Andre LaFosse | Normalized

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Normalized

by Andre LaFosse

Turntablist Guitar: A cutting-edge cut-up of funk, glitch, hip-hop, and left-field dance music - all played live, on a solo electric guitar.
Genre: Electronic: Experimental
Release Date: 

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1. The Proposition
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5:11 $0.99
2. Solitaire (Version One)
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3:44 $0.99
3. One Way Street
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3:39 $0.99
4. Sensitive Skin
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3:10 $0.99
5. Private Allies
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5:13 $0.99
6. Sidewinder
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2:59 $0.99
7. Dark Amber
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3:23 $0.99
8. Interference
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5:42 $0.99
9. Solitaire (Version Two)
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4:51 $0.99
10. Intruder
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1:46 $0.99
11. Off The Grid
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12. Hammerhead
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3:56 $0.99
13. Preacher Man
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4:16 $0.99
14. Deject
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2:13 $0.99
15. Seismic
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5:03 $0.99
16. Rockhouse
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5:34 $0.99
17. Normalized
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2:58 $0.99
18. Beast With Two Backs
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
The rise of hip-hop and dance music in contemporary culture has led some people to wonder whether or not DJ's can be thought of as musicians. But Andre LaFosse is a man who asks a different question:

Can a musician be a DJ?

Normalized is an album of "Turntablist Guitar." A cutting-edge cut-up of funk, hip-hop, and glitchy leftfield electronic music... that just happens to have been performed live, on a solo electric guitar, with no pre-recorded material, and no sounds other than those made by bare hands on steel strings.

Sound crazy? Then keep reading, as the method to this madness is explained.

"I'm a guitar player first and foremost, but I grew up listening to a lot of electronic music in all sorts of genres," Andre begins. "I've combined dance and hip-hop elements with guitar playing in my music for a long time, yet I've always been frustrated by the fact that the guitar and the electronics were two separate musical aspects."

"But the key to Normalized is that there is NO separation: the guitar IS the electronic element, and vice versa."

The secret ingredient of Normalized is a modern style of sampling that records, loops, and chops up sound live - instantly, in real time. "I can play something on my guitar, sample it live, and then immediately have it start playing back as a loop," Andre explains.

"It's sort of like being a DJ, except that I'm not spinning pre-recorded material. Instead, I'm actually playing the guitar live, and sampling myself as I'm playing. So the recording is created right then and there, in the moment of performance."

If this prospect fills your mind with thoughts of endlessly-looped guitar cliches - repetitive rock riffs, droning power chords, or solos that noodle on forever - then think again: on Normalized, Andre LaFosse deals with the guitar first and foremost as a source of sound and groove. You might think you're hearing drums, vinyl noise, and a dense collage of samples from far-flung sources, but it all comes from LaFosse's six-string.

Andre elaborates: "The electric guitar's a much more versatile instrument than most people give it credit for. There's a wealth of different textures to be had simply by using your hands in different ways. You can even hit the strings percussively and get noises that sound like drums. So Normalized is about thinking less like a guitarist, and more like a DJ mixing - together different beats, grooves, and textures."

Fair enough. But this still doesn't quite explain "turntablist guitar." What does ultra-complex vinyl scratching have to do with guitar looping?

"A turntablist uses the apparatus of a record player - the needle, the faders on the mixer, the turntable itself - to warp the sound of the record they're playing," LaFosse explains. "With the looper I use - an Echoplex - I can do the same kinds of things with my guitar."

"I can drop tiny fragments of guitar into the loop, I can play the loop backwards, I can slow the loop down, I can chop the loops up... and I can do this all live, as I'm playing. It's like my guitar is the record, and the Echoplex is the turntable and mixer. Just like a turntablist uses their technique to get sounds that are far beyond what's on the original record, I can come up with noises and grooves that would be impossible to play on just an unlooped guitar."

And just as "regular" dance and hip-hop records will sometimes feature vocalists gracing their grooves on a few cuts, a handful of produced tracks on Normalized cast the guitar in the roles of both "rhythm section" and "lead singer."

"The produced cuts take live guitar loops, and use them as foundations for melodies and compositional structure after the fact," LaFosse says. "They're sort of like songs with guest vocalists - except that the vocal role is played by the guitar. It helps to put the record into perspective, by juxtaposing the glitchy grooves against more 'normal' things like melodies and chords. But the focus of Normalized is definitely the raw, live approach, and 14 of the 18 cuts on the album are live Echoplex solos."

So this is Normalized: a sample-based album defined by performances instead of productions. A mix-tape of digital beats performed entirely on guitar, by a musician who thinks like a DJ and plays like a crate of vinyl. Stop reading and start listening, because Andre LaFosse is waiting to flip your script.


