Record of the Month
Well this is novel – a (follow-up) compilation album that sounds nothing like a compilation album. And I mean that in an unequivocally positively light – I tend not to be a massive fan of their ilk. Now! 25 excluded, obviously.
I’d better explain myself: rather than lazily throwing out a load of tracks shoehorned into some genre or other, this collection does the very opposite and assembles a slew of tracks that head out in altogether different directions. In as far as straying away from genre-monikers, it does a darn good job. Yet, while being so varied, it is surprisingly unified in the sense of being at once intriguing, innovative and impressive. Which is just as well since that’s pretty much the point. Indeed, in record label head honcho Gilles Peterson’s own words: “With the ‘Brownswood Electr*c’ series we’re simply attempting to highlight the depth and breadth of the electronic space… and the exceptional quality within.” To these ends, Vol. 2 delivers in spades and unearths a range of artists which you may not have heard of before listening but will undoubtedly want to investigate further afterwards.
Beat maker Reggie ‘Ta-ku’ Mathews goes all future funk – not to mention a bit Dam Funk – on opener ‘Hey Kids’. Its call and response chants and spiraling ’80s-style analog fizziness seems destined to get the party started. Monky follows on with the lethargic stagger and distorted vocals of ‘Drunkerdz’. Meanwhile, ‘Shifts’ by Anenon (aka LA’s Brian Allen Simon, founder of Non Projects label) is resplendent and is a true gem. As ineffably rich as it is, I’ll have a crack at a description; the brightly-lit instrumental lullabies surround you before their sonic beams refract, unravel and envelop giving you the chance to wallow in its echoing chamber of sounds. There, not even close.
Just in case you were sitting too comfortably, DJG applies a sub-bass swagger to the twisted-dancehall grind of ‘Automatic’. So, so sinister and so, so good. After that onslaught, the tranquil drum and bass of ‘Mood Swings’ by Frederic Robinson rings out with exceptional beauty in its faraway vocals. In fact, the sparseness on many of the tracks that follow is fantastically assured. The longing on arpeggio-laden ‘Pillowforts’ by DJ Dials is palpable; each sequence more heartfelt than the last.
I still think, however, that ‘By My Side’ is my favourite tune / tuuuune of the entire album with a piano house melody reminiscent of Bizarre Inc and suchlike together with a big ol’ helping of soulful vocals. It’s pretty much worth the price of admission alone but, given the quality of the LP, you can consider this a massive bonus. Brucie would be proud. Needless to say it’s guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face. That is, unless you’ve lost the physical ability to smile. In which case, please accept my sympathies…while I listen to it one more time.
‘Brownswood Electr*c 2′ just goes to show the wealth of electronic talent out there and has given my prior suspicions about compilation albums a good kick in the nuts. In short, it’s as good a compilation as this reviewer could ask for. Until volume 3 that is.
Words: Ben Nicholas
‘Brownswood Electr*c 2′ is out 27th June on Brownswood Recordings.