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Topic: I admit it's growing on me, but is it Mike O?< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
jtchivers Offline




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Posted: June 23 2010, 11:26

Hi, I'm new to these forums, and I hope I'm not going to start off on the wrong foot ;-)

Well, I wrote a review on Amazon shortly after I had bought Light + Shade, and it was far from positive.

I have to say that I have now listened to the album scores of times and I quite enjoy it, but I can't think why, as I have a general dislike for anything approaching a stupid hi-hat dance beat.

So, let me think some more...

I believe that my initial bias against the album was because I expect more from Mike. Let me elaborate...

There are hundreds of people churning out albums like Light + Shade. Many of them from their bedrooms. I happened to buy this album because it had Mike's name on it. My first reaction was horror. I well remember Mike's tent protest against computer generated music in the late 1980s and he has spent most of the last 20 years producing similar music. It is not that the album is bad in its own right, if you like that kind of music - it isn't. It's just that I expect more from Mike.

An analogy would be that you had a great artist who stopped doing great works of art and started painting walls instead because he could make more money as a decorator. I feel that his talent is wasted.

As a drummer, I have a separate fear. It is all too easy to underestimate the importance of a living, breathing drum line in music. You simply can't beat the sound of real drums on music (no pun intended). If Mike could get out of his tired old hi-hat dance beats, his music would be lifted... and there are signs on Light + Shade that he can still write beautiful melodies and arrangements - but against synthetic, sequenced, quantised drum lines... eughhh!

Go back to Mike's early '80s albums, and he placed massive importance on percussion in his music - witness QE2, Five Miles Out, and Crises. Those albums just sound immense production-wise, thanks in no small measure to the live drumming of some excellent players (Phil Collins, Simon Phillips, Maurice Pert, and Carl Palmer). Now listen to Islands and Earth Moving and you hear a big difference. They sound dated, because that's the other problem of using synthetic and sequenced drums - they really date a record and the songs suffer in turn - they lack power and credibility. Pictures In The Dark and Shine would have sounded much better with real drums.

People who don't really know drums and the power of expression in rhythm do them down. Drummers are the first to be replaced by sequenced parts or drum loops, closely followed by bass players, but there's really no excuse for that and the expression in rhythm is integral to music.

Thanks to modern technology, Mike is in a situation where he can write and record in his own company, but his best work was (you have to admit it) done in collaboration with other people, even if the others just worked in just a producing role. He (and many fans) may not like it, but it's true. He must have come to the same conclusion at some point, or he wouldn't have involved Michael Cretu and Trevor Horn as co-producers.

So, back to Light + Shade, I can appreciate most of it now in its own right. I pains me to think of it as a Mike Oldfield album, for the above reasons. Romance and Lakme make me cringe, I'm afraid - I would be embarrassed to play those to friends as an example of Mike's work. There are some very nice moments on the album, and I found the ideal for listening to the album was whilst motorcycling through beautiful scenery on a summer's day (ideally in Scotland). That is until the dance beats rear their ugly heads and instead of the music fitting the beautiful scenery, it suddenly sounds like an old Ibiza club full of English yobs.

I personally love his first three albums, then QE2, Five Miles Out, Crises, Discovery, and Amarok. All feature great musicians on acoustic instruments, and for that reason they somehow don't date as badly as some of Mike's other work where he's gone it along and hasn't had the difficult but fruitful group scenario.

I won't give unconditional praise for Mike, nor any of my other 'favourite' bands, many of whom have also 'let me down' in the last couple of decades. Most just don't write as well crafted songs as they used to. This isn't about them not progressing - everyone needs to modernise and I'm not one of those people who thinks that bands should stay in the 1970s, but so many of my favourite bands who started in the 1970s just don't write or record as well as they used to. Steve Hackett seems to be one of the few exceptions and now it is newer bands, such as Muse, who are writing and recording interesting songs and exhibiting great musicianship.

So, I love Mike's work as a whole and that is why an album such as L+S is, on the whole, pretty horrific to me.

