First Floor takes a closer look at the current hype around Latin sounds and rhythms within the wider electronic music world. It examines how these flare-ups of interest have historically been not only fleeting, but shallow, playing into stereotypes and misinformed notions of what constitutes “authentic” Latin culture while also doing little to concretely benefit artists and scenes located in Latin America.

The key to Hawai'i
January 17, 2023

The history of slack key

Pitchfork tells the story of "slack key—a distinctly Hawaiian sound with complex patterns of rhythm, bass, and a leading melody all handled by one player on an acoustic guitar. It would become synonymous with the identity of the islands". The P also chooses nine releases through which "a story emerges of how a little-known indigenous folk music transformed into an empowering voice for the revitalization of an endangered culture".

"First, many artists could not tour this year due to a variety of factors, including inflation, high gas costs, supply-chain shortages, overbooked music venues, and poor mental health... Second, a much smaller number of artists this year... found that touring for the industry’s top one-percent is almost too viable, in that the shadowy corporations who run the live-music business... were able to gouge consumers for hundreds (if not thousands) of extra dollars above the original face value of tickets" - Uproxx looks back to "a weird and often bad year".

New Tedium writer Chris Dalla Riva looked at what has caused the disappearance of key change in pop music: "As hip-hop grew in popularity, the use of computers in recording also exploded too. Whereas the guitar and piano lend themselves to certain keys, the computer is key-agnostic. If I record a song in the key of C major into digital recording software, like Logic or ProTools, and then decide I don’t like that key, I don’t have to play it again in that new key. I can just use my software to shift it into that different key. I’m no longer constrained by my instrument".

Shadow dancers
November 22, 2022

Essay: A new theory of the entourage

Music writer Harmony Holiday was a part of Madlib's camp, and thought about what it was: "The entourage is its own worst enemy. It’s an endless funeral procession for the personalities that existed before of it, and the retribution that pursues it and evades it. It makes those men almost untraceable, intractable, easy to distract and extract from and run. I wanted to save this man from becoming the entourage’s pawn or mime, with the kind of feminine power that is mine, that makes men men. It turned me, for a time, into his pawn or mime, a thankless, timeless easy-to-abuse muse position. The entourage is a ruins".

In his latest post, music writer Ted Gioia presents a scientific basis for his alternative musicology—a holistic way of thinking about songs and their impact on individuals and societies. He makes the argument that too much of our world today is controlled by left-hemisphere-of-the-brain worldview — analytic and detail-oriented - and calls for the right hemisphere - controls creativity, intuition, and imagination - to take over. "The simplest way to tap into the right hemisphere is music… The connection between songs and the right hemisphere of our brains is so strong that stroke victims who have lost the language-making capacity of their left brain are sometimes still able to sing words they can no longer speak". A great intro to the theory.

A very interesting Complex essay: "The exploitation of Black rappers’ deaths is part of a larger societal truth as it pertains to modern day media and social media consumption. When digital natives are committed to documenting each and every moment, death simply falls in line with that as one of the more grander, more scandalous forms of activity. In a toxic environment prioritizing clicks, engagement, and reach, blogs and individuals fall in line, scrambling to be first—however disastrous that quest is. In the content economy, rap is discarded, as a lack of due diligence echoes on and a lack of care toward Black rappers—and presumption that these rappers are destined for death—lingers. (Artist relations specialist Karlie) Hustle concludes, 'Death as ‘online content’ is a cultural failure in an attention economy'”.

Bigger and not bigger
November 02, 2022

Trapital: Where does hip-hop go from here?

In 2018, hip-hop became the U.S. most popular genre of music. In 2022, hip-hop is still on top, and its revenues
are still growing, but after nearly a decade of market share growth, hip-hop’s share of total revenue has declined. Trapital’s first-ever culture report found three key drivers behind the trend:

1. Streaming’s continued growth

2. Early-mover advantages don’t last

3. The end of bundles and the limited vinyl supply

What it means to be a man
October 18, 2022

Ann Powers: Love songs of a dirtbag

"Critiquing masculinity while maintaining his position within the enduring hierarchies that put those bad boys on top, he's the one you love to roll your eyes at. He's a dirtbag, baby, in a long line of antiheroes who interrogate the shapes of male privilege from the inside, even as they benefit from its persistence" - NPR's Ann Powers writes in a great text about Matt Healy, and his latest album with The 1975, 'Being Funny in a Foreign Language'. She questions the "dirtbag": "When it comes to creating alternatives to the patriarchal status quo, men actually have to surrender some privilege, not merely question the effect an elevated status has on their own souls. This can be a painful realization, a disappointment. But it also opens up new possibilities, pointing toward a life that might be less damaging to others, and less lonely".

Seriously funny
October 13, 2022

What is "viral jazz"?

