Reviewed by Malcolm Seymour III (Pitchfork)
1987 was a rough year. I was eight at the time, and remember learning a few painful lessons: Dogs shouldn't be allowed to walk on plastic pool covers. Watering siblings does not make them grow. When using the "infinite lives" trick in "Super Mario Brothers," you can only actually earn about 100 before you wrap over into negative lives.
As much as you may enjoy cotton candy, soy sauce, peanut butter and Pepsi individually, you should resist the temptation to mix them at all costs.
So, in my quest to open this review with an analogy, that's the best I could muster-- the fateful story that ended with me staining my parents' kitchenware before yakking all over my brother's bed. The moral: some recipes yield less than the sum of their parts.
If only the fine folks at Planet µ records (namely, Mike Paradinas-- it's a small label) had taken this adage to heart when assembling So Soon, a star-studded compilation of remixes done for 1998's Slag Boom Van Loon project. The initial SBVL record was a collaboration between Paradinas himself (known best as µ-ziq, but also by five other pseudonyms) and Jochem Paap of Speedy J fame.
So Soon, which hit the market to far more accolade and anticipation than the original, boasts a line-up of some of today's most influential IDM artists. With Pole, Matmos, µ-ziq, Four Tet, Coil and Boards of Canada rounding out the roster, this record seemed destined for success. The blueprint was brilliant, the hype huge, and the ingredients impeccable. But still, things fell through. And Paradinas, who planned it all out, is actually the least to blame.
The µ-ziq remix of "Spc-ch-pn" stands out as one of this disc's brighter moments. The piece fashions itself after the skittering clicks and hissing static of ~scape's Kraut-dub sound, laced with traces of Mike's signature funk melodies. It's a different sound for Paradinas--perhaps the greatest stylistic departure he's made since his reworking of Mogwai's "Fear Satan." And it suits him remarkably well.
But some of the other big names on the bill fail to execute. The Boards chip in the main attractions-- a remix of "Poppy Seed," and a truncated reprise of the same song, both of which sound uncharacteristically obvious for the Scottish duo. Marcus Eoin, one half of the group and certainly no stranger to the notion of musical subtlety, once told XLR8R magazine, "For us, the aim is to try and make something that you like instantly, but the important thing is actually the hidden mystery hypnotism that happens after ten listens."
Now I don't know about the rest of you, but I think the words "hidden mystery hypnotism" ought to up the stakes a bit. I was expecting two tracks of Martian musical voodoo, or at least a smidge of innovation and intricacy. Instead, both versions of "Poppy Seed" see Boards of Canada rehashing the same samples and techniques they've been milking since Twoism-- warm yet distant melodies, themes of childhood and disembodied vocal samples. There are a few catchy riffs, but nothing to prop them up past the third or fourth hearing.
Pole's contribution falls into the same trap as all his other remix efforts. At 7* minutes, Stefan Betke's interpretation of "Casual" follows a by-now-familiar formula:
1) Introduce sample from broken Waldorf filter-- what Pole song is complete without this gimmick?
2) Fade in sample from original song.
3) After roughly one minute, drop this sample and launch into five minutes of unrelated, unreleased material.
4) One minute before the song ends, repeat sample from original song for the sake of credibility.
5) Pawn final product off as "remix."
6) Collect royalties.
This piece obeys the same unimaginative, uninspired and downright lazy logic Betke pursued on the Pole vs. Four Tet 12" a while back. And the results are predictably unexciting.
Matmos save the day with the glitched-out disco facelift they give to "Moon Base Alpha," an unreleased Slag Boom track. Perhaps the album's most enjoyable moment, this number has it all: spastic but controlled beat construction, amazing melodies on both ends of the EQ, and all those crazy cut-up vocals the kids love. Tipper and Leafcutter John, smaller players in the avant-electronica scene, also contribute worthwhile material.
Breaking things down by the numbers, this album comes up with equal amounts of good, bad and mediocre. So Soon works nicely as a scenester's crash course on the landscape of modern electronica, but doesn't catch any individual artist at the peak of his game. If you haven't heard work by many of these names, consider this release an inexpensive introduction to their styles. Otherwise, we'll mark this album as "for completists only."
- Various - The Cosmic Forces Of Mu
- Venetian Snares - Defluxion
- Venetian Snares & Speedranch - Making Orange Things
- Joseph Nothing - Dummy Variations
- Hrvatski - Swarm & Dither
- Mu Allstars - Criminal
- Hellfish & Producer - Constant Mutation (Mixed)
- Leafcutter John - Microcontact
- Nicole Elmer - Beef Bouilion
- Tim Tetlow - Beauty Walks A Razor's Edge
- Phthalocyanine - 25 Tracks Fer 1 Track
- Leafcutter John - Concourse E.E.P.
- Luke Vibert - '95-'99
- Jega - Geometry
- Capitol K - Roadeater E.P.
- Kid Spatula - Full Sunken Breaks
- Jega & Kid Spatula - Unity Gain / Hard Love
- Capitol K - Sounds Of The Empire
- Slag Boom Van Loon - So Soon
- Tusken Raiders - The Motorbike Track
- Slag Boom Van Loon - Slag Boom Van Loon
- Jega - Spectrum
- Horse Opera - 3 Cornered Room
- Capitol K - Island Row