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Various Artists Brownswood Bubblers Four. Compiled by Gilles Peterson Review

Compilation. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Proof that there’s no substitute for a good pair of ears and an engaging sequence.

Jon Lusk 2009

The man responsible for more compilations than you can shake a sticky slipmat at returns, with the fourth collection of bubbling-under acts for his Brownswood label – named after the North London road he used to live in. This instalment kicks off on a brassy, soulful, retro tip, proceeds through leftfield hip hop and funk-fuelled beats, and dallies in Mali and Brazil and before veering off into various electro-flavoured hybrids.

Maybe So, Maybe No is a meticulously smooth emulation of 70s soul by geeky white Detroit area multi-instrumentalist and singer Mayer Hawthorne. It just makes you wonder how he performs this stuff live. Souleance’s Mañana mutates from hip hop cut-ups into a Brazilian berimbau and cuica percussion workout, and the down-to-Rio vibe is picked up again later on with a deliciously dreamy, floating cut by Jam Da Silva: Dia Santo sounds like Tribalistas on a particularly blissful and effective holiday.

Another highlight is the fabulously named Misled Children & Odean Pope, whose Dadadun is a lovely, dawdling jazz/funk instrumental sprinkled with inspired percussive effects.

The predominance of bright digital sounds and low garage and electro beats that go all the way from Keaver & Brause’s Awake through to Lone’s Sea Spray (both on the cutting edge Dealmaker label) is thankfully tempered by their sparseness and sense of invention.

Oumou Sangaré’s Iyo Djeli is the only thing here that’s neither obscure nor ‘bubbling under’, since Mali’s leading ‘songbird’ made her breakthrough back in the early 90s. It sticks out not just because of that but also for its ruminating balafon (wooden xylophone) and Sangaré’s titanic vocal, which puts most of the other singers to shame and effectively divides the album in two.

With all of this stuff out there on the net, the whole idea of DJs as purveyors of ‘rare’ cuts is arguably becoming redundant these days. Even so, there’s still no substitute for a good pair of ears and an engaging sequence. Some sleeve notes wouldn’t have gone amiss, though, as even a trawl of the net won’t produce much information about several of these acts beyond a minimalist MySpace page.

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