Monday, January 07, 2008

The mother of invention

As previously announced here at Hipster, please! (and at a number of other, more reputable sites), last Saturday marked round 1 of the music competition/scavenger hunt that is the Crate Digger Death-match. I reckon there are a number of questions on the mind of the casual observer, the most obvious being: Well, how the hell did it go?

Doc's album coverWhile my perspective on the events that transpired is probably a little skewed – as I wasn’t down there “in the trenches” – I’m gonna go ahead and say that the experiment was a success. Sadly, only seven of our dozen Crate Diggers were able to complete the monumental task within the time allowed, but, like life itself, this wasn’t all about the destination; it was also about the journey.

We had, for example, a disproportionate number of contestants from California’s Bay Area, which on the days leading up to the competition was damn-near underwater. Still, these Crate Diggers crossed their fingers, and, on the day of the competition, found that they had not only survived the inclement weather with their sanity intact but also their electricity.

To celebrate this good fortune, Doc Popular took some great pictures of himself and TradeMark G. foraging for supplies at their local Community Thrift. TradeMark even went so far as to audio blog his findings when he returned home to the lab.

TradeMark went on to complete and deliver his submission, while, unfortunately, the good Doctor was KO'ed by eleventh hour hardware failure. But the Crate Digger Death-match, despite its gruesome title, is a friendly competition; TM, Tanner, and the other competitors all but demanded that, despite the fact that his album wouldn’t be eligible for the judging portion of the competition, Doc still share his efforts with the rest of the class. Just this morning, Doc Pop unleashed Drown Radio’s codfresh upon the world. You owe it to yourself to take a listen. It’s a thrift shop masterpiece.

Another competitor who failed to make the deadline but no less favored us with some A class material is producer and sound engineer Larry Legend. Though Larry’s logged studio time with some hip-hop heavy hitters, he was thrilled at the opportunity to get his hands dirty in the CDD and really push himself to explore the world outside of the “musical and technical boxes” in which he normally confines himself. Larry’s story is perhaps my favorite of the contest, as he admitted that he was so caught up in harvesting samples and exploring the wonderful world of circuit bending that he failed to adequately budget his time.
Snake Eyes' finds
Read that again folks: he was having so much fun that he literally got sidetracked by his own work. If there’s any indicator that the goal of the CDD – to inspire artists to create outside their comfort zone and (hopefully) genuinely learn a little something – was met, then that’s it right there.

Larry did submit one song for our enjoyment. (Though, again, it can’t be part of the actual contest.) This is what a dude who’s genuinely having fun with his music sounds like.

But enough about the contest itself, let’s talk about the finalists.

On Saturday, our Crate Diggers awoke to find a friendly email from your truly stating that, in addition to the already restrictive cash, time, and technological constraints, they were also obliged to include within their projects three artistic motifs. They were as follows:
  • Motif #1: "Made in the 80's."
    A minimum of one thrift store item that you purchase with your allotted $12 must have been created in the 1980's. Unlike albums, things like electronic devices may not have an easily discernable release date. In this situation, use your best judgment.
  • Motif #2: "Bent over backwards."
    At least one song on your album must include either A) a prominent musical element, movement, or sample that is played backwards or B) a prominent musical sound or element that is generated by a circuit bent or otherwise altered electronic device.
  • Motif #3: "Country House."
    Each album must include either a country song or a dance track. Again, I leave what does and does not qualify as "country" or "dance" up to your own judgment.
These seven gentlemen managed to make the most of their meager thrift store finds, maintain a strict timetable for proper completion, include the three aforementioned and wholly arbitrary elements, and cope with a wealth of individual hardships and setbacks to complete the first round of the Crate Digger Death-match.While our honorable judges (and I) scrutinize the finished albums and our crack technical crew prepares their single submissions for open online voting, why not check out the artists on the roster? One of them will shortly be named the King of the Crate Diggers... and if you ask nicely maybe they’ll even let you score a copy of their submission albums!

Hails from: Bedford, TX
Album title: Old Toys and Broken Tapes

Hails from: Oakland, CA
Album title: Crate Digger Death-match

Hails from: Torrance, CA
Album Title: Up or Down

Evolution Control Committee
Hails from: San Francisco, CA
Album title: A Dozen Bucks a Dozen Hours Cut-and-Paste Super Powers

Snake Eyes
Hails from: Toronto, ON
Album Title: True Tales

Hails from: Fort Worth, TX
Album Title: God Bless You and Best Wishes! (Love, Shelly Knapp)

Hails from: Huntsville,AL
Album title: ndzyeht


antisoc said... <- plz b 2 take it

Matt said...

