Review: One of the great things about Nicolas Chaix's long-running I:Cube project is you never quite know what to expect next. Whereas his last release, the wonderful Cryptoporticus, offered a pitched-down take on classic British bleep, this untitled EP is an altogether spookier, wide-ranging affair. For example, examine the contrast between the loose, intoxicating tribal rhythms, deep bass and marimba melodies of the decidedly druggy "Prepgav (Part 1)", and the quietly impressive, jazz-flecked ambience of "Prepgav (Part 2)". The variety doesn't stop there, either, with the remaining tracks variously touching on cinematic bliss (the touching "A Walk With You"), dystopian IDM ("Ou Ailleurs"), and becalmed analogue ambience (the brilliant "Sequence III"). Simply stunning from start to finish.
Review: One of the most glaring misconceptions regarding I:Cube's excellent fifth album M:Megamix was its format of swiftly veering through the 26 tracks was allowing Nicolas Chaix to lazily avoid the task of actually producing full tracks. This is clearly not the case, with Chaix and Versatile choosing to release extended DJ friendly versions of the album tracks over a series of EPs, with "YOUROCK", "Popular Electronics" and "In Alpha" featuring on this latest edition. The three tracks are a nice primer of the smorgasbord of sounds to expect on the album for those yet to indulge, with the bleep infused techy chug of "YOUROCK" complemented by the EBM thump of "Popular Electronics" and the new romantic disco glisten of "In Alpha."
Review: The new I:Cube album is a rapid-fire collection of tracks woven together (there's a clue in that title you know) which takes the manner of a live set. The idea is essentially to bring the dance music album back to its raison d'etre, the dancefloor. To keep things interesting, the tracks are whipped through with a wonderful irreverence, as cheeky radio interludes and impulsive switch-ups keep things from staying too formulaic. Rather than some vision of a smooth, linear DJ set, this album instead takes the stance of creating pleasure through disorientation. Mr Chaix is a master of alluring grooves, and he uses that gift to really mess with your head when he changes tack, as between the edgy bleeps of "Y.O.U.R.O.C.K." and the light-hearted disco stomper "Get The Fever". Those surprise moves keep you engaged through all 23 tracks of this joyous beast. Chaix's lack of pretension is one of his greatest strengths; the I:Cube way is a direct and satisfying one. At no point is it cheesy or hackneyed, but it never tries to be too clever for its own good. With a live feel to match that immediacy, the "M" Megamix is a triumphant statement of what a dance music album should feel like. It might not be a comprehensive answer, but it certainly puts paid to all those "collection of singles" efforts out there.
Review: Given that Versatile Records is now into its 20th year, it's perhaps unsurprising that boss Gilb'r is in a nostalgic mood. The latest edition in the label's occasional Classics series delivers two early gems from 1996, when the Parisian imprint was - like others in the French capital - dedicated to delivering "French touch" style disco-house. First up is Daft Punk's overlooked remix of I:Cube's brilliant "Disco Cubizm" - think deep house-meets-French filter funk - which still sounds fresh two decades after its original release. Flip for something previously unheard: an alternate version of DJ Gregory's similarly classic rework of Cheek's "Venus (Sunshine People)", an obscure Gilb'r production with a warm, happy, anthem-like feel.
Review: A taster from Peggy Gou's contribution to the DJ Kicks series, this split release showcases the range and breath of her selections. On one end of the spectrum there's I:Cube's "Cassette Jam 1993", where the maverick French producer delivers a frazzled, hazy groove that bathes in a mellow glow and is made even more trippy thanks the use of some indistinct vocal samples. At the opposite end sits Hiver's "Pert", where the Italian pair loop a pulsating, acidic groove to infinity and beyond. Gou's own contribution is very much at the mellow end of the scale: "Hungboo" is led by cosmic flutes, organic beats and some cosmic Asian vocals.
Prins Thomas, Stereolab & The High Llamas - "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" (Stereolab vs High Llamas remix) - (4:15) 130 BPM
Prins Thomas & 120 Days - "Sleepless Nights" - (0:22) 124 BPM
Prins Thomas, Carmen Villain, Continental Fruit, Mats Gustafsson & Sonic Youth - "The Moon Will Always Be There/The Moon Was My Only Witness/Art 3 - Contrabass Sax" - (6:16) 92 BPM
Prins Thomas, Erik Wollo, Alexander Rishaug & Sun Araw - "Ody At Sea/Satellites/B - Sun Araw Saddle Soap Remix" - (3:18) 156 BPM
Prins Thomas, Bjorn Torske, Mats Gustafsson, Sonic Youth, Serena-Maneesh & Sun Araw - "B - Sun Araw Saddle Soap Remix/Arthur's Return - Extended Version/Introspection/Leipziger Love Life - Ancient Mix/Part 4 - Voice" - (9:36) 159 BPM
Prins Thomas & Wildest Dreams - "Off The Lip" - (6:21) 112 BPM
Prins Thomas & Four Tet - "Lovesick" (Four Tet remix) - (4:40) 97 BPM
Review: This triple-album collection is something of a treat for Prins Thomas fans. Released as an accompaniment to his epic, three-disc Paradise Goulash mix, it's entirely made up of previously unreleased re-edits from the Norwegian maestro. Musically, it's as cosmic and varied as you'd expect, variously touching on ambient (Claude Speed), Balearic jazz (Gabor Szabo), Middle Eastern oddness (Cat Trance), synth-samba (Richard Schneider Jnr), modern classical (a Johanna Billings cover of Arthur Russell's "This Is How We Walk On The Moon"), and all manner of hazy, sun-kissed grooves. There's little slamming dancefloor fare, but plenty of unique versions of overlooked, little known or forgotten musical gems. For that alone, it should be an essential purchase.