WRTI shares a lovely text about "viral jazz" describing it as "aesthetic rather than a set of quantifiable viewer metrics". DOMi & JD Beck, and Louis Cole are two of the acts from the new movement, which The New York Times Magazine has described as "both radically sophisticated and full of jokes, a combination of qualities you find in both the 20th century's jazz greats and the 21st century's extremely online teenagers".

Mistakes throw
October 13, 2022

Piotr Orlov: Are errors ever actually errors?

"An entire history of innovations in recorded music could be told through the lens of so-called musical mistakes. Do they even exist? At the level of intention, are errors ever actually errors?" - Piotr Orlov writes in a beautiful essay about 'Dilla Time', the new biography of legendary Detroit hip-hop producer James Dewitt Yancey, Jr. (aka J Dilla or Jay Dee) by journalist and NYU professor Dan Charnas. "What might the musical future look like when its supposed mistakes and proficiencies are based primarily on sets of data? ... Aren’t what previous generations’ power brokers dictated as errors turning out to be some pretty decent guides to a mindful development of th

On the road again
October 12, 2022

Ted Gioia: What do conductors really do?

Music writer Ted Gioia opens a question on the role of conductors with an interesting take on the double meanings referring to both music and traveling. "When we refer to the movement of a classical work or a favorite track on a playlist, or even to structural forms such as the fugue (etymologically linked to the verb to flee). Take for example, the ancient Greek word oimê, signifying song, which is connected to the similar word oimos, designating a road or path".

Playing with safes
October 10, 2022

Essay: Why do bankers love techno?

The Spectator introduces 'Industry', the British-made TV drama about young bankers: "More and more bankers are shirking expensive bottle-service clubs for those which can be considered ‘cool’ – venues such as Fabric, Fold and Oval Space, many nestled in the half-gentrified warehouse districts of east London. These play techno, house and other strands of electronic music which eschew the sugar-rush build-ups and bass drops of commercial dance. Many bankers treat this more in-the-know kind of clubbing as social camouflage: escaping the stigma of a boring corporate job with a night under strobe lights".

Music writer Ted Gioia takes a critical look at today's music magazines which are (supposedly) leaning too much towards nostalgia: "Music writers serve as the conscience of the art form. They don’t simply reflect back to fans what they expect or want to hear. This is always important to remember but especially right now when the dominant platforms reward technocrats at the expense of musicians. Music media outlets have a responsibility to push back against these forces of marginalization and homogenization that not only hurt individual artists but weaken the en

In no mood for genre
July 19, 2022

Essay: Why mood is the new musical genre

"Listeners—especially young ones—are not concerned with what category each track falls under, but instead in how each track makes them feel. The abundance of homemade playlists coupled with the popularity of experimentation has made the fixation on traditional genres akin to insisting that the guy has to pay for dinner on a first date... Organizing music by mood finds promise in one simple fact: some people can’t tell you what genre a song falls under, but everyone can tell you how it makes them feel" - Tiffany Ng points out in her new essay about genre-less times.

Empty distance
June 23, 2022

Essay: The rise of dissociation music

h threats to our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, and in order to feel safe and secure, we’ve had to get a bit more resourceful than usual. Enter dissociation, the response at the root of so much trauma" - Pitchfork introduces its longread about "dissociation culture", including "dissociation music". The author finds examples in songs by Mitski, Drakeo the Ruler, Black Midi, and many more.

Tablet Magazine published an interesting longread about Ariel Pink being cancelled after attending January 6 attempted coup d'état. "Rosenberg’s career is the story of how indie rock purged monsters that the culture had wrongly tolerated—or perhaps it’s the story of how even the most supposedly open sectors of the American creative scene abruptly slammed shut, losing any remaining patience for the complexities and cognitive dissonances that form the bulk of human existence. Both are really the same story, of how American culture got so stupid and so boring so quickly".

William Basinski

Ambient music has risen in popularity, Pitchfork is wondering what will this mean to artists and the genre itself: "There’s something perversely thrilling in the idea that listeners with little to no professed interest in experimental music might be served genuinely outré sounds under the auspices of self-care... But I have also wondered—when these playlists command so many listeners, and are so explicit in their presentation of the music as something to play while you’re doing something else—whether they might end up tipping the delicate balance of Eno’s famous dictate about ambient: away from the interesting and toward the ignorable".

ces by Pitchfork's Jeremy D. Larson: "As one of nearly half a billion people who pay a small fee to rent the vast majority of the history of recorded music—not to mention the 2 billion people per month who use YouTube for free—I have found that, after more than a decade under the influence, it has begun to reshape my relationship with music. I’m addicted to a relationship that I know is very bad for me. I know I am addicted to Spotify the same way I was addicted to nicotine or Twitter. It makes me happy, aggrieved, needlessly defensive". However - "the beauty of the algorithm of your mind is that it makes perfect sense to no one but yourself".

