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Turntablism.
June 21, 2006 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Birdy Nam Nam blew me away. 4 DJs from Paris, 4 turntables and no mikes. A little context: Turntablism. Via the very lovely aurgasm.us
posted by econous (43 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Of course, the whole thing could have been with just one turn table and no hand motions at all...
posted by delmoi at 2:01 PM on June 21, 2006


A lot of the music's already on the vinyl so they don't actually have to do much. :(
posted by RufusW at 2:05 PM on June 21, 2006


Of course, your complaint could have been generated by a script, delmoi.

This is good stuff, econous.
posted by boo_radley at 2:07 PM on June 21, 2006


Although it does apear like they were creating new notes by changing the rotation speed of the records, making them more like instruments then just playback devices.
posted by delmoi at 2:08 PM on June 21, 2006


Howdy, Partner!
posted by JekPorkins at 2:09 PM on June 21, 2006


thanks for the aurgasm.us link, I like the other downloads.
posted by john m at 2:10 PM on June 21, 2006


4 DJs from Paris with "Nothing to Lose".
posted by Flashman at 2:15 PM on June 21, 2006


Thanks, econous. For the skeptics, I bet Birdy nam nam could guarantee that the four individual recordings sound nothing like the finished work they created.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:17 PM on June 21, 2006


Nice.
posted by Bugbread at 2:21 PM on June 21, 2006


These guys managed to take the The DMC World Team Championship. There is quite a biut more going on than just letting the record play and throwing in some flashy hand gestures.
posted by sophist at 2:22 PM on June 21, 2006


I saw a great piano player, theother day. Of course, all the notes were already in the piano, and, were it a player piano, it could all have been played just by turning a crank.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:23 PM on June 21, 2006


The scratch's on the video didn't actually look that hard either... jus' sayin'
posted by RufusW at 2:29 PM on June 21, 2006


Technically, it's impressive and it's quite a pretty song, but this would bore me silly at a club. It's heavily rehearsed and leaves no room for interaction with the crowd, which is what djing is supposed to be all about.
posted by empath at 2:32 PM on June 21, 2006


awesome stuff.
posted by garfield at 2:38 PM on June 21, 2006


...and its not the scratch that is hard. it is doing it consistently in time for the entire song.
posted by garfield at 2:38 PM on June 21, 2006


Now then, Jimmy Savile is what being a DJ is really all about.
posted by econous at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2006


reminds me of this awesome music video though.. spin dj is a god.. rockin.
posted by dennis at 2:46 PM on June 21, 2006


empath : "It's heavily rehearsed and leaves no room for interaction with the crowd, which is what djing is supposed to be all about."

Different types of DJing. A radio DJ, for example, is not about interacting with the crowd. A club DJ is. And a turntablist, again, isn't. Just because most people think "club DJ" when they hear DJ doesn't mean that all DJs should be club DJs, any more than saying a physicist with a doctorate shouldn't study quarks, because "helping sick people is what being a doctor is supposed to be all about".
posted by Bugbread at 2:54 PM on June 21, 2006


Indeed. And I feel obliged to note that judging from some of the video segments on their internet web page, these four young fellows are quite capable of engaging the interest and enthusiasm of any dance floor from here to most any far flung locale you might care to name. This was not the intent, obviously, at a contest such as this which is perhaps observed with more technical criteria in mind.
posted by freebird at 3:12 PM on June 21, 2006


True, freebird, true. I saw DJ Kentaro (another DMC champ) a few times, and while he did some technical stuff, he also worked the crowd very well. I haven't seen his DMC video, but I'm almost certain that it was very rehearsed and technical, with little room for improv, because DMC is all about the technical skills. For "working the crowd" skills, you've got the Best DJ awards from club magazines.
posted by Bugbread at 3:16 PM on June 21, 2006


Beautiful. I wonder what they could have done with 8 turnetables and a CD player so someone didn't have to be the guy that just played the bass part over and over again.
posted by bigmusic at 3:30 PM on June 21, 2006


Although it does apear like they were creating new notes by changing the rotation speed of the records, making them more like instruments then just playback devices.

Check out Kid Koala playing the trumpet with a turntable...
posted by mikeweeney at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2006


Surprised no one has mentioned it yet, but the 2001 documentary "Scratch" (IMDB, Metacritic, Trailer) is a must-see.
posted by JPowers at 3:40 PM on June 21, 2006


I'm just amazed that the Amen Break didn't show up in there anywhere.

Bravo, French deejays, bravo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:48 PM on June 21, 2006


Amen, brother

and those four DJs were awesome. it wasn't about a technical display, IMHO, it was about making music.
The Invisible Skratch Picklez are all about the technical, but the music's a bit...uh, lacking...it doesn' t have much soul, again, IMHO.
thanks for the link!

oh, and emusic has Birdy Nam Nam's album for download.
posted by I, Credulous at 4:24 PM on June 21, 2006


Cool link I, Cred.
posted by RufusW at 4:42 PM on June 21, 2006


For those who tink this is so easy to do, would they agree that then a machine programmed with the inputs of hundreds of dj moves would then be able to duplicate or even defeat a human dj/group of djs in a head to head contest?


