Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jaw-dropping YouTube remix "album"

A great deal of hip-hop and electronica artistry begins by digging in used record bins, searching for bits and pieces that can be digitized, chopped up, and reassembled into something new. A snare fill here, a bass line there. Snippets of guitar riffs, piano arpeggios, vocal backing tracks, etc.

For his latest seven-song "album", ThruYou, Israeli musician Kutiman dug into a different wellspring for sampled sound: YouTube.

There he found a treasure trove of audio: drummers, pianists, flautists, church organists, string quartets, guitar soloists, harmonica and bouzouki players, a capella singers and rap freestylists. Plus video after video of synthesizers, vocoders, and audio effects box tests, oscilloscopes and wave form generators, even the sounds of pressing buttons on mixing equipment he was able to put to use. He calls "ThruYou" the "1st movement", an apt choice given that this particular wellspring is so vast (and ever expanding).

I wasn't able to wrap my head (or heart) around the nerd remix smash hit of 2008, Girl Talk's "Feed the Animals". That madcap stirfry of the past few decades of rock, pop, and hip-hop (finely diced and shredded) seemed best enjoyed whilst reading the Wikipedia article that catalogued all of the samples to the second.

Here you quickly realize that Kutiman used video editing software to assemble his mashups, meaning that you can SEE his source material unfolding in front of you. (In his words, "What you see is what you hear.") For me, watching these dozens of random faces and hands, posted initially to YouTube by disparate strangers hoping to instruct, to perform, to show off, to practice, or to simply connect, now juxtaposed in rhythmic counterpoint in ways they could not have foreseen was surprisingly emotional.

It felt like one of the those moments where a technology-fueled future felt more (rather than less) human, and the possibilities for art and music and creativity opened wide.

Plus I liked the tunes. (My favorite is embedded above.)

See and hear them for yourself. Alternate link here, if the site is down.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

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