The Face asks whether Coachella is being transformed from a festival into a platform: "As hundreds of thousands influencers and festival-goers flocked to Indio, California for the festival over the past two weeks, an abundance of content surrounding everything except the music flooded the internet. The veil of manufacturing fun and doing things solely for the internet has lifted, begging the question: has Coachella transformed from music festival to content festival with music in the background? And what does that mean for festival style?".

Firestarter
March 27, 2022

TikTok "ruining" our favorite artists

"TikTok app is being blamed for the ‘TikTokification’ of music, but not only by adults who don’t understand it" - The Forty-Five notices a trend. "Urban Dictionary defines ‘TikTokification’ as, 'A song that was once amazing is now the worst thanks to TikTok'. While it’s true that trending music can get stuck in your head until you can’t bear to listen to your favourite song anymore, the complaint also reveals an online discourse that treats fans who discover music through TikTok as less authentic and respectful than fans who discover it elsewhere."

Van Magazine talked to four teenage musicians from the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and their orchestral manager, Alexandra Zaytseva, about the situation on the ground and the small consolations of music in a state of high alert. Uliana (16) from Kyiv who plays viola, shared some sad thoughts: "I played my viola for five minutes yesterday. Just so that my instrument knows it’s OK. My viola was very out of tune; instruments feel. My viola is at home, under my bed. It’s very important to me. It might get damaged, because rockets have been hitting the higher floors of buildings".Give Kyin a chance

Black is the color...
February 04, 2022

A new wave of ambient music - uncomfortable!

"For years, ambient music has carried connotations of comfort, even wellness. New Age’s hipper, younger cousin, it’s considered the ideal soundtrack for spas, meditation, and guided trips" - Pitchfork introduces the new generation of ambient music. "Their take is darker, fuzzier, more psychedelic—and more disturbing. It’s also more unpredictable: Variously influenced by genres including industrial, dub techno, and IDM, it’s pocked with trap doors and secret passageways, and released on a network of DIY labels where even the most bucolic chill-out soundtrack might be followed by a harrowing blast of noise".

Heart at young
January 31, 2022

Ted Gioia: Is old music killing new music?

Give Sons of Kemet a chance

"Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market... But the news gets worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs... Those who make a living from new music—especially that endangered species known as the working musician—should look at these figures with fear and trembling" - music writer Ted Gioia writes about the status of new music in the Atlantic.

The New Yorker looks into the very successful career of NBA YoungBoy: "It is easier than ever to be a hit by all of the industry’s standard performance metrics and still go unnoticed by the general public—to have an enormous following that barely registers within the wider pop-culture ecosystem. This occurrence is, first and foremost, the by-product of a streaming infrastructure that uses a plays-per-song model to approximate record sales—a system that allows artists to bypass the old display stand, even if they risk anonymity. But it also illustrates a gap between what is promoted and what is popular".

Rob Sheffield writes a lovely ode to the CD (not sure he really proved the CDs are back, although in 2021, CD sales increased for the first time in 17 years): "It’s an inarguable fact that music sales reached their all-time peak when the CD was king. No audio device did a sharper job of separating fans from their 20-dollar bills. People loved to buy those digital discs, in numbers that look crazy now. We all spent the Nineties going to the 'record store' ('CD stores' never existed, even though most record stores had no vinyl), browsing the racks, taking something weird home, listening all the way through. You invested time and emotional energy, instead of giving up quick as you do with streams. The disc encouraged you to turn off your 'meh' reflex and let yourself hear whatever weird shit was going on".

"Rappers like Young Thug and Lil Nas X incorporate rock sounds just as the Beatles and the Stones appropriated rhythm and blues, the category of rock itself seems to be reconstituting itself. Band guys are still around, many making great music. But they're sharing space and the culture is better for it" - NPR writes in its interesting essay about the nature of the band.

Moving meridians
December 12, 2021

Amapiano - the go-to sound of post-lockdown UK

"Having surged in global popularity in the spring last year, the genre – which developed in the townships of Gauteng in the early-to-mid-2010s – became 2021’s hottest sound of London’s post-lockdown nightlife. As Covid restrictions eased in late summer, UK nightlife pounced back into action. Venues like Brixton Jamm, Boxpark Shoreditch and Hackney’s Colour Factory started amapiano parties, while Days Like This teamed up with legendary twin brother-duo Major League DJz for a night of deep excavation into the Afro-house sound" - The Face looks into the South African genre moving into the UK.

African king
December 11, 2021

Dr. Nico - Africa’s guitar god

"If cascades of gorgeous-to-gritty tone, an effortless flow of sparkling, playful melody, harmonization and dazzling polyrhythmic syncopations make up your idea of six-string divinity, Dr. Nico surely belongs in your pantheon" - Guitar World writes introducing Nicolas Kasanda wa Mikalay, aka Dr Nico.

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