What is it with this town? 20,000 students and Yahweh knows how many unenrolled slackers and not one place that plays good dance music. Hello? Can anyone say “goldmine?” I hear Brett is doing Groove Tube again on Thursday nights at Local 506 (if you like psychedelic house/techno/rave music and a funky crowd, go), but surely Hip City can support one all-dance club. Can't it?
I guess not. Anyway, until that glorious day, we have CD's and WXYC. Compilations are the rule here, since dance music usually lives on 12", and truly excellent comps are rare, but these two keep me hopping around the kitchen just fine:
First, there's HOUSE OF ACID JAZZ: A COLLECTION OF ACID-JAZZ-HOUSE, Vol. 1, on Astralwerks. It's actually a release by a collective of DJs who assume various “group” names, which makes this a rarity in the genre — a unified album of cool, pumping dance tunes. I've seen “acid jazz” used to describe a wide variety of music, none of which was particularly jazzy, but here the term fits. Great piano and sax soloing, real percussion mixed up front and lots of changes make this stuff, well, deep. The songs are friendly, free-flowing and almost insanely catchy, which is rare; too many people have felt for too long that the way to make hot dance music is to pound the same beat into your spine for five minutes. Who needs another straightjacket in her life? Don't get me wrong, the beats here are thumping (The Funkatears' “Hot, Hot” will move you as fast as any Pipe song), but they're also, um, intelligent. That is, they give you something to work with, something to anticipate, something to interpret. And if the grooves aren't enough, check out the sampled dialogue and FX scattered through the mixes, like the scat vocals on the Funky Fellows' “Ring Ring” or the telephone samples under Two Bloody Xylophones' “Geen Aansluiting.“ At times the songs feel like beautifully pieced-together collages, but always with a great acid house or hiphop beat. If you like dancing, you'll probably love it.
MINDBENDING CLIMAX, the second volume in Caroline Records' Technomancer series, is less consistently great but does have some of the most interesting (and bizarre) techno I've heard outside of a warehouse at 4 a.m. The title track, by O-Zone, is truly psychedelic—fantastic FX, odd tempo shifts, weird samples, all over a quick, simple beat. Pascal Device's “Hydro Base” is a quieter rave, bassy and spare, but still pumping; it feels like listening to speakers while dancing at the bottom of the pool. Lords of Acid jack you hard with their patented layered-synth sound; Zero Gravity do a gentle, almost ambient techno thing with sweet piano, and In-10-S have this totally freaked-out song called “Like A Real Drugdealer” which uses cut-up vocals and percussive FX over a catchy bassline. There are some clunkers on this CD, with mainstream-y choral vox, heavy synths and boring beats, but ten of the 16 cuts are a least very good; that percentage makes this a strong compilation in a genre that sees a lot of weak ones. (Todd Morman)
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