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The Tofu Hut: Kutiman

by John Seroff

editor’s note: :If you’re just joining us, check out the first installment of The Tofu Hut on BV for a better explanation of what this is. And if you’re wondering what took so long for this second post to appear, well, that’s my fault. Now I hand the post over to John…

Download: Kutiman – ‘I’m New’ (MP3)
Download: Kutiman – ‘Just A Lady’ (MP3)


Ah, the unchanging rituals of the New Year: unrealistic resolutions, unachievable gym plans, buying too many calendars, attending to many parties, genuflecting in preparation for income taxes and lists, lists, lists.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been looking to the predictable flood of year-end hoopla as a tool to discover new music that’s escaped prior notice. It’s also a nice opportunity for heavy listeners to scrub off and enumerate old calcified barnacles before applying a fine glossy sheen of THE NEW.

One particularly dreary Sunday in December, I narrowed my best of ’09 to 275 singles and thirty or so albums, then ran that healthy bolus through a weekend’s crucible of heavy listening until I narrowed the field to Pazz and Jop’s arbitrarily less crowded decimal requirements. Four of my final ten albums were reasonably well-known LPs: The-Dream’s ‘Love vs. Money’, Taylor Swift’s ‘Fearless’ (I know this was released in late 2008, but it had the majority of its sales and pop impact in ’09), DJ Quik and Kurupt’s ‘Blaqkout’ and UGK’s ‘UGK 4 Life’. To be sure, not all of these would fit into everyone’s “best of”, but they have all received plenty of ink and acclaim from fans and critics of their respective genre. The other six albums in my ten were an odder lot: a collection of online mashups, foot-stompin’ country pop, a casual video-game soundtrack, prodigal and savant-like YouTube oeuvres and a mostly under-the-radar horrorcore hip-hop reunion. As part of my inaugural month on BV, I’d like to share a few selections from these six dark horses. Here’s hoping you’ll find this music as exciting and laudable as I do!

Kutiman’s Thru-You
(2009, no commercial release,

Kutiman is the nom du net of Ophir Kutiel,the Israeli musician who peeled hundreds of little-known performance clips from YouTube (riffs, recitals, freestyles, synth demos, girls in bedrooms singing into cameras), then beat-matched and arranged these snippets into an album of rejiggered found sound.

tl; dr info after the jump

Songs on the Thru-You URLP run the gamut from rock, R&B, drum’n’bass, reggae and folk; the accompanying music videos provide meticulously cross-linked references to the finished songs’ sources. Time Magazine called this approach one of the great inventions of the year, but that smacks of a justifiably over-enthusiastic writer making a pitch. The Avalanches, Girl Talk, the underrated and prolific 41 and a hundred other DJs before have all played at otographic collage. What really makes Kutiman unique is his abhorrence of commercial recording; his samples hail from virtual unknowns and his work is distributed for free on the web. That’s not to say that Thru-You is just some exercise in artistic egalitarian humanism. Kutiman’s stubborn devotion to amateur YouTube artists would only amount to so much branded gimmickry if he were not remarkably adept at making exhilarating crazy-quilts from his dozens of moving parts.

By avoiding irony or ostentatious auteurism, Kutiman allows the original performers natural joy to shine. The perspective and musicality he brings to the table makes each of the songs on Thru-You smack of true collaboration. Take the excellent ‘Wait for Me’ as an example: although the original materials might seem unconnected and often performed without obvious skill, Kutiman unerringly unearths their innately musical moments. A young would-be Roger Troutman, a string trio, a guy knocking out a funk beat, a classical guitarist, a motley crew of instruments, emulators, instrumentalists and unintended spoken word are all diced by a thousand shining cuts, fanned to a bright flame and shuffled back together to ignite on contact.

Thru-You is indicative of a type of reckless idealism, ingenious artistry and musical proof of diligence that hasn’t been seen on the internet since Dangermouse knocked out The Grey Album. I’ll lay even money we should get Kutiman’s ‘Crazy‘ sometime in 2010. I can’t wait.

A brief note on nomenclature for Tofu Hut first-timers: “clicky” is where I’ll offer loads more links and background on the given topic at hand.

Obviously the best way to hear more music from Kutiman is by visiting his proprietary Thru-You site, but once you’re hooked and want to get the album for on-the-job or on-the-go listening, check out Innerlogic’s which offers all seven tracks for download in MP3 format.

Along with the two songs offered in this post, I most heartily recommend ‘Wait for Me’ and ‘Mother of All Funk Chords’… but they’re all worth a listen!

Get to know Kutiman better with interviews and Thru-You profiles from
Wax Poetics, Wired, NPR, Melting Pot Music, Huffington Post and SFJ via The New Yorker.

Also give a listen to this audio interview from Spark on CBC Radio or watch this video interview from Leadel.

Lastly, I strongly suggest paging over this lengthy and thoughtful Metafilter discussion that centers on Thru-You but expands to interesting and link-heavy meditations on musical collage and the art of composition.

While Kutiman is not selling Thru-You commercially, you CAN put some money in the man’s pocket by picking up a copy of his enjoyably funky, afrobeat-centric 2008 eponymous album.

Read Pitchfork’s review here and then download MP3s of the first two singles: ‘Music is Ruling My World and ‘No Reason For You’, courtesy of RCRDLBL. If you want more, purchase a CD copy from Dusty Groove or buy it digitally from eMusic or iTunes.

Like what you’ve heard? Get friendly with Kutiman on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or drop him an old-fashioned electronic mail at thruyou2 at gmail dot com. Let him know The Tofu Hut sent ya!

Meet me on next time for one of the best video game soundtracks of the year!

PLEASE NOTE: Music offered here is posted out of love for the artist and is for sampling and promotional purposes ONLY.
If you are the creator, performer or copyright owner of a song, excerpt, essay, graphic or photo posted on The Tofu Hut, please contact me at thetofuhut at gmail dot com if you want to comment on the selection or wish to have it removed.

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