This electronica stuff might be simpler than it sounds. Andre Frazier, a.k.a. DJ Andre, has figured out how to put together his own electronic music using some pretty basic equipment.
"I'm telling you, this is low tech," says Frazier, gesturing toward a few outdated instruments tucked in a corner of his one-bedroom apartment. "Nobody does this any more."
Using a Yamaha SY22 synthesizer, a seven-year-old Korg S3 drum machine, a modest mixing board (with a short circuit that acts up now and then), and a double-deck tape recorder, Frazier manages to create ambient-trance music that sounds anything but primitive. He's released several original cassettes, the latest being a warbly, mellifluous mix of music titled We Have Sunrise.
He admits that the equipment has its limits. Like computers or cars, synthesizers are supported by manufacturers for only so many years. Frazier's Korg drum machine, for instance, is close to obsolete. He recently went shopping for add-ons -- small memory-cards that provide different noises -- but found that his local MARS music store no longer stocks them. "The guy looked at me like I was from Mars," Frazier says.
So Frazier improvises, just like any garage-rocker would. His Yamaha keyboard, for instance, comes with a standard "vector control," a sort of joystick that allows one to switch among as many as four different sounds while playing a melody. More advanced synthesizers would be able to blend the sounds together automatically, resulting in the endlessly looping, pulsing rhythms heard in much electronic dance music. Andre has to do that part himself: For minutes on end, his left hand twirls the joystick in a circle to get that undulating sound, while the right hand plays the notes.
The most common criticism of electronica is that it's "canned" music -- whether live or Memorex, it sounds the same. Frazier, who recently performed his songs at Borders in Fort Lauderdale, begs to differ. "The one thing I do different is I do it all manually," he explains. "Some people in the audience might say, 'He's not even doing anything, he's just pushing buttons.' I'd rather not have them say that."
Frazier has even figured out how to do live covers of electronica. Where a guitarist might write down the tablature and chords for his favorite song, Frazier makes notes such as these: "MULT INT 2.5; CAE; DAF; KORG: PAT 50, 51; 83 BPM; EFF #3." That's shorthand for the song "Weather Storm" by Massive Attack. Frazier also does a very good version of the Art of Noise classic "Moments in Love," complete with orchestral strings.
"If you listen hard enough, you can hear the layers in any song," he points out. "When I do a cover, I just sit and listen to a song over and over. Then I'll stop it and come over to my machine and try to get it as close as I can."
Frazier's original material has enough surprises to intrigue even the most sophisticated electronicist, and the handmade quality only adds to its uniqueness. "Sometimes I like the mistakes," Frazier admits. "Sometimes, I'll record it, and the levels will be too high, and I'll say, 'Perfect! I want the woofers to go pffzztht!'"
For a tape call 954-523-3509.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.