Saturday, November 29, 2008

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 56: Hufflepuff-Puff-Pass

If you're not a fan of Wizard Rock, chances are you ain't gonna be feelin' this episode. Of course, if you don't dig WRock, chances are you haven't hung around this long to begin with.

My co-host for this all-WRock endeavor was none other than Lizz of The Wizrocklopedia, and it was an honor and a privilege to have her aboard. I seldom entertain guests at my humble virtual abode, and she more than delivered on her end of the hosting duties.

And yes, for those of you wondering, I did crib this edition's title from Tycho Brahe.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 56: Hufflepuff-Puff-Pass [hosting provided by Antisocial] Size: 65 MB Running Time: 1:11:00

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Baddd Spellah is magical!

Track 1: Snidget – "Hedwig’s Theme"
Snidge is the rare example of a WRock artist who actually knows who the hell I am. For that, she is an enduring favorite. Of course, her talent doesn't hurt either.

1st interlude: "A lot of ground to cover."
This edition of the podcast features an elaborate track list that Lizz helped to put together. She picked a ton of great songs, and I hope they can expose you to some WRockers that were previously unknown to you.

Track 2: The Parselmouths – "Illegal Love Potion"
The Parselmouths employ what we call in the business "feminine wiles." Look it up.

Track 3: Peeved – "Pretty Girl"
Peeved is an interesting case, as every track he has ever released is simultaneously my favorite Peeved song.

Track 4: RiddleTM – "Hey Mr. Olivander"
Wands for sale. Cheap.

Track 5: Gred and Forge – "The Making of a Puking Pastille"
"Spell. Eat. Puke. Repeat."

2nd interlude: "Where all my Ravenclaws at?"
Feel free to shout this at your next Wizard Rock show. It's totally gonna be a thing.

Track 6: Draco and the Malfoys – "Voldemort is Awesome"
I like the Malfoys' music. I also like that they are old like me.

Track 7: Catchlove – "Wake Up Harry"
As Matt and I drunkenly discussed: note the lack of a definite article.

Track 8: The Whomping Willows – "Ginny is a Punk Rocker"
The world needs more Ramones filk covers.

Track 9: The Remus Lupins – "Hey Whompy"
Which further explores the forbidden love between a tree and a lycanthrope.

Track 10: Dobbie and the House Elves – "The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black"
This track is almost criminally good. Seriously. I thought of pressing charges.

Track 11: Snape dialog / Harry and the Potters – "Felix Felicis (Dumbledore's DS Mix by Paradise Dan of Monsterface Industries)"
Longest. Title. Ever.

3rd interlude: "Rapid-fire Q&A"
Lizz was a trooper. 500 dumb-ass questions from me, and yet she soldiered on.

Track 12: The Sectumsempras – "The Offer"
Whenever I talk to Lizz, I am reminded of how much great music I manage to miss.

Track 13: The Basilisk in Your Pasta – "Bad Guy"
There is currently a basilisk in my bathtub. Film at 11:00.

Track 14: The Mudbloods – "Eulogy for an Acromantula"
Apparently, they are Lizz's favorite WRock outfit. That alone speaks volumes.

Track 15: Romilda Vane and the Chocolate Cauldrons – "Break This Spell"
Simply haunting.

Final interlude: "Wizard Rock Thanksgiving."
See the 'Pedia for full details.

Track 16: The Brothers Black – "Hogwarts is Home"
I'd go so far as to call this a fitting end. And a nice place to pick up for next episode's holiday theme.

Now that I have both dedicated WRock and nerdcore shows under my belt, I am primed for a full-on chiptune/VGM ep. Anthony, please stand at the ready. You will surely be called upon.

But that will have to wait until 2009, as my final two episodes of this year will be the aforementioned holiday edition and my annual crazy-assed year-end wrap-up. (This year with extra hyphens!)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nerd News in Brief

It's hard to concentrate on this week's NNIB with the Interwebs positively abuzz over the newly released Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. You know: the game for which our friends at OverClocked ReMix created an exclusive fan-made soundtrack.

It features everyone from djpretzel to The Grammar Club, and it's pretty goddamn exciting. Even for folks like me who don't play an exorbitant amount of Street Fighter.

Even if you don't wanna spring for the game – which you kinda should – the soundtrack itself is available for free from OCRemix. Snag it now, and continue your Black Friday festivities as planned.

