Friday, March 09, 2007

Sick Day

On this particularly sunny Friday, I get to spend the bulk of my morning and afternoon in meetings. Sure it sucks, but it beats the hell out of the alternative: real work.

As I tend to abstain from posting over the weekend, I just thought I’d fire one last shot across your collective bow; Beefy, our own Numa-Numa kid, has been at it again. In addition to his classic Router lip-sync, he’s recently added his take on everyone’s favorite MPFM track. But that’s not all! Beef’s also had his way with Optimus Rhyme’s “Sick Day,” which I’ve included below.

If you’d like to support Beefy, MC Router, and Doc Pop on their forthcoming Mediocre Tour, why not pre-order a ticket to their March 22 gig at the Whisky in Hollywood? It’ll make you feel good.

Until next time, folks!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Nerdcore in Esquire

Apparently Jason Tanz's Esquire article on nerdcore made it to print! The only thing more surreal than seeing a respectful write-up on the genre in a respectable periodical is the fact that my own little blog got a mention. Unfortunately, poor Gabriel got called morose. :(

Huge thanks go to Denika from Vagrant for hipping me to this and providing the article scan!

Click to read the whole thing.

More Nerd News in Brief

It's time for more Nerd News in Brief.

Actually, it's probably past time, but what can I say? It's been a hectic week!

  • I blame Bucky: As all of my fellow comic book geeks already know, yesterday Marvel elected to retire an esteemed member of the super hero community. And by retire I mean shoot. And by esteemed member of the super hero community I mean a WWII throwback in Evel Knievel pajamas. We miss you Cap. Well… some of us miss you.
  • Foot-Stompers need not apply: ChurchHatesTucker just hipped me to a circuit bending workshop in his neck of the woods. Baltimore gets to have all the fun! (Anyone who got the John Waters reference in this item's title earns a +1 bonus to their next satire roll.)
  • Collabo-rrific: Zealous1's new release Collaboc1de is finally complete and ripe for the downloading. It features Zealous1 (obviously) and… uh… Who the fuck am I kidding? It features everybody ! ;)
  • Drink to me anyway!: Next Thursday, worlds collide as the Northwest Nerdcore family teams up with the Mediocre Tour to pillage the residences and subjugate the citizens of a city called Seattle. There was supposed to be a big reveal here about how I was flying up to the PacNW to partake in this show-to-end-all-shows (as well as the Goondocks CD release party featuring Optimus Rhyme and Beefy /Router /Doc occurring the following Saturday), but ridiculous airfare expenses and childcare issues have destroyed those dreams in much the same manner as Old Grandad bourbon has surely destroyed my liver. But weep not for me, my lovelies; simply head out to the Columbia City Theatre and get sloshed on my behalf. This, I command!

Are ya goin’?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Anyone can be the hero

Is there really any need to go over why I don't review albums again? Probably not, but I'll throw out the Reader's Digest Condensed Version:

I simply don't feel it's my place to tell you what to listen to.

You're all adults. You have your own ideas and attitudes and likes and dislikes. Still, sometimes an album comes into my possession that compels me to elucidate.

The problem inherent with that, of course, is that there's no guarantee that what I take away from a song will be the meaning that its author originally attributed to the work, and it sure as hell won't be what you take away from it either. Art's like that. It's what makes it powerful.

It's also how fights get started.

So, I guess I should preface this by saying that Ultraklystron's Romance Language is a work fraught with intense emotion. As such, its songs tend to personalize themselves to the listener. As I worked my way through the album time and time again, I found myself in the shoes of the lyrical protagonists. Karl Olson weaves a complex web of sense images in his work that seems, at times, to blur the line between his personal experiences and those of the anime characters with which he so strongly identifies. Still, somehow, in the midst of this, he makes room for the listener too. It never gets crowded because there's plenty of room to feel.

The following outlines what I observe of the songs in questions – the verbal mechanics and the musical nuts and bolt – but it also relies heavily on how those tracks make me feel and how I believe their storytellers (whether they be Ultraklystron or Shuu-chan or little ol' me or some mix of all of us) emote. It's far from an exact science.

So read on if you like, but take things with a grain of salt. These are simply my impressions. Any legitimate truth found herein is simply fortuitous.

