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Hercules and Love Affair linchpin Andy Butler’s turn to press tracks for the DJ-Kicks series is a convincing, though arguably predictable, step through the post-disco time tunnel. It’s a solid linking of songs that sound-tracked Butler’s early dance experiences. On top of this a Hercules And Love Affair exclusive is put in the mix, called ‘Release Me.’ Butler is keen to point to the spirituality he found he found in his dance experiences, so he pastes decrees from his yoga guru, Parahamansa Yogananda into the ‘Release Me’ mix.
Whilst the house of jack is well known for its spiritual influence, this particular mix fails to invoke many higher moments. Indeed it is generally hit and miss. Fax Yourself’s ‘Strut Your Techno Stuff’ is a track that’s seemingly on as many dance compilations as Frantique’s ‘Strut Your Funky Stuff’ original. With Butler having included Fax Yourself’s ‘Sunshine’ on his Sidetracked compilation a few years ago, you’re left wanting a more adventurous journey.
Similarly when blending the ‘Skool Vocal’ and the ‘Flava Dub’ mixes of Klubb Kidz' ‘Don’t Want To Hurt You’, Butler’s ‘Skool Flava Dub’ version veers too far away from the funkier ‘Skool Vocal’ version, taking it along the sterner, less enjoyable route. Of course, with a curator as knowledgable, there are also some fine tracks included. ‘Release Me’ benefits from Hercules and Love Affair's contemporary view, churning with the all the Eurojack you’d want, while the demur vocals add a sensuality forcing the track to step away from the power posturing that house often demands. The heat and pace is also is taken out of Victor Simonelli’s Cloud 9 release ‘Do You Want Me’ making it an engaging listen as well as a dance floor monster.
There’s also plenty of acid house put in for good measure that ups the tempo but with grace. Mark Imperial’s ‘The Acieed That Ate New York’ has the metallic tones turned down by actually putting in a slight tempo down-step. The drums are also softened and digitalised; finally the squelches are turned up and the track wriggles ferociously. This feels warmer, more dynamic and consequently it jumps through the time warp more convincingly than most of the songs in this set. At no point, though, in this collection, do you ever think you are listening to anything under 20 years old, even when you are. Which is where a more adventurous mix, or selection, would have been more delightful in throwing in the curve balls.
The track that gets closest is Haze Factory’s ‘A Bit Of Redemption’, which is an exclusive. There’s sparseness to the tune that gives it a timeless feel. A set of low-end soft bass lines pad out, acid techno keyboards churn relentlessly and the beat locks brilliantly whilst Butler puts in some nice orchestral embellishments. It’s a great track but it could be from the Planet Mu/Rephlex stable. That really is the story of this collection. It’s great, but for all Butler’s desire to bring this to the now it’s best enjoyed by those who are able to take this as a polished trip down memory lane or as a launch pad to jump back into the history of dance music.
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