VA: So Far (So Good)

Talk about a comprehensive overview of a label's catalogue. Curle's twenty-fifth release, So Far (So Good), comes equipped with two discs, the first an unmixed sampling of twelve of the label's biggest tracks (by Efdemin, Anthony Collins, Thomas Brinkmann, and others) and the second a data disc containing three mixes by Anthony Collins, Peter Van Hoesen, and Belgian DJ (and label founder) Fader that total more than four hours of music in mp3-format. What's especially appealing about the release is that the first disc's stylistic breadth is complemented by the relative homogeneity of each producer's mix on the second (though the three sets do offer contrasting portraits of the Curle catalogue). In addition, the opening disc is ideal for those who want to attend closely to the contributors' differentiating characteristics, whereas disc two works perfectly as a non-stop party mix.

The unmixed set includes original tracks as well as remixes from the likes of Martyn, John Beltran, tobias, and Atom™ (an unreleased remix of Soul Center's “Switch It” that's so squiggly it verges on out-of-control). First out of the gate, Martyn's makeover of Efdemin's “Acid Bells” acts as the calm before the storm, so to speak, with the acoustic piano-heavy cut opting for seaside atmosphere over body-shaking (the disc also includes the “Acid Bells” original, which is so club-centric by comparison the tracks feel like unrelated pieces of music). The wordless vocals from Laurie Anderson's “O Superman” appear to have snuck their way into Anthony Collins' “Reeves”—not a bad thing by any means as the vocals give the already tasty strutter an added kick. A heady swirl of percussive textures and crackling atmosphere, the thumping track shows how artful a ‘dance' piece can be in the right producer's hands. The Soulphiction remix of Brinkmann's “Isch” sparkles as brightly in its dizzying blend of harp strums, vibes and vocal accents, and funk bass throb. On the clubby tip, Collins' other disc one track, “Another Lonely Night,” is a straight-up banger whose deep house stomp verges on impossibly infectious; Denis Karimani's “Strange But Cool” presents pounding techno in all its glory; and both John Beltran's and Tobias's respective remixes of Efdemin's “The Pulse” and Tampopo's “Helicopters Got Cameras” sail forth in a summery sprint. The disc ventures farthest afield in its closing track, CRC's “Vaskitsaherra,” whose blazing electro-house could fit just as cozily on an Ai Records comp as one from Curle.

As far as the mixes are concerned, the one by Anthony Collins alone—all one hour and forty-five minutes of it—is worth the price of admission. Created using Traktor and Abelton, his set takes no time at all in hitting that sweet spot where soul, house, and funk meet in thumping jams by Thomas Brinkmann (“Rumpf”), Franklin De Costa (“Rollergirl”), Dub Kult (a District One remix of “Crypt”), and others. One reason why the mix is as long as it is is because Collins lets each track fully develop rather than edit it or splice it into another; consequently he lets the material speak for itself and, rather than imposing himself noticeably upon the mix, focuses on fashioning smooth segues from one cut to the next. Unspooling at a relaxed, mid-tempo gait, the mix grows heavily atmospheric when Collins allows a dub influence to seep in as he occasionally does. Fiery burners (Reynold's “Climax,” Wav's “Nyquist Plot”) rub shoulders with dreamier affairs (Conforce's “Joyless Mind,” Pablo Bolivar's “Internal Call”), and Purman, Reynold, Conforce, and CRC get multiple shout-outs, with Collins slipping in two of his own as the set winds down (“Reeves” and a previously unreleased Los Updates remix of “Bruised Inside”).

Unlike Collins, Peter Van Hoesen reworks many of the tracks in his hour-long set but as edits, not remixes. Artificial Latvamäki emerges from a thunderstorm in an ‘overcast' edit of “Ratts Leaving the Sinking Ship…” to set the mix on its thumping journey. With the throb of that opening salvo out of the way, the twilight house sparkle of Conforce's “Truth” steps out, followed by a spooked Efdemin remix of Grimes Adhesif's “Fearless Fun” and the jaunty kinesis of Jonas Kopp's “Tirados.” Van Hoesen's set ultimately comes into focus as a supercharged headrush that spotlights four tracks already heard in Collins's set—“Vaskitsaherra,” Mark August's “Warm,” “Nyquist Plot,” and “America”—as it propels itself hellaciously towards its end.

The Fader mix rolls out the funk immediately with the blaze of Zander VT's “Warm” remix and then glides through fourteen others, many of them already heard in the other mixes (e.g., “America,” “Vaskitsaherra,” “Acid Bells,” “Helicopters Got Cameras”). In his own words, Fader's isn't a ‘best of' or ‘personal favourites' set but instead one where the pieces were chosen because they fit together so fluidly. And that they do, as one track bleeds ever so naturally into the next. There are, however, some surprises: two unreleased Jonas Kopp tracks (the fresh house joint “Mico” and euphoric “Ruda”), one by Stewart Walker (“Scratched Notes”), and an unreleased DJ Qu remix of Walt J's “Reborn.” Put simply, the title of the Conforce track—“Cruising”—could be taken as a representative theme for the Fader set. Cool footnote: he laid down the mix using two turntables, a CD-player (for the two Kopp cuts), and an old mixer, and did no post-mix editing whatsoever.

With all of the release's four parts drawn from the Curle warehouse, some degree of repetition is inevitable, and so it is that we find “America,” “Warm,” and “Vaskitsaherra” each appearing four times, while a number of other tracks repeat too. But that's a small price to pay for such largesse. Taken as a whole, So Far (So Good) still qualifies as a pretty fabulous collection.

July 2010