Illegal Art sampler of upcoming releases surfaces on Pitchfork — features tracks from Girl Talk, Steinski and the soon-to-be-released albums by Oh Astro and Realistic.
Stefan Robinson a.k.a. Yea Big puts in three-song guest spot (Lionel Richie shows up too!) on Oh Astro’s forthcoming Champions of Wonder. Yea Big + Kid Static’s debut self-titled album on your desk now.
The Illegal Art record label continues to birth its Negativland-inspired, Deconstructing Beck credentialed and Girl Talk reinforced releases into a world where copyright laws are beginning to crumble. Case in point – the label will release new albums from two of its roster artists – Oh Astro and Realistic in the coming weeks.
Also on deck for Illegal Art is a career spanning collection from hip hop pioneer Steinski and an album of brand-new material from Girl Talk. A sampler featuring tracks from these upcoming records (save for Girl Talk – the track featured on the sampler is from a long out-of-print compilation) was recently made available for free download by Illegal Art in hi-resolution MP3 format. A post by Pitchfork linking users to the sampler download promptly crashed Illegal Art’s server.
Listeners should take note of the Oh Astro track “Hello Fuji Boy” (MP3) which features a sample from Lionel Richie’s infamous tune “Hello” immortalized in the wonderful video featuring a blind sculptress creating a model of Mr. Richie’s oversized noggin. The song appears on the band’s groundbreaking new album Champions of Wonder (on your desk now!) XLR8R recently chimed in with some early praise for the record, saying: “In true Illegal Art fashion, Jane Dowe and Hank Hofler’s first full-length as Oh Astro is comprised almost solely of sampled material, but this is far from a Girl Talk record. Champions of Wonder is an experimental conglomeration of glitchy techno, ambient, and broken-beat, all layered with distorted vocals that offset the album’s poppier moments with ghostly eeriness.” Also not to be missed is the album’s exquisite cover of Olivia Newton-John’s “Xanadu.”
The way-ahead-of-the-game publication also recently praised the upcoming Jib Door release of the retro-futuristic self-titled collaboration of comic book beats and rhymes between Chicago producer Yea Big and rapper Kid Static. Coincidentally, Big also appears on the upcoming Oh Astro record, lending his skills to three of the album’s tracks (one is a significant remix of a track from his debut release, The Wind That Blows The Robots Arms.) XLR8R says: “This LP is worth listening to just for Deejay Yea Big’s production. Stuttering, glitchy, and just plain jaw-dropping, Yea Big’s beats are up there with the big guns of Prefuse 73 and Daedelus. With Kid Static’s humorous, yet angst-filled rhyming filling it out, this duo have put excitement and innovation back into hip-hop.”
Also on tap from Illegal Art this October is Perpetual Memory Loss, the latest album from James Towning a.k.a. Realistic. With Realistic’s latest release, the Illegal Art label continues to challenge the restrictions of copyright as perceived by the larger music industry. The uniqueness of Realistic in comparison to other artists on the label further illustrates that sample-based music is strikingly some of the most original, innovative, and exciting music being made in the 21st century. Illegal Art claims Fair Use for all of its releases and has professional legal counsel nearby if needed.
More about Oh Astro:
Married duo Jane Dowe and Hank Hofler are both rooted firmly in experimental music, but with the Oh Astro project they continue their move towards odd interpretations of popular forms. Club music, children’s songs, and fragmented samples of pop/rock all intersect on their first full-length album, Champions of Wonder, under the Oh Astro banner.
Jane Dowe entered the international electronic music scene in 1998 on two critical CD releases, Institutional Collaborative on Mille Plateaux, and Deconstructing Beck on Illegal Art. On Institutional Collaborative, Dowe and Terre Thaemlitz created abstract music that was described as a “table-tennis mixing game with ‘lounge’ and ambient soundclips” (The Wire). Dowe resurfaced in 2005 on Illegal Art with the debut Oh Astro mini-album, Hello World, which was hailed as “funky and pretty, Hello World’s bite-sized samples concoct a weird pop universe” (CMJ New Music Monthly). While Hank Hofler peripherally contributed to the project, it wasn’t until after Hello World that he became significant collaborator in Oh Astro. Besides creating music Dowe has also done installations in galleries internationally and codes idiosyncratic software for her various projects.
