Despite the free music market we live in today, 2013 coughed up another smorgasbord of good quality comps from clubs, labels and collectives committing to better value and searching harder to present new, alternative showcases of their dance brands.
01. Various '
Terry Farley Presents Acid Rain: Definitive Original Acid and Deep House 1985-1991
How it sounded then: “'Acid Rain' is exhaustive, painstaking, put together with love and real passion by one of the guys who was there the first time round and still lives and breathes proper dance music rather than EDM shit. What this gargantuan five-CD box-set proves is just how radical this music was and, in some cases, still is. The genuine article, there's only one acid comp you need and this is it.”
How it sounds now: A definitive 16-CD box from Harmless celebrating Trax Records and two off-beat collections from Still Music the weeks after Terry laid his soul to bare on this compilation, and it still comes up on top. Yes, that's four Chicago house retrospectives all within the space of two months. 2013 has been the year in which the Windy City revival really reached fever pitch. Timeless is a word used all too often to describe house music these days, but few anthologies will age better than this one.
'Panorama Bar 5'
How it sounded then: “The Dutch, Berlin-dwelling DJ/producer has built a rep for her no-sell-out stance, as a resident at Panorama Bar and with great house tunes like 'Yours' and 'Sadness'. Some associate her principally with that genre, but that's only a fraction of her story. She started out playing mostly electro, techno and electronica, and in the spirit of that eclecticism, she's mixed this excellent set. Mixed and sequenced with real style, this is the work of a seasoned club pro. Slow to start, but when it grabs hold, utterly irresistible.”
How it sounds now: Steffi drew worldwide acclaim with her debut LP 'Yours & Mine' in 2011 and as a result the bookings came flying in. But it was her years off-the-radar, learning her trade as a Panorama Bar resident that equipped her with enough experience, intuition and intelligence to expertly craft a DJ set. And it's here for all to hear on her spotlight mix for the club that made her. Impeccably selected and stylishly defined, there's also some pleasant surprises to confound expectations.
JD Twitch 'The Underground Sound of Glasgow Mixed by JD Twitch'
How it sounded then: “Throwing together off-kilter house, techno and disco underlined by its industrial, at times beatnik but always timeless aesthetic, and making it work, ‘The Underground Sound of Glasgow’ does what Twitch has always done, only this time to the nth degree, shining a light on the lesser-known exceptional talents of his hometown... a revelation.”
How it sounds now: “The prospect of half of Optimo teaming up with Kevin McKay's Glasgow Underground imprint to kickstart a new mix series is still as salivating now as it was sixth months ago. Showcasing eccentric, off-kilter new blood Naum Gabo, HaHaHa and Auntie Flo alongside the traditional home guard of 6th Borough Project, Gary Beck, Funk D'Void and co, Twitch nudges the Optimo legacy a little bit further, serving up a candid slab of this city's untamed subculture in the process.”
04. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
'Get Lost VI'
How it sounded then: “The genius is how he alternates the old cuts with modern tunes, connecting the dots and pointing out the similar sonorities in today's deep house and bass music. The whole set demonstrates that in skilful hands, you can bring fresh ideas and still make the house quake.”
How it sounds now: From tropical bass newbie to dance-pop-refining chart botherer to badboy DJ and back again, TEED is the dinosaur that won't stop evolving. His choice to join Damien Lazarus' uber-cool Rebel alliance might have been an unlikely one, but his contribution to the 'Get Lost' staple is a dark, visceral underworld befitting of the label. Splashing leftfield dance moments into common sense house and techno, it shows yet another side to this ever transforming beast.
05. Carl Craig
'Masterpiece' Ministry Of Sound
How it sounded then: “It's as much an education as it is enjoyable. Each mix showcases a different side to the producer's eclectic career, and the heads will lap them all up. More casual listeners will embrace the big-room accessibility of disc 1, but the second two discs might provide a strong vehicle of exposure to new sounds and artists.”
