Friday, March 9, 2012

Go Mad With Madtoons

Here's a fun, random little 45 from 2000, 2001. It involves the Anticon guys (back when the Anticon line-up was interesting), so there's a lot of about this record online. But most of the information out there is wrong, not least for the fact that a lot the info provided is a goof. So let's sort this out... Ostensibly, this is a split 7" by Madtoons Beat Orchestra on side A and Black Light District on side B.

The Madtoons Beat Orchestra is pretty much just one guy: a DJ named Madtoons; and his song, "So Long, Mike Part 1" features Odd Nosdam and Why?. Or you could say they comprise the "orchestra." It breaks down pretty straight-forwardly to beats by Nosdam, vocals by Why? and cuts by Madtoons. Like you'd expect from Odd, the track is an unusual mash-up of disparate samples, which somehow manage to blend into something chunky but coherent. Imagine if Steinski were commisioned to produce a B-side for Al Bowlly in the 1920's and you're close.

Why?, too, is at his pre-indie rock best, subverting hip-hop's formulaic imagery to the suburban mundane. He alternates between singing about having "two hundred and fifty channels, and I still watch the weather" in a pitched-down voice, and rapping in a crazy foreign accent about how he'll romance us, "you can bet our jet will be the best; and if Finland's on your mind, then to Finland we will fly. Breakfast in Helsinki, lunch in gay Paris; We'll bike the Bering Strait and rowboat the Galilee."

It's all more than a bit silly. They're playing characters, dropping in a bevy of vintage vocal soundbites and even pausing for an Egyptian Lover breakdown. But the music is robust enough to keep things from descending into the realm of a throwaway gag song.

The self-titled B-side by Black Light District is a far more down-to-Earth hip-hop track. It plays less like a showcase for Nosdam's massive sample collection, with a beat by producer Da Proof that stays pretty consistent. There are still a lot of compelling change-ups; it's just not as "all over the place" as the wacky A-side. And the MC, Crest, isn't presenting as a cast of eclectic people from different eras, he's just flowing over a pretty cool, jazzy beat. They're pretty much casual, "not saying much of anything" type of freestyle bars that feel more like an excuse to simply bide the time until their DJ, Quack, gets busy over Proof's smooth breaks.

Unless it's all just another gag... because Crest sounds suspiciously like Why?... And in fact, it's really the same three guys performing on both sides of the record! It's actually impressive how well they pull it off. I could really see people saying, "I can't stand those Anticon guys, but Black Light District on the B-side are real cool."

According to discogs (I'm not really sure, but I'll take their word for it), this was limited to 500 copies. But a dozen years later, this still isn't hard to find at all, at least online. It comes in a cool, picture cover as you see, and also includes three(!) inserts, replete with real and fake bios (I'm assuming the e-mail address for Richard Famous, Black Light District's supposed manager, is as fake as the wacky album covers they show as "also available"), lyrics and a whole, nonsensical back-story about how Madtoons Beat Orchestra formed in the 1940's. Both songs have vocals, but this is really one for the beat junkies... or those just looking for something off the wall.

As for whatever happened to DJ Madtoons? I'm pretty this is his myspace here, which has some newer music on it. But he seems to be more focused on the visual arts. For example, see what you can make of this site of his.

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