Perfect 10: Metaform - EMusician

Perfect 10: Metaform

COAST-TO-ISLAND-HOPPING DJ DISSECTS HIS FAVORITE 10 TRACKS
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Metaform

Drifting from Tokyo to San Francisco and L.A. and back, Metaform has unearthed a wide variety of vinyl. For the 19 tracks on his album, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (JUST, 2008), Metaform meshed sampling with live instrumentation and mixed up classic soul, hip-hop, electro and lounge. (Who doesn't love vibraphone?) The album is a smooth ride that seamlessly moves from avenue to freeway to side street, inspired by the best music from the last handful of decades. DJ Shadow would be proud. For the inaugural “Perfect 10” DJ column, Remix hooked up with Metaform in May, when he sent us a time capsule of his favorite tracks from that minute. — Kylee Swenson

Aphex Twin, “Xtal”

The most blissed-out track of all time. It is my favorite song in the enormous Aphex Twin catalog, mostly because it re-minds me of a crazy summer I had in Montreal working on a Razed High project. From beginning to end, there is an undeniably angelic and ethereal feel. The female vocal sample really gets me. I still get chills every time I hear the beat change from the pulsing 808 to the syncopated snare beat.

Chessie, “Clear Block”

In 1999, Stephen Gardner revamped an entire genre. In my book, Signal Series is the most haunting drum 'n' bass album ever made. Instead of typical drum-machine and synth sounds, he chose to take the organic route and create his own sounds. The album opener, “Clear Block,” is my favorite because it is the most danceable. Here you will hear layer upon layer of distorted guitars, ghostly synth-pad echoes run through distortion boxes, and tweaked-out and sped-up drum breaks. You'll get a sense that you are on the commuter express between heaven and hell.

Dramatics, “In the Rain”

One of the most sampled tracks of all time, and for good reason. It is a buffet of soulful loops and sounds for producers in need of substance. In it you can find clean breaks with vocals, strings, echoing guitar, rain and thunder, rim shots and more. The song is a “classic” in the truest sense of the word, in that it is just as provocative now as it was in 1972. It sparked a new genre called “Baby-Making Music.”

Mike Jones feat. Slim Thug and Paul Wall, “Still Tippin'”

Again, another perfect example of how less is more: 808-style kit, simple violin sample/loop, minimal bass to complement the beat and three great MCs with their own sound and style. Sure, it's more complicated than that, but there is a template one can follow, a similar template used by Black Rob with “Whoa.” The template is there to be used, copied and improved upon.

Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle, “Dum Maro Dum (Take Another Toke)”

I put this track in here just in case you had not heard it. It is a classic Bollywood masterpiece recorded in 1971. You can't get sick of it. Funky drum breaks with psychedelic '60s guitar riffs and Asha Bhosle's phantasmal voice coming through with lots of compression and reverb. She's been sampled a million times and makes a really good segue between DJ sets.

MGMT, “Electric Feel”

A lot of us are feeling the electricity, but what is so great about it that demands that I put it on Repeat? Maybe it is the pulsating disco beat combined with the warm Rickenbacker bass mixed with heavy synths and quick, catchy vocals. When it comes to a final mix, I usually argue that less is more, but these guys pull off a great mix with some complexity. The verses are not too busy; the vocals really have a chance to be center focus. Nice build to the chorus, where a number of new elements are added, namely the fat analog synth. Man, what a great chorus; the reverbed backing vocals are superlush, like from a '60s Motown record.

9th Wonder feat. Big Remo & Novej, “Reminisce”

You gotta hand it to 9th; he only deals with quality. Dream Merchant Vol. 2 was in my top five for 2007 because 9th once again raised the bar for producers, and he always guarantees a great album all the way through with no filler. I really like the vibe on “Reminisce.” The track has 9th's signature style of sample chopping and transposition, some cool shaker that sounds like a waterfall and a kick and snare, which blends into the mix seamlessly as only a soulful, meticulous producer knows how to do.

Lee “Scratch” Perry, “Jah”

“Jah” is the opening track for the rarely discussed album Black Ark in Dub. This song is the sound of one lamenting before St. Peter at the gates, a declaration of absolute faith with the admission of youthful folly. “Jah” is dub, but it is superheavy, with a pounding kick-driven beat. It pulsates with clockwork precision. The heavy bass line creates somewhat of a droning effect as the same note is hit over and over in varying rhythms. This album is necessary for any dub collection.

Plies feat. Tank, “You”

Take an 808 kit, a hypnotic synth loop, an MC with an original sound and style (Plies), and a great singer (Tank) to do your chorus, and the result will undoubtedly be a trunk-thumpin' club burner. I really like how the kick is used as the bass melody, a simple two-note shift. The 808 kick has a pitch, so if you lay it out over a range of keyboard notes, you can create booming melodies.

Santogold, “Starstruck”

OMG, it's Santogold. Currently, the focus is on her hit single “Shove It,” but the whole album is great; my favorite song is “Starstruck” because it is dark and sexy. Here we are reminded that less is more with a simple mix of Santogold's new-wave vocal style over a bangin' 808 beat and some fat analog synths, not to mention some tasteful, ghostly background vocal echoes. I really like how they glitch some of the vocals throughout the song, very cool. On that note, if you've wanted a good, free, glitch VST effect, check out “Glitch” at http://illformed.org/blog/glitch. I highly recommend it.