Over the course of a decade, Global Underground has become synonymous with high quality electronic music due to its series of compilation albums that capture the essence of parties thrown around the world. The concept behind GU albums is simple: follow and document high caliber DJs as they perform in various exotic clubbing hotspots; record each masterfully crafted set (with indistinguishable transitions between tracks to ensure smooth continuity); and package each two-disc album in a stylish case alongside professional photography and liner notes explaining the music’s inspirational backdrop. On Global Underground’s most recent outing, listeners wind up celebrating carnivale in Rio de Janeiro as DJs Layo & Bushwacka! drop a fistful of dance music on locals. “Brazil is my favorite place in the universe to go and play,” Bushwacka! explains in an interview with Terry Goldfain of Resident Advisor. “I’ve been to Brazil twenty four times in the last five years.”
It’s no accident that Global Underground chose this charismatic pair of DJs to deliver their special recipe of spicy house beats laced with soul-clenching synths on GU’s most recent electronic opus. Layo Paskin and Matthew “Bushwacka!” Benjamin’s story originally dates back to 1993, when Layo was promoting the “Too Much Music” warehouse parties throughout London. During this time Bushwacka! was spinning records at warehouse rave parties while simultaneously training to be an engineer at a London studio owned by innovative house DJ and producer Mr. C. Layo also had a connection to Mr. C since they both founded London’s renowned nightclub The End. After a chance meeting at Mr. C’s London studio, both DJs felt an instant musical kinship with each other that spawned the creation of “Split Personality”, a track the twosome recorded under the Usual Suspects moniker. They decided to change their moniker to simply Layo & Bushwacka! after their next two singles, “Nightstalkin” and “She Disrespek Me”, received rave reviews for the DJ community.
The success of these singles was followed by the release of Layo & Bushwacka!’s critically acclaimed debut album, Low Life (1998), a collection of innovative house music that merged downtempo grooves with infectious breakbeats. It wasn’t until the club anthem “Love Story”, off Layo & Bushwacka!’s commercially successful second album, Night Works (2002), that international punters began noticing the sparkle of these British gems. While creating their next two albums, All Night Long (2003) and Feels Closer (2006), Layo & Bushwacka! relentlessly toured the global party circuit, performing to sold out audiences in venues such as the Panorama Bar in Berlin, Womb in Tokyo, Space in Ibiza, and of course, The End in London, thus solidifying their status as the world’s most prominent DJ duo.
Keeping in the tradition of Global Underground albums, Global Underground 33: Rio de Janeiro is a two-disc sonic journey indicative of the evening’s mercurial atmosphere. On disc one, Layo & Bushwacka! take us through a tour of house music history by starting things off with Ellis-D’s (Junior Vasquez’s late ’80s alias) pumping “Took My Love Away”, which is then swallowed whole by a remix of the New York classic “Surrender Yourself”. Disco Diva Kym Mazelle brings us back to 1987 as her sensual vocal harmonies on “Taste My Love” slowly mutate into N.Y. House’n’Authority’s “Apt. 1A”, before Blunted Dummies’ 1993 underground hit “House for All” funks up the mix. Layo & Bushwacka! dig even deeper into their bottomless crate of acid house classics with the jazz-fusion hit “I Called U (Why’d U Fall)” by Chicago extraordinaire Lil’ Louis. Lil’ Louis’s plush electro layering acts as a cascade of hypnotic beeps and noises until Liaisons-D’s “Future F.J.P.” pops the comatose bubble with a barrage of synth-heavy breakbeats. Disc one pays homage to all the misunderstood pioneers of acid house that paved the way for DJs like Layo & Bushwacka! to become international superstars, but the meat of GU 33 is on disc two.
If you were to compare GU 33 to a nightclub, disc one would be thunderous roar of the main room, while disc two would be the smaller, bean bag-filled room illuminated by black lights and candles. Disc two’s collection of songs draws attention to the more cerebral side of deep house that merges soulful vocals with carefully crafted emotional atmospherics. Layo & Bushwacka! start disc two off on a Brian Eno-ish minimal grove that gains momentum throughout the CD’s first twenty minutes. The slow build up takes shape when Guy Gerber’s menacing “Belly Dancing” injects darkness into the mix like a sharp needle penetrating one’s skin. We remain swept up in the shadow’s twilight until Bushwacka!’s “Long Distance” effortlessly shines a ray of light in the mix by swirling organic audio solace in juxtaposition with a grimy house beat that chemically bonds with the duo’s combination remix of Jesus Loves You’s (a.k.a. Boy George) “After the Love/Ashes Remain”.
The most compelling nugget of spaced-out ear candy comes two minutes into Patrick Chardronnet’s “Ledge”, a spooky mix of psychedelic minimalism that brings the same warmth and security a child feels when he or she watches the sun’s white flickering lights glisten off a pool’s surface just before it sets. Martin Buttrich’s “What’s Your Name?” continues the soul-driven introspection, while Riley Reinhold’s celestial “Lights in My Eyes” ensures a smooth re-entry from the emotion abyss. Layo & Bushwacka! close the show with a murky track called “Saudade”, a Portuguese word that describes a feeling of longing for something that one is fond of, which is gone, but might return in the distant future.
Layo & Bushwacka!, along with Global Underground, have once again proven that electronic music is a potent form of social expression felt by people in all corners of the earth. GU 33: Rio can either be viewed as a collection of obscure, trend setting acid house classics or a transcendental experience through the nooks and crannies of one’s spirit. No matter how you choose to categorize this double-disc set, it’s a must have for anyone willing to look outside the box.