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On Deck: Pick a Piper

By ; June 12, 2013 at 12:19 PM 

Pick A Piper

Combining dance music cadences and organic (read: live) instrumentation, the collaborative music project Pick a Piper—spearheaded by Caribou drummer Brad Weber—molds familiar and not-so-familiar sounds into danceable rhythms which seem preternaturally predisposed to influence the head as well as the hips. Over the course of a couple of EP’s and one recent self-titled LP, which was released in April via Mint Records, the approach that Weber and his associates have taken concerning their music has changed from incorporating more of an acoustic palette to something more predominantly electronic. Favoring samples, synths, looping beats, and other atmospheric electro paraphernalia, Pick a Piper have created vast musical landscapes consisting of programmed music, which doesn’t feel programmed. There is a warmth and vitality that courses through the veins of their music which is absent in most of the works of their electro peers.

Brandishing influences like a kid tossing firecrackers, the band never feels hemmed in by their abundance of ideas and aural predispositions. In fact, the band seems to find creative freedom in the stretches of musical experimentalism that are common to their releases—and on their debut LP in particular. In the latest of our On Deck features, Weber talks about five records that he loves, though not necessarily his top 5 favorite releases. And in the large amount of musical ground that he covers here, you can see how the foundation of Pick a Piper was initially laid. Check out his full list below.

I’m going to talk about a few records that were important to my musical development. These are by no means the most important records or my top 5 favourites. I just picked 5 that I really love. Choosing “favourites” or making an all-time top 5 or 10 for me is impossible. These came to mind, so I’d like to say a few words!

Elevator - A Taste of Complete Perspective
Elevator – A Taste of Complete Perspective (2000)

Elevator (called “Elevator to Hell” earlier on) were what came after Eric’s trip disbanded. Rick White and the ET drummer Mark Gaudet teamed up with Rick’s wife Tara and turned the lo-fi, 4-track indie rock of their former project into a crazy psychedelic acid trip (while maintaining the same type of song structures as before). They really helped bridge the gap into noise and experimental music for me. The band was sadly overlooked compared to Eric’s Trip and eventually broke up, but released some amazing records between 1996 and 2004.

Four Tet - Pause
Four Tet – Pause (2001)

Four Tet bridged many worlds for me. He took my appreciation of electronic music, which started out as detroit techno, to a new level. It was also a logical next step after post-rock bands like Do Make Say Think and Mogwai. It also turned me onto more free-jazz/improv type music as well. This record perfectly blended acoustic sounds with Kieran’s amazing sense of rhythm into one of my favourite records of all time.

Tony Allen - Jealousy Progress
Tony Allen – Jealousy/Progress (1975-1977)

Discovering afro-beat was a huge step for me. It took my knowledge of rhythm, and more importantly my drum skills, to a whole other level. Tony is the king of feel. His beats never sound complicated upon first listen. But still down and try to replicate his groove and you’ll have a pretty impossible time doing so. I feel like I’ve spent years trying to achieve 10% of his incredible feeling on the kit and it’s made me a much better musician and songwriter in the process. Not to mention this is one of the best records of all time to dance to. Throw it on and watch even your most indifferent friends bob along to it’s infectious grooves. This was originally two separate albums that were re-released as one.

3 Hurel - 3 Hurel
3 Hurel – 3 Hurel (1973)

Discovering Turkish psych was a huge step for me and one of many in my knowledge of music outside the western scope. Turkish psych/funk/rock from the 60s and 70s took known sounds from the US and UK and mixed them with many turkish instruments and scales to create a sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard anywhere else. It’s hard to choose one artist, as many are mindblowingly amazing. To name a few: Erkin Koray, Selda, Baris Manco, Ersen, Mogollar. This 3 Hurel album, however, just sums up a lot of what I love about Turkish psych from this era.

Chancha Via Circuito - Rio Arriba
Chancha Via Circuito – Rio Arriba (2010)

This is the most recent discovery on this list. I’ve been checking out various Latin American records for a long time, but most of them were from the 60s-80s. I didn’t know much about the current music climate down there. I was visiting by my friend Ryan from The Ruby Suns in Norway a couple summers ago and he threw this record on in a small cabin by the lake in the Norwegian mountains and it totally floored me. The surroundings certainly helped, I’m sure. But when I finally returned home and threw it on again, it solidified my love and respect for this very talented Argentinian producer. A simple explanation is that he takes classic cumbia rhythms and samples acoustic sounds and loops and mixes them with modern production techniques. But that explanation alone doesn’t do it justice. Chancha is immersed in a sound completely his own. His tracks are often sparse, deploying very few layers, and that’s the beauty of them. He pays very close attention to every percussive hit, every swell and every little melody to draw you in and keep you interested over many listens.

Pick A Piper’s self-titled debut record is out now on Mint Records.

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