Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - The Dawn of DAW Collage Metal

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Dawn of DAW Collage Metal

  A student recently turned me on to an artist named Richard Henshall.

 Interesting music.  The first song I head has some guitar sounds that sound "dropped in" on a DAW - "digital audio workstation". 

 Digital sampling first entered the toolbox of musicians in the 80's.  With the Fairlight and Synclavier workstations, later the Akai 9000 drum machine, a musician could bounce a finger on a key/button and playback the sound of an entire orchestra playing a chord for an instant.

 This became known as an "orchestra hit".  Different examples of this style are scattered through music of the 80's, with many examples of voices recorded and made to stu-stu-stu-tter-ter-ter with the bounce of a finger.

 Then later, Pantera happened.  Suddenly noise gates were in fashion, to make choppy stacato rhythms that much tighter. Much metal has been made that is descendant of this style. 

 Like most things in the 21st century, this has to be taken to the extreme.  My first thought is that Periphery took the "overtly rhythmically complicated arrangement" theme and ran with it, alongside the math rock djent bands that seemed to be trying to backwards engineer Morse code.

 Meanwhile "Prog Metal" happened and odd time complexity became That Much More Cool.  Perhaps spurned by Tool, overt compound polyrhythms became a prerequisite instead of the Showcase Bit. 

Concurrent to this the "dance/house music" EDM scene went through a metal-like fractioning of genres, and in turn had created many niche sub-genres based on rhythmic density and style.  I would suggest the producer Photek to be the progenitor of much of this; parts chopped up in DAWs and made to loop back in rhythmically peculiar ways.  A distinctly unnatural sound, created with technology.

 Polyphia seems to be leading the charge today, I'd also suggest maybe Chon.  Rhythmically sliced up "incomplete" parts that feature moments of dissonance, contrasted against partial melody, sometimes unresolved, sometimes "ironically" resolved.  But thematically, a few different parts "glued" together to form a whole.

 A collage.

 The thing about visual collages is that they usually range from being clever ways of yielding a whole image from distinctly individual parts, or almost a whole image, or just an abstract collection of disparate bits and pieces.   It can have a fractal quality; "wow, a giant Mona Lisa made of multicolored tiny images of the Mona Lisa!", "that's a car made of pictures of horses!".   Or sometimes it can just be a hodge-podge of almost recognizable bits, a cutup image of a rockstar glued to a piece of burlap inside a shoebox.  

.... sometimes it's just garbage glued together and called "art".  

 I'm pointing this out because this genre is almost an exact analog to the visual.  Collage as a form is very, very forgivable.  That is because it's my theory "art" requires presenting chaos in an organized fashion. "Organizing" garbage on a piece of canvas presents chaos that can disguise itself as being almost "art" because of that.  So it's a very easy door to open artistically; how far in one goes is the question, and how.

 Note another parallel: a whole lot of effort can be put into the detail of doing a collage.  A LOT of effort.  I'd ask "how many famous collages are there in history?".  I'd almost count some of what Andy Warhol did maybe, but in the case of "DAW Collage Metal" nobody is doing big swaths; Pantera maybe did, the Andy Warhol of the genre? (I think that was a joke?).  But my takeaway from this is the vibe I got as an art major: there are a lot of art students putting things together with other things in a semi-organized fashion, and then putting a frame around it and hanging it on the wall.

  Which is fine if that is truly what you want to do and like.  It's not for me; I'd rather keep working at the skillset as a whole to present just a painting - maybe the equivalent of a pop song.  Listening to Richard Henshall, I hear moments that hint at parts of a larger whole that I'd like more.  At about 6:30 minutes into a song called "Lunar Room" despite the busy metal drumming and loud production, it strikes me as being "Cold Play".  It's like a collage of bits and pieces, where the artist decided to make a nice little drawing of a house down in the corner, surrounding with a lot of "stuff".  

 It's interesting, it's literally like examing a collage hanging on a wall.  I'm an old dude: I still like the "Boomers", Monet and Renoir, Hendrix and Gilmour.  

 Hmm.  1:00 into "Limbo" by Henshall I'm hearing a guitar part that is... another Cold Play/U2 guitar dotted line?  I applaud his effort, and like some collages I will look at it briefly.  The thing that makes me sad in the 21st century is that I wonder if this is a reflex against the seeming impossibility to make a valid statement with less density?  The reason I'll only look at it briefly is that the emotions it creates are fleeting, and not as potent as the components.  I would prefer to listen to Cold Play; or for Loud Existential Bombast Beethoven's Eroica symphony.  For that prog-rock vibe Brand-X or Rush; for the Big Metal Production Devin Townsend.   I want to pig out and mainline the vibe.  

 If I was mountain biking in a pre-injured body 20 year old sense, this would make music that might fit listening to while zooming through certain trails; but it wouldn't be a synchronous experience (a separate project I want to do: music to go along with riding particular mountain bike trails...). 

 Collage metal.






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