  • You Better Watch Out: Santa Nerdy Claus is coming to town. What he'll do when he gets here is anyone's guess, but I'd recommend friending him on MySpace. Y'know, to avoid being on any unfortunate lists.
  • Just Like the Ones I Used to Know: On the Xmas tip is a new release from MC Lars. It's entitled The Green Christmas EP, but it's more thematically centered on GNR. Seriously. Watch the video.
  • Jingle All the Way: Also on the horizon is another installment in The Leaky Cauldron's Jingle Spells series. This year's disc features Peeved, The Mudbloods, RiddleTM, and a solid metric ton of awesome.
  • From One of Us Old Ones: Church has found an interesting site called Advice to a Young Geek by Cynbe ru Taren. It's exactly the brand of after-the-fact meditations that are an integral part of the lives of our people. And while the individual entries may or may not move you (depending on your relative age and circumstance), the idea is truly inspiring.
  • How We Roll, Mofo: Also from Church comes more info on the Nerd Nite phenomenon you may have read about at Inkling last year. Here's hoping the idea continues to spread.
  • Both Happy AND Hardcore: Random has another free remix available for the masses. This one is a happy hardcore remix of "Grow Up" by Ultraklystron. Do you wants it? Oh yes you do!
  • A Painful Experience: Some people just don't get nerdcore, and that's okay. What's not is poor writing and unconstructive criticism. Here's an example as pointed out by Baddd Spellah. It's a review of Frontalot's new Final Boss album. In Spellah's own words, "It reads like a 15-year-old's last-minute scramble at their due-tomorrow book-report."
  • Over There: Earlier this month, I pointed out some interesting info regarding a Dutch showing of Nerdcore For Life. Since then, a number of details have come to light. The long and short of it is that the gig is for realsies, but a full-on European tour is not currently in the works. That certainly answers that.
  • Working for DFTBA: Matt sends news that John Greene (of Nerdfighter fame) has both released his debut album for pre-order and has co-founded a record label specializing in YouTube-centered music. Already onboard are Trockers Chameleon Circuit (whom I love.) I anticipate good things. Experience the fast-talking here.
  • I Never Travel Too Far: This month, my pal Glenn Case celebrated his 13th wedding anniversary with a cover of Big Star's "Thirteen." This was apparently the song of the month, as Molly from Roonil Wazlib posted a similar vid. I couldn't settle on which to end with, so here are the links. Watch both. It'll do you good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

This Dual Core Music Has a Grip on Me

Last year I wrote the following: "In a genre that sometimes seems more interested in talking about music than actually making it, Dual Core stand out as a beacon of musical integrity."

Allow that to stew in your brain pan for a moment?



It’s not the quote that strikes me as so odd – if anything, their continued output has proven my point – but merely the timeframe. Though I’ve known their music for only around 18 months, I simply can not fathom a time when I didn't listen to Dual Core. Like a good book or a fine film, their music exists in a space outside of the temporal. It’s a feast for the ears, and, indeed, for the mind, that seems familiar much in the same way that a foreign beach or exotic mountaintop may seem familiar; it appeals to some baser instinct, some unnamed part of the human psyche that marks and responds to veracity.

