As their recent placing in RA's top 20 labels of 2009 would suggest, Munich imprint Permanent Vacation have gained themselves a captivated audience. It would be difficult to dispute their credentials. Last year alone saw the release of Swedish starlet Sally Shapiro's My Guilty Pleasure, the impressively deep pocketed Selected Label Works #1 compilation and the anthemic "Reckless (With Your Love)" 12-inch from new Canadian talent Azari & III. And as if to further brandish their knack for ticking multiple boxes, we now have If This Is House I Want My Money Back to contend with—a ten-track unmixed selection of blossoming production names, with a couple of cuts licensed from elsewhere thrown in for good measure.
Although the word "house" appearing in its title would appear to give a conspicuous nod towards its stylistic course, If This... is more of a tip-toe across the peripheries of the genre. Take album opener "Mabonda" by UK duo Roots Unit for example: Its gradually uncurling filter and pitter-pattern percussion camps the track out in a lost city somewhere between early New York and Chicago, yet somehow smacks of contemporary European disco at the same time. Graeme Clark, AKA The Revenge, has been positioning himself as one of the flag bearers for this type of creeping four-four approach in recent months, and appears here along with Craig Smith under their edits-obsessed 6th Borough Project cloak. "McLovin'" rides its source sample all the way into the sunset by expertly coaxing an emotive glow from a single, gently repeated phrase.
The first 40% of If This...—which also takes in the duck and pump, "The-Field-gets-stoned" goodness of John Talabot's "Naomi," and the busy beaver bass of Walter Jones' "I Am Loved"—leaps from one stepping stone of quality to another, but a slightly uninspired mid-section allows things to stumble into the stream. Belgian pair Mugwump are able only to tentatively imprint a groove upon "T-Coy Jelly Drops"; Neville Watson wears his old school influences a little too overtly on his sleeve for "Let Me Go"; and "The Voice From Planet Love"? Obviously it did serious damage over the summer of '09, but inevitably feels a little worn down at this stage in the proceedings. Breakthrough Berlin-based force Hunee unfortunately can't match his efforts for W.T. and Retreat on "Standin' High" either, which leaves it up to John Talabot and Jacob Korn to do a spot of day saving. The former gets to work on Zwicker's hook-laden "Oddity," which originally saw the light of day on Compost last year, while the latter shows why talk of his latent talent is indeed justified, thanks to the wonderfully oddball "Grosskariert."
Despite its occasionally flat passages, If This... continues to prop up Permanent Vacation's esteemed reputation as purveyors of high-grade house and disco. Hell, if you're tackling the thing digitally, simply pick and choose your favourites—no need for any refunds here.
Buy Various Artists - If This Is House I Want My Money Back at
Tracklist: Various Artists - If This Is House I Want My Money Back 01. Roots Unit - Mabonda
02. 6th Borough Project - McLovin
03. John Talabot - Naomi
04. Walter Jones - I Am Loved
05. Mugwump - T-Goy Jelly Drops
06. Neville Watson - Let Me Go
07. Precious System - The Voice from Planet Love (Dixon Edit)
08. Hunee - Standin' High
09. Zwicker feat. Olivera Stanimirov - Oddity (John Talabot Remix)
10. Jacob Korn - Grosskariert