I listened to the song Five Miles Out today and counted no fewer than 14 separate musical sections in a 4.5 minute song. Incredible! A whole epic piece of music in a pop song! Now that's writing...
...and listen to those drums!
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Sir Mustapha Offline




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Posted: June 23 2010, 13:12

Synthetic drums can sound awful or great, I think, depending on the context too; most styles of electronic music pretty much depend on electronic drums because there are things you can do with them that you can't do otherwise. In that sense we have folks like Tom Jenkinson, who's an extremely competent drummer but doesn't abandon his drum machines.

I think the problem with Light and Shade isn't down solely to the sound of the drums, but with the music as a whole; it's a pale imitation of other artists, and when I say pale, I say really pale and lazy. Nobody can be 100% fresh and original 100% of the time, but when you're tackling house and dance music, either you go in with some fresh ideas or you're bound to fall into irrelevance (most of Shade) or absolute horror (Romance).


--------------
Check out http://ferniecanto.com.br for all my music, including my latest albums: Don't Stay in the City, Making Amends and Builders of Worlds.
Also check my Bandcamp page: http://ferniecanto.bandcamp.com
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ex member 892 Offline




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Posted: June 23 2010, 14:15

First of all, let me extend a warm welcome to ya, jtchivers. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time here at the tubular forums.

Light + Shade is one of those albums that I've always really wished I could get in to. After all, 'First Steps' features my favorite melody from the Tr3s Lunas game (Although, after hearing Brandon Blume's wonderful Tr3s Lunas II remix album, I must say that I prefer it). And as I listen to it, a beautiful melody will go by, and I'll say to myself: "Hey, I do like this!", only to have it ruined by some god-awful vocoloid or other crappy, cliched electronic effect (and this is from someone who loves electronic music). It's turned into an album that I almost never pull out, as it just makes me angry at MO for f***ing up some really lovely melodies and chord progressions (IMHO, of course).

However, I must disagree with you on drum machines. Don't get me wrong, I love the sound of real drums. I like nothing better than to sit back and have Neil Peart, Brann Dailor, Mike Portnoy or whoever pummel with some bad-ass, bombastic, emotional, real drumming. Having said that, I think there's a place and time for the tightness and, well, machine-like sound of a drum machine. I mean, have you never heard of Nine Inch Nails? A real drum kit would sound totally out of place on The Downward Spiral or The Fragile. There are many other groups that make good use of drum machines as well. To me they are two different instruments that serve two different purposes. Oh well, to each his own, as they say.

Welcome again,

Syd

PS. What's wrong with people making music in their bedrooms? ;)
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jtchivers Offline




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Posted: June 23 2010, 14:16

Quote
Synthetic drums can sound awful or great, I think, depending on the context too


Completely agree. I love Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, and Propaganda, and some of the best music mixes both sequenced and live drum parts, but it fits a certain kind of music, and it's the kind of music that, frankly, doesn't require as much musicianship as that possessed by Mike Oldfield.

Quote
...most styles of electronic music pretty much depend on electronic drums because there are things you can do with them that you can't do otherwise.


The same applies to any instrument. A good drummer can do much more than you can achieve with a sequenced part in a much quicker time and make the part sound far more expressive. Add the possibility for multi-tracked drums and you can get incredible sounds. Don't forget there are acts which tour solely on the basis of percussion from the Yakudo drummers to outfits such as Stomp. Rhythm is what people feel when they hear music. It's as important if not more so than melody. In the best music (and I would include Mike's earlier work in this), you treat both with the same care and attention.

Don't get me wrong - the sequenced drums do work with Light + Shade. My point was a wider one - i.e. that Mike's best work involved a Mike Oldfield band, and the best of the best didn't overlook the importance of good drummers.

Add to that my contempt for the awful 'dance beat' which has permeated electronic dance music for nearly three decades ("Boring! Nothing to see here - move on please!"), and the album doesn't fair well in my estimation, but it does have some good moments.

