Music

Body For Karate (MP3 / video)

I suppose I have to open with the disclaimer here. Until recently, I was an employee at the Music Resource Center, a non-profit recording studio for kids in Virginia. While there, I worked with many fledgling musicians and attempted to teach them the proverbial ropes (insofar as I knew my way around them myself, which is still a work in progress). That's where I first met Colin Steers, the lanky self-professed dork currently featured as a contestant on the second season of Bravo's reality TV/game show/fashion expo Make Me a Supermodel, which premiered Wednesday at 10pm.

In high school, Colin played bass in the wonderfully spastic pop quartet Body For Karate, seen here tying him to the train tracks. Up in front was Ross Bollinger, a prodigious young songwriter who spat out hectic chirps without the slightest hesitation and pumped his ukulele through a giant tie-dyed amplifier. Together, they cooked up a slew of riffs so catchy that it didn't really matter that an electric uke was a bizarre way to go about executing them.

Even that wasn't their most oddball tactic, though -- at one awesomely disastrous performance, half the power infrastructure fizzled mid-song, taking out everything but the tie-dyed amp. Without missing a beat, Ross pulled out his Gameboy, plugged it in, and dove into a game of Tetris while the drummer jammed along with the 8-bit theme, buying us some extra time to figure out what had gone wrong. These days, he's more inclined toward using a bright yellow $20 toy guitar for his "gigs" with the Dead River Company, a Brooklyn-based musical flash-mob that runs in and out of subway cars and parties playing quirky folk without really giving a damn whether you want to hear it, but at least now we know the weirdness quotient is stable. (You know, just in case the pictures don't already make that clear.)

All along, B4K entertained an unhealthy fascination with robots, resulting in numerous songs ending in "-tron." Foremost among these is "Uktron 3000 (4000)," which features some of Colin's most spirited backup singing and some neat half-synthetic drum parts but is still driven primarily by an astonishingly addictive keyboard part. After the first couple EPs, however, scheduling problems kept the band from meeting up at the studio, so "Parry Thrust Thrust Parry" eventually turned into a bedroom recording project, much to the dismay of the staff. It's distressingly lo-fi, but probably their most mature work in nearly every other respect.

I'm glad Colin's appearance on national TV gives me cause to post his old band's music here; when they were at their peak, I was just starting my career moonlighting as a music writer (also still a work in progress) and have always thought the songs deserved a broader audience than I was able to give them at the time. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for him while watching the show over the next couple months, but if there's any sort of talent portion of the program a la the more straightforward beauty pageants, it's all over.

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"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
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-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

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Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

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Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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