In case you're in a heat-induced stupor, yesterday was 8/08 — meaning August 8, but also 808 Day, a celebration of the electronic drum machine. You know, the one that Future and Jay-Z have shouted out in lyrics, the one countless other artists have used to make mainstream pop, R&B, and hip-hop music. It's also the day Lamebot released his latest single, "Alban 95." The track clocks in at just over three minutes long, but it's a tightly wound trip down nostalgia lane.
The first few seconds of the track might make youngsters think of the time they called a phone number with the strange word "fax" in front of it, but we older folks know different. That clanging, jarring mixture of metallic sounds was what accompanied the beginnings of an internet connection — you know, back before the internet became something we just breathe in the air. Listen closely, and you can hear the AIM Messenger sign-on and sign-off sounds and the noise of a Windows 95 log-on screen.
It's not just an attempt to jump onto the pervasive recycling of '90s culture — Lamebot's newest effort is a cross between an experiment and an ode. It has humble enough beginnings.
"For one reason or another, I have a strong camgirl following. I don’t know why," begins the Miami DJ and producer. One of these followers is Ashley Alban. Lamebot and Alban were talking when they somehow stumbled on the subject of elementary school yearbook photos. "We were talking about how weird the internet was at that time, that jarring sound, the slow modems, just all of that — '90s style, the internet, AOL coming out. All of that became doing something for 808 day with Windows sound."
Well, that and "[Alban]’s got an awful lot of booty-shaking videos. It was kind of a good experiment for me to try and make something that she would like."
So Lamebot got to work. The beat is juicy and heavy, utilizing the tinny clips that characterized early internet use. For the "horns" you can hear near the end, the musician compiled layers and layers of the Windows 95 error sound. Robotic voices that can seem corny in other electronic music are right at home here.
Of course, none of it would be possible without the Roland TR-808, which single-handedly revolutionized beat making. Instead of a real live person playing drums throughout a track or a producer meticulously looping drum clips, it laid down beats for what would become the backbone of a lot of contemporary music.
"Especially in the current music climate, the 808 should be heavily celebrated," Lamebot says. "Trap music wouldn’t be what it is without 808."
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Actual 808 machines were discontinued in 1983 after just three years on the market, but today many of the same sounds are built into digital studios. The uninitiated might not even be able to distinguish an 808 sound, if only because it is so prevalent.
"There’s so much stuff available now," Lamebot says, "but what are you gonna do with it that sounds different? I think there are a ton of artists that are 808-centric in their sound, but are just pushing the boundaries of what bass music can be."
There's no denying we're lucky to get some homegrown fodder for our slow-twerking YouTube videos in this track, but the larger message here is to remember your history. Not just your personal, cringe-worthy history, but what has shaped our current moment. As Lamebot puts it, it's necessary to "show some appreciation for the reason why the music that most people like is here." And if we shake our asses in the meantime? Even better.