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Some of My Best Friends Are Djs

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Album Review

Since releasing the definitive turntable-as-instrument record, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Kid Koala had been crazy busy. He toured with the likes of Ben Harper, the Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Bullfrog, and set out headlining many of his own gigs. Then, in addition to his stints recording with Dan the Automator as Deltron 3030 and Gorillaz, he also released a 300-page comic book. But the the Kid is back with a proper follow-up — and not only does Some of My Best Friends Are DJs pick up where he left off — the palette is pushed further and further via his uncanny sense of melody and arrangement. While plenty of champion DJs have released scratch records, the result can be a confusing mess of scratch madness over battle breakbeats where style rules over substance. Kid Koala can cut with the best of them, but his interest lies in pulling together scratched sounds and layering them into serious songs. Look no further than the album opener, "Basin Street Blues," which kicks off with a scratched-in bassline that progresses on to a drunken New Orleans blues romp that Satchmo would have loved. Kid Koala has the same ear for music that many great composers have — and where his motive might lie more in mimicry, he certainly raises the stakes with ingenuity. Take what is probably the best track on the album, "Skanky Panky." Horn solos are masterfully brought right in time to up-cutting rhythm scratches that create a layered jam that pushes the ska form probably farther than practitioners of that actual genre. With all that said, the album doesn't get too hung up on the song format. Kid Koala still has plenty of fun dropping wacky samples about robots learning to dance or the wonder of stereophonic recordings — all of which help provide the context that Kid Koala is going after (which is also reinforced by the comic book that comes with the album). More subtle than Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Some of My Best Friends Are DJs shows a serious artist crafting his medium.


Born: 05 December 1974 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Electronic

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

Chinese-Canadian turntablist and illustrator Kid Koala was born Eric San in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1974. 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...
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