Rebel Rave 2: Droog
To these ears, no label better embodies the spirit of underground club music than Crosstown Rebels. Anything but antiseptic, the sweat-drenched material Damian Lazarus issues on his imprint has more than a little dirt under its fingernails and is all the better for it. 2011 has been a banner year for the label, too, given the calibre of the releases that have come from Maceo Plex (Life Index), Art Department (The Drawing Board), Deniz Kurtel (Music Watching Over Me), and Lazarus himself (Get Lost 4). Topping it off, we get a three-disc Rebel Rave set (the second edition in the series) featuring B-sides, re-edits, and remixes from some of this year's biggest releases on the first two discs and a choice mix assembled by LA's Droog (a three-member collective featuring Andrei Osyka, Brett Griffin, and Justin Sloe) on the third.
The first disc opens on a high note with the fabulous strobe-lit lament “Without You” from Art Department duo Jonny White and Kenny Glasgow (included on the group's The Drawing Board), the tune deserving of attention for the crisp thwack of the snare-powered groove alone. Rolling, bass-thumping grooves abound in infectious tracks like James What's sexy bass-thumper “About Love” and Russ Yallop's rave-ready “Rock Me,” and strong, too, are hard-grooving tracks by The Model (“Still In My Heart”), Maceo Plex (the soulful “Vibe Your Love”), and Deniz Kurtel (the electrified future-funk of “Best Of”).
But Rebel Rave 2 is a three-disc set where every disc is slightly stronger than the one preceding it, and consequently the middle one trumps the first by presenting an even more enticing tracklist. One slamming cut after another appears, and the listener is repeatedly reminded of just how deep the label's catalogue really is. The party gets off to a roaring start with the one-two punch of Inxec vs Droog's royally jacking “Westbound” and Art Department's driving remix of Jamie Jones's “Paradise” before the soulful rapture of Deniz Kurtel's “The L Word” elevates the collection to a higher plane. Though Kurtel's wondrous cut is the kind of thing that puts Rebel Rave 2 into a league all its own, it's hardly disc two's only stroke of genius. It would be criminal to not cite the raw funk of Solomon's “Daddy's Jam,” slinky bass crawl of Russ Yallop's “Crossroads,” and loping house blaze of Art Department's “We Call Love” as highlights, but pretty much everything in the pulsating central set is worth recommending.
Best of all is the superb DJ mix assembled by Droog. Consider: sixteen vivacious cuts (a few, naturally, already included on the other discs) threaded into a seamless and endlessly funky flow, with Deniz Kurtel's fabulous “Music Watching Over Me” and Maceo Plex's “Your Style” leading the pack. Russ Yallop's amped-up “I Can't Wait” sends the mix into a particularly trippy neck o' the woods before Fur Coat's bass-crawling remix of Yallop's “Crossroads” brings things back to terra firma, while the gravelly vocal in Art Department's remix of Damian Lazarus's “Different Now” suggests some degree of kinship with Matthew Dear. Like the middle disc, the final one rolls out one massive track after another, with cuts by Art Department (“Living the Life,” “We Call Love”), Solomun (“Daddy's Jam”), Quenum (“My Baby Face”), and Martin Dawson & Glimpse (a set-closing remix by Ewan Pearson of “No One Belongs Here More Than You”) dotting the playlist. It would be hard to imagine Crosstown Rebels topping 2011's output, but with full-length releases by Jamie Jones, Maceo Plex, Art Department, and Deniz Kurtel in the pipeline as well as debut albums by others (Fur Coat and Amirali), the label might just be able to pull it off.