Review ·

The electronic side of instrumental hip-hop has exploded in the new century, thanks in large part to Dabrye and Prefuse 73. Though there were those who came before them, most instrumental work was of the traditional variety, samples culled from records the old-fashioned way. Like all of the electronic beat makers, however, Melk's sound is not created entirely out of thin air. Trumpets waft into the mix and samples of live instruments are found on nearly every track. But Rasmus Mobius and Anders Christophersen, the duo that comprise the Danish group, are electronic artists, and it is this sound that dominates their satisfying debut.

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A mostly instrumental affair, Sports starts with its best track, "Lego Love." Rather than layering sounds, the group seems to be layering styles, with jazz complementing glitch over a smooth hip-hop beat. Elsewhere, the group's dub influences move them into world-music territory, and I don't even mean that in a bad way. The guest appearances are memorable, too: the political contribution from Context gives a nice European perspective on current events ("Look at our prime minister, he's got the wrong idol/ running around shaking hands with the U.S. devil/ 'cause he ain't got the balls to be a rebel" from "Game Over"), and Gisli's three appearances are all style, smooth and unobtrusive. He rides the beat beautifully, and he makes the best case for guest vocals I've heard in a while.

Chilled-out hip-hop often falls by the wayside on account of club bangers and underground statements. Foreign Exchange's Connected last year was one of the best recent additions to the subgenre, and it's no surprise that Melk's producers are also from Northern Europe. This is music heavily influenced by the washed-out techno that has never seemed as popular outside Europe. But the recent combination with soul-inflected hip-hop is its chance to shine, and Melk's Sports is another indication that it's ready for its close-up.

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