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Music Review: UltraMax TechnoClassica

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Like advances in electric guitar changed music in the '70s and '80s, computer mixing has greatly influenced today’s music. Techno is its name and it's growing in popularity. Techno is meant to be dance music, primarily played in clubs, and UltraMax’s TechnoClassica hits that right on the mark.

UltraMax is great at adding fun edges to relatively new songs such as “Ghost Riders.” It is often hard to keep the listener interested musically for eight minutes, however UltraMax pulls this off rather well. I am, however, mildly disappointed with this bass line. Bass gives techno music its backbone, as it does in all music, but they're supposed to be very entertaining bass lines, along the lines of the one in “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon.

One of the coolest things about this CD and this group in general is the combination of classical music with techno beats. Classical musicians love classical music, but they also know many of the selections have been played for over a hundred years. Classical musicians, such as myself, enjoy hearing fresh versions which still hold fast to the complex music principles of the original.

I love the effective use of stringed instruments on this album. Generally, I am disappointed in a lot of modern violin or string classical instruments used in popular music, but TechnoClassica left me pleasantly surprised. It is also interesting to hear a unique use of drums in "Broken China," since most techno music is built around a steady drum beat.

In this corner, it is techno master UltraMax, and in this corner, legendary composer Bach. They face off twice on this CD. The first round is "Choral in F Minor," the incredibly well known classic by Bach. When combined with UltraMax, they blended together into one gigantic masterpiece of music. Then the second meeting… waits a tick… it is the same drum beat. That's kind of disappointing. Bach comes in more then one tempo.

Overall, this CD is higher-end quality techno music. It is still a hard market and I doubt it will reach gold. But I wouldn’t mind hearing the music in dance clubs and look forward to UltraMax’s future releases.

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About Josh Phillips

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Nice Review… But I would think that a classical musician would know that:

    a.) Drums are the backbone of music
    b.) Samples & Drum Machines Suck! Let me rephrase that… Samples & Drum Machines are for simpletons!
    C.)Techno is on its way out…Not In.

    Honestly, Bach,Beethoven,etc… were passionate geniuses and their music(Classical in general)takes quite a bit of hard work and talent to create. Unlike techno where any monkey with software and some free time can put that crap together. Trust me, I have done it and didn’t have to spend too much time on it.

  • Josh

    Interesting view point, drum sample machines are crap, and yes any monkey with software can make crap it dose how ever take time and effort to create a electronically made song that doesn’t bore the listener.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I guess I can agree with that but it’s still click & drag, cut & paste. I don’t agree that it is on the same level as a musician…

  • Josh

    Not always I often incorporate my own Riffs their is some great electronically made music out there it is hard to find however.

  • Mark Saleski

    guppus, do you have a reductive view of every kind of music that’s not to your liking?

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Mark, Nope… Do you have any thoughts that last longer than a sentence of vocabulary?

  • Mark Saleski

    well, sorry, but if the only thing you’re going to bring to the table is snotty, reductive comments on things then i guess we have nothing to talk about.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well,Mark, I wasn’t talking to you,was I!?!

    Josh, I can see incorporating some technology into music to express certain ideas(I’m not knocking your music ability) but I feel techno as a whole really doesn’t leave much for the listener to grab ahold of other than monotonous loops and cheap thrills…

  • zingzing

    then, guppus, you really haven’t listened to much techno, have you? there is plenty out there that is not made for the clubs (where such things as monotonous [or, as they would say, “trance-inducing,” or something] loops and cheap thrills are their own reward) and plays by a completely different set of rules. your view of “techno” is not so much reductive as it is limited (as i figure you haven’t really spent too much time with it, if this is the view you arrive at.)

    also, sampling (in the right hands) is as much of an artform as playing the guitar. it’s also more rare and seems to have less built-in rules and general wankery.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Yup…Right again, zing zing. Being a musician and passionate music lover for 25+ years, I haven’t listened to enough techno to be able to understand concepts and the supposed limits of listening that these artists claim to push. In other words, I don’t speak my mind on subjects that I haven’t been immersed in.
    Obviously, you haven’t done much guitar work because nowadays the guitar isn’t limited to wankery ESPECIALLY with a midi hook up. I have also done extensive work with high-end electric drum kits and I have worked with Sony Acid Pro.BUT, this is besides the point… My point was that classical music touches on more levels than techno because it takes alot more work to produce. That’s not an opinion but fact!!