From the opening strains of the first track to the gradual fade of its unlisted final remix, Lost Reality, the group’s third album, continues their well established reputation for excellence. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but that won’t stop me from trying.
  1. "For Real"
    Dual Core have made no secret of their problems with radio rap’s commercialism and lack of greater artistic depth, so it’s logical that they open Lost Reality with a celebration of "the true heart of hip-hop." Producer c64 makes his presence felt through a favorable combination of light, airy piano and a heavy beat while int eighty "dedicates" the album to his hip-hop forbears: b-boys, DJs, MCs, and graffiti artists. The opening salvo summarily reminds the listener that Dual Core, while doubtlessly nerdy, have their hearts in hip-hop culture, and sets the template for the album to come. And on a purely personal note, never before have I heard a more convincing validation of nerdcore as a style.
  2. "Beginning of the End"
    "Dear Mama" for the hacker set? Maybe. Personal but not sappy, "Beginning of the End" lets you know how eighty became eighty through slick storytelling and a well-metered flow. 64 once again demonstrates his knack for incorporating just the right sample at just the right time for maximum impact. The track further helps to establish the album's recurring motifs, but, at a healthy five minutes, manages to keep things interesting.
  3. "Unplug"
    A turning point of sorts, this is a song for programmers, developers, or anyone else who lives the bulk of their life online and plugged in. It’s another long one that keeps things personal but expands its scope to include elements imminently relatable to fans. Props to the guys for their skillful reflection on "Dull Boy" from their debut album, and the effortless way that song’s refrain carries through. But don’t be fooled; this is less a continuation of that theme than a different (perhaps more universal) look at the same sort of digital miasma that plagues so many of us who work in the tech sector. With lines like "my desk lamp burns midnight oil," int eighty’s penchant for quotable lyricism remains, quite obviously, intact.
  4. "Hold On"
    A musical change-up that takes you by surprise, "Hold On" kicks up the tempo a bit as well as the aggression. eighty comes through as hip-hop motivational speaker while 64 lets us see a side of his production style that he seldom reveals: his inner musical mad scientist. The beat that is so compressed and intense as to put you almost on edge, but all the way eighty admonishes you to hold tight, not merely for this track, but for the rest of the album to come. A musical signpost, this song serves as an aural cue, telling you that Lost Reality’s artistic peak is fast approaching.
  5. "My GF is…"
    Trailing in expertly from the previous track, "My GF Is…" is another amazing story-song. You could call it "Hostage Down" for non-gamers if you felt so led, and I, at present, do. This tribute to geek girls is certainly on par with modern classics like Schaffer the Darklord's "Nerd Lust." Easily one of c64 and in eighty’s finest efforts, its sing-along chorus – an element, which, while prevalent in Dual Core’s music, is often the shortcoming of CS rap in general – contains just enough humor, just enough doe-eyed infatuation, and just enough allusions to Hackers. Though I’m nothing short of thrilled with eighty’s contribution, this is easily a track in which 64 displays his musical mettle.
  6. "Fantastic Four (ft. Beefy, YTCracker, and Wheelie Cyberman)"
    The third in a trio of veritably flawless offerings, "Fantastic Four" is, conservatively speaking, the finest nerdcore posse track since "Nerdcore Rising," and quite possibly the best of all time. 64 exercises amazing restraint by letting these four epic MCs do what they do in a manner that is very Jurassic 5 (and, yes, that’s a huge compliment). eighty’s slow and steady flow is a nice counterpoint to Wheelie’s speed, while Beefy’s sharp annunciation plays well off YT’s thick, nasally drawl. A highlight of this or any album that is sure to please. Truthfully, this is the sort of track that almost makes an album hard to review because you just wanna keep listening to it over and over! If I didn’t know better, I’d think this song was crafted just for me.
  7. "Random Bits"
    With listeners breathless from the previous barrage of razor-sharp witticisms and tag team MCing, this track trails in with an oddly dissonant flavor to the beat. Surprisingly short and very techy, "Random Bits" boasts a level of smooth DG posturing that would make YT proud. A nice change of pace, this one reminds us that Dual Core, while now wholly entrenched in their "sound," are unafraid of experimentation.
  8. "Lost Reality (ft. Ill Poetic)"
    Damn it’s nice to hear some political venom for a change. Am I sick of hope? It’s a possibility, but it’s much more likely that, like eighty himself, I’m simply a bit tired of election year promises and bought-and-paid-for optimism. This uniquely nerdcore take on the current political state features the best use of Bushisms in recent musical memory, and guest rapper Ill Poetic comes through as another Class A contributor. While a political track on such a personal album may seem an odd choice from which to draw a title, the song is yet another high point on a disc full of superlative material. While eighty has long demonstrated his ability to convey sorrow, elation, and resonant concern, the anguish and frustration inherent in lines like "Do you even know who your representative is?" further serves to highlight his scope as a vocalist.
  9. "Judgment Day"
