I can trace my fascination with people who mix their own vocals, live, into their music back to a specific performance: The Yohimbe Brothers at Pearl Street, Northampton, MA, with Matt. I feel like my entire experience of that night can be described as ‘new’ with 'eyes wide open’ and 'ears agape’ and a dose of 'amazed’.
Let me explain.
Up until that performance (probably 2003, maybe 2002, possibly 2004. it all blends, now) most of my musical tastes and, therefore, shows were in a narrow range: Old folk singers, younger 'jamband’ bands, some more modern singer-songwriters, but not much else. Generously, perhaps, these all fit in a grouping. I remember once critiquing my (then) girlfriend’s affinity for ONLY the studio stuff from the Grateful Dead; I probably said 'maaaannnnn’ in that annoyingly hippie-ish way in my critique. I still love, and fondly remember, my experiences seeing bands like moe. in venues across Massachusetts, and an icy night in Maine as well.
But that night, in Northampton, I saw something new. The lead singer of the Yohimbe Brothers (a project between Vernon Reid, of awesome goatees and Living Color, and DJ Logic, of general awesomeness) had this little widget on her mic stand that allowed her to sample her own vocals back into her singing. It was amazing. On top of that, Vernon was sampling with a Mac Powerbook (back in those days) everything from whale sounds to beats and rhythms alongside his guitar. DJ Logic, he of the 'before there were DJs scratching, there were washboard-players’ line Matt gathered up from a post-show interview, he was mixing in all sorts of tunes.
EVER SINCE THEN, I have been a fan of the ability for musicians to seize on technology for the great things it could do, and one of my favourite uses of that? Vocal self-sampling (if it has a more formal name, I don’t much care). James Blake, for instance, does this beautifully in Retrograde, Grimes builds on this across her work, it is fantastic. Dan Deacon does this, Glasser does this sometimes (I think, still … love her music), it’s something I connect with now I never did before.
And it traces right back to that evening, at Pearl Street, so many years ago, with Matt. And the Yohimbe Brothers.
That is a moment where I came to expand my listening habits and where I came to appreciate new music I never would have otherwise.
Setting: Full Performance (Live on KEXP)