VA: 5 Years Get Physical
Get Physical

If Get Physical's 5 Years release is intended to be broached as a stock-taking, it certainly argues in the label's favour: five years on from inception and spearheaded by marquee acts Booka Shade (Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier), DJ T. (Thomas Koch), and M.A.N.D.Y. (Patrick Bodmer and Philipp Jung), the Berlin imprint is flying higher than ever, and its pulsating club-oriented fusion of house, techno, funk, and electro is embraced globally. This two-part set of remixes and originals should, then, be near-perfect but, unfortunately, its strong moments are compromised by weaker moments and wrong turns. In addition to the aforementioned principals, new recruits including Lopazz, Elektrochemie, and Jona dot the originals landscape, while a varied crew (Matthew Herbert, Senor Coconut, Moby, Hot Chip, etc.) contribute remixes.

The remix set opens promisingly: there's certainly nothing objectionable about the soulful bounce, synth splashes, and panning vocal intricacy Herbert brings to Chelonis R. Jones' “I Don't Know” though some listeners might deem it overly complex, and M.A.N.D.Y.'s electro-house stomper “No Stoppin'” sounds good, even after Hot Chip gets its hot-wired hands all over it, as does Dexter's electro-funk mix of DJ T.'s “Freemind.” In addition, Fujiya & Miyagi give Lopazz's “Migracion” a propulsive, ‘rock' feel that's not unappealing, especially when the rhythm section throbs so tastily, a perky funk bass line kicks Henrik Schwarz's spacey take on Booka Shade's “Vertigo” into orbit, and The Rapture's mix of Williams' “Piccadilly Circuits” becomes a credible, Kraftwerk-styled exercise in electro-dance minimalism.

But reservations creep in: certainly one admires the percussive richness and effervescent spirit of Senor Coconut's Latinized “Body Language” overhaul but the result hardly matches the potency of the original, Sideshow tries a dub-funk treatment of Jona's “Learning From Making Mistakes” on for size but the jam-like results meander a little too loosely, and Michael Fakesch shakes up Booka Shade's “Mandarine Girl” by transforming it into a funky banger, but largely loses the song's aerodynamic essence in the process. Larry Gold's strings-only arrangement of Booka Shade's “Night Falls” is audacious but also dismisses entirely the infectious dance character the makes the original so powerful. The disc's low point: Earl Zinger's (Rob Gallagher) annoying ‘punk' treatment of Elektrochemie's “Pleasure Seeker.” The problem with the remix disc isn't so much the idea itself (though one understandably questions what can be gained by interpretations when originals already seem so definitive) but with the overall caliber of the results. Not one supplants or even matches an original.

The disc of exclusive originals fares much better for the simple reason that the contributors play to the label's strengths: robust techno and house sparkle. Even just the energized opening seconds of Jona's (Jonathan Troupin) “Fisherman” suggest that part two will be a different story, and the tune's clap-happy techno strut makes good on its early promise. Also strong, Audiofly X (Luca Saporito and Anthony Middleton) contributes a sleek techno-banger “Don't Panic Till I Said So” that, by the five-minute mark, grooves furiously, while a beautiful, subterranean bass line powers the exquisite synth-funk of DJ T.'s “Once In A Lifetime.”

But even the originals set has its share of lesser moments, as it's weakened by too many moments of muted complacency that suggests artists going through the motions. The old-school electro-house of Riton vs Heidi's “To The Gum” is decent, and Booka Shade's “Unhealthy Pleasures” is predictably detail-oriented but melodically undistinguished—not in the same league as the best moments on Movements. The mildly interesting version of “Oh Superman” cooked up by ‘M.A.N.D.Y. vs Booka Shade featuring Laurie Anderson' is a curio that would have made more sense being included on disc one. Clearly recognizing the potential in Anderson's “huh huh” chants, the GP crew neatly work her vocal into the interpretation's dance rhythms, and listeners unfamiliar with the original may like the update in its unusual dance-pop form. Those with a strong affinity for the original may conclude that Anderson 's original isn't improved by the addition of beats and, if anything, loses gravitas and portent in the process. Einzelkind's funk-house stomper “As Long As You Want Me To” seems too content to remain a jam, and, though it may be due to the undistinguished groove that unspools behind him, Chelonis R. Jones' monologue shtick wears out its welcome long before “Dirty Lipstick” ends.

5 Years is weakened slightly by its sequencing—the remix disc is the secondary one of the two, more of a bonus curio or complement to disc one's solid originals—but that in itself is hardly a crippling detail. What compromises the release more is the occasional sub-par caliber of the material itself. On paper, the idea of a two-disc celebration of remixes and originals sounds great but, in practice, a single, one-hour set of the discs' best material might have been the wiser move.

October 2007