If you’ve been wowed by the projections at a Sufjan Stevens or St. Vincent show in the past few years, then you’ve witnessed the work of visual-performance designer Deborah Johnson, the founder of multidisciplinary New York studio CandyStations.
Another year, another torrential downpour of albums across our desks. As always, we encountered way too much amazing music, from Meshuggah to The Mars Volta, Converge, Killer Mike, P.O.S, and many more.
Canadian DJ/turntablist Eric San, better known as Kid Koala, has long been known for his eclectic collection of records. Cartoon TV specials, old comedy sketches, bodily functions — you name it and he has chopped, scratched, or spliced it into his work. Now, for his latest studio album, he takes on the blues.
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Kid Koala, born Eric San, is a Chinese-Canadian DJ who garnered recognition for distinctive styles of scratch turntablism and comical samples after his Ninja Tune debut Carpel Tunnel Syndrome in 2000. Since that time, the turntablist has toured extensively with huge names such as Björk, Beastie Boys, and Radiohead, composed several original film scores, and collaborated on numerous musical projects, including his own Deltron 3030 and The Slew.
San also has quite a knack for illustration, which he employed for his 2003 album, Nufonia Must Fall, a 352-page romantic tragedy about a love-struck robot paired with a short, jazzy soundtrack. His new release, Space Cadet (out tomorrow), is his second graphic-novel/soundtrack pairing, and it sets aside the eccentric scratching and samples to revisit San’s classical piano training. Inspired by the birth of San’s daughter, Space Cadet is a 132-page graphic narrative and dulcet soundtrack that chronicles a young girl’s adventures through outer space with her robot guardian.
Here, ALARM speaks with San about his newest multimedia journey.
When and how did you develop your turntable techniques?
I try to develop it everyday! I do it by practicing and listening to as many different styles of music as I can. Turntables are chameleon-like. The challenge for me is to see if I can learn to play them tastefully in whatever style is required.
In this technological age, with so many DJs transitioning from analog to digital mixing, why have you stuck primarily with vinyl turntables?
I like the sound of vinyl crackle and record burn.
Can you explain your thought process when choosing sounds to mix into tracks?
I usually have a melody or a story in my mind when I record. I try to bend sound into the melody that I hear in my head. I have a record cutter in my studio, so I will record a single guitar note or keyboard tone and cut it to a custom record. Once it’s on the turntable, I can bend it into all the other notes of the scale.
What do you mean when you describe your search for inspiration as “audio-voyeurism”? How did your inspirations differ between past albums and Space Cadet?
I think whenever you listen to a recording, you are hearing a part of someone’s life. I like to imagine the life story around the whole recording and what compelled people to make such recordings. Space Cadet was completely inspired by the birth of my daughter. Most of it was recorded before while she was an infant. Each piece on the Space Cadet score is a kind of turntable lullaby for her.
Fresh off a residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, a new graphic novel (Space Cadet), and a new album with The Slew, Québec-based turntable king and visual artist Kid Koala is on tour in the USA and Canada. Though this show in Chicago was relatively standard (if you consider a koala suit, projections, shooting bubbles with water guns, and impeccable technique standard), Koala has something truly special planned for future audiences: The Space Cadet Headphone Tour. Attendees will sit in “space pods,” listening via headphones to a performance featuring seven turntables and a piano. Visuals from his graphic novel will accompany the music. Consider yourself warned, and check out these photos from Lauren Herrmann.
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Del The Funky Homosapien has come a long way from being known as Ice Cube’s weird cousin (who isn’t even gangsta). After lending his inimitable, elastic flow and irreverent lyricism to “Clint Eastwood” and “Rock the House” (singles that helped launch Gorillaz to super-stardom), teaming up with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala for sci-fi concept album Deltron 3030, and helming his own group (Heiroglyphics), Del has carved himself a place in the halls of hip-hop history.
Although Del went from 2000 to 2008 without releasing a solo record, his current rate of output is staggering. His latest record, Golden Era, is packaged with two albums from 2009 that were previously only available electronically, Funk Man and Automatik Statik.
As the title suggests, Golden Era hearkens back to Del’s heyday, with astonishingly funky beats throughout. Smooth, nimble bass lines bounce along effortlessly, with slick synthesizers and guitars providing a melodic touch.
Some tracks, however, stray from this formula, keeping the album from repeating itself. Most notably, “Double Barrel” uses discordant synth bleats and bursts of guitar fuzz to create a noisy, Dälek-lite atmosphere. Tracks like this break up the stretches of old-school funk, keeping the record from becoming monotonous.