“That’s ‘Cause Everything Is Black” – Lupe Fiasco

Posted on January 17th, 2012

Filed under: General,Reviews — Karl Olson @ 6:17 pm

So, assuming I can come up with a simple way of doing so, I am going to join in the big SOPA/PIPA/OPEN Protest with Reddit, Wikipedia, WordPress and everyone else on the internet.

This isn’t a political statement either (Baha’is are banned from participating in partisan politics after all,) it’s a simple application of the categorical imperative. If you can ban one type of speech from the internet because it threatens the livelihood or comfort of one group that is otherwise fully capable of protecting themselves, there is no philosophical reason that shouldn’t be applicable in any similar instance, and that seems intrinsically broken. The lack of due process in these laws only makes that worse as it’d be up to the accused to prove their innocence rather than the accuser to prove the guilt of the accused. The possibility for abuse seems close to limitless, and the odd splits between foreign and national websites seems entirely ignorant of how websites are hosted in the modern world. Thus, regardless of any ideology beyond reason and functionality, these seem like objectively negative and ill-conceived laws.

I should mention I say all of this in spite of the fact that people pirate my music constantly (and when no money changes hands, I don’t care much because I doubt I really lost a sale in that instance,) including for-profit Russian pay download sites that sell my music without paying me royalties. I would benefit in that one instance, even as an independent artist, from SOPA/PIPA/OPEN passing. Justice would be served if that site was shut down, and/or they were ordered to turn over any proceeds from selling music without my permission.

Unfortunately, much of the rest of the internet would likely be so paranoid about linking to any content without explicit permission it’d grind to a halt. Getting my name out to people is difficult if the sites I post content to have to dramatically alter their operations to comply with these laws. Without a reliable way to promote myself across the internet, my ability to find my niche audience is dramatically injured.

Oh, and I know all the legislation acts in different ways, and there might even be enough exemptions that someone like me wouldn’t be affected in regards to my outward business. Alas, none of these laws can ever truly stop those who want to pirate media or counterfeit brand names, or rather, for them do so effectively might damage free speech in most instances. It’s a digital, democratized society, and we all have computers on our desk whose potential is effectively infinite in regards to creation and distribution, or at the very least, the only limit is the person behind the keyboard. It’s only going to be more intense as 3D printing gets cheaper and more precise. Want that that designer bracelet? Print it. Shoot, innovate on the existing design to make it more personal, cooler, better fitting and generally more useful. You can’t tell me that doesn’t sound radical yet exciting, and this is a world we are about to enter. Maybe there is even a market for selling branded designs for home recreation, but if there isn’t, that doesn’t mean the technology should be banned nor should it be ham-stringed by some kind of DRM-system that gets in the way of honest use.

To put it another way, I know the idea that I can sell music and perhaps one day even merchandise is a bit dated as we near an era of home replicators. However, I would never risk free expression on the off chance I make a buck off of it, and I certainly wouldn’t want such a thing to be law. Free expression is why I can write music, write blog posts, have interesting things to read online and so on.

Anyway, check in on Thursday for a decidedly fluffier and less weighty blog post.

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Posted on January 12th, 2012

Filed under: Reviews — Karl Olson @ 10:00 pm

At the end of the last anime season, I genuinely pondered what I’d be watching next. None the titles really seemed to jump out at until I happened upon a forum thread about Ano Natsu De Matteru. Apparently, it’s from the same person who created the Onegai series, and that fact couldn’t be more obvious. The premise is virtually identical – a buxom, red-haired, alien girl falls right into the middle of a high school boy’s previous droll, pastoral life, much to the dismay of the boy’s childhood friend who happened to have romantic feelings for him.

There are some key differences: in Ano Natsu the high school boy’s parents are dead instead of his sister, the uncontrolled decent of the spaceship’s arrival on Earth kills the high school boy in the opening minute of the show, and now only the alien girl’s kiss can keep him alive. Additionally, the alien girl is only an upperclassman this time, not his school teacher, and it seems that the childhood friend is let in on the alien girl’s secret identity from the start. Those little changes amongst others may have a dramatic impact on the flow of the show, even if many of the other characters in Ano Natsu are near facsimiles of the characters in Onegai Teacher.

That said, while seeing an author who had previously breathed new life into the shonen romantic comedy genre simply phone it in should’ve left me bored, it’s actually really worked so far. The few bread crumbs that are different are so radically different that I genuinely wonder where they might lead. It doesn’t feel setup to reach the same finale either, at least in any obvious sense.

