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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Album Review

Unless you're a DJ or a student of electronic music-making, turntablism can be something of an esoteric art form — everyone knows it's the foundation of hip-hop, but its techniques aren't as widely understood or appreciated as those of a traditional instrumentalist. The turntablist revival of the '90s produced some major talents (the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the Beat Junkies, the X-Ecutioners), but the nuances of their skills were often lost on casual observers, and only sometimes translated to recordings. That's why Kid Koala's full-length debut, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, is so important: It's capable of making turntablism engaging to a wider audience. It isn't that Kid Koala is necessarily the greatest DJ spinning, although he's clearly in the top tier. It's that he's able to bring so much personality and entertainment value to his work, which makes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome arguably the most appealing turntablist album yet released. Unlike many of his peers, Koala makes heavy use of dialogue snippets from movies and TV shows, instructional records, and other obscure sources. They provide a running commentary on the action, and Koala also assembles them into mini-skits, or makes wry jokes about the lack of respect afforded DJs as musicians. Elsewhere, there are aural jokes wholly dependent on Koala's DJ skill — "Drunk Trumpet," for example, is a cut-up jazz solo played on the crossfader. But all of this isn't to say that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a novelty item. Koala makes it easy for listeners to follow the transformation of his source material into totally different creations, and builds some deceptively dense, layered tracks; plus, his explosive scratching (best heard on "A Night at the Nufonia") is the equivalent of a guitar shredder soloing. His infectious sense of fun is simply a gateway to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome's readily apparent musical sophistication. All in all, a superb and accessible introduction to a specialist art form.


Born: 1975 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Chinese-Canadian turntablist Kid Koala was born Eric San in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1975. Classically trained on the piano, San instead put his fingers to work on a pair of Technics 1200s starting in the late '80s. He was a college pub DJ and bedroom turntable manipulator for nearly a decade before landing a recording deal with U.K. experimental hip-hop duo Coldcut's Ninja Tune imprint in 1997. San's eclectic approach to sound collage is actually closer to the latter's far-flung beat experiments...
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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Kid Koala
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