Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Age-Old Question

On one of the mildly temperate afternoons last weekend, I took Li’l X. to a local park. He’s three; parks are kind of his thing.

After scoping out the nature trail and feeding some fairly cantankerous ducks at the lake, X. took to the playground and I settled on a nearby bench. I am thirty-two; benches are kind of my thing.

Park benches, for those of you not in the know, are like parking lots for fathers. They’re usually pretty crowded so you just try and find a vacancy that will accommodate your specific footprint and wedge in. I was lucky enough to find myself seated with a little extra breathing room. That is, with only one other wayward dad next to me.

He and I exchanged pleasantries and enjoyed the relative silence that a wide open space can provide. After a bit we talked tersely about our relative children and their activities, until, at last, the conversation turned to that question that grown men feel compelled ask each other in casual situations.

“So, what do you do?”

I replied with my standard answer, noting that I do some light IT work at a college but that I am a writer. As if on cue he asked what kind of writer, and talked turned to the blog. (It’s my biggest project and the one that takes up most of my free time, ere go it tends to get the most face time.)

This, of course, required further elucidation, particularly with regard to my musical interests.

“What, exactly, is ‘nerd music.’”

I replied that nerd music is an extension and, in some cases, a celebration of the geekier side of popular culture. This placated him and soon we collected out rugrats and parted ways.

It wasn’t until I got home that night that I really started thinking about my answer. After some contemplation I found it to be totally inadequate.

Not inaccurate, mind you, but fairly insufficient.

What I should’ve said goes a little something like this:

Nerdy music is many things to many people. Or, more specifically, it is what you need it to be.

Within the framework of the greater culture, nerdy music can take a myriad of forms, from hip-hop to punk rock to smooth jazz to chirpy electronica. Each of these styles may lyrically center on anything from video games to television and movies to personal, slice-of-life recollections to wholly romantic declarations to nothing in particular.

Its artists are doctors and dropouts, saints and criminals of all ages and colors and persuasions, and their instruments are computers, Gameboys, guitars, accordions, microphones, and turntables.

They are classically trained and ruthlessly amateurish. They are world-renowned and complete unknowns. They are performers and wallflowers. They are totally serious and just fuckin’ around.

Their songs are benign and malevolent. Accessible and oblique. Proudly dorky and subversively vague.

But most importantly, nerd music is functional.

Whether you want to let your geek flag fly or simply mock your dorkier predilections, it entertains your fancies. Like all art, it invites you to make of it what you will. It permits you to bend it to your desires.

It’s just like any other music, except for the fact that it’s ours. Whoever we decide to be.

I reckon that’s one way to clear a park bench. ;)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nerd News in Brief

Winter has again returned to the Deep South. This is rather unfortunate for me because today is also comic book day. This means, of course, that no matter how much I might want to stay indoors, I am honor bound to journey out into the greater world.

