Friday, May 08, 2009

Nerd News In Brief

Though it sometimes feels like work, Hipster, please! is far from a legitimate business venture. I don't have backers or a revenue stream or a business model, but I think I'm slowly beginning to build a little of the ol' brand recognition.

Thanks to the help of Denika, who designed my logos and helped get my new layout off the ground, and the fact that my OCD motivates me to operate the project fairly consistently, I think I have managed to develop a shtick. Now I just need to kick it up a notch.

I was gonna talk to some friends of mine in advertising about how better promote my little endeavor, but, thanks to a tip from Antisoc, I now know that such services are now available over the counter.

My logo has never looked bigger.
  • Oddly Specific: Apparently, there is now an entrance exam for geeks. Looks like I'm in the remedial class.
  • As in Beer: As a huge fan of Gameboy/GBA-based chiptunes, I've long wanted to try my hand at this unique brand of electronica. Thankfully, such experimentation has just gotten significantly easier for armchair musicians. Groundbreaking artist Pixelh8 has recently elected to release 4 of his own, custom-designed software modules for free. Head over to his site to score his Music Tech Pro Performer, Gameboy Music Tech V2.0, Gameboy Drum Tech and Death Ray Noise Generator. All awesome. All free.
  • Mary Bennet, Victor Frankenstein and You: Hey, you know that whole "geek chic" thing the American media's been talking about for the past couple of years? Apparently CNN just found out about it. Way to trailblaze there, guys!
  • Number 5 is Alive: Chicago's Independent Music Review recently listed I Fight Dragons as one of Chi-Town's Top 5 Bands You Should be Listening To. It's important to note that this also applies to those not living in the Chicago metro area.
  • WTFMPFM?: Has anyone else been keeping up with what's been going on with My Parents' Favorite Music? Last month Steffo's MySpace went all Gothloli -- which is odd in and of itself, but not any more so than Steffen's median level. Then there was some surreal kidnapping story as related by Hex on Talk Nerdy to Me, then this inexplicable YouTube vid and more recently a new Facebook page with references to time travel. So, I guess it's a little like Lost. Only with Japanese chicks.
  • He'll Take You There: Alienbobz's Jarod has just added another amazing show to his collection at This one is from last year's Seattle tour stop by my boys Uncle Monsterface. At long last I finally get an audio copy of their epic cover of "Like a Prayer!"
  • Unshaven: Those who missed The Grammar Club's new selection on last year's Child's Play charity comp can now catch it at The 61. Enjoy "Underbeard" in all its follicle fantastitude.
  • You're Gonna Love My Nuts: I also have to thank the Club's own Shael Riley for being the first to turn me on to "Rap Chop." It's infectious! Addictive even!
  • Ultrapowerful: Superpowerless is actively seeking collaborators for a new song. If you can sing/rap, give Oliver a holler.
  • I Twittered You: Church filed this one as "Nerdcore Country." Whatever you call it, I want more.
  • Our Family Album: Also from Church comes this link to a CIO slideshow of nerds through the ages. Oh how we've grown!
  • Ran, Examined: Random popped up in the San Diego Examiner. Ran's got a ton of press lately, but I think this is my favorite interview so far. His modest nature and creative spark really come through. Give it a read.
  • All In the Family: My Florida-based brothers (and sister) from Magitek also scored themselves some nice press in recent weeks. Read about the band, it's history and the crew's thoughts on nerdcore over at MadeLoud.
  • STD in the Vajay-jay: At long last, the Vagina Deep in Podcast gals have tossed us another episode. This one features Schaffer the Darklord, which, though rather unfortunate with regard to their respective naming conventions, is awesome. There's talk of a new album, some playful banter about cats and, of course, your requisite amount of swearing.
  • Sorry, Heisenberg!: Bino White knows that the only way to educate America's youth is with threats of physical violence. Ere go he and Riboflava have elected to kick your ass. With science. Peep the video below, and let its delicate strains carry you through the weekend.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

God Save the Queen

Whenever I receive a gift from an artist or reader, I always feel led to thank them within the blog itself. Now, this isn’t to brag. (Well, it isn’t just to brag.) Mostly it’s simply to show appreciation via my most public forum possible. Further, it’s because, in addition to the nerdcore or VGM or WRock community, I like to think that there’s a Hipster, please! community.

Just this week, a pair of these community members – both, oddly enough, from the UK – favored me with some amazing gifts, and I really wanted to share.

Talkie Tim, a long-time reader and listener, surprised me with two sets of the new Doctor Who Time Squad figures, which I’ve been lusting after for quite some time. Because of him I have at last fully realized my dream of a Dalek-infested workspace. (On a related note, Tim and his lady friend nose_in_a_book also helped me put together a soon-to-be-unveiled secret project that I think you’ll dig!)