  • zingzing

    but your point is not logical. “work” does not equal “touching on more levels.” not at all. i’ll agree that classical music does take a lot of time and a lot of people to pull off. it is also carefully notated. that really doesn’t mean a thing. your “fact” is a non-sequitor. a jeep cherokee takes a lot more work to produce than a bicycle, but i’ll take the bike any day.

    on an emotional level, certainly classical music does have a more direct heart-tugging quality. then again, the artists you mention are pretty much romantics, aren’t they? they made music designed to sound emotional. techno more likely comments on emotion through an alientated, distant sound… when it is well-done, it is just as emotional (albiet more subtlely) as any classical music. i think it was derrick may who said, referring to detroit, “i’m more interested in ford’s robots than i am barry’s motown.”

    as for techno, i’m not saying you haven’t listened to any, i’m saying you’ve been listening to the wrong stuff if you think that all you get is “monotonous loops and cheap thrills.” some techno has nothing to do with loops and is very, very difficult listening. so… that’s what i’m saying there.

    as for guitar, i didn’t say all guitar was wankery. it’s just that a lot (too much) is wankery… style over substance… all technicalities. and sampling, having less of a history, and being thoroughly post-modern to its core, not to mention in execution, plays by a different set of rules.

    don’t get all uppity and flash your cred at me, i’m not saying that classical music or guitars are crap, i’m just saying that techno and samplers AREN’T.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Hey zing… So composition doesn’t mean a thing,huh?? Notation and being able to play your instrument with a group of brilliant musicians doesn’t change anything,huh? That’s why your beloved techno is so,so limited. Just like the bike you are riding!

    You can explain anything away,zing.. But, I don’t agree with you in the least. I don’t think you will ever be able to express any emotion or thought in depth with techno as a group of musicians could with classical. And.. I am saying that sampling and techno IS crap!

  • Josh

    There are hundreds of great electronically made beats that I would consider Techno such as Wolfsheim. Being in an orchestra and a guitarist I can honestly say I have as much respect for the musical qualities of techno as other forms of music and more so then Rap music.

    Classical style music is not above all other form of music in its complexity. It follows the same rules and requires balance and all that jazz to sound correct just like most other forms of music instrumental electronically, a cappella or any combination.

  • zingzing

    ai yai yai.

    um… what makes you think that (some) techno is not just as composed as classical? do you think they just make it up as they go along? and how do you account for jazz? or some of the more interesting strains of modern classical music?

    and i would say that a man with a machine has just as much chance of expressing an emotion or thought as a classical orchestra, being that it is his own and not filtered through 50 conflicting emotions and thoughts.

    no, being able to play your instrument (to a virtuoso level) does not mean a thing. expressing yourself fully on said instrument does, but that does not demand technical expertise. we’ve been through this before. i value substance over style and do not believe that one has to be a virtuoso to produce substance.

    if you really believe that a whole type of music and a whole method of making music are “crap,” then that’s your loss.

    techno is not limited. it is the insect of the music world. there are so many variations… various styles sound drastically different… it’s just as wide a music as classical… in fact, some of the earliest electronic music was classical. whether you are talking about stockhausen or switched-on bach, brian eno or coil, club dance or arm-chair techno… techno is not something easily defined or wholly dismissable.

    your view of techno is terribly limited. there is some techno out there that you couldn’t identify as techno, or even music, or even human. not all music plays by the same rules. and it definitely doesn’t play by yours.

    my bicycle gives me exercise and enjoyment and it doesn’t want gasoline or insurance or parking spaces or payments. it also gets me around my neighborhood, which is all that i ask of it. i don’t ask it to drive me out to the suburbs. it’s not built for that. that’s why there is a bus. this is a metaphor.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Yes, Zinzing…we have been through this before.
    It’s just funny how you can defend something that relies on machines and software[Quite Complex] by using a metaphor that describes something non-complex. You fight me with the idea that music made by people with less skill is just as emotional as the compositions made by the virtuoso. Truly, your logic escapes me. It’s kinda like saying that a person who speaks english poorly can still communicate his emotion better than an english professor. It’s hysterical!! So, your wonderment about Jazz shows your inability to understand how mastering an instrument allows you to communicate more proficiently not only to the listener but to your bandmates as well… This alone stamps out the the ignorant idea that classical music has to be filtered through 50+ conflicting emotions.

