Low Kick and Hard Bop

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Listening to a new Solex album is a bit like being suddenly and completely immersed in a foreign language. At first it sounds alien, unpredictable, and impossible to decipher, but as time goes by, its rhythms become natural, and charming idioms and turns of phrase slowly reveal themselves. Elisabeth Esselink's third Solex album, Low Kick and Hard Bop, could be considered a primer in advanced Solex -- it's an evocative and wildly creative, but not immediately accessible collection. Listeners not already fluent in Solex Vs. the Hitmeister and Pick Up may be bewildered by the strange, ever-changing melodies and arrangements, which Esselink crafts from samples of the kitschiest records she can find in her shop. Judging from the sound of songs like "Comely Row," which mixes Martin Denny-esque drums and a guitar line worthy of the Batman theme to witty -- and surprisingly danceable -- effect, this time the exotica, big band, and surf sections provided the best sampling material. The tart blasts of brass, slide guitars, and jazzy pianos that pepper "Shoot Shoot!," "Ease Up, You Fundamentalists!," and "The Dot on the I Between the H and the T" make Low Kick and Hard Bop Solex's most direct, organic-sounding work yet; ironically, Esselink's growing prowess with the sampler makes her work sound less electronic. Like a mix of the unruliest aspects of Beck and Björk's work, Solex's music isn't just lively, it's animated. Even the album's poppiest moments, such as "Mere Imposters," "Good Comrades Go to Heaven," and the Breeders-esque "Knee-High" bubble over with more musical ideas than most artists can muster over the course of an entire album. Solex novices should still probably start with Hitmeister, but most fans of clever, challenging pop music will find that Low Kick and Hard Bop speaks to them.

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