At approximately the same time that Tim’s care package was making its way across the Atlantic, I received a sizable donation from another Brit who I will simply refer to as Chris. Coupled with some residual cash I had floating around in my Paypal, this enabled me to once again upgrade my podcasting rig. And, while I can’t promise that the change in sound quality will be as drastic as it was when I upgraded my tech back in January of 2007, I’m hoping for the best.

When I started this project 3 years ago, it was about my passion for nerdy music and culture. Thankfully, since that time it has become about our shared passion. And whether it’s folks like Beefy and Nikki Nefarious agreeing to be in features, friends like Church and Matt feeding me post ideas or cats like Anthony and Hex helping to spread the word about my hair-brained venture du jour, Hipster, please! exists as much by your whim as mine. And while I certainly don’t expect any sort of compensation for my meager (and largely intangible) services, know that I genuinely appreciate every email, comment, band suggestion, donation or press kit.

It’s a great big world, and there are far more pressing matters to which you could all turn attention. But you choose to come here and hang out with me, and that means a lot.

So much nerdy love to all, particularly to Tim and Chris for the handsome gifts. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a Sycorax vs. Cyberman death-match to officiate.

Monday, May 04, 2009


Ultraklystron is sort of like James Brown at the end of a classic concert. He announces his departure and makes for the back-stage green room, but he's always got one more musical trick up his sleeve. His latest extended encore takes the form of the fourth estate, a strong, solid album that sees Karl further spread his artistic wings.

