Category Archives: Sean

Sean is a Branding Specialist here at PlayNetwork…

PlayNetwork Plays It’s Favorites (of 2011)

Another year of great music, and  most of us have only scratched the surface, exposed to radio favorites or a few buzz-worthy notables in-between. But beyond that, a sea of music exists that most of us have not been exposed to.

And then there those like members of our Music Services team who eat, drink, sleep, and live music: over morning coffee, in the car, at work, in meetings (wait, in meetings?!), back home again, out on the town, and falling asleep. Rinse, repeat, another morning of coffee and music.

Every year, our passionate and talented music supervisors listen to and catalog, both mentally and literally, thousands of songs and artists while they craft the sound of a brand. So to send off 2011, we’ll share some of our favorites from this past year. Look for several posts over these last two weeks as members of our Music Services team share some of their favorites.  We hope you enjoy!

First up, an in-depth look by Director, Music and Messaging Services Sean Horton at his pick for best album of 2011: James Blake’s self-titled release.

My Top Album of 2011 by Sean Horton

James Blake : S/T on Universal, Polydor

One of this year’s most intriguing developments was the emergence of UK heartthrob James Blake (http://jamesblakemusic.com), who’s self-titled debut full length was quickly snatched up by major label Universal. After witnessing Blake perform the material live at SXSW this past March (see it here), it was evident that this new comer is not only an innovative producer, but a charismatic performer.

The 22 year old producer/singer first gained popularity in 2010 through a series of bass-heavy instrumental EPs released on the underground dance label R&S Records out of Belgium. These first releases were often labeled as “dubstep”, which was a UK born sub-genre that combined elements of dub, garage, 2-step and grime. Though some of the rhythmic elements remain consistent, these initial releases have little in common with his current work.

Like many electronic music producers, Blake wasn’t content with strictly being a producer and DJ. Through cultivating his vocal and keyboard talents, Blake soon began composing music that shared more in common with American R&B and soul than underground dance music. Instead of relying on computers and drum machines to compose and perform with, Blake assembled a trio, which includes drummer Ben Assiter and guitarist Rob McAndrews. The end product is a live take on electronic music that captures the best of both worlds.

One of Blake’s signature production techniques is the unconventional use of pitch-correction on his voice in real time. Though some of his vocals wind up sounding like T-Pain on acid, the sincerity of the lyrics and stark melancholy melodies give the music a very human feel, regardless of how alien the sounds themselves might be.

The most popular tracks from the self-titled album are “The Wilhelm Scream”…

…and the gorgeous cover of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love”…  …are also the most conventional. After exploring the album more thoroughly, I find it to be incredibly cohesive as a whole. I personally began to empathize with the young man’s existential struggles with love, family, isolation, depression and fear. I would go as far as to say that James Blake is one of the most honest singer-songwriters to come of the new millennium. The fact that Blake is just now finding his voice in his early twenties points to a bright future. His recent collaboration with the Wisconsin based indie-folk outfit Bon Iver further illustrates Blake’s depth, as he combines his experimental vocal techniques with a more traditional form of Americana.

- Sean Horton  Director, Music and Messaging Services

SXSW in Perspective – First Time Around

2011 was my first SXSW experience. Based on the reports from friends and artists I know that had attended, I never thought of SXSW as a festival that catered too deeply to electronic music or hip hop. Though there was a very obvious focus of blues, rock, folk and guitars in general (they were everywhere) this year’s SXSW boasted in an impressive line-up of quality underground electronic music and hip hop, including the likes of Richie Hawtin, Boys Noize, Diplo, James Blake, DJ Premier, Trentemoller, Mount Kimbie, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Marco Carola, Talib Kweli, Switch, Moby, Housemeister, Daedelus, Big Boi, Afrojack, Addison Groove, Skrillex, De La Soul, Starkey, MSTRKRFT, Spank Rock, Jamie xx, EPMD, Baths, Shabazz Palaces, Pharoahe Monch, Beats Antique, Eskmo and Gold Panda to name some standouts. Though it was a pleasure to see so many familiar artists, the real joy for me came from new discoveries like soul singer Charles Bradley, folk-rock singer Sharon Van Etten and electronic crooner Jamie Woon, all of whom delivered stunning sets.

Part of the charm, and sometimes annoyance, of SXSW was the rapid fire pace and sheer magnitude of the performances (89 stages featuring over 2,000 acts with an average set length of 30 minutes). In total, I was able to catch over 30 performances at the 2011 SXSW Festival. Here are a few of the most memorable performances I caught and why.

