Five to warm your bones...
Underworld-Oblivion With Bells (Underworldlive.com)(UK)
It's been 5 years since superstar DJ Darren Emerson left the UK duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith collectively known as Underworld. One Hundred Days Off following that departure was a relatively weak album and after leaving their label V2 shortly thereafter many figured that would be the last of the venerable pair. However the two have managed to stay quite active successfully founding their own label Underworldlive.com and touring around the world as well as online. Oblivion With Bells arrives with much anticipation from the guys that kicked techno into the mainstream with "Born Slippy" a decade ago. Oblivion doesn't stray too far from the formulas laid down on Second Toughest In The Infants and Beaucoup Fish and Karl Hyde's stream-of-conciousness lyrics can be a bit overbearing after awhile and are certainly an acquired taste. The album is dark and moody with some excellent nods to the modern techno sounds ala Swayzak making it one of the top artist albums of 2007.
Mark Farina-Live In Tokyo (OM)(US)
One of America's top DJs takes his show on the road and is captured at a wild gig in Tokyo, Japan as OM continues their hell-bent quest on world domination. Farina's mix is filled with plenty of high quality tracks and raw crowd noises. Never wandering too far from his comfort zone he plays a funky mix of Chicago boompty house and smooth SF house- the results are danceable but lack in soul and diversity. While certainly more imaginative than DJ Sneak and less jazzbo than Johnny Fiasco, Mark Farina does have a tendency to get stuck in a groove and Live In Tokyo is no exception but undeniably better than his even more conservative House Of Om mix from earlier this year. Ultimately this mix is unsatisfying because there some great really great tracks like Jake Childs' "King Of The Ghetto" but there isn't enough energy to make this mix ignite like seeing Farina live in SF or the Windy City.
Eccotonic-Flow Motion (Kiite)(US)
Cato aka Eccotonic makes hip TV show and film music and much of that rich ambient texture is captured on Cato's pop album Flow Motion. Singer/songwriter Jenny Campmany joins Cato on many of the tracks adding some depth to many of these spaced-out early morning explorations. Most of the disk is honestly straight up new age music complete with the generic Enigma drum loop just perfect for getting it on. Flow Motion does distinguish itself when exploring many of the chopping and warping techniques used by Richard James on his earlier works giving Eccotonic a little more of a modern kick. This is a great disk for coming down after a long night of clubbing but I am sure everyone has their favorites and this one is going to do little to sway people's tastes.
Caspa & Rusko-Fabriclive 37 (Fabric)(UK)
Finally a dubstep mix that doesn't suck. I have yet to hear one that doesn't have the exact same tracks as all of the other mixes or at the very least the same pulsing bass sound as the last fourteen tracks I've just heard. Granted there are long stretches where this youthful UK duo get stuck in the same rut, they can't help it dubstep is so new that there are very few tracks out there yet and with so many producers having been burned by the implosion of the jungle scene there hasn't been the fresh perspective and new blood dumping in like there was in the mid 90s when everyone thought drum & bass was the next techno. Of the 29 tracks on this hyper frenetic mix half are original productions by Caspa & Rusko, which is what is keeping the scene afloat. Now keep in mind the scene does have champions in jungle dons Grooverider and Fabio as well as talented artists such as Burial and Tayo in the UK and Kid Kameleon here in San Francisco pushing the sound forward but there is precious little outside influences and that s what is hindering the genre's growth. Despite all of that this is a Fabric mix and this is a mix born out of the UK's fertile sound system culture and as I had mentioned previously, it's the rare dubstep mix that doesn't suck-take that for what it is worth.
Steve Lawler-Viva London 2xCD (Renaissance)(UK)
A double disk comemorating the nearly six year VIVA Harlem Nights residency at London's legendary The End club king of the Eighties resurgence his own badself-Steve Lawler documents history on Viva London. Gone are the cheesy Eighties flourishes of Lawler's popular Light's Out mixes of earlier this decade replaced by the minimal mafia sounds that have replaced trance and progressive these days ala Layo & Bushwacka's recent mix for Global Underground. Typical of Renaissance mixes the tracklisting is nothing special and a bit bombastic with many of the usual suspects and their tracks being represented (David K, Joel Mull, Dubfire, Simon Baker, Bushwacka!, etc.). There are some nice moments but most are lost in the relentless maelstrom of these big name DJ comps and sadly part of Lawler's charm has also been erased in an attempt to get his playlists sounding more "modern".