Chris Csikszentmihalyi of MIT built DJ I, Robot to do just such a thing (of course he has great admiration for turntablists, such as his friend DJSpooky). Human turntablists still have the edge vs this cousin of Deep Blue.
posted by beelzbubba at 4:49 PM on June 21, 2006


This was tight.

And, yeah, for the skeptics, I'm sure these guys can scratch in the traditional sense just based on what they were doing in the video. You wouldn't look at an incredible fingerpicker and diss him for not playing regular chords, right?

What I liked most was that the track seemed rippable from an emcee standpoint, even though they didn't have anyone on the mic. It still has a hip hop feel to it. Good stuff.
posted by Alexandros at 4:58 PM on June 21, 2006


you're welcome, rufusw.
i found nate's site originally from metafilter, if i recall correctly.
he has a nifty documentary about the legendary TB-303
posted by I, Credulous at 4:59 PM on June 21, 2006


Do not diss on the Skratch Picklez. Thank you.
posted by zpousman at 5:21 PM on June 21, 2006


Holy fuck, that's awesome. There's no doubt those frogs got technical skills, but the best think about their show is the soul they put into it. I've seen lots of Japanimation-style DJs with crazy mathematics whose ultimate output is rigorous but lacking soul. Birdy Nam Nam (a reference to the Peter Sellers classic, "The Party") puts soul into it, and that soul makes an actually rather stripped-down sound take off the way it does. Well done.
posted by squirrel at 5:34 PM on June 21, 2006


Damn, you econous. I should have posted this. :)

1 DJ is hard enough, keeping 4 in sync and in tone/pitch like that is extremely difficult.

To those (such as delmoi) that don't quite understand, they are making new tones, textures and patterns out of records.

Think of it this way: When someone plays, say, a guitar, there's usually frets and not to mention tuned strings and other mechanisms that help them create and recreate specific tones.

With tones on vinyl being the metaphor for strings, turntablist DJs don't really have such tonal stops to make the recreation of specific tones and pitches easy. It's more akin to playing a fretless guitar or washtub bass or even a theramin something. It's an extremely delicate and almost completely "analog" process.

All of the tonal, timber, pitch and even pattern control is a result of finely honed and practiced motions. It's like playing a very loose and sloppy fretless guitar/bass - but perhaps with just the strings themselves, without the aid of a fretboard and tuning pegs to tension the string.

"Oh, but see they're also just playing a beat over and over". Well, yeah. They're playing a measure or bar or single note of a beat - and then recycling and resetting it very rapidly and very accurately by hand, while modulating the volume and muting the output with the other hand on a mixer - creating new beat patterns and signatures, new loops and more without so much of an aid as a metronome or MIDI clock.

And then they have to do all of the above with enough finesse to not cause the needle to skip or fly off the record. They have to pick up the needle and drop it on individual grooves of the record to shift to the next tone or beat being used. And they have to do it fast.

Turntablists are musicians, and goddamn sorcerer-ninjas to boot.

I've tried doing some of the stuff they're doing, and other turntablism type stuff. It's sooooo damn hard. And I have 10+ years of experience doing club/dance style beatmatched mixing in everything from hip hop to breaks to acid house to experimental freetechno to gabber Rotterdam terror. And I still can't scratch for shit.

Give it a try sometime and you'll either walk away in 15 minutes, defeated and frustrated or you'll find a new musical toy to play with that'll take you the rest of your life to master.
posted by loquacious at 5:36 PM on June 21, 2006 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I like that we have a downtempo song with a bit of groove. It's not all about the wikky wikky.
posted by Nelson at 5:39 PM on June 21, 2006


For the record I wasn't dissing them that bad. Reminds me of DJ Shadow
posted by RufusW at 5:47 PM on June 21, 2006


Turntablists are musicians, and goddamn sorcerer-ninjas to boot.
That about sums up my impression after watching. Wow.
posted by Isabeau Sahen at 5:49 PM on June 21, 2006


That was great.
posted by cortex at 5:49 PM on June 21, 2006


There are two more (higher-quality) videos on their web site (Flash). Same laid-back jazzy feel.

(This is awesome.)
posted by nev at 6:03 PM on June 21, 2006


that shit is totally tite... er, what loquacious said.
posted by Hat Maui at 6:19 PM on June 21, 2006


i've been djing since i was 12, and i can't do a fraction of the shit i just saw there.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 7:56 PM on June 21, 2006


Yea, but you're only 13 dude. It'll come.
posted by RufusW at 9:29 PM on June 21, 2006


why are we picking on the 13-year-old? this is distateful.
posted by Hat Maui at 9:44 PM on June 21, 2006


orily?
posted by cortex at 6:22 AM on June 22, 2006


Extra props for the aurgasm.us link. I've been devouring the site. Great stuff there.
posted by squirrel at 7:50 AM on June 22, 2006


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