Jamie Lidell finds himself in a totally different setting on Compass
, an album that seems to have, ironically, almost no direction. This is far from a bad thing; the album itself functions much like a trance, albeit one with severe ADD. Many of the tracks find themselves blurred in blips, Lidell twisting knobs with half-formed motifs fading in and out of drums loops, and his unique brand of electro-soul getting unexpected makeovers left and right (even in the middle of songs). He ruminates on melodies only to about-face into pedal pushing weirdness, and it's just as delightful as it is unpredictable. Compass
doesn't lead anywhere, but it does suggest that 'point A' to 'point B' isn't the secret to a fulfilling journey.
"Completely Exposed", the eclectic opener, finds a marriage of Lidell's two passions... the beat-box vocal layering, and the soulful standards. It's familiar, but nothing about Compass
stays in one place for long enough to get comfortable. Part of the spectrum revamp is probably due to Beck's production; we've seen him grit-up the scene on almost everything he touches (including, most recently, Charlotte Gainsbourg). Here, he encourages Lidell to pick and choose his moments wisely, from the soulful wah-pedal "She Needs Me" to the sounds-like-a-Motown-remix "Enough's Enough", to the electro-funk "I Wanna Be Your Telephone". Throw in guest spots from Gonzales, Feist, Nikka Costa, Wilco's Pat Sansone, and Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, and man, you've got a stew going. It's an all you can eat buffet.
Subsequently you wind up eating too much, but it is totally OK. Lidell must be fully aware of his inability to nail two pieces of wood together, no matter how nice those pieces might be. The production values are kind of similar to LCD Soundsystem... the vocals are a bit more reverberated and less towards the front, despite the genre being far from shoegaze. It sounds like this was an intentional move, to have the ears focus on the meticulous attention to detail with drums, snares, claps, and bass. Listen to the way the instruments morph on the "Ring", almost as if they can't make up their mind what they are trying to say... it's an impressionist painting. The supposed weakness of Lidell's music, his inability to focus, might just be the perfect bokeh for his voice.
On "Compass", the title track, Lidell reminds us of the only direction he needs: the one that leads to "you". No clue who that might be, the listener, a forlorn lover, or just an idea, but it's a reminder that Lidell not only knows how to write a compelling hook, but knows how to salt and pepper it with his personality, and roast that sh*t until it's delicious. -joe puglisi
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MP3: "Compass" (Compass)
Jamie Lidell on Myspace
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