You may remember Vancouver native Kid Koala opening for the Beastie Boys back in 1998 on the “Hello Nasty” tour. Or opening for Radiohead in 2002, shortly after he released his debut ablum. Or maybe you were turned on to his gig because of his more recent work as a member of Deltron 3030, Lovage or Bullfrog.
No matter. The Kid, aka Eric San, has scratched his way up from a mix-tape making opening act to hi-jinxing audio/visual heavyweight. With his second full-length release, Some of My Best Friends are DJs, Koala amplifies the theme and aesthetic explored in his first Ninja Tune record, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, while completely destroying new beat compositions.
The agenda is solid — there’s the ubiquitous lounge-lizard narration mixed with space-age bleeps, trekkie sound effects, and skipping back drafts of random noise. There’s the vintage canned laughter mingling with references to cocktail hour hi-fi parties and soul-bearing testimonials ’60s-era beat generation pow-wows.
“Flu Season,” an arrangement of sneezing and coughing over old-school beat-box breakdowns between two “sick” deejays is clever; the ska-scuffed rhythm of “Skanky Panky” is chill; and the ukulele send-off of “Vacation Island” — underlined with an aloha bye-bye voiced by (I think) Don Ho — is ultimately calming.
And everyone loves koalas. You’ll recognize some of the samples, nabbed from his first release, twisted and tweaked a bit. You’ll dig on the companion 50-page comic book featuring ninja stylin’ grannies and four-eyed fire-breathing ogres (penciled by Koala himself). You’ll kick back to the scratched-up low-down swing of “Basin Street Blues.”
From the stylistic vocal intros fading into various beat sessions to the obscure sound bite in “Elevator Hopper” with the, “First floor: appliances, washboards, gramophones, crystal sets, and … kazoos” sample, the Kid has polished his mixing utensils with this full-length entree sure to set your mode on “repeat.”
“Koala” is a fitting alias; behind his party-friendly exterior, San has a complex artistic vision, as well as the corresponding ability to evolve with it. “I was totally unprepared for the ferocious sounds that these marsupials are capable of making,” says the nameless voice on the record. Ferocious indeed.
The king of side projects, he published a 350-page book, “Nufonia Must Fall,” complete with accompanying original soundtrack, in March. Some of My Best Friends are DJs is an effortless follow up and proof he’s comfortable setting his own pace. If he can keep it fresh, the Kid has it.