Various Artists, Surreal Estate

[Frite Nite]

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Based in San Francisco, the Frite Nite collective is headed up by Salva, the producer who shot to popularity with his synergistic debut album, Complex Housing, earlier this year. The album melded together many of the emerging music styles in dance music, and that same synergy is prevalent on the collective’s compilation, Surreal Estate, featuring 17 tracks that mix everything from house to hip-hop, dubstep to juke, and all of the electronic funk that sitting in-between. The list of names reads like a who’s who of bass, with many artists not traditionally associated with the tight-knit group, such as Sepalcure and Starkey, alongside stalwarts Comma and B. Bravo.

Sepalcure’s “Deep City Insects” acts an overture of themes while maintaining their characteristically deep mood. It’s an evocative track, full of sweeping chords and echoing percussion that back soulful vocal phrases. While much of Surreal Estate ramps up the energy level, the first couple tracks slowly escalate from this point. Normally Comma’s tracks are very kinetic and laden with hip-hop swagger. His “Vacancy,” though, picks up well from Sepalcure, presenting a dark bass line up against diva cut-ups and skeletal beats. It’s a different take on the same mood that bridges the gap to XI’s stuttering “Whiteout” and Kuru & UFO!’s “Aoki,” a bombastic footwork-inflected roller. A brief break comes in the form of Distal’s quirky “Mamanimal,” whose bright synth squiggles and energized beat sound like a Timbaland from the future.

One of the strongest tracks is Starkey & Epcot’s “Surreal Estate,” the seeming theme song for the compilation. Starkey alternates between live-sounding drum breaks and bass heavy grime beats throughout the track, offering a dynamic change for Epcot’s psychedelic chorus. The lyrics refer to a confusion about what’s real in this time and place and fit along with shifting production techniques. The similarly interesting “Street Codes” from Quitter (NastyNasty & So What) is a rough footwork production, using all the frenetic energy it can muster and combining it with wailing synths and MC samples. Boss man Salva comes in late with “Policy,” deep in the second half of the compilation, and it’s quite an escalation from the slinky house funky of Complex Housing. The synth melody has more in common with dubstep, even though he keeps an electro feeling with his drums and bass. It’s an amped track, definitely set for the dance floor, like much of Surreal Estate.

The compilation closes with another trilogy of more subdued tracks. S0n!ka’s “Down Time” is a late night creeper while Danny Corn’s “Curiophilia” maintains a brisk tempo with lighter melodic elements and spooky vocal sampling. The seven-minute descent of Wheez-ie’s “As I Watch It Unravel” does much of the same job as Sepalcure’s opener, except as an epilogue. It folds in elements of much of what has gone before, but in a new context that lays bare the cross points. Deep melodics set against juke, cut-up vocals, and synths that convey real emotion. Compilations are always a difficult beast to analyze. When they are full of disparate styles, it stands out like a sore thumb. When they are full of a lot of seeming devotees of one style, they do not introduce anything new to the listener. Surreal Estate succeeds by presenting an arc of music that shows the ties between variations in current bass music.


Lando Kal, Maneuver | Little White Earbuds  on November 2, 2011 at 12:02 AM

[…] hoops of bass music to get there. On the flip, “Run It” would have sounded at home on Frite Nite’s recent Surreal Estate compilation, all irregular rhythms and energetically intricate synth design. It’s not necessarily Lando […]

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