"Hey D ... I just got the new Dr. Octagon record!" It seemed only appropriate to call up ex-Pittsburgh dude Invizzible D in Seattle, who introduced me to the first record by this Kool Keith alter ego in between crashing Oakland house parties and pissing off my roommates.
"Yeah, well, I just saw Kool Keith live. Shit was weak." As he described the basically karaoke performance, a nagging suspicion crept into my mind.
"Was it, you know, actually him?"
"I sure hope not."
It's said Kool Keith was on acid when he composed 1996's Dr. Octagonecologist. I'm pretty sure Invizzible D was on Dr. Octagon when he (mistakenly) accused one of our collegiate hosts of fondling a dog's vagina. (That was an entirely different guy ... you know who you are.) That's just what happens when you enter Keith's once-institutionalized world.
On The Return of Dr. Octagon, his scatological genius is back, and more paranoid ("Aliens") and environmentally friendly ("Trees") than ever. The "gas-passing dinosaurs" of the first album have been replaced with the spaghetti-Western sounds of "A Gorilla Driving a Pick-Up Truck," but skits in which the good doctor treats a patient with a turtle in her uterus will be familiar ground to fans of the debut. Instead of Dan "The Automator" Nakamura producing, there's the Berlin-based team One Watt Sun, taking the music up a notch into something insanely good, best described as a mix of Kraftwerk and P-Funk ... or "kraut-hop."
In the decade that's passed between the two Dr. Octagon discs, Keith's traded some of his Rabelaisian celebration of bodily functions for a more sinister, Burroughsian dystopic vision ... in 2006, Dr. Octagon sounds more like Burroughs' Dr. Benway. This skit could have been lifted entire from Naked Lunch:
"You have reached the matrix service of chemical banking insurance company policies. Our operators are masturbating right now, but your call has been placed in a bucket of stomach fluid, and will be attended by a double-talking robot approximately 70,000 years from now. Please note that your personality will be monitored to improve our ability to ruin your life. Please vomit in a cup, if you do not want this to occur."
That's the first 24 seconds. Buckle up.
Also sharing in some of P-Funk's paranoid space-funk legacy, DJ Spinna's new release, Intergalactic Soul, is definitely looking to hit it "on the one" beyond the stars. Since his rap group Jigmastas in the late '90s, Spinna's been straddling a wide range of genres, including producing hip hop and house beats for just about everybody ... lately, the Platinum Pied Pipers, Goapele and Les Nubian.
On Intergalactic Soul, Spinna mainly mans the MPC 3000 and vintage synths, blending funk and hip hop with electronic and trance textures. Selan Lerner's a frequent presence on the keys, and the rotating cast of vocalists and emcees includes Alphonso Greer and The Free Radikalz. A distinctive theme that emerges is Spinna's heavily swung main pulse, with extremely square secondary beats behind. It doesn't quite line up the way your brain (or body) expects, though when Stephanie McKay takes the vocals on "Peace and Quiet," it's nothing but curves.
Intergalactic Soul isn't the biggest sound around, and with songs like "We Can Change This World," and "Show Us How To Fly," it's not the heaviest subject matter. But, as Phonte raps on the title track, it's dance-floor-worthy for stardusted parties "from the ghettos of Mars to the slums of Uranus." Perhaps even for us here on Earth.