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Ken Nordine

I've been a big fan of Ken Nordine for some time now. He's a spoken-word artist who has a rich baritone voice that always seems to have a bit of playful knowing behind it. In addition to releasing his own work, he's collaborated with lots and lots of different electronic musicians (including DJ Food on Kaleidoscope and Lord Runningclam on Fun For The Whole Family), and even though his act is a little bit more on the novelty side of things, I haven't found myself growing tired of it yet.

Clear back in 1957, a man named Robert Shure wrote a batch of strange little Beat Generation poems originally published by City Lights Bookstore in San Franciso. It was a tiny book with odd little line drawings that went along with the words (which actually work like a split-personality talking and answering to himself). 10 years after the book was published, Nordine stumbled across the collection and knew he had found someone whose sense of humor was right up his alley. He recorded an LP of 34 of these readings called Twink, and it has now found a re-release under a slightly different name (due to unintended adoption of the word over the years).

As mentioned above, the release is comprised of tracks that sound like little dialogues taking place inside someone's head who ponders the little things just a little bit too much. The two voices are on the opposite sides of the stereo spectrum, one dry, and one with echo. In addition to the voices, there is minimal instrumentation as a backing, usually a mixture of chimey lounge and jazz. Sound effects relating to the little conversations pop up ocassionally, but it never really strays too much from a simple formula.

That said, there is some hilarious stuff on this release. The opening track of "Windshield Wipers" laments the sad story of wipers that are in love (but can never truly be together), while "Ping Pong" ponders the bravery of ping pong balls and why the paddles weren't left with a silk covering (because then the name of the game might have changed to "Blip Blop"). Everyday objects are given a life of their own, as desk utensils are sympathized with ("Blotter") and even injects a bit of social commentary into a couple tracks ("Moth" and "When You're Born"). The background music changes just enough to keep things fairly fresh, and although the setup is the same for most tracks, it's the simple yet clever wordplay that will bring a smile to your face more than once (I got more laughs out of the 20 seconds of "Suede" than I have in all of the bits of network sitcoms I've randomly caught in the past year). It's definitely not a release you'd likely listen to from start to end, but you can show your hipster edge by putting it on at the next cocktail party.

Rating: 7.25