Posts Tagged ‘Paul Nasca’

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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.

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