Solex
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Solex Vs The Hitmeister , 6/10
Pick Up , 7/10
Low Kick And Hard Bop , 8/10
Laughing Stock Of Indie Rock (2004), 7/10
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(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Solex is the project of Dutch used-record specialist Elisabeth Esselink, who sang and played in several bands before envisioning her second hand record store as a mine of sounds. Armed with a sampler, Esselink started gluing together fragments of music. The difference between her compositions and the audio cut-up of the avantgarde is that her compositions are actually "songs", and even "melodic" songs. Her silky voice blends naturally with the frigid textures of her collage on Solex Vs The Hitmeister (Matador, 1998). Compositions span a broad range. Some could be movements of Foetus' industrial symphonies (Waking Up With Solex, There's A Solex On The Run), some sound like trip hop performed by the Silver Apples fronted by Bjork (One Louder Solex, Solex In A Shipshod Style). Propelled by disjointed beats, Solex updates the soul-jazz diva to the age of samples and drum machines.

Pick Up (Matador, 1999) has more instruments participating in the process (even horns, piano, trumpet) and revels in the discontinuities of such process. The music is less fluid, more angular and abrasive, but, while highly intellectual, the assembly process comes through as humble and good-humoured. Songs revolve around a well-marked core, rarely leaving the premises of acid-jazz and trip-hop. Pick Up deconstructs a Chuck Berry riff over a syncopated loop of samples and a sunny trumpet. The Burglars Are Coming plays with vocal styles of the 1960s and 1950s, slyly integrated in her cubistic manner. Oh Blimey soars with a gorgeous refrain that springs from a most unfriendly backdrop of harsh riffs and crude beats. And Superfluity is a clever spoof on lounge-music. All these tracks perform the same surgical operation: vivisect music of the past and reassemble the organs in a different body. One of the most inventive vignettes, Snappy And Cocky, is a surreal ballet, pierced by shrill wails, the best piece Danielle Dax never composed.
The lost soul of the songwriter surfaces in the disconnected lullaby of Five Star Shamberg, a poetic chanting accompanied by a drunk clarinet, in the Christmas-time piano carillon of Chris The Birthday Boy, and in the Breeders-style fractured melody of Another Tune, that also boasts one of the most sophisticated arrangements (loud, intermittent distortion in the foreground, orchestral samples, minimalistic pattern of the organ). Perhaps not as serious as Beck's ballads, but lots more adventurous.
In Randy Costanza Esselink's morphing technique sounds clownesque, almost a parody of commercial music: they build songs by hiring high-tech arrangers, I build songs by pasting together snippets of home-made tapes, and I have more fun than them. The pseudo-orchestral That's What You Get could be the soundtrack for a silent slapstick of the 1920s.

Low Kick And Hard Bop (Matador, 2001) is another fantastic excursion through the swamps of cross-stylistic experimentation. Armed with a glorious "home-made" attitude, Solex shows all the Bjorks and Madonnas of the world what "class" is.
Agonizing blues harmonica, pounding syncopated drums and sparse piano tones set the neurotic atmosphere of Low Kick And Hard Bop before she unleashes one of the most creative raps of all times.
Mere Imposters is a masterpiece of deconstruction masquerading as a childish lullaby: the guitar twang, the caribbean percussions and the organ staccatos are snippets of musical stereotypes that she turns upside down to concoct a soup of magical sounds.
Have You No Shame, Girl? mocks Sixties' girl-group angst and you almost don't realize that a small orchestra parades under your nose, each instrument (harmonica, synth, standup bass, piano, vibes) playing somewhat Rolling Stones rhythm.
Not A Hoot resurrects a rolling rhythm last heard on Rip Rig & Panic records, adds a voodoo-ish emphasis and distorted cantillation, and produces the exotic song of the year. Look...No Fingerprints! is an ethereal rhythm and blues married to a caribbean vibration.
Songs like Ease Up You Fundamentalist hark back to Foetus's anti-jazz. Shoot Shoot! dissects a swinging big-band and a cartoonish pace for her to sing against her own echo a melodramatic story.
The beginning of Comely Row is a shock, a repeated vocal pattern and sharp guitar riff, but the song seems to die away after a few seconds of senseless litany.
Good Comrades Go To Heaven is a cross between the soundtrack of a Laurel & Hardy slapstick and early Captain Beefheart.
The album is an endless cornucopia of musical inventions and funny disguises, a wild merry-go-round of surreal/noir vignettes (Knee-High) and weird singalongs (Honey, Dot On The I Between The H And The T).
Solex has invented a new concept of rhythm and a new concept of arrangement. Her rhythm is continuously shifting, accelerating and decelerating, jumping from one percussion to the other. Her arrangement is mostly made of fragments, each instrument playing only a few notes at the time. The scores of her songs are sonic puzzles that she herself finds difficult to follow: one often gets the feeling that the voice gets lost in the concept. The result is beautifully insane.

Laughing Stock Of Indie Rock (Arena Rock, 2004) is another dizzying collection of songs built by Esselink out of collages of samples, another painstaking, almost surgical, "cut and paste" tour de force. The female and male voices of Yadda Yadda Yadda No 1 duet at cha-cha tempo while loud percussions propel a disjointed jazz fanfare. A Round Figure harks back (both in the vocals and the guitar) to the decade of classic blues. In The Boxer, Solex intones an old-fashioned refrain in the vein of the vocal groups of the 1950s while the instruments string together something in between a cubist ballet and a Captain Beefheart blues (an effect that returns in the Kurt Weill-ian You're Ugly). Honkey Donkey even opens with a melodic guitar riff before launching into a galopping kind of cartoon music. And My B-Sides Rock Your World seems to honestly try a conventional (and slow) song. From the pounding Hot Diggitydog Run Run Run to the drunken The Show Master, her music-hall is charming, naive, witty and slightly demented. The surreal jamming of Take That Gum Out (childish, exotic, lo-fi and exuberantly off-kilter) and the seven-minute psychodrama of You've Got Me (her most ambitious "arrangement") up the ante towards the end of the album.
Each song is different and unique, and the most successful recombinants also manage to be personal: Solex knows how to bring her abstract art back to Earth, and, in fact, back to her own intimate daily life, to her own bedroom. Few composers can turn a cold, artificial art of puzzle recomposition into a warm, personal art of personality decomposition. She's the anti-Lydia Lunch, warm and funny even when performing heart surgery.

Solex also released Amsterdam Throwdown, King Street Showdown (2010), a collaboration with Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez, and Ahoy! The Sound Map of the Netherlands (2012), a collection of largely improvised vignettes performed by different casts of musicians.

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