Various Artists: Soulsearching - The Compost Radio Show

John Bergstrom

Michael Rütten burns his popular radio show to disc, and the result is an ultra-cool mix of soul, jazz, funk, dance, and emotion.

Various Artists

Soulsearching - the Compost Radio Show

Label: Compost
US Release Date: 2005-09-20
UK Release Date: 2005-08-22

Here is a CD inspired by a radio show which was inspired by a record label. Perhaps best known for its outstanding Future Sound of Jazz series, Germany's Compost has been a well-respected outlet for jazz- and hip-hop-inspired dance music for some time. By contrast, the weekly, syndicated/internet Soulsearching radio show is only a couple years old. Curated by DJ/producer/journalist Michael Rütten (electronic music seems to just beg for hyphenates, doesn't it?), it extends the Compost esthetic to various labels, artists, and genres -- and now this CD.

You know what, though? None of that really matters in light of the fact that Soulsearching is a great album, period. Rütten is adamant that his selections aren't "NuJazz". Fair enough; it's a silly name, anyway. Just say, then, that most of this stuff is jazzy, chill, cool, soulful, funky electronic dance music -- and leave it at that.

The first third of Soulshearching is so perfectly cool, so impeccably mellow that you wish you had a plush midcity lounge just so you could spin it there. Even if you have to settle for your bedroom, sofa, or a commuter train, you'll still get the same effect. Danielsongs' "I Could Save You I Could Hold You Tight" is every bit as seductive and sophisticated as its title suggests, from the scatting and gentle, Brazilian-style acoustic guitar that introduce it to the lackadaisical vocals to the barely-there house rhythm that anchors it. The handful of tracks that follows is equally sublime. Whether leaning toward house (Pascal Rioux's "Don't Outstay Outside 2 Night"), hip-hop (Opensouls' "In Your Hands"), or Afrofunk (Franck Biyong's "Power Brain"), it's a warm, seamlessly jazz-inflected trip.

Maybe not surprisingly, the magic is slightly undone during the album's middle section, as Rütten goes for a more eclectic mix of sounds and styles. Particularly jarring is Basic Soul Unit's "Back Then Now", which nails the vintage Detroit techno sound but is out of place here. There's also some experimental electro-funk and spoken-word, none of which is bad, but none of which matches the excellence of the earlier material.

Just think of that bit as a detour on your journey to cooler-than-cool, because next thing you know Sleep Walker's vibrant, straight-up "Into The Sun" blasts through with skyscraping sax, velvety Fender Rhodes and life-affirming vocals. From there it's CS Cook's brooding, naked comedown "Peephole People", which brings to mind the excellent Alpha collective: bathed in blue light, heartbroken, soothing. A perfectly melancholic place to leave you -- but then the sun comes out with Benny Sings' "Make a Rainbow". Gently hopeful, sung by a chorus, it's like a dream combination of Roy Ayers and Sufjan Stevens. This is music that makes you feel like wherever you are, it's the right place.

If it weren't for that unfocused middle, Soulsearching would be a perfect document of where soul music can still go when it's not concerned with bling and airplay, maybe the best of its kind since Sylk 130's When the Funk Hits the Fan. Even so, it's much more than just a souvenir from a radio show.






West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".


PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".


Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.


Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.