1. James Blake – Live at the Central Presbyterian Church


The combination of fatigue, the venue and the brilliant programming (James closed out the night at a gorgeous Church) made this a magical performance. The British producer/singer performed with a trio, which included Ben Assiter on drums & Rob McAndrews on guitar. They played most of the 2011 self-titled album, which sounded even better live.  What James is doing is truly original, emotive and innovative, which I really can’t say about any other artist at the moment.

2. Charles Bradley – Live at the Cedar Street Pavilion


As a Motown native, classic soul is simply part of my DNA. When I heard that Charles Bradley’s album was mixed at Daptone Records’ internationally revered “House of Soul” Studios, I knew that the dude had chops. What I didn’t know is just how incredibly well it would translate live. The second Charles hit the stage, he had the entire audience in the palm of his hand and he never let go. What I enjoyed most about his performance was there was no doubt in my mind that he lived the life that he sang about. Charles Bradley is the real deal.

3. Trentemoller – Live at La Zona Rosa


It’s been interesting watching Trentemoller evolve over the past decade. From house to techno to electro pop to downtempo to shoegaze, in many ways Trentemoller represents the backlash to the often stagnant world of electronic dance music. Trading in turntables for guitars and drum machines for a live drummer, the current six-piece, live incarnation offers a wide spectrum of analog sound, all of which is balanced beautifully with Andreas Trentemoller’s gifted sound design and arrangements. Much like his own music, the groups’ performance was dynamic and at times dark (think Radiohead meets Twin Peaks).

4. Jamie Woon – Live at ND


Though I’d heard a few of Jamie’s songs before, I really didn’t know what to expect. Much like James Blake and Trentemoller, Jamie Woon is an electronic music producer that understands the importance of the performance, which included an incredibly tight quartet assembled for the stage. A talented vocalist, Woon deftly surfs the line between soul and pop, without losing the inherent subtly that makes him such a unique talent. Musically, he offers shades of Massive Attack, Jamie Lidell and Tracey Chapman, the combined effect of which is a dark, atmospheric take on soul.

5. Datarock – Live at The Parish


Probably the most entertaining performance I witnessed at SXSW, this Norwegian quartet hit the stage adorned in matching Datarock tracksuits and grandma shades. You could tell from the first chord that they were seasoned musicians and performers, who had their routine down pat. The solos, breakdowns, dance moves and the inevitable crowd participation all brought their music to vivid, sweaty life. I was pleased to find their lesser known material to be even more infectious than hits like “Fa-Fa-Fa” and “Give It Up”.

6. Sharon Van Etten – Live at the Central Presbyterian Church


I was not at all familiar with Sharon Van Etten and had it not been for a co-worker, I would have missed this memorable performance. Sharon’s voice, songwriting and lyrical sensibilities made her a standout among the hundreds of singer/songwriters performing at SXSW this year. What was remarkable about this particular performance was her voice was so strained from excessive use, that she could barely utter a word between songs. It was like the only way she could communicate was through her music, which I found enduring and in some ways profound.

7. DJ Jazzy Jeff – DJ set at Red Bull Thre3style Stage


As a long time fan and DJ of hip hop, I have to give it up for Jazzy Jeff’s set at the SXSW. Like any good party rockin’ DJ, Jazzy Jeff played the hits going back to the 70s. What was remarkable about his set was just how much he was able to cram in without losing the crowd for second. The end product was a 45 minute homage to hip hop’s most inspiring moments. I will admit, seeing thousands gathered together in unison in what was the largest and most elaborate stage configuration I saw at SXSW was exhilarating. During the event, the crowd outside of the fenced-in area grew so large that they had to close the street!

Sean Horton – Director, Creative / Producer, Branded Music / Tech Advisor – PlayNetwork

[news] Decibel Festival line up announced

This past week the Decibel International Festival of Electronic Music Performance, Visual Art and New Media in Seattle unveiled an updated list of confirmed performers, showcases, venues and sponsors for the 2010 program.  The line up features a plethora of critically acclaimed, international electronic music acts, including Modeselektor (Berlin), Carl Craig (Detroit), Fennesz (Vienna), Beats Antique (Oakland), Mary Anne Hobbs (London), VibeSquaD (Denver), Murcof (Tijuana), Plastician (London), Monolake (Berlin), Dinky (La Araucanía), Theo Parrish (Detroit), Ben Frost (Reykjavik), Starky (Philadephia) and Scuba (London).

For a complete list of the over 75 confirmed acts, visit the Decibel Festival artist page

[film] Facebook the movie?

