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Friday, Oct. 19, 2007

LISTENING POST

RECORDED

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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