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Music

I’m Happy 2 B Hardcore

Listening to the old Hullabaloo mixes (especially Ruffneck’s oldskool set from Hulla 3! WOW) have gotten me all antsy in the pantsy for hardcore techno! So I’ve posted a scan of my copy of Happy 2 B Hardcore, signed by the DJ Anabolic Frolic who organized the Hullabaloo parties. I brought the CD to one of his parties and finally tracked him down by 6am. He was glad to oblige, but was surprised when I pulled out a fat Sharpie pen. It should have been confiscated at the door!

h2bh.jpg

And just for kicks (and plugs) here’s a link to a happy hardcore DJ set I mixed a couple of years ago. I’m nowhere near as talented as the world famous Hullabaloo residents and special guests but we all have the same motivation!

Spyrochaete – Inappropriately Happy 79:18
128KBPS, 75MB MP3

Categories
Music

Something Good

The Hullabaloo website is giving away MP3 versions of every DJ mix ever recorded at a Hullabaloo rave at a rate of one per week. What is Hullabaloo and why should you care?

I attended my first rave in October of 1996 – Destiny 16 in an abandoned supermarket on Jane street. I instantly fell in love. The place was huge with 2 gigantic “rooms” separated by a curtain, each featuring a stage with a lone DJ behind record decks playing electronic music. In the shells of storefronts were little chillout areas with projectors showing psychedelic animations and vendors selling funky shirts and mixtapes.

Having been to a couple of nightclubs it struck me as very odd to see thousands of people dancing facing the DJ at the front. Nobody was checking eachother out. No slimeball assholes were cruising sluttily clad young women with low self esteem. People were dressed colourfully, were smiling and laughing and carrying on, and sitting down at random to talk with strangers.

But it was the dancers that mesmerised me so. This rolling sea of heads and hands like cilia waving on a hardwood membrane. All in unison.

My friend Joel and I frequented a rave club called The SpacE! at 28 Gunns Road for maybe 100 consecutive Fridays. This little place was the epitome of underground. I adored every square inch of that place. It had a largeish undecorated main room with towering stacks of speakers on either side of a DJ table. A pillar in front of the decks sported a florescent orange sign reminding DJs that “Louder isn’t better, better is better.” A neon-striped hallway led to the second room surrounded by oversoft couches which remained quieter and void of DJs except for on special events.

One such special event was Hullabaloo, a rave featuring a variety of musical styles but primarily highlighting happy hardcore techno. DJ Hixxy was booked that night but supposedly was held up at the airport and could not attend. It didn’t matter. In terms of organization it may have been little more than an ordinary night at The SpacE!, but this thin, intangible sizzling electricity filled the air. A certain breed of raver was drawn to this party for some reason – decent people who didn’t have to know eachother to be happy to see eachother. This was a somewhat foreign concept to me as an 18-year-old dabbling in goth and grunge culture, but it was impossible not to get caught up in the flow. Hardcore, breakbeats, and jungle made my feet move for hours and hours.

In truth it was one of the tamer, less eventful raves I’ve been to, but I’ll never ever forget it.

I braved an inconceivably packed and sweaty bottom floor to see DJ Vinylgroover and MC Ruff at the second Hulla. I reclined against a wall and hogged one of few fans as I watched the enormous and intimidating MC Ruff singing and dancing like an elated 6 year old on his birthday, revving up everyone in the room with every lyric. I couldn’t stand the heat any longer than the span of that one DJ set so I enjoyed the thumpy goodness of the upstairs trance room until the early hours of morning; rectangular sunbeams sweeping slowly over a never-resting crowd.

The third Hulla is the scene of one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I’d been enjoying the night very much and was walking through a wide hall on the way to another room for another adventure when a many-necklaced girl stopped me, smiling. “Would you like a bracelet?” she trilled happily. I asked “How much?” “Nothing! Please have this!” She slipped a thick wooden bead bracelet over my wrist, gazed softly deep into my eyes, planting flowers in my brain with her pupils, and skipped away to give a present to someone else. I stood there for about 30 seconds drinking in the enormity of her action. It would change me forever. I gave the bracelet away to a friend a year later but I kept a few beads to remind me of the goodness of giving. That single act by a stranger saved my life time and again in my darkest hours when I had little faith in the world.

I met my friend Max at Hullabaloo 4 at The Warehouse. I also met my friend Ebineezer Goode that night. Max and I are still friends after these 9-odd years. I’m seeing him this weekend. Our chance meeting was so infinitesimally unlikely and we’ve remained in touch all this time. Mind boggling.

I met my very good friend Jules at another Hulla (7?). I was getting antsy sitting in one of few couches for hours (once you’re lucky enough to get one you guard it with your life) and my attention was wandering from my friends. Near me sat Jules, a lovely girl a bit older than me, who was bummed out because she couldn’t her friend she came with. We chatted and chatted and chatted, finally exchanging numbers. She’s now one of my best friends and we’ll be chums forever. Another insanely unlikely meeting – if her friend hadn’t gotten lost we’d both just be specks in the crowd. The power of the unlikely.

And that’s the significance of Hullabaloo. A Hulla-day was a holiday. I’d think of little else in the closing weeks before a party. I’d bring notebooks for my new friends to sign and stickers to put in theirs. I’d make copies of my favourite tapes and hand them to strangers. I’d buy people water, help friends find lost mates, and I’d be helped by others more times than I can count.

