Rap and reggae are ruining ski movies
Aside from being made by Inspired Media, featuring mind-blowing skiing and being released during the same week, what else do Ring the Alarm and Be Inspired have in common?
I’ve been wanting to write something about ski movie soundtracks for a while now, and at the same time it’s always tickled me how gangsta/rasta some of the most talented pros consider themselves, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to vent my spleen.
I’m going to take Eric Iberg on his word here, stating that Phil Casabon and Henrik Harlaut just like all the trimmings rather than actually partaking, but it’s clear Tanner Hall’s marijuana habit is at the root of his Rastafarian and reggae leanings.
B-Dog and eDollo deserve credit for getting Wu-Tang’s Raekwon to do their theme tune, but some of the other dreadful dub during their 25-minute film – and their shared obsession with the ski boss over the likes of Walshy Fire and Cali P – are most perplexing.
On Tanner’s two-year project there’s a similarly jarring mix of what the blurb describes as his favourite dancehall tracks and “illest underground hip-hop remixes” , which are fine for downtime with the bong, but seem completely out of place when combined with him charging pillow lines.
This sound clash is nothing new of course, park skiers have been baggy-clothed, bling-laden and pumping rap and reggae through their headphones for best part of a decade now, but that doesn’t make the contrast less ludicrous.
The funny thing is these are almost exclusively well-off young white men, participating in one of the most expensive sports going, yet their videos are backed by the sounds of the black ghetto and the struggles therein.
To be fair, I also have beef with the music used on segments of older and supposedly worldlier skiers. Just because men of a certain age tend to gravitate towards middle-of-the-road American rock music, doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for footage of them slaying Alaskan spines.
And don’t get me started on that screechy bro-step and sugar-coated EDM either – it’s not big or clever to sync up the breakdown bass drop with the slo-mo air from a 50ft cliff drop.
Thus far I’ve just complained about genres I don’t like – and some of you probably love – so it’s about time I put forward some examples of what I think makes a great segment soundtrack. Besides skiing, my other passion in life is music – perhaps this is why I’m being so supercilious – and over the last decade or so I’ve written countless interviews, reviews and features about different bands, DJs and events.
While my first love is electronic music, I’m all for a well-chosen indie song, with the Legs of Steel crew being particularly adept at finding something with the requisite thrash to see one of their athletes blasting down a big mountain.
Personally I’d like to see something with the power of ‘P.I.G.S’ by Holy Fuck get an outing:
I also don’t have any specific aversion to rap in this setting, but as I mentioned already, I just find it comical when teenage rebellion manifests itself in a new found love for g-funk. There’s certainly some logic to giving an urban rail section the sonic accompaniment of golden era hip hop, but laying such beats under a heli-ski segment is just plain incongruous.
May I suggest something like El-P’s epic ‘Request Denied’ as more fitting:
Fundamentally, I think spectacular skiing should be married with equally rousing and atmospheric music – with a canny producer being able to elevate even an average clip by selecting the right song and cutting a line nicely in time.
There’s a great satisfaction to drums kicking in on landing, or a well-spliced visual crescendo building together with the audio. With that in mind, a track I’ve always wanted to hear on a ski movie is the extended overhaul of DJ Shadow’s ‘Organ Donor’:
Finally, while I’m happy for house and techno to stay on the dancefloor, there’s any number of interesting electronic genres in-between that lend themselves perfectly to snowy scenes. Without wanting to labour a point, I’ll leave you with a couple more of my favourites:
LCD Soundsystem's 'Big Ideas' would work great in an early sequence with all kinds of antics.
While as evidenced by the Felix Baumgartner space jump edit, ‘Dayvan Cowboy’ by Boards of Canada is worthy of the kind of footage you save to finish your film.
Obviously this whole post is predicated on personal taste - so please feel free to put me right on which segments are soundtracked well and what you'd like to hear...
(It's worth clicking the link to read some of the comments - this may be the first and best angry clickbait piece I've ever written)