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Various Artists: Euro Lounge

Alison Wong

Various Artists

Euro Lounge

Label: Putumayo
US Release Date: 2003-03-25
UK Release Date: 2003-04-14

After listening to this compilation, it is obvious that lounge music has come a long way since its birth in the '50s. Originating as a reaction to postwar euphoria and the advent of hi-fi, lounge music was the accompaniment to a novelty recreation: entertaining at home. Branching from latter-day swing and big band, lounge music has come to occupy a unique place in the music spectrum. With influences stemming from the exploration of world music exotica and peppered with a little space age pop, the early result was a style that incorporated subtle familiarities to world traditions that helped to affect the sophistication prospering couples needed to entertain and impress their colleagues and friends at home.

Euro Lounge is the spin-off from World Lounge (2002). As the liner notes describe, the concept of the compilation succeeds in showing that "in the emerging lounge and chill-out movement, the sixties French chanson, Italian film soundtracks, Latin cha cha cha, hard-bop jazz and Brazilian bossa nova have been reinvented with cutting-edge electronic enhancements and club-friendly programmed beats."

This mélange of tracks is mellow, but the rhythmic and instrumental influence of world music and jazz gives a bite that holds your ear. While some tracks demand attention, others will simply pass right by you. Since this is lounge, either is acceptable, but here are some of the highlights:

"Un Simple Histoire" by Thievery Corporation with LouLou opens the compilation. From the album The Richest Man In Babylon(2002), this track is very polished. The smooth repetitive bass creates a cool trance-inducing mood that underlies the soft French vocals of Iranian-French singer LouLou Ghelichkhani with a touch of sitar stirring riffs that evoke Asian exoticism. Technically, this is a flawless track and perhaps that is why it can potentially leave you cold. It projects an atmosphere suited to formal settings; imagine an upscale London wine bar with chrome fittings, dimmed lighting, and gray suits.

"Salpica" by Mambotur, Chilean duo Argenis Brito and Pier Bucci, is a blend of rich Latin and calypso flavors with electronic beats building simple structural blocks. Musically, "Salpica" goes no-where and has nothing to say, but the aural effect is powerfully seductive.

Veteran Macedonian singer Vanja Lazarova and electronica guru Kiril deliver one of the most impressive tracks on this compilation. The backbone of "Stojne Nre Mome Kocansko" comprises remixed traditional Macedonian folk songs while ethereal vocals skim the surface. Lazarova's voice is hauntingly beautiful and the perfect tool for conjuring the magical folkloric ambiance. Kiril's remix is delicate, retaining the essence of folk music while coating it with an electronic varnish. Put down the wine, sit up, pay attention, and you'll be blown away.

"El Último Habitante Del Planeta" by Mastretta features the powerfully cinematic voice of Gema Corradera and is taken from the album Minty Fresh(2002). The lyrics satirically recant how the last man on the planet spent his last night and the liner notes perfectly describe the music as "a staple of sixties lounge music and B-movie soundtracks." ,p>Arguably the quirkiest track on this CD is "Voulez-Vous" by Arling & Cameron from their album We are A&C(2001). The lighter kitsch value provided by the Dutch duo in their music has been appreciated in the form of Acura commercials to Gap commercials ("How about the Boys?"), from The Sopranos to Road Rules, and holds less of the overtly stringent elements of some of the other tracks. There are strains of Burt Bacharach reincarnated in kitschy-funk and with the help of Olga Jankovski's sexy vocals, "Voulez-Vous" is just downright groovy.

This is a superb compilation and there is nothing understated about it. As Putumayo succinctly proclaims, it is "guaranteed to make you feel good."

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