    Another movie song in the spirit of "A New Hope" (the first cut from Zero One), "Judgment Day" takes on the Terminator mythos with skill and vigor. At once a counterintuitive follow-up and a perfect transition from "Lost Reality," it serves to blur the line between political reality and nihilistic allegory. While int eighty’s stark rhymes seem firmly placed at the forefront, this track all but belongs to c64 as he pulls out all the stops to draw you deeper into the dense undertones of his creation.
  10. "Rock It"
    In short, this is just as big a banger as the title implies. After plying his skills as a lyrical chameleon up to this point, eighty sort of reverts to his default flow for this track, but, to his credit, it still sounds great. The hook is screechy, pitchy, and somehow totally fitting, and lets you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this song was made to be performed live. Concert attendees take note: learn the chorus now. You will be expected to sing along.
  11. "Dual Core"
    Thus far I’ve bandied the word "personal" about fairly liberally with regard to this album, but this track takes that concept to its logical conclusion. We’ve admired Dual Core for three albums now with only the slightest inkling as to their origins, but at last their story is told. In verse, no less. With a lead-in I can only characterize as "crazy-ass" and a beat that is wholly fitting such an epic tale, this one links nerds and rap better than any song before in a firsthand account of triumph and gratitude.
  12. "Take It Forward"
    Slow and deliberate both lyrically and musically, "Take It Forward" confronts stereotypes head on and in a manner most eloquent. Much like the overall album, it brilliantly combines substance with uniquely relatable hip-hop. A song for anyone who’s sick of having to explain what they are as opposed to demonstrating who they are. eighty uniquely defines himself not merely as a hacker, a gamer, or a rapper, but as a complex individual who refuses to hide behind labels, even those with whom he proudly associates. Again, this is exactly the kind of personal, universal fare upon which Lost Reality is built.
  13. "Take It Back (ft. Stephanie KB)"
    A great counterpoint that tweaks the musical motifs of "Take It Forward" to make a completely different animal. While still figuratively centered on showing what you are by being who you are, it is quite literally about the tenacity of the gamer. While lyrically on-point, this track is so musically impeccable that it seems almost wrong not to tip the artistic hat to 64. Though I wasn’t exactly sure about Stephanie KB’s vocal contribution going into the track, by the last chorus I was singing along myself! Her voice adds a really different element – an additional aural texture, if you will – that compliments the booming beat and tight guitars perfectly. Another song that manages to remind you that Dual Core is much like gaming at its best: all about friendship, camaraderie, and frenetic action.
  14. "Player vs. Player"
    If there’s one thing historically missing from hip-hop, it is existential angst. This song remedies that by having eighty confront what can rightly be called his dark side. This nerdiest battle rap on record pits our own hero against a mainstream caricature of his genuine substance and style. While it features some of eighty’s sharpest couplets to date, it also shows an inherent understanding of the reasons behind his distaste of the overly simple nature of much of commercial rap: anti-eighty’s rhymes are funny but not necessarily fun and memorable without ever being clever. 64 again shows great restraint by letting the song be as opposed to trying to shoehorn in unnecessary elements. Seriously old school and really different than the rest of this album’s tracks in sound, but wholly at home in scope and still undeniably Dual Core.
  15. "Fantastic Four (Remix)"
    A second helping of the earlier musical excellence that was "Fantastic Four," this take lets c64 flex his muscles via a totally re-orchestrated backing – which is, oddly enough, the song's original take. Looser, with its lilting harmonica, but also somehow more appropriate in its less frantic state, this "remix" is every bit as good as the song's first instance. Once again, 64 proves that the best Dual Core remixes come from their own lab. A smooth jam that refuses languish, it wraps up the album nicely... except that it’s not quite the end.
  16. "Hidden Track"
    Taking us home is what can only be described as a crazy acid house remix of "Give Me Wings" (my favorite track from Zero One). While he’s come to the forefront several times in the album proper, this one is all 64. Further, it proves that, no matter how you slice it, he’s easily one of the best nerdcore DJs/producers out there. This one mixes well with alcohol for late night partying. It’s like a gourmet mint on your pillow at a luxury hotel; it’s not strictly necessary, but it reinforces the excellence of the overall experience.
One of the reasons I tend to eschew the word "review" is that it is positively packed with pretense. Most disturbingly, it gives the impression that I have done your requisite listening for you, when, in fact, it should do the opposite.

Whether I love or hate a track, I hope that my words don’t color your opinion so much as they challenge you to listen for yourself. My impressions are merely, as I’m so fond of saying, one asshole's opinion. And yet I hope you see it, at the very least, as an informed opinion.

And my (hopefully) informed opinion is that you should immediately purchase Dual Core’s Lost Reality. Not just because I enjoy it, mind you, but because I believe you will enjoy it.

It has a sort of universal appeal that can be attributed both to an obvious love of craft on the parts of both eighty and 64 and a uniquely relatable approach to songwriting. I think eighty summed it up best when he admitted that while their previous efforts may have presented opportunities to "get to know about Dual Core," Lost Reality offers the listener a chance to "get to know Dual Core."

And I highly suggest you do.

"The beat’s in the speakers, so we gotta rock it."