August Engkilde

Electronic Panorama Orchestra

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Everyone knows that there's no money in minimalism. But will a rush of left-field electronic labels to release poppier projects fare any better? One you might want to place your money on is Popscape, the affiliate label of Stefan Betke's experimental dub clearing house, ~scape. This first release, by frequent Pole contributor August Engkilde, fares better than most attempts at melding world beats with dub scrapes and torch songwriting. The success of Best of Electronic can largely be attributed to the weary yet ready voice of Frida Asmussen, whose Beth Gibson-like breaths give a misty ambience to several of the record's ten tracks. However, even with the instrumentation, the bass-playing Engkilde and his band of assistant musicians, Fredrik Lundin (bass flute and soprano sax), Laurent Georges (bass clarinet), and Henrik Jorgensen (trumpet) create an easy flow that neither demands too much attention nor fades into the background. Expertly mastered by Betke himself, the natural instruments take on a grainy tone that sifts through the finely combed bass structures, with Engkilde's smartly restrained electronics merely offering unobtrusive guide markings for the musicians to follow. Perhaps it's the expert training Engkilde receives as part of Uwe Schmidt's SeƱor Coconut live band. Or maybe it's the fact that so many over-reaching world music attempts by European electronic musicians readily dismiss their computerized roots in order to mimic quasi-cultural sounds. Whatever it is, Best of Electronic avoids the pitfalls, making an album worthy of starting a label around.

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