Album Review: Jamie Lidell – Compass

With a roster that looks more like a really impressive festival bill, Jaimie Lidell’s Compass could stand to have less contributors at the helm.  Beck gets the production credit on the LP but the guest list extends to members of Feist, Wilco, and Grizzly Bear among others.  Lidell, himself no slouch at production, can’t quite match his own personal-best here — the immaculate Multiply — but there are still highlights to be culled from the effort.

The exuberant “Enough’s Enough,” bounces along with an ebullient jazz flute and playful jive.  The down-tempo “She Needs Me,” is a slow-funk exercise with 70’s wah-wah bass and flourishes of jazz accompaniment that would fit nicely in an unironic Midnite Vultures sequel.  But nearly everywhere on the album lies the omnipresent hand of Beck Hansen, who seems fixated on filtering Lidell’s vocals to harsh effect, or burying it under a fuzzed mix.

“Your Sweet Boom,” is a prime example of an opportunity missed.  It’s a funked-out Lidell track drowned in production muffles — his voice only occasionally surfacing before it’s sucked back down below bass, twang and snare.  Meanwhile “I Wanna Be Your Telephone” has some charming qualities but is haunted by studio wizarding and comes off like a Guero throwaway (so a double-throwaway?).  The sound of Compass should not be completely unfamiliar to Beck aficionados, as it quickly begins to sound like like his self-produced output, as well as his recent work with Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The gloomy, ghostly harmonies of Grizzly Bear on the album fare slightly better; namely the apropos “Big Drift.”  With Grizz’s Chris Taylor at the helm, Lidell and Feist take a creepy twilight trudge through looped distortion, cello, upright bass, and sound collage.

Despite the iffy final product, there should be no blame assigned to this record, as Lidell is prone to experimenting and expanding on each one of his albums.  The effort should be commended for its collaborative spirit, and Lidell’s sincere efforts to search into some darker, rawer corners.

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