VA: Grand Cru 2008

Connaisseur Recordings owner Alex Flitsch started his label when he witnessed the success his friends Patrick Chardronnet, Markus Müller, and Afrilounge were having with releases on Poker Flat, Get Physical, and Traum Schallplatten. What distinguishes Connaisseur's material—at least the wealth of tracks constituting this two-disc set (the second a Flitsch mix)—is the soulful and emotive house flavour that deepens its refined sound. Grand Cru 2008 (actually the sequel to an earlier installment) offers up a royal smorgasbord of material by the aforementioned Chardronnet and Afrilounge plus Ripperton, Kollektiv Turmstrasse, Ripperton, Wareika, Federleicht, and Estroe and ZoëXenia (two female artists from the Netherlands), among others.

As expected, there's more music here than there needs to be (the two discs total just under 160 minutes) so each disc could have been shorn of a track or two without severely altering the results. Having said that, some of the material included here is simply glorious and the range of styles is noticeably broad, from Daso's deep dub-house (“Booker”) to Chardronnet's rhythm-heavy funk (“Percussiontrack”) and Sebastian Roya's house burner (“Contracorriente”). Art Bleek opens disc one beautifully with a thrusting mix of deep house and smooth funk (“Modern Spaces”); like the collection's material in general, Bleek's track is meticulously assembled and sleek in design. Wareika's “Fantasy,” by contrast, works an intricate dub-house groove replete with soulful vocal interjections. The funky house skip of “Forever” is boosted by a strong soul vocal by ZoëXenia that swirls dizzyingly as the track progresses, while Estroe's tantalizing “Does It Ring A Bell” is that rare thing—a dance track so elegantly emotive and graceful it verges on poignant.

Flitsch's sleek mix on disc two slow-builds in classic fashion, starting strongly with Afrilounge's “Deep String” take on Plasmik's “Mindpattern” (the mantra “city” loops over a gliding house pulse) and then building intensity in Afrilounge's snappy “Lux Dementia” and Estroe's beautifully trippy “Driven.” Andrès Garcìa shreds an Indian singer's ululations in “No More Tears” and Daso gets acidy in “Pars Tensa” (when not spotlighting Spanish guitar flourishes) but the album's undeniable peak arrives with ZoëXenia's “Cherish” which features a soulful, multi-layered vocal performance so fantastic it trumps “Forever.”

June 2008