VA: Buzzin' Fly 5 Golden Years In The Wilderness
Buzzin' Fly

Why does Buzzin' Fly's material stand head and shoulders above the rest? Because curator Ben Watt understands that the best tracks are founded on equally strong melodic and rhythmic dimensions, a simple fact that for whatever reason many other label heads miss in their overly groove-centric productions. No better proof is needed than this triple-CD collection (unlike the past two years' single-disc round-ups, this one's unmixed) whose deep house and techno selections celebrate the label's fifth anniversary. Though the release is pitched as a partial retrospective (disc one represents the label's “past,” for example), in truth it all sounds pretty much of a temporal piece, given that said past extends back a mere half-decade.

The first disc (subtitled “Up”) is as close to perfection as a collection of dance floor music gets. The set begins on a high with Darkmountaingroup's impossibly sexy “Lose Control.” Its stark mix of bleepy synth syncopations, pumping funk pulse, and cymbal accents drives the cut magnificently and the breathy vocal interjections are the cherry on top—clearly a high mark in the label's output. Though Watt appears content in his curating role, his own tracks are standouts, as the sublime “Lone Cat” and “A Stronger Man” attest. The grooving deep house charge of the former is pretty much irresistible (check out the tune's classic bass line and keyboard riff), while the former, a gorgeous slice of euphoric house, showcases the soulful voice of Terence Trent D'Arby under the newly-adopted name Sananda Maitreya; the man has clearly lost none of his vocal power in the decades since "Wishing Well" appeared, and listening to his restrained delivery of the new song's opening verses followed by the awesome wail that comes later is worth the price of admission alone. In addition, Justin Martin weighs in with the enveloping melancholia of “The Sad Piano” and wind-up punch of “Nightowl,” plus there's the hypnotic, chant-driven snarl and melodic uplift of Rodamaal's “Insomnia” and “Musica Feliz” respectively.

Disc two catches its breath and shifts the focus from club tracks to the downtempo strains of Rocco's “Thursday Night Friday Morning,” Manoo and Francois A's “A Day in December” (which so perfectly captures the wistful melancholy of a wintery afternoon), and the romantic languor of Unity's Sade-styled “I Love You” and Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia's “Mon Ange” (disc two's labeled “Down” after all). It's not all slow-dancing, however: there's the jubilant dub-house chug (and a beautiful mid-song bass-and-flute breakdown) of Two Armadillos' “Nostalgia,” the beatific house glide of Barbq's “Barbi in Love,” and, equal to anything on the first disc, Automagic's soulful vocal house banger “Do You Feel?”

Returning to the dance floor with seven clubby cuts, the final third (“Forward”) looks towards the label's future with a smattering of new signings scattered amongst familiar names. Hamburg's Martin Stimming weaves an almost foundsound-like array of smeared chords, Celeste sprinkles, and percussive noises into the dub-sputter strut of “Kleine Nachtmusik.” The throbbing blend of pulsating techno and snappy swing in Spencer Parker's “Chiho” leaves a lasting impression, as does the dub-house chug of Barbq's “Music from the Great Plains.” In addition, Kemistry checks in with a galaxy-cruising overhaul of Rodamaal's “Insomnia” while Lovebirds spreads silken house flow over “The Beat Goes Boom.”

Flaws? No matter how hypnotic its pull, Radio Slave's twelve-minute makeover of Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia's “Dead Souls” feels a tad overlong in an eighty-minute context, disc two's slower tempos can't help but arrest the collection's momentum, and the final album's material isn't quite at the level of the first's, primarily because the last third's expertly-coiffed cuts could do with more of the passion that inflames the first album's best tracks. But such points seem like so much quibbling when the exceptional quality of the release as a whole is considered. Listening to this collection is an absolute joy, especially when such a fabulous wealth of it is served up in a single volume.

July 2008