"Perfecto Presents . . . Sandra Collins"
The Right Stuff
Influential British DJ, producer and remixer Paul Oakenfold was present at the creation of acid house, the delirious mix of American and Mediterranean dance music that followed him (and his partying peers) back to London from the Spanish island of Ibiza. Almost two decades later, Oakenfold opens another mix album, "Creamfields," with several tracks that sound as if upbeat electronica is still in its late-'80s trance. Lockstep rhythms and loops of breathy vocalese initially predominate, but the two-CD set gradually opens up to change.
The album is named for a festival, an offshoot of Liverpool's Cream mega-club that has been staged at about a dozen European and Latin American sites, so the emphasis is on music that can get the masses moving. Tracks such as Markus Shulz's "Clear Blue" are both hard-edged and freewheeling, merging classic thump with up-to-date ingenuity. "Creamfields" also reflects hard-core synth-dance's growing acceptance of actual songs, with vocals now allowed to develop beyond simple, usually sampled hooks. No other numbers are as pop-based as the Oakenfold-remixed (and underwhelming) version of U2's "Beautiful Day," but the disc includes such vocal-heavy highlights as D:Fuse's "Living the Dream," NuBreed and Luke Chable's "One Day" and the DJ's own "Time of Your Life." Having won this particular war of the worlds, the machines are generously allowing humans to make a few remarks.
Also a product of Perfecto, which Oakenfold co-founded in 1990, "Perfecto Presents . . . Sandra Collins" covers much the same territory as "Creamfields." This two-CD package features more passages that are mid-tempo and atmospheric rather than room-rocking but also includes a significant number of song-rooted tracks, including Moby's "In This World," BT's "The Great Escape" and Kosheen's "All in My Head." Collins is one of relatively few women to achieve DJ stardom, and each of these discs features her autograph scrawled in a simulation of hot-pink lipstick. Such gimmicks aside, however, this set is nearly as brawny as Oakenfold's.
With only a single CD to mix, Liquid Todd can't undulate as long as Oakenfold or Collins, but then his style is less epic than theirs. The DJ's "Solid State" includes some traditional house tracks, constructed from the usual metallic beats, surging synth fanfares and electronically hiccuped vocal fragments. Much of this album is darker, though, with bits of goth-rock and hip-hop parrying with the ecstatic crescendos. Subgod's "Velodrome TV" combines a dubby mix and drum 'n' bass rhythms with doomy verses; Freq Nasty's "That's My Style" is chattering techno with a declamatory rap hook; and RXThugs' "Crackhouse" laces heavily distorted grooves with "Peter Gunn" guitar. These 12 tracks may not be the grimiest stuff out there, but they're far from creamy.
-- Mark Jenkins
All appearing Friday at Nation with John B.