VA: Hub Solo & Collabo 2006-2008

These are fabulous times indeed for fans of Op.disc's seductive brand of quirky techno. Not only did the Japanese label issue the double-disc hub Opus Tokyo only a few months ago but now follows it up with another equally-splendid compilation, Hub Solo & Collabo 2006-2008, itself a sequel to the 2007 collection Hub Solo & Collabo 2004-2005. The new collection's first half sequences a dozen choice cuts by roster artists (the first six solo tracks, the last six collaborations), while the second finds Den (Tokuto Denda) weaving twenty-one tracks into an “8 vinyl only” mix. Par for the Op.disc course, there's not a lot of info included as a textural complement to the release but, even so, the tracks speak loudly all by their lonesome.

On disc one, the artists spin artful variations on the trademark Op.disc style, which reconfigures techno as a mid-tempo field of spacious beat patterns, swinging techno-funk rhythms, and ever-inventive sound and production design. Grounded by bottom-feeding bass lines that both slink and throb, grooves bounce with the spring of a new mattress while melodic patterns come into focus from a vast pool of chopped voice fragments, bass lines, percussive accents, and keyboard punctuations. Early scene-stealer Akiko Kiyama gets the funk moving on a high note with the serpentine groove of “Small In Body, But Sharp In Wit,” then later brings yoshiki (Yoshiki Morishita) aboard for the spacey mechano strut of “Slow Fit.” dublee (Yusuke Sakurai) deviates from the strict techno path by injecting a grooving jazz feel into the propulsive tech-house swing of “TCHAD,” while Den's “Lipgloss” wobbles, saunters, and sputters through a neo-dub forest of handclaps and woozy flourishes. ditch (Shinichiro Kono) and NAP (Takamitsu Nonaka) team up for “Monotonous,” whose incessant swirl of whirr and click is anything but, then follow it with the role-reversed NAP & ditch affair “Time,” which juggles a mini-percussion section of slams, pops, and thrums for five hypnotic minutes. At disc's end, Den and dublee nicely close up shop with a soulful jazz-inflected pulse in the otherwise skeletal “Wander In B.”

Many of the same names crop up in the mix disc, along with others not represented on the first half such as Fumiya Tanaka, RADIQ (Yoshihiro Hanno), eater, compositionist , SAWAI, Nao Tokui, and AOKI. Equal in duration to disc one and rolling out in a relaxed, mid-tempo gait, the mix doesn't deviate from the Op.disc sound though does throw in a few curve balls along the way: a reprise of “Wander In B” bleeds into a bright game of vocal ping-pong in “HANA,” an equally smooth outing by eater & compositionist; RADIQ's “Sandinista” brings a clanguorous industrial dimension to an already arresting blend of dub, Kraftwerk, and techno-funk; and yoshiki & Akiko Kiyama's “Maybe In DECEMBER” includes ascending filigrees of electronic detail that wouldn't sound out of place in a Monolake track. “B-B” by Fumiya Tanaka & RADIQ brings an almost grungy funk sound to the mix, while “BBBB” by SAWAI & AOKI rumbles and clatters in similarly grimey manner. But the mix's biggest surprise, however, is a two-minute percussion spotlight that surfaces halfway through (“Composition No. 2” by compositionist & eater). There's no shortage of delicious sonic detail on offer either; hear, for example, the punch with which the snare ricochets and the kick drum pounds during Arai & Tokui's supple “source,” and the power with which breakbeats roll through eater's ““Rock” Expert.” All told, both discs amount to a prime, two-and-a-half-hour sampling of Op.disc's snappy digi-funk.

September 2009