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Nicolay Shares A Track-By-Track Breakdown Of His New Album 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

by +FE on June 10, 2015 at 5:35 PM · Comments
Nicolay Shares A Track-By-Track Breakdown Of His New Album 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'
The Dutch producer explains each song on the new installment in his City Lights series.
On Tuesday, Nicolay released his new solo album, 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'. 'Soweto' is an ode to the South African township and it's neighboring city of Johannesburg, the site of The Foreign Exchange's triumphant South African debut performance in 2014. In this track-by-track breakdown, Nicolay shares the background behind each of its 10 tracks.

Continue reading Nicolay Shares A Track-By-Track Breakdown Of His New Album 'City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto'

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Off The Shelf #8: Collective Efforts - "Until My Life's Gone (Nicolay Remix)"

by Nicolay on October 20, 2011 at 9:47 AM · Comments
'Off The Shelf' is the name of a recurring series on +FE Music. For each episode, Nicolay digs into his archives to present you with a gem that has never been released, or that has otherwise been forgotten about.
Time flies.

That's the short version of the reason why the follow-up to "The Dutch Masters Vol. 1" (2005) never came to be. I started working on it in 2007 for a planned 2008 release, but the re-emergence of The Foreign Exchange and all that came with it soon took all of my time and attention, not to mention the fact that my musical direction was shifting. And so the material that I had intended to use for The Dutch Masters Vol. 2 ended up on the shelf.

Until now! In the upcoming episodes of my Off The Shelf series, I am going to set this material free one track at a time. This episode: "Until My Life's Gone (Nicolay Remix)" by Collective Efforts

nicolay_cover_f1.jpg Original cover art by Sean Kernick, 2007/08.

When I first arrived in the States, in the Spring of 2006, I did an extensive tour of DJ-sets across the country to "introduce myself" and to promote the album I was about to release, Here (BBE; 2006). One of those shows was in Atlanta, where I opened up for my fam J*Davey. Also performing was a local group called Collective Efforts. They sounded good and, equally important, were some genuinely good people. After that I would run into them each time that I visited Atlanta, and we stayed in touch.

I did this remix for them in early 2007, and it has always been a personal favorite of mine. I honestly don't remember if it ever came out around that time. Either way, I was going to include this on DM2 as the first track. So here it is, with a shout out to Collective Efforts. Enjoy, and please spread the word if you like what you hear. And check back in two weeks for the second track from DM2.

Thank you for listening,
Nicolay

Visit Collective Efforts on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Collective-Efforts/7493495361

"UNTIL MY LIFE'S GONE (NICOLAY REMIX)" DOWNLOAD

Vocals by Ben Hameen, J Mil and Bambu
Cuts by DJ Creashun
Remix produced by Nicolay
2007

Continue reading Off The Shelf #8: Collective Efforts - "Until My Life's Gone (Nicolay Remix)"

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Studio Campfire Stories: All Is Well With Love and Make Luv 2 Me (SunStorm Week Day 7)

by Zo! on August 10, 2010 at 8:32 AM · Comments
Studio Campfire Stories: All Is Well With Love and Make Luv 2 Me (SunStorm Week Day 7)
11. All Is Well With Love (feat. Chantae Cann)

Before I even begin this story, just understand that there is always one... No matter what album you work on, there is always one joint that is just a pain in the ass to complete. Welp, ladies and gentlemen... Allow me to introduce you all to one of my most beloved tracks, "All Is Well With Love!"

Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: All Is Well With Love and Make Luv 2 Me (SunStorm Week Day 7)

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Studio Campfire Stories: This Could Be The Night and Flight Of The Blackbyrd (SunStorm Week Day 6)

by Zo! on August 7, 2010 at 9:39 AM · Comments
Studio Campfire Stories: This Could Be The Night and Flight Of The Blackbyrd (SunStorm Week Day 6)
9. This Could Be the Night (feat. Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington & Rapper Big Pooh)

The funny thing about making music, or art for that matter is that you never know what you're sitting on. I had been sitting on this drum pattern for about 2 or 3 years not knowing what to do with it... just the bare drums exactly how you hear them in the final song. It was something that I would listen to every quarter or so, mess around with it, get mad with what I recorded and scrap it altogether. I had even done a song where that drum pattern's tempo was cut in HALF... It just still wasn't there yet. FINALLY, one day during the recording of SunStorm, I finally came up with a chord progression that I was happy with and actually kept it! But the joint had been sitting for so long that even when I found the progression that worked, I was still skeptical. Even when I would include it on a CD with the rest of the album formulated around it as just an instrumental, I would think, "It will get life once vocals are recorded on it." I ended up tracking it out and sending it through to Phonte so we could have the usual "who do you think would fit on this joint" talk. We talked about Erro (Eric Roberson) being a part of the album pretty much from the beginning... in fact, when I first met him back in December 2007 in Chicago, we spoke about working together, but it just never came together....

Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: This Could Be The Night and Flight Of The Blackbyrd (SunStorm Week Day 6)

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Studio Campfire Stories: SunStorm and If I Could Tell You No (SunStorm Week Day 5)

by Zo! on August 4, 2010 at 9:09 AM · Comments
Studio Campfire Stories: SunStorm and If I Could Tell You No (SunStorm Week Day 5)
7. SunStorm (feat. YahZarah)

I started teaching back in the summer of 2006 and the first summer that I took off wasn't until 2008. I was so damn excited about having an entire summer to myself that as soon as I got home from the school on the last day, I went to work in the studio. The FIRST joint that I put together wound up being the music for the title track of this album... "SunStorm." Once again, the drums were done first and they resulted from me being in such a happy ass mood, I can't really describe it any other way. The drum pattern made this music what it wound up becoming. The feeling that I got from it was one of 'freedom' and 'fun'. With that being said, I distinctively remember figuring out a synth bassline that was very busy while keeping the fun and free elements in that music. And just like 95% of the music that I make, I played that synth bassline part all the way through the entire song. I think that when you actually play all the way through your piece, you are able to capture MUCH more of a feeling than that of a looped track. I don't think that the bassline should hit the same way in the first 8 bars of the song as it does coming out of the first hook, for example. The second half is what put it over the top... I made sure to send it to Phonte as soon as I was finished. He hit me with a text back, "I'ma MURK this joint!!" He was originally going to keep this one for himself... but ended up sitting on it after writing about 50 different things to it and not feeling satisfied with anything - I understand that pain FULLY (wait 'til you read the "This Could Be the Night" story).

Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: SunStorm and If I Could Tell You No (SunStorm Week Day 5)

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Studio Campfire Stories: Be Your Man and Free Your Mind (SunStorm Week Day 4)

by Zo! on August 3, 2010 at 8:04 AM · Comments
Studio Campfire Stories: Be Your Man and Free Your Mind (SunStorm Week Day 4)
5. Be Your Man (feat Darien Brockington)

Musically, the instrumental for "Be Your Man" was one of those joints that just kinda came to me. I vividly remember arranging the drum track first because at the time my intention was to lay something slower and also very simple... So I laid a simple 'one-two' or 'march' pattern for the drums at first. But in playing around with the pattern a little more, I ended up bringing the rimshot in simply for the additional nod factor and purposely left the hi-hat out (I actually experimented with an eighth note hi-hat pattern but hated how it sounded, it didn't work at all). The chord progression was something that I worked out through playing around on the keys, it wasn't planned... It was definitely a feeling, and I liked how it moved - pretty, but contrastingly dark. Once the progression was found and practiced, I played the chord stabs and allowed them to act as the eighth-note hi-hat rhythm instead of using an actual hi-hat. The live bass served as the glue for the music and the spacey sounding pad was the additional 'candy' and it was to my liking... still simple and now more mysterious. Once I sent this piece to Phonte and we got on the phone about it, he already had in his head that D. Brock was the man for the job, which completely worked since at that point Brock didn't have a feature on the album yet.

Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: Be Your Man and Free Your Mind (SunStorm Week Day 4)

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Studio Campfire Stories: Say How You Feel and For Leslie (SunStorm Week Day 3)

by Zo! on July 30, 2010 at 5:36 PM · Comments
Studio Campfire Stories: Say How You Feel and For Leslie (SunStorm Week Day 3)
3. Say How You Feel (feat. Phonte & Carlitta Durand)

In April of 2009, Phonte and Carlitta were both in town for a video shoot with my brovah and good friend, DJ Roddy Rod. If I remember correctly, the shoot was on a Saturday and I was mad that I couldn't make it to the group video shoot at night because I had a two shows with The ELs scheduled on the same day. But when Sunday came around, the two of them made sure to stop by the house to hang out for a little while. The day was interesting because being that I lived in a 17-story building, the apartments didn't have thermostats that controlled 'heat' and 'air conditioning'. So therefore, the entire building would have to be 'switched over' to heat when the weather typically got cold (around Oct/Nov) and would switch to a/c when the weather typically warmed up, which was normally around April. Well... the air conditioning had not yet switched over to a/c and the day that Phonte and Carlitta decided to come over, the temperature was in the upper-90's... and I lived on the 15th floor. So the heat in the apartment that day was damn near unbearable, the humidity was up, and it was just plain uncomfortable. Realizing this, I stopped up at Target in order to get a fan big enough to accommodate kats... The problem was, OTHER folks in the area had the same idea that I did, which equated to a "late arrival" (about 1pm). When I got to Target, the big floor fans were GONE and the only fans they had left were a couple of small joints that were gonna do NO good in the heat we were gonna be smothered in. But, I bought one of them anyway and took it back home. By the time I got there, Phonte and Carlitta were already in the spot and sitting in the living room. We plugged in the fan, sat very still and checked out a couple of movies... aaaaand as expected, that little ass fan was moving NO air around in the apartment.

Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: Say How You Feel and For Leslie (SunStorm Week Day 3)

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Studio Campfire Stories: Greater Than The Sun and Greatest Weapon Of All Time (SunStorm Week Day 2)

by Zo! on July 28, 2010 at 9:28 AM · Comments
Studio Campfire Stories: Greater Than The Sun and Greatest Weapon Of All Time (SunStorm Week Day 2)
Zo! breaks down the makings of all of the tracks on his new album, SunStorm.
1. Greater Than the Sun (feat. Phonte)

For those of you who have listened to Little Brother's Getback album, the closing track "When Everything Is New" was initially supposed to be the intro joint for THIS album. After hearing the recorded hook sung by Phonte, Big Pooh requested that he call me and ask that I let the song go to them for their album... I remember answering that "no-brainer-question-of-the-year" before Phonte had even finished what he was gonna say.

Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: Greater Than The Sun and Greatest Weapon Of All Time (SunStorm Week Day 2)

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SunStorm Week!

by Zo! on July 26, 2010 at 1:33 PM · Comments
SunStorm Week!
This is NOT the way I had the release of the biggest album of my career planned out in my head. The reason? Well, the D.C. area was hit with about 15-20 minutes of a ridiculous storm Sunday afternoon around 3pm... It is currently 11:25am Monday morning and electric current decided to show itself only about 30 minutes ago after deserting the place for 19-20 hours. I went out driving on a couple of different occasions to look for food (sounds like I shoulda been on Oregon Trail or som'n) yesterday while the power was out, and here are the statistics in regards to what I witnessed: 5 car accidents, 4 working traffic lights, and 0 Pepco trucks out working on anything. So here I lay on the floor of my house typing out a blog entry that I would have loved to have posted 11 1/2 hours ago to kick "SunStorm Week" off properly... but I'm sure you all understand. The power is back on and I can smile again...

Continue reading SunStorm Week!

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Postcards From Shibuya #7: Meiji Shrine/The Inner Garden

by Nicolay on November 9, 2009 at 8:31 AM · Comments
Postcards From Shibuya #7: Meiji Shrine/The Inner Garden
In a series of blogs titled 'Postcards From Shibuya', Nicolay explains what the inspiration was for his new album and how its songs came together.
Before I even wrote a single note of music, I knew that one of the centerpieces on City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya would have to be called Meiji Shrine. The place just left that much of an impression on me.

Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu in Japanese, is a large Shinto shrine dedicated to the beloved and influential Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, and situated in the forest at the end of Omotesando, across the street from the legendary Budokan hall. The people of Tokyo visit the shrine to practice their religion and to pay their respects to the spirits of the emperial couple. Many consider Meiji Shrine and the adjacent forest their spiritual home.

Continue reading Postcards From Shibuya #7: Meiji Shrine/The Inner Garden

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Postcards From Shibuya #6: Omotesando

by Nicolay on November 2, 2009 at 8:36 AM · Comments
Postcards From Shibuya #6: Omotesando
In a series of blogs titled 'Postcards From Shibuya', Nicolay explains what the inspiration was for his new album and how its songs came together.
Omotesando is the name of one of the main avenues in the Shibuya district. It is best known as an upscale shopping area featuring several international brand boutique stores and outlets. Over 100,000 cars drive down this avenue every day.

As I was going through all of our photographs of Shibuya, searching for album art material, I came across the image of the cars driving down Omotesando, and I knew I had found the front cover.

''Omotesando'', one of the earlier pieces that I recorded for City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, opens the second suite of instrumentals on the album, and, following the avenue that it is named after, segues into "Meiji Shrine''.

Thanks for listening,

Nicolay

Listen now on Last.fm:

Omotesando Play this track
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Postcards From Shibuya #5: Saturday Night/A Ride Under The Neon Moon

by Nicolay on October 6, 2009 at 8:40 AM · Comments
Postcards From Shibuya #5: Saturday Night/A Ride Under The Neon Moon
In a series of blogs titled 'Postcards From Shibuya', Nicolay explains what the inspiration was for his new album and how its songs came together.
Electronic/dance music continues to be a big influence on me, as evidenced by the 'City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya' album in general, and "Saturday Night", featuring the fabulous Carlitta Durand, in particular. While putting together the final configuration, Phonte convinced me to include the full 6-minute version, and I am glad he did. "Saturday Night" became the centerpiece of the album.

