Various Artists Surreal Estate
With only 12 releases to its name so far, Salva's Frite Nite imprint has, for one reason or another, decided now is the right moment to put together a compilation of tracks from its circle of producers, along with some beatmakers who could be described as extended family. As could be expected of most things Frite Nite-related, futuristic bangers are the focus for much of Surreal Estate, and when this focus is sharp, the results are as alluring as they are danceable, and when it isn't, another good track is usually only a few skips away.
Kicking off with one of its better contributions, the LP starts with the slow-burning "Deep City Insects" from NYC duo Sepalcure. It's a mellow introduction, and one that sets the bar of production quality high from the onset with its textured percussion, flowing chords, and deep, dark bass. Despite some valiant efforts from XI and Kuru & UFO!, the next memorable piece of bass music comes from San Francisco's DJG with "Rites." Showing off his honed skills for intricate drum programming and well-placed, flute-like synths, "Rites" is one of the most propulsively tribal efforts on Surreal Estate, second only to the excellent contribution from another SF-based producer, Ghosts on Tape, whose "Video Void" is the deepest cut to grace the tracklist.
The comp peaks somewhat early on, thanks to a track from the self-proclaimed "Boss of the South,", Distal. His contribution, "Mananimal", appears a good deal before the halfway point of the compilation, beginning as a half-steppin', R&B-infused house track before eventually blossoming into an all-out dance party, one led by an absolutely nasty synth lead and anchored by starkly minimal drum programming. But the album's high point is quickly contrasted by its lowest (which happens to be its title track), with a collaboration between Starkey and Epcot which pairs drumline rolls with rapid-fire rapping and future-carnival synths, resulting in Surreal Estate's only real head-scratching moment.
A few worthwhile efforts join the aforementioned Ghosts on Tape track on the latter part of the LP. Cosmic Revenge shows an affinity for skittering drums and deep electro on "Frostbite," while Portland's Danny Corn explores the darker side of futuristic bass music on "Curiophillia." And despite employing an overused vocal sample from Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody," NastyNasty turns in one of his best tracks of recent memory with the melancholy soul of "Suffocating." But this part of the record is also home to Salva's own contribution, "Policy," and it is unfortunately uncharacteristic of the sleek, enticing production which made his debut LP, Complex Housing so good.
There are certainly moments of true enjoyment to be had on Surreal Estate, and if your DJ set it is need of a few future-bass bangers, it's not a bad release to pick from—just don't expect to be able to listen to it from beginning to end without fighting the urge to hit that skip button every now and then.
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