Not surprisingly, the five-CD box set Eskimonde is about as definitive a label portrait as might be imagined. Thirty-five tracks are featured on the first three discs, two of them retrospective sets and the other a collection of new and unreleased remixes, while the fourth and fifth discs are hour-long bonus mixes prepared by The Glimmers, with Mo Becha tackling the first and David Fouquaert the second. For anyone unfamiliar with the label, the Ghent, Belgium-based imprint was born in June, 2000, issued its first compilation in 2000 and then followed it with seven more whilst also adding artist singles and albums to its ever-growing discography. To distill the Eskimo sound into a single sentence is near-impossible but saying that it exudes the loose and funky feel of space-disco but with its feet more firmly planted on the ground might come close. Pop and rock worm their way into many a track, and vocals and synthesizers are prominent, too. The mood's typically uplifting, the feel breezy and balearic, and Bootsy Collins and Funkadelic are more natural reference points than Richie Hawtin and Alva Noto. With its infectious, bass-powered groove leading the way, Stratus's “Footprints” offers a good representation of Eskimo's sparkling, slo-mo sound.
The first Retrospective disc opens in late-night, romantic mode, with the languid funk of Ilya Santana's “Transborder” leading on to the slow-jam sensuality of Morgan Geist's remix of Hot Toddy's “I Need Love.” The Eskimo sound comes progressively into focus as the tracks appear, even when the tracks' styles sometimes differ dramatically; compare, for instance, the loose funk jam that is Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas's “Boney M Down” to the sumptuous, disco-driven uplift of Aeroplane's transporting “Caramellas” and Downtown Party Network's “Days Like These.” Fabulous moments are plentiful, among them Ewan Pearson's remix of Simone Fedi's “Bitter Devotion,” a sublime marriage of vocal pop melodies and dancefloor bliss, and Todd Terje's remix of Reverso 68's “Piece Together.” Eskimo's poppier side is captured in Low Motion Disco's “Things Are Gonna Get Easier” (which draws on the Five Stair Steps' soul classic “Ooh Child”) and Aeroplane's “Without Lies,” while its atmospheric leanings are witnessed in Quiet Village's exotic version of Allez Allez's “African Queen.”
The second Retrospective disc has its share of good moments, too, with LSB's funk jam “Original Highway Delight” and Maelstrom's Turkish-inflected “Petrichor” keeping spirits high and the mood light. With its cheeky call-and-response vocals, Trentemøller's grooving remix of Visti & Meyland's “Yes Maam (All Nite Long)” plays like some jubilant kin to Missy Elliott's “Gossip Folks,” while Radio Slave's on hand for a tribal mix of Dance Disorder's “My Time” and Tiga for an acidy makeover of The Neon Judgement's “TV Treated.” Make sure you've got time on your hands, though, as some tracks stretch out, most notably the Lindstrom & Prins Thomas remix of Allez Allez's “Allez Allez” that kicks up an effervescent twelve-minute storm.
The Remixed set includes luscious makeovers from Solomun, Deetron, and diskJokke, among others. Oliver's take on Aeroplane's “We Can't Fly” opens the disc with a splendid sampling of celebratory disco-funk that's matched by Solomun's edit of Low Motion Disco's “Love Love Love,” Reverso 68's seductive remix of Stars On 33's “Something You Can Feel,” The Living Islands take on Blende's “Fake Love,” and diskJokke's entrancing rendering of Drop Out Orchestra's “Sun Machine.” On a more raw tip there's Claptone's version of Dirty Minds' “I'm For Pleasure,” whose impassioned vocal gets a strong boost from a funky, guitar-laced backing, and Deetron's remix of Aeroplane's “I Don't Feel,” which features the set's most blazing vocal courtesy of diva extraordinaire Merry Clayton (of “Gimme Shelter” fame). If you've still got time to spare after absorbing the three hours of material included on the opening trio of discs, there's also the aforementioned DJ mix discs, which naturally plunder the label's back catalogue and also feature some exclusive remixes (e.g., The Glimmers unreleased remix of Aeroplane's “We Can't Fly”). But even if you don't make it as far as the mixes, the bounty of treasures on the other discs makes Eskimonde more than worth your time and attanetion.