Best listened to LOUD!

Until next time,

Nicolay

Listen now on Last.fm:

Saturday Night feat. Carlitta Durand Play this track
A Ride Under The Neon Moon Play this track
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Postcards From Shibuya #4: Rain In Ueno Park/Satellite

by Nicolay on September 25, 2009 at 10:42 AM · Comments
Postcards From Shibuya #4: Rain In Ueno Park/Satellite
In a series of blogs titled 'Postcards From Shibuya', Nicolay explains what the inspiration was for his new album and how its songs came together.
"Rain In Ueno Park" and "Satellite" are the third and fourth movements of the first 'Shibuya' suite and, similarly to "Shibuya Station" and "Crossing", they are closely related to each other.

Ueno Park, technically not situated in the district of Shibuya, is one of Tokyo's largest and most popular parks, built on the hallowed grounds of a long-gone temple. A steady rain came down for the entire time that we spent visiting the park and its neighbouring areas, under the expert guidance of our friend GG. Even though we were quickly soaked through and through, Ueno did leave a lasting impression, as you can hear in "Rain In Ueno Park".

Continue reading Postcards From Shibuya #4: Rain In Ueno Park/Satellite

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Postcards From Shibuya #3: Shibuya Station/Crossing

by Nicolay on September 17, 2009 at 9:07 AM · Comments
Postcards From Shibuya #3: Shibuya Station/Crossing
In a series of blogs titled 'Postcards From Shibuya', Nicolay explains what the inspiration was for his new album and how its songs came together.
'City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya' is built around two 'suites', or sets, of four and six instrumental songs respectively. The two suites are book-ended by several vocal songs that feature Carlitta Durand. "Lose Your Way", the album's introduction, segues into the first suite, consisting of "Shibuya Station", "Crossing", "Rain In Ueno Park" and "Satellite".

The demo version of "Shibuya Station" was among those first ideas that I recorded almost immediately after returning from my trip to Tokyo. The uptempo drums and percussion represent the frantic pace of the city's traffic, with a nod to 8-Bit Nintendo music in the intro. With over two million people passing through each workday (!), "Shibuya Station" is one of the world's busiest railway stations, and it seemed like the most appropriate starting point for a walk around Shibuya. A big shout out to my brother Zo! for laying down a smoldering solo on the Rhodes.

Continue reading Postcards From Shibuya #3: Shibuya Station/Crossing

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Postcards From Shibuya #2: Lose Your Way

by Nicolay on September 11, 2009 at 9:16 AM · Comments
Postcards From Shibuya #2: Lose Your Way
In a series of blogs titled 'Postcards From Shibuya', Nicolay explains what the inspiration was for his new album and how its songs came together.
I recorded an instrumental demo, titled "Universe", towards the end of the sessions for 'Leave It All Behind', as I was getting ready to put together the 'Shibuya' album. Much like most ideas that I put down, I sent it to Phonte for some feedback. Over the years, this practice has become somewhat of a litmus test for me. Fortunately, he took to the track. I personally hadn't necessarily considered "Universe" for inclusion on 'Shibuya', but a few months later, when Phonte sent me the song he wrote to it, titled "Lose Your Way", everything literally fell into place. We had been brainstorming on conceptual ideas for the album, and the song brought all of the different elements together, inviting the listener to take a trip to the city, with the voice of Carlitta Durand as a guide.

Continue reading Postcards From Shibuya #2: Lose Your Way

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Postcards From Shibuya #1: The story behind Shibuya

by Nicolay on September 4, 2009 at 9:54 AM · Comments
Postcards From Shibuya #1: The story behind Shibuya
In a new series of blogs titled 'Postcards From Shibuya', Nicolay explains what the inspiration was for his new album and how its songs came together.
Ever since I first released the original 'City Lights' album, I have been planning a sequel, hence the 'Vol. 1', and later 'Vol. 1.5', in the title. I knew that I wanted it to be another collection of instrumentals, and I knew that I didn't want to simply repeat the formula, and so I wasn't quite sure in what direction to take the sequel. This all changed when I got the chance to visit Tokyo (Japan), in November of 2006.

Continue reading Postcards From Shibuya #1: The story behind Shibuya

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Off The Shelf #7: Little Brother/The Foreign Exchange BBC Radio 1 LIVE Session (2005)

by Nicolay on August 25, 2009 at 4:30 PM · Comments
Off The Shelf #7: Little Brother/The Foreign Exchange BBC Radio 1 LIVE Session (2005)
'Off The Shelf' is the name of a recurring series on +FE Music. For each episode, Nicolay digs into his archives to present you with a gem that has never been released, or that has otherwise been forgotten about.
In celebration of the 5th anniversary of the release of The Foreign Exchange's debut album 'Connected', we have a very special 'Off The Shelf' installment for you today!