  1. “Broken Sutures”: Now this is an excellent starter, complete with some classic Karl Olson ambient in the intro. It's rare that a song of love lost manages to take such a very frank look at the decaying of a relationship. This track both prepares the listener for the first “arc” of the album and summarily misleads him into believing that Karl's only going to focus on the less-than stellar aspects of love.
  2. “Girls With Glasses”: This song leads with a very nice piano hook, but switches it up with a scream rock chorus. It also boasts some of that Ultraklystron speed-rap that the man is becoming known for. Thematically, Karl cheers on the socially awkward: a group that he both teasingly rejects and, alternately, affectionately embraces throughout the release.
  3. “Cosplay-free Saturday”: More scream rock and a very heavy beat for Ultraklystron, but don't call it Linkin Karl; this musing on romance and emotional connection vs. sex and the essence of genuine sentiment vs. half-hearted role playing again blurs the line between personal experience, hypothetical consideration, and good, old-fashioned otaku observation.
  4. “Shoujo n' Shonen”: The amazingly bright Baddd Spellah production of this cut plays against Karl's own, more subdued style nicely. The split vocals with Nursehella is also a brilliant touch, as her direct and sexual delivery contrasts well with Karl's more coy and reserved rhyming. For the outsider (like yours truly) the veritable orgy of anime name-dropping is a bit dense, but the track is hot enough to make it worth the trouble.
  5. “Hearts Bangin”: In this song we finally get a little braggadocio from Karl, though not of the sort one would expect from an MC. Not many cats could get away with repping their own righteousness and moral fortitude (Who else could use the word “coquettish” to describe himself?), but Ultraklystron pulls it off. There's a very nice rocked-up chorus as well, that combines with the tracks other superlative elements to make this a definite highlight to what is already shaping up to be a wonderful album.
  6. “Well That's Moe”: Thanks to karl and the fine folks at Wikipedia, I now understand what moe is. Sort of. This is an example of an Ultraklystron song that isn't expressly for me, the non-otaku listener, and that's okay. It still manages to be fun, even if impenetrable to the outsider. Please note the flow. Other MCs will be tested on it later.
  7. “Chocolat Cay-kee”: This one boasts an oddly familiar backing (that I just can't seem to put my finger on), but still sounds unlike any other nerdcore track I've ever encountered. Lyrically, it's a meditation on love, trust, and duty that proves another highlight of Romance Language .
  8. “Amour”: This marks the work's first song to unabashedly reference Ultraklystron's romance with fellow nerdcore artist Nursehella. Like Beefy's “wonderfulamazing” it's an impeccably personal song that invites the listener into the mind (and heart) of the artist. It's another brilliant track, that somehow, despite boasting ridiculously fast rhyming, a sing-songy chorus, and an overall disco feel, really works.
  9. “Sunlight”: I've got some minor lyrical gripes about this song. Rhymes about cigarettes and “playa-haters” seem almost too pedestrian for Ultraklystron, but I reckon it's not my place to choose the man's words for him. This track hinges musically on a slow and dirge-like vocal and musical tone, and thematically it references some problems within the scene. Like any good song, it makes me wonder if these problems and misunderstandings aren't used as a metaphor for bigger issues. Complaints and conjecture aside, it manages to be a cool, slow-jam with an odd (but good) ending.
  10. “Home”: This is a sincere love song that I honestly couldn't say a bad word about if I wanted to. Even more than that, it's a trust song. Karl did an excellent job of confronting a near-insurmountable subject.
  11. “Girls With Glasses (Reprise)”: As odd as it may sound, I think this one is my favorite song on the concept “side” of this album. It's so pure, so simple, so sincere. This is a phenomenal ending cut that maybe loses some steam only because it doesn't actually end the album proper. Thematically, Karl finds validation (which he's been lyrically searching for – one way or another – throughout the album). Sure, there are a couple of staggered rhymes, but that simply adds to the charm.
  12. “Front to the Back (K-beam Remix)”: Truthfully, Ultraklystron loses me a little with the intro, but makes the song more than makes up for it by morphing into a very accessible party jam. Who knew Karl had it in him? Despite my misgivings concerning it, cuts like this really make up for the dualist nature of the release itself.
  13. “So Long Kids (Remix)”: This is certainly not a bad remix, but I prefer the original, though, truthfully, it's not my favorite Ultraklystron song. This is definitely fan service for the anime faithful among the ranks, and I certainly can't fault Karl for that.
  14. “Scenester Blues (Remaster)”: This is a frank observation on what Karl dislikes about the nerdcore community. You've heard it before, but it bears repeating.
  15. “Opensource Lyricist (Remix)”: This track really makes me look forward to the new album. As a long-time listener, I kept waiting for a serious onslaught of anime references I couldn't possibly comprehend, but it never came. This funny, ironic, and a little self-effacing song is cut from the same thematic cloth as Beefy's “Buy This CD” and Frontalot's “Charity Case,” but it certainly doesn't lose any steam because of it.
  16. “The Mind Explodes (Remaster)”: This one is all about the chorus. Shit, I respect any man who looks more like Harry Potter than me but who'll still say, with a straight face, “I got a chamber of secrets.” ;)
  17. “Cuteness (Remix)”: The chainsaw backing and outrageous flow make this a track not to be missed, even though some parts feel out of time to me. This is Karl's “I'm a badass” track, and it's so different from the rest of his catalogue.
  18. “Gleam”: Who would've thought that one of the best pop songs I've heard this decade would be from a nerdcore otaku? This is quite possibly my favorite song of the entire album because it's both amazingly good and totally unexpected. A love song about saying goodbye? A complicated love song if ever there was one!
  19. “Hit Reply (Remix)”: This one almost sounds like an mc chris joint, but Karl's style is unmistakable. His fingerprints are all over it. Once again we have a stunning ending track that's also not the end.
  20. “Nerd Slangin” ( AKA: the hidden track): This sweet and almost soulful tune is like a mint on your pillow after a long day of con-hopping. It's a love letter to a woman as well as a love letter to Adult Swim. Now that's nerdcore.
My major misgiving going into the album was its split nature; it is both a concept album and a rarities and remixes collection. I guess I was worried that the work couldn't be strong on both points. I was wrong. Ultraklystron merely wanted to give his listeners a little more for their money, a little more bang for their buck, and he delivered. For the more anal among you, I simply suggest that you convince yourself that it's two totally different works merely joined for convenience's sake. It worked for me.

