Staedtizism 4 (~scape)
By Ron Schepper
While the first three Staedtizism compilations explored Dub, Jazz and Hip-hop themes, the fourth (and apparently last) in the series uses 'Funk' as a springboard for its artists' tracks.
But if 'funk' is the point of reference, it's a loosely interpreted one, for the nine pieces here hardly conform to some singular, restrictive definition of the term. This is hardly a new development, however, for the other three collections accommodated similarly broad takes on their respective themes. Past Staedtizism contributors Jan Jelinek, Deadbeat, Thomas Fehlmann, Cappablack and Andrew Peckler make return appearances, joined by new recruits Akufen, Safety Scissors, Daniel Bell and Tadd Mullinix.
Cappablack's' 'Harder to Unravel' opens the proceedings tastily with a head-nodding groove, swirling keyboards, and sped-up, garbled billie holiday samples. It's followed by Safety Scissors' sunny 'Amnesia, I need you to remind me,' a humorous romp filled with old-school synths, electric pianos, handclaps, and Matthew Curry's endearing vocals. Jan Jelinek's 'Fatback's Wicky Wacky' is probably the strongest track of the bunch. He masterfully drops an irresistible lead bass onto a classic funk-soul groove, and pushes it towards gramm territory with some syncopated snatches of vinyl surface noise. Farben leanings surface with the addition of 70s-style horns and wah-wah guitars, while the wordless 'ba-da-de-dum' vocals call to mind 'La Nouvelle Pauvrete.'
Akufen's 'Theo's Theory (to Theo Parrish)' maintains the high standard of his previous work while adding a new twist. It opens impressively in a jazzy mode with cymbals, trumpet, and saxophone samples, then shifts abruptly to a shuffling house groove before eventually returning to a jazz style. Veteran Thomas Fehlmann's 'Andrea is delighted' shows him ladening his shuffling funk with reverberant panning keyboards in classic Chain Reaction style. Deadbeat's 'Fun....k?' sees Scott Monteith moving away from the purer dub of 'Wild Life Documentaries' and into a refreshingly straight-up, rollicking house style. Monteith artfully adorns the Plastikman-style groove with saxophone squeals, thrumming percussion, burbling keyboards, and sampled vocal snippets reminiscent of Akufen's 'My Way'.
Some tracks, however, disappoint slightly. Andrew Pekler's 'Timmy T' is a pleasant enough exercise in raw jazz-tinged noodling and groove-oriented vocal sampling but doesn't match the heights of 'Station to Station' and 'Steady Bounce,' his strong contribution to 'Staedtizism 3'. The electrofunk of Daniel Bell's 'Star Child' is overlaid by sweet strings and distorted Kraftwerk-style vocal accents but is weakened by a lack of compositional development. 'Fascinated' finds Tadd Mullinix closing things out with a slow, lurching bass-heavy groove, its repetitiveness redeemed somewhat by its billowing keyboards.
And, finally, this comp's nine tracks clock in at 47 minutes, making it the slightest of the four. ('Staedtizism 2', for example, has twelve tracks totaling 64 minutes.) Ultimately 'Staedtizism 4' impresses as a satisfying listen full of stylistic variety and well worth its purchase price, but also, given its relative brevity and the impeachable calibre of some tracks, a tad inferior to the other three. Kudos to ~scape, though, for having produced a generally top-notch compilation series that consistently maintains interest with its diverse interpretations of contrasting themes.