Hank Hofler’s first performances were in Japan as part of the live electronic improvisation scene from 1998-2001, playing shows with Japanese artists such as Otomo Yoshihide, Merzbow, Ikue Mori, and Sawako. As Dowe was too shy for live events, Hank’s earliest shows were actually performing as “Jane Dowe” (further confusing the identity of the pseudononymous Dowe). As he developed his own reputation, Hofler began to be billed under his own name, began street performing in Tokyo, and later also took on the live shows for Oh Astro. As a tenure-track professor, Hofler currently teaches in an Arts Technology program at Illinois State University. Both Hofler and Dowe hold advanced degrees from prestigious institutions such as Dartmouth College and Keio Univeristy (Japan), but have strong reservations about the esoteric qualities of academic art/music.
The purposely-pixilated digipak artwork for Champions of Wonder was created by the internationally known producer/artist Terre Thaemlitz utilizing illustrations by Aiko Tsuji. The physical release also contains surround sound mixes of the first three tracks by Aaron Paolucci (who also mastered the stereo mixes) that can be played on a computer connected to a 5.1 sound system.
One of the common techniques on Champions of Wonder is the manipulation of vocals by spectral software that is coded by Dowe and long-time mentor Christopher Penrose. Even the more experimental or ambient tracks contain ghostly sounds of vocals that have been stripped from their original context and placed into the pulsating electronic world of Oh Astro. The other common practice on the album is that every sound, with the exception of some of the vocals, is sampled from pre-existing recordings. The types of music sampled range from top 40 songs to indie hipster music to the obscure. In the end, it’s more about what is done with the sample than what was originally sampled.
More about Yea Big + Kid Static:
“What Andy Kaufman did for comedy, Yea Big has done with their new album…” – Treblezine
Ever wonder what happened to the fun in hip-hop? What happened to the Digital Undergrounds, the Biz Markies and the De La Souls ? With all this serious rap, who fills in the gap for the people who just want to get their dance on? The answer: the dauntless duo of deejay Yea Big and emcee Kid Static.
Yea Big a.k.a. Stefen Robinson is a detail obsessed mad scientist of the mix reared on Ravi Shankar, bluegrass & Motown. He released his first full length CD, The Wind That Blows The Robot’s Arms, in 2006 on Chicago’s Jib Door label to much confusion and praise. One dude called The Wind “an ADD trip through instrumental spaz-hop”. Yea Big has done remixes for Minneapolis avant-hip hop outfit Kill The Vultures, the 12 Apostles label, Illegal Art, and continues to produce tour only mash-up and remix EP’s, the first two of which feature The Mae-Shi and Rapider Than Horsepower. In the fall of 2005, Yea Big took a beating on one of Chicago’s largest hip hop message boards for reasons no one really remembers too well these days. Kid Static watched as the crossfire obliterated this unheard of deejay and, after checking out some of his music online, invited Yea Big to collaborate with him. Drawn to Big’s atom splitting beats, Static says, “he’s doing the music I always heard in my head”. For his part, Yea Big, was mesmerized with Static’s presence. “His voice has an energy & grit. His phrasing, texture and flow did it for me.”
Over the last two years of collaborating together, Static and Big have played for Michigan meth farmers, cape cod yacht rockers, snacked on cheesesteaks behind the backs of Philly vegans and played grabass and smacked hi-fives with each and every one of them. Because in the world of high misadventure of Yea Big and Kid Static, the odd man out is always in.
More about Realistic:
“Following the aesthetic of Negativland and John Oswald, Realistic borrows material from every possible source: classic rock, disco, self-improvement records, soap operas [and more]. Towning demonstrates a knack for unconventional looping, sonic accumulation, and a good joke.” – All Music Guide
Realistic’s third album, Perpetual Memory Loss, features sixteen tracks of intricate sample-based compositions — a beautifully sophisticated celebration of found sound, recorded media, technology, and electronic composition. Slices of field recordings mesh with surreal electronic melodies, which creates enjoyably odd multi-layered musical fun. Realistic is the guise of sound collage artist James Towning, a musician and graphic designer originally from OhioIn 2003 he moved to Brooklyn, NY and currently works a full-time job as a motion-graphics designer in Manhattan.
Realistic has also appeared on releases with (or been remixed by) The Evolution Control Committee, Girl Talk, The Bran Flakes, Wobbly, Sawako, Pimmon, and Monochrome (Charles Noel).
A recurring source in Towning’s compositions is the nostalgic sounds of 70’s and 80’s techno-pop and rock artists that were personally influential over the years. As well as using computer-based waveform editing and sampling, Towning carries a portable digital recorder to capture various audio environments on a daily basis. Whether the source samples are found around the house, on TV, on a busy Chinatown street, or a crackly sound effects record, Realistic’s juxtaposition of head-spaces always creates something surreal and altogether new.
