3 Essential Turntablism Videos

I am generally not a fan of Turntablism. I admire the skill involved, but I don’t find the results to be all that listenable. Most turntablists come off as extremely self indulgent, at the expense of musicality. There are however, some key exceptions.

DJ Qbert – Superman Routine

This is the most “traditional” turntablism routine out of the three. While this is pure scratch candy, it’s done in a way which turns the scratches into an instrument of their own. QBert says in the excellent Scratch documentary that he tries to make music that sounds like Aliens communicating. Watching him perform in this clip you get the impression that he isn’t so much mixing music as cutting up and rearranging data.

My first concert ever was Dream Theater, a progressive rock/metal band. Progressive rock is another one of those genres that tends to feel very self indulgent. Dream Theater is one of the exceptions which manages to combine the overwhelming skill of the individual musicians into something greater than the sum of the parts. Watching their Scenes From a Memory DVD and focusing on their playing you get the sense that you are watching pure music visualization. Just watching their fingers move on the frets is better than any trippy visuals generated by a computer. The same is true for the QBert routine. Sometimes his hands are moving so fast, he seems almost inhuman himself.

Birdy Nam Nam – Absesses

I’ve always had a lot of respect for DJs that play well with others. I’m not talking about your typical tag team affairs, rather truly meshing with another performer to create something new. Birdy Nam Nam is a team of DJs from France which does exactly that in a very unique way. Each member uses one turntable and mixer and when you combine them you get the effect of a whole band performing on stage.

What I love about this clip is the effective use of string sounds, something which is generally under represented in dance music. Dubstep has started to play in the string realm, but Birdy Nam Nam takes it to a whole new level. String tracks are chopped up and remixed into a completely new composition. And they all manage to stay in synch with each other. The payoff is an intense bluegrass breakdown, which gives me hope that my dream of Drum & Grass is actually achievable.

DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist & Numark – Pushing Buttons

While the title of this thread is “3 Essential Turntablism Videos” this video doesn’t actually feature a single turn table. However, each performer is a world renowned turntablist in their own right, so I think this still fits. This is taken from DJ Shadow’s In Tune & On Time DVD bonus features.