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?