VA: Cielo: Playtime
Tommy Boy Records

It requires no effort at all to warm up to the latest double-disc compilation from Manhattan-based nightclub Cielo, especially when the set's split into “Classic” and “Nu-Classic” halves. Mixed by resident DJs Nicolas Matar and Willie Graff, the collection boasts enough deep house grooves to make it feel like summer all year ‘round. Though Matar and Graff sneak jazz and Latin influences into the mix, Cielo: Playtime is primarily about house music in all its funky glory.

The “Classic” disc's appeal is bolstered by its emphasis on deep house-styled vocal cuts by the likes of Furry Phreaks, Amana Melone, Azuni, and Robert Owens. Charles Webster's remix of Furry Phreaks' “Want Me Like Water” gets the mix started on a sexy and soulful note, a vibe Lovebirds and Amana Melone perpetuate with “Tuesday” and “Caterpillar” respectively. The wailing divas in “Somebody” by Buzzin' Fly's Rocco plant the mix squarely in classic deep house territory, after which Kerri Chandler's impossibly funky overhaul of Risk Soundsystem's “The Sound is Yours” sends the mix skyward. Rae's sultry testifying similarly elevates Wahoo's makeover of Sandy Rivera's Kings of Tomorrow cut “Can't Stop,” as does Barbara Tucker's on “One Desire.” It's only fitting that the final word should go to Robert Owens whose quietly euphoric “Happy” receives the overhaul treatment from James Priestley and Dan Berkson.

With fewer vocal moments included, the “Nu-Classic” disc's a tad cooler than the first half, with techno tracks (e.g., Motor City Drum Ensemble's “Lonely One”) appearing alongside steamy house jams such as Lost Men's “Brothers and Sisters,” Kiko Navarro & DJ Fudge's “Maximal,” and Jimpster's ravishing overhaul of Version's “The Brighter Side.” The funk quota's still high, though, as evidenced by the presence of Herb LF's dub-house workout “Down to the Sound,” and there's no shortage of deep house moments either, as Manuel Tur & DPlay's remix of Phonique & Kiloo's “The Passion” makes abundantly clear. Other choice moments include Kenny Larkin's lithe “Cirque De Soul” which layers jazzy piano ruminations over a frothy jacking pulse with a stalker's determination, and Henrik Schwarz's sinuous remix of Ane Brun's “Headphone Silence.” While the compilation naturally can't equal a visit to the club itself, Cielo: Playtime's stellar “body music” (as it's christened in Risk Soundsystem's “The Sound is Yours”) is a pretty good substitute.

June 2009