Posts Tagged ‘Flex Unger’

Calabrese engineering

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Check out this project carried out Calabrese style by my bandmate, Flex Unger aka Pasquale Cangiano, whose upcycling skills and self-built recording studio and we’ve featured here before:

Calabrese Engineering

What is Calabrese Engineering you ask ? What are the rules of Calabrese Wood Working ? Rule #1 never use rules or a ruler ! I found all this wood in the trash and crafted a computer stand / flat files for drawings to go near my drafting table so I can have a clear drawing surface and be online at the same time. I used no ruler at all and did all the measuring with the wood itself and eyeballed everything else. Yeah its a bit lopsided and make shift but that is the Calabrese style of building taught to me by my Grandfather he used no rulers either 🙂 Big Up’s to my band mate Leila Darabi’s Everyday Trash can I get a reblog ?

Click through for a slide show. Note the music that accompanies the photos is that of the modern son of Calabria and made in a warehouse in Brooklyn. More traditional regional music — I have learned from Flex — sounds like this. Or like children screaming.

Green Vinyl

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hello from Mumbai! Apologies in advance if posts this week and next are a bit stripped down and sans images, I’m traveling over the holiday season with limited internet connection. Vacation from the day job, however, does not mean a slow down in the influx of trash tips. Today’s came from Brooklyn Based, a local email newsletter I subscribe to (and which you should sign up for if you, too, live in Brooklyn). The update for today, entitled Green Vinyl, can be found online and read in full here. It features Brooklyn Phono, a local record making company that has started to offer recycled vinyl as an option for bands and labels interested in pressing a record. Check out a video of the process here.

I’m hoping my band can opt for green vinyl when we make our first 7″ this Spring. Our studio, Clean and Humble Recordings, is also located in Sunset Park, so I can’t think of a more local choice.

Speaking of the studio and recycling records, does anyone have any ideas for reusing 78’s made of shellac? My bandmate, Flex Unger, the owner/operator of Clean and Humble, recently inherited 7 crates of crap records and is taking ideas for what to do with the raw materials. You may recall from past posts that Flex is big into DIY recording and musical recycling, e.g. sampling old records to mix new beats and salvaging old instruments to build new ones.

Post ideas for upcycling 78’s in the comments, please.

Indonesian beats, upcycled

Sunday, May 31, 2009

This is a post about upcycling old music into new beats. It is long. Skip to the end if you’re only interested in the sounds. There, you will find a free download. For those curious about how this amazing beat came to be, this is the story:

In October, I spent a week in Jakarta for work. The day job, of course, consumed the majority of my time, but I did manage to make the most of  my one afternoon off that week while my colleagues were busy working on presentations and setting up meetings for the following day.

“I want to buy records,” I told our Indonesian consultant who, after some clarification that I meant vinyl and not compact discs, instructed the driver to take me to the antique market.

Jakarta antique market

Jakarta antique market

Looking for records while traveling is a hobby I picked up from my friend Flex Unger, whom you may remember as the Brooklyn musician fond of upcycled drum machines. It is also easier said than done, at least in Africa, where I normally go for work. In Lusaka, the only records I could find were a newly released Whitney Houston album on sale at the mall and the vinyl glued to the door of a local radio station. I was on my way to that radio station on the last day of my trip—thinking I could track down the DJs responsible for the decor and ask them where to find records—when I noticed a huge curl of smoke in the air above the center of downtown. We tuned the radio to the station we were on our way to visit and got nothing but static. The station had caught fire, taking the entire building down in flames.

In Lagos, when my friends and colleagues failed to lead me to the records, I dragged several of them out to Fela Kuti‘s Shrine, the famous nightclub run by his son, Femi Kuti. There, we spent the afternoon drinking beers amidst the schwag fumes of the local Rastas, but got no closer to locating the Lagosian record trade. I tried once again to no avail last month in Kampala, where my Ugandan radio friend insists you can’t even buy a record player (though he has promised to help track down local collectors).

Digging for records in Indonesia was much easier than in Africa. Almost too easy. After a mere half hour in local traffic, the car pulled up to a row of the fanciest outdoor market stalls I have ever seen. In fact, they weren’t outdoor at all, but a pint-sized strip mall of shops selling colonial era furniture and Indonesian knickknacks. They even had doors. One of those shops sold nothing but records. I couldn’t believe it. I passed some time there, limiting my search to Indonesian music instead of my regular preference of R&B instrumentals since I only had a couple hours to spend at the market. After the mini-shop, I walked through the less built-up side of the market—open-air stalls selling greasy appliance parts and random chotchkies. There, I found two more record sellers, one of whom even had a turntable set up. I asked him to play me the records I had just purchased and bought one more from him, just to be polite. In the end this is what I took home:

Some finds from Jakarta

Finds from Jakarta

Three Indonesian pop albulms from the 1960s and 70s and one two-disc traditional compilation full of old opera and gamelan music. My favorite—both for the cover and what’s actually on the record—is the center album above. It’s called (in Indonesian) Andrianie Beladjar Sepeda, which my Indonesian friend (the one who helped me find the antique market in the first place, THANKS IWU!!!) told me  means Learning to Ride a Bike. It’s got a kind of  Gainsbourg/Bardot feel, excellent sounds to blog to.

