VA: Solos In Stereo II

Let kids loose on electronic gear and you might get something as hellacious as Solos In Stereo II. The reckless spirit of the material is a bit reminiscent of Tigerbeat6, and the mixed bag of hip-hop collages and bleepy cuts sometimes calls Kid606 and MIA to mind too (CB Radio's driving fusion of steamy acid-electro and bumping tech-house in “Muevete” could pass for a lost MIA jam). A sequel to the Solos Records comp issued in 2004, the second is a showcase for the Bay Area label's roster artists (CB Radio, Yao, Jovian, DJ Enso, Javelin, Roche, Bookworms) with a few guests along for the ride. At a meager thirty-four minutes, the disc's fourteen cuts can barely contain the fresh ideas spilling all over the place, and one is left with the impression of swaggering young punks who state their case and then step aside.

The set opens with two vignettes so fleeting they hardly register (Yao 's soulful mish-mash “Rebirth of Rebirth” and “I'm A Kidputer,” a fleeting Gary Glitter-styled party jam from Rhode Island duo Javelin) before the third takes over. In “Only When I Dream,” Roche woozily speeds up and slows down a sample of easy-listening piano tinkle and strings as a base for the relaxed versifying of Pugslee Atomz and Wes Restless and a chipmunkified chorus (“Only when I'm dreaming”), and from there on out it's one wild turn after another as instrumental cuts do battle with MC turns. On the one hand, there's Yao's hiccupping flow of sitar and beats (“Daytime Fireflies”), Javeli's sunny funk-hop of flutes and head-chopping beats (“Susie Cues”), and Jovian's grinding IDM-hop of synths, guitars, and beats (“Grenadine Girl”); on the vocal tip, we get a nice MC turn by 10z on Jovian's laid-back head-nodder “Conscience Observer” and Jonesy dropping laconic rhymes on Bookworms' throbbing “One Mo' Gin.”

If there's a downside to the channel-surfing approach, it's that material either disappears too quickly or could benefit from more development: a sample-based cut like Bookworms' “Breakup Beat,” for example, shows great potential but it's unrealized when it's little more than an interlude of loops. By contrast, the five-minute running time of Bookworms' remix of CB Radio's tripped-out “Blue Skies” gives the producer more room to perform some spacey surgery.

September 2008