Various Artists: Trax Classics Presents Rewind


By Ben Varkentine

If you’re not a pretty hard-core fan of dance music, this will either bore the pants off you or drive you to distraction. But the odds are, if that’s true, you’re not reading this review. So:

Hi! How are ya? Remember how cool it was when house starting seeping it’s way into the national consciousness? And by that, of course, I mean the consciousness of white middle class heterosexual people who rarely if ever went to clubs but found out about this “new sound” from articles in the always-on-the-cutting edge Rolling Stone.

House music’s roots and influences spread out a long way in both directions. It grew partially out of synth-pop, it was a contemporary of electronic funk and it led us to techno. The beats and bass of house can still be heard today in the likes of Moby and Madonna, who managed to either give techno a face—in Moby’s case—or impose her own banal identity on an already dated sound to appeal to the popular taste (see white, middle class above)—in Madonna’s—but most of it was almost by definition anonymous back in the day.

Dance music has long been a producer-driven style (not to say that most music in the post-Beatles age hasn’t been, but that’s another subject for another digression). The producer (who often daylights as a DJ) lays down a track, employs studio singers to record a lyric, and releases the record under an assumed “group name”. Or, if they actually hope to have a career, under their own.

It’s a genre given to one-hit wonders, but dance record one-hits are somehow more…ecstatic than a pop one-hit, and this is an enjoyable jack down memory lane. Which is my way of saying that if, like me, you got into music in the 1980s, this collection of house music circa 1984 will go right up your alley and into your home and hearth. Finally, a dance-mix compilation I can get on board with. Sprays of keyboards, snakey, sinewy synth basses looping and sensually rolling, clapping drum machines crashing and echoing (and the ping! of the 808) for jacking your body to, horn sample hits, piano licks, stammered vocals from house divas, repetition, posturing…this is life.

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