  • Josh

    Emotions require more then communication skill’s, I believe that someone who has just learned English can convey emotions as well as English professor.
    Plus I think it is unfair to put the classical music known today which has been witted down to only the best of the best over the course of multiple centuries, up against techno music in general. People composing techno are just as skilled as any other musicians they have to understand the rules of music; classical musicians knew exactly what the violin melody would sound like with that bass line then they assembled it.

  • Mark Saleski

    Zappa’s later synclavier-based music relied completely on machines. completely.

    my favorite techno: Photek.

  • Brian, I seem to recall that in the mid Seventies every rock band had a totally nerdy, heavily muso approach to making really boring music, which subsequently resulted in the birth of punk rock.

    It seems clear from that example that music made by people with less skill can indeed be “just as emotional as the compositions made by the virtuoso”.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Christopher… It seems clear from that example that you pointed out what the “Mainstream” does to any century. Forttunately,we are lucky enough today to be able to hunt on a wider scale to find bands that have true talent & musicianship.
    Unfortunately, Capitalism still dictates as to what bands stay in the limelight. Beyond that, you haven’t proven a thing.

  • Say what? ¡No comprendo!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Exactly… What YOU may think is a clear example of decline is only an example of trend.

  • zingzing

    oi… he’s not talking about any “decline.” he’s saying that when rock musicians started incorporating classical music into their pop, the music became (after a time) just a virtuoso/muso showcase and nothing more. all emotion and vitality was drained from the music by overthinking and overbaking every idea. all the life was drained from it through heavy composition and too much “classical” ability to play.

    punk came along to wipe the slate clean, breaking things down to their basics and reinstating the “point” over the “method.” punk came along to destroy this idea that you have to be able to play your instrument and be professionally recorded AND you have to have hit singles. of course, this wasn’t classical music’s fault, it was rock music’s fault, but it wasn’t classical music that punks were trying to change.

    without punk, there would be no underground in which to find your music. you seem to think that the means is more important than the end. of course, in some music (process music, for example) this is absolutely true. but in pop or rock, it’s not (necessarily) the case.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Sure zing… Read into it all you want. I’m well aware that what you consider to be a defining moment in music was just another trend. Trends come and go just as in any genre but the mastery of an instrument will always be a mark of acheivement. Getting people to like a certain style of music based on an emotional connection was never my point as it is very possible even with Rap music. But, that still doesn’t prove that my point is wrong. It just proves that simple,basic things can be understood by just about anyone.

    Making the means very important will only create a better end and you can put that to the test on any level(Music,Bikes,Cars)but, again, you like to assume what I am thinking as opposed to reading my words.BUT, Go ahead, keep fighting for other people as opposed to actually replying to the posts that I directed towards you…

  • zingzing

    punk itself was a trend, i’ll give you that. but what it spawned (DIY, independent labels, post-punk, hardcore, etc) has proven to have had long-lasting effects, and for the betterment of music.

    i’ve responded towards your posts. you know it, i know it. the means is important, but it is NOT all-important. that’s my point. you are right when you say “the mastery of an instrument will always be a mark of achievement.” but what i get out of all your posts is that you think that “the mastery of an instrument will always be THE mark of achievement.” it’s a little different.

    when you say that it is a “fact” that because classical musicians can play their instruments and classical composers put plenty of effort into their compositions, their product will be inherently better than any techno product, then i say that you are totally wrong, and i think the reasons behind my answer are pretty obvious. instrumental ability and time spent on a product have absolutely no connection to the inherent quality of said product. none. someone who knows three chords and has a terrible voice can unleash a hell of a song in a day, and someone with the fucking london symphony orchestra and three years of work put into some hour long symphony can create a total peice of boring shit. that’s a “fact,” and i’d like to see you argue against it.

