Tucked in amongst beats and textures, Ruby calls out, "Play with me!" And indeed that's what eleven different knob-twiddlers have done with Ruby's previous release, Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool.
Short-Staffed overflowed with upbeat textures and honeyed vocal hooksideal fodder to feed the machine. Altered and Proud ends up a tidy operation with a generous helping of styles, from retro to futuristic, from carefully arranged to chaotically deranged.
Kid 606 defies all categorization with his most righteous trip to the (mental) hospital on "Lilypad." Declaring Jihad on convention, this piece shimmers with erratic high-end detail and sliced-up melody phrases. After a brief trip through manic drum-n-bass, things gradually settle down into a sparse, reverberant (almost psychedelic) refrain: "Sing for me." And then the piece fades off into peace. It might sound odd, but it works. Or you can take five minutes and go retro with Bench's Afro-and-bellbottoms remix of "Lamplight," which does not hesitate to dig long, deep grooves. Get up off your chair, shake down the polyester, and get busy with your booty. Then zip ahead to the mirror ball and wicka-wack guitar on the Schneider TM remix of "Grace," which delicately insists that the past is the future.
Perhaps the most creative and coherent track on this record is the Wauvenfold remix of "Beefheart." Constant reminders to "Play with me" frame themselves between hesitant, shifting beats. Meanwhile, all manner of digital weirdness distorts, fragments, and deconstructs the sing-song vocals of the original. With just the right balance between vision and memory, this cut remains the finest on the record.
The downside: Unfortunately, the ever-dull abyss of House music makes its appearance twice on this record, and there's no evidence here to contradict the rule that plodding beats make for plodding music. You can just hit the fast forward to avoid these two tracks; they add very little to a disc that otherwise has much to offer.
As a showcase for some of the more creative forces on the electronic music scene, Altered and Proud does a fine job. Whatever your craving, you'll probably find something here to satisfy it. And Ruby is definitely a fruit ripe for the picking, to paraphrase Rankine. Glad to see they ripped it from the tree.