If the electronic musicians of Western Europe and America ever run out of likely samples -- and every session of Solid Steel deforests at least three or four pristine, previously untouched performances -- it will be left up to others to dredge the world of recorded music for the sample sources needed to evoke what they will. The duo Skalpel, discovered in Poland by Russian expat DJ Vadim on a tour, reportedly has a large collection of, and affinity for, Polish jazz. Their self-titled debut for Ninja Tune, which appears after several underground mixes never widely available, illustrates that Skalpel bring the delicious tensions of Cold War-era jazz to the much less inhibited filmic funk of Ninja Tune acts such as Mr. Scruff or Cinematic Orchestra. Sampled or not, Skalpel is a very live-sounding record; despite the occasional crackle of a dusty LP, the duo at times uses extensive soloing passages from the musicians they've either hired or sampled (much of it excellent). And the range of that sampling is broad; Skalpel surveys several decades of jazz, from late-'50s beatnik cool to late-'60s distorted, electric jazz-rock to the deep, exploratory fusion of the '70s. Though the record includes a lot of worthy music, it does raise the question of who deserves credit for it, Skalpel or their sample victims? Perhaps Ninja Tune should have followed the lead of Stones Throw and presented a retrospective of Polish jazz instead of allowing Skalpel to sample at will.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush