February 22, 2007

Musical signatures

Driving home i was musing on how some musicians have clear musical signatures that just mean whenever you hear their music you just now who it is from a few bars, you don’t need to hear the rest of the music.

For example,

Johnny Cash – the chuggachuggachugga rhythm of the railtrack
Julian Cope – a particular style of keyboard synth noise that just sticks out, though he doesn’t use it so much any more
Tom Waits – spooky percussion of death
Keane – snoring and bangs of people falling asleep

Nick Cave talked about this once saying when he was looking for a guitarist he found Blixa Bargeld who produced these fantastic dolorous funeral chords on the guitar. Unfortunately it took him a while to realise that was all he could do, hence the heavy influence on the Cave sound.

I guess that I don’t find so many such signatures these days. Modern production techniques tend to make everything sound vaguely similar I suppose. perhaps people have stopped remembering to have fun making music now.


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. I have to say, I appreciate Bargeld’s influence on the Cave sound. Don’t diss it!

    22 Feb 2007, 22:43

  2. Waits does awesome spooky percussion now, although it’s much more trad on his equally fine earlier stuff, although he is a true genius and is allowed to change.

    I’d say there are some distinctive sounds still out there. Much as I don’t really like Babyshambles, Pete Doherty does have a distinctive sloopy guitar method which was endearing in the Libertines and annoying after that (needs more Carl). And no one out there uses synths at the moment like The Knife do. But sounds are more hallmarks of producers these days – you can tell a Neptunes or a Timbaland production quite easily, and even the more indie likes of Jackknife Lee (smooth and epic), Dave Eringa (everything and the kitchen sink), or Paul Epworth (slow buildup of instruments as song progresses, high hats) have a sound which can be identified.

    23 Feb 2007, 01:39

  3. Lucinda – I wasn’t dissing it – that’s what NC said himself.

    Holly – that’s true enough, but you listen to some stuff now and end up thinking, hang on, is that them or them or the other?

    I guess the point is that there is a lot of over production on tracks now, which probably reduces the individuality of given artist. And hey – it’s not as if Phil Spector or Rick Rubin never had an influence on the music they produced, right?

    23 Feb 2007, 09:51

  4. You don’t need to hear the rest of the music? Surely that’s a really bad thing?

    There are plenty of distinct musicians around, you’re probably just not looking in the right places.

    23 Feb 2007, 14:35


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