How it sounds now: Detroit's second wave flag-bearer followed the coattails of Andrew Weatherall, Gilles Peterson and Fabio & Grooverider in style earlier this year, when he delivered his instalment of 'Masterpiece', a through-the-eyes-of collection documenting a DJ's influences past, present and future over three discs. Surprising us with offbeat selections throughout, while giving an insight into the complicated musical history of one of the Motor City's most loyal pioneers, admirers of the Planet E man need this in their lives.
06. Fake Blood
'Fabric Live 69'
How it sounded then: “A mix that, quite literally, doesn't fuck about. Launching into the air-horn bassline techno of Special Request (aka Paul Woolford) 'Lolita', before ramping it up with Brodinski ('Hypnotize') the dark baile funk hype of Rvba ('Never Shaved') and Tanka's rudeboy remix of Drums of Death ('Transistor Rhythm'), to say the outset of the mix is a statement of intent is, well, an understatement."
How it sounds now: The 'Fabric Live' call-up is a defining moment in any DJ's career, but for Theo Keating it was the perfect chance to stamp authority back onto an electro sound that had run away a little as it got given the EDM treatment. Unlike his moniker, however, this mix gets REALLY bloody, injecting tough techno flavours into rude UK bass and scuzzier noise to keep people guessing as well as dancing.
07. John Talabot
'DJ Kicks' !K7
How it sounded then: “On first listen, it's spilling with so many ideas it feels very much like a cluttered canvas. Only on repeat listens do subtle intricacies shine through as our ears grow accustomed to John Talabot's murky world scattered with moments of melodic treasure. Majestic pop, harmonic house and orchestral techno are all sown together as a downy-feathered quilt of warmth, the rich vein that's become Talabot's trademark texture.”
How it sounds now: As time goes on, the question surrounding John Talabot and his enigmatic music is no longer 'what is it?', but 'what next?'. The deep, murky pop man with a techno background is still sculpting his complex identity, and last month's 'DJ Kicks' took a seminal step. Techno, house and disco all play their part here, in varying forms, classily interweaved, but Talabot's careful control of harmonics is what makes for its sublime beauty.
08. Various '
Classic Jams' Poker Flat
How it sounded then: “Steve Bug's been up in the attic again. This time, he's decided to dust off the vinyl he retrieved and release it as part of an influences-style compilation on his Poker Flat imprint. Ever wondered how cats used to jack (shuffle) in the early days? Close your eyes to the opener — Aquarius' classic warehouse cut 'Jam To It Again' — and you can almost picture the scenes in Manchester circa '88.”
How it sounds now: Presenting a non-geographical study of original house and its history, 'Classic Jams' sketches out the musical backstory of a modern day great. It's unmixed too, making it a dream come true for many a digital DJ.
09. Various '
Nice N' Ripe All Stars Mixed and Compiled by Soul Clap' Nice N' Ripe
How it sounded then: “It's immediately jarring that a retrospective of such a distinctly British strand of garage music, as championed by Grant Nelson's seminal Nice N' Ripe label, should be compiled by two Bostonians — namely party pair Soul Clap. But while we had it easy, Charlie and Eli (early adopters of two-step even on the east coast) had to toil to get their hands on the UK sounds they loved, so maybe they're more qualified than most in putting this together.”
How it sounds now: Yet another irregular choice from a label, but it's the curve balls that win games. Putting their languid funk styles all over this classic UK garage imprint, Soul Clap make it their own.
10. Zombie Disco Squad
'Classic Through the Eyes Of...' Classic
How it sounded then: “The Classic stable throws the keys to Zombie Disco Squad so he can dig through their archive; he delivers a jackin’ mix that starts deep and funky, before escalating into some bouncy techno. Hits all the right notes in terms of a fun-fuelled experience that never takes itself too seriously.”
How it sounds now: 'Through the Eyes Of'-style mixes are an eagerly-received chance to shed alternative light on a label (or artist's) back catalogue, in turn offering a glimpse into a DJ's personality. And ZDS doesn't disappoint with his funky re-imagining of Luke Solomon and Derrick Carter's still-thriving Classic imprint.
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