Various Artists: Shameless Productions Presents Le Souk Sunday Sessions
Quite possibly the best music to ever come out of a North African restaurant, this two-disc set of soulful progressive house is essential for beatheads of all nationalities.
Neurologists have said that reading a vivid description of an event provokes a physiological response that's very similar to actually experiencing the same event. In other words, reading about it sometimes really is "just like being there".
But the same can't be said about listening -- at least when it comes to DJ mixes based on specific live shows or residencies. While they're meant to give a taste of what it was like to be there, most of the time they can't convey the context of their inspiration. You're left with a DJ mix the same as any other, and a lot of them are boring to listen to outside of the club.
Le Souk Sunday Sessions is a rare exception. Inspired by the unlikely popularity of Sunday night house music marathons at Le Souk, a North African restaurant and lounge in New York's East Village, the set features a "daytime" disc mixed by Sunday Sessions founder Swamy and a "nighttime" disc mixed by current residents Astro&Glyde. Together, it all plays like a two-plus hour odyssey to another place, a place where everyone's having fun.
Swamy's "daytime" disc is meant to invoke a mellow Sunday afternoon. Fittingly, it gets off to an easy-going start with some well-chosen soul/jazz/funk. The beats are crisp and the bass lines smooth, almost to the point of oblivion. Of course, that's part of the design: You can almost feel the sun warming your back, the touch of a gentle breeze, and the expectation building around the good vibes. Then the payoff begins with DJ T's "Philly", all electro-funk bass and soulful bliss. Astro&Glyde's own "Chunky Humper" is awash in soothing keyboards, while The Beard featuring Anna's "Call Me" adds uplifting chords and female vocals. Pashka's "Island Breeze" is ripe with electro pulses and Plej's "Blue" closes the disc with a sexy, seductive splash of cool water.
While Swamy's disc is a slow come-on that gradually heats up the atmosphere, Astro&Glyde's "nighttime" disc starts right off bumping 'n' grinding. "It's time to play", a sampled voice declares on Guy Williams' thumpin' "Work", and playtime doesn't end until Rachel Starr's sighing "'Till There Was You" winds down the set 70 minutes later. In between, each track works to enhance the next and keep you dancing, literally or virtually. It's all good, but especially so on Astro&Glyde's "Dunt Dunt Dunt", where old-school Detroit techno meets Latin salsa, and Ericke's "Back to Work", a Chicago house update that features vintage deadpan exhortations like, "Gonna get your soul / Out of control".
Sunday Sessions allows you to sit on your couch or in your car and feel like you're in a packed club basement or sunlit patio, making that almost telepathic connection with the DJs that inspires you to keep on dancing. Swamy and Astro&Glyde help ensure that sense of realism with their deft, ear-tickling pans and smooth mixing. Joe "Bongo", who provides live percussion at the shows, helps the discs come alive as well. And the sound quality -- which often hinders mixes like this -- is sparkling and rich. The quality of the music and quality of presentation combine to make Sunday Sessions a true rarity: A near-essential DJ mix.