  • well this review and the comments section have been highly interesting to delve into. for my money, i used to have a similar opinion to Brian there. then i heard DJ Shadow an fell in love with Bjork and realised i had been fairly blind. or deaf, as the case may be.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Zing…If I was going to argue that last paragraph then I would have to insult your intelligence. Maybe I should…

    “instrumental ability and time spent on a product have absolutely no connection to the inherent quality of said product.” LOL!! Thats gotta be the most retarded thing I have ever heard anyone say. This alone goes to show that you have never worked on music in your life. That kind of thinking would be the reason why you could ever think that the London Symphony Orchestra would ever produce something “Boring”. This is also the mindset that has made the mainstream the big piece of shit that it is!!

    Cheap thrills, No Substance…Face it, your beloved Techno will always sound processed and without any trace of the human touch.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *BTW* “the mastery of an instrument will always be THE mark of achievement.” That is the truth…thanks for correcting me!!

  • Josh

    Perhaps it would be a good time to point out that UltraMax plays all their own orchestra instruments and is going to participate in a traditional orchestra

  • zingzing

    the fact that you think what i said is “retarded” is the most retarded thing i’ve heard all day. i think “inherent” is the word you should be looking at there. your’s is a very restrictive opinion. and yes, i think the LSO could produce something boring because i have heard it. snooze-fest. they are (or were at the time) sterile. barely better than muzak.

    and yes, i have been in several bands in my day. i produce, play guitar, bass, write, sing, program drums, etc.

    i like processed sound. it’s an interesting thing. ever heard m83? that’s some processed as fuck sound. but it is just as orchestrated and thought out as any classical being produced today. and it is also highly emotional… beautiful and violent at the same time.

    “this” (virtuosity does not equal quality) “is the mindset that has made the mainstream the big piece of shit that it is,” you say. i’d say it was the opposite. the fact that anyone can make music is what makes it great, makes it diverse, and keeps it interesting. yes, you have to have talent, but talent comes in many forms, whether that be songwriting, production, or performance. a person need have nothing but ideas. without ideas, you’ve got nothing.

    would you rather have a world of eric claptons and phil collins (both great musicians and shitty, shitty artists), or a world of john lennons and bob dylans (shitty musicians, great artists)?

  • zingzing

    ok… #27 just lets me know that this argument probably won’t go anywhere…

    mastery of an instrument is nothing but the mastery of an instrument. you are well-qualified to play cover songs and impress your friends. whoop. without creativity and artistry, you are nothing but a technician.

  • zingzing

    bob ross has mastered the painting of landscapes in oil. doesn’t mean he’s a good artist.

  • Josh

    Agreed any idiot can learn to play guitar few can write music, let alone correct music.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “the fact that anyone can make music is what makes it great, makes it diverse, and keeps it interesting”… I find it to be a constant sorting through piles of excriment!

    Honestly, I like the work Lennon did with the beatles but to say he didn’t have the instrumental talent that Phil Collins has would be a grave error. As for Eric Clapton, I may not like his music but I would prefer his tunes over any of Dylan’s crap.. But, here’s where my point shines. Anyone with an ear for music can hear Clapton’s talent wether you like his music or not. To argue wether Dylan’s lyrics are worthy will always be undocumented and based solely on what people think makes a great song.

  • zingzing

    “I find it to be a constant sorting through piles of excriment!”

    that’s what you have to do. it’s just the way it is. you do it anyway, so why not realize it? if you want it easy, just listen to chart music.

    dylan’s music is about more than the lyrics. it’s the sound of his voice, his melodies, his attitude towards music in general. clapton is a talented musician, but much better as a side man, with others leading him where he needs to go. his solo material is drivel.

    phil collins was a very good drummer. see his work with brian eno. john lennon was a passable guitarist (although he had a great sense of rhythm) at best, but that has very little to do with how much i like his guitar playing. i think he’s more interesting than clapton any day.

    so music is only good if everyone can appreciate it? that so? no one told me. …a dubious point at best.

  • Clapton has been terminally boring for decades, so I must continue to agree with ZingZing.