If you've sat through enough city-based compilations, chances are good that the prospect of yet another one prompts a silent "Uh-oh." But most cities are not Los Angeles in 2010—and one of the keys to the city's recent fusillade of quality quasi-funk is that as music it's leisurely while as culture it's restless. These 18 artists say their collective piece in under an hour, but you wouldn't call Proximity One: Narrative of a City miniaturist—not with that capital-s Statement of a title.
Just as much a Statement is the way the comp leads off: first with Benedek's "Laser Forest," Zapp-style bounce given a crispy refry, and DaM-FunK's "A Day at the Carnival," whose airy, Latin-tinged groove calls up the sunnier, more carefree side of the early '80s synth R&B he explored at length on last year's Toeachizown. It's a sketch, a prelude (and not just because it sounds like it could be on Prelude), rather than a finished statement, and that's true of a lot of what's gathered here. It's why the comp works: The tracks have the quality of snapshots that make up a whole, of neighborhoods that add up to a portrait of a city.
It also doesn't feel like a fixed, finished statement, and that's appropriate too, because LA right now seems like it's still in the middle of exploring what it might become. Tracks that are slight—the flickering-light organ skip of Lawrence Grey's "Peaches for the Baby," for example—function as signposts along the way: a cliche about how compilations should work that actually applies in this case.
But even if many of the bigger names here contribute what amount to leftovers, LA is in such an intriguing place right now that their quality was bound to be pretty high anyway. And since much of the best stuff here is from artists with smaller profiles outside of the city—the laid-back chirp of Owen Vallis's "Trunk," the delicately orchestrated bell-tones of Suzuki 8-Ball's "Nine-Wing," the gracefully agitated sweep of BearClaw's "Robotrimpin"—clearly those folks saw participating in this collection as a good way to make an impression. Technically, the bulk of Proximity One is a simple gloss on classic IDM structures, but there's a spirit here that's rare, a sense of open possibility that's hard to put into words but easy to hear.
Tracklist: Various Artists - Proximity One: Narrative of a City01. Benedek - Laser Forest
02. Dâm-Funk - A Day at the Carnival
03. Sahy Uhns - Fire Music
04. TOKiMONSTA - Cigarette Lust
05. Owen Vallis - Trunk
06. Juj - Creep
07. Lawrence Grey - Peaches for the Baby
08. Wake - ButtaBump
09. Shlohmo - Glue Stick
10. Suzuki 8-Ball - Nine-Wing
11. Teebs - Wind Loop
12. Take - Conversations With Yesterday
13. Dead Waiter & Eli Walks - VI
14. BearClaw - Robotrimpin
15. Denny Denny Breakfast - Sea Water
16. Daedelus - Off Angles Edges
17. Dr. Strangeloop - Strange Utopia
18. [Post-foetus] - Chasms
19. Dâm-Funk - A(nother) Day at the Carnival (Sahy Uhns' Cosmic Song Bird Remix)
20. Sahy Uhns - Proximity One: Mega(re)mix