But among all the electronic steals and deals available for the ever-hungry consumer, there's one that is, I dare say, unbeatable. Our old friend Ultraklystron has chosen today to release a new mixtape. For free. It's called Storyboard (The Animatic Mixtape), and it's a musical precursor to next year's Animatic album.
I like Karl as an MC, but I adore him as a producer. And though the mixtape is a tricky medium to master, it certainly plays to his strengths. Across its 25 minutes the listener is treated to a selection of songs that one, for the most part, might describe as "classic Karl" in their structure and delivery. Still, nerdcore's foremost anime enthusiast manages to reveal enough new tricks to keep the listener guessing.
It all kicks off with the laid back swagger of celebratory weekend banger "Saturday." Lyrically, it ain't his sharpest offering, but some brilliantly varied production and a dash of humor help to make it more than just a northwestern otaku answer to "Lazy Sunday." This flips nicely into "Lifecycle," a green hip-hop anthem that's among his most ambitious efforts; despite its odd premise, it's a track that really works. "Non-Contact" fares a little worse because of a slightly clumsy hook, but "City" takes things in a dark, contemplative direction that easily recaptures that lost attention.
The transition to "Minor Internet Celebrity" is a bit shaky, but the song itself, which boasts a more urgent delivery than we've heard from Ultraklystron in a while, is an interesting oddity. "Three Dollar Jeans" brings his flow back to a more manageable speed, and its relative calm contrasts nicely with the harshness of the hooky "Bromance Dance."
"Unexpected" begins the mixtape's true standout movement. Its individual components – a storyteller flow with a sing-song chorus cast against an atmospheric electronic backdrop – might seem unremarkable at first, but the skill with which Karl has married them reminds us of his remarkable skills in the studio. "Work It Baby" takes that unique energy in a wholly different direction underscoring that there's more to Ultraklystron than some might remember.
The mix begins its wind-down with "Fujoshi," another piece of new school otaku flow, and closes with the club-style "Magic Tricks." Musically, it proves a sound decision, though I almost would've preferred he sign off with one of his more challenging selections.
As a cohesive work – and lets not pretend that a mixtape doesn't hinge on a peculiar brand of cohesion – Storyboard succeeds on a number of fronts. The production, aside from a single transitional hiccup, is top-notch. Further, it's pacing, which is sometimes an area in which Karl struggles on proper albums, is no less inspired. The musical material itself, the true blood and guts of the mix, runs the gamut from middle-of-the-road Ultraklystron cuts to some of his most interesting tracks to date.
If you're a longtime fan of the second-gen nerdcore standard that perhaps hasn't heard much from him since 2009's Romance Language 2, then Storyboard makes for a nice reacquaintance in anticipation of Animatic. Likewise, if you managed to miss that particular chapter in nerdcore history outright and would like to know what Karl Olson's really all about, it proves a fine introduction to what the rest of us will recognize as a new and improved Ultraklystron.