The Slew



    The members of the Slew — Eric San, the Canadian turntablist and DJ better known as Kid Koala, as well as DJ Dynomite D and two members of Wolfmother — originally got together to produce music for a documentary, and they continued to work together even after said doc was shelved by its makers when it got a hole in its money bucket. The music on The Slew: 100% (which is available in its entirety on the “Music is meant to be heard…” post on Kid Koala’s website) are notable for bringing together “classic” rock sounds — elements of Hendrix, Zeppelin and Frampton — and turntablism. The sound is recognizable but fresh, and Kid Koala brings so much more to it than the standard turntablist might.


    Supposedly, the name of the group and the music used within the album both come from a guy named Jack Slew, a Seattle musician who was to be the subject of the documentary. The guitar work on the tracks is bluesy and masterful, and under Koala’s turning of the tapes, it achieves a totally distinct dimension. At times, the vocals sound similar to those of Hendrix and his contemporaries, but with the scratching and cross-fading, the music escapes imitation. It’s not quite rap-rock, though, at least not in the pejorative sense. Kid Koala fuses the rock with turntablism over hip-hop beats in a way that sounds organic.


    The album is cohesive and easily imagined as a movie soundtrack, although that does lead to a somewhat monotone trajectory. The lyrics follow oblique narratives that pull heavily on some overused symbolism, such as trains and fast cars, but the fact that the words fit so neatly into the classic rock sounds of distorted guitar riffs and looping bass lines helps them escape feeling cliche. “Southeast Soliloquay” is the epitome of the album: it’s Screaming Jay Hawkins singing what may have originally been called “The Florida Blues” before Koala got ahold of it, and drum-kit beats layer with rhythmic power cords and scratched lead guitars. Most of the songs here follow a similar formula, letting the music shine on its own, with the DJs throwing in some turntable trickery to keep everything  fresh.


    Although Koala’s manipulations are evident on every track, they never become the focus of the songs or a distraction from the musicianship. Rather, turntablism gives the music a distinct flavor and unifies the production. The Slew: 100% showcases Kid Koala’s ability as a producer, not just a crafty turntablist.


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