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Album Review

David Reep, the Bay Area beatmaker who records under the name Elephant & Castle, brings a unique sensibility to his experiments in loops, samples, and ambience. "Messy but pretty" seems to be the operative concept: every track features lots of crazily layered samples, lots of sonic cracks, and lots of surface noise, but tunefulness and groove always (or almost always) emerge from what appears, at first listen, to be a sort of benign sonic chaos. They emerge most captivatingly on tracks like the gorgeously disconcerting "RGB <<" (with its gentle but insistent beat and dubby start-stop vocals and chord washes) and the luscious dream dub of "Formatting" (which is nearly arrhythmic except for an almost subliminal throb of a beat). One of the album's strongest tracks, "Oakland Stroll," features skittery funk drums, shimmery guitar parts, and robo-synth samples, but disappointingly ends after barely more than two minutes. Elsewhere the experimentation is less successful: on "The Hangar," the mess and sonic chaos that are always lurking in the background succeed at pushing their way to the front, leaving the listener more confused than interested. But then you encounter something like "Derni/Paralysis," whose wonderfully creepy ambience, shuffling funk beat, and mid-century orchestral and vocal samples evoke a dream that is almost, but not quite, a nightmare and keep you coming back to listen again. It's messy, but it sure is pretty.

Transitions, Elephant & Castle
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