Kid Koala, DJ Food | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kid Koala, DJ Food

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KID KOALA, DJ FOOD

In a world full of turntablists with names that suggest how smart or fierce their work is--Cut Chemist, Mista Sinista--Kid Koala is obviously going for something else. It's not that the Montreal DJ, whose real name is Eric San, isn't skillful--his long-awaited debut album, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Ninja Tune), is a pretty impressive display of technical mastery and formal ingenuity. Packaged with a full-length comic book drawn by the Kid himself, it brings together a dizzying array of fractured breakbeats, absurd spoken-word snippets, incongruous musical textures--from woozy Hawaiian guitar to rambling banjo--and, of course, turntable scratching that's got to be heard to be believed. But you get desensitized to the flash after a while, and then what you're left with are cutesy adolescent jokes: on "Drunk Trumpet" he manipulates his scratching to sound like a poorly controlled horn soloing over a tipsy lounge groove, and "Barhopper 2" uses spoken-word samples to poke fun at a record collector clumsily coming on to a woman. Several tracks feature a funky live band called Bullfrog, which will also back him for this show. Though their moniker's on the cuddly side too, the English duo DJ Food makes seriously cinematic music. It began as an early-90s side project for the slicer-dicer duo Coldcut, but Matt Black and Jonathan More have moved on, leaving it to collaborators PC and Strictly Kev. On their new Kaleidoscope (Ninja Tune), the music shares certain traits with the grand orchestrations of Bay Area whiz DJ Shadow, but DJ Food are more willing to allow atmosphere to supplant narrative. Propulsive breaks act as the music's skeleton, which supports everything from "Full Bleed," a moody bit of sampladelia made in collaboration with Chicagoan Bundy Brown, to the faux-beatnik jazz groove of "The Ageing Young Rebel," which is a deadly effective setting for the spoken-word performance of another Chicagoan, "word jazz" maestro Ken Nordine. Unfortunately, for this gig DJ Food will be just Strictly Kev, and he will be strictly DJing. Monday, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Caroline Hoyeur.

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