James Lavelle - GU37: Bangkok

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  • James Lavelle's 2002 Global Underground debut was met with as much criticism as praise. A far cry from the progressive house the franchise had built its reputation upon, Barcelona was a rough and ready mix of hip/trip-hop, house and breaks that simultaneously excited fans and offended purists. It was exactly the self-inflicted kick up the backside GU needed to move forward. Since then, though, bar a handful of exceptions, the brand has been troubled by a long list of average releases (Lavelle's self-indulgent sophomore Romania included). Indeed one struggles to recall an exceptional mix since Danny Howells last jet-setted to Miami. As such, you can't blame GU for calling Lavelle in once again. More so than anyone, Unkle James might just be the man to once again reinvigorate the infamous series. After two intros (isn't one enough?) that you'd expect—i.e. dramatic, pompous—disc one kicks off with the emotionally charged "Jetstream" from Doves and the quirky "Summertime Clothes" by Animal Collective. So far, so good—the vibe works and the promise of a mix that offers something different is being fulfilled. But the ambient-tech that ensues, namely Four Tet's remix of "You Are Here," leaves the kind of "Have we started the mix again?" impression that renders the indie-rock energy that preceded it rather pointless. And that's the major problem of disc one: The mixing is OK (in that neat and tidy Albeton / Pro-Tooled kind of way), but the lack of dynamic play between tracks means that nothing fits together in a satisfying way, creating a disjointed affair that lacks momentum and reveals very few exciting moments. It's frustrating, because when those moments do happen they showcase Lavelle's skill in doing what he does best. The highly compressed drums of The Big Pink's "Too Young to Love" crashing their way into Layo & Bushwacka!'s hypnotic "Life2Live" has UNKLE written all over it, but is the kind of transition that sparks an appetite the rest of the mix fails to live up to. Things don't fare much better on disc two. Techno is not a suit Lavelle wears well. Bookended by a melodic opening section of UNKLE remixes and a closing bit of melancholic tech from James Holden, Caribou and Duke Dumont is a lengthy middle of dry, big room techno that suffers from that tired template of white noise build/cut the bass/slam in the next track. After a while, it becomes tiresome and, as the mind wanders, comparisons with other techno compilations that have pulled off the same trick (but better) start to creep their way in. If there's one thing that Bangkok reaffirms, it's that Global Underground just ain't what it used to be, with the blogosphere claiming that EQ's Balance series have taken over their mantle. This may well be the case, yet with a dance label of such history and worldwide influence as GU's, it will no doubt only take one special trip to a city to revive their status. I wouldn't give up on them just yet.
  • Tracklist
      CD1 01. Intro - Look Inside Yourself (Intro) 02. UNKLE - Trouble In Paradise (Edit) 03. Doves - Jetstream 04. Animal Collective - Summertime Clothes 05. Nathan Fake - You Are Here (Four Tet Mix) 06. James Holden - 10101 07. Radiohead - Reckoner (James Holden Mix) 08. Layo & Bushwacka! - Life2Live (UNKLE Surrender Sounds Session #1) 09. The Big Pink - Too Young To Love (UNKLE Surrender Sounds Session #14) 10. UNKLE - Heavy Drug (Surrender Sounds Mix) 11. Evil Nine - Icicles (UNKLE Surrender Sounds Session #12) 12. Silicone Soul - The Call Of The Wild (Mi Animo Goes Disco Mix) 13. Jesse Somfay - Lying In A Bed Of Myst 14. Mutant Clan - A Perfect Place 15. Henrik Shwarz, Ame, Dixon f. Derrick Carter - Where We At - Part 2 16. School Of Seven Bells - Sempiternal/Amaranth CD2 01. UNKLE - Heaven (King Unique Acapella) 02. UNKLE - Trouble In Paradise (Variation On A Theme) (C2 Version 1) 03. UNKLE - Trouble In Paradise (Variation On A Theme) (UNKLE Surrender Sounds Session #11) 04. System 7 - Space Bird (Dubfire Deep Space Remix) 05. Radio Slave - Grindhouse (Dubfire Terror Planet Remix) 06. X-Press 2 - Now I'm On It 07. Mark Broom - Twenty Nine (Broom's 09 Mix) 08. Fergie - Break In 09. King Unique - Dirty (Fergie Mix) 10. Chelonis R. Jones - Deer In The Headlights (Radio Slave Remix) 11. Gavin Herlihy - Machine Ate My Homework 12. James Holden - The Wheel 13. Caribou - Niobe 14. Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down (Reconstructed by Duke Dumont)