Digital Chaos: 8 Experiments In Wub Machine Remixing
Contrary to what they want you to think, Diddy his crew at Bad Boy did not invent the remix. If you really wanted to meet the people who first made dance remixes you'd have to go back a bit further in music history, to the land of the mid-'70s. In sweaty discos across the land people were looping songs the old fashioned way, probably unaware that their experiments in tape editing were one day going to be big business.
What was true then is true now: people love remixes. Go to YouTube and type in your favorite song of the moment and add the word "dubstep" to the end; there's a good chance you'll find a version of that track given the Skrillex treatment. (You mean you never thought "Call Me Maybe" needed to be heavier?)
Remixes take a certain amount of time and musical ability. Luckily for us lacking both of those things, an enterprising programmer by the name of Peter Sobot created a Web app that will give all of us the chance to become dance remix superstars. He calls it the Wub Machine.
The Wub Machine makes making a remix simple; you upload a song and select between the three types of remixes; the app chops the track into different chunks and combines those pieces with a backing track. You choose whether to download the remix or send it to Soundcloud to share with the world. It's pretty hard to screw up.
It's also pretty hard to get anything good out of it.
Unlike a human remixer, the app can only do what it's programmed to do. It runs a set algorithm -- nothing more, nothing less. The truth is that only a handful of the billions of songs in the world are going to sound good coming out of it.
Still, it's fun to experiment with, and experiment I did. I spent a few hours loading some of music's biggest hits, current and old, and some personal favorites to see if I'd get any winners. Take a listen.
We start off with a happy accident. It seemed only natural that the first song I tested out was one of the biggest in recent memory. On my first listen, I was shocked it at how well it sounded for the first minute and a half. The second half doesn't hold up as well as the intro sections, but for the first five seconds I thought I had stumbled onto pure magic.
When I decided to test "Thriller," I forgot about all the sound effect stuff at the beginning of the track. As a result, it starts off as more of a dance remix of a rocking chair. There's some interesting interplay that goes on between the remix percussion and the original drumming. Not a complete success, but not without some interesting moments. My personal favorite is the stuff with a chopped-up Vincent Price at the end. Those laughs are pretty cool.