Michael Mull Octet

Michael Mull Octet

Friday, January 27, 2012

Peasant Funk Video Preview

Here's a fun video promoting Orkestar MEZE's debut album, "Peasant Funk"! We're pioneering a new style of music under the same name, mixing Balkan melodies with American funk, jazz, and soul. The video features some footage of us workin' hard in the studio set to the title track of the album. I hope you get a kick out of it, and please stop by www.peasantfunk.com to hear more music and purchase the album!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Guns Don't Kill People

I'm excited to share this trailer for the upcoming film, Guns Don't Kill People. Written and directed by SoCal denizen Ivan Ehlers of the Movie Addicts Club, this looks to be a silly/dark comedy about a couple of hitmen who become targets themselves and have to come up with an elaborate scheme to get out of trouble. The soundtrack will feature several cuts from my trio album, Formation, two of which are used on the trailer below! I'll update about screenings of the film as I know, and you can "like" and follow along on facebook as well. Enjoy...

Guns Don't Kill People - Trailer from Ivan Ehlers on Vimeo.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free Sample + Grampus 1/21/12

If you haven't gotten to hear or see Free Sample yet, it's probably because we've only performed a few times. Tomorrow's your chance! Free Sample is led by my good friend and guitarist, Brice Albert, and is a cool mixture of electronic music styles slammed into a live context. We've got a diverse and fun set ready to rock, so come down to the Handbag Factory downtown and check it out. This is a new venue for me but it looks like they put on a lot of different kinds of shows and art, so I'm looking forward to checking it out. The show starts at 8:30pm, with a total of five bands. Free Sample is second-to-last, right before Grampus, an incredible trio of drumset, trombone, and trumpet, all processing in real time with electronics. This is an impressive group with a forthcoming album...treat yourself!

Handbag Factory
1336 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles
Show starts at 8:30pm
$5 donation
event on facebook

Sir Emmett William Thatcher III and BEN
Fritz Sender and Captain Seahorse
FREE SAMPLE - about 10pm

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meshuggah pt. 1 - Beneath

Those of you who have been reading for a while might recall me mentioning the metal band Meshuggah before. Meshuggah's music has had a great deal of influence on me musically since I began listening to them in high school; they have a signature sound that utilizes (for the most part) complex rhythmic figures over a straight-ahead groove. For example, they might find a rhythmic figure that takes up seven beats, then repeat this figure over a standard 16- or 32-beat form. As they near the end of the form, they will either alter the figure to smoothly repeat or, more often, simply interrupt the pattern and restart from the downbeat. A good example of a "typical" Meshuggah groove can be heard on the introduction to "Neurotica".

A quick disclaimer before I continue: I realize this music is not for everybody, at least not immediately. Asking someone who doesn't listen to heavy music to listen to Meshuggah is kind of like introducing someone to jazz via John Coltrane's "Sun Ship". This music is relatively "deep" within the genre, meaning that it is probably a big step for many folks in palatability. That said, we're all adults here...right? Don't write something off just because some guy is screaming the words instead of singing them.

Onward. Aside from the deep groove that Meshuggah's music creates, I have always been drawn to the creations of lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal. The sounds he achieves are unlike any other guitarist I've heard, and he has a knack for crafting extremely focused and characterized solos for every song while maintaining an unmistakeable style and tone. Regardless of musical style, I find these to be impressive attributes for a musician. Not able to stand so much mystery, I have transcribed three of Thordendal's solos from two albums and will present them one at a time with accompanying discussion. Please enjoy and discuss with me your impressions and thoughts.