Besides, the series had sold me in it’s first minute before they killed the lead. Much like Onegai Teacher, Ano Natsu’s first episode opens with a monologue from the male lead, and those monologues sold me then and now. It was so simple, so eloquent and clear that from those words that the creative staff have set the show up for a very poignant yet sweet journey. Well, with any luck they should’ve; Onegai Teacher maybe a timeless anime, but Onegai Twins was slightly mediocre. Perhaps that risk makes it compelling as well – it’s a romantic comedy fused with NASCAR.

Anyway, I’m quite glad it’s been pre-licensed by Sentai Filmworks – I’ll probably be catching it on DVD or Blu Ray by the time CrunchyRoll finishes streaming it.

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Pop n’ Rap

Posted on November 28th, 2011

Filed under: Music News,Reviews,Videos — Karl Olson @ 3:00 am

More Soda.

The Mixtape:
Ultraklystron – Storyboard [The Animatic Mixtape]

Also on Bandcamp and coming soon to Google Music.


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A Refreshing Change of Pace

Posted on November 17th, 2011

Filed under: Music News,Reviews — Karl Olson @ 2:35 am

Don’t mind me, I’m just enjoying some flavorful sodas. Certainly no song leaks in the background of these soda reviews:

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Odd Frontalot Would Go Kathartic This Album

Posted on October 5th, 2011

Filed under: Reviews — Karl Olson @ 7:59 pm

So with that seemingly gratuitous OFWGKTA reference out of the way, some thoughts on the Godfather of Nerdcore’s most recent outing.

As I listen to Solved, I think the best way to think of it is that Solved doesn’t have a ton of immediate gratification. It’s consistent and no question the cleanest production on a Front album to date for the most part, but it’s also not as out of the gate punchy as previous releases. This is in part because the theme songs aren’t quite as snarky as some of his previous releases (barring perhaps the perfectly honed “Nerd vs. Jock” and the cosplayer-watching to self-commentary anthem “Victorian Space Slut”,) and in general it’s a little more sedate. The pace is literally less frenetic most of the time, and it doesn’t substitute in crazier production choices to make up the gap.

In a sense, it’s a victory lap record, released ten years after the first rumblings of Nerdcore as genre started to come together, but it’s one coming off two (Final Boss and Zero Day) albums that had a surprising immediacy and intensity in retrospect, and that certainly had songs that were no question natural singles and plenty of them. In a sense, that’s the concept of the record – everything is solved, no problems, no “the man is ruining your life/you are the man ruining some one’s life” dark notes – but part of what I think some people came to Front for were the more charged moments. The jabs at power and privilege were ultimately a much defining characteristic of Front than I think anyone was conscious of, and even if it’d be weird to write like that when you have the band with the 4th biggest rock song of the past decade guesting on your record, it’s part of people’s perception I think, and perhaps where some find issue with the album. There is a bit of that flavor in the skits, but it’s much inwardly focused. It’s funny because really, he could make that conflict and self-deprecation the center piece of a song or album these days and people would love it. Well, maybe that’d be too far in the other direction.

That said though, while it’s a different, relatively happier Frontalot, it’s not a bad Frontalot, and perhaps better than if he had tried to keep up doing songs about voter fraud and protesting without feeling it or coaching it in a more themed/comedic song about a military computer taking over. Even if the album doesn’t have much of that kind of punch, it’s still a really fun, enjoyable LP that gets better with every listen, and the production is just stellar the more I think about it. At a listen it’s not an obvious album, but it’s better with each spin. You should give it a listen or three, if not a purchase. You may not find the Front you expected, but you’ll find something great nonetheless.

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Nerdcore Reload

Posted on February 8th, 2011

Filed under: Reviews — Karl Olson @ 7:07 pm

So, after MONTHS of scene internal hype, Nerdcore Now Volume 1 (edit: try their front page too,) the spiritual successor to old RhymeTorrents compilation series, has dropped with a couple of reviews and articles, all pretty positive on the compilation. Of course, it’s all nerd media staples giving it ink, some of which liked my contribution, and others which weren’t so hot on me.

However, since one of the many hats I wear is critic, I figure I’ll do a sentence or two on each of the contributions… after the break.


