Solex - Pick Up
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Solex
Pick Up

Just in case you thought those stories about people making records in their bedroom with an 8-track recorder and sampler were BS, just look at the example Elisabeth Esselink set on her first release Solex Vs The Hitmeister. As a bored record-store owner Esselink sifted through all the crap music that nobody would buy and harvested the coolest sounds she could find from them, then constructed an entire disc worth of material in her basement. This album got snagged-up by Matador and became her aforementioned debut release that followed the life of an imaginary character named Solex. Now, she's back with her follow-up and instead of mining crappy releases for samples, most of the samples for Pick Up were recorded at live shows (ranging from metal to classical) by Esselink.

Judging simply by the above data, one might expect the album to me a crazy unlistenable smatter of sorts, culled together from whatever scraps of sound that could be found. While there is a fair amount of different styles on the disc, though, the entire disc is filled with catchy little hooks and a jaunty air that holds it all together. Think of a lo-fi (and catchier) Poe, or a Dutch Cibo Matto (wow, that's kind of strange, eh?) influenced by rock instead of hip-hop and you're getting closer. Whereas the material on the first disc followed the adventures of the character named Solex, this time the theme of the stream-of-consciousness lyrics (not that I can find one) is supposedly that all the tracks are from imaginary conversations that took place while in the bathroom. If you think that sounds strange, just think of the one room in your place where you talk to yourself the most.

So now, on with the music. The album-titled first track "Pick Up" starts out with some random background crowd noise before a drum loop slowly materializes and what sounds like the back-to-back flourish of an orchestra and a two-second guitar jam sliced together. Solex soon starts in with playful vocals while little bursts of horn and other random things pop into the mix. The horns are back on the second track "Randy Costanza," as well as what sounds like another possible sample of classical music. Getting even more playful, the track throws in some flute and much more silly vocals about the character the song is named after. Really, the album gets even catchier on the next two tracks "Dork At 12 O'Clock" and "That's What You Get With People Like That On Cruises Like These..." The former track struts along with an offset beat while the latter is flavored with some organ sounds and some nice little plucked-string sounds. Solex takes on a little more seductive tone with the vocals while talking about decadence on a cruiseship while a bit of squealing guitar backs her up for emphasis just at the right moments.

Coming soon on the heels is "Oh Blimey!", a ragtime saloon sounding number while "The Burglars Are Coming!" can't figure out whether it wants to be a funky guitar track or a floating little harmonious track. In the end, the two sides work together along with super-catchy vocals and it ends up one of the better songs on the album. After a couple more tracks, Solex slows things down a bit with "Five Star Shamberg," and it's echoed-out vocals and minimal instrumentation (including what sounds like a theremin). "Chris The Birthday Boy" is another slower number, and it works well with a nice little keyboard part that interwinds with some even nicer little chime sounds and soft vocals that sound like they're singing a nursery rhyme.

Overall, the album is super catchy and there are little different things that you can catch with each new listen. Even though it's supposedly comprised of tons of different sound sources, they all work together rather well (despite their very obvious "looped" sound in most places) to create a cohesive album of 14 quirky tracks. Even the pop sensibility is firmly in place, as not one of them runs over 4 minutes and most of them clock in at about 3. They're concise and fun (as if you didn't gather that from reading some of the above song titles) and a lot more inventive than most of the pop crap that radio stations seem to spew out their speakers these days.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00