VA: ESL Remixed

ESL Remixed's cover image—a lounge chair centrally positioned within a listening room—goes a long way towards suggesting the kind of smooth material you'll hear on the label's 100th release. ESL (Eighteenth Street Lounge, the label started by Thievery Corporation duo Rob Garza and Eric Hilton more than a decade ago) considerably amplifies the collection's appeal by having an impressive crew (Medeski, Martin & Wood, Calexico, Quantic, and others) coax its catalogue cuts out of the cocktail lounge for a wide-ranging stylistic tour. Intermittent traces of Africa, Arabia, and Mexico surface in the 14 songs as they move through soul, jazz, dub, trip-hop, Latin, and funk settings.

Two of the best tracks appear first: Shawn Lee's version of Thievery Corporation's “A Gentle Dissolve,” which imbues a funky organ- and horn-driven lope with a trip-hop vibe, and Thievery Corporation's smooth-jazz treatment of Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada's “Tamarindio” where flute, guitar, and electric piano sing over swinging breaks. In addition, Quantic (Will Holland) spirits OSS & AQ's “Divinorum” over to Africa for an infectious dance lesson (Martin Perna aka Ocote Soul Sounds is an Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra founding member) while Boca 45 (Bristol-based DJ/producer Scott Hendy) slathers Thunderball's “Stereo Tonic” with funky cuts and samples. “Road to Benares ” also receives a strong makeover by Bombay Dub Orchestra when sitars, tablas, and timbales criss-cross over crisp breaks in the Thunderball original. A few cuts don't quite make the grade (Beatfanatic's version of Karminsky Experience's “Belly Disco” is a little too suggestive of faceless disco mood music) but ESL Remixed's a generally solid celebration that'll hardly disappoint TC devotees (mention must be made of the tasty bass lines that drive so many of the pieces here). Turn it up, lay back, and bask in ESL's loose-limbed swing.

November 2006