My initial reaction after hearing about this was movie, staring Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and Rashida Jones, was to cast it aside as another predictable Hollywood drama, trying to capitalize on the hype surrounding social networking. However, after reading more about the  ‘The Social Network’ by David Fincher (‘Fight Club’, ‘Seven’, ‘The Game’, ‘Panic Room’, ‘Zodiac’) and the score by Trent Reznor aka Nine Inch Nails, I filmly believe this is going to be a great film chronicling the most popular social networking site in the world (Facebook).

[news] Britney Spears teams up with UK Dubstep producer/DJ Rusko

[news] Britney Spears teams up with UK Dubstep producer/DJ Rusko

FACT Magazine reports that UK’s most in demand Dubstep producer Rusko (now living in LA) will be working with Britney Spears on her new album. Could this unusual pairing could spark the end of Dubstep’s subterranean UK roots?

[news] Sónar Chicago announced

[news] Sónar Chicago announced

Barcelona’s massive Sónar Electronic Music Festival will be hosting a smaller, US version of its festival in Chicago this fall. Sónar Chicago will be co-promoted and produced by AC Entertainment, whom also produce the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. Here’s a LINK to the Sónar Chicago page.

[album review / podcast] Trentemoller’s “Into The Great Wide Yonder”

[album review / podcast] Trentemoller’s “Into The Great Wide Yonder” (In My Room)

A couple weeks ago Danish producer Andreas Trentemoller released his second full length album titled “Into The Great Wide Yonder”.  Seeing how his 2006 album “The Last Resort” is in my top 10 albums of all time, I had pretty high expectations for his sophomore release. Well, this past weekend I listened through the entire 10 track, 60 minute album start to finish and I’m pleased to report, he’s done it again. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Trentemoller has further expanded on the musical ideas contained on “The Last Resort” by adding more live, organic instrumentation into the mix (guitars, vocals, live percussion, strings, etc).

Stand out songs like “Shades Of Marble” and “Haexan” offer a familiar, cinematic dance tone that Trentemoller fans will appreciate, while melancholy pop tunes like “Neverglade”, “…Even Though Your With Another Girl” and the single “Sycamore Feeling” share more in common with Radiohead and Mazzy Star than with Trentemoller’s catalog of underground dance tracks. It’s this very sort of eclecticism and varied instrumentation that make both “The Last Resort” and “Into The Great Wide Yonder” such engaging and emotive albums.

Aside from being a compositionally sound album, “Into The Great Wide Yonder” is also one of the most beautifully recorded albums I’ve heard in years. I still have to give it a few more listens, but my initial reaction is to put Trentemoller’s sophomore release into my elite category of 2010 albums that currently includes Caribou’s “Swim” and Pantha Du Prince’s “Black Noise”, both of which are front-runners for album of the year.
On a side note, Trentemoller recently recorded a podcast for XLR8R that contains a very interesting list of artists, including Angelo Badalamenti, Low, Apparat, The Rolling Stones, Beck, Suicide, David Lynch and The Stone Roses. Not exactly your feel good, summertime playlist, but for chrissakes the guy is from Denmark. My guess is this podcast will offer insight into some of the songs and artists that have influenced Andreas him over the years.   - Sean Horton

Sean’s 2009 in Review: (Binary pop, Warp’s legacy, dub mutations and the return of sexy dance music)

2009 has been an incredibly innovative year in relation to music production. Artists like Animal Collective, Fever Ray, Royksopp and Moderat have proven once and for all that digital beats and electronic sound design can appeal to a pop audience that otherwise wouldn’t find themselves listening to “electronic music”.

This year also marks the 20 year anniversary of the greatest electronic music label (arguably greatest label) of all time, Warp Records, which has had an exceptional year across the board with strong indie releases from Grizzly Bear and Maximo Park as well as strong releases from their more obscure electronic artists like Tim Exile and Clark. Warp’s 20th anniversary box set is not only one of the best reviewed collections of the year, it’s also a brilliant testament to the label’s vast catalog of ground breaking artists (i.e. Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Jamie Lidell, Nightmares on Wax, Prefuse 73, Autechre, Broadcast, Plaid, Battles, Squarepusher, etc).

In addition, 2009 witnessed the rise of Dubstep as a respected genre in the US through acclaimed UK labels like Hyperdub (Burial, Kode9, Joker, Zomby, Flying Lotus) and Tectonic (2562, Martyn, DJ Pinch, Benga) both of whom continue to blur the boundaries between Grime, Dub, West Coast Hip Hop and Detroit Techno. With the avid support of tastemakers like Radio 1’s Mary Anne Hobbs and Low End Theory’s Daddy Kev (Alpha Pup Records) UK Dubstep and West Coast Glitch Hop / Hip Hop have both become quintessential styles on the electronic music frontline in the US. From Burning Man to this year’s Movement Festival in Detroit, Dubstep and Glitch Hop have fully emerged in 2009 as a staple sound in North America.

