the lexicon

a writing portfolio by Alexandra Savvides

Various Assets – Not For Sale (Red Bull Music Academy, Toronto 2007)

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Red Bull Music AcademyCompilation CDs are by their very nature a mixed bag. The days of collections like 100% Hits and So Fresh are (thankfully) behind me, yet even so their memory provides a lasting lesson in the construction of their track lists.

Regardless of their purpose or genre, the compilation is there to promote songs, artists and causes. The latest record from the Red Bull Music Academy certainly fulfils this criteria – each track was written, recorded and produced at 2007’s RBMA, held in Toronto.

With the worldwide proliferation of dubstep, it is no surprise that one of its lead purveyors, Benga, appears on the album. His 2008 release Diary of an Afro Warrior was widely touted as one of the more mainstream examples of dubstep emerging out of Britain. Yet his track on Not For Sale, produced with TRG and DJ Zinc is surprisingly heavy. Not entirely dubstep, not entirely grime, “Benga Woz Here” works on a reverberating bass line coupled with a thumping 2-step beat that seems deeper than the tracks on his solo release.

The lead track on the first CD is undoubtedly the highlight of the collection – Muhsinah & Jake One’s “You” is heavily infused with the flavour of soul and old school funk, with Muhsinah’s playful vocal lifting the song beyond its humble origins. The quirky culinary references in the song make more sense when accompanied by the liner notes. Muhsinah stepped away from the stove just long enough to pen the lyrics and the bass line for this one.

Most of the takes on this album lean toward the experimental, producing lively results, even if they don’t always work in a conventional sense. Over on the second CD, the risks are perhaps greater, with bigger payoffs – again, Muhsinah proves herself as a talent to watch with her collaboration with Marks on “In Need Of”, rapping to the underscore of brass samples and sharp kick drums.

Such a collaborative, intense environment inevitably creates results that would be difficult to produce otherwise. This collection undoubtedly reflects such an experience. An interesting take on the RBMA by Guido Farnell can be found over at Cyclic Defrost. For more information on RBMA, head to redbullmusicacademy.com.

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Written by lexstatic

May 25, 2008 at 6:53 pm

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