It is pretty easy to make music from your home these days (I know - I do it too as a hobby), and Mike has pretty much embraced that, but at what cost to the quality of his output?
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ex member 892 Offline




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Posted: June 23 2010, 14:19

Yikes, we must have been posting at the same time, 'cause I didn't read your comment about actually liking drum machines before posting mine about your not liking them :p.
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jtchivers Offline




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Posted: June 23 2010, 14:33

:) Looks, like it Syd!

Love the signature, by the way!

Yeah, like I say, the album has grown on me, but I compare it with anything pre TB2 (with the possible exception of Earth Moving) and it makes me a little sad.

I'd love to see him do another album with a Mike Oldfield group, but not try to fit in with what's current/popular. Yes, it would mean working with other people, but he could do it from his home if that's what it takes.

Nothing goes out of fashion more quickly than what is in fashion at the moment.
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Cooper Roy Offline




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Posted: June 23 2010, 17:00

Electronic Music and Real Drummer ?

Checkout Moondawn and Body Love 1 and 2 by Klaus Sculze.His live drummer was Harald Grosskopf-superb stuff,

Harald can also be found on Manuel Gottsching's EM works.

"Home music is killing taping" - redundant Studio Engineer   :/

CR


--------------
"I have nothing but sympathy for how people behave-and nothing but laughter to console them with.Laughter is my religion.In the manner of most religions, I admit my laughter is pretty desperate."
                                                                   John Irving
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^NabLa^ Offline




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Posted: June 24 2010, 04:51

A drumkit is in no way superior to a drum machine, or a piano to a synthesizer, or a guitar to a bottle of Anis el Mono and a spoon; thinking so is fairly arrogant in my opinion - not directed at you, mind you, but it's something I've found over the years with musicians that play traditional instruments exclusively.

They're just different noise churning machines. You can use any noise to create music, and I mean any. As other people has pointed out already you will use a specific instrument for a specific task, sometimes it will be a TB-303, sometimes an actual bass guitar and what not.

What always makes the difference, always, is the performer himself.

I figure this is what Mike didn't understand at first when he dissed electronic music instruments in the 80's.

The technology used to create L+S is no different from what was used for TSODE to name one example. Only slightly more advanced. What's the difference? Well, for me L+S is quite crap and TSODE a masterpiece, I blame a clear lack of inspiration on the old man around the L+S era, the tools have zero to do with this.


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ex member 892 Offline




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Posted: June 24 2010, 09:41

Quote (jtchivers @ June 23 2010, 14:33)
Love the signature, by the way!

Thanks! I can't take credit it for it tho, that would have to go to Jack Handey. :)
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ex member 892 Offline




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Posted: June 24 2010, 09:44

Quote (^NabLa^ @ June 24 2010, 04:51)
A drumkit is in no way superior to a drum machine, or a piano to a synthesizer, or a guitar to a bottle of Anis el Mono and a spoon; thinking so is fairly arrogant in my opinion - not directed at you, mind you, but it's something I've found over the years with musicians that play traditional instruments exclusively.

They're just different noise churning machines. You can use any noise to create music, and I mean any. As other people has pointed out already you will use a specific instrument for a specific task, sometimes it will be a TB-303, sometimes an actual bass guitar and what not.

What always makes the difference, always, is the performer himself.

My thoughts exactly. And I completely agree with you about TSODE - it's one of my favorite albums.

Maybe with Light + Shade, MO was just low on inspiration. That happens - most artist have a few crap albums (some more than a few ;)).
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Milamber Offline




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Posted: June 26 2010, 08:41

Welcome JT nice to have another Drummer round here.
Lets get your thoughts on this. :)
Mikes Greatest Drummer
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Jesse Offline




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Posted: June 26 2010, 11:07

I agree with Nabla, but I think for TSODE he used hardware synthesizers and not virtual instruments, which are still catching up. And even though it all comes down to a performer, the used sound, the used instrument does influence and matter to the musical piece.

For example I used reason for my older songs and now ableton live with all fancy plugins which are more advanced. But they lack the certain charm of reason's synths and vice versa.
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jtchivers Offline




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Posted: June 26 2010, 13:52

Have to say, I'm not overly keen on TSODE as a Mike Oldfield album. I think when I say I'm a fan, I should qualify that in future. I'm a fan of Mike when he uses live musicians in his music.

