CD Review

Various Artists, ArtDontSleep Presents From L.A. With Love ((Milan)

For getting a bead on Southern California's mid-'00s beatcentric substratum, you could do worse than From L.A. With Love—but why would you want to? Compiled by Andrew Lojero, who organizes downtown Los Angeles' ArtDontSleep events, this 17-track disc abounds with the region's A-list cats and catalysts. The music he assembled reflects multifarious cultures commingling in fascinating arrangements, much like LA itself. Otis Jackson Jr. (a.k.a. Madlib, the best known artist here) appears in two of his guises, and though his contributions as Sound Directions and Yesterday's New Quintet come correct with their laid-back CTI-jazz bona fides, they're not even close to being highlights.

Refreshingly, many of From L.A. With Love's most impressive cuts come from its more obscure contributors. From Leaf to Feather's Moog-tastic space-lounge exotica is charmingly quirky, somewhere between early Stereolab and Tipsy. Coleman's beautiful abstract meditation with piano and glitchy digitalia comes off as a dream collab between IDM deity Oval and ambient-drone pianist Harold Budd. Flying Lotus proffers distinctive instrumental hip-hop bearing brittle clapperbeats, smeared synth swirls and electronic twitters. Long Beach's Nobody presents his new outfit, Blank Blue (featuring serene diva coos by Niki Randa), whose track coalesces into a tropical funkadelic cocktail—or maybe a hip-hop version of the 5th Dimension's "Age of Aquarius." Free Moral Agents (with Mars Volta's Ikey Owens) chip in with some orchestral prog Goth à la early His Name Is Alive.

However, the specter presiding over much of this collection is LA producer/arranger David Axelrod (Cannonball Adderley, Electric Prunes), who's worshiped by such crate-digger/producers as Dr. Dre and DJ Shadow. Ax's orchestral grandeur and profound soulfulness inform several tracks, but even the ones not directly influenced by him bear his questing spirit, proving these mavericks care more about artistry than "making it" in an industry whose base is in their back yard.

 
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