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V/A - Microsolutions to Megaproblems

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Artist: V/A

Album: Microsolutions to Megaproblems

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: Jul. 27, 2005

Roughly a year ago, London’s Soul Jazz Records surprised many by releasing music that wasn’t actually recorded more than 20 years ago. The label made its name among crate diggers as a prime resource for blowing a hundred pounds worth of dust off of obscure dancehall, funk, dub and jazz records. Hence, cynics balked when Soul Jazz released 12” singles by the contemporary likes of Kit Clayton, Sutekh, Ammoncontact, Kid606 and a dozen others in the post-techno/IDM/laptop-noise/leftfield hip-hop/microhouse category. These records were titled Microsolutions to Megaproblems, with generic, factory-stamped graphics to add a little DIY mystique. Critics saw that move as a crafty business plan for when the label ran out of rare grooves to spit-shine and reissue a decade from now. Nonetheless, as this collection of singles attest, Soul Jazz’s batting average remains high. While few of the artists forest any virgin wilderness, there are a few great pleasures here.

San Francisco DSP-funk master Clayton opens with “Humbaba,” an ace, 23rd century digital-dub jaunt that recalls his hometown’s “Berlin by the Bay” reputation from five years ago. Halfway through his rapid Monolake-inspired synth melodies and assorted noise, a sauntering rhythm slows the groove down and whistles its way out. Clayton doesn’t exist beyond critique, though; his “Enkidu” stumbles on rhythms wrapped in flypaper, trying to attain the heights of acid techno but hindered by some redundant echo effects.

Fellow SF Bay Area laptop mavens Sutekh and Kid606 continue to explore well-beaten paths, but with a few added tweaks. Sutekh falls into epileptic fits that still somehow entertain in his microfunk cutup, “Mouth Party,” and the giddy Cusinart house number, “Boulez’ Toes.” Kid606 breaks out the dancehall, but it sounds like he’s spinning with latex gloves on the slightly lysergic bounce of “Banana Peel” and “Batmen.”

Other well-knowns deliver decent moments. Nine Inch Nails/Eminem collaborators Telefon Tel Aviv remix and float Ammoncontact’s “BBQ Plate” through some heavy duty humidity with sparse melodica before suddenly falling into a rocksteady cadence. Elsewhere, leftfield hip-hop dandy Daedelus revamps Hu Vibrational’s “Sunkissed” into street fiesta jazz that is fueled by one watered-down cocktail too many.

True to its title, it’s the smaller names that steal the show on Microsolutions. Secondo’s “We Got It 303 (Live Acid Edit)” engrosses with acid-house grooves, and Tim Exile does likewise with his hungover but still ticking “Body Ginger.” And then there is A. Greenman’s simple, P-funk bass guitar riff. He lets some synth timbres do their thing with the outmost precision that it borders on the ridiculous.

By Cameron Macdonald

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