Gilles Peterson has a unique place in electronic music. Both a respected insider connoisseur and an ambassador to the masses, he holds a prominent position suited to breaking producers to certain audiences they'd likely never be able to crack otherwise. The crucial piece of the Peterson puzzle is accessibility, a necessary trait that can lead to his curatorial efforts feeling bland and polite. The Brownswood Electr*c compilation changed that perception to a certain degree last year. Peterson took his favorite tracks from a number of UK and US artists working in between genres and at unusual tempos, and ended up with a relatively successful overview of young producers.
Electr*c was notable for its exclusive cuts from newcomers, and the second volume does the same. A mixture of established up-and-comers (DJG, Synkro, Stray) and uncommon names (Ta-ku, mfp, HxdB) provide a satisfying survey of what goes on at bass music's border crossings. Peterson doesn't single out any particular tempo—jumping from 170 down to 140 down to less classifiable speeds—but the common element is a restrained and almost classy sense of funk. Even a bona fide dubstep workout like DJG's fantastic "Automatic"—a compilation highlight—falls gently into a gorgeous melodic outro replete with tinkling ivories and plucked strings. The opening stretch of tracks from Ta-Ku, Monky and Anenon let you know what to expect, hobbling along with quirky progressions and melodies that fizz vibrantly, all occupying some unidentifiable zone between electro, hip-hop and classic funk.
The soaring and dramatic side of bass music is also well-represented with garage leaning tracks like Jack Dixon's grandiosely tortured "By My Side" and Jus Wan's shimmering "Miles Away," here rescued from the alienating tedium of its eponymous album. DJ Dials' saccharine "Pillowforts" and Synkro & Indigo's sensual collaboration "Knowing You" provide off-centre counterparts to those rigidly straightforward tunes. Electr*c 2's closing stretch is unusually hard, screwfaced and fast: the high-strung 2-step modulations of HxdB's "Savage Arms" crash land into Stray's coked-up drum & bass stutter epic "Break Your Legs" (aptly named, trust me), before the compilation finally burns itself out completely with AEED's short and scribbly beat screed "Under the Alps."
Brownswood Electr*c 2's aim is to highlight the future of this sector of dance music, but I wouldn't exactly look to this particular Radio 1 Jock first for cutting-edge beats. There's no escaping the feeling that this compilation documents a very specific cross-section of this very unspecific sound. Like one of Peterson's radio shows, it's a listenable and well-considered set with just a few select moments of brilliance, middle of the road by nature and all the more comfortable and cozy for it.
Buy Various Artists - Brownswood electr* 2 at
Tracklist: Various Artists - Brownswood electr* 2 01. Ta-ku – Hey Kids
02. Monky – Drunkerdz
03. Anenon – Shifts
04. DJG – Automatic
05. Frederic Robinson – Mood Swings
06. Synkro & Indigo – Knowing You
07. Mfp – Future Hopes
08. Jus Wan – Miles Away
09. DJ Dials – Pillowforts
10. Funk Ethics – Step In
11. Jack Dixon – By My Side
12. HxdB – Savage Pets
13. Stray – Break Your Legs
14. AEED – Under The Alps