Kid Koala | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Eric San, aka Kid Koala, is as modest a virtuoso as has ever manned a pair of turntables. His shuffling beats don't rock your body and he doesn't try to show you what a tech whiz he is; instead his records are gently funny and deliberately small in scope. Koala's new disc, Some of My Best Friends Are DJs (NinjaTune), clocks in at just 36 minutes, and when I say it's as slight as it is brief I mean that as a compliment. "From the start it had a kind of epileptic charm," says one sampled interlocutor, and that's as good a description as any for Koala's music. A genius at slapstick, he feigns clumsiness to show off his control, whether mimicking the sound of a band staggering to a halt on "Bonus Materials on the Set of Fender Bender" or arranging electro Brubeck for a New Orleans funeral on "Annie's Parlour." Seven of the 15 songs last less than two minutes, and even the longer ones--like the cutely tweaked version of "Basin Street Blues" or "Skanky Panky," a squiggly hodgepodge of Jamaican music--sound like fragments. But the quick gag is Koala's specialty. Oh, and he's not above taking a 12-year-old's pleasure in the sounds of bodily functions, either: after the commentator on "More Dance Music" remarks on the unexpectedly "ferocious sounds" of the koala bear, the DJ responds with what sounds like inhumanly deep dry heaving, and the sneezes, coughs, and needle scratches of "Flu Season" suggest what might happen "if two sick DJs met and talked on the street." Saturday, October 11, 7 and 11 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.

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