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V/A - Triple R Friends

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Artist: V/A

Album: Triple R Friends

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Mar. 27, 2003

Keep Some Steady Friends Around

Richard Riley Reinhold is "Triple R," co-owner of the Cologne-based Traum and Trapez labels, which specialize in ambient and minimal house, respectively. Triple R Friends is the recent mix CD for which twelve of Reinhold's friends have contributed new material. In return, he has graciously dedicated the album to them ("F|r meine Freunde"!). Kompakt has never released a mix CD before, so it's notable that they chose such a selfless theme for their first; all but one of Triple R's friends appears courtesy of a label other than Kompakt – and not only those in the minimalist mold. These musicians come from scattered places across the relatively broad spectrum of house, and slightly beyond.

That Reinhold or someone else mixed this CD is almost immaterial. The tracks flow together very cleanly, without any ostentatious segues or edits, and the mixing is anything but hands-on. Moreover, there is no theme, other than that all the musicians are friends of the producer. Therefore Triple R Friends, despite being a mix, bears the discontinuity of a sampler. The songs don't have anything to do with each other, and don't coalesce like an aggregate DJ set. The closest we get to a theme is the frequent presence of vocals, an explicit nod to house, although the style shifts from song to song. To its credit, the album isn't an attempt to exhaustively represent the sundry experiments taking place within that genre today. But perhaps Reinhold should have opted for such exorbitant ambitions – friends, while admittedly quite important in everyday life, hold little promise as a thematic thread in a mix CD.

None of which precludes browsing and enjoying the highlights. The best and most interesting moments come from Traum and Trapez artists: "Pelican (Oliver Hacke Remix)" by Process (Trapez) is foremost among these, with a fantastic bassline that sadly you can only hear on decent speakers (you have to wait through four mediocre tracks to get the chance). "Pelican" is not overwhelmingly original, but it has all the everything-in-its-place crispness of Antonelli Electr. Broker/Dealer's "Boots and Pants" (Traum) reminisces about Carl Craig in his Tangerine Dream moments, with ancient synth tones and a melody in the early trance style. This track is aesthetically pretty, though it feels more than a little hollow. The closing song on the album, Oxtongue's "Delight", also on Traum, brings the purest house feel of any song on Friends, which in conjunction with a sweetly vocoded refrain results in the most dense and danceable song on the CD.

The only drawback to "Delight" is the track that leads into it, Dntel's "This is the Dream," which stands out conspicuously as the low point of Triple R Friends. "This is the Dream" is an insipid and musically backwards take on house. The vocals seem an attempt to integrate the lyrical ardor of emo into electronic music (courtesy of the singer from Death Cab for Cutie), which is a questionable operation to be performed so bluntly. Anyway, the song advances no further than late-80's European club anthemry.

Michael Mayer's remix of PWOG's "Kind of Prayer" seems the classiest track. Like "Delight," the house citations are totally reverent, and the purist notion of depth circumscribes every production decision. From the bouncy bass to the indulgence in reverb to a squawking 303-ish melody, the presence of house is manifest.

Justifying the price tag for a mix like this would be an exercise in expert salesmanship, unfortunately, but if you can convince the record store clerk to play segments of each track, you might seek out a full-length by a given artist that you like. That is, of course, the fundamental economic principle by which most samplers are released. But this is not a sampler, and given the bizarre and beautiful things happening with mix CDs nowadays, it makes Triple R Friends feel like a botched opportunity.

By Ben Tausig

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