There aren’t that many things that are awaited by me these days with such anticipation as new Ru Trip Community compilations. RTC has by now established a considerable status among trip-hop fans and musicians related to the genre, so they would have to try really hard to release a bad compilation, for at this point in their work the issue is not in getting enough submissions, it is in choosing the best from the many. Or, as with the current release, the most fitting the concept. Yes, Letters is a concept compilation, where the necessary criterion was the presence of vocals on the track. Great idea, isn’t it? Letters, i.e. words are written to someone and addressed to someone. And music could be anything that is related to those words – photographs, memories, dreams… Did I like this compilation as much as the previous one? I can’t say that i did. Is it not as good? It’s fantastic. Like I said, RTC is dealing with the quality and very inspired material. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s talk about something less pleasant first, especially considering that there’s just a tiny bit of it. Why did I, usually a sucker for vocals in trip-hop, suddenly craved instrumental tracks? It’s not that vocals are too similar, au contraire they are represented in the most wide variety, genre-wise (from the traditional female to rap and spoken word) and language-wise (besides the obvious Russian and wildly diverse, as far as pronunciation and grammar goes, English there’s also racy Ukrainian from Леся feat. Самата and The Limited Edition and even somewhat shy French, again from The Limited Edition). I think the issue here is that while previous compilation showed how diverse trip-hop can be, Letters bring a slightly different thought to mind, – whatever could be called “trip-hop” if it meets certain criteria, the main being, yes, the vocals. There are tracks on the album from the notorious post-rock territory, there are songs that didn’t go far from that odd genre of “Russian alternative” and there are songs that bring to mind that nasty little word ‘fusion’. The desire of the authors to reflect all the shades in the spectrum is understandable and will be surely appreciated by many listeners, but the more quality material there is to choose from, the more important becomes the need to leave some of it “on the cutting floor” in order to make the compilations more compact and cohesive.
But this is just nit-picking of an old fart, let’s talk about the good, and even the great, of which there is luckily much much more. The record has a few simply exquisite tracks, true discoveries – one of the main reasons I always wait for the new compilations so eagerly. Escome feat. Flyfoxmusic – “I Was Made For You” – absolutely out-of-this-world trip-hop ballad that doesn’t have anything unnecessary – enchanting voice, beautiful piano and structure-holding beat (plus various appropriate inserts that arent cluttering the song). Despite some upsetting mistakes in English this track finds the perfect balance in delicate minimalism that reminded me of Antenne resulting in a powerful sound that in its effect could be put next to such giants as “Nothing Compares 2 U”. PlayGame – “Shiver” – an undoubted hit, with all the positive and negative aspects of the term, – ready for the radio, to listen again and again until it makes you sick (which won’t happen soon). Special thanks to the keyboardist who “makes” the track filling it with with 70’s psychedelic atmosphere. Plat-On – “Burn” – a luxurious track that delivers this combination of cold, ruthless electronica and the vocals that are sort of languishing in captivity but not really trying to break free either, – which I’m always trying to find but rarely do. Straight to Repeat. Another discovery – Леся feat. Самата and The Limited Edition – “Там за рiкою” – it’s like a drink of cold spring water on hot summer day. And it’s not just due to the exotic Ukrainian vocals (even though they certainly do add some racy cuteness to the song), but in general due to the fresh construction of the track, which came out so… three-dimensional? I just want to hold in in my hands and look at it from every angle. And then there is Ломаные Плоскости (Broken Planes) – “Играй” (“Play”) – a perfect conclusion for the compilation, more like meaningful suspension points than a sprawling confident signature. I’m glad to see that new unique sub-genre – how should I call it – ‘poetic trip-hop’? – becoming more popular.