Kid Koala - 12 Bit Blues

Kid Koala - 12 Bit Blues

Canadian turntablist Kid Koala, aka Eric San, has gone back to basics with his new album, 12 Bit Blues - well, for a DJ anyway. He got his hands on an E-mu SP-1200, which was THE sampler for hip hop artists in the late 1980s. The limitations of the equipment drew him to the rawness of the blues, and he set about remixing a number of old blues recordings.

Rather than use sequencing software, San went old school, using the pads on the sampler to play the songs in real time. With this recording technique, San has tapped right into the soul of the original recordings, capturing their gritty grooves and melancholy vocals with his own angular style.

The album is disconcerting at times; often the listener is drawn into a groove and it will stop and change abruptly. For example, in '4 Bit Blues', a sharp horn riff drives the song but suddenly stutters, makes way for a guitar riff and then descends into something dark and subterranean, only to kick in again when chaos threatens to take over. There is a flow, but it is a rocky ride; a rickety freight train rather than an intercity express. All this helps to capture the rough essence of the original recordings.

While some other blues and jazz remixes have a Sunday afternoon, sell-you-a-Volkswagon feel - (cough)...Moby...(cough) - thankfully, none of the songs from 12 Bit Blues are likely to end up on a chill-out compilation. It’s took dark, too rough, and too chaotic. Like a Saturday night at a Juke Joint on the moon.

A Kid Koala album isn’t complete without a touch of his trademark quirkiness. On '8 Bit Blues', San mixes in recordings of announcements based on flights from Chicago, LA and New York, setting it against a chorus line of 312 to 213 to 212 - the area codes for these cities. In true Kid Koala style, '10 Bit Blues' also has a series of amusing conversations created by cutting in voiceovers from different sources.

In this era of streaming and digital downloads, artists and record companies seem to be inventing more and more creative ways to rope us in to buying the real thing. The packaging of the first run of 12 Bit Blues includes a cardboard record player kit where you can build your own working mini-record player.

Gimmicks aside, this is a brilliant, clever record and well worth its valuable space in the real world.
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