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V/A - Electric Ladyland: Clickhop Version 1.0

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Artist: V/A

Album: Electric Ladyland: Clickhop Version 1.0

Label: Mille Plateaux

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

The Electric Ladyland compilation, put out by Germany’s Mille Plateaux label, is now in its sixth year. In the world of fly-by-night independent electronic labels, this is a feat in and of itself, but this particular annual series has broken such unorthodox acts such as Techno Animal, DJ Vadim and Alec Empire. This is an impressive claim to fame, or not, depending on your taste, and one wonders looking at the list of relatively unknown artists contributing this year’s 28-track two-disc set who will be the next to microwave amplifiers on a large scale.

Mille Plateaux chose clickhop as this year’s theme, which at first appears to be a strange amalgam of Tigerbeat6-style kinetic weirdness meshed with hip hop breakbeats. A snare hit becomes the dying squeal of a computer virus being squashed and the boom of a bass drum gets the Kid606 treatment, morphing into momentary distorted-to-all-holy-Hell fuzz. These nerdified drums are layered on top of feedback, the garbled sound of a computer erroneously encoding an mp3 and any other number of glitchy leftover bits of noise that the artists can get their hands on. Clickhop Version 1.0, as the compilation title implies, is an experiment in its early stages. It is hit-or-miss, with the misses being forgetable and the hits sinking battleships.

As a whole, this compilation is ambitious and loosely tied together. This is both good (because it gives the musicians a long tether) and bad (as some of the tracks are so out there they stick out conspicuously when placed next to more “standard” tracks, if that is possible on a compilation like this). The influences, like the material, are wide and diverse: Monophase’s mellow, club-worthy “Rogue” draws from the early years of drum and bass with a nod to Photek while Sophie Rimheden sings about a life as troubled as Beth Orton could ever hope for on “Don’t Forget.”

The beats on Clickhop Version 1.0 work best when the artists drop the click in favor of the hop and aren’t self-consciously Making It New. The most memorable but not necessarily the best tracks all employ MCs, for no other reason that the MC’s voice tends to be the distinguishing feature amidst a plethora of beats herded towards production tricks that are currently in vogue. The best cut on the compilation comes from High Priest of Antipop Consortium fame on a coup called “Soma 1128,” an impressive combination of hip hop braggadocio paired with an original melding of funk and ambience. A close second is DSP’s “Step Back,” which might suffer in the minds of some listeners from its unfortunate accidental similarity to Prefuse73’s style. Akufen’s “Little Hop of Horror” is a well-crafted piece of music with a groove that is plesant at first but gets too repetative. Fans of The Avalanches should appreciate this track nonetheless, which sounds like someone “playing” a transitor radio, static and snatches of talk-show commentary and all.

The second disc is where the compilation picks up steam. Anchored by noisy craftsmen such as Kid606 (with Dalek on a remix of “R U In It”) and DJ Spooky (featuring Yasunao Tone on “Another Forensic Charade”), the second disc surprisingly yields more subtle and melodic pieces than the first. Frank Bertschneider’s “Holt” and Auch’s “All That Pretty Horses” are pleasant and dreamy, followed soon thereafter by Errorsmith’s ode to huffing on the minimal and goofy “rubbercement.”

Mille Plateaux could have halved the number of discs and still come through with a strong album but the shotgun approach to creating a showcase compilation is a necessary evil, I suppose. With a huge array of bleeps and pops shuffled and reshuffled into new musical sentences, some successful and some not-so-successful, Clickhop Version 1.0 is well worth anyone’s hour and a half who is interested in what’s happening on the bleeding edge of electronic music.

By Noah Zimmerman

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