get to take notes on the love-making that occurred later. That’s why my tantric sexcapades go on all weekend and his encounters last a mere 90 seconds.


    • No one is questioning the veracity of your story SM. It just would have more interesting if you had gone all pedo on the Bieb (or something).


  7. Well, I finally made it through this marathon, long after the crowd has left the finish line.

    Of the 49 songs eligible (Joy Division isn’t) I’d say I was actually able to sit through 40 without projectile vomiting. Of the forty, I’d say about 10-15 were above “barely tolerable”, 10 were “not bad” and another 10 ranged from “I liked it” to “that’s pretty good”.

    While that may sound critical, that’s a compliment. Remember the source and his inability to be positive about practically anything. I was actually expecting worse and was almost disappointed at my general lack of disappointment.

    That said, if that list actually is the best the global music industry can come up with in this blessed Digital Age where any fuckwad with a computer can produce music anybody anywhere can listen to, then I’m afraid I haven’t missed much in my decade or so of virtual musical exile.

    I was hoping above hope that at least 3-4 songs would grab me by the balls, stuff my cock in its mouth and maybe even slide a finger up my ass. But alas, this was not the case.

    Good effort nonetheless. But don’t put so much effort in for 2011, 50 is just way too much work.


    • A limited success! With caveats!

      I’m pleased to see you stuck it out until the end, SM. If I have to do it, then everybody does. I think you’re right, though: 50 is way too many. Perhaps a Top 20 would be less of a grind on all involved.

      Here’s to this year’s list, which will hopefully violate you in ways you’ve never been violated before (for free, anyway)!


    • Am I the reason you have not been back commenting Sedate Me? Is your sabbatical over Justin ‘Fucking’ Bieber or are you in the pokey? If the latter, where do I mail your care package? (I can’t believe you made me Google Justin Bieber.)



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