The X Factor
July 16, 2007 4:59 AM   Subscribe

What do the tracks "Cells" by The Servant, "Death of a Party" by Blur, and "Kashmir" by Led Zepplin have in common? I think they have a common strand of... something, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I'm sure somebody out there is adept enough at music to inform me. "Nightendday" by Pelican has this too, come to think of it, whatever "it" is. I think it has something to do with the use of bass guitars.
posted by Electrius to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Seems to me they all have almost exactly the same tempo, and almost exactly the same beat... that sort of plodding, loping yet forward driving rhythm that gives it a powerful, inexorable quality. Maybe there's more to it than that, but that was what immediately struck me.
posted by speicus at 6:06 AM on July 16, 2007

Not sure about the other tracks, but a Kashmir has at least two peculiarities - its played an an alternate tuning on the guitar, and therefore tonally will sound a bit unusual. And it is in an unusual time signature, and therefore the beat of the song seems to continually "move".

Do you think your other songs have either of these things?
posted by jpdoane at 7:29 AM on July 16, 2007

Minor keys, similar beats... Also, Cells and Kashmir both have the James-Bond-theme C.E.S.H. That stands for "contrapuntal elaboration of static harmony", which just means a little melodic variation on a chord that otherwise stays the same. In this case, it's the part that goes up by half-steps.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2007

Drop D Tuning makes everything sound dark. If you slow down the tempo, the effect will be mysterious and sexy, such as in your examples. If you speed up the tempo, you have death metal.
posted by tjvis at 11:18 AM on July 16, 2007

Of the songs you named, I only know Kashmir, but I'm going to agree with Rich Smorgasbord.

And Drop D tuning doesn't make everything sound dark.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:03 PM on July 16, 2007

jpdoane: I really couldn't say. I had a horrible time in dance classes because I cannot pick out beats.
posted by Electrius at 1:13 PM on July 16, 2007

Disclaimer: the only pieces I've heard of "Cells" and "Death of a Party" are the 30-second samples on iTunes.

It's the drums, man. No question about it. Heavy, echoing, almost sludgy.

Well, primarily the drums. There's also the very similar string sections on Cells and Kashmir, which have a bit of a counterpart in one of Death of a Party's synth lines, the one that goes F# --> G --> F# as the song shifts from major to relative minor and back.

Death of a Party seems to alternate between D major and B minor. The most dominant key in Kashmir is D minor. And Cells, from what I heard of it, was pretty firmly in A minor. For what that's worth.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 12:35 PM on July 19, 2007

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