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Nerdcore For Life: (Hopefully) Final Redux

Posted on September 7th, 2010

Filed under: General,Music News,Reviews — Karl Olson @ 11:08 pm

So, my belated trip to Seattle yielded many things (including a very expensive power supply I’d like to get off my hands as I have no use for it,) but perhaps most interestingly it yielded the final DVD version of Nerdcore For Life, the documentary I was in many years ago. Now, I’d seen the film before both at STIFF2008 and PAX2008, but this was my first time seeing the final version, and I have to say, it’s a lot snappier. It’s more of a genre primer and capsule of the scene rather than capsules of the various artists, and result seems much more brisk and lively, or at least it feels that way in the first few minutes.

Alas, I still get to be the first artist to drag the film to a halt with my artist spotlight section, where I look fatter, nerdier and younger than I do now. As always, I don’t belong on TV, though really, either the documentary got a lot of spit and polish on it, or I forgot a lot of little bits that even made my section of the film somewhat faster feeling (this is a very good thing.) The other artists sections also feel a lot faster paced as well. I think some of that is that there is footage shot even after the docs originally did the festival circuit now in the film, allowing for some faster cuts and more visual info to complement the narrative. The narrative also feels, well more complete. It feels like there is a lot more performance footage in it, especially for MC Frontalot, and even without an explicit interview of him in the film, it feels like he is, as is proper, fully depicted as the godfather of the genre now. Maybe the chance to go back and tweak the film after letting that era of nerdcore fall into the background was a good thing. Oddly enough, just as all of us in the film have honed our skills and flows, some how the film has become more sharp yet smooth as well. It’s a much, much better film than what was screened at STIFF and PAX, and I also have to say, I can’t help but smile whenever I see Nursehella and I on the screen at the same time in the documentary. I will show this film to our future children.

Still, watching this film for what I would like to be the last time for a very long while, I can’t help but feel as though I’m looking back on a past life. There was this bizarre time when I was a young otaku rapper/producer, and I had suddenly had many friends and acquaintances who were on a similar track. My recent trip to this year’s PAX reminded me that I clearly still have all those friends (well, at the very least, they don’t mind humoring me,) but yet, the era where I was really on the same path as them might as well be as distant as elementary school. while I’m sure the life I’m leading now (computer science student) will ultimately feel similarly distant to me once I graduate and work for a few years, Nerdcore For Life (and to a lesser extent Nerdcore Rising,) are the only external documentation of my life, and it only feels weirder to look back on the farther away I get from it. Don’t get me wrong, NC4L is a great documentary, and you should atleast NetFlix if you’re the kind of person who reads my blog and you’ve not seen it already. For everyone who still does it and love it, you should watch it and remember your roots. For everyone who wants to do it, you should watch it and know who built the bridge you now stand upon.

For people like me, who can’t even sell an mp3 when it’s half off, well, your time is better spent studying probably. Or producing for other people. I try to do both. Except for rewatching the right bits. 😉

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Rolling Doubles for Double Damage

Posted on August 22nd, 2008

Filed under: Reviews — Karl Olson @ 3:38 am

So, Beefy finally pushed Rolling Doubles out the door. Many people on the internet (read: other nerdcore rappers) seem displeased with his showing. So, as someone who has written a hundredish reviews on the interwebs, and who has been writing reviews since 8th grade for the school newspapers, I figured I’d give it a spin my critical ears, and after purchasing it off amazon and then fixing the flash mounting on my eee, I listened and wrote the following.

Beefy leads off with some guitar heavy stuff – a break with most of his prior work, and with a lot of nerdcore in general. However, “Olly Olly Oxen Free” and “You Can Call Me Beef” certainly have the swagger that I’ve come to expect from Mr. Moore. “Tilt” is a beautiful example of the progression Beefy’s shown as an artist – the lyrics are coded with all sorts of smart alek plays on words and references, but the flows show both greater tightness and some nice nods to his influences and favs as well. His penchant for smart alek breakdowns mid song works to wonderful effect in “Table Top,” while the new mix of “Play With Me” could get college radio traction with a little promotion. Also on the college radio tip, “Ball Pit” manages to bring the sentimentality and instrumentation of acts like The Postal Service into Nerdcore, and the result’s great and almost moving with it’s nostalgic flavor.

