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Friday, Oct. 19, 2007



Various Artists "The Kings of Electro"
Ricardo Villalobos "Fabric 36"
Various Artists "Soundboy Punishments"

Three reasons to buy the double CD mix album "The Kings of Electro" — Various Artists (Hostess): It is an excellent introduction to old-school electro, that synth-heavy take on hip-hop indebted to Kraftwerk and funk; it provides a timely reminder that there was computer-generated dance music before acid house arrived; it rocks. The music might sound dated (most of these tunes would have been made on Atari STs and employ a limited number of samples) but the man behind the mix, Playgroup (London-based DJ/producer Trevor Jackson), keeps things interesting by incorporating hip-hop, pop and acid elements.

Unfortunately, the second CD disappoints. Despite Alter Ego's pedigree — his track "Rocker" is one of the biggest electro-inspired club tracks of the noughties — by staying deep and minimal he misses one of the essential points of this genre: It's meant to make you dance. Perhaps the mix's mandate to incorporate a range of contemporary styles influenced by early electro was too large.

With only one man at the controls, another recent mix album "Fabric 36 — Ricardo Villalobos" (Hostess) is more consistently satisfying. Villalobos rewrites the rules of the mix album, having a hand in writing or collaborating on each track. But be warned: The Berlin-based minimal techno producer's funky and at times experimental soundscapes can be disturbing (listen to the frighteningly intense collaboration with Andrew Gillings, "Andruic and Japan").

On a more contemporary dance tip, dubstep label Skull Disco drops a compilation "Soundboy Punishments" — Various Artists of all its singles to date plus earlier tracks released on other labels. A suitably dark, bassy introduction to the genre it may be, but for those wanting to hear it in a live setting where dubstep, an off-shoot of U.K. garage, is at its best, Skull Disco producer Appleblim will be playing at Daikanyama Unit in Tokyo on Oct. 20 (dbs-tokyo.com/) as part of the next "Drum 'n' Bass Sessions" club event.

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