The Friday Morning Listen: Kid Koala – 12 Bit Blues (2012)

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I love a good surprise. This week it was my discovery of Kid Koala. I honestly can’t remember if I came across a review somewhere, or maybe he showed up in the music suggestions in Spotify (which I usually ignore), but I cracked open 12 Bit Blues and was totally enthralled. If you read that this is an album made up of old blues and jazz samples, you might end up thinking, “Didn’t US3 do that with those Blue Note bits way back in the early 1990s?” Yeah, they did. And I did like that record. But Koala puts a new spin (or maybe its an old spin) on the repurposing of old material and old technology (or maybe its new technology).

What?!

Here’s the deal. Kid Koala is a DJ with an obvious love of the history of recording technology. (C’mon, the dude owns a vinyl-cutting lathe and a jukebox that plays cassettes!) So for this record, he used an old E-mu SP-1200 sampler. For its time (1987), this machine was at the cutting edge of sampling technology. Why, you could sample a whole ten seconds of sound! You could also sequence the sounds but Koala ignored this, loaded the machine up and punched up the samples “live” while recording. What he ended up with is a blues record that is drenched in loping, off-kilter funk. Imagine Tom Waits out in the garage with his collection of pre-war 78s and a bunch of Gramophones lined up on a long plywood table. Yep, it really is that much fun.

Guys, this isn’t really a quote. I just wanted to say that, in the middle of this week where I have been having so much fun with this old/new technology thing, I went out and did something drastic: I bought an e-book. I kid you not. People who know me well are probably glancing at their calendars right about now. No, it is not April 1st. Why did I break my anti e-book stance? Because I wanted to read this fan-written account of following Bruce Springsteen through parts of Europe during the Wrecking Ball tour. And it was only $3.99. And my new phone is large enough (in theory) to be used as a reader. So far I’m about 30 pages in and even though I’m enjoying the material, I’m guessing that my e-book count will remain at “one” for a long time. It’s an inferior reading experience.

The packaging of the deluxe CD version takes this thing right over the top. You get a set of cardboard pieces that when cut out can be used to construct your own hand-powered Gramophone. Cutest danged thing ever. And it actually plays!

So no big revelations here (e-book confession excepted). Just some fun music that came to life via some exceptionally creative methods. The only problem is that Kid Koala has reignited my lust for a real Gramophone. I guess my little hand-powered Jr. model will have to do for now.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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