But before I freeze my ass off for the sake of Teen Titans, New Warriors, and the obligatory X-book, here’s a super-sized edition of Nerd News in Brief.
  • Nerd Ink: The Next Generation: I’m tempted to say that this Green Gadgets Design Competition concept that Church found will be the ultimate in Nerd Ink. That is when these things become reality.
  • Vote Gilderoy: Also from Church, geek politics got elevated this week as well, in the form of this piece from The Vindy. I’m always amazed that folks don’t invoke Harry Potter as a go-to allegory for the current political climate more often. The roles into which this particular piece casts certain players, though, makes me wonder if my books may’ve been misprints.
  • Compliments of a little bird: I recently got a leak of a new (mostly) finished track from nerdcore supergroup the 8 Bit Boys and I simply must make a statement regarding its awesomeness. While I can not divulge any info concerning the song itself, I can tell you that 8 Bit Boys includes Entity, YTCracker, The Ranger, and TyT, four of the scene’s finest. You can learn a bit more about the project and get some samples at the 8BB MySpace profile and at the Rhyme Torrents forums.
  • Sounds from Down Under: And the aforementioned group ain’t the only thing that The Ranger has been into of late. Earlier this week he dropped “Rap Bukowski” over at RT. The track uses a beat from another Australian artist, Diabolik, and the lyrical style combines some of Ranger’s finest with an all-to relatable hard-living pastiche.
  • Straight Outta Belcompton: In turn, Diabolik and his partner in crime Pinky will be performing at The Basement in Belcompton (which I assume is in/around Canberra Australia) on Friday, March 14th. Doors open at 9:00 PM and the price is $10 Aussie.
  • Get twitterpated: Likewise, Entity is also dropping some new tracks backed up by none other than DJ Snyder. The new single is called “Thumper,” and you can even pick up a bundle of the original, the instrumental, and the acappella if you have the urge to noodle with it. It too is made of win.
  • In my America: American Gamer now has a proper home, compliments of co-producer Macross. Check it out for full tracklisting, individual song downloads, and info on the parties involved.
  • I really hate to trip: My pal Antisocial recently released another cover; this time it’s Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Though the original was never a favorite of mine, Soc does an excellent job and really brings that sort of borderline futurepop sound that he’s becoming known for. This should keep you well entertained while he works on more original material.
  • Find Your Way: Snake Eyes, who some will remember from the CDD and the rest of you were introduced to earlier this week, hipped me to a really interesting post over at Canadian video game site Angry Robot. Contributor Nadine wrote a fantastic piece about composer Nobuo Uematsu (of Final Fantasy fame). It’s definitely worth a look by you rabid VGM fanboys – I’m talking to you, Anthony – as well as more casual listeners.
  • “I didn’t want to be that person.”: Geek music icon and professional Internet celebrity Jonathan Coulton recently got some face time over at Yahoo! News’s People of the Web segment. The video is great and the written accompaniment is equally illuminating. Thanks to my home-skillet funky49 for hipping me to this one.
  • Defense philosophy: For those not following the story till now, mc chris has recently been further courted by a number of record labels. The recounting of his recent meeting with Interscope was particularly entertaining, as mc really explained his take on the situation and his feelings toward the meeting's outcome aptly .
  • It could get elevated: In festival news, more info concerning the post-Nerdcore Rising SXSW premiere gig has surfaced. Front and company will proceed to get down with their bad selves on Sunday, March 9th at Latitude 30 in Austin “sometime around midnight.” Prince Paul is still slated to spin records. (Holy fucking shit! Again!) And, according to Frontalot himself, everyone is invited.
  • So check this: In other festival news, the recently released video for MC Lars’s “Hipster Girl” has been accepted into the Garden State Film Festival. The Jersey adjacent can catch its showing on Saturday, April 5th. Additional info can be found in Lars’s recent blog post.
  • Every button tells a story, don’t it?: Last weekend, Anthony from GM4A was nice enough to direct me toward what's become my new favorite chiptune release, Controller 1 by Shnabubula. The album’s a free download, which should make it a no-brainer, but let me reiterate; you’ll wanna check this one out.
  • All we are is dust in the wind: Matt just let me know that Kansas is getting its own mega-Wrock fest in the form of The Hallows and Horcruxes Ball. The event will be held Saturday, March 8 at the Kansas State University Student Union in Manhattan, Kansas, and, in true Wizard Rock fashion, all proceeds will be donated to First Book. This one features The Remus Lupins, The Parselmouths, The Ministry of Magic, The Moaning Mrytles, Ginny and the Heartbreakers, and the Mudbloods: a heavy-hitting lineup, to be sure!
  • You can’t take my best friend’s sister: To take us home, here’s another jewel from the Wrock scene. It’s Welsh Wizard Rocker Peeved’s minimalist reinterpretation of “Save Ginny Weasley” by Harry and the Potters. After watching this, immediately go to his MySpace and check out his phenomenal remix of RiddleTM’s “Ode to Voldemort.” Then politely welcome your new musical overlord.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 40: I Remixed a Remix…

Obviously, I’m not the only one who’s busy at present.

Sure, I suppose most of the rest of you aren’t expecting babies any day now, but there’s something in the air; we’re all harried and overworked.