The “real time” of these 10-hour marathons was so tangible you could cut it with a knife. Sometimes I’d find a night dragging on, sometimes I’d blink and it would be over, and by the end of the night my head would be swimming with all the fun and people and activities and music and all-round pleasantness I’d enjoyed that whole night.

The drive home was always a quiet and intraspective conclusion. Toronto sleeps Sunday mornings and on my way home from a Hulla party the city was mine. I’d drive right on the speed limit just to prolong the silent stillness of the otherwise bustling metropolis. I’d think up poetry, I’d mentally adlib with the music I was listening to on my car stereo, I’d plan the rest of my week… the 30 minutes it took me to get home from Hulla parties were probably the most productive for years.

I attended the first 17 consecutive Hullas, and one or two after that. In the end there would be 41 Hullabaloo raves. I outgrew what the scene had become but I’ll never outgrow its legacy. I truly feel powerful knowing I was part of something so underground yet so important. Raving was a movement, but an apolitical movement. We did it because we were free to, and we clung to that freedom with our lives. We really accomplished something by accomplishing nothing.

And so I am ecstatic that DJ Anabolic Frolic, world famous hardcore DJ and Hullabaloo founder, is releasing his huge archive of Hullabaloo mixtapes one week at a time. For a look into the inner workings of my demodulator, be sure to check the site from time to time.

Categories
Music

Amen, brother!

I’d like to expand on my previous article by discussing the history of sampling.

By sampling, I mean the act of copying a snippet of content from an artistic work and juxtaposing it into a new, original artistic work. Though the term usually refers to the practice of injecting audio excerpts into a new song, culture has in fact embraced this practice in more abstract applications for centuries. I’d like to delve deep into the culture of sampling, but y (ever so busy) work day is almost over so I’ll get the ball rolling today with an essay on the most common definition of the phrase.

Sampling in its most literal form began in the late 70’s and early 80’s with the hip hop revolution which reinvented the previously one-dimensional turntable as a dynamic musical instrument. Rap MCs would spout their original lyrical compositions alongside their indispensable partner in crime, the DJ, who would accentuate the rhythm and poetic theme by playing and manipulating musical and spoken-word record albums to the beat. Though ancillary sidekicks, DJs like Jam Master Jay, Doug E. Fresh, and Jazzy Jeff became integral to the headliner’s presentation.

Just 3 MCs and one DJ /
We be gettin’ down with no delay /
So Mixmaster Mike whatchoo got to say?
(sampled) “God damn that DJ made my day!”
3 MCs and One DJ – Beastie Boys

The art of musically manipulating records went on to be known as turntablism, and became a popular genre of music in and of itself. LPs containing nothing but consecutive wacky quotations and sound effects were mass produced, while bidirectional needles were engineered to make turntables more gentle on malleable vinyl. Many DJs from hip hop acts (e.g., Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys), as well as new solo DJs (e.g., Vancouver’s Kid Koala) went on record their own albums composed of original songs made up entirely of sampled sounds. Acquiring copyright licenses for such productions can be a legal nightmare, to be sure!

Countless turntablist competitions such as the DMC World DJ Championships are held around the world today, celebrating this player-turned-instrument phenomenon which has begun outselling guitars annually. A written scratch notation is even being developed, similar to the classic treble staff, to assist turntablists in transcribing and replicating complex scratch combinations.

Curiously, contemporary philosophers and poets have compared the act of scratching records to a superhuman or godlike state, contrasting the “human” linear perception of reality with the 4-dimensional transitive manipulation of time.

Branching off from hip hop and disco and meeting somewhere in the middle, techno music was born. Though originally consisting of synthesized instruments (Detroit techno) and somtimes accompanied by original lyrics (acid house), sampling found a very comfortable home in electronic music. As the technology of synthesizers and computers became more robust, electronic samplers and digital audio processors added yet another dimension to hip hop’s creative interpretation of the turntable. Classic house songs such as House Master Boyz’ “House Nation” utilized a single two-word sample to fill out the bulk of the song, forcing a new way of thinking on its listeners – letting go of the literal meaning of the words in lieu of the sample’s purely rhythmic properties.

As techno evolved it split into myriads of subgenres including breakbeat and jungle. These genres in particular often featured a single percussive sample, usually between 1 and 4 bars in length, edited extensively throughout any given song. These songs often varied more in percussion than in melody, leading to jungle’s descriptive synonym “drum and bass”. Incredibly, a very large number of songs were underlayed with a single short drum loop, the so-called “amen break“, sampled from The Winstons’ 70’s funk song “Amen Brother”. Though the elements of this clear and distinctive drum excerpt were a signature of the genre, creative editing made it difficult to find the same cut-up arrangement of beats in any two jungle songs.

More recently, innovators of drum and bass have surfaced, culminating sampling and editing into an incredibly complex and staccato mosaic of percussion. Artists µ-Ziq, Squarepusher, and Venetian Snares collectively helped re-reinvent breakbeat into the spastic genre of “breakcore” – a genre with such variable percussion that drums are considered to be the lead instrument.

Sampling has risen up from its underground roots into the mainstream, and is commonly featured in top-40 records as well as television and radio adverts. Proliferation of multimedia home computers have put the power of sampling into the hands of the public which has resulted in entire cultures and movements born from the creative interpretations of aural snippets. While organizations such as the RIAA and CRIA fight to tax and quash such innovators, others such as the Creative Commons work with commercial artists to make their songs, instruments, and acabellas available to the public for use as creative building blocks.

Whether percieved as theft, borrowing, or social interpretation, audio sampling is a pillar of modern culture.