Oh God! Even more free music to download and try to sift through.

It used to be that my wallet acted as a nice governor making sure that I never got so much music at any one time that I couldn't easily digest it in a reasonable amount of time. Now, I've got piles of stuff and no time to listen to it. Which, wouldn't be nearly so bad if so much of it didn't turn out to be so good!

Oh the woes of being a music geek in the digital age! Oh woe is me!


Z. said...

Thanks, Soc. I didn't wanna link anyone's stuff for public consumption without their go-ahead.

And, Matt, all seven of these albums combined are less than 2 solid hours of music. You should be able to work them in easily. :)

antisoc said...

z: lol @ less than 2 hours of music

D-Form said...

Feel free to download mine as well. I upped it to zshare, the link to the DL is on my site that Z listed on the post.

Can't wait to check everyone's entries.

Snake Eyes said...

OK, I updated my site with a link to my album and a probably-not-that-fascinating writeup of the process from my POV. I've just been listening to antisoc and d-form's - jiminy jillikers! Nice work, you two.

Doc Pop said...

The poll is up!

Please listen to all the tracks and vote:

antisoc said...

After hearing the singles, I feel very much out of place. I think my favorites are Tanner and Snake Eyes, but I will have to listen to them further before I vote.

Matt said...

Soc, I'm just now working my way through the singles, but I dig you're track. I like the slow burn approach, keeps it interesting through out. I also dig the rough edges that you kept in your samples. Nothing to feel out of place about.

Dave S said...

Random web trawler and sometimes music geek from the UK here...

Just wanted to say that this project is AWESOME!

I downloaded the singles not expecting much, but what you've all managed to come up with in the time allowed and with the restrictions in place is incredible!

Now I'm off to download the albums (including the failed submissions) and check the rest of it out.

Who knows... I have no history of crate digging (though plenty of sampling) and am even considering entering this sometime.

The timezones thing is interesting. I reckon I'd actually have a bit of an unfair advantage by being further East than the USA. For me the competition entry time would be from 1pm to 1am (GMT) so that's actually way nicer than an 8am start! But I can imagine others around the world might struggle to find shops open at 4am.

Perhaps that aspect of the rules needs a bit of tweaking, to cater for international entries?

Out of interest, did you all work a flat-out 12 hours rushing like crazy, or was it more easy going than that?

antisoc said...

I worked about 7 hours rushing like crazy, and 2 hours tuning up and refining.

Z. said...

D-Form, you failed to mention that yours is a concept album! Tell the people your story. :)

I enjoyed the write-up immensely, Snake.

Thanks for the heads-up, Doc. I'll be sure to link it in my next post.

Don't sell yourself short, Soc. Much like Matt, I dig your single (and album, for that matter) too.

Hey, Dave. We actually ended up tweaking the EST-specific time constraint this time around; we just forgot to change it on the posted rules. (WHOOPS!) I can't speak for the other organizers, but I think when the next round of the CDD comes up we'll probably end up changing up the rules a lot. Not because there's anything wrong with the 12-12-12 concept, mind you, just to spice things up a bit.

antisoc said...

In Songfight style, here is my vote breakdown:

Vote: Snake Eyes
Honorable Mention: D-Form, Tanner4105, Doc Pop

Bomarr - I like the slice and dice style, it's definitely something that can be claimed as original. As this is the one that is stylistically most like mine, and I am very self critical, I react very critically to it, so I probably don't like it as much as I otherwise would.
D-Form - Probably the most mainstream electronica is right here. Add some crazy vocal samples, and it would be the next radio hit. Gets a little bit repetative, but has a good vibe. Reminds me of Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim. The vinyl adds a nice touch of warmth that I am unable to get with my setup.
Snake Eyes - I like the style the best on this one. It has a cut up feel like MC Gigahertz with his Chocolate Rain remix. I can really find no faults with this one. It's structure is fluid, unlike most of the other tracks (D-Form excluded), and it is extremely well mixed. I believe it best embodies the spirit of the competition. Also, I think the electro-country sound could be the next big thing.
Tanner4105 - This probably represents the most skillful mashup work. It's lots of things that you would never expect to sound good together, but put together and it sounds really good. The choir is a nice touch. Not quite fluid enough to get my vote, but it was a worthy attempt.
ECC - This reminds me of the really bad house music of the 80s (and early 90s unfortunately). However, it has a really good groove. I especially like the Mr. Oizo sound it has... the glitch hop sound, I guess you could call it.
Antisocial - I wish I could have put better drum work into this one. Otherwise, I like it.
Tyler2000 - I like the more melodic nature of this track. Feels like it needs some more hard hitting drums.

