Items & Things co-managers Magda, Marc Houle, and Troy Pierce have been players in the music game for a good many years now, with their tenure as artists for Richie Hawtin's Minus precipitating their own label venture. Variables is intended to capture the style Items & Things has developed as a label, and the guideline given to the contributing artists was that, being a summer-timed compilation, the tracks shouldn't be too dark and that the producers should freely follow their respective muses wherever they might lead. The trio contributes individual pieces to the collection, naturally (Magda's “One Way” a characteristically slinky bass-throttler), but their tracks constitute a mere three of the seventeen (two of them, Nyma's “In The Mirror” and Danny Benedettini's “Mellow Lips,” are digital exclusives), with the others coming from Jimmy Edgar, Rework, Miro Pajic, Click Box, and Populette, among others.
It goes without saying that the tracks are technically polished, state-of-the-art productions. But technical polish alone isn't enough: the most memorable tracks are the ones that get their hands dirty, and the material succeeds best when it distances itself from the dry minimal techno style that was so commonplace not so long ago. Though the compilation's fresh vibe is nicely set by the jaunty strut of Miro Pajic's opener “Love Love Love,” it's the earthy skullduggery of Click Box's subsequent “One” that hits harder (in fact, its marriage of fiery synth work and raw beat slam makes for one of the album's strongest moments). In like manner, Edgar's “Black Neon Dance Floor,” Benedettini's “Spooky Little Girl,” and Populette's “Hell's Pass” are electro-funk stompers that are as deliciously filthy as they are hard-hitting. Fundamentally simple in conception though it might be, Rework's “Tell Me Why” lodges itself solidly in memory in coupling an incessantly repeating vocal fragment to a bone-rattling bass thump. Surprisingly—and not in a bad way—many tracks (Howard Watson's “Keep Away,” Tomas More's “Ice to Ice,” and Houle's “Villain of the Dance Floor” ) do, in fact, exude a noticeably dark and spooky vibe that departs from the aforementioned directive given to the contributors.Available in multiple formats, including a special box set edition containing four coloured-vinyl discs (a corresponding mix CD by Magda will be issued as a separate release), Variables is dominated by synth-heavy body-shakers obviously crafted with the club or festival in mind. It's a more-than-generous collection that clocks in at 108 minutes, so even the least enthralled listener would have to concede that a comprehensive portrait of the label has been produced.