Art Department: Social Experiment 003
No. 19 Music

One listen to Art Department's Social Experiment 003 makes clear why Crosstown Rebels signed the Toronto-based duo of Jonny White and Kenny Glasgow a few years back and issued their standout debut album The Drawing Board in 2011. Just as Damian Lazarus's releases are rooted in irresistible bass lines, the Art Department mix stand outs for a similar reason. Issued on No. 19 Music, the label founded by White in 2008, the seventy-two-minute mix, Art Department's first official compilation album, features no less than eight exclusives within its fourteen-track set-list. The mood is deep, dark, and sexy, and very much in the spirit of Crosstown Rebels' underground techno and house style.

Art Department's “Into The Dust Intro” sets the scene nicely with a driving drum pattern, after which the mix's first ultra-tasty sampling of bass work appears in “La Cueva” by Jonny White & Nitin. Though it's peppered with the vocal shout “Break!” and melodic sparkle, the tune's well-calibrated arrangement leaves lots of room for the serpentine bass pulse to assert its stealthy self. Ali Love's “The Jungle,” borrowing the bass part from Bowie's “Fashion,” deepens the music's underground vibe before re-inserting the funk bass line from “La Cueva” into the mix one more time. Elsewhere, Crosstown Rebels' Jamie Jones checks in with the electrified house stepper “Doctor Blue,” My Favorite Robot sneaks in a bit of Depeche Mode-styled decadence into “Not Progress,” and Gregorythme's lithe “Artificial Tears” reinstates the music's bass-heavy focus as the mix begins its journey home.

Vocals figure heavily into the set, with Robert Owens adding his familiar soul to two tracks, while Lazarus and Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry also appear. Owens first surfaces in Art Department's hard-grooving remix of Luca C. & Brigante's “Tomorrow Can Wait” and then Jackin Rabbit's bleepy funk jam “Full of Dreams”; Ferry's signature croon surfaces in DJ Hell's “U Can Dance,” which Carl Craig recasts as a synth-powered dynamo; and Lazarus adds a dramatic voiceover to “Robot Heart,” a collaborative effort from Art Department, BLUD, and Shaun Reeves. Listeners hoping Glasgow might make an appearance get their wish when Art Department's “Insomniac” closes the release with his vocal providing an appropriately haunting exit point. No one'll mistake Social Experiment 003 for The Drawing Board Part 2, but it's a more than satisfying mix to hold us over until the next original album by the group materializes.

April 2013