VA: Squadron 2

Prior to hearing it, I had expected Merck's final compilation to present electro-IDM of the stylistic sort associated with Proem or Proswell. Instead, Squadron 2 largely features the kind of sultry hip-hop heard on Malcom Kipe's downtempo Lit with most of the 16-song set allocated to five artists: Royal Foxbridge, Somnitone, Sumo Lounge, Tycho, and Deceptikon. The first two make particularly strong impressions: Royal Foxbridge contributes five languorous samplings of soulful electronic hip-hop, with “Regler Les Problemes Du Monde Pt. 2” as much bossa nova as hop-hop, while Somnitone gets maximum mileage from two fabulous cuts: “Dorme A Lua No Mar,” where sax and muted trumpet elements push the album further into jazz territory, and the dreamily funky “Mel Takes the Tube.” Mention too should be made of the crisp breaks that animate Chachi Jones' entrancing version of Tycho's “Send and Receive.”

What a shame, though, that the restrained vibe nurtured so carefully in the first dozen songs is tossed aside during the final act, with the drill'n'bass throb of Winnie The Shit's “Sorry I Shook You” the most anomalous of the closing trio. Aside from that late-inning misstep, Squadron 2 is an oft-beautiful collection, the kind of album where vibes, flutes, and guitars lazily float over faded hip-hop grooves and where elegant sprinklings of pianos and synths draw forth a lush jazz undercurrent that enhances the material even more.

October 2006