At the end of January 2005, on the heels of a sold-out performance at London's Jazz Cafe, Little Brother/The Foreign Exchange (consisting of Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh, Nicolay, Yahzarah, Darien Brockington and DJ Flash) recorded a live-in-studio session for Gilles Peterson's Worldwide show on BBC Radio 1 (United Kingdom). Originally, the BBC Radio 1 only aired the two Foreign Exchange tracks, 'Come Around' and 'Sincere', but we are now presenting this session in its entirety. Enjoy!

Thanks for listening,

Nicolay

"LITTLE BROTHER/THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE BBC RADIO 1 SESSION" DOWNLOAD

Vocals by Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh, Yahzarah and Darien Brockington | Keyboards by Nicolay | DJ Flash on the decks | January 2005



Tracklisting:

01 Speed (Little Brother)
02 The Way You Do It (Little Brother)
03 Come Around (The Foreign Exchange)
04 Sincere (The Foreign Exchange)

Continue reading Off The Shelf #7: Little Brother/The Foreign Exchange BBC Radio 1 LIVE Session (2005)

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Off The Shelf #6: Ilwil feat. Jameze - "So Far" [Prod. Nicolay]

by Nicolay on August 4, 2009 at 10:05 AM · Comments
Off The Shelf #6: Ilwil feat. Jameze - "So Far" [Prod. Nicolay]
We've come so far...
This week's 'Off The Shelf' installment was actually requested through Twitter. You may know the song "So Far" in the instrumental version that is included on City Lights Vol. 1.5, or in the remix version that is included on The Dutch Masters Vol. 1, but the original vocal version is a little less known. The song, performed by Ilwil (Donwill and Ilyas) featuring Jameeze, was recorded around 2002, during what you could call our Okayplayer days. I'm sure that we posted it up on The Lesson, and Ilwil included the original version on their 'Beat Thieves Vol. 1 Mixtape', that is no longer in print.

Donwill and Ilyas are better known as two thirds of the group Tanya Morgan, the third third being another one of my Okayplayer homies, mc/producer Von "First Date" Pea. Their latest album, Brooklynati, is in stores right now and is a must-have if you like your hip hop fresh. Don't sleep!

Thanks for listening,

Nicolay

"SO FAR feat. JAMEZE" DOWNLOAD

Verses by Donwill and Ilyas | Hooks by Jameeze | All instruments and programming by Nicolay | 2002

Continue reading Off The Shelf #6: Ilwil feat. Jameze - "So Far" [Prod. Nicolay]

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Inside The Producer's Studio: Making "Raw Life" (1/2)

by +FE on July 24, 2009 at 3:45 PM · Comments
Nicolay breaks down the production and mix of Raw Life by The Foreign Exchange (from Connected).

Backstory:

It should be no secret that the incredible beatwork of the late great J Dilla has been hugely inspirational to me, especially when I was first getting into production. I learned by studying his music, that there is room for musicality and for experimentation, as long as there is a strong and steady foundation going on underneath. Dilla's signature tracks always had that "sweet spot", that chord progression or melody that would tug at your heartstrings, while the drums and the bass would work on your neckmuscles at the same time. As a producer, his drums were eye-opening for me, not only because of his choice of sounds and of ways to process those sounds, but because of his often-imitated "drunken" style of drum programming. Before I got into Dilla's music, I suppose I more or less thought of drum hits as being relatively "fixed". For example, in one bar of four counts, you put a kick hit on the one and the three, a snare hit on the two and four, and hihat hits on every eighth note, with "swing" timing applied (or not, depending on what is called for). Dilla's programming taught me that if you exaggerate this "swing" timing, the drums come alive and feel more "human" and "in the pocket".

Continue reading Inside The Producer's Studio: Making "Raw Life" (1/2)

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Off The Shelf #5: Nicolay & Ugene - "Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)"

by Nicolay on July 21, 2009 at 8:03 AM · Comments
Off The Shelf #5: Nicolay & Ugene - "Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)"
'Off The Shelf' is the name of a recurring series on +FE Music. For each episode, Nicolay digs into his archives to present you with a gem that has never been released, or that has otherwise been forgotten about.
Today, I am another year older, and what better to commemorate this than with a particularly festive 'Off The Shelf' download, aimed for the dancefloors!

In the previous installment of this series, I broke down the story of how I first met the lovely and talented Moon Baker, many years ago. That story really isn't complete without acknowledging another good friend of mine, the amazingly talented Dutch singer and keyboardist Ugene.