My beef is really with Mike Oldfield using sequenced drums (don't know anyone who uses drum machines any more, other than for a deliberate retro feel) rather than real drummers. I am not a luddite when it comes to these things and I have always loved synths and even wholly sequenced music, but I no more want to hear solely synthetic drum lines in Mike's creations than I would in traditional jazz. It just doesn't fit for me.

In terms of which is superior, its completely subjective - it's tools for the job and just down to personal preference. I did make an earlier point that a good drummer can knock out a beautiful rhythm track (with superb dynamics and phrasing) far more quickly than you can achieve with a sequenced part. I've tried myself (as a drummer) to take the 'easy route' when recording music and just program in the rhythm track, and it turned out to take much longer.

Yes, I was able to lay down the drum track reasonably quickly (copy and paste being very helpful), but in the end, we (the group) just felt it lacked 'life' and 'breath' - it was soul-less, even after I had spent hours artificially putting in phrasing, dynamics, and even 'de-quantising' it to make it sound more human.

In the end it was a false economy. I spent much longer doing that than I would have if I'd just mic-ed up a drum kit and played the parts live to the songs, which is what I ended up doing. I have the two versions of the album (one with real drums and one with sequenced drums). We in the band all agreed that the live drums sounded better - and by a long way! They didn't just make the drums sound better, but they lifted the whole album.

But it's all down to the type of music of course. My first point in all this real versus artificial drums discussion was really that I think it has made Mike a little lazy in his composition. I think some time spent with other good musicians might inspire him again. Really, recording nowadays is not nearly as big a deal as it was 20 years ago.

Mike's reason for slagging off computerised music in the '80s was one of concern that genuine musicianship was going to be undervalued (possibly this was from a protectionist viewpoint, if we're going to be cynical, and he may have come to the conclusion 'if you can't beat them, join them' by the time of TSODE), but it may be sincere and he just changed his mind in the 1990s.

I have no problem with synthetic rhythm tracks - I just think that they've contributed to Mike going down a certain path and I'd like to see him do something different from what all the other hundreds or thousands of 'ambient' composers out there are doing - ideally as far away from Fruity Loops as is possible!

Or you can just virtualise the whole band and use virtual guitars, bass, and drums - stick in a virtual vocalist and your job is done! No need to play anything at all!

Mike has the talent to make beautiful, organic music, and he's just wasting that talent if he's not recording it.

...and no, an orchestra is not the right way to go either, Mike! ;-)

I listened to both the Shine and Pictures In The Dark singles again today and I have to say that they've dated far worse than his earlier work and that's simply down to the awful drum sounds used. I can hear those tracks with a real drum line, and they would be transformed! As for Earth Moving - yuck!
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sparrow Offline




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Posted: June 26 2010, 14:23

Quote (Cooper Roy @ June 23 2010, 17:00)
Electronic Music and Real Drummer ?

Checkout Moondawn and Body Love 1 and 2 by Klaus Sculze.His live drummer was Harald Grosskopf-superb stuff,

Harald can also be found on Manuel Gottsching's EM works.

"Home music is killing taping" - redundant Studio Engineer   :/

CR

Good Call...I'm a big Klaus Schulze fan and the ##real'' drumming on those records is superb..
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Sir Mustapha Offline




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Posted: June 29 2010, 09:46

Quote (Jesse @ June 26 2010, 11:07)
I agree with Nabla, but I think for TSODE he used hardware synthesizers and not virtual instruments, which are still catching up. And even though it all comes down to a performer, the used sound, the used instrument does influence and matter to the musical piece.

For example I used reason for my older songs and now ableton live with all fancy plugins which are more advanced. But they lack the certain charm of reason's synths and vice versa.

Isn't that all entirely subjective? "Charm" is not inherent to an instrument or a piece of software -- it depends on the relationship with the musician. If an instrument doesn't have "charm", either it's the musician who was unable to find its beauty, or the instrument is really, effectively bad -- and come on, even a broken cymbal sounds beautiful depending on who uses it (i.e. Sigur Rós).