Reviews


to write a review

Matt J. Brockett for jambands.com

If you think you've heard everything a guitar can do...
If you think you've heard everything a guitar can do, Andre LaFosse would like you to hear something.

LaFosse's second solo record, Normalized is essential listening for any guitar player, if not simply to see the incredible untapped sonic capabilities of an instrument that was previously thought by some to have been played every way possible. True, LaFosse does have the help of the Echoplex Digital Pro and LoopIV software, but this can fairly readily be compared to the modern guitarist's use of effects pedals and various other sound manipulating gadgets.

The difference with LaFosse is the concept that he calls "Turntablist Guitar," which is best described in his own words. "I can drop tiny fragments of guitar into the loop, I can play the loop backwards, slow the loop down, chop the loops up... and I can do this all live, as I'm playing. It's like my guitar is the record, and the Echoplex is the turntable and mixer. Just like a turntablist uses their technique to get sounds that are far beyond what's on the original record, I can come up with noises and rhythms that would be impossible to play on just an unlooped guitar."

Truly a pioneer of the Echoplex as an instrument, his confidence in his mastery is proven by the fact that 14 of the 18 tracks on the album are live Echoplex solos. While most artists relish the fact that "studio" albums or commercial releases can be polished and mixed until they are just right, LaFosse decided to show his guitar and Echoplex capabilities in their rawest form.

The result is somewhere between Aphex Twin, Art of Noise, Squarepusher, and some kid making beats on his computer late night in Mom's basement, except it's all guitar -- manipulated guitar, yes, but guitar nonetheless. That's the part you have to keep reminding yourself of while listening to Normalized, that and the fact that your CD isn't skipping, even though sometimes you would bet the farm that it is. Although the album is surely not for everyone, it definitely is for anyone who enjoys experimental music, or who enjoys hearing a musician brave enough to laugh in the face of convention and create a truly original musical voice. We're talking over an hour of a full-on collision of rock, drum & bass, hip hop, pop, jazz and who knows what else, all told through the electric guitar via Echoplex.

In an odd twist, the title track of this experimental and electronic sounding album is a single solo unlooped twangy guitar piece, hauntingly different from the rest of album. It is a fitting homage to the most basic element of LaFosse's music: his guitar.

Justin Kownacki for Splendid Magazine

Normalized stands uniquely on its own.
Boy, I like this album. I can see where it might also give me a migraine, but it's worth the risk. LaFosse has turned the novelty of crafting an entire album from electronic guitar samples into a verifiable work of audio art. This is the kind of music that begs to be remixed endlessly and overlaid with the likes of Guru and The Dilated Peoples, but in truth, Normalized stands uniquely on its own.

LaFosse's best idea may have been the way he structures his songs, remaining experimental even within the framework of a conventional dance track. Every aspect of the disc was created by manipulating the sound of an electric guitar with an Echoplex looper, including the cuts that form the rhythms and the high-end squiggles that rise above. Perhaps most remarkable of all is LaFosse's preference for recording his compositions live -- all but four of the eighteen tracks on Normalized were recorded "live" from the same five guitar loops. The cynic in me believes this is the kind of thing that anyone with a good ear, a decent audio editing program and a lot of patience could have pulled off, but the pragmatist in me says, "This is the guy who did it first." (Well, maybe not first -- I'm sure there's a four-tracker in a bedroom in Peoria who will correct me on that -- but certainly well.)

At eighteen tracks, the concept might seem dangerously close to running its course, but in a glowing testimonial to LaFosse's ability to keep things fresh even with an insanely limited pallet, the novelty in this novelty album never wears off. (Memo: see what LaFosse is capable of with, say, two instruments. Or a fork and a spoon...)

Mark Sottilaro

2nd album from LaFosse is impressive, but is it entertaining?
First I want to start off by saying that I loved Andre's first commercial release Disruption Theory. Of course, I could not help but have some expectations based on my previous experience.

Second, I'll say that his new release Normalized is pretty amazing in a lot of ways. Andre's style is always interesting and his guitar playing amazing. The glitch core sound that he's developed is pretty amazing. However, I got the feeling that if I wasn't a guitar player and fellow "looper" I might not be as interested in in this album. A "looper" is someone who makes their music by using some sort of audio looping device which allows you to repeat phrases, toggle phrases and a bunch of other tricks all in real time while you play. Andre made this entire album using the looper known as the Echoplex Digital Pro and his guitar. An amazing feat, but to what end?