My bandmates and I had seen Ugene perform on a late night television show one night in '95 or '96, and we were all floored. A voice like Ugene's, you just don't hear everyday, especially in The Netherlands. It took us a while to track him down, but we eventually got a hold of him and somehow persuaded him to sing and play with us for a while. Fortunately for us, he ended up playing with us for several years. Most of my favourite memories from those days involve sharing the stage and the rehearsal studio with Ugene and Moon, who formed an incredible vocal tandem together.

To make a long story short: Ugene and I recorded this cover version of the Quincy Jones produced Donna Summer track "Love Is In Control (Finger In The Trigger)" in April of 2005. It was originally intended for a compilation album on an indie label, but they didn't use it and so the track ended up on the shelf.

Ugene is another artist that deserves any and all attention. He's currently working on a new project with a formation that actually includes two other friends of mine from Europe, Krewcial and Gus. Click here to watch one of their recent videos.

Until next time, and as always... thanks for listening,

Nicolay

"LOVE IS IN CONTROL (FINGER ON THE TRIGGER)" DOWNLOAD

Vocals and keyboards by U-Gene | Vocoder, keyboards and all other instruments and programming by Nicolay | April 2005

Continue reading Off The Shelf #5: Nicolay & Ugene - "Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)"

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Off The Shelf #4: Moon Baker - "Stay" (prod. Nicolay) and more!

by Nicolay on June 23, 2009 at 4:30 PM · Comments
Off The Shelf #4: Moon Baker - "Stay" (prod. Nicolay) and more!
'Off The Shelf' is the name of a recurring series on +FE Music. For each episode, Nicolay digs into his archives to present you with a gem that has never been released, or that has otherwise been forgotten about.
Around 1995, I was playing bass in a Dutch P-Funk outfit called Groovin' Pict. It would be an understatement to say that I could write a book about the many adventures of this group and its various formations, but that is a different story altogether. Back then, one of our rival bands had a new female singer called Moon Baker, who was both gorgeous and incredibly talented, and after hearing and seeing her in action, we all knew that we had to get her to join our ranks. To our delight, we were eventually able to persuade her to come sing with us, and Moon and I ended up playing music together in different configurations of the group until around the year 2000.

Fast forward to 2004. Moon called me up one day and told me she was at long last going to start working on her solo debut, and she wanted me to be the album's main producer. Over the course of two years, we worked on and off on writing, arranging and recording her album, titled "ABC Of Romance". It was released in 2007 by Supertracks Records, and knowing that, the term 'Off The Shelf' should not be taken literally in this particular context. However, I think that the release was limited to The Netherlands, Germany and Japan, so I don't think you'll mind if I drop one of my favourite songs that we did together, "Stay". If you like this track, you can find the full Moon Baker album "ABC Of Romance" on iTunes, Amazon and CD Universe.

Not only is she a phenomenal singer, but Moon is an amazingly humble, down-to-earth and sweet person. In my opinion, she hasn't yet gotten the full recognition that she deserves. I'll continue to do whatever I can do on my end to change that. If you dig the music, make sure that you spread the word! As always, thank you for listening,

Nicolay

"STAY" DOWNLOAD

Vocals by Moon Baker | All instruments and programming by Nicolay, 2005/06


BONUS:

"ABC OF ROMANCE (NICOLAY REMIX feat. KAY)" DOWNLOAD

Vocals by Moon Baker | Rhyme by Kay | Saxophone by Candy Dulfer | All other instruments and programming by Nicolay, 2007

Continue reading Off The Shelf #4: Moon Baker - "Stay" (prod. Nicolay) and more!

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Off The Shelf #3: United Soul feat. Yahzarah & Phonte "Soulclap" (Nicolay Remix)

by Nicolay on June 9, 2009 at 3:49 PM · Comments
Off The Shelf #3: United Soul feat. Yahzarah & Phonte "Soulclap" (Nicolay Remix)
'Off The Shelf' is the name of a recurring series on +FE Music. For each episode, Nicolay digs into his archives to present you with a gem that has never been released, or that has otherwise been forgotten about.
I am pretty sure that the fellas of United Soul (an R&B duo from Philadelphia that since changed their name to U.City) didn't end up using this remix, but I know they liked it, and so does my wife Aimee, who suggested it for the next installment of Off The Shelf. Just a smooth joint to cuddle up with your significant other to, done sometime in '05. Shoutouts to U.City, Yahzarah and Phonte. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Nicolay

"SOULCLAP (NICOLAY REMIX)" DOWNLOAD

Vocals by United Soul, Yahzarah and Phonte | All instruments and programming by Nicolay, 2005

Continue reading Off The Shelf #3: United Soul feat. Yahzarah & Phonte "Soulclap" (Nicolay Remix)

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Off The Shelf #2: The Last Poets feat. Keith Murray "Dakari (Nicolay Remix)"

by Nicolay on May 26, 2009 at 3:20 PM · Comments
Off The Shelf #2: The Last Poets feat. Keith Murray "Dakari (Nicolay Remix)"
'Off The Shelf' is the name of a recurring series on +FE Music. For each episode, Nicolay digs into his archives to present you with a gem that has never been released, or that has otherwise been forgotten about.
Things don't always work out as you would hope, and the reasons why usually have little to do with music, and all the more with the people "behind the scenes", as the following example illustrates. Of course, not everyone in the music industry is a shark, but it certainly is my personal experience that the good people are exceptions that prove the rule.

