➟ Dokaka performs the Super Mario Castle theme

This is an oldie but a triple-A, gold-starred goodie all the same. It’s probably not fair to call Dokaka a beatboxer – he’s more a shrieking, humming genius – but that’s probably the only way to sell him outside of Japan. I was reminded of this video today while listening to his version of the Katamari Damacy theme song from the soundtrack album. He also appears alongside Rahzel and other more conventional vocal instrumentalists on Bjork’s Medulla album, which is notable for being almost completely composed of human voices. If you have the time, watch him do a Nirvana cover on a street corner while no one seems to care.
Anyway, enjoy the video. It’s impossible to watch this and not think him completely mad while you laugh.

Edit: Turns out my timing couldn’t have been better. A new 6-CD album, he calls it “The Dokaka Discography“, has just been released on his website. Only 100 copies are available, each one handmade and autographed. Just USD$30 including delivery. Half unreleased material, and most of his output since 1992 is included. There’s even the threat that this may be the last CD he’ll ever put out. It’s a wonder they haven’t been sold out yet (or perhaps I’m just mad), so hurry and order one now!


Looking forward to Heligoland

The last time I was excited about a Massive Attack album, it was 1998. The album was Mezzanine, which I vividly remember for its fluorescent orange disc, set against a black and white digipak case with what looked like close-up photography of a dung beetle. It was a good album, but also a departure from their established sound. By the time 100th Window came out five years later, I’d moved on.

Heligoland is their new album, and I’m interested in it mostly for nostalgic reasons. What struck me today was how, in the past, I would have known it was on the way for weeks ahead of the release date because interviews and articles would have been in all the magazines. And I would have known the day it was out because record stores in town like Tower and HMV had huge displays and posters up everywhere for big new releases. Granted, music was more of an obsession for me back then. I spent almost every dollar I had on CDs, and I spent hours each week going over the same racks in the same stores, waiting for something I hadn’t heard of to suddenly turn up and blow my mind. And of course I used to read magazines, and music stores were huge, multistoried places in 1998. Both business sectors have seen a bit of a decline since then.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had exactly two notices that Heligoland was coming. The first was an article that popped into my RSS feed reader a few weeks back, just one article out of the hundreds of feeds I follow, so maybe I’m following the wrong people, and one tweet from a friend today, which reminded me to look into it. All that information consumed daily, and music just isn’t on my radar anymore. Go into a store and chances are you’re not looking to buy the stuff being promoted on the big displays. I honestly don’t know who buys most of that, because the kids who love it are probably listening to it off YouTube for free.

The first time I heard that kids use YouTube as a sort of on-demand radio, I didn’t believe it. How could they possibly settle for such crap audio quality? Then I remembered all the articles I’d read over the years, each one more urgent and alarmist than the last, claiming that MP3 compression was going to ruin our ability to appreciate proper music. Last year it finally happened. Someone claimed to have evidence that young people prefer the imperfect sounds of digital music to uncompressed audio.

The state of pop music is part of the reason why I can’t keep up with news anymore. It’s too hard to browse those racks, too much chaff to separate from what I might want. If I subscribed to a general feed, that’s probably going to be another 50 headlines I’d have to scan each day, to find maybe one item of interest every couple of weeks. My tastes have obviously changed (narrowed), and I’m not likely to care about most of the things MTV or Pitchfork covers. I just want a site that will tell me, old man that I am, when a new Massive Attack or Tricky album is near.

Mosaic music festival 2009

The Esplanade’s annual music festival is back again, and although I’ve never been the sort to go down every day of the week that it’s on, we somehow ended up there two nights in a row over the past weekend. In keeping with my tradition of only seeing one paid act each year (Maceo Parker and Rachael Yamagata were the last two), we attended George Duke’s concert* on Friday, but sadly did not hear “I Love You More”, the song with the intro everybody knows from Daft Punk’s “Digital Love”. It’s a very strange song, with that funky electro opening riff tacked onto a bland early-80s sort of ballad.

The free performances are what I enjoy most, as they have the atmosphere of a real music festival, with people milling about and wandering from one performance to the next. On the first night, I managed to get some Qik video of a Taiwanese hip-hop collaboration between one MC Hot Dog and 3P. And then a couple more of a Malaysian group called Funk Mob, and Mike Stern & The Yellowjackets on Saturday. I also had my Panasonic LX3 handy for some HD video of the latter, and an “all-star jam” that followed their performance.

Videos embedded below (may not show in RSS):

HD videos on Flickr –


Qik videos from iPhone –

Coming back, and Blip.FM

If you’re reading this on the website and not through my RSS feed, you’ll notice a new widget above the main blog text, under the Flickr photos, for a new service I discovered this morning via Leo Laporte’s Twitter. The intention is not to make this look like a MySpace page, but it’s nice having someplace to show off all the things I’m doing online. Qik video, the new multi-author Haiku Log, and all that.

About a year ago, I split up my blog into this one and blast!, which is reserved for links to things I find, with little additional writing and no original content such as photos I’ve taken, movie reviews, or whatever. Of course, it’s exceedingly easy to post to a tumblelog like blast!, and the idea of being “productive” on a daily basis can be very gratifying. This main blog has only suffered as a result; consigned exclusively to “long form writing” and Matters of Great Import – I almost never felt inclined to start a post. I suppose I intimidated myself.

Well, hopefully that will soon be changing. I’ve equipped myself with the latest version (3.0) of Ecto, a sleek and awesome blogging tool for Mac OS X, and BlogPress for the iPhone. The intention is to post more frequently, and more freely, for my own benefit (I have terrible, terrible, clinically decaying memory, and looking back on any record of my life is usually a revelatory experience).

I also recently made the decision to open up some previously locked accounts to search engines and the public, out of a desire to see if I would get stalked, and feel my online privacy violated in the way that young people are becoming increasingly immune to. This should all tie together nicely and see mundane elements of my daily life filling this page, and my mutilated body in a gutter by the end of the year.

So what was that about a new widget up top? Ah yes.

As a music discovery and sharing service, Blip.FM goes places one-time web favorite Muxtape never even thought possible. Yes, you can put up handcrafted playlists of great music to share with your friends, but by taking on the best elements of Twitter and other social networks, it also means that the experience of listening to what your friends (and like-minded/like-tasted strangers) have discovered is virtually automatic. In other words, it’s a Push model.

Say I’ve just gotten up earlier in the morning than I have in weeks, maybe months – true story today – and upon seeing my bedroom all lit up with warm daylight, I think of the music video for The Roots’ Birthday Girl (starring Sasha Grey, but that’s another story) and want to hear it. I go to http://blip.fm and search for it. Blip finds an MP3 of the song somewhere online, I suspect blogs and free file hosting sites, and starts playing it. I write a short note and “blip” it, which is very much like “tweeting” something. Now, Birthday Girl starts appearing on the Home pages of all my “followers”, or contacts. What this creates is an infinite playlist of music I probably want to hear. The site identifies with people with similar tastes, which makes it easy to make new friends and replace the ones you’ve suddenly discovered a distaste for.

Blip also integrates with Twitter, Friendfeed, Tumblr, and a raft of other online presence apps and blog platforms, so you can push out instant-play links to all your contacts. I only hope they’ve sorted out the legal side of their business model and stick around longer than Muxtape did. There are links to buy the songs you’re hearing, and I’ve read something about them winning additional VC funding, so things look sorta positive.

My DJ name is Brandmaster Flash, a reference to this man, of course.