Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: DJ Babu/The Shrine

DJ, Hip-Hop, Turntablism No Comments »


There was a moment in the late nineties, heading into the aughties, when Pharoahe Monch was featured on major-motion-picture soundtracks. Jurassic 5 was in the charts, and a generation of MCs weaned on The Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest landed major-label record deals. It’s not only because of these cultural occurrences that SoCal’s DJ Babu has been able to hit the road with nothing more than a few crates of records and two turntables, but it obviously didn’t hurt. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: DJ Qbert/The Mid

Hip-Hop, Turntablism No Comments »


The first exposure most of the world had to turntables being used as a way of creating new sounds, as opposed to simply spitting out pre-recorded music, was during Herbie Hancock’s 1983 Grammy performance. The pianist’s band included DST, a NYC DJ. On the troupe’s rendition of “Rockit,” from Hancock’s “Future Shock” album, DST found himself functioning as the bridge between sections of the song while also contributing a bit of rugged ambiance to an otherwise synthetic-sounding work. A few years later, not necessarily in response to the televised appearance, but an historical extension, a malleable conglomerate of DJs with Filipino ancestry began performing in the Bay Area. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Kid Koala/The Abbey Pub

Chicago Artists, DJ, Krautrock, Turntablism No Comments »


Having worked in collaborative terms for his last release with the Slew, Kid Koala jettisons his accompaniment for a trip to Chicago. Not sporting a new release to tour on doesn’t leave the DJ short on material. Armed with a variety of approaches to working two turntables, Kid Koala as frequently trucks in vaguely comedic terms as he does in spliced-together brilliance.

Off his first long-playing album, Ninja Tune’s 2000 “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome,” “Nerdball” sticks out a bit for its dexterous cuts interspersed with brief vocal snippets. What’s remarkable about the two-minute composition, apart from it being a miraculous display of technique, is Kid Koala’s empathizing with geeks. Opening the effort’s a brief clip from “Revenge of the Nerds” so fully transformed it ranks alongside drum samples as percussion. Of course, listeners are granted time to take in the quote as it points to a lifetime of nerdom. Spinning out recognizable sounds into something new has been the DJ’s job since the genre’s inception. Separating this Canadian beat maker from his peers, in addition to all that humorous fare, is Kid Koala’s penchant for manipulating a melody’s pitch, taking horn solos and arriving at some new woozy conclusion. Regardless of his aural contributions to performance, let’s hope there’s a bit of costuming as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Bassnectar/Kinetic Playground

DJ, Electronic/Dance, Turntablism No Comments »


For the past decade, bass disciple Lorin Ashton (aka Bassnectar) has enthralled low-end enthusiasts with his unique productions—often sending up breakbeat, ragga, and hip-hop infused monsters championed by the likes of Freq Nasty, James Zabiela and Karsh Kale. As a DJ, Bassnectar is a whirling dervish of passion behind the decks, infusing his sets with infectious energy and his own edits and remixes to devastating effect. A master at using the spaces between sound, Bassnectar often downshifts during his sets to build dance-floor tension… before properly tearing the roof off the sucker to incite full on hands-in-the-air excitement. Supporting selectors and local electronic ethnomusicologists Warp and Radiohiro (most recently of Bombay Beatbox fame) will be on hand to guarantee a unique night of dancefloor fun not often experienced in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Grandmaster Flash/Zentra

DJ, Electronic/Dance, Turntablism No Comments »


So does any DJ junkie not know the story of the Grandmaster, and how he cuts faster? The man behind the Furious Five and the original turntable scientist was once a skinny kid names Joseph Saddler. Born in Barbados, raised in the Bronx, Saddler frequented DJ parties in the seventies and became obsessed with the possibilities of using turntables to overlay the breaks section of identical records, isolating rhythms that would later suit MCs perfectly. Saddler’s proficiency and fast hands would earn him the nickname of “Flash,” with the Grandmaster being a nod to Bruce Lee. Eventually, Grandmaster Flash’s Furious Five would be responsible for a pair of groundbreaking singles in “the Message,” and “White Lines.” Fast-forward to the present. Still active as a DJ (recording mixes, hosting radio shows, and thankfully still doing club dates), Flash works his way through DJ sets and transports the dance floor to that yesteryear where there were dance parties before “dance music,” and the exclusionary streamlining that came with it. Using his innovative mind and flawless technique to connect the common elements in funk, hip-hop, soul, disco, house and early electro and new wave classics, Flash is still on top of his game. Drop into Zentra tonight and witness the legendary Darth Vader of the Crossfader in action. With residents Sativa, Chris Santiago, Dysqo, and E&G. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Derrick Carter, Q-Bert, Mark Farina

Acid, DJ, Hip-Hop, House, Turntablism No Comments »


It would be egotistical to call your event “Lords of the Underground,” unless the talent can live up to that kind of billing. Although the June 17th event is pricey with presale tickets at $25, where else will you see these names spinning—not to mention three different sets from Mark Farina alone, including a tag-team with Q-Bert. As Farina and Derrick both reside in the same genre of bumpity house and both hail from Chicago, Californian Q-Bert seems the odd one out. He is known instead for turntablism skills that have won his group, the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the DMC championship three years running. So even if you’ve seen Derrick, Farina or Q-Bert before, the fact that they are all lumped together in one curious lineup should be enough to bring you back out. (Dani Deahl)

June 17 at Metro.