Various Artists - Underground Disco / Future Disco Volume 4: Neon NightsCalling yourself "underground" probably means you're not in the slightest. This is why the new Underground Disco compilation on Ministry of Sound has, at first glance, a fraudulent aura. But a careful listen of the two CD mix dissipates any doubts you might have had about its credibility. The reason is largely down to British DJ and producer Toby Tobias being at the helm. You could reproach him a few concessions, like the mandatory inclusion of Nicolas Jaar ("Time for Us") as the CD1 introductory cut, or the obvious choices of some remixes (like the defining Tensnake rerub of Azari & III's "Reckless with Your Love" or the overplayed Frankie Knuckles version of Hercules & Love Affair's "Blind"—the latter of which isn't that underground anymore anyway), but these are minor flaws.
He's in inspired form here, throughout, with Storm Queen's unrepentant "Look Right Through," I:Cube's playful "Falling" and Still Going's galloping "Spaghetti Circus" making for a festive first disc. The second CD might be a bit more lax in terms of mixing (the opening Dam-Funk/Aeroplane/Social Disco Club sequence is especially sloppy), and the combination of Space Dimension Controller's acid jazz-lite number "Transatlantic Landing Bay" with Gala Drop's pretty bland "Drop" makes for an overall dull first half. Mario Basanov's lighthearted "Caribbean Girl" offers a welcomed restart midway through, though, and we then get treated to gems such as Caribou's luminous "Odessa" (which works stunningly well in such a context) and Ray Mang's DFA-endorsed "Look Into My Eyes."
Calling yourself "futuristic" is just as suspicious as calling yourself "underground." But the team behind the brand have established themselves in the past two years as a relevant player with the organization of events all across Europe. This fourth edition, subtitled Neon Nights, is probably the best one so far. Compiled by Sean Brosnan, it isn't afraid to opt for obscure cuts such as Hannulerauri's "Zombie Tropicana" (who?) or Pete Herbert's remix of Bonar Bradberry's "Siula Grande" (what?!) and put them next to Jacques Renault's beaming remix of Midnight Magic's "Beam Me Up." As the pumping Wild Geese remix of Hot Chip's "Hand Me Down Your Love" kicks in, Brosnan brings his selection into more upbeat territory as the compilation ends with The Revenge (his house-ish "Just Be Good to Me" excursion) and Soul Clap's soulful take on Kaine and Kathy Diamond's "Love Saves the Day."
It might have been considered a passing trend and nothing more by some, but it is remarkable to see how the whole nü-disco scene has established itself as a viable alternative to the old-school disco revival epitomized by the Horse Meat Disco bunch and the deep house inclination privileged by the likes of Mule Musiq. You could even say that by taking things down a notch or two, nü-disco has even paved the way for the current interest in all things slow such as the aforementioned Jaar. The names may be unfortunate, but Underground Disco and Future Disco have overall got it right.