- There's a variety of ways that a label compilation can be handled. The label can reward/tease/infuriate the listener by offering strictly new material (Versatile 2008, CD1 on Saturday, I'm in Love), revisit known songs with the help of contemporary producers (CD2 on Back to Back Volume 3), focus simply on their long past or recent glories (most of Rekids Revolution) or blending all those possibilities together (Kill the DJ's On prend les mêmes et on recommence). For the second chapter of the Systematic Colours series, Systematic's boss Marc Romboy has opted for the more conservative approach for an 80-minute mix that is nonetheless as rewarding as it is instructive in terms of chronicling his own evolution as a DJ, producer and A&R maestro.
Opening the album with what is probably the label's most iconic release is a bold move on the DJ's part, especially since nothing after it will even come close to its brilliance. The first two minutes of Stefan Goldmann's version of "Helen Cornell," the strange but strangely eloquent collaboration between Romboy and Chelonis R. Jones from 2007, are creepy and desolate, with what sound like a lone safety pin being shaken inside of a stainless steel box in the Mariana Trench (really); when the 4/4 beat actually kicks in, it's in an approximate and shaky way, which gives the entire track a humble, almost fragile allure. The music thus serves as the perfect background for Jones' semi-empathetic, semi-ironic tale about what appears to be a misanthropic cat/dog/rat/cockroach lady, an un-dance floor-friendly topic if there was ever one, yet "Helen Cornell" remains one of those unlikely underground dance track that defines categorization, generic boundaries and affiliations.
This same perfect coherence between form and content can be found again on "The Club (Version 1)," another collaboration between Romboy himself and a charismatic deep house singer, this time Detroit's own legend Blake Baxter. Simpler in its execution than "Helen Cornell," and with lyrics exhorting you to basically shake it in, hmm, the club, this jubilant track is proof that electro-house doesn't have to shed its credibility to fill the proverbial big room.
Upon its inception five years ago, Romboy's Systematic was closely linked—with the likes of Get Physical and Great Stuff—to the emergence of the so-called German electro house sound, with singles such as "Every Day in My Life" (an early pairing of Romboy with the Booka Shake boys) or albums like John Dalhbäck's Man from the Fall and Romboy's own Gemini. But whereas Great Stuff have clumsily walked the fine line between powerful dance floor destroyers and cheesy bombs and Get Physical have diversified their sound palette, the Dusseldorf-based producer and his label have both stripped their sound in recent months to that modern and sleek aesthetic that was always suggested by the its logo and is best encapsulated by Gui Boratto's racy remix of Robert Babicz's "Sin," Dusty Kid's subtly melancholic "Milk," or Oxia's broody take on Romboy's recent "Karambolage."
Unsurprisingly, the rest of the compilation mostly showcases the work of long-time production partner Stephan Bodzin who, incidentally, was in charge of Colours Volume One. In the end, then, this compilation—on top of reuniting you with some of the imprint's more peripheral 12-inches (Ante Perry vs. Babylon Robots, Audio Soul Project, Dimitri Andreas feat. Kim D.)—serves as a reminder that Romboy's label has a strong sense of direction and consistency, and that he's always as potent as the people he surrounds himself with.
01. Marc Romboy vs. Chelonis R. Jones - Helen Cornell (Stefan Goldmann Version)
02. Ante Perry vs. Babylon Robots - 3 AM
03. Audio Soul Project - Taking Shape (Version 2)
04. Dimitri Andreas - Run and Hide (Afrilounge Remix)
05. Stephan Bodzin vs. Marc Romboy - Callisto
06. Stephan Bodzin vs. Marc Romboy - Telesto
07. Ante Perry vs. Babylon Robots - Der Urknall
08. Marc Romboy vs. Blake Baxter - The Club (Version 1)
09. Hugo & Daniele Papini - Softuer
10. Robert Babicz - Sin (Gui Boratto Remix)
11. John Dahlbäck - Now It's Not Summer (Stephan Bodzin Remix)
12. Spirit Catcher - High Control
13. Marc Romboy vs. Gui Boratto - Eurasia (Marc's Mix)
14. Dusty Kid - Milk
15. D-Nox & Beckers - Alphavella
16. Marc Romboy - Karambolage (Oxia Remix)