Photo by Corinne Merrel
Kid Koala is a world-renowned scratch DJ, music producer, composer, and award winning graphic novelist who just recently released his fifth solo album, Music To Draw To: Satellite.
He recently played an interactive show in Nashville and our music commentator, Luke Graves, was fortunate enough to experience it. Here's what went down.
By Luke Graves
looking down at loved ones
from the platform, our pilot embarks
on his mission and sets his gaze
towards the stars
OZ Arts Nashville recently treated guests to a stellar residency by award-winning scratch DJ, music producer, and graphic novelist Eric San, better known as Kid Koala. With his immersive Satellite Turntable Orchestra experience, our multi-talented host invites the audience to put their own unique spin on ambient, narrative-driven compositions using synchronized turntable stations. After a brief overview of the evening’s structure and the alien technology before us, San takes his helm at the captain’s chair and initiates a countdown. As the supporting struts fall away, our ascent is scored by a dreamy collaboration featuring Gorillaz co-creator Damon Albarn and renowned hip-hop producer Dan the Automator. Scratching and fading between cinematic strings, Albarn’s crooning and chopped up samples from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, our pilot grins with a childlike glee while warping time and space from his command center.
now he drifts freely
through the cosmos,
weightless and unburdened
by the gravity back home
Booster engines cut and fall back to the surface below, now guided only by the Canadian cosmonaut’s cuings and color-changing lights affixed to our boxy control panels. Digital signals oscillate and ebb in electronic waves, as we journey onward through the infinite expanse. Much to our delight, the bridge’s communications systems soon detect other lifeforms—Icelandic artist Emilíana Torrini’s ethereal vocals echo out from somewhere in the universe, while the roving maestro Felix Boisvert and “chemical puppeteer” Karina Bleau join in on our mission as well.
Bleau, standing tall and distinguished at her station with hair pulled back in a taut ponytail, serves as the group’s cosmic cartographer. Materializing colorful liquid galaxies that spiral into one another and dance slow minuets, her tranquil creations are projected onto stretched canvas alongside Eric’s own TextEdit journal entries. Our jovial navigator comes over the loudspeakers once again, and we are brought out of our stargazing—he laughs and cracks jokes about our performance so far, relaying that this evening’s transmission is being recorded for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation—any errors will be wholly blamed on us.
with oxygen levels dwindling,
he alters the ship’s trajectory
and attempts to radio
My fellow crewmembers and I continue to sculpt harmonious soundscapes together in the enveloping darkness, manipulating the multi-colored vinyl and various effects knobs at our fingertips. Approaching the highest point in our orbit, Eric’s voice begins to break as he shares with us a heartrending tragedy of his cousin’s abrupt, earth-shattering suicide, which he still is processing, and to whose memory his song, “The Darkest Day,” is dedicated. While our vessel’s navigation lights dim and draw focus onto San and the interstellar visuals swirling behind him, Torrini’s hauntingly beautiful recordings lament, “When you looked up / the stars all fell / it was hard for me to tell / it’s another day on Mars as well / this quiet is deafening.” At our conductor’s signal, we ready one particular record during the song’s emotional climax whose payload culminates in a salvo of distortion and stardust that ripple through the ether.
blazing through the atmosphere,
our traveller sees all those he left behind
and is reborn in flame
As the song fades out in static loops, San’s sense of humor returns, and the amicable marsupial wishes to not leave us on “such a downer” before departing. Preparing for final descent, Koala offers a humorous reenactment of a conversation he had with his mother about radio deejays and equestrian jockeys that comes off like an old Abbott and Costello bit. He returns his attention back to the deck and concludes with a stirring remix of the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s serenade, “Moon River”—his mother’s favorite. In a stunning display of turntablism, San deconstructs the track from the inside-out. Cutting, scratching, and tearing away at the records with deft hands, our analog astroneer breathes new life into the timeless piece, even improvising extended violin solos by dragging out individual notes with his signature “drunken” style. “There's such a lot of world to see / we're after the same rainbow's end / waiting round the bend / my huckleberry friend / moon river and me,” Hepburn’ yearns as my colleagues and I emerge from our craft, still weightless and cosmically-connected in our shared otherworldly yet singularly human experience.
Photo by A.J. Korkidakis
Luke Graves is a latchkey printmaker and occasional writer of words based in Nashville. See more from Luke.
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