You can listen to the whole track here: Meshuggah's "Beneath" from the album Destroy Erase Improve. The guitar solo begins around 2:35 on the full track. Below you can view the transcription; I have included a second staff that shows the rhythm guitar part as reference. The basic groove revolves around a straight-ahead 12/8 groove over which a grouping of 5 is repeated for 4 measures. If you are having difficulty following, listen to the drums: you can find the basic 1-2-3-4 pulse here, where each pulse is divided into 3 smaller beats in this case. Once you feel the pulse strongly, try to feel the rhythm figure over the top of it. Tap your foot to the pulse, but focus on the rhythm guitar part; if you can sing it or drum it on the desk, awesome! If not, don't worry about it too much...take a look at the music below and let's pick apart the solo. (If the picture files are small when viewing, I recommend saving them to your desktop so you can use a picture-viewing program to zoom in)

While the tonality over a vamp like this is ambiguous, I'm going to treat the tonal center as "E" for this discussion. Scanning the first several bars in Thordendal's solo, we see only 4 tones: G#, A#, D and E. After the initial held A#, Thordendal introduces these tones by playing a three-note melody (A#-D-G#) and then repeating the melody up a tritone (E-G#-D). He continues the line using these four tones, only adding a passing Eb in m.3. The harmony takes form in the next phrase (m.5) when the note choices are expanded to include B and F; rearranging these six tones with "E" as the root gives us E-F-G#-A#-B-D, which the ear can solidly equate with a diminished tonality (a full diminished scale would also include a G-natural and C#). This scale predominates for most of the solo after m.5; jazz players might say Thordendal is playing over an E7 chord with a flatted ninth (F) and a sharp eleventh (A#).

Thordendal rounds out the second phrase by digging into the pulse beginning on "big beat 4" (technically beat 10 in 12/8) of m.6 and continuing through m.8. In m.9-10, he refers back to the tritone (arguably the most "important" interval in a diminished tonality) while staying rhythmically on the "big beats", bending into a G#-D tritone, then an A#-E-A# tritone shape. The second A# serves as a launching point (much like the opening statement of the solo) into a cascading four-note figure that is repeated 5 times, each time transposed down a half-step. This is an incredible moment in the solo; not only is the rhythmic tension delicious, Thordendal also seems to be borrowing from the rhythm guitar part, which is essentially a four-note figure plus an eighth-note rest. He subtracts the rest to great effect; we now have a grouping of 4 against a grouping of 5 against a backdrop of 12/8, almost creating a microcosm of Meshuggah's rhythmic approach while stepping outside the established harmonic palette.

The tail end of the solo begins as Thordendal finds his way out of the four-note chromatic pattern and immediately back into the 6-tone diminished scale he used before. Upon listening, Thordendal drives through a long scalar line that locks into the 12/8 pulse --- he winds his way down the range of his guitar and lands cleanly on his lowest A#, the same note on which he began the solo. A closer look reveals something more; Thordendal plays an 8-note shape beginning on D in m.13 (the slurs are included for this discussion, and not to indicate any emphasis on the performance). He passes back up with a three-note interjection, G#-A#-B, only to repeat the same 8-note shape (m.14). Immediately following, he repeats the 8-note shape, this time transposed down a tritone (beginning on G# on beat 10, m.14), then two more times descending in tritones. The line is finished with one more 3-note interjection leaping down to the final A#.

The simple and oft-used diminished idea of playing something, then playing it a tritone away is effectively dressed up here because of Thordendal's use of a grouping of 8 against the dominating "triplet" feel of 12/8. It is the same approach as the earlier 4-note chromatic passage; if the shape were 3 or 6 tones long, the line would not be nearly as interesting because the melody would repeat on the same part of the pulse every time, rather than rhythmically displacing.

This is by no means an end-all analysis of this solo, but a summary of some of Thordendal's approaches and techniques that lead to such a complex and effective solo from essentially simple elements. Feel free to ask any questions or make your own observations in the comments. Two more solos to come over the next week or so (increasing in complexity), so get geared up!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bring in 2012 with MEZE!

Happy New Year to all! I'm looking forward to pushing harder, working more, and enjoying more fully than ever this year. A lot of fun coming down the pipe already, help kick off 2012 the peasant way by attending this year's first Orkestar MEZE gig at Rusty's Surf Ranch in Santa Monica! This Friday, 1/6, we're starting up our "first Friday of the month" residency once again, so let's party hard Peasants!

1/6/11 @ Rusty's Surf Ranch
256 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica 90401
$7 ($12 if under 21 without guardian)

Check back here soon for some nerdy musical treats of the transcription variety...