Om Records has long stood at the forefront of the cosmopolitan school of dance music. They have built a diverse, critically-acclaimed roster on the strength of a deep and abiding respect for the genres they represent. The label built its reputation based on the success of downtempo/acid-jazz series such as Mark Farina's popular Mushroom Jazz and the evergreen Om Lounge. Since their origins in the late '90s they've also made a name in the realms of smooth, sultry house, with artists such as Kaskade and Andy Cladwell.
There seems to be a certain breed of critic who turn their noses at the very idea of a remix collection. However, this disc demands to be judged on nothing more and nothing less than the merits of the individual tracks therein. There's no unifying thread, no thematic link -- most of the tracks aren't even mixed. It's a strong collection, and a pretty decent sampler for the Om Music brand as a whole.
01 - Mark Farina - "To Do" (Kaskade Remix)
This is a pretty decent track to start the disc off. It's got a solid beat and a fairly innocuous groove, but the jazzy flourishes really make it stand out. If you were a DJ, it wouldn't be a good track to build your set around, but it would be a good bridging number between peaks.
02 - Naked Music NYC - "If I Fall" (Miguel Migs Remix)
Is Astralwerks not involved with Naked Music anymore? It's been almost a full year since the last Astralwerks/Naked release, the superb Lost on Arrival. Lost on Arrival was a treat because it saw the Naked Music brand branching out from their typical smooth-as-butter house and into the funkier and wilder realms of tech-house/breaks-house (boy, all these stupid genre names get annoying after a while, don't they?) In any event, this remix sees the Naked crew back to their old tricks. It's a pleasantly satisfying stomper, but it's also as smooth as you've come to expect, with their usual R&B flourishes thrown in for good measure. If you like this sort of thing, it's a spectacular track -- but a little bit of Naked goes a long way for me. If they have decided to land at Om, it would be a perfect fit.
03 - Afro-Mystik - "Rhythm Is?" (Marques Wyatt Mix)
Ah, Ursula Rucker. My promo copy doesn't say whether or not this is her voice or not, but I'd bet anything that this is her. Just her presence alone makes this a keeper for me, but this is also a pretty nice track on its own merits, with a bit of a jazzy Chicago-house flavor to it.
04 - Eighty Mile Beach - "No Right Angles" (Thievery Corporation Remix)
The Thievery Corporation do consistently good work, and this track is no exception. However, the general dub vibe is a little bit distracting -- they've even got a sample from the Harder They Come soundtrack, Scotty's "Draw Your Breaks", to be exact (Trust me, you can't miss it). I know I haven't been alone in sometimes regarding the Thievery Corporation as a cut-rate Kruder & Dorfmeister, and its taken a lot of hard work to shake these initial impressions. It doesn't help to hear them doing such a blatantly K&D-inspired piece. Oh well, it's still pretty good.
05 - King Kooba - "Fooling Myself" (Derrick Carter Mix)
Now this is a tune. This is the kind of track you would expect to hear in a sweaty club about quarter past two, when the DJ was just starting to get going and things in general were just starting to get... interesting. It's got an undeniably mighty bassline and its even got a little bit of a Herbert cut-and-paste thing going on with the vocal bit. This is one for the record bag, ladies and gents.
06 - Afro-Mystik - "Natural" (Halo & Andre Harris Remix)
This is the freestyle joint right here. It's got a pummeling, maddeningly monomaniacal beat and some crazy synth flourishes... and I'm not even talking about the hardcore disco vocal. Everyone who misses Astralwerks' Respect Is Burning compilations (and I count myself among that number), this one is for you.
07 - Andy Caldwell - "I Can't Wait" (Andy Caldwell Remix)
I like this, I like this a lot. There's a stuttering broken beat type thing going on, with a sultry female vocal and some Chemical Brothers squiggles going on over the top. A keeper.
08 - Soulstice - "The Reason" (DJ Spinna Mix)
Of all the electronic subgenres to come up in the past few years, the nuevo techno soul or whatever you call it has just left me cold. I don't particularly like Vikter Duplaix, even though I can easily see that it's well-crafted music, and I feel similarly about this. It's good, but it's just not my cup.
09 - Terra Deva - "Inside" (Naked Music NYC)
What I said above about the other Naked Music NYC track applies here as well, pretty much... save that this track is a bit more crunchier. Not quite into Frankie Bones territory, but there's definitely some Detroit in the woodpile on this one.
10 - Ming & FS - "Freak" (Dizzy Remix)
Unfortunately, I don't particularly like this track at all. Part of it has to do with the fact that I really like Ming & FS, and this remix does little to preserve much of their specific sound. It's pretty much just another funky house number, and knowing how good the original was does little to persuade me that this is anything other than a disappointment.
11 - Rithma - "Love & Music" (Joshua [Iz] Remix)
This makes up for that last track. This is your NYC Garage right here, right down to the super-crisp snares and the gospel-tinged freestyle vocals. A great remix, definitely another keeper for the DJs in the audience.
12 - Kaskade - "Meditation to the Groove" (Johnny Fiasco Remix)
A pretty good closer for the disc. This is a Brazillian-influenced deep house number with an atmosphere that might even border on tech-house... maybe. It's got another superfluous female vocal element, as with any of these tracks, the dubplate might be more your speed if you're not a fan of sultry female vocals.
All things considered, it's a pretty fine disc. A lot of good tracks, a few real winners, and only a couple stinkers in the bunch. Its pretty rare for remix comps like this to be so consistent, but I realize I should have expected more from Om, which once again proves itself to be one of the most consistent labels in electronic music today.