[3 November 2005]
Well, well, Soma has decided to throw its enviably respectable house/electro hat into the the mix compilation series ring. I’m sure I don’t need to do more than sketch out Soma’s involvement in the development of dance music; they’re one of the most important European dance music labels, they’re currently home to people like Funk D’Void and the Vector Lovers, and it was on Soma that the two robo team of total techno-disco destruction Daft Punk first put out some vinyl. So you’ve heard their Glaswegian legacy, even if you don’t play some of their classic early material from Slam or Layo & Bushwacka! when you’re feeling a bit down about modern dance music and get the need to lay some nostalgia on the turntable.
Mix series tend to be either about trying to advertise the material of the label they’ve been put out on (the Mushroom Jazz mixes tend to emphasise this, for example), or the club where they were made (Fabric, Renaissance, innumerable rubbish Ibiza club compilations). Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi_01 won’t be either of these; judging by this first salvo, it’ll be more of a DJ Kicks kind of thing, which is to say the label gives a respected DJ and/or artist some studio time and a nod towards a feasible publishing date, and then collects the result in the hope of getting stylishly eclectic but still high quality results. Thus both the label and the DJ benefit in terms of cred and deniros, even if the music put out hasn’t really got much to do with the label or even, under normal circumstances, the deejay.
Who, in this case, is Ewan Pearson; a man who has been having his highly successful way with dance rerubs of many rock and pop hits over the past few years. Those fondled in this acclaimed manner include Moby, Seelenluft, Goldfrapp, Ladytron and the Chemical Brothers, less well known is his sprinkling of a little production magic onto the cogs of Jeb Loy Nichols and Chikinki, as well as programming two tracks from Gwen Stefani’s last opus. Pearson has also DJed all over the world, held down the popular “Come Shake the Whole” residency in London, and currently lives in Berlin, as is only appropriate given the city’s current supremacy over the European dance music scene.
The resulting CD is, as you might expect, quite subtle, with a suave line of textured funk and atmospherics that will be familiar with Pearson’s progressive house remixes. Things are slightly odd and futuristic but always retain the gloss of stylish sound; that mix series name obviously wasn’t for nothing. Starting things off with xylophone-style layers of treated vocal as Joakim breaks down “Aminjig Nebere” by Clashing Egos, we get a Pearson remix of a Feist track that’s become utterly unrecognisable (“Inside and Out”), a similarly transfigured Husky Rescue song, a remix of svelte deepness head Villalobos, and a Riton re-rub of the fashionable Brazilian Girls’ “Don’t Stop” whereupon the Grand Central electro head thickens things up in not-too-twisted style. If nothing really hits very hard on the first half of the album, the tempo moves up a gear with that track, and we get Karu’s “Maraud Your Ears” in the form of Tim Paris’ “We Almost Lost Detroit” mix, which pretty much s! peaks for itself—deep, simple, groovy. Then there’s the equally self-explanatory “Odd Bassliner” by Danton Eeprom, and towards the end we get a little garnishing of the trend towards dead electroclash vocals with Soldout’s really rather odd “I Don’t Want to Have Sex with You.” Not sure that sentiment was worth an entire (rather mediocre) track, but there we go.
This mix is all sorts of things; accomplished, hypnotic in parts, very cleverly and carefully mixed, sensuous, kooky but never pointlessly so. However, as might be evident from this review, I just can’t get particularly excited about it. If you’re looking for shiny layers of sound that wrap early evening and late night listening just as well, without ever straying far enough from sedate to demand vigorous dancing, then this will go down a treat. What it lacks is anything really memorable; an unknown killer tune, a daring, cheeky mash-up, something arse-kickingly kinetic. Instead it’s mostly upperclass musical wallpaper assembled by a DJ who obviously really knows his track selection well. Not sure that result is worth an entire (good but rather unexciting) mix series.