Music:Big Pig--Breakaway (Popper Mix) (on r:a3 CD)
A sizeable crop...
New Order--Crystal: A CD single, with 3 tracks: the original mix of "Crystal," the B-side "Behind Closed Doors," and Digweed & Muir's 'Bedrock' mix edit of "Crystal." "Crystal" is the kind of thing N.O. does best, electro dance/rock, and the remix is an excellent dancefloor trance track that will probably show up the next time I'm playing that kind of music. "Behind Closed Doors" is darker, as the title suggests; I didn't like it much on first hearing, but it seems to be growing on me.
Menomena--Under an Hour: Just three tracks again, but great big ones, between 17 and 19 minutes each. This is hard to classify: electronica, abstract but not really ambient or even jazzy. Even calling it electronica may be a stretch, given that they use unsynthesized instruments quite a bit. Maybe it's what Philip Glass would have written if he had grown up on rock and electronica? Anyway, it's affecting, evoking nameless but wistful images and emotions.
Ensemble Anonymous (dir. Claude Bernatchez)--Llibre Vermell: Medieval music from the "Vermillion Book" auof the title, these pilgrim songs are mostly done with period instruments here. The overall sound is quite spiritual, unsurprisingly given the subject matter and the recording location, Église Saint-Dominique in Québec City. Many tracks start with an instrumental introduction from one work and then segue into another one of the pieces from the book. I find that the Arabian influences (remember those Moors!) blend well, albeit a bit oddly, with the Latin.
UNKLE--WWIII: An UNKLE Soundscape DJ Mix: Well, I can't start from the liner notes: there aren't any. This is probably a bootleg, although online information about the set is contradictory. Dark, thick, scratchy, distorted rockin' techno, with many tracks also featured on Do Androids Dream of Electric Beats and James Lavelle's Global Underground mixes. If you've heard Queens of the Stone Age's No One Knows, you'll have some idea of the sound of their source material.
Björk--Violently Happy: This peculiar Icelandic singer's album Debut was one of my favorites from the whole 90's decade. The remixes on this single bring the track onto the dancefloor, where it fits well thematically: the song is, after all, about uncontainable ecstatic emotion.
Beat Pharmacy--Earthly Delights: Electronica again, edging towards acid jazz. More upbeat than the Menomena disc above, but still pretty abstract. Dub influences show up in several tracks, the most notable being "afrotech," which also has West African flavours rolled in. The tracks are probably too heavily looped for just listening straight through, but it's got enough going on that it would make excellent atmospheric music for a tropical-styled lounge. Excerpts could also be very effective, mixed in the right places.
Basement Jaxx--Remedy: The album that preceded Rooty, for which Jaxx are best known. This is funked-up house with lots of looping and original vocal lines. Several little interludes separate the meatier tracks, and provide good links. This concern for flow isn't surprising: before recording this album, Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe ran a regular club night in Brixton for 5 years. Big, dense sound, with lots of layering and reverby effects. I wouldn't use most of it as background music, except for the interludes and maybe one other track; keep it for something Happening.
(Various Artists)--retro remixed 2: Rare & Refashioned: A mixed bag, in both senses. The extended version of David Bowie vs. David Guetta's "Just for One Day (Heroes)" is execrable; the trancey remixes of Duran Duran's "The Reflex" (Come As You Are Mix) and Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy" (Roger Sanchez Radio Edit) are excellent. Lots of 80's classics redone in ways you haven't heard, and a few less well-known tracks (do you remember Fuzzbox's "International Rescue"?). But come on, a techno remix of Falco's "Der Kommissar" (Jason Nevins Time Warp Blaster Mix)? You can't pass that up!
(Various Artists)--retro:active 3: Rare & Remixed: Mostly new wave and synthpop tracks with a light hand on the remixing: these are extended versions (damn useful for DJing!) rather than full-on remixes. Most of the original songs are 3-minute 80's pop hits, edited here into 5- to 7-minute tracks, which can get a little old if one is listening to them "straight up," since there is only so much material to work with. There's some rare and good stuff on here, like the DMC mix of Duran Duran's "Save a Prayer." It's cool stuff for me, but I wouldn't recommend it for non-DJs unless they're pretty heavy-duty 80's nuts.