Damn Good Swedish Soul

Lately I’ve been listening a lot to Damn!‘s fourth album, Let’s Zoom In, that was released last year. Damn! is an unfortunately namned soul/funk octet from Malmö in southern Sweden, mostly known as a backing band for rapper Timbuktu. Excellent stuff, among the best music the country has to offer! Though the album’s main single played in the live clip above is a shouting-blues type of thing, most of it is dominated by ultra-smooth Curtis Mayfield style falsetto singing. And there’s a lot of kraftwerkesque vocoder on it too.

As I explained to my wife yesterday, a vocoder is a beautiful thing when it’s used to make people sound like robots. This is not the same as the ugly digital re-pitching that is so common in current mass-market R’n’B. A typical example can be heard on the male part of the gratuitous duet version of Beyoncé’s lovely “If I Were A Boy”. A vocoder turns you into a robot. If you can’t sing in tune or if you have an insufficient reach, then the vocoder won’t help.

Comments

  1. #1 Sigmund
    May 6, 2009

    Since you mentioned that Beyonce song, I saw recently that someone used this sort of note altering technology to prank her – something that didn’t go down particularly well with the Beyonce business empire.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZaIXmujt1g&feature=related

  2. #2 JGF
    May 7, 2009

    Just to be a complete sound geek and know-it-all…
    A Vocoder is a completely different beast than the today ubiquitous Autotune, which will in fact help if you can’t sing in tune. Its popular vocoderesque(?) effect comes from pushing it beyond its originally intended usage – realtime pitch correction.

  3. #3 Martin R
    May 7, 2009

    Yeah, that’s the distinction I tried to explain.

  4. #4 JGF
    May 11, 2009

    OK then. Me-read-FAIL :)

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