Innovative turntablist and graphic novelist Kid Koala (Eric San) has used the title Music to Draw To for a series of winter events, during which he plays slow, quiet records suitable for concentration while working on a project. Over time, the events have incorporated original instrumentation, resulting in live ambient compositions. With his wondrous 2017 release Music to Draw To: Satellite, San has expanded the concept into a full album, forgoing his usual style of whimsical sample collage for a deeply reflective set of ambient pop songs.
One could be forgiven for being somewhat perplexed, and perhaps even a bit skeptical, upon encountering a collaboration between two such disparate artists as Kid Koala and Emiliana Torrini. Kid Koala, he of the magical talking turntables and endlessly goofy sense of humor. Emiliana Torrini, she of the haunting voice summoning up visions of her glacial, windswept Icelandic homeland.
Kid Koala rose to fame in the early ’00’s as a DJ, or what today might more accurately be called a turntablist. His skill set is decidedly a traditional one: scratching, beat juggling, manipulating vinyl in real time. His signature move—adjusting the pitch of individual notes by hand in order to coax warped, theremin-like sounds out of records—extends the metaphor of turntable-as-instrument further than just about any other DJ has managed.
The ambient pop of this Kid Koala album might come as a shock to those who still see the Canadian musician as a mischievous scratch DJ. While there may be turntables somewhere on this recording, those techniques take a backseat to droning synthesizer washes and reverb-drenched piano chords. There are barely any beats, and for the first time in his career, many of the tracks feature guest vocals, courtesy of Icelandic singer/songwriter Emilíana Torrini.