How cool are Layo & Bushwacka!? So cool they can get away with sticking a goofy exclamation point after their name and still be cool. So cool they can sample Devo and Nina Simone in the same track and make it a Top Ten club smash. Most importantly, L&B! are so cool that, at a time when every other DJ on the planet is scrambling to crank out a much-hyped "artist debut" album, these guys are just getting around to putting out their debut mix album -- cuz after all, they've already released two, count 'em, two albums of original material, both of which kicked more ass than Jackie Chan at a ninja convention. Yep, in the world of DJ/producer duos, L&B! are pretty much the shit.
In case you couldn't tell, my expectations for the aforementioned debut mix set were running pretty high. And damn if L&B! haven't earned their exclamation point yet again. All Night Long starts things off fun and eclectic, with a grab-bag set of throwback and leftfield sounds encompassing everything from old school electro and Japanese hip-hop to funky breaks and soulful house, before shifting into serious dance mode on disc two with a superbly sequenced, relentless progressive/tech-house set. This is the soundtrack to a party I want to be at.
Fans of Layo Paskin and Matthew "Bushwacka!" Benjamin's original material know how diverse this duo can be, but they still might be surprised at some of the downright wacky track selections on the extremely inventive disc one. Not many big-name DJs these days would even consider dropping a tune as oddball as Newcleus' helium-voiced hip-hop classic "Jam On It", let alone rubbing it up against Orbital's "Funky Break" (here in an extra funky Layo & Bushwacka! remix), but these guys pull it off so smoothly it sounds like the most obvious choice in the world. Other unlikely-sounding juxtapositions yield equally delicious results. Carl Craig's Detroit Experiment proves a perfect table-setter for the amazingly groovy Higashida Tomohiro, as the fat beats and sweet jazz guitar chords of "Vernors" give way to the uptown Tokyo funk of "Special Place". Detroit Experiment provide another highlight later in the set with the smokin' funk groove and high-wire trumpet and sax riffs of "Think Twice", before Andrew Brooks's ass-shaking hip-house rerub of Clyde and Capitol A's "Serve It Up" paves the way for a great rarity, a 1990 Danny Tenaglia house remix of Dread Flimstone's acid jazz/reggae anthem "From the Ghetto".
Disc two is less flashy and more focused on smooth, seamless house and techno grooves, but it's no less full of surprises -- it starts, after all, with the early '90s ambient house of Psychedelic Research Lab's "Tarenah" and ends with a live re-edit of Sly & the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music". The headline grabbers are L&B! remixes of Bebel Gilberto's "So Nice" and Depeche Mode's "Dream On", both of which come out virtually unrecognizable in sleek, minimalist makeovers -- "So Nice" becomes a percussive tech-house workout, while "Dream On" builds around an infectious funk bassline into the sort of trippy, progressive anthem L&B! so excel at on their original productions.
As good as these reinventions are, the best moments on disc two mostly come from people you probably haven't heard of, and from the ways in which L&B! expertly build from one groove to the next, in an exemplary demonstration of how to sustain dancefloor momentum without the need for any flashy builds or breakdowns. Any aspiring progressive or tech-house DJ should study how they segue from the gorgeous, gurgling synths of Mothersole & Haris's "Dumbek" into the darker textures of Weekend World's spooky "Sacred Sessions" and thence to the sinister synth washes and jacking beats of LHB 017's "D&G Vol 1" before finally raising the energy almost subliminally into Paranoid Jack's relentless prog house mix of James Benitez's "Starchaser". I could go on, because the whole set is this airtight. I'm not sure I heard a better set of four-on-the-floor beats all last year. Did I already mention that these guys are the shit?
Other noteworthy tracks from both discs include "Take 5", a prime slab of soulful San Francisco house from Johnny Fiasco; a wonderful L&B! mashup of two classic proto-acid house tracks from Fast Eddie, "Acid Thunder" and "Yo Yo Get Funky"; "Crazy 8", a relentlessly groovy house joint from yet another Groove Armada side project, the Pyromaniac Gardeners; and Alexander Kowalski's dark remix of Agoria's "la 11eme marche", which has one of those menacing, oscillating synth bass lines that practically screams, "Dance or die, puny human!" Actually, pretty much the whole album screams that, except maybe without the "puny human" part. Or the "die" part. In fact, come to think of it, it just screams "Dance!" in the most deliciously entertaining, high-energy, creative, damn-the-genres sort of way. And definitely with a goofy exclamation point at the end of it.
My only quibble with All Night Long -- and it's a pretty minor quibble -- is that the set's two "live re-edits" both fall short of expectations. Sha Lor's "I'm in Love", a forgotten 1989 dance-pop ditty (written by the guys from Newcleus -- who knew L&B! were such fans?), was a questionable choice to begin with, and L&B!'s cut-and-paste, drive-by remake doesn't really answer any questions (the main one being: why?). And "Dance to the Music", apart from one grin-inducing loop from the song's famous a cappella break, omits too much of the Sly & the Family Stone original, leaving behind a Big Beat carcass stripped of all the song's juiciest parts. But never mind -- the rest of All Night Long is a more than worthy addition to the growing catalog of producer/DJs out there who -- thank god -- are pulling out all the stops to make dance music fun again. Considering all the other shit that's going on the world these days, it's about time.