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CD reviews: MIX CDS ROUND-UP.

Byline: Duncan Alison

GATECRASHER: Digital, JOHN KELLY: JK01, TIM FIELDING: Ley Lines: Having just held its second night this year at the mammoth Birmingham NEC, you can understand why Sheffield-based Gatecrasher can sell a mix album on the back of the club name itself, rather than relying on a big DJ name to recommend it as is often the norm.

The Gatecrasher: Digital triple-CD compilation arrives in a saturated dance compilation marketplace which demands something special to stand out, and for the most part, it does just that.

CD1, dubbed Dancefloor, is an uncompromising romp through Gatecrasher's standard club fodder with big, trance-driven sounds. Taking in tracks by Paul Van Dyk, current golden boy Max Graham, as well as the consistently impressive Rank 1 and Binary Finary, it rarely strays from the pace, although there are a few unimaginative duds, Coast 2 Coast's Be With Me being one.

The disc ends with with The Legacy by Push. About once a year a house record is released which trancends all others and this is it. Mixmag readers recently voted Energy 52's Cafe Del Mar as the best dance record of all time, and this could well be up there next time there's a vote. Although not straying from the regular house anthem formula of massive synth layers and breakdowns, it's nevertheless devastatingly effective.

CD2, Meltdown, subtitled The Fast the Furious and the Future, travels to the more extreme edges of the Gatecrasher sound. However, too often preoccupied with lifeless, robotic techno beats, it fails to continue the standard set by CD1. Standout tacks come early on, particularly V-Two's machine-like energetic monster Progressive Future. Towards the end, however, as the beats get increasingly bland and monotonous, and the synth lines more grating, you stop enjoying yourself. Vespa 63's The Wild Side is a case in point, and the less said about Cosmosonic's Alpha Beata the better.

The third CD, a chillout mix, gives extra value to the album. If you're sick to the gills of the wave of inferior, commercial, TV-advertised chillout compilations that have been de-rigeur on coffee tables nationwide this year, you'll find some solace here.

Beginning with a stripped-down version of the current ubiquitous clubber's favourite Resurrection by PPK, it's one of the better chillout sets to be found on the high street. With ambient tracks by such respected producers as Orion and Way Out West, CD3 has some heavyweight talent shining through. Some may find it a bit heavy on the washy atmospherics, but that's what the genre is all about, and the disc is assembled in some style. Solid Sessions' Janeiro and Private Taste's First are excellent examples of how to use beats in an ambient context

The latter half of CD2 aside, all of the above on one album constitutes one of best dance packages of the year. HHHH

However, if you don't fancy a trip to your local music emporium, John Kelly's JK01 is available exclusively through his website (www.djjohnkelly.com). A regular guest at GodsKitchen, Slinky and Gatecrasher, and a former Ministry of Sound resident, veteran jock Kelly's no-fuss approach initially works very well. Silverback's Monkey Lover (the lyrics are hysterical) and Thomas Krome's Shockabuku are excellent examples of contemporary club music: energy-driven, frenetic beats, yet still with intelligent hooks to maintain interest. Ariel's Out Here is another ethereal belter early on.

After such a fine start you hope it'll continue, but unfortunately it doesn't. The aforementioned tracks contrast sharply with some poor selections later on. Tonik's Money, with its dull synth tones, sounds very tired. Then soon after we have to endure Moogue's China Girl, which contains a vocal straight out of the 80s and is totally alien to today's club culture. And the guitar solo really doesn't help.

As a result Kelly's mix loses its way. However, in the closing stages the inclusion of Dave Angel's awesome mix of Steve Mason's Experience Flavour just about redeems all previous wrongs on account of its sheer brilliance. With a beat from the same factory as JDS' Nine Ways and a tune reminiscent of Underworld's classic Cowgirl, it's everything a dance track of this ilk should be.

Despite its waverings, JK01 is a good introduction to the dirtier side of the trance scene, and has enough good tracks to warrant a tenner. HHH

On a completely different musical agenda is Tim Fielding's Ley Lines compilation, released on the long-standing Journeys By DJ label of which Fielding is the founder.

The label, impressively, is credited as being the first to release live DJ mixes on CD. The series began in 1992 and since then Paul Oakenfold, Coldcut and Danny Rampling have contributed albums, and now it's time for the man behind it all to put his name to a release.

Like the above it's a house mix, but in stark contrast it focuses on soulful, vibe-filled house with a global outlook, and it's done with some aplomb. With jazz, soul and funk flavours, Ley Lines demonstrates just how smooth and sophisticated house music can be, and the wonderful diversity under the genre's umbrella.

With 78 minutes and 18 tracks it's no short hop either. However, close the doors, shut the curtains, light some candles, and a listen from start to finish is a fulfilling experience.

West of Athens by the Universal Agents is typical of the mood, an ambient jazz exploration underpinned by a smooth house beat. Timo Mass' mix of Spice's 69 Overdrive is a staccato funk fusion and represents the more energetic scope of the selection, partnered with The Underwolves' So Blue It's Black, along a similar vein.

Cutting edge throughout, it's clear Fielding has really thought this album through with a creative vision. It's a beautifully executed blend of global house music styles and a positive musical statement. HHHH
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 3, 2001
Words:967
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