At the end of 2004, I was contacted by a fairly well-known indie hip-hop label's A&R (Artist & Repertoire) director (who shall remain anonymous). The guy was working on a new project with legendary group The Last Poets, and he wanted to see if I could remix a song called "Dakari" track that also featured Keith Murray. The remix was intended for a 12" single to promote the album, and would potentially even be included on the album as they were not too thrilled about the beat that was used for the original track. Eager to expand both my range and my resume, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to reach a new audience, and we came to an agreement that worked for all parties involved. I finished the remix in January of 2005.

To make a long story short, the A&R guy never held up his end of the agreement, and never made good on the agreed compensation, using every excuse known to man before falling off the map and abandoning the entire project. And so the remix never came out. Until today! Big up to The Last Poets (Umar Bin Hassan + Abiodun Oyewole) and Keith Murray.

Enjoy, and thanks for listening,

Nicolay

"DAKARI (NICOLAY REMIX)" DOWNLOAD

Vocals by Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole and Keith Murray. (Unfortunately, I was never told who the young lady on the hook is) | Remixed by Nicolay, January 2005

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Off The Shelf #1: Nicolay - "Nautilus" (A tribute to Bob James)

by Nicolay on May 12, 2009 at 10:17 AM · Comments
Off The Shelf #1: Nicolay - "Nautilus" (A tribute to Bob James)
'Off The Shelf' is the name of a recurring series on +FE Music. For each episode, Nicolay digs into his archives to present you with a gem that has never been released, or that has otherwise been forgotten about.
In July of 2006, I was approached by people representing world renowned jazz keyboardist Bob James. They were working on putting together a project, to be called 'Sampling Bob James: The Nautilus Project', on which several DJ's and producers would present their take on one of the most sampled tracks in hip-hop history, 'Nautilus', from Bob James' 1974 album 'One'. To my delight, I was invited to be one of the contributors, but instead of sampling the original, I chose to 'cover' it and re-create the track from scratch.

They really liked my version of 'Nautilus', but the project has remained unreleased. My version did end up online, by way of a viral video. Ever since, people have been asking me for a high quality version, so... here it is! Enjoy, and please... spread the word. You are more than welcome to share the link or the file itself.

Thank you for listening,

Nicolay

"NAUTILUS" DOWNLOAD

Written by Bob James | Arrangement, instruments and programming by Nicolay, December 2006

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Inside The Producer's Studio (Part 2): On sampling

by +FE on May 5, 2009 at 9:05 AM · Comments
In the prologue and the first part of this series, Nicolay opened up his studio to the public for a virtual overview of the tools that he likes to use. For the next several parts, he will zoom in to the actual music making process, from the initial idea to the fully arranged and mixed production.
So far, we have had over 4,000 unique visitors logging on to our 'Inside The Producer's Studio' series, and I would like to sincerely thank everyone for their attention and for their kind words of appreciation and encouragement. I'm thrilled that so many of you have shown interest in our blogs. Please do continue to help spread the word!


Record shopping in Shibuya, Tokyo November '06 | Uploaded by Nicolay Music.

On sampling

Because I am a musician first and foremost, I have never had to rely on sampling alone. Still, there's no question that technique involving sampling makes up an important part of my music production process. Earlier on in my career, a new idea would usually present itself in the form of a sample that I would find by randomly going through my records, in search of that next "Oh shit!" moment. Even though I love to go record shopping like any fan of music, I am not much of a "digger" because my collection is fairly small, especially after moving from one continent to another. I have personally never seen the point of owning thousands of records, knowing that I would never be able to listen to or study most of them in my lifetime, and so I only buy and hold on to records that are significant to me for one reason or another. As a result, I have a personal connection with each record that I own, and those are the records that I turn to for inspiration.