Hell, in the end Karl's only sin was trying to give you more for less, and I ain't about to fault the guy for that.

So I guess this begs the question, would I recommend this album ? Honestly, I think that it would be wise for fans of Ultraklystron, anime, or nerdcore in general to take a listen. Despite the sea of differences between the two, I compare Romance Language to Beefy's Tube Technology. Both represent superlative efforts by nerdcore artists ill-content to let their lyrical, musical, and thematic styles stagnate. I'm confident that you'll find something that you like… many things, in fact.

It's $8 shipped, and that's a small price to pay to support an independent artist. So, if you've got some extra bucks, why not throw a few Karl's way? You won't be disappointed.

“I've recognized a lot of things about myself lately.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nerd News in Brief

I went out of town for the weekend in an attempt to clear my head. It didn't take. So here I am, back again for another edition of Nerd News in Brief, as fuzzy-headed as ever.

  • That's fresh: MC Lars got a little love last week from Detroit's Metro Times. It's certainly not the most in-depth piece I've ever read, but it hits a lot of Lars's personal highlights including the story of how Iggy Pop himself cleared the use of the hook from “The Passenger” in “Download This Song.”
  • I made him do it.: Okay, so maybe I didn't, but that doesn't erase the fact that Beefy has just dropped a collection of covers for free download from his site. Pale by Comparison includes some material that you'd expect (covers of mc chris, MC Frontalot, and Shael Riley) and some stuff you probably wouldn't (like covers of Mos Def and… um... Jeff Buckley.) Check it out.
  • In fact, far from it!: The advent of The Mediocre Tour is almost upon us. My pal Tanuki over at Northwest Nerdcore would like to remind you that the March 15 th gig at the Columbia Center Theatre will feature not only the show stopping might of the Mediocre Tour's Beefy, MC Router, and Doctor Popular, but also a collection on Pac-NW nerdlingers including Nook himself, his Sister J, UnoHwo, Nursehella, Ultraklystron and The Futuristic Sex Robotz. Presale tickets are available for a mere seven bones.
  • He smells of cedar and salvation: Super mammal Ham-STAR has just dropped a new track over at his MySpace. With another book under his belt, Hammy has packed up his food dish and water bottle and holed up in his tiny studio so as to bring the high-pitched tunage to your waiting ears.
  • Nerdcore Ning: YTCracker has just launched a Nerdcore Ning for use by the entire community. Confused? YT's got you covered: “ Ning is sort of like a MySpace within a MySpace. … Basically, this is meant to be a centralized place for pictures, videos, blogs, and goings on for the nerdcore world with its artists and fans. Post everything up that you can find - pictures, videos, etc. and tag them so we get the exposure.” You heard the man; now get a-postin'!
  • Ending on a high note: Do you love “ Superior Being,” Metamystiks Inc.'s blindingly amazing contribution to Rhyme Torrents Vol. VI? (I do.) Would you like a chance to bend the vocals and beat to your own sinister ends? (I sure would.) The guys have just made available the “Superior Beings” Internet Single that features both edited and unedited versions of the track, as well as clean instrumental and a cappella versions. Metamystiks's own myf has even dropped his own remix to show you how it's done.