VA: Spectral Sound Volume 1
Spectral Sound

Now, really, could Spectral Sound Vol. 1 be anything but fantastic? Consider: two discs, the first eighty minutes long and comprised of thirteen classic and exclusive tracks by the likes of Matthew Dear, Geoff White, and James T. Cotton, and the second a 33-track mix assembled by Ryan Elliot that spans Spectral Sound's rich catalogue. While its parent label Ghostly International is promoted as the more cerebral of the two, Spectral's material may be more dance-focused but it's hardly less advanced.

The set thoroughly undercuts the naysayer's portrayal of dance music as one-dimensional. No more proof is needed than the incredible convulsive stomp of Reinhard Voigt's remix of James T. Cotton's “Buck!” and Hieroglyphic Being's (Chicagoan Jamal Moss) mesmerizing Afro-house fusion “Je Suis Musique.” Cotton (Tadd Mullinix aka Dabrye) in particular impresses with his endlessly inventive outings; jaw-droppers like “T-Y-O-C Painkillers,” “The Drain,” and “Beat Ya!” are as structurally advanced as they are danceable. Elsewhere, Peter Grummich gives Matthew Dear's “It's Over Now” a jacking overhaul that skips and swings when not twisting disorientingly. Naturally Dear's justly celebrated “Dog Days” appears (plus gets a Pantytec makeover on disc two) but it's merely one highlight of many. To wit: the gargantuan throb of The Vanisher's (aka Håkan Lidbo) “The Tic-Tac Tactic,” Jeff Samuel's massive “HeB. GBz,” White's spindly “Nintendisco,” and Isolée's sunlit take on Osborne's “Daylight.”

Dear's DJ partner Elliott does nothing too flashy in disc two's hour-long “Spectral 25 Megamix” beyond crafting smooth segues, but little more is needed when the material is so strong. Though Dear and Cotton are spotlighted heavily (twelve Dear/Audion selections and six Cotton), Elliot finds room for Lusine, TNT, Hieroglyphic Being, and Kenneth Graham too. Opening with the blurry breakdowns of Dear's “Another,” the mix moves through Lawrence 's sparkling “Five Leaves,” the syncopated bump of Osborne's “Graphite,” and DMX Krew's ominous analog outing “I Won't Forget” with its stalker vocal. In addition, Elliot elastically inverts Osborne's “Bout Ready to Jak,” Peter Grummich smothers “No Reason” in dubby Chain Reaction haze, and Alter Ego gives Solvent's “Think Like Us” a bruising stomp. Needless to say, the two-disc set commemorates in superb fashion the label's 25th release and five years of existence. If ever the term essential applied, it definitely does here.

July 2005