FATBOY SLIM AND MIDFIELD GENERAL
Big Beach Boutique II (Astralwerks)
A mix as hot as Brighton in the middle of January
This event was Britain's biggest free party, so you can't blame Norman Cook for playing crowd-pleasing tunes when facing 250,000 people. Unfortunately, his set sounds more like a hits collection than one of his signature mixes. Attempting to appeal to grandfolks and kiddies, Cook spins pop hits (All Saints' “Pure Shores”), this year's floor fillers (Tim Deluxe's “It Just Won't Do,” X-Press 2's “Lazy”) and tunes inspired by '70s disco (Chamonix's “77 Strings,” Space Cowboy's “Crazy Talk”), new wave (Fusion Orchestra's rework of The B-52s' “Planet Claire”) and classic rock (Static Revenger's treatment of Boston's “Long Time”). It's fun, but by the end, Cook sounds like the world's best wedding DJ. Falling as flat as a lager lout scaling a 20-foot wall, Midfield General's brief introductory mix generates little excitement. Tunes butted together via digital editing are the main problem, as none of the gents' expert mixing skills are evident. If you need a Fatboy fix, get his three new EPs instead.
— Chris Gill
2nd Session, Area2 Detroit (Moonshine)
Smiley Brit expertly rocks Detroit
“Are you ready?” the charismatic Carl Cox asks his Detroit crowd midlaunch into the propulsive lead track, Tomaz vs. Filterheadz' “Lazy People.” Cox's storied history as a DJ and producer shines through here, filtered through hard-driving techno and funky house grooves. Other highlights include remixes of Blubba Boys vs. E-Traxx All Stars' “50,000 Watts” and Slam's “Step Back.” Cox's banging live set doesn't overwhelm; it energizes, and his frequent call-outs are irresistible.
— Stacia Monteith
Y4K: Next Level Breaks (Distinctive Breaks)
Barry Ashworth ups the ante
The Y4K series is a standard for cutting-edge breaks. The most recent contribution is from Dub Pistols' Barry Ashworth. Using Y4K's sound only as a nebulous template, Ashworth broadens the breaks scope to incorporate tunes flexible enough to fit into various DJ-set styles. Choosing numbers from Layo and Bushwacka!, the Chemical Brothers, Meat Katie and his own productions — as classic as they are adaptable — Ashworth's impeccable mixing seals the deal.
— Lily Moayeri
Exposure IV (System)
U.S. trance master's peak-of-career mix
Following in the footsteps of his Hook/Bellboy chums Chris Cowie and Transa, Lawrence delivers a dynamic set of thumping tech trance on his Exposure-series entry. Lawrence's seamless mix of tunes, featuring production as epic as Ben Hur, is dirty, dark and 100 percent cheese-free — the way trance was meant to be. Pulsing bass lines meet moody strings and dramatic melodies on tunes such as Syntax's “Pray” and Mark Dawn's “Expander,” simultaneously inducing body movement and inspiring the imagination. This is Lawrence's best mix to date.
— Chris Gill
Return of the Cyklops (Asphodel)
Technics treachery from Bay Area DJ
Known primarily for his work with Invisibl Skratch Piklz and the Beastie Boys, Mixmaster Mike has been rewriting the DJ rule book for longer than a decade. He has also dropped a few solo projects, including Spin Psycle and Anti-Theft Device. On his latest, the deck damager revisits an earlier EP, the 2000 release Eye of the Cyklops, and adds six brand-new tracks. Supremely bugged-out sonic absurdity ensues, blending skills, diversity and endless imagination. From there, funk-ridden, weed-friendly, turntable lunacy abounds.
— Brolin Winning
Floridian progressive DJ spins and sings
Noel Sanger has produced myriad remixes (BT, Delerium, Arthur Baker) and a handful of original singles. This double-CD shows the progressive veteran off on a tear. Disc 1 delves into atmospheric house with G-Pal, Biogenesis, Chris Lake and Fitalic, as well as showcases Sanger's ghostly vocals on his own “Trapped.” The bpm slowly rises into breakbeat-filled disc 2, with Sanger working over Atnarko, Ben Camp and Trigger. This solid offering definitely should raise the profile of Sanger — not to mention Nettwerk's Summerbreeze series.
— Ken Micallef
Soul Sessions 2 (Giant Step)
Tepid revival of an era best forgotten
Few electronic genres fell out of favor as hard and as fast as — whisper when you say it — acid jazz. But New York's Giant Step imprint has served as an unabashed torchbearer for the movement. This latest compilation is filled with the familiar sounds of slap bass, wailing divas and cop-show-theme funk rhythms, highlighted by BB Boogie's immensely daft “Tell Him” and Zero 7's overly chilled-out “In the Waiting Line.” The audacity of being so unfashionable is impressive, but the actual music is decidedly less so.
— Ken Micallef