Warming Up To Kutiman’s OFF GRID: YouTube Mashup Genius Swings Out With Free Jazz

Nikki Dodds & Kutiman

“No One In This World”, with UK Vocalist Nikki Dodds

I first ranted about Kutiman back in 2009 on DissociatedPress.com, and we touched on his previous collections – “Thru You” and “Thru You Too” here on Innoculous. If you’ve listened to his stuff before, you know how he takes random musical YouTube videos – from instructional/tutorial clips to solo clips of people noodling on their instrument or singing a cappella – and weaves them into amazing new musical compositions. To me, what he does is magical. As I’ve said before, I like to hold on to my secret belief that if you could hear all the music being played around the world at the same time, it would probably make a magical song, a song that keeps the world from tearing itself apart. Kutiman’s mashups are masterful enough that they sound like little slices of that idea. Here’s one of my favorites from “Thru You Too”, in which he builds a haunting, jazzy atmosphere around the simple vocalisations of UK singer Nicola Dodds (more on Nikki Dodds at the very end).

In contrast with his previous highly-accessible and hip releases, Kutiman’s latest – OFF GRID – is a sprawling, thirty-eight minute modal/psychedelic free jazz jam. If you’re into international sounds and very free jazz, you’ll probably enjoy it. While it might seem like – given the “free” aspect – an easy thing to do, mashing up free jazz and creating a coherent new piece is probably harder than working with straight-up beats and sounds. But Kutiman pulls it off, sliding into things with a five minute Indian/Mideast sounding jam that dissolves into a bit of chaos at the end, to segue into nine other pieces that meander around the psychedelic/free jazz spectrum.

Before You Check Out OFF GRID

We’ll include it further below, but if you haven’t checked his earlier, more accessible stuff, you might want to give them a spin first.

The Mother of All Funk Chords

This was Kutiman’s first big “hit”. As they say on Reddit, “OP delivers”. Does what it says, takes funky dudes from all over the world who’ve never met, and makes them jam together on the mother of all funk chords.

My Favorite Color

This one’s a good example of how disparate the elements of his mashups can be, and still create something musical. For real. Check out how the rhythm track is set up by the old lady on the organ, and how the plaintive vocal is just someone alone in their room somewhere.

Mix Tel Aviv

Quite a bit slicker, this is Kutiman’s contribution to British Council and The Space’s project Mix the City.

Mix Jerusalem

These break the rule; they’re not YouTube clips. Kutiman actually filmed people around Jerusalem. Some cool stuff, especially that instrument made from PVC pipes and ping pong paddles 😉

Thru Tokyo

Same with this one, it’s video shot by Kutiman around Tokyo, and edited together later. It was for a project for PBS Digital Studios

Okay, Here’s OFF GRID

But we warned you, it’s pretty goddamn jazz. You can check out the sources by clicking all those annotations:

Footnote: Why Isn’t Nikki Dodds Famous?

The vocalist in that first clip at the top (No One In This World) is UK “singer/try-hard piano player” Nikki Dodds. She only has a few short clips on her YouTube page, and they’re all a little rough in ways, but it’s never her voice or manner that’s the weak spot. We think she’s probably more talented and in possession of as much “It” as someone like Lana Del Rey. SOMEBODY DISCOVER HER! Check out her strangely confident awkwardness in “Glassy Ocean”:

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