No need for reviews on these, but...
Doc Pop - Nice work there. It all has a good sound to it. It could have been a contender if it would have been in on time.
Larry - Good track, even if somewhat minimal. Would be awesome as a backup track for some rapping.

D-Form said...

I wanted to do a concept form the start and was hoping to get some sort of dialog album. None were to be found so it turned into an instrumental concept album.

Here's the concept:

It's about a break dancer that isn't quite good enough. He questions whether he should sell his soul to the devil to become a better breaker (Track 1). He has visions of heaven and hell in his sleep (Tracks 2 & 3) and has to deal with the devil trying to trick him into selling his soul (Track 4). Eventually he chooses the route of ascension (Track 5) even though the devil is still fresh in his mind (listen to the growls). Once he's ascended he finds himself at the gates of heaven where he is asked to pass the final test (Track 6): A break dancing contest mixed by GOD himself (on to 1200's). Whether he goes or not is up to you.

Z. said...

That's some serious insight, Soc. thanks for sharing!

D-Form, I honestly love that concept more each time I hear it!

antisoc said...

Yeah, D-Form, I think you probably have the most cohesive album out of all that I heard. I love the concept.

D-Form said...

Out of all the singles I love the Snake Eyes track. It's bouncy, happy, country, all kinds of goodness.

Z. said...

I still can't believe how many people actually did country songs! :)

Anonymous said...

All you guys are %*&@ cheaters. Getting others to vote for you just for the sake of increasing your vote count is pathetic, not to mention dishonest. What the *&^% is that going to prove, that you have skillsz in getting people to vote for you? Paaaallleaaaazzzeee

Z. said...

Um... okay...

peepsqueeek said...

anonymous----ahh seems like your a bit bitter about how the votes are going...i don't get that at all from the dialogue going on here. no one is even saying vote for them---their actually talking about MUSIC, which seems to be something you totally missed. plus that ain't the decided factor on who wins.

Z. said...

Tis true; the voting is only one of five different elements that will determine the King of the Crate Diggers.

D-Form said...

From what I've seen from all the contestants nobody is really lobbying for votes much. Many of the artists are saying vote for whoever is best but at least check it out. It seems like the songs are all such different styles that each entry is kind of representing a style so voters will vote based on what type of music they listen to.

At this point people probably only listen to the top two songs (popular influence theory) and choose between those two so they are going to be getting the majority of the votes.

It's like people who are in the Green party will vote Dem or Rep because they know they know their candidate won't win.

I'm glad the judges are involved though, it will make for a nice fair contest.


Snake Eyes said...

Thanks d-form and antisoc for the kind words about the track. All I hear when I listen to it is mistakes ;) but obviously it's hard to judge your own shit.

I just love how different a lot of the stuff is, both the singles and the albums - the ones I've heard anyway. And it's all really strong. The judges have their work cut out for them, that's for sure.

I'm super happy I took part in this thing, so much music and new artists to listen to, and it was really encouraging personally too. Be it resolved taht I will do this a few more days this year and then I could put out a frickin' box set by year's end. Gotta ship in volume!

Z. said...

As goofy as it sounds, I'm really proud to have been a part of this myself. It genuinely has been a friendly competition, and everyone's been so supportive and open to each other's work.

And as far as judging goes, it certainly ain't easy. I would've never guessed that you cats would've been able to craft such fun, interesting, enjoyable albums from what really equates to 12 bucks worth of crap!

TradeMark G. said...

With the benefit of some distance from the competition, it was a good experience. But honestly there was a point in the middle when I was hating on it... "Dammit, I need 3 more songs in 2 hours! Crap!"

Good results, and I mostly agree with the popular vote on those chosen tracks. I would love to know how the judges scored the whole albums though.

What does D-Form win? Is there a cool gaudy giant belt or something?

As for stacking the results, I certainly tried, but the one-vote-per-IP restriction made it pretty tough. I think I was only able to fake like 2 more votes. I shoulda gone war-driving to stack more. ;-)

For those interested, you can read about my experience, hear an audio blog of it, and download my album.

- TradeMark G.

Z. said...

You know, TM, I like the idea of a title belt. You'd figure with all Doc's crafting experience he should be able to whip us one up!