Various - Complex vol.1
Lex Records are ten years old. How about that? Ten. How much have you achieved in that time? Because label head Tom Brown has spent the decade introducing the music world at large to the likes of Boom Bip, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, DOOM (née MF) and some producer called Danger Mouse; although they only put out about three albums a year. It's this strict quality control that has been one of the principal qualities of the label and is one of qualities of this retrospective compilation.
"What seems to happen is that one record brings a whole load of fans into contact with the label," Brown once said, "They’ve heard of the artist before and they fall in love with the record and then they hear something else and it turns them all off... like I’ve just let them down." What was once perceived as a problem is an invaluable asset on Complex vol.1.
Whilst other specialist label compilations can end up a bit repetitive after the sixth song in the same genre, the tracks featured on Complex vol.1 are a veritable smorgasbord - from Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and producer Boom Bip's slick, brooding electronica as Neon Neon on 'Wheels' to DOOM doing his patented deadpan stream-of-consciousness rapping over an orchestral beat provided by Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood on 'RETARDED FREN' - with each track distinct enough to stand out, but making sure as to flow down a similar vein.
The incestuous nature of the label's roster helps ensure that if you like one song on the compilation, there's likely a corresponding collaboration to suit you: 'RHYMIN SLANG (Dave Sitek Remix)' DOOM's second contribution, is only a short hop away from producer Jneiro Jarel's woozy banger under the Dr. Who Dat? alias, 'Viberian Twilight Pt.2'. Similarly, there's a good chance if Neon Neon got your blood pumping, Boom Bip's 'Clocked' will ease you in with some 8-bit beats before layering swooping swing samples on top.
For the most part the album manages to strike a good balance between the label's hip-hop leanings and enthusiasm for new electronic music. The lo-fi production of Danger Mouse & Jemini's brief 'Knuckle Sandwich 2', sampled breakbeats and all, harkens back to the label's straight hip-hop rep (belying its existence as an offshoot from Warp Records), whilst the current status quo is reinforced by newbies Stalactite's piece of skittering and moody piece of electronica that could easily be one of the Chemical Brother's Electronic Battle Weapons on 'Lava Tube' and Crook & Fail's 'Freelance Exist', something I can only describe as baroque dance - halfway between Grizzly Bear and Aphex Twin.
That's not to suggest this is a solid-gold perfect album - Xeno & Oaklander's male-female duet over chipmunk Kraftwerk synths is a step too far into electro house - although it isn't far off. Lex may have slipped below your radar until now; you might be pleasantly surprised at quite how much they've been up to this whole time. And here's to being pleasantly surprised by Complex vol.2!