Recently Reunited Invisibl Skratch Piklz Pitch Perfectly Recreate "The 13th Floor" @ Packed Amoeba Berkeley In-Store Performance

Posted by Billyjam, September 5, 2016 01:14pm | Post a Comment

The Invisibl Skratch Piklz, featurnig the talented trio of DJs Qbert, D-Styles and Shortkut,  did a mind blowing in-store set followed by a meet-and-greet for a packed-to-capacity Amoeba Music Berkeley on Saturday evening. Coinciding with the pioneering Bay Area turntablist crew's anticipated soon-to-drop new album, The 13th Floor on Galactic Butt Hair, they effortlessly delivered a jaw-dropping, next-level turntable manipulation performance to wild loud applause. All the more impressive of their half-hour set, was that it was a flawless, pitch-perfect reworking of the reunited group's new nine track LP. Note that the album does not officially get released until Friday (September 9th) but Amoeba shoppers had the opportunity to buy it early and get the record signed too. The unprecedented huge crowd turnout not only packed the jazz-room performance area of the Telegraph Ave. store but spilled into the next room too with fans eager to catch in person these three local legends. In fact so many were jammed into Amoeba that some fans went back outside onto the street to peer through the window for a glimpse of these living legends. Most fans of the Piklz  thought would never perform again after they broke up at their peak back up in the late nineties.

The reuniting of the Piklz began quietly a couple of years ago as this core trio (each with their own prestigious respective individual careers) began playing together in fun impromptu sessions. They played some sellout shows at the Low End Theory in LA, where D-Styles is a resident, and studio sessions in San Francisco, and then last year at a huge showcase headlining set at the 2015 Red Bull Thre3Style World Finals. And it was at that show they unveiled for the first time The 13th Floor (video below). Some months earlier, also over in Japan and in conjunction with Red Bull, the trio recorded The 13th Floor at the Tokyo Red Bull Studios with D-Styles acting as the project's musical overseer. Unlike just about any album of any genre these days, The 13th Floor is not your typical "studio album" by any means. Most albums, especially these days, are done with a basic recording of each musical contributor: typically not even together in same studio at same time. These components act as a foundation for a producer to build upon, adding layer upon layer of overdubs and effects and other sonic additions. Then following endless tweaking and re-working in post-production, their album is done. The result is it usually sounds totally unlike the initial musician recordings. However in sharp contrast to that over-produced approach D-Styles insisted that The 13th Floor take a fresh and organic live approach. He wanted a stripped down, raw, real hip-hop recording.

The 13th Floor's construction, much like its Blue Note styled cover design, was recorded like a jazz album would be:  with the musicians performing live and all together in real time, and in one take.
For the album's recording, the Piklz holed up in the Tokyo studios in early 2015, cut off from the world outside, for a series of back to back intense-but-fun recordings over many days. These sessions harked back to their now legendary 1990's improv turntable orchestration sessions when such other former Piklz members as Mixmaster Mike, DJ Apollo, and 8-Ball were all part of this influential turntable crew. But for The 13th Floor sessions, they elevated things to the next level. First they improved and jammed together
to shape a blueprint of the album. At the end of each long day D-Styles would play back and study the recordings to figure out how he and his two collaborators might flesh out and reshape each song the following day back in the studio. Note they had no guests or collaborators. No MCs, just DJs and records: real roots hip-hop!

The Piklz began the process from scratch (pun intended) as they built upon each song's structure, perfecting every nuance with each repeated take, until they had the perfect LP: The 13th Floor. A rarity these days as a live recorded studio album without any fabricated post-production trickery, their recording process also afforded them the opportunity to go out and perform the album live as it sounds on the record. This they've been doing lately in a series of well received shows. They were just over in Europe playing places like Dublin Ireland to rave reviews. They played at The Maker Faire and today (Labor Day) they perform at Hiero Day, and two days ago was their killer set at Amoeba Berkeley. 

During their Amoeba performance, that attracted numerous hometown turntablists anxious to see their heroes live in person, the trio replicated the new album. So skilled, they made their skratch manipulations, that take years/decades to perfect, look completely effortless. Like a seasoned jazz ensemble they each played their respective musical parts on such new album tracks as  cool jazz constructed "Kenny G's Perm" and the rocking beat of "The Ultimate." On it Shortkut worked the vocals of "the ult, the ult, the ultimate" with D-Styles on the drums and Qbert laying in the second scratch solo of "yuuup." Then on "Reverse Cowgirl" (yes that trademark Piklz sense of humor is back) Shortkut, who gets production credit for the album track, played drums, percussion and the scratch hook of "just listen" while Qbert laid in the "yeesss" scratch solo at the beginning. This was followed by Shortkut dropping in the second scratch solo of "like that y'all" and then D-Styles dropping in on the third scratch solo "make it funky hip hop."

Listening to the new album is a wonderful experience but seeing/hearing it performed live at Amoeba was quite a treat for everyone lucky to attend the free in-store. Midway through Saturday's set former extended Piklz crew member, Qbert business partner, and skratch music industry visionary Ritche "Yogafrog" Desuasido (Thud Rumble co-founder) jumped on the mic (as he does at most shows these days) to give some background. Here he noted how, "We started this in-store thing at Amoeba," recalling how the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, famously many years ago, had played at Amoeba San Francisco. At Amoeba Berkeley on Saturday after Q, D, and Short finished their set, these three humble, down-to-earth, non-assuming hometown heroes individually met everyone in the long line that snaked through the store. They laughed and joked as they posed for photos and signed copies of the new album. Some fans also brought older records like the landmark early 90's Dirt Style battle tool Battle Breaks and Qbert's 1998 solo album Wave Twisters. While not yet available on the Amoeba website, The 13th Floor LP is for sale in the retail store right now. Later today (Sept. 5th) the Invisibl Skratch Piklz perform at Hiero Day 2016 at 5:20pm on the Infinity stage right before fellow Bay Area musical legend Too $hort whose voice they coincidentally reconstruct and lovingly skratch into a segment on the new album track "You Need Another Hit." If/when they perform this later today it is bound to generate some wild cheers. For a taste of what to expect peep the Piklz premiere performance of The 13th Floor from Tokyo last year in the video below.

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The 13th Floor (2), Skratch (4), Turntablism (44), Thud Rumble (7), Galactic Butt Hair (1), Yogafrog (6), Shortkut (19), Thud Rumble (7), Invisibl Skratch Piklz Amoeba Berkeley (1), D-styles (13), Qbert (22), Isp (6), Invisibl Skratch Pilkz (1)