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Sketchbook seems a rather fitting title for this release, as the man (who prefers to remain rather anonymous) behind Req is an artist, mainly focusing on the street-styled graffiti. His fourth full-length album, it's 14 more tracks of urban influenced, gritty minimal electronic music with a touch of hip hop and electro influence.

It was a couple years ago that I heard his release Frequency Jams on the Skint label, and it totally threw me for a loop. At the time, Skint was all about rocking the place with the big beat infections of Fatboy Slim and the Lo Fidelity Allstars, but Req is an alltogether different artist completely. Sure, he's still got the phat beats (and these tracks have a definite emphasis on rhythm rather than melody), but they're not exactly going to be filling the dancefloor with happy dancers anywhere.

Not only is there a hip-hop asthetic to the release, but a downright indie one as well with the lo-fi recording techniques used to assemble Sketchbook. Created with bits of looped samples, some live recordings, and all strung together on a four track, at times it sounds like an old mix tape you found laying on the street somewhere that someone had yet to throw some wicked lyrics over. That's not to say that the quality is as poor as a cassette, only that it has a rough-edged flavour. Sounds of the street, if you will.

The release opens with the loopy tabla-style drumming, dripping water, and background drones of "Loop Bass," and while it feels more improvised than anything, the beats drop finally on the second track "Something," and lope under the graffiti-covered viaduct. "I Seek" takes on a bit more of a light feel with a sampled mouth-flute that intermittantly keeps time and falls off from another crunchy beat.

While the majority of the album kicks out some kind of dark beat (like the super rad "Upstairs"), there are points where the disc creeps off into super-repetitive wanderings. "Colours" is a fine example, which is not much more than a single chiming loop pitched up and down, which is fine for awhile, but drags on for over 5 minutes. Likewise, "Symbolic 3" again feels like someone just tinkering around with one sound they liked for over 5 minutes. As a whole, the album has a style and sticks with it, though, and although there are some interesting tracks, things sort of start to run together after awhile. If you're into stripped hip-hop beats lo-fi style, this will probably be your bag, but after hearing two releases by Req that walk sort of the same paths, I'm curious as to how he'd sound with MC's over the top.

Rating: 6.5