Taking its title from Scottish essayist Thomas Carlisle's declaration that the press itself is a fierce social and political force, the album reflects both on Carl's journalistic tendencies and his own experiences with the media since nerdcore has made itself known to the mainstream. It also relies heavily on its own status as a (symbolic, if not wholly literal) swan song. But mostly, like the best of Ultraklystron's writing, it centers chiefly on the artist's own unique personal expediencies.
  1. "death won't stop this"
    Karl kicks off the album with a smooth and atmospheric meditation on art, success and moving on. While not his best work, it's a solid starter that characterizes the album that marks, at least symbolically, his departure from nerdcore.
  2. "greatest"
    Dark, moody and featuring some aggressive braggadocio, "greatest" is a handsome banger. It boasts a quick, stilted flow that makes it an early charmer. Its ending is sharply punctuated, and sets the listener up for the follow-up.
  3. "gothic lolitas"
    This track comes through as a cosplay-obsessed sex rap run through Ultraklystron's traditional PG-rated verbal content filter. It's a convention theme waiting to happen boasting a sharp flow from the otaku MC.
  4. "absolution"
    This tribute to the early days of Toonami is solidly in Karl's wheelhouse, and, though it sounds uncomfortably similar to "Broken Sutures" at times, it's hard to resist. The song is about giving love to Ultraklystron's true anime roots (despite some of the stranger turns of the initial Cartoon Network undertaking), and it comes through as reverent and nostalgic. The "first and only interstellar broadcast and exploration vehicle" deserves no less.
  5. "dissonance"
    "dissonance" marks a nice musical change-up that stills maintains a solid chorus and some great layering in the vocals. It's rare to hear rhymes inviting constructive criticism, but Karl pulls it off in style. A well executed and damned amazing track for anyone who's ever felt out of place.
  6. "outlines"
    A special note to Ultraklystron himself: please do a revised mix of this track with some female harmony vox! Seriously, Karl, the song is crying out for them. Sure, there are a couple of sloppy rhymes and the theme could be seen as a little color-by-numbers for long-time fans, but it's an amazingly pleasing selection that's one or two tweaks away from being an instant classic.
  7. "not a criminal"
    It's no "Fuck the Police," but Ultraklystron's narrative concerning his regular border-crossing shakedowns is distinctively personal. I imagine that this song could prove an easy target for those seeking to paint nerdcore as a pale imitation of more accepted forms of hip-hop, but I give respect to Karl for stepping outside his comfort zone and exploring a unique private conflict.
  8. "dumb crush"
    A creepy lead-in gives way to an impressive, key-heavy backing track as Ultraklystron ponders the line between friends, lovers and fantasy. It's undeniable, sing-along chorus and clever name-drop of Romance Language make it one of my favorites.
  9. "red shift"
    Another frantic rumination on moving on, the album's dominant theme, "red shift" is a mixed bag. While I'm not crazy about the intro/chorus and some of the similes are weak, the beat is nothing short of brilliant. This one still manages to charm despite some flaws.
  10. "carcinogenic"
    An amazing composition that features some of Karl's brightest production, "carcinogenic" gets a bit repetitive at times, but makes up for it with some clever name drops (i.e.: Wheelie Cyberman and Jimmy Carter.) This one alludes to Ultraklystron's real-life relationship with Nursehella, and parleys his own raw emotion into an inspirational joint about learned strength and the power of self-worth.
  11. "webcam girls"
    Wait; did Karl just say "nice cans?!" Someone get me a lyric sheet! Oh, gams! Okay. Still, this is another track for the ladies, which is surprising (but pleasantly so). Karl pushes himself lyrically with rhymes that are a tad shocking but never inappropriate. It's a fine example of a rapper/producer at his danceable best.
  12. "he's a og"
    More proof positive that Karl is a Class-A producer, "he's a og" sees him channel his inner gamer. If there's any justice in the world, this will pop up in the next iteration of Stepmania.
  13. "nerd playa advisory"
    Though the beat choice seems a bit odd, it totally works. So well, in fact, that this song manages to be yet another high-point of the album. Karl skillfully deconstructs nerd archetypes and our cultural misogyny in a warning to geek girls everywhere.
  14. "animate"
    This track, which boasts a beautiful transition from "nerd playa advisory" is phenomenal on all levels! Ultraklystron seems to channel T.y.T. slightly in the verses, but that stylistic change-up goes a long way in making this track stand out. He reps his crew (Toonzone) and preaches the gospel of his long-loved hobbies, thus making this definitive Ultraklystron with a noticeable kick.
  15. "dykmk"
    Above a minimalist beat, Karl once again pays tribute to his muse (his kanojo) in a manner sweetly respectful. While I can't imagine saying that a lady is the Qui-Gon to your Obi-Wan would fly in most relationships, it does seem oddly appropriate in context.
  16. "acta attack"
    Karl's indictment of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement starts on a sense of harsh urgency with a beat that's almost too much, but quickly resolves itself into a shit-hot track full of techy rhymes and surgically precise bombast. It's a call to arms for consumers and a warning to a changing entertainment industry. It addresses threats to freedom and privacy in the digital age in a manner befitting a nerdy rapper.
  17. "surprise surprise"
    This one's an amazingly alluring change of pace that see's Ultraklystron augment his typical vocal delivery fashion and take on some Optimus-style cyborg rhymes. Sharp and catchy with its double-time bridge and fun motor-mouthery, it starts the album's final descent in undeniable style.
  18. "unfamiliar ceiling"
    Above a dense, key-driven beat, Karl again stretches his traditional flow and gets personal. A song for anyone who's ever felt out of place in the public eye or who's ever seen his passions dulled by harsh reality, this one manages to make an uncanny sense of melancholy sound inexplicably inviting.
  19. "game over"
    Ultraklystron raps his "last outburst" over an eerie instrumental bed that winds up the fourth estate ably. It boasts tons of clever self-deprecation as Karl explains why he's done with nerdcore, but also promises that he will be the geek equivalent of Jay-Z; that he'll never truly be out of the game. After listening to this album, that is a satisfying sentiment.
Let there be no mistaking that in the 5 years since the release of Revision4920, Ultraklystron has truly come into his own. From guest spots on compilations and collabs with the likes of Nursehella and Rai to the lovelorn concept album Romance Language to the undeniable personality of Opensource Lyricist, Karl has grown: evolved. Yet through it all he has managed to keep his true self – his values and his own unique worldview – intact.

Still, as much as the fourth estate reflects upon previously established themes from Ultraklystron's songbook, it also seeks to expand upon the formula. Therein Karl comes through as both the quirky, anime-obsessed, self-effacing wordsmith that he's always been and as the steady-handed, technologically-minded rabble-rouser that's only been hinted at in earlier works like "Script Kiddie Blues." In doing this, Karl elevates his persona as the slightly geekier answer to the modern American everyman to a noticeably higher plane.

While the fourth estate is still resplendent with the type of esoteric otaku rhymes that fans have come to expect, it also shows Karl bravely stepping into more accessible fare, specifically regarding issues that directly impact the proletariat (the Marxist interpretation of the fourth estate.) Perhaps Ultraklystron's attempts at lyrical evolution don't always totally hit their mark, but the simple act of conceptual expansion lends credence to the belief that Karl Olson is genuinely dedicated to his craft.

As for the album's insinuations that he'll no longer ply this particular craft, this sorrowful news is made less so by the admission in its waning minutes that Ultraklystron will always be around in one form or another.

I, for one, take solace in this, as the fourth estate is, despite some flaws, an enjoyable, stirring, cohesive effort. Production-wise, Karl's never been better, and lyrically, he once again proves himself a uniquely honest, if unassuming, rhyme-slinger.

"Game Over! - Press X to Continue"