While this album is sonically varied considering the only sound source is a guitar, I couldn't help but think that it needed an extra level of production to flesh it out. Often I felt the addition of some extra instrumentation and editing, ala Disruption Theory, would really help these pieces feel less like watching gymnast excursuses and more like a choreographed dance. I've listened to this album several times and I can't for the life of me bring to mind a single song, yet songs from his previous album stuck in my head after a single listen. It seems to me that too much emphasis was placed on the loops and how the album was made, and not enough on the pieces. Does anyone care that this was all made with a guitar and audio looper with no edits? Sure, I bet some do, but I'd rather just hear Andre play his amazing guitar in some well composed pieces.

Andre LaFosse

Point-counterpoint w/Mr. Sottilaro
I'm happy for Mark to offer his take on my music, just as I'm happy to give a response to the shortcomings he perceives in the record.

I'd first say that there are, in fact, several tunes on the album which are based on editing, composition, and expanded arrangement (and one track of solo, unlooped guitar). Mark may simply find these composed and orchestrated tracks less gratifying than the material on Disruption Theory. But the presence of these tracks on the album leads me to think that his reservations with this album have less to do with the specific technique involved, and more to do with his simply not being as keyed into "where I'm at" with this recording than with the last one.

As for the issue of whether or not there's an audience for the album beyond guitar-looping geeks - I've already sold many copies of the record to non-musicians and non-loopers who have heard the record (or heard me live) and enjoyed it. Of course people interested in the Echoplex will have extra reason to check out Normalized, just as people interested in extended, post-prog-rock lead guitar will be more inclined to dig Disruption Theory. (Indeed, the only people I know who consistently prefer the first album to the second are guitar players with a heavy prog/shred/fusion background.)

To draw a Miles Davis analogy, Disruption Theory is like In A Silent Way, and Normalized is like On The Corner. They're two very different records that should probably be listened to in different ways, and not everyone will respond to each one in the same way. But I certainly appreciate Mark's picking them up, giving them a chance, and taking the time to share his opinion on what I'm up to.

Jibbork Takayama for ebong.org

Where has this guy been hiding?
The technology of "looping" (the act of recording sound into an electronic device, which then repeats it ad infinitum) in the pop music domain pretty much starts with guitar virtuoso/electronic poineer Les Paul. Les Paul's numerous technological advances, looping has become an integral composition methodology in nearly all of todays popular music culture. Nearly every beat you hear is looped from some sound source or another... and nearly every groove record from the 1980's was looped from classic James Brown drummer Clyde Stubblefield's "Funky Drummer" funk out. But the technology of looping goes back to the invention of electricity, and more importantly electronic music.
In the mid 1960s Northern California composer Terry Riley used to multiple Revox tape recorders to create extended improvisations, which looped in and around themselves. More specifically, Riley's looping process was to improvise keyboard, saxophone or voice tracks into a microphone which fed the sounds into a 2 track reel-to-reel tape machine, which looped itself around and around. The sound from the first tape machine was then fed to a second reel-to-reel machine which recorded the sound from the first tape machine then looped it. Riley's set up endlessly passed the sound from the original source (Terry) to Loop 1 to Loop 2 which would then be fed to loudspeakers which Terry would improvise to. Essentially feeding it all back into itself, very much like serpent eating its own tail until it eats the mouth that's eating it.
Jump to the early 1970's, English pop superstar Brian Eno and the king of King Crimson, Robert Fripp experiment wildly with tape loops during the recording of their collaborative albums "Discreet Music" and "Evening Star" and "No Pussyfooting." Fripp eventually developed his own looping system (Frippertronics) which he employed exquisitely (in one form or another) with King Crimson and in his own solo performances to this day.
With the rise of turntablism, looping took another form. Instead of recording sounds to magnetic tape, the skilled turntablist would create a new compositon by beat matching short breakbeat sections from vintage funk vinyl. The process is usually something like this: Play turntable number one - turntable two is already set to start at the beginning of the breakbeat... at the end of the breakbeat on deck one... start deck two then silently roll deck one back to the start point of the breakbeat... switch back to deck one when deck two is done with the break beat... lather rinse repeat.
Looping has slowly entered the jamsphere in numerous forms, most notably Trey Anastasio's "funk siren" from the late 90s shows. Additionally, one man band Keller Williams has made entire career out of epic loop performances. Art punk geniuses Radiohead also employ real time sampling/looping during their performances... often concluding their performances with loops of "Everything In Its Right Place" still playing to cheering crowds long after they've left the building.
Los Angeles based solo loop artist Andre LaFosse takes all of this technobabble and pushes it even further into the future on his latest recording "Normalized". It's 73 minutes are filled to the bursting point with turntablist guitar excursions that fall more in the realm of drum 'n bass than the layered folk groovyness of Keller. One comparative analogy may be... Keller is to the Big Wu as Andre is to The Disco Biscuits. In fact Andre's playing is a bit more avant-garde then anything the Biscuits may offer, but they both do traverse similar areas of technodelica.
Superbly recorded live-in-the-studio with no overdubs (except for a handful of tracks) and no guitar synthesizers, the 18 tracks on "Normalized" show Andre's dazzling mastery of his instrument and more importantly his ability to execute densely packed improvisations that rock your booty as well as blow your mind. Each and every pick scrape, string scratch, harmonic squalk and muted flurry morphs into a giant recombinant electronic percussion orchestra. Pushing available technology its limits, Andre's real-time reverse loop tracking creates a shape-shifting tapestry of imaginary hi-hats, cymbal swooshes, Squarepusher-inspired snare drum feedbacks anchored by low down techno bass dropouts, and some of the weirdest funk sirens this side of Vermont.
"Hammerhead"'s basic loop is approximately 2 seconds long... 14 seconds and 6 repeats into the track, an additional 6 layers have been added to the original loop, while the original has been flipped around backwards. 0 to 420 in 14 seconds and already transmorphed from dancefloor throwdown to intergalactic space dust dub n bass. The end result is somewhat similar to turntablist beat matching... jumping from one short break to another (this time backwards or slowed down or all scratched up) all done in real time. As if to prove to us that this ain't no joke or studio trickery, Andre' includes two versions of the track "Solitaire," recorded at different tempos, in different keys. Still, the outcome of each is singularly dazzling but when listened to in succession they individually reveal the "from here to there" mastery that Andre LaFosse posseses.
All of this leaves me to the next group of questions... Where has this guy been hiding? How come he's not in the late night tent at the summer jam festivals? And with music as creative as this, one can only wonder what Andre's 'in concert light show' is like. Wicki wicki wicki wicki.

