Pop on your headphones, close your eyes, and you could almost be in the midst of the infamously sophisticated sleaze of the world-famous club.
Mega-club compilations try to sell an ideal. In the case of Pacha, represented by the ubiquitous two cherries, it goes something like this: Pacha is the Versace of nightclubs -- upscale, sexy, progressive, and decadent as hell. The latest Pacha double CD, Pure Pacha 2005, plays like the soundtrack to this ideal almost to a T, with pure/dirty dichotomy and an up-to-the-minute aesthetic sensibility turned all dance-dance craziness.
Each disc in this two-disc set is quite different, so let's tackle them one at a time.
This Disc - Pete Tong's Purest Cuts:
By now, Pete Tong is such an expert in his field that at first it's hard to keep up with him on this disc. But give it time, let it sink in over a few spins, and you see he's still pushing forward, past minimal house into something else, a place where songs don't have a familiar build-cut-build structure, but instead invert or ignore convention. Take the album's opener, the Ralf Lawson remix of Silver City's "Galactic Ride". The outer-space synth melodic fragment is built up by repeated synthetic tinkles and sparkly splashes, but three minutes in, the bass cuts out and we get an eerie silence. The variation grabs the listener's attention so that when the unobtrusive beat returns, it's still fresh.
On the macro level, the disc is surprising, too. The first couple of tracks turn the bass way down, so everything's drum or treble, high house switches and swatches. Then the Tong/Cox collabo "Deep End" introduces its great bass slide and suddenly the mix is in full gear, deep-minimal rather than the slight sound of the opening. Over the rest of the disc we get slight variations, but the mood is similar -- intelligent, interesting house.
Listen out for these: the melody on Harry Choo Choo Romero's "Warped", reminiscent of the Dr. Who theme, all sonic, pentatonic melody; and Bob Sinclair's contribution, "Summer Moon", though no "Love Generation", is likeable ecstatic in equal measure -- the disembodied vocal/banging summer beat combination recalls the old Funkstar Deluxe anthem "Sun Is Shining".
That Disc – Sarah Main's Dark & Dirty Cuts:
Though she doesn't have the name recognition of Pete Tong, Pacha resident favourite Sarah Main at least delivers on the promise made in the disc's title. It takes a little while, though. The opening cut, Kerri Chandler's "Fiesta", is slower, a warm-up perhaps, but not what you expect coming off the pumped-up end of Tong's contribution. It's OK, the CD stands on its own, but in all, though it has more "this is why I love dance music" moments, it's less consistent and therefore less successful.
There are certainly highlights, though. Listen for Mike Monday's superb "Rump Funk", which kicks up the stakes with needling-needling synth. The track's sleazy, funky, and irresistible -- you feel filthy just listening to it. And of course Tom Novy's "Your Body". The only consequence of the heavy dance floor play this hit receives is the realization that the end of each line ("…but you") really sounds like he's sneezing into the microphone. Still, it's funky, high energy house at its best.
On the other hand, we get Jamie Lewis' "Be Thankful". It could just be me, but wasn't the gospel thing done by the time Fatboy Slim regurgitated Electric Boutique's "Revelation" on Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars? Jose Nunez's "Lust for You" works the soliloquy much better later on Main's disc, because it fits the disk's grit, and when the tune comes in just before the six-minute-mark, it's a great, body-spasm-inducing moment.
Overall, the CD does a good job of mixing the high-pitched soft synth tickles with the squelching swells of dirty house. It's just not quite as consistent as Tong's.
I went to Pacha in New York on a recent Friday night. Apart from a few obvious local plays (LCD Soundsystem's "Tribulations"), the sound was house through-and-through, playing with expert ability the lulls and surges of the dance floor. Dancers in bikinis gyrated in steamed-up shower stalls beneath streams of hot water. Fog billowed over the dance floor at regular intervals. In the V.I.P area (the one that I could see), people lounged on pillows or dipped below the partition to do whatever it is people do in the dark corners of New York clubs. Pure Pacha 2005 emulates with expert precision the foggy cerebral/physical exultation of that experience. Pop on your headphones, close your eyes, and you could almost be there.