Various Artists

Audio Alchemy, Vol. 2: Directions in Sound Manipulation

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Though the second volume of Ubiquity Records' Audio Alchemy series fails to reach the inspiringly rich coherence or personality of its predecessor, several convincing individual tracks along with occasionally profound sound experimentation merit its assembly. Washington, D.C.'s Thievery Corporation breaks the ice with "Weightless," one of as many as six songs on Audio Alchemy, Vol. 2 that could fit with the ambiance of Vol. 1. The cool bass melody serves as the track's radiator while percussive loops dance frantically up and up as if they were trying to inspire rain from the heavens. Yet no rain can be expected because Arizona native DJ Z-Trip is up next to drop "Rhythmic Metaphor," a torrid nod to hip-hop's old school. DJ Z-Trip samples from gurus such as KRS-One and Run-D.M.C. to compose a nostalgic hot coal of electronic music's beginnings. But as in Audio Alchemy Vol. 1, it is the San Francisco duo Bugs that brings the downpour with "Colors and Squares," an aural cascade of melodies drenched in beats of placid groove. The ethereal pitch-bending tune sounds like an evil wizard's reworking of the theme song to the BBC's sci-fi show Dr. Who, or a transistor radio struggling to receive a message from a spy. Bugs pays meticulous attention to the structural detail of its compilation contributions, producing an unmatched, epic electronica style. Another track worth spinning is the aptly named "Atmosphere" by J. Boogie's Dubtronic Experience. Its unpretentious expression is easily overlooked, but the modesty is what creates the carefree tone. The female vocals in "Atmosphere" color the waning moonlight melodies and manipulations until the album's end. The characteristic velvety vibrations of Ubiquity are definitely present on Audio Alchemy, Vol. 2: Directions in Sound Manipulation, just not as consistently as the compilation's prototype.

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