- Art + Sound is a pretty vague title for a set of 12-inch singles. But in the case of Sounds Of The Universe's three-year-old series, it belies a tight aesthetic focus. This focus is impressive given the scale of the project, which, gathered on the new Art + Sound 2012-2015 compilation, stretches to two CDs and some 17 producers of varying backgrounds and generations. Sometimes it's clear how prevailing trends have shaped the series—Andres' balmy "Ribena," for instance, was released a few months after his smash hit "New For U." But mostly, Art + Sound charts its own path across the dance floor.
It's hard to say exactly what binds these tracks together, beyond saying the compilation's early summer release date was well-chosen. On the first disc, which gives tracks from the vinyl-only series their first digital outing, London group Bllud Relations offer up the fried afrobeat of "Cold Like The Baron." Over on the second disc, which features entirely new material, there's Seven Davis Jr.'s "Come And Go," all dubby sway and languid fuck-the-haters sentiment. Equally laid-back are Golden Teacher's heat-warped "Maladroit" and Reginald Omas Mamode's "Rare Love."
Sounds Of The Universe are clearly drawn to producers like these: fringe artists who metabolise bits and pieces of dance music history in service of their own unusual visions. Elsewhere, LEVELS affiliate Lord Tusk concocts bizarre industrial dub on "Average Cats" and Heatsick struggles his way through "Snakes And Ladders" (the track isn't his best, which is a shame given how perfectly something like "Dévation" would fit in here). Even as the compilation turns to dance music's heartlands, it favours the mavericks: Detroit's DJ Stingray, for instance, or Chicago's Jamal Moss (who appears twice, once in the duo Africans With Mainframes). Both provide serviceable tracks, but Mike Huckaby and Tevo Howard steal the show with a pair of impeccable summer jams.
The best productions here tend to be longer, creating pleasant atmospheres to soak in. Kassem Mosse's elegant "Staat Aus Glas" rolls along for 12 minutes. 22a label boss Tenderlonious is scruffier but no less seductive on the nine-minute "Caramel." Closing out disc two, Ras G continues the trend with a three-track suite, which makes its way from the trippy concréte of "Deep Space Nine" into a pair of bitesize hip-hop instrumentals. Like many of the artists here, his music feels like it's on the brink of cosmic lift-off: it can be summery and friendly one minute and confrontationally weird the next. Art + Sound 2012-2015 has its weak spots, but it's a solid launchpad for trips into the unknown.
01. Hieroglyphic Being - Shikaakwa
02. Tevo Howard - Summer Romance
03. Kassem Mosse - Staat Aus Glas
04. Andrés - Ribena
05. Blludd Relations - Cold Like The Baron
06. AYBEE – Return To The Underground
07. Heatsick – Snakes & Ladders
08. Tenderlonious – Caramel
01. DJ Stingray - Cytokines
02. Mike Huckaby - Circles
03. Seven Davis Jr - Come And Go
04. Golden Teacher - Maladroit
05. Reginald Omas Mamode IV - Rare Love
06. Africans With Mainframes – Vibrations From The Serengeti II
07. Capracara – Hard Ticket To Hawaii
08. Lord Tusk - Average Cats
09. Ras G - Deep Space Nine
10. Ras G - Gloom Steez
11. Ras G - Taste This