Compulsive deserve a good slap for giving this compilation such a poor title. I know it will allow the record to get on the racks in the corporate stores but it will sit there looking just like the other eight million post-Ibiza, chill-out collections, most of which are just stoned-out noodlings for blunted students and Gatecrasher casualties. The vast majority are also made up of the same tracks endlessly re-shuffled. Mood 2 Chill is, on the other hand, a gem of a record and showcases some of the finest and freshest acts working the more innovative avenues of contemporary electronica and dance. The mellow, the jazzy, the broken-beatish and the downright eccentric all find a place here in a truly satisfying and surprisingly funky set.
Consisting of two CDs, one mixed and one unmixed, the 11 tracks that feature on both include contributions from Chris Brann, Maurice Fulton, Jimi Tenor, Transglobal Underground and Tony Allen. Class acts, every one of them, but they are more than matched by the lesser known participants such as Nova Nova and Tweak. The mix is by Frederic Messent, who I know only from his work at Distance, but if this is the stuff he plays out then I want a lifetime pass to wherever he’s the resident DJ.
The dance scene is, once you get away from the big clubs—and if you can ignore the fact that America seems to have got the Prog/Trance infection, pretty healthy, intelligent and diverse just now. These tunes will tell you why. Whether it is the broken beats-Bossa Nova supplied by Far Out’s Friends from Rio or Afro Funk, new millennium style, from the legendary Tony Allen, the sound is international, organic but bass-heavy and rhythmically intense. Africa, the Asian subcontinent, Finland, Spain, USA, UK, Italy, France and a few other places are all represented and the global fusion is not, as is too often the case, wishy-washy tokenism but a powerful statement of unity in difference. Several Nations Under a Groove in fact.
I’ll just pick a couple of highlights—bearing in mind that there are no outright duds. The Asian Leftfield stalwarts, Transglobal Underground, pitch in with “Sky Giant”. This track, from 1997, is a classic and defies straightforward classification. All you need to know is that it has crashing drums, a spacey electronic swirl and the most haunting refrain imaginable. I haven’t a clue what it’s all about but can’t stop playing it. Anybody who still believes dance music is depthless or one-dimensional should be exposed to the epic sweep of this emotion-drenched number.
Very different but equally essential are two Nu Jazz stormers from Outside and Tweak. The former (“Don’t Know Who I Am”) is very post-Acidic with craftily abrupt tempo changes and piano playing worthy of any ECM offering. The latter is brand new but destined to be around when most of current music has been binned. If anything has future rare groove written all over its driving beats then it’s “Fathorn” by Tweak (no, I’ve no idea who they are). It starts all “ethnic” with a palimpsest of musical flavours. Then the bass, drums and synth lay down a tasty funk bottom-line, over which a trombone blows a mean, moody solo. Dance floor jazz with a vengeance.
If you throw in some dreamy, deep House from The Wamdue Kids, breathy, nouveau-Left Bank chanteuserie from The Dining Rooms and the soulful vocals of Nicole Willis on “Heed the Sun”, then I think you’ll agree that something more than chilling out is happening here. If there is one disappointment then it is that the wayward mad scientist of House, Maurice Fulton is here in his Lady Vipb guise, which was very poor in comparison to his previous project, Boof. He provides the punchy remix for the Willis track, though, and is therefore forgiven.
Much of the Deeper House, Nu Jazz, Broken Beats, World Chill scene is criticised, rightly, for an overly smooth, if clever, blandness. Only the Hard House-ear and brain damaged will find this set dull. Anyone with an open mind will find a variety of tempos, moods and styles to explore at length. The one common bond is quality and a love of musical texture. It does require an open-mindedness and a desire to cross some generic border-posts. Happily that is one of the best features of the present second-room scene. As an introduction to, or as a reminder of, what moves the more discerning dance floors in these digital and troubled times, Mood 2 Chill, despite its crap title, is a delight.