[19 August 2003]
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Back when it all started, house music was at the very forefront of the electronic/dance music revolution, so much so that while acknowledging a significant debt to disco, it remains fair to say that much of contemporary dance music stems directly from its source. Strangely though, only a decade on from its emergence at mid-‘80s Chicago warehouse parties, house music had been forced so far back underground that you practically required a miner’s hat to locate it. Second generation club kids dismissed its more subtly layered depths in favor of the consistently high-pitched elevation of trance, and good quality house music virtually disappeared from the dance floors. Only over the last few years have club-groovers worldwide come to recognize that trance’s extended peak leaves only a jumping-off point, and house music has been re-discovered by those born to boogie.
San Francisco started the re-birth. Most specifically, two San Francisco-based labels were greatly responsible for its re-emergence—Naked Music and Om Records. Both have proven to be exemplars of dance label management, cultivating in-house artists and releasing compilations of rare integrity. Their selections have been stylistically and thematically consistent, with little or none of the cash-in-while-its-hot mentality of so many other labels.
Naked Music’s most recent release, Lost on Arrival, is a collection of dirty disco beats and erstwhile funk. While not necessarily one of their more essential releases, it is nonetheless one that makes sense in the overall pattern of the label’s evolution. Having established a firm foundation through its compilation series Nude Dimensions, Nude Tempo, and Carte Blanche, Naked was beginning to show signs of predictability. The releases have been almost universally sweet and smooth, but there has been a growing sense inertia too, a lack of diversification. In particular, signature artist Miguel Migs has been at risk of over-exposure, offering a slew of similar releases packed far too closely together.
Lost on Arrival makes a conscious attempt to change that, even if on this occasion Naked goes in search of the future dressed like the past. It’s an album on which funky beeps and disco bells decorate contemporary sounds, and ironically only a futuristic vision fails to be represented. There are worthwhile moments (Trentemoller’s “Le Champagne” and the opening track from Tea Dancers come to mind), but if there’s little obvious filler, there’s also little worth significant fanfare either. You’re not going to hurt anyone by playing this, but neither is it a choice that’ll see you heralded for your skill in picking out random winners from the vast hordes of anonymous dance compilations out there.
Om Records boasts the likes of Mark Farina and Marques Wyatt on its roster, both DJ’s with long-held, respected reputations within the global dance community. A title of The United Nations of Future Music Volume 02 may not inspire great confidence (beyond the fact that Volume 1 appears to have been successful enough to warrant a sequel), but it’s a compilation that’s been put together with loving care.
There are numerous lovely and interesting moments on this collection, one that has the feel of a mix-CD but isn’t. Some tracks—though not all—are blended together, and you’re seldom aware of which are and which are not. In part this is a triumph of sequencing; you begin with the straight soul-house of Kaskade’s “It’s You It’s Me”, and wind though the disc towards a track like Grande Synthe’s “World Service” (which may accurately be described as “abstract house”), finding yourself far from where you began without quite understanding how you arrived at your present destination.
There’s considerable variety on here too, from Rithma’s “Love and Music” (the mixed tempo opening of which is filthy, hopefully belying the experiences of its creators twenty years of age), to Marques Wyatt’s superb remix of Andy Caldwell’s “I Can’t Wait”.
The album title may be naff, and the cover graphics are a little unfortunate (most certain to age long before the music does), but this is music that deserves a wider audience—certainly more so than the myriad “tits and hits” compilations likely to be more prominently placed at your local music emporium.