Each day, it seems like the new Hipster, please! compilation slips further and further behind schedule. And you know what?

So be it.

I had hoped to surprise y’all with the album this Friday. It’s Leap Day, and that seemed just weird enough to be appropriate. That’s sort of out of the question at this point, but I thought I’d dedicate this edition of the podcast to the project.

Hopefully it will help you get a feel for some of the players and concepts included. Plus, you get a sneak peak of one of the tracks. Maybe that’ll whet your appetite.

In the end, all I can say is that while things haven’t come together quite like I planned, they have begun to come together. And with very interesting results.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 40: I Remixed a Remix… (hosting provided by Antisocial) Size: 48 MB Running Time: 52:31

Intro: Baddd Spellah – “Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)”
Who dares remix the RFH theme?

Track 1: The Evolution Control Committee – “Rocked by Rape
This track was an integral part of my introduction to bastard pop and the concepts of mash-ups and cut-ups.

Z’s 1st interlude: “I’ll elucidate concerning that topic a bit later.”
And I do. I’m always elucidatin'.

Track 2: Tanner4105 – “he actually has 4 offices”
The titles to all the tracks on the Bad Apollo album are from a chatlog. That explains their seeming randomness.

Track 3: Milivoj Bunjevac – “Doctor Who Theme -80’s Remix
Let me work in another plug for the Who Mix project because it’s just that good.

Track 4: mc chris – “Geek (optimiss cubed remix)
I’ve only ever heard optimiss remix mc tracks. I wonder what other kind of stuff she does.

Track 5: Go Home Productions – “Alive and Nellified”
How else was I get The Mooney Suzuki into RFH? ;)

Track 6: nYgel – “Hyphy”
nYgel has a knack for remixes. A knack, says I.

Track 7: Sam Flanagan Mix – “Beastie Boys vs. Everyone (cut up mix)
The first nYgel tracks I ever heard were Beasties remixes so this Sam Flanagan track seemed like a nice follow-up.

Track 8: MC Frontalot – “Listen Close (Glenn Case Remix)
Glenn and Front together is always a good thing!

Z”s 2nd interlude: “Alexander Prievert from the OverClocked ReMix project.”
Check out “Castlevania 2 Bloody Tears Inspired OC ReMix.” It sounds much better without some hick talking over it.

Track 9: Dual Core – “Hostage Down (Remix)”
Is it weird that my favorite Dual Core remixes are done by c64?

Track 10: Beefy – “Tub Of Tabasco (Society of Info Remix by Drown Radio)”
I love Doc’s remixes, but I really can’t wait to hear an entire album of his original material.

Track 11: Devo – “Whip It (Philip Steir & Ramin Sakurai mix)”
How I don’t wind up with more Devo on this podcast is a mystery even to me.

Track 12: The Grammar Club – “My Gayest Shirt (Karl Olson Mix)
Karl’s another cat whose remixes are just as exciting as his originals. He really manages to bring that Ultraklystron sound to everything he does.

Z’s final interlude: “Most notably…”
Immediately after recording this episode Doc Pop told me he wasn’t going to be able to contribute. Damn technical difficulties!

Track 13: Snake Eyes vs. Maja – “Transformer (Sarah Connor’s Wild Ride Remix)”
Trying to decide which track to leak was pretty hard. I have ten in-hand, and three of them compete daily for the position of current favorite. In the end I went with Snake’s because I love the subtle layering of the samples. Plus, the Maja original is a contemporary geek rap classic.

The title of this episode, in case you don't know, is from an old Mitch Hedberg bit. It just seemed to fit.

I don’t have much in the way of a new release date for the comp, but I’ll let you know as things come together. I’d love to have it ready for consumption before my daughter arrives, but I’m not gonna sweat it. There are a lot of very talented producers and DJs from the spheres of nerdcore, VGM, Wrock, and beyond working overtime to try and make this project a reality (not to mention all the artists who let me use their acappellas), and I’d like to give them plenty of time to work their magic.

I just hope when I finally arrives you dig it as much as I do.