Not all downbeat compilations are created equal. Abstrakt Reality Records’ latest collection of eclectic tunes transcends the soporific dullness established by so many discs on the market by spanning several genres, from pop to jungle, house to jazzy lounge. Though not without some major shortcomings, Abstraktions Volume 2 is a rather pleasant journey through less heart-pounding fare, showcasing some talented artists alongside a smattering of rather mediocre ones.
Somewhat surprisingly, the folks who compiled this album threw in some fluffy pop tunes, and in fact, two lite-pop songs work together for a relatively strong start. The first, “Take a Walk”, sounds eerily similar to mid-‘90s pop à la Jill Sobule. The singer is no all-American sweetheart, however. Nineteen-year-old Slovenia singer Darja provides the quirky, folksy vocals for this tune, with partner Mario Marolt programming the beats. Cavestar and Allison Silver’s “This Game” follows, this time lending out a darker, funk-tinged exercise with ethereal vocals lurking amidst the tender piano riffs and bongos. “Cradle Me” by Blind Divine is another crossover pop ditty, but this comes across as much more processed and artificial. Straddling the divide between electro-pop and silly piano-heavy ‘80s cheese, this song does little but annoy the listener.
Fortunately, “Cradle Me” is the only real stinker on this CD, though there are a few that stick out as mediocre. Tracks such as “The Horn” by Ryeland Allison really do nothing but fill up audio space-really, a vocodered voice chanting “the horn” over and over again does little but confuse. Usound’s “Kuriyama” is apparently an attempt at exploring darker ambient territory, but its forced attempts at ethereal composition come off as rather uneasy and bland. There really is a fine line between boring ambient crap and backroom rave music, but folks such as Purple Planet do a fine job of avoiding sleep-inducing dreariness. Their contribution, “Rearview Mirror” (Trip to the Stars remix) is the perfect accompaniment to trippy visuals and avant-garde contemporary art installations, and an alluringly languid voice slides easily around electronic sound.
The more drum & bass-influenced tracks stand out as the strongest on this disc. “Another World” by 4/4 Project delves into the style of atmospheric drum & bass championed by the likes of LTJ Bukem, and the song would likely fit right in with Bukem’s landmark label compilation, Points in Time. Strummed harps and distant voices give way to crunchy synths and complex drumming, all the while maintaining the lush, warm atmosphere built up from the beginning. The most appealing track here is “The Cuban’s “Elian”, a delightfully catchy, flirty tune boasting an infectious piano line over an incessant drum & bass pitter-patter. Sounds of falling water and multi-layered rhythms composed largely of found sounds work nicely with the occasional horn interjections, and this all morphs into an energetic, growling jungle workout complete with bongos and quadruple-time drums. A notable effort from a small indie label, Abstraktions Volume 2 hints at interesting things to come.