Yea Big + Kid Static
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Yea Big + Kid Static


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"The Wind That Blows The Robot's Arms, Album Review"

"Stefen Robinson’s Yea Big project spews out glitch-damaged beats with little breathingroom, letting tracks and sounds spew together in one uncoordinated splurge. It’s decidedly hip-hop in it’s own way, but the closest The Wind That Blows The Robot’s Arms gets to beat street is through charging, straightforward drum breaks—though they are overlaid with enough static, chopped-up instrumentation and other assorted noisiness to drive less Prefuse-damaged listeners to the breaking points." - CMJ

"The Wind That Blows The Robot's Arms (Jib Door)"

In polar opposition to the likes of The Secret Miracle Fountain… If you’re a crazy guy like me, or to put it more modestly… if, like me, you’re not so crazy, then this is an LP that can open the pores widely to the blissful breeze of madness. Stefan Robinson (aka Yea Big) is a white man who makes no pretensions to being black, but just is, matriculating with cutting edge Chicago alt hip hop pals like Kid Static and Spunky Toofers to make a CD that rolls along like the greatest party of your life upside down, and a night of sci-fi dreams on the ceiling.

The Wind That Blows the Robot’s Arms has a genuine humour, consideration and insight in its avant-garde stylings. Throughout, Robinson jump cuts his more manic pieces to bursts of humorous and visceral brevity. He also paints the middle ground with frenetic imagination, and draws out only the more digestible innovations with the successful pretence of composition. In an album of manically diverse proportions, this gives the vital illusion of “attention deficient” creativity, from which to logically move forth.

Several short, abstract numbers like ‘Look for and Remove Any Foreign Objects Seen in Mouth’ (six seconds of tuning your radio with your head inside the electronics), revel in an anarchically disruptive mischief, giving way each time to nights and twilights of cinematic sci-fi of varying temperament. ‘But We Will Try Nonetheless’ is one of numerous tracks that sound like they’re coming out of a pretty fine subterranean disco, while ‘Neurosis of the Giver’ is an outsider’s soundtrack to the inner world of Speedy Gonzales. The Yea Big retinue rarely fail to take advantage of their second by second creative ethos, and inspirational asides are sprinkled alongside instrumental humour like gold dust. Exquisitely, ‘Firstmeal’ has Robinson interject the album’s most incomprehensible avant-garde mixings with an apology for “fucking up”, before starting again, while ‘Manufacturing Morals’ takes the comically improvisational biscuit by being the exaggerated sound of someone eating from his fish bowl while busy at the typewriter.

After establishing the LP’s status as veritable funhouse of arch hip hop imagination and cranial shake-ups, when the times comes Robinson takes to the more bona-fide compositions with a different kind of nocturnal intent. ‘It will be Tasteful’ is a night of sleep in reverse, possibly after attending a Yea Big party, a quaint triangle tapping lending a certain lucidity to its dreamy, perversely atmospheric strut. In ‘My Principles Far Outweigh My Common Sense’, one of those manic phone call voices is taken out of context and carved into an impressive movement of warped percussion. ‘Neurosis of the Giver’ is a soothing, coconut-clapping dance around technological embers, and ‘Nice People are Those Who Have Nasty Minds’ is a fragmented mesh of improvisatory guitar that breaks into an extraordinary melody before giving way to the next ascent of beats, only to resume on its meandering way in the next. Another broad compositional highlight comes in ‘Please Die, and Leave Me Alone’, a choir of mice appearing above a conventional hip hop beat and menacing metallic background, drilled to within an inch of its life in the name of the sport.

From The Wind That Blows the Robot’s Arms, one can only conceive the life of Robinson and his pals as an endless jaunt of night hours, the closest it ever gets to day being a peculiar starry twilight, which presumably testifies to its illusive charm. With not so much as an [overly] introverted egghead in site, here we have a pinball machine of obtuse and thrilling sounds, caressed into context with the vision of hip hop masters and appetite of lunatics. It fits a sane man like the notorious eye-opening needles of Dario Argento’s murderer in Opera. - Tangents

"Blame Jim O'Rourke, Twenty-three-year-old Stefen Robinson makes hip-hop out of cellophane and plays R & B on mandolin."

The Meter, Chicago reader
February 24, 2006

Blame Jim O'Rourke
Twenty-three-year-old Stefen Robinson makes hip-hop out of cellophane and plays R & B on mandolin.