All told, I spent $1.20 on that shopping spree: Twenty cents each for the three pop records, forty cents on the double album of traditional music and twenty cents on a lovely lunch of fritters, samosa and a banana dessert cooked in banana leaves.

Not pictured, one croquette already consumed

Not pictured, one croquette already consumed

Though I mentioned to Flex Unger that I had picked up some records in Indonesia and even sought his advice on the purchase of a portable record player to enjoy them in Brooklyn, I never showed him these albums or brought them to his studio. My great and fruitless musical safari through Zambia, Nigeria and Uganda had carried with it the specific mission of finding African music that he might enjoy or be able to sample. Before I left on each of those trips, Flex specifically asked me look for music for him. But when I went looking for music in Jakarta, it wasn’t as much to run home to impress my DJ friend as it was to seek out personal souvenirs of a fascinating trip.

As it turns out, impressing my DJ friend happened anyway. A couple weeks ago, Flex was over at my apartment and spotted the alluring cover of Learning to Ride a Bike. “What are these??” he cried, sifting through the small stack of Jakarta finds. Since then we have spent some hours at his studio in Sunset Park transferring the records to electronic format, breaking up the fun and strange songs into smaller pieces and feeding them into Flex’ drum machine to mix and match the noises and layer them with new ones. Or rather, he has done all of that while I have looked on, pressing the occasional button on the soundboard when instructed to do so. It feels like I’ve learned something while observing the process—a vague something about timing, Pro Tools, hip hop and Southeast Asia.

More importantly, the end results have been fantastic. Check out the first finished beat. It is entitled “Steamed Bananas” after that tasty Indonesian snack and because Flex is working on a larger, super-market-themed album for which all beats must have food names. Consider this a sneak peak.

“Steamed Bananas” mixed by DJ Flex Unger

Kind of makes you want to dance, doesn’t it? For comparison, here is the original track from Learning to Ride a Bike.

“Kedjam” from the album Andrianie Deladjar Sepeda sung by Eddy & Siam

Impressive, non? Check out Flex’ label Black Rhombus for more fun tunes. And send us your stories of upcyled music and musical upcycling. I’m all about musical trash posts this summer, especially since I just figured out how to upload mp3s.

Also, this whole process has renewed my entusiasm for figuring out where they hide the records in Africa. Stay tuned. And speaking of African music, Brooklynites mark your calendars for June 25th and seek me out in Prospect Park!

Organ Donor

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My friend Flex Unger has a small recording studio in Brooklyn full of broken toys and good intentions.  A lover of to-do lists, Flex recently went around the studio taking pictures of the things he’d like to fix or convert in the coming months, which he posted on his blog along with short descriptions of the forthcoming projects.


Organ parts

[NOTE: This post has been updated to correct gross errors in my understanding of all things technical.  Despite years of wood shop, metal shop, power shop, a class on bike repair and accelerated physics, I still don’t quite get how to take things apart or put them back together again.  Apologies if you rushed out to try these projects at home between 5 and 11pm EST.]

My favorite of these resolutions is the master plan to deconstruct and recycle an old Viscount organ (shown above, in pieces) to make a portable drum machine and build an amplifier and a mini organ.  Inspiration for extracting the organ’s drum machine came from the YouTube clip below; and from a primal calling to amass the world’s largest collection of portable beat-making devices.  The hope is to use a 1/4 inch jack from the organ’s circuitry so that the device can be output into an amp.

Project #2 is an amplifier that will serve purposes equal parts form and function.  Flex has an oven range—rescued from the trash!—attached to a wall that is supposed to reverberate for an echo effect.  If I understand correctly, by extracting the organ’s speaker and its covering, he can a) preserve the attractive vintage fabric look of the Viscount and b) use it to build a makeshift PA that will carry sound over to the oven range.


Organ fabric

Project #2 has the added bonus of incorporating this rad-looking Zenith tube radio found on the streets of Brooklyn, which will serve as the amplifier.


Tube radio

For the third and final project, Flex plans to collect the remaining parts and put them back together in the form of a mini-organ.

Stay tuned for progress reports.  And if, by chance, you’re in the market for a green recording studio for your next creative audio project, consider Clean and Humble, a trash and artist-friendly space.

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