Thursday, March 25, 2010

Okapi & Aldo Kapi's Orchestra

Love Him (02.2010, Illegal Art)

For: Kalikak Family, Faust, The Caretaker

Byline:According to an intricately crafted backstory, Italian turntablist Okapi’s latest album is made up of hundreds of samples lifted from the life-work of Kyrgyz composer Aldo Kapi. But that is one big lie. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

(Read the full review at

While Aldo Kapi may be fake, Okapi is the real deal. While he doesn’t have the pre-recorded oeuvre of a Kyrgyz composer to plunder, he does the sum of the recorded 20th century to freely sample from. Okapi extracts moments of sweeping orchestral swells and passages to underpin his avant-garde sample-based compositions. The recurrence of these snippets of classical music is one of the few constants in Okapi’s shifting-sand soundscapes, a checkpoint to catch the listener up after his most scatter-shot noise collages. When confronting his subject head-on Okapi emerges with flashes of lucidity: bowed strings over a frantic break-beat or plucked violins and horns put through a blender. At its most abstract, however, Love Him turns into somewhat of a gimmick, a contest of Okapi against himself to see how many anachronous and forgotten genres he can cram into a 4-minute song. Balkan punk, 20’s commercial jingles, homemade sound effects, kitsch vocal samples, sweeping ballroom pieces, and 8-bit glitch breaks all compete for top-billing during their brief moment of arrival before they depart back into the ether.

Love Him, for all of its overreaching aims and fraudulent claims, still has songs, real songs that are tightly structured and incredibly enjoyable experiments. “Ti Chiamero ’10” is one of those songs. Starting with a glitchy microhouse beat that broods under a sea of squiggly pitch-shifted horn-blasts and a recurring piano-line, sort of like an absurdist Pantha Du Prince, a gypsy violin sweeps in, stopping the piece dead in it tracks with a swirling air of Arabian Nights sensuality. For all of the coherency of tracks like “Ti Chiamero” there is an album full of tracks like “The Next!” that are simply thrilling genre mash-ups for the sake of thrilling genre mash-ups. “The Next!” starts with a wound-down orchestral swell that breaks into a post-industrial rave up. The title track “Love Him” is another song-song that imbeds itself deep in your subconscious. Swelling strings, electronic blips and bloops, and skittering electronics swirl and build into a teetering crescendo before an auditory cue pops the tension and the sound drops out only to slowly build back up again.

In many ways Love Him retains this “false summit” approach album-wide, building giant monuments to melody and rhythm only to dash them to pieces and run off with some wild hair of a new musical idea. Few musicians could withstand this haphazard race from genre to genre without relegating them to the “sound collage artist” dungeon. Okapi, on the other hand, engages his material enough to allow his pillaged pieces to make definite musical statements before being bulldozed beneath a million voices clamoring to be heard. Okapi also has a strong sense of when to let songs be songs, and when to let his proclivities for madcap sound effects and avante-turntabilism reign supreme.

Ryan H.


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