Like DJing, making a successful compilation relies on a strong personal taste and a knack for sequencing. A flurry of excellent compilations this year have shown off some of the keen curatorial minds of the dance world, whether they’re showcasing the collection of a single DJ or representing the voice of a label. We’ve been struck by the volume of great comps that have come out in 2017’s first quarter – here’s a roundup of the best.
100% Silk – Sensate Silk
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Amanda Brown’s 100% Silk imprint emerged from a tragic warehouse fire with this powerful compilation of material from some of the label’s best artists. Sensate Silk shows off several facets of the 100% Silk sound, from dramatic club trips to tender lofi jams. There’s always been a bittersweet quality to the Silk style, and this comes out beautifully on the comp’s longer trips, like Westcoast Goddess’ drifting Untitled Soul ’98 and Parc’s luminous Silk Road.
A Decade Ilian Tape
The Zenker Brothers’ Ilian Tape has quietly, methodically become one of the most essential labels in techno over the past few years. This compilation celebrates ten years that the Munich crew have been on the scene, roping in all their key players for a killer display of their signature sound. After listening to these tunes, it feels like the key to Ilian Tape’s success is the crew’s ability to reference dance heritage while pushing it forward – there are nods to breakbeats and ambient techno here, but the greyscale results never sound less than futuristic.
Opal Tapes – Contemporary Dance
Lofi cassette marauders Opal Tapes emerged from the gloom for this diverse artist compilation, with a handful of label stalwarts joined by a share of fresh faces. The 18 tracks divide neatly between unusual atmospheric pieces and straighter dance cuts, all peddling the kind of murky, anxious ambience that has made the label so crucial. Highlights come on Lumisokea’s dread-dub march, the soft melodics of Perfume Advert and a brilliant track from Patricia that lays tender chords over a strident techno skeleton.
PAN – Mono No Aware
Bill Kouligas’ PAN imprint has quickly become one of the essential voices in experimental electronic music, mostly down to an ear for uncompromising sounds and a tight grip on quality control. So when the crew set out to produce an ambient compilation, you can bet it’s not gonna be ambient-by-numbers. This 16-track compilation explores new beatless territory, ricocheting from involving atmospherics to anxious noise and back again. It’s surprising, soothing, and often genuinely moving.
Young Marco – Selectors 002
Dekmantel’s second compilation in support of DJs with the best taste came home to Amsterdam with this selection from Young Marco. The tracks range from disco to italo, house to ambient, all united by colourful melodies and a serious sense of fun. Top picks include the moody Bladerunner ballad Spick And Span, which sports a perfect synth-flute solo, and the pummelling future rhythms of The Force Dimension’s 200 FA.
Joey Negro – Electro
One of the scene’s most revered selectors here presents some of his favourite cuts from the early 80s electro-funk scene. These raw drum machine workouts provided a blueprint for much contemporary dance music and still sound great in the mix. As usual, Joey Negro guides the selection with an expert curatorial hand, including both classics (Hashim’s Al Naafiysh, Tyrone Brunson’s The Smurf) and little-remembered gems (Newcleus’ Computer Age or Paul Hardcastle’s dreamy Rain Forest).
Welcome To Paradise (Italian Dream House 89-93)
This sublime comp on Young Marco’s Safe Trip label offers an introduction to early 90’s Italian house scene. Classic US house is a clear influence but these tunes swap grit for lush textures, with results that caress more than they bang. These tunes show some of the limitless combinations of broad basslines, smooth pads and the gentlest vibes, and would fit right in to the sets of any balearic-leaning DJs. Besides the excellent tunes and on-point curation, Marco provides a comprehensive look at a subgenre of house which hasn’t always got the attention it deserves.
Doing It In Lagos (Boogie, Pop & Disco In 1980s Nigeria)
This superb compilation from Soundway shows a snapshot of Nigerian club culture in the early 80s. This is the sound of young people who breathed American funk and pop and turned those sounds into something glossy and fun that never entirely escaped the political roots of compatriots like Fela Kuti. As an ace selection of funk tunes or a fascinating freezeframe of a changing culture, this is an essential collection.