Tape Op Magazine #38, Nov/Dec 2003


Andre calls his guitar technique "turntablist guitar" - using loops, multitracking and bare hands to coax a variety of rhythms and sounds out of the guitar. The results are rhythmic, grooving pieces with fuzzy guitar melodies on top. A digital Echoplex provides the backbone loops of much of this CD, and multitracking and/or editing and cleanup were performed in a computer. A cool experiment that luckily turns out to be musical and interesting.

Jedd Beaudoin for Sea of Tranquility


Every art form in every age has had its geniuses and innovators and in the age of Brave New Guitar the likes of Reeves Gabrels, David Torn and Adrian Belew have moved the instrument forward by leaps and bounds. And, within the last few years, Andre LaFosse has emerged to join them. Like the other players mentioned, LaFosse’s playing transcends the instrument as the so-called turntablist guitarist forges new alliances with possibilities previously untapped or unknown during tracks such as “Sensitive Skin,” “The Proposition” (which features a bodacious Stevie Wonderlike groove amid the bleeps and bops that give Normalized its distinct personality) and “Dark Amber.” (You also can’t resist “Interference” and “Beast With Two Backs”).

Normalized may not be your standard prog fare as it mixes funk, hip-hop and elements of electronic music, but it is more than progressive in spirit as LaFosse breaks down barrier after barrier, leaving few sonic stones unturned on this all-live, all guitar outing. It’s not a matter of getting used to the music here, though, instead it’s more a matter of finding a way to articulate the sensations you’re left with after tracking through Normalized.

At the moment LaFosse has only released two CDs, this and Disruption Theory, which covers a slightly different terrain, and in some ways the lack of LaFosse material out there in the world is sad because an artist such as Andre LaFosse deserves to be heard and heard loud. Why? He may now be normalized he’s far from ordinary.

Dave Simmons

Another great record.
Andre Lafosse did it again, this record challenges the guitarist and listener a like. Over the past ten years very few guitarists have been able to stretch the musical landscape as much as Lafosse has with his last two recording. He has the skills and creativity and his record Normalized proves it. This recording has change the way I play guitar. Outstanding!

Paul Simpson

Unique
I'm always on the lookout for music that satisfies three criteria: new, unique and good. This CD has satisfies all three, and then some.
The hip-hop/glitch/DJ comparisons are all valid, but really this record stands on it's own merits. The influences are visible, but Andre is a unique and startling voice in modern guitar music - heck, just music full stop - and I for one hope he keeps making records as good as this.
You won't hear another record as novel and as good as this anytime soon. The abstract nature of the grooves and tunes may mean it's not for everyone, but if you want to hear something truly different that stands repeated listens, get this.