Radio Slave - Strictly Rhythms Vol. 5The great thing about Strictly Rhythm is that they have had numerous DJs celebrate their voluminous catalogue. Back when they were releasing a record every week, things slipped through the cracks. As someone who wasn't buying records during their heyday, I find it to be a valuable education. The bad thing about Strictly Rhythm is that, by and large, the DJs they pick to do so are remarkably unimaginative.
OK. Maybe it's not their fault. What DJ listens to every other mix CD in a series before doing their own? At the same time, though, don't you think that someone, somewhere might have also thought to put "Free," "Set You Free" or "Witch Doktor" on a compilation at some point? It's a celebration of a shared past, sure. But it also neglects all of the wonderful things that Strictly Rhythm has to offer.
That's why Radio Slave's Strictly Rhythms Vol. 5 comes as such a welcome surprise. With as much love for exotica soundtrack music as he does classic house, Matt Edwards seems like the ideal producer for a trawl through the label's back catalogue. Over the course of two mixes, he doesn't disappoint. Ultra Nate's timeless "Situation Critical" sets the scene, a downtempo R&B tune which sounds lovely and normal aside from the gremlins in the background chanting "the rhythm." Things get even more strange from there, with Felix Da Housecat (as Venus) and the silly putty synth line of "Lippstick" and the apologetic phone call hidden in Edwards' mix of Black Magic's "Freedom" and Kenny Dope's "Watch This."
Like some moments on the more straightforward second disc, it isn't always mixed as smooth as you might expect. But you get the sense that Edwards has sacrificed perfect segues in order to fit in as many tracks as he can. Clearly he has a lot he wanted to say with Vol. 5; it wouldn't be two discs otherwise. What's most interesting about each disc, though, is how easily you can hear Radio Slave. The first is him channeling his earlier, more freestyle days with a number of mash-ups and left turns. The second is Radio Slave 2010, a heads-down tribal house update that grooves as hard as possible. Both are among the most interesting label celebrations that Strictly Rhythm has had in ages, a testament to both its varied past and its enduring relevance in the present day.