Crafting a solid mixtape is a Herculean task. Satisfying when it works, but nearly painful when in the wrong hands, a mixtape demands, above all, balance. It is extremely easy to bring together a mass of artists and create a messy amalgam of sounds, with none really able to ascend the clutter. The British indie band, Foals, has undertaken the endeavor with extremely mixed results. While there are inspired pieces, the work as a whole falls into that dangerous “clutter” territory. Featuring acts such as Caribou, Nicolas Jaar, Dorian Concept and a host of others, the tape flits between moments of structured, lyrical songs to loose dance songs. The issue lies in the fact that the stark contrast ends up diminishing the power of the mixes.
It isn’t all bad. Mix 22 songs and some are bound to be pretty good. “Confusion” (Ma Afrika)” by Condry Ziqubu strikes a nice balance between intriguing songwriting and lovely dance beats. The song stays with you, which is meaningful given the mass of the mixtape. “Cheaters” is worked on perfectly by Foals, becoming a very enjoyable, beachy tune. Caribou’s “Sun” is unsurprisingly one of the highlights of the mixtape. The parade of sounds and textures on this one track works perfectly. It’s one of the few mixes that actually seems fun and daring. “Sun” flows into “Paradiso,” which stands out due to its more chaotic rock style. Its most improvisational and loose parts are its most exciting. Overall, “Paradiso” provides a welcome contrast to the rather formulaic dance music on the other parts of the mixtape. Rejoice, because the tape’s longest mix is also its best.
Some of the mixes here lack the progression that “Sun” and “Paradiso” possess. “Battle for Middle You” is funky and raucous, but it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. “We Call Love” seems a bit color-by-numbers and its flurry of samples make the whole song seem a bit weak, maybe even lazy. Many of these mixes don’t have the strength to stand out amid the mountain of material around them. Much of the mixtape begins to sound like unending patterns that continue to get repeated throughout. Dance mixes like “Tropical Hands” and “Dinner” have an emptiness to them that brushes them into the background.
This is of course going to be a matter of preference for any listener. Like me, you may be able to pluck out the mixes you actually enjoy and the plain, redundant parts will inevitably be forgotten. The best, most even-handed compliment I can pay Foals is that the mixtape certainly adopts an ambitious, distinctive voice that undeniably succeeds in parts. The only flaw ‒ and the fatal flaw ‒ is that they stick too rigidly to this style and fail to realize when the style wears thin.
MP3: Konono N°1 “Paradiso”
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