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Kid Koala: Looking Back to Look Forward to 12 Bit Blues

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Canadian Turntablist Kid Koala has a new album coming out on September 17th on Ninja Tune Records. The album is called 12 Bit Blues, and it is his first release in six years. To support this album he will be touring Europe with his Vinyl Vaudeville Tour. His talent and quirkiness really can’t be oversold. Kid Koala shows often include puppets, headphones, strangeness, and mystery. To prepare for the upcoming release, be sure to acquaint yourself with his previous releases.

Step into the wayback machine…

By the turn of the century DJ culture worldwide had splintered and refined itself into seemingly endless sub-genres, Turntablism being one of those. At that time Turntablism was at the height of its popularity, and from the fertile music community of Montreal Eric San AKA Kid Koala released his first full-length album.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome shows all of its work. Each track is layers of scratched drum beats in Koala’s signature shuffle feel, or obscure loops from his collection of spoken word and novelty records. There are lots of layers to each song in terms of production, and each song reflects his humor, boundless creativity, and astounding skill. It’s an album that rewards listening to it as a whole. It makes a kind of sense that way, but only kind of. It’s as ridiculous as it is deep.

Carpal Tunnel starts with guitar and drums, with little scribblings of weirdness in the audio background, and then it’s interrupted by a few seconds of a kind of radio play that resolves into a sample of a man’s voice saying “we’re nothing but the nerds they say we are.”

At this point there is no other sounds but the sample, and then Koala cuts it up to the point that it becomes a staccato rhythm of turntable and mixer tricks, and then the drums come in. It tilts precariously on the edge of being a crazed sloppy mess, but it holds together like plates spinning on sticks. The song is called ‘Nerdball.’ This was the point during my first listen to the album that I fell in love.

Two songs later we get ‘Drunk Trumpet,’ which is a melancholy jazz song where Koala is manipulating a few inches of a record that has a solo trumpet sound. (Turns out it’s the trumpet from ‘Going Back to Cali’ by LL Cool J, but no need to get too nerdy.)

He can scratch in key. This might not sound like that big of a deal, but trust me, it’s damn near impossible. With speeding up and slowing down the sample he’s able to mimic a trumpet playing a drunken solo. It’s uncanny. It doesn’t sound like a trumpet exactly, but you know exactly what he’s getting at, and if you’re like me, you’re on board.

My favorite song on the album is ‘Music for Morning People.’ None of these songs are really something that anyone can dance to, but this one comes closest. MFMP is an insane romp though caffeine, crazed morning dancing with muted horns, and a madman shouting “ALL RIGHT!” It’s so uplifting, and hilarious, and brilliant that it should be required listening for all children and house plants alike.

From here the album goes on other strange mysteries. ‘Naptime,’ ‘Temple of Gloom,’ ‘Like Irregular Chickens’ — these are some of the titles, and they only tangentially reflect the oddball beauty that they name.

Kid Koala has several amazing subsequent releases, and September 17th he’s releasing 12 Bit Blues, his fourth full-length on Ninja Tune, and his first major release since two thousand and six. In the intervening years Kid Koala has been touring the world, raising a family, and writing and drawing comics. All of Koala’s releases include his artwork in the form of comics. With him, there’s a good reason to get a physical copy, even these days.

This is the first single from the new album.