“There’s such a rich texture of sound and visuals in New York. I’m constantly entertained with the sounds that I record,” said Towning in a recent interview. An ever-increasing collection of thrift-store records and cassettes is another likely source of audio inspiration. “I love composing little sound pieces using whatever source material I choose. It’s a cathartic, fun, and essential part of my life,” said Towning.
With Perpetual Memory Loss, the Realistic sound has evolved into a tighter and more structured mesh of musical patterns and mangled beats. Tiny rhythmic patterns and subtle textural layers are revealed upon repeated listening. Sampled dialogue is used more sparingly than in previous Realistic releases allowing the musical voices to be heard more clearly. Each complex track is its own self-contained little world, with disjointed characters, funky grooves, and odd but familiar musical samples. Throughout the 45-minute album, expressionistic patterns of sound twist and fold into one another as the tracks evolve. At times the entire audio spectrum degrades and distorts in groovy syncopation. The tracks on Perpetual Memory Loss are more complex and refined, but what remains is the underlying sense of humor, rich production, and an offbeat composition style that is distinctively Realistic.
Regarding the album’s artwork, Towning explains, “The CD art was designed by me. It consists of many thumbnails of snapshots I’ve taken over the past three years or so. That timeframe coincides with the production of the audio tracks, too. The snapshots represent memories in a very literal way. They vary in subject matter from pictures of my cats, still-lifes, industrial landscapes, detailed textures, and random found art. The inside artwork reveals more snapshot thumbnails in varying degrees of clarity.” Towning further elaborates, “Beneath the CD, a collage of found images and photographs explodes and bleeds over into the snapshots. The technique of collaging with found and personal imagery reflects the style of the audio tracks too. The primary colors of red and green that I chose were inspired by and derived from a vintage Christmas card I received from a friend a few years ago. Again, a nostalgic reference.”
As for the title Perpetual Memory Loss Towning says it “speaks to the process of growing older and the mind’s ability to store, lose, and constantly distort memories. And how sometimes those memories are recalled in a random and overlapping order. As we get older, more and more memories are stored while others are buried deep or lost. The title also references the similarities between the ever expanding human mind and a computer’s finite hard drive and its ability to retrieve random and corrupt data.”
Oh Astro Live:
11/06 Normal, IL University Galleries
11/27 Normal, IL KRH
01/22 Joliet, IL Laura A. Sprague Gallery
Yea Big + Kid Static:
10/18 Jamaica Plain, MA The Milky Way
10/19 Brooklyn, NY Sound Fix (Fanatic CMJ Showcase)
10/21 Chicago, IL The Note
10/26 Kankakee, IL Myrtle House
10/31 Bloomington, IN Uncle Festers
11/09 Chicago, IL Darkroom
11/16 Chicago, IL Kinetic Playground
Champions of Wonder Tracklisting:
Release Date: November 6, 2007
01. Snow Queen (MP3)
02. Hello Fuji Boy (MP3)
03. Lucy Sees the Moon
04. Candy Sun Smiles
05. Empty Air
07. Journey to the Center
08. Itch Box
09. Robot Love I Love You
10. Quiet Mouth
11. Pet Apples
Yea Big + Kid Static Tracklisting:
Release Date: October 23, 2007
01. The Screaming Starts At Sundown
02. We’ve Built A Time Machine That Runs On Beats. We Shall Only Use It For Good.
03. Static Leads The Coup
04. Transmission Ended
05. Joining Forces
06. Speak The Facts
07. Low Budget Battle Scene
08. The Basement / Enfant Terrible
09. On The Blink
10. Repairs Are Needed
11. Duck, Mother Fuckers! (MP3)
12. Revel In The Aftermath
13. The Life Here
14. Things Have To Change, Pete
15. Why The Fuck Does This Keep Happening
16. Back Into The Sleeve
Perpetual Memory Loss Tracklisting:
Stream The Album HERE
Release Date: October 23, 2007
01. The Camera Track (MP3)
02. Music in the Round
03. Conversation Hearts
04. Post-Corporate Fantasy
05. Amazing Fall
06. Welcome to Heaven
07. Brand Name Sunday
08. Library Music
09. Wandering Aimlessly
10. Have a Nice Trip
11. April and August Sixth
12. There is Always More
13. In Loving Memory
14. Snowday Plaything (MP3)
15. The Numbers Test
16. Uneventful Fall