Another emerging trend has been the Deep House and Tech House revival, which has been experiencing a resurgence the past few years as club-goers have tired of the heady, sterility of Minimal Techno and the frenetic, over the top sound of Electro House. Artists like Gui Boratto, Voodeux, Pezzner, Milton Jackson, Stimming, Mode D, Catz n Dogz, DJ T and Dixon have all helped in keeping underground dance music both sexy and musical.

Overall 2009 has been a phenomenal year for technologically driven music, proving that creativity is truly catching up with the tools used for musical expression in the digital age.

Here are my Top 15 albums of the year

1. Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion” : Domino Records

2. Various “Warp 20” (Box Set) : Warp Records

3. Moderat (aka Apparat & Modeselektor) “S/T” : Bpitch Control Records

4. Fever Ray “S/T” : Rabid Records

5. Phil Kieran “Shh” : Cocoon Recordings

6. Nosaj Thing “Drift” : Alpha Pup Records

7. Jon Hopkins “Insides” : Domino Records

8. Various “5 : Five Years of Hyperdub” : Hyperdub Records

9. Lusine “A Certain Distance” : Ghostly International

10. Grizzly Bear “Veckatimest” : Warp Records

11. Gui Boratto “Take My Breath Away” : Kompakt Records

12. 2562 “Unbalance” : Tectonic Records

13. Modeselektor “Body Language Vol. 8” : Get Physical Music

14. Tim Hecker “An Imaginary Country” : Kranky Records

15. Voodeux “The Paranormal” : Mothership Records

Sean
Branded Music Specialist
PlayNetwork, Inc.

OPTICAL 3 : AMERITRONICA

Sunday September 27th at the Triple Door in Seattle

PlayNetwork and Decibel proudly present….

OPTICAL 3 : AMERITRONICA” featuring Folk and Americana infused electronic music performances from Mountains (New York), Benoit Pioulard (Portland) and Goldmund (Boston)

For the third installment of this year’s OPTICAL showcases at the 2009 Decibel Festival, PlayNetwork and Decibel enthusiastically bring a very recently coined genre of advanced electronic, electric and acoustic music that draws on such far-flung and older strains of American folk, classical and early traditional musics with the most advanced of electronic and digital composition. Coined AMERITRONICA this is a pastoral, expansive music that is evocative of nature, wide-open vistas that is yet compellingly modern, technological and abstract.

There is no better example of this sound than that of the New York duo of Koen Holtkamp and Brendon Anderegg as Mountains. Through their own exceptional works and the releases on their Apestaartje label they’ve established themselves as the forerunners of a new hybrid sound that situations itself between the plucked acoustic guitar techniques of Americana legend John Fahey and the subtle electronic textures of labels like Raster-Noton, 12k and City Centre Offices. This is a rare west coast performance from this duo, which promises to be a festival highlight.

Sharing the bill is Kranky recording artist Benoit Pioulard, who for more than a decade has sought to create a unique sonic environment by combining remnants of pop song structures with the lushness and unpredictability of field recordings. Benoit is a masterful songwriter and producer, who possess a unique ability to merge of acoustic instrumentation with electronics.

Opening the showcase is none other than Type Records mainstay Goldmund (aka Helios) who’ll be performing muted, elegiac, shimmering neo-classical piano works that suspend themselves in the air and the listeners mind.

Accompanying video artists for AMERITRONICA include Christina Vantzou of The Dead Texan, 12k/Anticipate Sawako and Seattle’s own esteemed Scott Sunn of Tracer Visuals.

The Triple Door (216 Union St, Seattle)

Doors open at 6pm, show begins at 7pm (for guaranteed seating in the main room, get there early)

Tickets are $25 at the door

For more information on this event or the 2009 Decibel Festival, check out these links

Facebook event page for the OPTICAL 3 : AMERITRONICA Showcase:

Video for the Benoit Pioulard music video for “Ragged Tint”:

Video Link for the 2009 Decibel Festival preview

Sean
Producer, Branded Music/Technology Advisor
PlayNetwork, Inc.

555 KUBIK

I just came across this video, which is one of the most interesting public a/v installations I’ve ever seen. The artists are basically doing animated 3D projections onto very large, sterile building in Hamburg. The projections and sound design give the illusion that the building is actually changing form. It’s a simple but very effective installation that I think urban landscapes need more of. Think of all the boring buildings that could be completely transformed with the use of a projector.

 WATCH!

Sean

www.playnetwork.com