Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Offerings is a local show-listings paper that is on it's third issue. They also publish esoteric reviews, interview and the like... I've started writing a series called Toronto Discographies, shedding light on some of my favourite Toronto artists with deep catalogues. Offerings has been kind enough to publish the first one, in their latest edition. I'm going to post these things here as well, as they don't yet have a website going.

Offerings can be found in hipper record stores and alternative spots across the city. Do pick up a copy...


Louis Percival aka Onakabazien – known to Torontonians as the brain-trust behind the deceased Broken Tree Fort, auxiliary percussionist of No Dynamics, and collaborator to the author of this piece – has been crafting albums since before the millennium. Talking about, let alone quantifying his discography becomes a nebulous task when accounting for the unreleased mountain of material he has accumulated over the past decade. Unreleased albums & EP's, cassettes in editions of 10, remixes upon remixes, 7” singles that didn't quite make it to press. Next, multiply that foggy figure by two as for the past decade this man of two minds has divided his work between Hip Hop production (as Onakabazien), and deadly guitar murk through four track abuse (Broken Tree Fort / Louis Percival).

In this instalment we take a look at the Hip Hop oeuvre of the only man in Toronto whose twin aspirations are to get a beat to Ghostface, and release an album on In The Red.

That Young Shit: Needle and the Damage Done (2010)

Though The O has been beat-making since the late 90's, this 2010 release could be considered the first official release as it was the first to exceed a pressing of 10, was uploaded to the internet in album form as a free download and is probably his most widely heard recording. Rightly so, as this reworking of Neil Young's catalogue brandished enough wallop to convert this non-believer to a Young super-fan. As advertised, the album makes exclusive use of samples contained on Young-ordained releases (from Buffalo Springfield to Human Highway). The power of the album lies in the Onakabazien's empathy for Young's work, a secret logic emerges from the shadow of the legend's catalogue that maybe always existed but took The O to pull out – the Secret Knock. Considering that the fragments of songs like 'Makin' It' and 'Move Child' have existed for decades without having been pieced together in their reworked state becomes a strange sensation as you discover the elemental thump that they've now come to contain. No mere mash-up, this album represents an alternate reality to John Oswald's plundering – re-imagined with swing.


Power Of The Dollar (2010)

Second release in The O's Discipline Series (Young Shit being the first), a proposition to release 5 records each with a restriction defining their creation. The concept of Dollar was to create an album based on $10.00 worth of used LP's originally purchased for a DJ on a Dime appearance. The diversity on this collection of beats and meditations defines the album's success, and can only be attributed to the Onakabazien's sample-skewing facility (or a really good day at the used record store). Tying the whole album together are The O's hilariously conversational musings on poverty (a theme not commonly explored in Rap culture), strategically placed throughout. Humour actually becomes a running and effective theme throughout the album, the 'Early Morning Reflections' mixed with heavy audio-laffs like 'Tourrettes Shuffle' & 'Suicidal Thoughts' with it's endless repetition of the Yardbird's “When will it ennnnnd!” Ultimately what makes Dollar as compelling as it is are the jaw dropping and bizarre beats that seem it's stock and trade, 'Motivational Speakings', 'New Worlds Anthem' & 'Breakin' for Ends' forming a mid album trilogy of exhilaratingly fresh sample based music. The high-water mark.


Overview Tape: 1999 – 2011 (2011)

Perhaps the perfect introduction into The O's particular world, the Overview Tape compresses 12 years worth of hi-lites into an hour long mix containing samples from each of the previously mentioned releases. The combination of remixes and original beats is an engaging one, offering an official release for some pretty astounding remix work that has gone unheard for too long. The remixes offer up not only some ingenious and mind melting pairings (Outkast over Kinks loops!?, Mos Def politically pontificating over This Heat!? ODB trash talking over the Slits!?), but insight into the evolution of the DJ's technique. Similiarly the beats expose a compelling trajectory over the decade, from the old school perversion of 'Sonic Mayfields' (SY over breakbeats), to the RZA tutelage of 'Shit for Dap', arriving at the Dilla-esque thwack of Young Shit's 'Baby'. A fascinating primer, and in all likely hood a glimpse into the voracious musical appetite of it's creator, touching down on sample sources as diverse as raving Psych, 50's kitsch, Sun Ra celestiality & lush soul.


Young Shit II: Last Trip To Tulsa (2011)

The companion piece to the original Young Shit album, once again exclusively reaching into Neil's deep cuts for source material. Tulsa most resembles a producer hosted rap album in it's commitment to remixes and matching MC's with appropriate loops. The strength of the record is in it's reluctance to go for the shock factor of blending the Beastie Boys with Shakey, instead crafting beats that could ring true as original to the rhymes layered atop them. Having never heard LA the Darkman & Raekwon's 'Spring Water' you could be forgiven for assuming the lyrics had been written to the plaintive Cuban Linx era sounding guitar loop (the original is noticeably more jaunty), same goes for Slick Rick's 'I Shouldn't Have Done It'. Despite these remixes the most interesting track on the album is the titular reworking of 'Last Trip To Tulsa'. The O finally comes out from the shroud just long enough to perform the song himself, he delivers the surreal lyrics impactfully revealing more of his character in the process than almost any of his instrumentals. But it is an illusion. The song itself is a cover, the lyrics are not original to The O, nor is the loop, a (wisely) unaffected rendering of 'Cowgirl in The Sand' - and yet there lies the magic illusion of all sampled music: the revelation of the author through the reworking of the past.


Onakabazien photo by Danielle Nemet.


Craig D. said...

Great/crucial discography rundown, Max--may the saga of the O continue!

Jennifer said...

still vividly remember the 1st time I experienced Mark performing.... impressive and a thrill ride.


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