screwed and unscrewed (no slo-mo)
a recent thread at dissensus reminded me of a serendipitous "screw" of an old 45 that my college roommate and i accidentally created while listening to records one smoky afternoon. i'm sure this happened to countless others long before dj screw turned slowing, slurring records into an artform. it was a minor revelation to us at the time, as a well-worn booker t instrumental suddenly became a sublime song--a thick, heavy rhythm-section workout with crescendos that seemed to bleed out of the speakers. the irony that the song was called "time is tight" was not lost on us, and i began to think of the 33rpm version as "time is loose." we recorded a version to tape and would play it for friends and relatives. i remember my uncle saying something like, "dude, this would take, like, 11 bones to get into." um, yeah. that's about right.
or some sizzurp.
booker t and the MGs, "time is tight"
i'm not sure that tracks like this can really be labeled "screwed" since they're the result of a simple transformation effected by nothing more than pitching down a record by playing it slower than one is supposed to. screw music proper, especially when "chopped" as well, clearly involves more manipulation of the original sources. even so, there's a lot that can be brought out of a record through such simple and subtle changes. i'm excited by the new listening practices that screwed music seems to be engendering. and i'm not just talking about listening to slowed-down music on some slow-you-down drugs--i'm talking about people interacting with music in a more creative, "productive" way, if you will. the more that new technologies (and old technologies, re-purposed) enable such activities, the further the line blurs between consumption and production.
recently, with the huge surge of interest in / production of screwed music, i've been thinking about various ways the concept could be played with. although it's a bit of a cheap trick, i've been meaning to "unscrew" a bunch of screwed tracks, preserving the strange, haunting vocal-slurs and tone-de(con)struction yet bringing the tempos back to original levels. i've always been more attracted to the strange, de-realizing effect that slowing down these tracks produces than the hypnotic effect of the lurching beats. and with the advent of programs like live, pitch and time can be de-coupled pretty easily, opening up all kinds of avenues of experimentation.
so, with comic and experimental intention, i give you a few "unscrewed" tracks...
roll deep, "remember the days"
this track is absolutely gorgeous in screwed form. as /jace notes, it becomes eerie and psychedelic in the hands of radioclit. sped back up to original tempo, it gains some energy while retaining the strange power of "tones slipping off the piano's deep end" and other serendipitous transformations.
doobie brothers, "what a fool believes" (120bpm)
found this one over at the world of weird that is umeancompetor. (i mean, competitor. whatever.) following michael mcdonald and the dipset around epcot center is a lot more intriguing that i would have imagined. and the recent appearance of several "screwed" versions of mcdonald songs on the site suggests newer, stranger territory for these peripatetic pranksters. for me, the screwed version of "what a fool believes"--despite being what sounds like a fairly "lo-fi" screw-job (check the site's aesthetic, though, it fits)--derives its most affective force in the intro, where drums become deep, especially that fizzing hi-hat, and keyboards crunch. the version above is restored to the original tempo of 120bpm, though i have to admit i prefer it at around 100, which is more of a mid-point. add a breakbeat to the first eight bars of this shit, and you'll have quite a lil' banger on your hands:
doobie brothers, "what a fool believes" (100 bpm)
three-six mafia, "sippin' on some syrup"
i had to try this technique with some classic screwed shit, so i found what purports to be a dj screw version of three-six mafia's "sippin' on some sizzurp," a song which is itself influenced by the screwed-up aesthetic. the track, along with similarly screwy non-screw songs such as mike jones's "still tippin'," demonstrates an interesting circular trend and would seemingly make a screwed version redundant. i guess not, though. fuck it: lay it on. i've restored the tempo up to original levels, which is not really much faster than the screwed version, though the slurred voices, and especially the chops, sound pretty wild up at 68bpm.
vanilla ice, "ice ice baby"
finally, gotta leave you with this swishahouse screw of vanilla ice, brought back up to its original club-track/fast-rap tempo. i have to admit that mr.van-winkle sounds a lot better pitched down. and the chops are crucial, picking out some of the best lines and leaving out some of the worst. this is another one that works better at a slightly slower tempo, but i wanted to bring it up to the original for demonstration purposes. wurrrrd toooooo yurrrrrr muuuuthhhherrrr.
i plan to mix all these together in some upcoming performances. they can actually all work at about 100bpm, though three-six mafia sound pretty strange all slowed and chopped at that speed. i'll try to put up a lil' mix at some point.
at any rate, i look forward to hearing some other experiments in this vein. the possibilities are wide open. there are several over at dissensus, and probably others elsewhere. of course, i'm still waiting for those tantalizingly titled "triple slow screw tape" joints c/o dj crashingjets.