A well-curated, well-sequenced compilation can sometimes shine brighter than an artist album, if the quality, variety and energy from all the component acts trumps what a single artist work is normally capable of. To use the old DJ cliché, here Josey Rebelle ‘takes you on a journey’ which on the surface is just another eclectic mix CD- but it’s a very good one.
The travel starts in the darker side of house and the lighter side of techno, but goes in directions you can’t predict, bringing in all sorts of elements on the way. Automation’s “Electricity” jumps us back to the sound of rave 1990-style, complete with Planet Patrol sample. We get near-jazzy groove work and Robert Owens’ familiar and always welcome velvety vocal tones in Uschi Classen’s “Only In Your Eyes”, and the Frankie Knuckles-like house piano of Reggie Dokes’ “Piano Seduction”. The tension levels ebb and flow over time, with grittier and grimier tracks like Rum & Black’s “Zombies At Dawn” or Loraine James’ “Glitch Bitch” contrasting but also connecting with much mellower items like the long chord keys of Molinaro’s “Amber Beach”.
The mixing is exemplary. The transitions are sometimes completely invisible if you don’t know the tracks, and the more notable shifts, such as into Fotomachine’s energetic and acid-driven “BBoy”, flow completely naturally. Harder tracks like Brassfoot’s “Kingu’s Sceptre” work their way in gradually, shifting your attitude before you even realise. Some of the crosses are on the abrupt side- the entry into Nubian Mindz’ “Sunrise 777” for example- but demonstrates that just because a cross-mix is short, doesn’t mean it has to feel wrong.
It seems from a sample near the beginning that Josey Rebelle’s surname may be pronounced as the verb ‘rebel’ rather than the noun, as in “to rebel against the establishment”. There are slight shades of political feeling here, most notably in the monologue of the two bookend tracks from DJ Marcelle that start and finish the mix. But it’s not an overtly political or even attitude-driven release overall, and the main meat of the mix is instrumental music for dancing, working, walking, driving, or plenty inbetween.
At the time when dance music feels flooded with locked down producers churning out work-day tracks with no character, this is a really refreshing mix that helps make me believe in house music and all its variant forms once again. This could be one of the mix albums of the year.