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it's OK to enjoy your guilty pleasures...
on September 22, 2002
The Ultra Series is as straightforward as you'll get in dance. Clear theme on the front (this case 80s vs Electro), and two discs of big names. So it's simple really; look at all the artists - anyone remotely tuned to dance should recognize the majority - and if it sounds good it'll be a safe bet.
80s vs Electro, their fifth of the lot, combines pretty much all the hottest work from the rising electroclash "don't call me nuwave" scene with a truly odd mash up of classic tunes from back in the day. Sound theory, sketchy selections as Tears for Fears makes no sense and (blasphemy alert) Grandmaster Flash's seminal hip hop "White Lines" is the wrong record for this particular mix. Surely they could have licensed a better Green Velvet tune than his non-ironic, plodding "Genedefekt?"
Now the trick with electroclash is to harness the retro spirit to modern speeds, yet keep it (seemingly) simple and catchy. And not get lazy about it. And keep Felix da Housecat rolling in cash.
There's straight, Bobby Peru with burrowing synth work that strobes all over the place on "Into the Night," legit-pop from underground techno force Luke Slater in full song "Stars and Heroes," club choons via Who Da Funk on, ahem, "Shiny Disco B*lls," and icy-cool from Selway and the French robot all stars on "Digital Emotion." For novelty-disposable tunes you get instantly forgettable detached-female-vocals from W.I.T., Miss Kittin and gusgus (what happened there?) and much better examples from Bis (pop delight "The End Starts Today") and Felix. Guys get in the act, more sincere, from Royksopp, Mathias Schaffhauser, and Zoot Woman's fantastic guitar meets ELO channeling on "Living in a Magazine."
Add in a tastefully sincere instrumental, as Jan Hammer's "Crocket's Theme" (no, it's not that one) gets an FPU makeover. Oh, and obscure tunes from M/A/R/R/S and Gary Numan see the light as well. File 80s vs Electro under "guilt pleasure."
Disc 1: 2.5 stars Disc 2: 3.5 stars