Various Artists

Melankolic Sampler

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Melankolic Sampler compiles two tracks from each of the four initial artists on Massive Attack's Melankolic label. Album tracks from electronic film score maven Craig Armstrong, atmospheric trip-hoppers Alpha, reggae guru Horace Andy, and U.K. hip-hopper Lewis Parker nestle alongside three previously-unreleased songs and one B-side. In just about every case, the album tracks are superior to the new songs. Craig Armstrong is represented by the lush, melodramatic strings, harps, and beats of "Weather Storm" from The Space Between Us and the less interesting, Enigma-like "Io Canto." "Rain" is one of the many highlights from Alpha's superb Come From Heaven, where it's rolling piano and beautifully evocative vocals work dark magic; "Over," a lesser instrumental, is taken from their "Sometime Later" single. Horace Andy proves that it's not the age of the dub sounds behind his stunning, wobbly reggae that matter, but the production. "Skylarking," which dates back to 1972 and is compiled on the album of the same name, is a stunning, laid-back scene-setter, whereas the 1998 recording of "My Lord" suffers from repetition and an uneven feel. Lewis Parker sounds like a more relaxed Method Man on "101 Piano's." The song's twinkling piano, haunting background tones, and fuzzy lo-fi production aid his somewhat derivative rap. The a cappella version of "Shadows of Autumn" needed similar help, as Parker struggles awkwardly over samples that would sound demonically compelling with musical accompaniment. Melankolic Sampler is a decent look into the early days of Melankolic, but its bonus tracks don't make it a collector's item.

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