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Chill Out Album Reviews
London-based music critic Freddie B. reviews the latest Chill Out albums.

The Big Chill - Enchanted    The Big Chill's Enchanted Garden — Various Artists  5
One of the outstanding compilations of recent memory. Selected and mixed by Pete Lawrence and Tom 'Jedi' Middleton, and spread across two CDs, it takes the listener on a journey from the upbeat brilliance of Mr. Scruff through to the most ambient forms of Chill Out. There are contributions from classic artists like Fila Brazillia, Mixmaster Morris, A Man Called Adam, and Hefner, as well as some wonderful stuff from the less well known Jimpster, Bullitnuts, Instrumental, Luke Vibert and BJ Cole, and Sound. There's even some Harold Budd on here, proving once again that the Big Chill know good music when they hear it, regardless of its origin. Take note, Café del Mar. This is a highly original and eclectic collection that pushes the envelope of the Chill Out compilation in a new direction — and that's precisely what this genre needs.

Coming Home    Coming Home — Various Artists  5
Overtly intended for home use — 'warming up your living area' is its subtitle — this has a more sophisticated, lounge-like atmosphere than any other chill CDs in my collection. Although it opens with a mellow track from Blue States, 'Coming Home' rapidly gets into a smooth, uptempo groove with a fine Bent remix of 'I love my man' and A Man Called Adam's remix (always a sign of quality) of Coco Steel & Lovebomb's 'Yachts'. Amidst equally fine tracks from a host of lesser known artists — Nicola Conte, Daniel Ibbotson, The Cambridge Circus, Planet E, Sebastien Schuller and Bobby Trafalgar — the ubiquitous 'At the river' by Groove Armada also makes an appearance, in the form of a very boppy remix (the 'English riviera mix') which I can't say I've heard before. Overall it's a hugely enjoyable mix of beats and pieces which really works as a compilation.

Future Lounge 3    Future Lounge 3 — Various Artists  4
Unlike shite Hollywood movies that spawn one crass sequel after another, there are compilation series which simply get better with each succeeding installment. Such is the case with the 'Future Lounge' series from Stereo Deluxe. With 'Future Lounge 2' the funky German label clearly found its groove, so it's a real pleasure to be able to report that they've gone one further with 'Future Lounge 3'.

What distinguishes this latest offering from the Stereo Deluxe stable is its genuinely eclectic nature. Clearly compiler Oli Roesch (aka DJ Deluca) knows his stuff, and as a result he doesn't have to lean on any big names or tired choons to add some spurious lustre (or commercial value) to his selection. There is material here from Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Glasgow and Hungary, which is impressive by anyone's standards.

What's more, there's hardly a duff track amongst the fifteen included here. I'd be a liar if I said I was familiar with the work of Trio Elétrico, Hacienda, or Airfix (great name), but they all deliver the goods. This is top quality chillage - for those who lean more towards to the funk end of the chill spectrum than ambient or dub.

Serve Chilled 2    Serve Chilled 2 — Various Artists  3
Actually the third chill out compilation from the Hed Kandi stable, and like its predecessors, it's very consciously intended to be 'quality product'. Split into two CDs, the first is supposedly for late nights, and the other for summer days. I'm not sure, however, that you can really tell the difference, since CD1 has stacks of unashamedly beautiful, emotional music on it (Nitin Sawhney, Mandalay, Space Brothers, Afterlife, Aim) which suits any time; and much the same can be said about CD2, which opens with Morcheeba's 'The Sea' and closes with Lux's 'Northern Lights'. As these names indicate, this is a very commercial compilation which treads some pretty familiar territory. If it has a weakness, it is length. Coming in at nearly 3 hours' worth of music, there is inevitably quite a lot of filler here which has one reaching for the 'skip' button - both CDs start very strongly but after four or five tracks lose their momentum.

Vol. 7-Cafe Del Mar    Café del Mar (Volumen Siete) — Various Artists  3
Up until now, the Café del Mar have done a sterling job at putting chill out music on the map with their groundbreaking and much-imitated series of CD compilations. The latest offering from them, however, is a bit of a let-down. A lot of the tracks come the European downtempo scene (but no Kruder and Dorfmeister, sadly) and although they're all smooth as silk, many seem to lack a certain je ne sais quoi. Ultimately Bruno Lepetre's selection of tracks is too similar to offer any surprises or even changes of tempo. When you consider that previous selections have ranged from classics like Underworld, Leftfield and Sabres of Paradise through to Pat Metheny, Talvin Singh and Dusty Springfield, it is particularly disappointing to have this eclecticism wiped away in the name of easy listening. Which is not to say there aren't plenty of good artists represented here — there's Moby, Underwolves, Bedrock, A New Funky Generation — but all of their contributions are a bit, well, unremarkable. There's a lovely track from Bent (clearly a name to watch in this field) and the obligatory flamenco-tinged track towards the end which certainly lifts the spirits, but overall this compilation is best considered as background music for wine bars and polite dinner parties.

Real Ibiza 3: Chilling You Softly    Real Ibiza 3: Chilling You Softly — Various Artists  4
If the Real Ibiza series continues in its current vein, it will put Café del Mar into the shade. Although the third installment of this series, Chilling Me Softly, doesn't quite match the splendour of the last two, it's still a lovely collection which keeps you interested throughout. Compiled by Chris Coco and Phil Mison (two of the stars of this scene), it feels convincingly like the work of professional DJs rifling through their collections rather than someone juggling music licenses, favours and contractual obligations. It comes in two formats, mixed CD and unmixed double CD. I'd recommend the latter, because you get a lot more for your money and besides, mixed CDs are generally naff. CD1 is classic Real Ibiza stuff — 'Morse', one of the best tracks from Nightmares on Wax's last album, an Afterlife remix, dZhian & Kamien, a new track from A Man Called Adam, Aim's 'Cold Water Music' (putting in yet another compilation appearance), and a stand-out track by Mellow. One of the things I particularly like about these compilations is that they are not exclusively chill out — there's plenty of stuff here which you could dance to given a bit of volume. CD2 continues in this vein, with contributions from Chris Coco himself, a good crop of unknowns and an old classic from Pat Metheny. Generally this series lives up to its name and includes plenty of Spanish and Mediterranean music, and this one is no exception. Overall it's a grower which repays many a relisten.

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