Stefen Robinson is in the middle of a pitched battle on the dance floor at Open End Gallery, doing his part to help raise money for the local Raizel Performances troupe. A remix of the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" pumps out of the sound system, and he and his rival -- both wearing workout clothes that'd make Richard Simmons proud -- shuffle, grind, lunge, and flail. Robinson busts out one of his big moves: he leaps into the air and crosses his legs Indian style, then lands hard and starts bouncing on his ass across the floor. He's too hopped up on adrenaline to feel any pain now, but he'll be sore in a couple days. He'll also end up losing the competition.

Outlandish antics like this notwithstanding, the 23-year-old Robinson is also a serious musician, if not exactly a straight-faced one. He's earned a bit of local notoriety for his sacrifice-your-body dance-off style and for his street performances, usually downtown or on the lakefront, where he improvises on a drop-tuned mandolin run through a battery-powered practice amp with a percussionist called Foul Mouth Tommy. But he's better known as the man behind Yea Big, an experimental hip-hop project whose debut album, The Wind That Blows the Robot's Arms, comes out Tuesday on Jib Door, the new dance and hip-hop imprint of local label Locust Music. (Locust proper specializes in avant-folk and sound art, with a catalog that includes releases by Josephine Foster, Matmos, Henry Flynt, and Richard Bishop of the Sun City Girls.) Robinson isn't an MC, and nobody raps on the Yea Big album -- instead its old-school hip-hop beats and atomized drum samples give heft and momentum to a skittering, glitchy, lovingly crafted collage that combines cinematic digital soundscapes, field recordings, processed snippets of dialogue, and even chopped-up, barely recognizable mandolin patterns. One track is pieced together mainly from manipulated clips of his friends' laughter.

Robinson's work has attracted comparisons to laptronica artists like Prefuse 73 and Four Tet, but he says he's equally influenced by the hectic momentum and percussive rhythms of bluegrass. "I really want my stuff to be accepted as pop music," he says. "The whole thing is to make a pop record based out of experimental ideals."

Born and raised in Kankakee, Robinson started on the cello in the fourth grade and later picked up clarinet and saxophone. At first he stuck to school ensembles, but in high school he played guitar and bass in a series of alt-rock bands. He also began experimenting with home taping. "I started making these four-track recordings on cassette in junior high and passing them to people at school and my band directors," he says. "It was all weird noise stuff on keys and sax -- it made no sense whatsoever." As a senior he became obsessed with mandolinist David Grisman, and during his freshman year at Kankakee Community College his mother bought him a mandolin for Christmas. He started learning the instrument even as he was developing a passion for hip-hop -- particularly Aesop Rock and the rest of the Def Jux roster.

At around the same time he first heard Jim O'Rourke -- specifically the ambient acoustic album Bad Timing. "It totally changed the way I thought about making recordings. It reminded me of really shitty stuff I was making on tape in high school," he says, laughing. "I'm not trying to say I was making stuff that was like Jim O'Rourke when I was 14, but it just reminded me of what I was trying to do. And I thought to myself, 'People make records like this? You can do this and make a living?'"

Soon Robinson discovered O'Rourke's live laptop recording I'm Happy and I'm Singing and a 1, 2, 3, 4. "That was the first computer music I ever really listened to, and that blew my mind again," he says. When Robinson transferred to Illinois State University in Normal, he chose the school's arts technology program, which focused on digital media. "Since I didn't really play a classical instrument that I could go take lessons for, I learned tech stuff," he says. He also began playing mandolin in a progressive bluegrass ensemble called Freespacemusic and in the free-improv group Yea Big by Yadda Thick, where he used a bass amp and the same nonstandard tuning he'd later carry over into his street performances.

By his senior year, Robinson had started an independent study program. "I told the director of the program that I wanted my study to focus on the recording medium -- making tracks and culminating in a finished record," he says. "So my professor gave me this piece of cellophane from a CD wrapper and told me to make a three-movement track using just that. I made this thing and brought it back. Then he said, 'Make a hip-hop track out of this.' And that's actually how I started making beats. The first few trac - Chicago Reader

"The Cankles"

Getting the chance to see The Cankles in action was definitely a show to see.

This group of fused funk, hip-hop, rock, with some crazy guitar licks, keys, rapping, singing,

vinyl scratchin', and so much more, is made up of 6 talented guys from Chicago letting loose, each

individually talented making up a musically solid group.

Ropesack: Drummer, beat-maker, engineer, part time mc.

Kid Static: Lead Vocals, Keyboards, engineer

Joel: Guitars.

PMO: Bass guitar, vocals.