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Check out http://ferniecanto.com.br for all my music, including my latest albums: Don't Stay in the City, Making Amends and Builders of Worlds.
Also check my Bandcamp page: http://ferniecanto.bandcamp.com
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ex member 892 Offline




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Posted: June 29 2010, 10:50

Well, jtchivers, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.
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jtchivers Offline




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Posted: June 29 2010, 15:57

Yep, as an old friend once said, "Opinions are like a**holes - everybody's got one!" :p

I suppose I am a fan of Mike's older work and not at all of his newer stuff (with some exceptions) and I just have to admit it to myself. Apart from his first three albums and Amarok, I think that his best work was with other musicians.

I am not one of those people who just loves old music for the sake of it - it's just that it was (admittedly subjectively speaking) better. I think that many of my favourite bands (Rush and Yes spring to mind) went off the boil some time ago. Credit to Rush for keeping themselves musically relevant to today, but their songs just aren't as downright nice as they were up until 1996 or therebouts. Yes haven't produced a decent album of songs since 1999 and it was a good few years before then that they produced another one.

Now Muse are great! - they write really good songs with well crafted melodies and yes, they play everything! Does that make them old-fashioned? I think it's easy to point at those of us who don't like Mike's newer stuff and think that we're just against progress (I'd probably do the same), but I don't see what he's doing as progress. That ambient stuff is just all old-hat now and he's just one of thousands of people who have done it, which is probably why he doesn't make a big splash with those type of albums. He needs to do something radically different again and reinvent himself!

Granted, it's just my opinion. It's not fact and I seem to be in the minority here, so I guess I have to make way for the new fans he's inevitably gained by doing the ambient stuff or the ones who adapt to his new style and embrace it.

I'll still listen to Light + Shade. It has grown on me. It's just there's a tinge of sadness for me when I hear it. :(
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ex member 892 Offline




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Posted: June 30 2010, 10:03

Quote (jtchivers @ June 29 2010, 15:57)
Credit to Rush for keeping themselves musically relevant to today, but their songs just aren't as downright nice as they were up until 1996 or therebouts.

Very true, unfortunately.

Quote
Yes haven't produced a decent album of songs since 1999 and it was a good few years before then that they produced another one.


Hell, I don't own any of their albums after 1972! Bruford leaving was just the end for me.

Quote
Now Muse are great! - they write really good songs with well crafted melodies and yes, they play everything! Does that make them old-fashioned?


I hate to burst your bubble, but Muse does not play those synth arpeggios - they're sequenced.

Quote
I think it's easy to point at those of us who don't like Mike's newer stuff and think that we're just against progress (I'd probably do the same), but I don't see what he's doing as progress. That ambient stuff is just all old-hat now and he's just one of thousands of people who have done it, which is probably why he doesn't make a big splash with those type of albums.


Couldn't agree more. That particular type of ambient/chill-out is overdone. I haven't seen anyone do anything new with it for a long time. I should like to say, though, that ambient is a very broad term, and a lot of very interesting stuff has been done within the genre.

Quote
He needs to do something radically different again and reinvent himself!


Well, he did. It was... Music of the Spheres. The very mention of it makes me like Light + Shade better (no offense, Mike. Just not my thing).

I'm not sure what the point is of me addressing every point in your post like this, but I seem to have an opinion about everything you've said.
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jtchivers Offline




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Posted: June 30 2010, 11:18

Quote
I hate to burst your bubble, but Muse does not play those synth arpeggios - they're sequenced.


No bubble burst - I appreciate that, but even they use a fourth member when they play live. Bellamy would struggle to play everything he plays/sequences in the studio live.

No problem with sequenced lines per se. There have been sequencers in use since the dawn of synthesisers and we use them in my band - muggins here on the drums has to trigger the sequenced parts!  :D
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^NabLa^ Offline




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Posted: June 30 2010, 12:05

A good example of what can be accomplished using mostly sequenced instruments:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L4pyS6pq1I


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