Features

The Return of the Popcorn Circus: August 2008

Talk about a crowded schedule. There are more offerings scheduled this month than in the previous two combined.

Talk about a crowded schedule. There are more offerings scheduled this month than in the previous two combined. How may of these movies will actually make the cut, continuing on during the popcorn parade instead of dropping off and dying during awards season (or God forbid, next spring!) remains to be seen. Even more interestingly, some of the summer's most anticipated unknowns -- new comedies from Seth Rogen and Ben Stiller -- are being saved until now. Among the other tempting titles are more big budget speculative action efforts, including the return of an Egyptian icon. What a cinematic side show!

Director: Rob Cohen Film: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Luke Ford, Michelle Yeoh, Isabella Leong Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mummy-Tomb-Dragon-Emperor-Widescreen/dp/B001HQZJMU/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1232388225&sr=8-1 Website: http://www.themummy.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 Distributor: Universal Studios US Release Date: 2008-08-01 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-08-06 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/mummy-tomb-poster.jpg

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1 August

In the Center Ring

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Just what we needed to start August off with a bang -- another mindless sequel of this incessantly silly franchise, only this time around, two key components are totally missing. Steve Sommers, the man behind the whole Mummy movie marathon, is off making his big screen adaptation of GI Joe (oh joy!) and an Oscar has given co-star Rachel Weisz the industry spunk to say "nyet" to another round of this ridiculousness. While the Asian angle may make this a more palatable outing than the whole Scorpion King debacle, director Rob Cohen's recent track record -- The Skulls, Stealth, The Fast and the Furious, xXx - suggests otherwise. It used to be that August was the dregs of the summer season, a place where studios put their destined to underperform losers. Looks like this bandaged bad boy is following in the footsteps of old time Hollywood.The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Director: Clark Gregg Film: Choke Studio: Fox Searchlight Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-01 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/c/choke-novel12.jpg

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1 August

The Outer Circles

Choke

It may not be Fight Club (and frankly, what can be), but Chuck Palahniuk's novel about a sex addicted swindler who uses the title malady to pry money out of unfortunate restaurant marks could be this year's underground smash. A resounding success at Sundance, where the Hollywood Reporter declared it "an extreme post-modern fairytale", this has cult favorite stamped all over it. Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston give knockout performances, and the entire tone is part social commentary, part twisted fantastical farce. Sounds like the perfect combination for a cynical, Generation Hex audience.

Choke

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura Film: Midnight Meat Train Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Roger Bart MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-01 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/midnight_meat_train_ver2.jpg

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1 August

The Outer Circles

Midnight Meat Train

Clive Barker's terrifying tale of a serial killer stalking the New York subway system has a lot of cinematic potential. There's the blood and guts element to be sure, but the story also centers on a down on his luck photographer, and the desperate need to make a name for himself in the city's art community. Helmed by Ryuhei Kitamuram, the moviemaking madman behind the Japanese zombie criminal gorefest Versus, the combination of atmosphere and offal signals some solid urban scares. While Barker is an acquired literary taste, his fright films have typically been pretty good. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Midnight Meat Train

Director: Ken Kwapis Film: He's Just Not That Into You Studio: New Line Cinema Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper MPAA rating: N/A First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-01 (General release)

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1 August

Sneaking in Under the Tent

He's Just Not That Into You

A sophisticated comedy based on a self-help book? Sadder still, the cast is made up of some solid performers like Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, and Scarlett Johansson. Indeed, in our esteem addicted society where nothing is personal and everything is excused, using some idiots dating tool as a way of creating a series of serio-witty vignettes smacks of creative desperation. Now imagine the mind looking forward to this film. Yikes!He's Just Not That Into You

Director: Joshua Michael Stern Film: Swing Vote Studio: Touchstone Films Cast: Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton, Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, George Lopez Website: http://swingvote.movies.go.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-01 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-09-26 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/swing-vote-poster.jpg

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1 August

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Swing Vote

Kevin Costner is a beer swilling bumpkin who learns that the entire Presidential election comes down to his one vote. Right. Apparently, the Electoral College, the Supreme Court, and the entire population of the United States get split 50/50, leaving Almost Larry the Cable Guy as the determinator in chief. We're laughing already. Unfortunately, it's not with the film, but at it. Definitely AT it.Swing Vote

Director: Peter Cattaneo Film: The Rocker Studio: Fox Atomic Cast: Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Teddy Geiger, Josh Gad, Will Arnett, Emma Stone MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-20 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-08-22 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/r/rockerposter2.jpg