Once a Month: DJ

Intel: DJ

With a wide range of musical influences, from Portishead, Morcheeba, Radiohead, Too Short, Biggie,

Zero 7, Zappa, Herbie Hancock, Maiden, Scratch Piklz, Shadow, to Automator, The Cankles were born in

November of 04' as Ropesack describes,

"[we met] when joel was hosting a hip hop show in Franklin Park and invited jam one and i to come

along and play in between sets. DJ Once a Month happened to be at the show performing with other

artists and he came up and performed with us. Joel and I had met a month or 2 before and we're

recording together on beats. It was a good time and we had pretty good chemistry so from there, Joel

then invited DJ Intel and PMO, and I invited Moses (Kid Static) who I had been working with on some

tracks for a few months prior."

They are currently working on "Holy Shit" the follow up to their 2005 debut, "God Damn. " Their

future endeavors are endless and as DJ INTEL laughingly states it,

"[the future holds] Solid ass kicking, then a break-up, then a re-union show."

If you are in Chicago definitely check out their next show -

"THE CANKLES - GODDAMN!! , album review"

THE CANKLES - GODDAMN!! (Shinfoot Records)

Man, I'm very grateful to my good friend Ryan Waxenberg

of FormulaWerks for sending me this disc by The Cankles, because it's one of my favorites of 2005.

Blending hip-hop, funk, and rock into one ten-track gem, this sextet is responsible for creating

more sound than... well, almost anyone really. Parts are smooth and melodic like RJ. Others are

fast-paced and grooved out like Z-Trip. But all of it, and I do mean all of it, is amazing.



"Kid Static's"

(Translated from French)

Have you seen this man? This man is Kid Static, rapper, producer, considered more or less as the frontman of the Cankles, an explosive group from Chicago whose joyous and diverse hip-hop we discovered a few months ago, a hip-hop totally opposite of what we generally hear from the Midwest. Released in October 2005, a month after the amusing "Goddamn!!", his solo album titled "Have You Seen This Man" is of the same thread, with the same playful tone and same eclecticism. But maybe even better. And without, or almost without any instrumental soundscapes. In addition, Kid raps on every track.

Kid Static isn't, however, a rapper at the core. The young man, 23 years of age, began in music as a conceptual drum & bass producer under the name Static Messenger. This explains, perhaps, why he has such rich compositions. The guy's beats are evolutionary, quite sick and sometimes quite sophisticated. For rap. There are plenty of circling pianos, charming organs, involving synths, heightened here & there by a bit of guitar, a zest of dub ("Interlude"), a pretty sampled voice ("The Other Side"), and a subtle mix of accordian and banjo (the excellent "The Barnyard"). Evidently then, there is a bit of jungle, by small touches, little dabs to the ears ("Word Diagrams 101", "Fight Song").

Overall, Kid Static is a talented beatmaker and an accomplished musician. But he doesn't stop there. Even if he came to emceeing late in the game, Kid Static also knows how to rap. From his sour voice as the crafty, angry black beggar and joker, seen in his necessary presentation ("Intro"), it might be that he's taking it out on life's frustrations ("Partially Robotical Man", "The Other Side"), or angry a bit ("Fight Song"), or throwing himself into a love song with R&B refrains ("A Love Song", "That Girl"), this is always harsh and often very catchy, except for a few light faux-pas. This guy is a complete artist, and his entire album is the best profit.

Sylvain Bertot

- popnews

"Cankles define own musical category"

Cankles define own musical category

October 14, 2005
named after a term for, shall we say, unenviable

ankles, it would be easy to dismiss the Cankles as a gimmick.

But if the early buzz created by this

irreverent collection of Chicago-area innovators is any indication, it's time to take the Cankles


A collection of seven creators including DJs Intel and Once a Month, drummer and producer

Ricky Ropesack, bassist PMO, guitarist Jello, and MC and keyboardist Kid Static, and often Beatbox

specialist Jam One, the band was created less than a year ago, released its debut CD "Goddamn!!"

this summer, and has already been requested by booking agents from Kansas City, Florida, Texas, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego as well as Chicago.

"The music is creeping across the country,"

says the band's co-founder, Jello. "It's just a matter of getting everybody off work because we do

have six guys we travel with."

The attraction lies in the band's unique take on hip-hop-soaked

fusion, which Jello calls "Electro-hood-tronica."


# 9

p.m. Sunday
# Subterranean, 2011 W. North
# Tickets, $7; $5 at the door with donation of goods for

hurricane relief (21-over show)
# (773) 278-6600 - Chicago Sun Times

"The Wind That Blows The Robot's Arms (Jib Door)"

Andy Kaufman is considered not necessarily one of the greatest comedians of all time, but one of the most popular, who was also an extensive practitioner of anti-humor. What he did for comedy is make people think about comedy, not only in the anatomy of the jokes, but in the way in which they are delivered. He did not want people to sit in front of televisions and be mindlessly entertained with drug and sex humor, but wanted you to think about jokes. What Andy Kaufman did for comedy, Yea Big has done with their new album The Wind That Blows the Robot's Arms.

