Of course Ramp 50 is all over the place. Ramp Recordings is all over the place, too, and has been from its inception. It started as a rap label, with veteran Nashville MC Count Bass-D the most striking thing by far from the string of backpacker fare that constituted Ramp's first few years. Then, in 2008, Ramp issued Zomby's "Strange Fruit," and its MO shifted to crafty, auteurist bass music.
Since "Strange Fruit," which leads off the compilation CD celebrating the label's 50th release, Ramp has released consistently good music from a lot of big comers from London (Zomby, Shortstuff, Hot City, SBTRKT) to LA (Ras G, Flying Lotus, Tokimonsta), with satellites in Helsinki (Desto) and New York (FaltyDL, Maxmillion Dunbar). Yet the label has hung slightly back from the music's front lines. Ramp has long seemed more like those artists' favorite holiday house than a home base, per se. Nor has it issued anything quite as galvanizing as "Midnight Request Line" (Tempa) or Untrue (Hyperdub) or "Hyph Mngo" (Hotflush), to name a quick three, in part because so much of what Ramp puts out falls into a genre interzone that cuts a less imposing, more muted figure than its more clearly-zoned peers.
I also think that's part of why Ramp 50 works so well. Its compilation is old-fashioned in a CD-era sort of way: Fill an 80-minute disc, keep the tracks more or less chronological, pick the best stuff—and let the accumulated evidence speak more completely as a whole than it did in pieces. And since many of the tracks have multiple threads running through them, hearing them in this configuration leads to multiple kinds of song-to-song engagements.
Zomby, Desto's "Disappearing Reappearing Ink," and Nochexxx's "Charro," among others, make a surprisingly three-dimensional case for 8-bit. The broken rhythm and jagged keyboards of Shortstuff's "A Rustling" is contextualized further by the bumptious Dilla homage of Ras G's remix of Clouds' "Timekeeper." The gelatinous R&B vocals and slow-mo bass pressure of 2562's remix of Pattie Blingh and the Akebulan Five's "Brother: The Point" meet their funhouse match in the spiffier Jamie xx remix of FaltyDL's "Hip Love." The discovery for me is Doc Daneeka's "Hold On," a sparse but vibe-filled conga-led house track: When the beguilingly muffled vocal sample comes in, it could be a 1993 Masters at Work B-side, but when the Turkish-flavored violin appears it sounds like something else altogether. Is it "bass"? Does it matter?
Buy Various Artists - Ramp 50 at
Tracklist: Various Artists - Ramp 50 01. Zomby - Strange Fruit
02. Pattie Blingh & The Akebulan - Five Brother: The Point (2562 Remix)
03. Clouds - Timekeeper (Ras G Remix)
04. Computer Jay - Distance
05. FaltyDL - To London
06. Shortstuff - A Rustling
07. Maxmillion Dunbar - Bare Feet
08. Desto - Disappearing Reappearing Ink
09. SBTRKT & Sampha - Evening Glow
10. Doc Daneeka - Hold On
11. Hypno - Go Shorty
12. Bad Autopsy - Callback
13. FaltyDL - Hip Love (Jamie xx Remix)
14. NOCHEXXX - Charro
15. Dro Carey - Motorvibe
16. Stay+ - Fever
17. Cupp Cave - White Ou
Other Ramp Recordings reviews