Thursday, August 26, 2004

Let us now praise the techno handclap

i'm on my fifth read of the fantastic article on Thomas Melchior by Philip Sherburne in this months Wire. I'm mad keen to hear the Yoni album, as it was the paragraph about synth handclaps that really caught my eye. Sherburne seems (and i realise i could be well wide of the mark) to be saying that before hearing the Yoni album, he thought 'phony' handclaps were too stilted and obviously fabricated, a clunky insensitive representation of human handclaps that are found on the off beats of big disco rhythm sections.

Handclaps are special. Probably the sound that embodies the rockist-pissing-off artificiality of electronic dance music, in that it's obvious what it's meant to sound like, but there's no getting away from it's machine-rigidity. It's also a nod to crowd-music synergy in dance music; the music reacts to the dancefloor, so sounds made on the dancefloor should be used in the music.

Tracing the path of the handclap, it always seems to turn up in music where the producers are trying to get absolutely everything out of their limited hardware. You can hear it in something like Mr Fingers 'Washing Machine' from way back in the day. Everything is thrown in to make this groove, whistles, bells, but despite the crisscrossing toms and cymbal splashes, it's the handclap that anchors it all, strafing over spiralling bass. It must be something in it's sonic texture that has kept the handclap so popular for so long, that staggered scratchy lens shutter sound, the perfect accompaniment to a shocking blast of light. My current fave handclaps are in Richard Davis 'In the Air' (acid relapse edit) found on the Michael Mayer fabric mix. The simple addition of the handclaps in this bring the absolute climax like piercing midrange thunderclaps.

When you hear them used like this, across the beat, rhythm as hook/melody, it becomes a bit of an anti-climax to hear them used in Lil' Jon productions or Lemon D 'City Lights' as the only snare. The handclap isn't really strong enough to handle snare duties on it's own and so, while you still do get the rave reference, the rhythm pump is kind of lost. It becomes kind of frustrating to have that the snare not pinned down to a perfect singularity, it sounds too thin to really keep the pulse. Handclaps are best used in ways that Tortoise would think of, splattered across the beat, chucked around freely while kick-snare does the donkey work. You can't constrain those handclaps, producers, please paint them with a sloppy brush.

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weird weird weird horror 8 bar track: Lix 'Candyman 2004'.
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18 Comments:

Blogger The MinMin Face said...

About the crowd-music synergy- no one claps on the dancefloor.

August 27, 2004 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger cnwb said...

My favourite handclaps moment - Joy Division's 'Walked In Line' (at least, I'd like to think they're handclaps).

August 28, 2004 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WTF? no one claps on the dancefloor!?? You're going to the wrong club nights!

August 28, 2004 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger The MinMin Face said...

Clapping on the dancefloor requires excess amounts of drugs and happy hardcore. Any places without these are the right clubs. And I agree about 'Walked in line.' Those claps are the fear.

August 29, 2004 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger cerezo said...

I am sure that producers will be listening very carefully to the ramblings of a substandard wannabe music critic on the subject handclaps in music.

The the anonymous poster: You go to the wrong clubs you total cretin. If you want to clap in time to music do it in the comfort of your own room because if i catch you doing it at any night i attend i will slice your limbs off and post them back to you with a rude note.

August 29, 2004 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

joyless bastards.

August 30, 2004 at 3:00 AM  
Blogger Jak said...

i'd be tempted to agree that the 'wrong clubs' are ones where no-one claps on the dancefloor.

I don't really care what 'Cerezo' says against me, as I know who that tragic BNP-voting twat is, but insulting other posters is totally fucking uncalled for.

August 30, 2004 at 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's it Jack get it all out

August 30, 2004 at 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And please do not swear. It lowers the tone of your site and calls into question your ability to conduct an intelligent and stimulating forum.

August 30, 2004 at 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved this

wbtnk

August 30, 2004 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger PRANCEHALL said...

now this is what i'm talking about.

more of this please.

jak plays with children.

August 30, 2004 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger ambrose said...

people do clap on the dancefloor, eg Triple R on sat. I hate it too, but im not gonna chops someones hand off. i'll just grimace. Synthesised hand claps are the greatest sound available to all music makers anywhere, everywhere.

August 31, 2004 at 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why have you stole me and penguins words to use for your shiity band? i think you suck major balls and no wonder not many people know who you guys are your just an insult to the world of electro pop.

April 25, 2007 at 3:34 PM  
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