Gavin Keitel’s freshman entry for EQ’s ‘Electric’ mix series was the best unsung comp of 2005: simple yet stunning, carefully compiled and thoughtfully mixed. But the whimper it made didn’t bode well for the ‘Electric’ series even continuing, let alone reaching double digits. After a trip back to the drawing board and over a year later, ‘Electric 02’ retools the series with nifty new cover art and an extra disc; this time with mixes from London duo King Unique and Melbourne trio Nubreed. Just as Mr. Keitel shed his prog house roots in favour of minimal techno and tech house nuggets, King Unique leave sleazy house at the door and slip into some cozy electrohouse, while Nubreed give their introspective breaks a noisy electrohouse beatdown.
It’s not a total transformation though. King Unique’s taste for big bass is evident by the first track, Modeselektor’s ‘Ziq Zaq’: with its Sigur Rós-esque synths it’s nice n’ gauzy, but it’s sure to test your subwoofer’s low-end capabilities. Claude VonStroke’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Detroit’ arrives next, and Booka Shade also pop up with not one but two tracks, ‘Night Falls’ and ‘In White Rooms’; both were highlights of their stellar ‘Movements’ album, so for anyone like me who wore that album thin on steady rotation this summer, and heard ‘Detroit’ about 900 times this year, King Unique’s disc has a few skip-button moments.
Luckily, however, there are some real gems. Francois Dubois (aka Funk D’Void) serves up the mellow ‘I Try’, a track heavy on the uplifting piano and breathy male vocals, harkening back to house’s mid-90s golden era. Elsewhere King Unique’s dub of the titular line from Felix da Housecat’s ‘Rocket Ride’ over Kupon’s ‘Zoom In’ is a subtle way to make an epic techno track even better. From there, the mix stumbles through a been-there-heard-that selection from a who’s-who of German producers: Booka Shade, Sascha Funke, and Thomas Schumacher. Andrea Dorian’s twisted, eerie ‘Quantised Traffic’ feels out of place here, like the Matts decided listeners must be getting bored by now and so decided to throw everybody off. The mix ties together nicely at the end, though, with ‘Phobos’ by Stephan Bodzin vs. Mark Romboy coming full-circle with its massive bassline and a cinematic sense of urgency.
Compared to their ‘Y4K’ comp from back in January, Nubreed’s ‘Electric 02’ disc is, uh, an entirely new breed. The boys are as glitch-happy as ever, but gone are the mopey broken beats…hello bass-thumping, four-to-the-floor electrohouse! Sadly, it takes a while to really hit the right groove, as the first four tracks are merely mediocre at best. Milton Jackson’s ‘Tech No’ is the worst culprit: a relentlessly lame rhythm + annoying synth stabs = five-and-a-half minute headache. Mercifully, the mix finally kicks into gear when Danny Bonnici & Dan Mangan unleash their trademark Melbourne sound with ‘Periwethel’. The track is hard to pin down, incorporating elements from breaks, tech house, and prog house, but the end product is assuredly Antipodean: hard-hitting with just a twinge of melancholy.
‘Periwethel’ then segues quite nicely into Nubreed’s own ‘Subtronic’, a return to form for the boys as they layer a major nu-skool knobjob over a bodypopping old-skool breakbeat. From there we get a double dose of D. Ramirez remixes, Future Funk Squad’s ‘Audio Damage’ and Plump DJs classic ‘Electric Disco’. The Plumps remix really shines – a goofy good time with a helluva build-up and breakdown that’s sure to drop bombs on any dancefloor. Nubreed then let their freak flag fly with two exceptionally quirky tracks, Alex Kenji’s ‘Cyborg’ and Speculam’s ‘Backdoor’. While there’s a 4/4 rhythm somewhere in ‘Backdoor’, it also has a really nifty broken beat, which sounds like either a) the floor creaking in a haunted house or b) an old boat rocking in the tide. Either way, it’s a totally unique track, and could perk some important ears for this fresh producer. Nubreed’s finish takes the club-happy route as Hook ‘n Sling remix Aussie songstress Sarah McLeod’s ‘He Doesn’t Love You’, with her pack-a-day voice perfectly complementing the squelchy production.
‘Electric 02’ is some solid bang for your buck, though fans of the King Unique disc may not warm to Nubreed’s and vice versa. KU looks at electrohouse and offer a stripped-down interpretation; Nubreed opt for throwing pixilated paint all over it. While KU’s track selection is often uninspired, the mix does genuinely feel “lovingly handcrafted”, as the cover pretentiously declares; and while Nubreed start off like a trio of monkeys at the decks, when the mix finally melds electrohouse and breaks, it does feel like they know what they’re doing. Both discs of ‘Electric 02’ are flawed but redeemable, and both DJ teams get props for shifting gears, even if they end up with mixed results. EQ’s ‘Electric’ series is shaping up to be something of a challenge for DJs to play something different – and who knows, the roster could end up more interesting than their hallowed ‘Balance’ lineup.
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