Various Artists – Sounds Of The Universe: Art + Sound 2012-15

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Sitting down to review a new compilation on Soul Jazz conjures up feelings of nostalgia for me. It’s a label that contributed to my own musical education over the years in a time when compilations were the best conduit to uncovering new avenues to explore. Many open-minded collectors and DJs born in the 1980s will probably have indulged in at least one of Soul Jazz’s releases, with the 100% Dynamite series leading to more personal examinations of Tenor Saw, Prince Buster, or Sister Nancy. That late-‘90s period of musical discovery was fuelled, in part, by hopeful punts on compilations, with one, maybe two recognisable names. Soul Jazz also played their own unwitting part in one of my most bittersweet memories; whilst I was in Milan DJing during an ill-fated visit to stay with an Italian girlfriend who dumped me midway through the week, I gifted some local dub obsessives my freshly bought copy of Studio One Dub.

Various Artists - Sounds Of The Universe: Art + Sound 2012-15
Artist
Various Artists
Title
Sounds Of The Universe: Art + Sound 2012-15
Label
Soul Jazz
Format
2CD, 2LP
Buy vinylBuy CD

Fifteen years later, the role compilations play in music discovery has undoubtedly shrank in the overwhelming presence of ‘The Internet’, a tool which grants everyone immediate music knowledge. Or so like to they think. However, this Art & Sound compilation from Soul Jazz does feel like the perfect gateway for any intrigued newcomers to the world of house, techno and more from some of its more adventurous exponents. For those more schooled in the artists involved, Sounds Of The Universe: Art + Sound 2012-15 is a chance to bask in some productions previously only available to the swiftest of collectors.

Nominally, this compilation gathers together productions Soul Jazz issued as part of their limited Art & Sound 12” series over the past three years which featured Kassem Mosse, Hieroglyphic Being, Heatsick, Tevo Howard and more. These records were sold soley through the label’s Sounds of the Universe shop in Soho and complemented by handpicked artwork from the likes of Kutmah, Diana Policarpo, and Bill Hackett. Put simply, they exuded the sort of limited edition charm that modern day collectors of house and techno are all too easily seduced by.

Smart move Soul Jazz for pulling them together on this compilation and commissioning a second CD worth of new tracks from like-minded artists from both sides of the Atlantic. As such, a second chance to own Kassem Mosse’s “Staat Aus Glas” or the buttery smooth “Caramel” from 22a man Tenderlonious is most welcome. The former is a track that would lose none of its resonance if the German elected to extend it beyond its 12 minute duration to something approaching the endless indulgence of recent Thom Yorke compositions. Lifting these tracks out of their original 12” context does potentially remove what made them so alluring and there’s no real overriding musical theme to link them all.

Does there need to be though? Any DJ worth their salt will get plenty of mileage out of this compilation. You could feasibly fill a whole set with tracks from it, such is the range in sound and tempo. Art & Sound is made more alluring by the new tracks, and the artists Soul Jazz chose to approach. The chance to feast on new Golden Teacher music should never be passed up, and “Maladroit” sounds as humidly delightful as anything the Glasgow collective have previously issued. The second disc also features a masterclass in production from one of Detroit’s most qualified scholars Mike Huckaby. “Circles” may be brand new, but it sounds and feels like a classic slab of US house from the very off. It’s a personal highlight of the compilation, along with the aforementioned Mosse and Tenderlonious productions.

Not everything here hits that same spot, that’s to be expected with 19 tracks, but maybe that will change over time. I recently heard Lena Willikens describe on Berlin Community Radio why she called her Radio Cómeme show Sentimental Flashback. “I discover my old records new”, Willikens said, adding she has so many records she forgets what she has and taking the time to listen back through them is a sentimental process. Compilations like Art + Sound gain sentimental potential with age, as you tire of your favourites you might seek out tracks you previously glossed over and warm to them, wondering why you were at first so dismissive.

Tony Poland

Tracklisting:

CD1:
1. Hieroglyphic Being – Shikaakwa
2. Tevo Howard – Summer Romance
3. Kassem Mosse – Staat Aus Glas
4. Andrés – Ribena
5. Blludd Relations – Cold Like The Baron
6. AYBEE – Return To The Underground
7. Heatsick – Snakes & Ladders
8. Tenderlonious – Caramel

CD2:
1. DJ Stingray – Cytokines
2. Mike Huckaby – Circles
3. Seven Davis Jr – Come And Go
4. Golden Teacher – Maladroit
5. Reginald Omas Mamode IV – Rare Love
6. Africans With Mainframes – Vibrations From The Serengeti II
7. Capracara – Hard Ticket To Hawaii
8. Lord Tusk – Average Cats
9. Ras G – Deep Space Nine
10. Ras G – Gloom Steez
11. Ras G – Taste This