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1 August

Sneaking in Under the Tent

The Rocker

Rainn Wilson gets a starring vehicle as an ex-'80s hair band member who uses his nephew's high school rock outfit as a means of restarting his career. There's a great deal of potential here, especially when you take into consideration that The Full Monty's Peter Cattaneo is behind the camera, and it was written by Wallace Wolodarsky (of The Simpsons) and Maya Forbes (of The Larry Sanders Show). Now if they can just get the decade-defining music right.The Rocker

Director: David Gordon Green Film: Pineapple Express Studio: Columbia Pictures Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Amber Heard, Rosie Perez, Gary Cole, Craig Robinson, Kevin Corrigan, Bill Hader Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/pineappleexpress/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 Distributor: Sony US Release Date: 2008-08-06 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-09-12 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/pineapple_express.jpg

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8 August

In the Center Ring

Pineapple Express

Talk about a pre-emptive push. Message boards have been waxing prophetic about this film since Superbad started its Cineplex domination. As stoner comedies go, this one has a decided dark edge…one amplified by the presence of George Washington/Snow Angels' David Gordon Green in the director's chair. Star Seth Rogen once again scripted with Evan Goldberg (with Freaks and Geeks buddy Judd Apatow adding a story credit), and rumor has it that Mr. Knocked Up was supposed to play the role that James Franco is now essaying. But because everyone's favorite Spidey supporter was so hilarious in slacker mode, the parts were switched. The current trailer looks like Cheech and Chong Piss Off the Wrong Guys, and the violence seems almost antithetical to the whole pot approach. Still, if anyone can pull this off, it would be this cocky creative team. Their track record speaks for itself.

Pineapple Express

Director: Sanaa Hamri Film: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Amber Tamblyn, Jesse Williams, Rachel Nichols, Blythe Danner, Kyle MacLachlan Website: http://sisterhoodofthetravelingpants2.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-06 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/sisterhood_of_the_traveling_pants_two.jpg

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8 August

Sneaking in Under the Tent

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

You know the old joke: this sequel was clearly needed to address all the issues that were raised and yet unresolved at the end of Part One. Number two guarantees more laughs, more tears, and more well-worn dungarees. Online excitement among in-the-known tweens is high, so who knows. This could be one of those unimpressive pictures that still makes the studio a pile of money. It could also fade away without anyone really noticing.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Director: Larry Bishop Film: Hell Ride Studio: Dimension Films Cast: Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Dennis Hopper, Eric Balfour, Vinnie Jones, Leonor Varela, Kanin J. Howell, Michael Beach MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-08 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/h/hell_ride_poster.jpg

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8 August

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Hell Ride

Back in 1996, writer/director Larry Bishop concocted one of the worst films of all time, the mob mess known as Mad Dog Time. Now, over a decade later, he's back with a Quentin Tarantino approved bow to the biker epic called Hell Ride…and early reviews are equally uncomplimentary. He probably never realized how hard it would be to recreate the sleazoid sensation of '70s grindhouse fodder. His Executive Producer could have helped him out with that insight.

Hell Ride

Director: Ben Stiller Film: Tropic Thunder Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Steve Coogan, Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Nick Nolte Website: http://www.tropicthunder.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-13 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-09-19 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/tropic-thunder-poster.jpg

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15 August

In the Center Ring

Tropic Thunder

It's probably the Summer's biggest gamble, a crazy comedy in which one of the main characters surgically changes his RACE to play an African American Vietnam war vet. Robert Downey Jr.'s Method blackface routine has already got publicity machines percolating, and the rest of the narrative -- centering on a group of actors who inexplicably wind up fighting like real soldiers -- sounds like Three Amigos mixed with Platoon. Ben Stiller's name on both the directing and screenplay credits may alleviate some of the qualms. His work behind the lens is usually more solid than the frequently flailing he does in front. And let’s not forget the Tom Cruise cameo that had the famed Scientologist up in arms when the secret was revealed. Of course, no one really cares if he's playing a fat, balding idiot. Some may consider it typecasting -- or at the very least, karma.

