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Sampling Masters 2 :: Review by Chris

Sampling Masters 2 Album Title: Sampling Masters 2
Record Label: Troubadour Records
Catalog No.: TTRC-0024
Release Date: December 15, 1996
Purchase: Buy at eBay


United since their days at Namco, electronic heavyweights Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, Nobuyoshi Sano, and Takayuki Aihara collaborated once more at the end of 1996 to create the original album Sampling Masters 2. Whereas its predecessor featured hard-edged electronic music to represent contemporary Asia, Sampling Masters 2 lacks a clear theme and is more of an experimental free-for-all. Each artist is given approximately a quarter of the album's playtime to work with so is able to make it transiently their own. Let's see how the expanded Sampling Masters team fare in this outing...


Shinji Hosoe's opener "Notteldam" is written in much the same way as "Return of Rottel-gem" from Sampling Masters. There is an eccentric blend of hard beats and vocal samples, although the Indian influences are a little less obvious. Although a fun experiment, it lacks the catchy elements or the synchronicity of the vocal and instrumental samples that made its spiritual predecessor so appealing. "Fish & Lips" adopts a drum 'n bass approach with its rapid accentuated beats. However, the forefront of the piece is surprisingly game-influenced with fun simple melodies and some chiptune use. Completing Hosoe's trio of contributions, "Octopus-3" maintains the percussive thrust and surreal feel of earlier entries, while having a slightly more atmospheric soundscape to lead nicely into the contributions by the next artist...

Nobuyoshi Sano demonstrates his flair for atmospheric layering with his two contributions. Following a distinctive piano introduction, "Amplitude" builds into a mesmerising chillout piece that is perfect for driving on a dark night. "Red (hot tube)" still exhibits a meditative quality, but is a little more hard-edged; though the rhythms and soundscapes are fantastic, there isn't enough variety in the underlying riffs to sustain a four minute playtime. Takayuki Aihara's three contributions, "Sapphire", "Natasia", and "Solomon", are some of the most perplexing electronic compositions out there. Aihara builds the compositions on a number of jagged electronic figures and adds all sorts of figures on top, whether fast bagpipe runs, distorted saxophone chords, walkie-talkie voice samples, or hard tribal chants and percussion. It's all very improbable, but nonetheless vibrant and compelling.

Ayako Saso rounds off the album with three contributions. "Tree Village" instantly creates an impression of a modest organic location with a playful melody passed from piano to chimes. Soon afterwards, the mix becomes a bit trippy with the use of distorted beats, mechanical percussion, and even some out-of-mix vocal improvisations. Maybe someone will be able to make sense of Saso's inspiration here. "Jumping ROBO" combines bouncy electronic beats with high-pitched female vocals and the occasional robotic vocorder sample. It's another a select taste for sure. "Atomic Fun" closes the album with a cheery festival atmosphere featuring commanding vocal chanting, bubbly electronic beats, and hard rhythm guitar support. Actually a ten minute track, there is a secret composition from the 6:30 mark that is bound to appeal with its warm electronic soundscapes. Go AYA!


Overall, Sampling Masters 2 is a less consistent album than its predecessor both in terms of style and quality. It felt more like a bunch of experiments rather than something guided by an imaginative overall theme. As a result, some rather superficial experiments made it through and some of the later mixes seem to randomly throw anything together. However, there are quite a lot of charming features nonetheless, whether the atmospheric soundscapes of "Amplitude" or "Octopus-3", the twists and turns of "Sapphire" and "Tree Village", or the sheer catchiness of "Fish & Lips" and "Atomic Fun". Those looking for a diverse and unsorted bunch of electronic experiments probably won't go wrong here.

Overall Score: 7/10