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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Kid Koala spins off a perplexing tale

March 31, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

Whenever things got awkward during DJ Kid Koala's multimedia presentation promoting his first graphic novel on Saturday at the Knitting Factory, the Vancouver-born turntablist simply faced the audience and deadpanned, "It's a book release," as if he were as momentarily nonplused as everyone else.

During the 80-minute set, the first of two that night, the geeky-yet-personable Kid (born Eric San) explained that his black-and-white romantic tragedy "Nufonia Must Fall" was "about a robot trying to write love songs, by a DJ trying to play piano." The robot falls for a human woman, creating among other things a metaphor for the uneasy potential of new romance, which was deliberately captured by the program's first-date trappings, complete with candlelit tables and an intimacy-building game of bingo. It was also inadvertently reflected in the random pacing.

Like any romantic hopeful, Koala started by telling the audience something about himself, specifically his lifelong obsession with "scratching." In a funny opening segment, he demonstrated his technique on such unexpected equipment as an old Victrola. Then he brought out a New York-based pal with another appropriately cuddly name, DJ P-Love, to help him re-create music from the "Nufonia" soundtrack on turntables and keyboards during a slide show featuring artwork from the book.

The DJs were fluid and playful, cutting up '80s pop and hip-hop along with such hoary bits as "Moon River." A final "battle" using the Michael Jackson-Paul McCartney hit "The Girl Is Mine" goofily rehashed an old romantic rivalry between the two friends. "It's a book release," Koala intoned yet again. Well, at least we were warned.

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