Tropic Thunder

Director: Dave Filoni Film: Star Wars: Clone Wars Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Terrence "T.C." Carson, Anthony Daniels, Matthew Wood, Tom Kane, Grey DeLisle Website: http://www.starwars.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-15 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/star_wars_clone_wars_poster.jpg

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15 August

In the Center Ring

Star Wars: Clone Wars

Oh no, here he goes again. Using the already tired medium of CGI, George Lucas is giving fervent fans even more Star Wars revisionism. This time out, we are linking the second prequel (Attack of the Clones) with the horrid last part of the opening trilogy (Revenge of the Sith). Sadly, it seems like any semblance of imagination or invention the franchise had to offer is being sapped away by lame animation and an even worse marketing ideal. Apparently, it’s all a set up for a TV series to start in the Fall. Even longtime diehards are starting to see the man's money-oriented approach to his legacy. The action oriented trailer (quickly yanked off YouTube after appearing briefly), indicates that everyone associated with this folly believes that an excess of eye candy is all you need to make a movie. At least there will now be an excuse for the horribly unnatural mannerisms of Anakin Skywalker.

Star Wars: Clone Wars

Director: Alan Ball Film: Towelhead Studio: Warner Independent Pictures Cast: Summer Bishil, Aaron Eckhart, Peter Macdissi, Toni Collette, Maria Bello, Eugene Jones III MPAA rating: R First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2008-08-12 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/towelheadposter.jpg

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15 August

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Towelhead

Alan Ball's Oscar for American Beauty remains a well deserved screenplay win. It stands as one of the most insightful looks at suburban malaise this side of Joe Sarno. What he knows about the Arab experience in these United States is questionable at best. Apparently, this film about a sexually frustrated young Lebanese girl has been getting a lot of uncomplimentary buzz for the teen promiscuity angle. Oddly enough, the racial element is not a problem.

Towelhead

Director: Alexandre Aja Film: Mirrors Studio: Fox Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Cameron Boyce, Amy Smart, Erika Gluck Website: http://www.mirrorsmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-08-15 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/m/mirrorsposter.jpg

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15 August

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Mirrors

Alexandre Aja burst onto the horror landscape with his landmark effort Haute Tension. While some hated the slasher redux, the French filmmaker showed a lot of gumption. Even his remake of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes was inventive and weird. Now comes this take on the Korean movie Into the Mirrors. If he follows the trend set by fellow countrymen David Moreau and Xavier Palud and their appalling The Eye, we're in for another fear flop.Mirrors









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steve coogan shirley henderson college james franco jennifer connelly nicolas cage vinnie jones dennis hopper drew barrymore ben stiller jennifer aniston natasha richardson nick nolte maria bello christina applegate toni collette anjelica huston emma roberts sean penn sam shepard leonor varela amy smart uma thurman brooke shields colin firth ray liotta anna faris ben affleck javier bardem catherine keener brendan fraser michael madsen beverly d'angelo penélope cruz vin diesel george lopez aaron eckhart stanley tucci sam rockwell jet li gérard depardieu michelle yeoh lambert wilson ashley judd kevin connolly kevin costner justin long gary cole isabella rossellini david arquette scarlett johansson jack black amy poehler grey delisle harrison ford seth rogen kelsey grammer kelly macdonald rosie perez blythe danner john hannah kyle maclachlan rumer willis charlotte rampling colin hanks eric balfour kiefer sutherland aidan quinn ginnifer goodwin tom kane amber tamblyn kevin corrigan ryan pinkston sarita choudhury alexis bledel america ferrera blake lively leslie bibb roger bart anthony daniels robert downey choke rainn wilson jr. amber heard jay baruchel will arnett bradley cooper kendra wilkinson rachel nichols jeffrey dean morgan bill hader jim sturgess michael beach craig robinson lindsay sloane kat dennings danny mcbride josh gad the rocker the mummy: tomb of the dragon emperor luke ford isabella leong madeline carroll paula patton pineapple express vicky cristina barcelona rebecca hall joan pera jesse williams brandon t. jackson tropic thunder cameron boyce teddy geiger emma stone mirrors katharine mcphee kiely williams kevin covais hamlet 2 mélanie theirry babylon a.d. towelhead summer bishil peter macdissi midnight meat train hell ride larry bishop kanin j. howell alice eve justina machado haley bennett he's just not that into you swing vote the sisterhood of the traveling pants 2 star wars: clone wars terrence "t.c." carson matthew wood eugene jones iii erika gluck bangkok dangerous charlie yeung chakrit yamnam the house bunny wild child alex pettyfer the accidental husband kristina klebe crossng over drake bell andrew caldwell nick zano zach cregger gary owen camille mana may'tay williams nathalie walker Summer 2008 Movie Preview

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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