- There can be something magical about label compilations. They're like a party—a party attended by friends from all different parts of your life, just now meeting for the first time. Usually you only get small doses of these awesome people, but all of a sudden, you're surrounded by every last one of them. Since it began releasing original material four years ago, Live At Robert Johnson has made quite a lot of friends. Roman Flügel, Massimiliano Pagliara and The Citizen's Band, to name a few. We've heard plenty from these people since, but The Lifesaver is the first time the Frankfurt label has put them all in the same place.
Like any good party, it's nice to see the same old faces, but too many can make things stale. And therein lies the strength of The Lifesaver: it's a potent mix of established artists and talented newcomers. Roughly speaking, the tracklist alternates between these two groups, forming a pleasant cycle of anticipation and discovery. On the fresher side, there's artists like Chinaski and his swampy opener, "Lunch." Its throbbing bass current and feather-light synth overlays show a superb sense of balance. Orson Wells conjures similarly idyllic scenes with "At Play," laminating wandering bass with several varieties of honey-hued synth. From this corner, a newcomer—San Laurentino—even manages to provide the record's best track, "Final Landing." The Hungarian artist debuted on LARJ early last year, and his form remains strong here, with something akin to a less kitsch take on Phillip Lauer's yacht rock house.
From the older hands, things play out pretty much as expected, with regard to both style and quality. Massimiliano Pagliara's cut is typically cosmic and bass-heavy, Lauer's "Hector" is wonderfully exuberant and gaudy, and Portable's "Nano Flower" is filled with masterful drum and flute work. The Citizen's Band has two bites of the apple: a beatless intro followed by a sugary little number called "Softest Touch."
The only real curve balls come from Tuff City Kids and Roman Flügel. The former—Gerd Janson and Phillip Lauer—are old hands, but are still new as production partners. "People Is A Crackhead" is vastly different to Bobby Tacker, their debut EP from last year. Far from jagged techno, it's hazy, vocal-streaked house. Flügel takes the opposite route, trading his recent peppy fare for a more robust, driving sound that recalls his early years. As ever, his quirky melodies reign supreme.
Of all the artists here, Flügel perhaps best embodies the dominant Live At Robert Johnson aesthetic: dance floor music that's different enough to genuinely stand out, but not so strange as to be off-putting. It's a balance the label's A&R man, Oliver Hafenbauer, has perfected over the years, and The Lifesaver compilation is a better place than any to see it in action.
01. Chinaski - Lunch (Extended Version)
02. Massimiliano Pagliara - LM2-808-SH101-M/P-P6-JP4-P5-SPX90
03. Lauer - Hector
04. Orson Wells - At Play
05. San Laurentino - Final Landing
06. The Citizen's Band - Descend
07. The Citizen's Band - Softest Touch
08. Benedikt Frey - Sometimes
09. Roman Flugel - More Is Not Enough (Heaven Or Hell?)
10. Portable - Nano Flower (feat. Lcio)
11. Tuff City Kids - People Is A Crackhead (Tuff Hamlet Riddim)