Cymbal Sound Sparks Synapses (Or … Beat Bothers Brain)

I’ve written before about listening to one piece of music and recognizing some common element it shares with some other song, some chord change or beat or, in this case, a similar drum sound and then it driving you crazy as you try to figure out what the second song is. I was listening to Radiohead’s (now not so-) new album In Rainbows the other day and kept getting tripped up on the drums at the beginning of the song “Reckoner”

Radiohead – Reckoner

(ride cymbal, snare and tambourine) — it reminded me of something I’d heard before somewhere, sometime. So I’m on the subway home, re-listening to it after work, mentally poring over every piece of music I can think of with a sound even close to resembling the one in “Reckoner.” Gradually, as I pause and restart the song over and over on my mp3 player, my brain pieces together a beat, almost note by note . So now I have that much. Now I’m trying to figure out where this beat came from. Several false starts (that Cut Chemist album? DJ Shadow?) and then it dawns on me — Aphex Twin. I get home, put the album on, and sure enough there it is, a beat that sounds almost nothing like the one on “Reckoner,” but close enough in sound so that I can hear why one would trigger the other.

Aphex Twin – Girl/Boy Song [£18 Snare Rush Mix] [E 18 Snore Rush Mix]

It’s not one of the best songs on the album, pretty much a throwaway remix at the end, but there it is none the less. And now my brain can relax, at least until the next musical mini-crisis.

I wasn’t especially surprised that I’d link the two songs though, considering how much Radiohead have borrowed sonically from their countryman. Most of their groundbreaking album Kid A, their first (but not last) foray into electronic music, owes a great deal to the ambient melodies and anxious beeps and blips of Aphex Twin. When Kid A came out, I had one of those moments that we hardcore music people love — the opportunity to turn people on to something we know they’ll love. I’d been introduced to the Richard D. James Album by a camp counselor, years before I knew any Radiohead other than “Creep” and “Karma Police,” so when someone would mention liking Kid A, I’d talk them into listening to this weird album with the creepy cover that I’d heard at camp, and hopefully convert a couple people. Maybe somewhere there’s someone listening to “Reckoner” and rolling through their mental music rolodex just like me.

Radiohead – Kid A

Radiohead – I Am Citizen Insane

Aphex Twin – Yellow Calx

Aphex Twin – Flim

Buy Radiohead and Aphex Twin music.

posted by Adam

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One response to “Cymbal Sound Sparks Synapses (Or … Beat Bothers Brain)

  1. Fine! Go ahead and post on Radiohead all nonchalantly as if I DON’T have a monopoly on their subject. See if I care.

    Actually, I remember having a talk with you years ago about how Aphex Twin clearly influenced Kid A. And just like that time, you’re doing the talking (and sounding all smart) and I’m listening.

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