Aardvarck: Choice
Eat Concrete

Choice would seem to be as good a title as any for Aardvarck's second full-length album for Eat Concrete Records, given its twenty-two-track sprawl. The downside of such a jam-packed release is the lack of cohesion or narrative arc that results but compensating for that shapelessness is the fact that even if one track disappoints there's sure to be a better one close by. So it's easy, for example, to dismiss the silly opener “Words,” which is nothing more than thirty seconds of Gaslamp Killer riffing on the Aardvarck name, and instead regard the trip-hopping second track, “Lucky Shot,” as the album's true opener. Mike Kivits (aka Aardvarck), who's been releasing records on Dutch labels (Delsin, Rush Hour) since 1993 and recently founded his own Bloom imprint, pursues a number of different directions on the collection, though one would most likely find the album filed under instrumental hip-hop.

Choice features a few longer tracks that feel more like fully-developed pieces than sketches. Kivits gives “Gestolen 21,” for example, six minutes to connect its melancholy hip-hop dots, with the soothing result not too far removed from a prototypical Geogaddi workout. Sounding like something originating out of Flying Lotus's studio, “Vinnik Zelf Lekker” merges space-age electronics with the skeletal thrust of heavy kick drums and razor-sharp snares. Plus there's a melding of synthesizer-heavy jazz fusion and bass-buzzing dubstep (“Andy's Theme”), Eugene Latumeten's smooth croon on the luscious “Heal,”  and Raffi Herbert's soulful vocals conjoined to relaxed hip-hop flow on “Find the Cow… Almost.” Kivits doesn't go out of his way to render some tracks' samples unidentifiable: “Je Bent Zelf Raar!” opens with material lifted from Weather Report's “American Tango” (from 1974's Mysterious Traveller), while “Ge-kaait Speedmetal” and “Ge-vat Loop & Biet Niet”—shades of Ekkehard Ehlers' Betrieb!—pull Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht into their orbit. In similar manner, the acoustic jazz interlude “Stolen Jazz”  features a few breathy utterances by Cassandra Wilson. Rounding out the release are dubby pieces (“Leuk He!,” “3 tot 1 Zonder Toaster,” “Dik”), bass science and trippy headnod (“Hoezo?,” “Breaking Bad”), dubstep (“Butsbuts”), and electro-funk (“Deadwood”). It should be obvious by now that Kivits does indeed make a number of stylistic pit stops along the way, so there's bound to be something that'll appeal to even the most curmudgeonly critic.

October 2010