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Inside The Producer's Studio: Making "Daykeeper" (2/2)

by +FE on April 22, 2009 at 10:09 AM · Comments
Nicolay breaks down the production and mix of Daykeeper by The Foreign Exchange (from Leave It All Behind).
In his comment on the first part of Making 'Daykeeper', Eric Hirsh asked: "Any insight as to why both Connected and Leave It All Behind start with the same sound sequence (but both depart from it in different ways)?" Thanks for bringing that up, Eric; while discussing the origins of 'Daykeeper', I had unintentionally skipped over that intro sound, but it's an important element of both albums. I think it was Phonte's idea to bring back the sound that opens 'Connected' as a "sound logo" that would instantly identify the new album as a Foreign Exchange project. Since we were working with the "Leave It All Behind" concept, I wanted to take the original sounds, to let the listener know that The Foreign Exchange is "back", but develop them into a different, darker direction, to let the listener know that everything is not the same. At this point, the sound logo has begun leading a life of its own as we open all of our shows with it, and it always invokes quite a stir in the audience.

To get back on-topic, I wanted to mention that the mixing of a track isn't necessarily a separate process for me like it is for some others. Writing, arranging, playing and programming, recording and mixing are all part of the same simultaneous creative flow. And how do I know when a mix is done? When I have heard it over and over again and I no longer want to change or add anything. Sometimes it can take a week, sometimes it can take a month. And sometimes it can take a year. But eventually, there's always that moment of realizing that I'm there.

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Inside The Producer's Studio: Making "Daykeeper" (1/2)

by +FE on April 10, 2009 at 8:18 AM · Comments
Nicolay breaks down the production and mix of Daykeeper by The Foreign Exchange (from Leave It All Behind).
Backstory:

I came up with the basic track in november of '06, after coming back from my visit to Tokyo. Japan had made a huge impression on me and I was still in that state of mind, calling the track idea "Shibuya" before sending it over to Phonte to check out. I knew that it was very different from what we had done before, so I wasn't quite sure what to do with it and whether or not it would "fit", but when Phonte heard it, he knew that this was the direction that we were looking for and started to write to it. Not too long after, he recorded the hooks and verses together with Muhsinah and sent them back to me. I was so inspired by the song that I came up with the 3/4 section in the middle almost right away. In turn, Phonte and Muhsinah recorded their additional vocals to the middle section and with that, the song was complete.

The mixing process of this song specifically took well over a year, and if I remember correctly we went through at least a dozen different mixes before we had the final one. There's about 70 (!) tracks of vocals and about 40 more tracks of instruments in the session, so you can imagine that it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get everything balanced just right.

I'd like to acknowledge Khrysis for his stellar engineering of the vocal recordings as he does time and time again, to Soiree Records for the fine job mastering the album and a special thanks to my partner Phonte and to Muhsinah, who's duet on 'Daykeeper' will undoubtedly go into history as one of the great vocal performances of our generation. By now I must have heard the song hundreds of times, but it still gives me chills each time.

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Inside The Producer's Studio (Part 1): On using the computer

by +FE on April 7, 2009 at 8:32 AM · Comments
In this first part Nicolay explains why he uses a computer and which software he uses for what purpose.

Photo by Stevie Mack | Uploaded by Nicolay Music.

It doesn't really matter what you use, as long as you use it well.

That has been my motto throughout the years that I have been into making music. I have never been a purist or even a "gearslut", and I really don't believe that it matters much whether you use an MPC, an ASR10 or Fruity Loops to make your beats, or at this point, whether you run a laptop or a $100,000 studio. What matters only are the results, and you generally get the best results by using something that you are very familiar with.

My main reason for choosing the computer as a beatmaking machine was that I already owned one, and the music program that I knew how to use on it, called Modplug, was (and still is) free. Besides that I had a turntable, a CD player and a bass and some keyboards and at the time, it was all that I needed to get going. Over the years I have been able to slowly but steadily upgrade my setup, but at the center of it all there's still a computer running the same free program that I started out with.

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Inside The Producer's Studio (Prologue)

by +FE on April 3, 2009 at 8:36 AM · Comments
Nicolay is starting a new blog series aimed to provide an indepth look into the process behind his music production while breaking down specific tracks from his catalogue.

Photo by Stevie Mack | Uploaded by Nicolay Music.

The question that I get asked most is without a doubt, "What do you use?". I'm a fan and student of music first and foremost, and I have always been more than willing to answer that question, but I have found that it is impossible for me to do so in a MySpace or Twitter message using only a few sentences. Print and online articles and interviews don't always allow for indepth discussion, either. Fortunately, our new website finally gives me the platform to share the method to my madness, and so over the course of an indefinite number of installments, I'm going to break down the what, why and how of my music production setup. I will discuss my favourite pieces of hard- and software, my favourite ways of (ab)using them and the track(s) from my catalogue in which you can hear them at work. Because at the end of the day, it is all about the music.

Continue reading Inside The Producer's Studio (Prologue)

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