VA: Building a Better Robot
Electronic Eel

Presented with an entire album of free-to-download material, one generally tends to undervalue, even discredit, the material, the thinking being that, being free, it can only be so-so in quality. What artists, after all, would contribute their most exceptional tracks to a free release when they would naturally choose to hold onto them for their own releases? All of which makes Building A Better Robot a pleasant surprise because though it is available free of charge (as an mp3 download from Electronic Eel), it features a better-than-average share of solid material.

Some tracks are reprised from existing albums but the majority are previously unreleased. Boltfish artist Obfusc sets the bar high at the outset with “Delayed Sunshine Reaction” (from Cities Of Cedar), an appealing blend of poppy melodic uplift and tremolo guitars. Even better is the waltz-time sparkler “Neonland” by Detektivbyrån (from Wermland) whose mallet percussion melodies dance with clockwork precision. An alluring blend of electropop and New Wave, “Second Thoughts” (from Missing Pieces) by The Sweeps entrances with its swooning vocal melodies. Axiotronic's iridescent “Raindance” sparkles radiantly too while Sintemu's “MAD” impresses with its slamming electro-robot techno. Other standouts include Phreakon's laid-back fusion of jazz and hip-hop (“Badlands”) and Let's Drive To Alaska's epic shoegaze-IDM hybrid (“When California Fell Into The Sea”). Not surprisingly the release includes samplings of IDM (Alka's “Subset Sixteen,” Beta-Resercyclic Acid's “Nocturnal”) and even drum'n'bass (Mejetairliner's “Peregrine Island”). Truth be told, not all of the comp's fourteen tracks are keepers but Building A Better Robot definitely includes enough good material to make it worth checking out.

March 2009