VA: Team Kitty-Yo

Team Kitty-Yo celebrates the Berlin-based label's ten years of existence with a 26-track collection spread over two discs. The first album gathers already-released tracks with exclusive and soon-to-be released tracks, the second a bonus set of material that either never made it onto disc or got undeservedly underexposed. In terms of the label's roster of artists, it's more than comprehensive, marrying new recruits like Sex in Dallas and Richard Davis with acts of long standing like Tarwater and Laub. Stylistically, the comp reminds one of the richness of Kitty-Yo's catalogue and an opportunity to newly appreciate its open-minded integration of electronic music with rock, soul, techno, hip-hop, folk, and jazz.

The first disc is uniformly strong with excellent outings from Richard Davis (propulsive tech-house deepened with lush strings in “Unrealistic Or The Truth”), Taylor Savvy (Prince-styled vocal-based soul-funk on “Treat Him Like A Lady (Sometimes)”), and Jimi Tenor (the lush, dreamy soul-jazz of “Going For The Gold”), not to mention Tarwater's prototypical “Her Body Is Alive.” With its rich horn arrangement, the Eastern-tinged jazz of Kante's “Baron Samedi” recalls The Tied & Tickled Trio, while Rechenzentrum's bucolic folk-glitch “Der See” shuffles across the countryside in a tinkling glockenspiel wagon before retiring by a night-time campfire. Even better is Gold Chains & Sue Cie's “Crowd Control,” potent synth-powered shuffle-funk that nicely contrasts the deep hook of Cie's smooth vocal turn with Gold Chains' growling bark. The best moment, though, arrives with Maximilian Hecker's hushed and stirring “Help Me,” a song so sublime in its yearning beauty it recalls Sigur Rós at its best.

As one might expect, the quality level dips somewhat on the second disc, though there's still enough interesting material to justify its presence. Gonzales (Canadian-born Jason Beck) appears repeatedly, at one moment giving Laub a funked-up, hip-hop overhaul on “Wake.Up.Remix,” at another offering up steaming, dub-flavoured drum & bass (“Gonna Get Off Right Away”), and pairing with Peaches on the trashy “Hot Pink Hot Sex”—shamelessly rude and crude but also melodically hard to resist. Tarwater impresses again, this time with resonant guitar twang and sprechgesang on “Doppelgänger” while Louie Austen indulges in some noirish trip-hop and harder-edged dub-funk on “Danger.” A second half highlight is Kante's “Im ersten Licht Mr.Bird & Partner Version” which pairs German rapping with the irresistible allure of a soulful vocal hook and sparkling backing.

Naturally, depending on the amount of Kitty-Yo already gracing your collection, the set may or may not be worth acquiring, given that many tracks come from already issued albums. And, given the collection's diversity, its tracks will have varying degrees of appeal for different listeners. But, even conceding that inevitability, Team Kitty-Yo remains a high quality gathering that puts the label in a more than flattering light.

March 2005