Yea Big is the name that Stefen Robinson has chosen to headline this specific musical project. He's worked heavily in other projects such as Oh Astro with Yea Big collaborators Jane Dowe and Hank Hofler and work for a compilation remix album Lord Lucan is Still Missing. The Wind That Blows the Robot's Arms, while somewhat similar to his other works, is still a large divergence from even the fringes of music today.

The Wind That Blows the Robot's Arms is an instrumental album with the only vocals too fast or too high-pitched to understand, having them serve mostly as an instrument as opposed to a vehicle for lyrics. The first track of the album will immediately turn away those who less accepting in their musical tastes as it is almost all feedback and static and has almost no comprehensible rhythm. This is slightly remedied in the next track, but not to an extreme degree. The next track to speak of is track four in which a typical rhythm is introduced and finally gives a glimpse of what a listener might hear for the rest of the album. Yea Big uses quick cut hip-hop music laid overtop the soundtrack of daily life, hearing static and sounds familiar to the clipping of coupons, licking of stamps, or something else entirely too domestic for people to take notice of. On track seven, "Manufacturing Morals," this technique is utilized at its best as a highly active rhythm is pieced together from a series of office sounds. The next track, "Touch You or Touch Them" uses some of the same techniques but includes pieces of vocals and a background percussion that appears as a motif throughout the rest of the album. The album takes a slow down on "Nice People Are Those Who Have Nasty Minds" but quickly turns the somber strumming into the hip-hop beats we are familiar to on such other tracks as "First Meal." Each of the tracks on the album are very unique, having their own feel and instrumentation, even though some of them have the same titles. The album overall takes some of the quickest and strangest splice spice mixes and has fun with them.

A treat for any listener on this album is to have the album on repeat and witness what happens at the end of the album as it loops. Start the album from any track and let it run on album repeat and wait for it to get back to the track you started at. When listening, just think about any coherent story that this selection might be a soundtrack for. Any selection is different from the one before it; any can entertain on long drives or on rainy days.

Sure, technically, Yea Big's The Wind That Blows the Robot's Arms is music, but not in the usual sense. Yea Big makes the listener think about what they are listening to, not giving them traditional melodies, romantic lyrics, or even a chorus or instrumental refrain to secure on to. The Wind That Blows the Robot's Arms is a life raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and you have to find out how to get home.

Similar Albums:
Four Tet - Rounds
Fog - 10th Avenue Freakout
Jukeboxer - In the Food Chain

Paul Bozzo
05.05.2006 - Treble Zine,


"Yea Big + Kid Static" - Yea Big + Kid Static - Locust Music/Jib Door 2007 US

"The Wind That Blows The Robot's Arms" - Yea Big - Locust Music/Jib Door 2006 US

"Have You Seen This Man?" - Kid Static - Anodyne Electric Company 2005 US

"Goddamn!!" - The Cankles - Shinfoot Records 2005 US

"Hello World" - Oh Astro - Illegal Art 2005 US



Yea Big (aka Stefen Robinson) and Kid Static (Kid Static) met in late 2005 when after Stefen's search for a vocalist to work with only led him to getting trashed on Chicago's biggest hip hop community message board. Upon reading the slanderous message, Static decided to contact Stefen. Jump to a year and a half later, Yea Big + Kid Static's self-titled first release on Locust Music/Jib Door is set to explode.

Yea Big + Kid Static is hip hop for the stationarily challenged, the soundtrack for your next dance-off, the preamble to next your coup. Yea Big + Kid Static will overcome you like a band of parkour ninjas wearing jet packs leaping over your grandmother's privacy fence to steal a pie. Yea Big + Kid Static are one part short shorts, one part cybernetic organism, all parts awesome. Yea Big + Kid Static are a comic book style action figure for all ages, ready to destroy the plastic casing and blow up the spot with the power and skill of 47 stuntmen wearing mylar battle gear. Be prepared to duck.

When they're not blowing up spots, one travels the country jumping on to and flying off of buildings, while the other practices mind control techniques over a pack of designer breed dogs. Among the supporting cast of Yea Big + Kid Static is Brad "Freeck" Breeck of the Mae-Shi (Kill Rockstars/5RC), Hank Hofler of Oh Astro (Illegal Art), Gregory A. Odeneal, Manpreet Bedi, Stephen Ganser, and Eric Lower.

-Tommy Lowery, FMT Promotions.