Beefy speeds things back up with “Disconnect” where he’s arguably outshined by the guest MCs, but it’s still a catchy track, and he easily delivers some of the biggest laughs of the album on this track. Besides, everyone can relate to such a situation. Speaking of relatable content, it really takes a musician to fully appreciate “Last Minute Gig” but as someone who has basically lived it, it’s funny if not a bit of a bittersweet reminder of why I wanted to get out of music. “Clueless” manages to take another dig at his detractors while managing to serve as a comedy skit and rap interlude. Demonstrating some of his rarely displayed double speed flow and coming with some truly caustic albeit not particular controversial slams on mainstream rap, “Turn Your Radio Off” is some of the rawest Beef since “Diss Missed.”

Back on the accessibility point, “Minimum Wage Slave,” is definitely something the average joe can get, but it’s also the most repetitive track on the disc, though the hook ends up with a surprisingly Stone Temple Pilots-flavor thanks to Shael Riley. “Dork Date” is fun, and an almost too accurate when it comes to the world of dork dating. Beefy closes out the main disc with his last moment of braggadocio with “1337ology” and “Story Time,” where Beefy manages to deliver, well, straight-up rap. It’s rap with the same personal flavor that put Eminem on the top of Billboard, and it’s something almost entirely absent in Nerdcore. If anything, it’s almost a taunt to have this at the end of the album, because almost suggests that the next album could be darker and heavier if he chose to go there, and I personally think that’d be interesting to see.

The CD is filled out with a couple remixes – a pretty cool rock version of “Table Top” by tanner4105, and radio ready and outright sick awesome remix of “Play With Me” by DJ John. Good stuff, and certainly welcome.

In conclusion, it’s not the best showing in the genre (MC Frontalot will have that secured with his upcoming album Final Boss – just heads up on that,) but it’s much better than people want to give him credit for. It brings the flavor that people expect from Beefy – comedy, ego and modesty, while uncovering a much more personal and human side as well. It certainly puts him at the head of the class when it comes to second-gen nerdcore artists, and really, it puts him in the same league as the first gen artists. The disc reaffirms why he gigs with people like Optimus, Front and YT and why producers like Tanner, DJ John and Baddd Spellah work with him: he delivers at that level, and he puts in the work to make sure that shows on the album, regardless of the time it takes and regardless of what his detractors would like to claim.

tl;dr: Beefy’s new CD is 8.5/10 minimum, this is a fact.

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Win/Fail #1: g0S/McMocha

Posted on November 18th, 2007

Filed under: Music News,Pictures,Reviews — Karl Olson @ 4:56 pm

Win: gOS. Definitely the most idiot proof and quick booting Linux I’ve played with, and it also looks quite good. Now more than ever, I wish their was Reason for Linux. I mean, Linux at least has drivers for my pro-grade sound card, unlike Vista.

Fail: McDonald’s Cafe Mocha. Too much chocolate (and the wrong kind of chocolate at that,) and not nearly enough coffee. Plus, the cost wasn’t particularly lower than the Starbucks down the street, so it’s not even a decent value buy. In fact, the Mochas from the nearby Costco are vastly superior, and they are only a buck.

Oh, and this:
promotional image for the new album due out on November 27th

So far it’s on schedule.

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New Gear / Everything Old is New Again

Posted on May 18th, 2007

Filed under: Music News,Reviews — Karl Olson @ 12:55 am

So, my old MidiStudio midi controller has been giving me grief lately, which is a bit of an accomplishment considering it has never worked perfectly – the pitch bend had an issue with returning to 0 from the first time I bought it. I tolerated that problem because I rarely had cause to use the pitch bend, and when I did, I’d just program it in the sequence itself because it was typically sounded better anyway. However, as it’s midi connection began to fail, I realized that the controller was going to need to be replaced (well, I suppose it could be fixed, but that’s easier said than done.)
new keyboard
Now, I was really aiming for just getting an MAudio Keystation 49 – very much like my old keyboard, if not even a bit more minimal barring the convient USB interface. Alas, the only one Guitar Center had in stock was a lemon, something I didn’t discover until after buying it. So I went back, and sucked up the fact I was just going to have to get an MAudio Oxygen 49 – a keyboard that is a lot more feature rich than I was really aiming for (I would have picked up the Korg controller instead if its keys were hinged right, but they aren’t – molded plastic hinges are trouble waiting to happen.) However, it plays really nicely – the action is way better than on the old controller – and the extra features are a bit handy, or at least fun to goof around with.
new mic stand
While I was at it, I picked up a new mic stand that fits my studio a lot better (the old one goes to a certain Canadian Nerdcore Diva.) No more knocking the mic stand over and taking out half my books and figures with it.

Meanwhile, during my journeys today, I also happened upon a new beverage… or did I?


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