VA: 50
Background Records

There's something refreshing about the understatement with which Background Records heralds its 50th release: in place of a multi-disc behemoth, there's little razzle-dazzle and no gimmicks either, remix or otherwise—just classy tunes representing the Düsseldorf label's current roster.

Classic techno is represented by Further Details' aptly-titled “Half Forgotten Dream,” whose lush groove and synth smears offer more than a little hint of Detroit, and Pascal Schaefer's “Deep Thoughts,” a lovely slice of tech-house driven by a snaking bass line and shimmying skip, and topped by a sweetly glistening synth melody at song's end. The partying wildcat of the bunch, Frivolous (Daniel Gardner), is the mischievous student dispatched to the Principal's office; hoots and hollers greet his tune's synth squeals and thudding groove as Gardner, evoking Parliament-Funkadelic, repeatedly utters the “Forget the Funk” title. On a more textured tip, there's Antiguo Autómata Mexicano's micro-mix of soft guitar strums, dulcimer swirls, and scurrying beats (“First Amigo”) and db's voodoo-glitch jungle of moaning creatures (“Low Moon”). Accompanied by The Exposures' 'N. Gratin,' Background Records head Andy Vaz merges bubbly pinprick techno with soulful guitar funk in a manner that recalls Curtis Mayfield (“We Never Gonna Diss You”). Capping the album beautifully is Terrence Dixon's shimmering “Saturday Night,” its soft percolations as lightly chilled as a winter snowflake and its glimmering melodies as bright as fireflies.

Most labels falter on occasion by issuing sub-par material but not Background Records: its music consistently arrives with an assurance of quality and the label has yet to embarrass itself with a mediocre release. One caveat: though the release's cuts spread themselves nicely over four vinyl sides, eight tracks seems slight for a CD; 50 easily could have accommodated contributions from Background Records alumni like Dave Miller and Portable too.

April 2006