Thursday, June 29, 2006

the return of dr octagon

i couldn't resist. after i saw the video for "aliens", the first single from the return of dr octagon, i knew i wouldn't be able to wait long before grabbing the record. though he's been horribly inconsistent, kool keith is still probably my favorite mc of all time, so after a string of missteps in the past few years, i've been waiting for him to do something really innovative again. this is it.

the original dr octagon record, dr octagonecologyst, was a collaboration between keith, dan the automator, and dj qbert, three immensely talented people. dan the automator and qbert are not involved with the return. in their place is a berlin-based production trio called one watt sun. i'd never heard of these cats (and tragically, their website seems to be down today, two days after the release of the record that could launch them to stardom), but they manage to fill those shoes admirably.

sonically, this record doesn't sound anything like dr octagonecologyst, but after 8 years, i'd probably be disappointed if it did. the return is full of escher-esque left turns, where three lefts don't necessarily make a right. styles change dramatically not just from song to song, but from segment to segment. there are tracks that resemble stuff you've heard before in mainstream hip-hop, and then there are tracks like "a gorilla driving a pickup truck" where keith almost sounds like mike patton à la "RV" mumbling over drums and slide guitar. but the stylistic shifts are more subtle than you might get from mr bungle; they flow smoothly and subtly—if you weren't paying attention you might not even notice the bizarre tempo changes in the first single, "aliens", for one example.

for whatever reason, it seems like nobody makes hip-hop that's as structurally complex as the return of dr octagon, or if they do, it's invariably instrumental or turntablist stuff. most hip-hop with vocals hangs around a handful of loops that repeat with little variation. repetition is great—i use it plenty in my own music—but i've been hungering for years for hip-hop that was willing to be this adventurous. even kool keith, who's as lyrically daring as anyone, has never put out a record that was this structurally experimental. yes, this is probably the most experimental record that kool keith has ever put out.

the doctor is in.

[consumer alert: don't be fooled by the mediocre bootleg dr octagon ii. that record is not very good, and is not sanctioned by kool keith. the return of dr octagon comes in a digipak (at least mine did) with the cover art shown above, released by ocd international in the states.]

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