Various Artists, 5 Years Get Physical

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

It seems somehow strange that Berlin's Get Physical label is only five years old. In that time they've racked up over 70 singles, a handful of critically acclaimed artist albums and two separate series of mix CDs that helped to set the tone for contemporary dance music's fertile middleground. A good deal of their success is due to one song in particular: Booka Shade and M.A.N.D.Y.'s anthemic "Body Language," which was voted "Track of the Season" in 2005 by a selection of Ibiza DJs.

Contemporary dance music’s coolest label turns five.

Ibiza's Balearic abandon is hardly the first thing that would cross your mind when confronted with this two-CD compilation of exclusive cuts and remixes, however. For one thing, the remixes are as likely to come from indie-leaning acts like Hot Chip, Fujiya & Miyagi or the Rapture as from more floor-oriented producers like Henrik Schwarz or Dexter—though Hot Chip, always keen to buck expectations, turn M.A.N.D.Y.'s "No Stoppin'" into a proper electro-pop track aflame with tinny synths and filter squeals. (More surprising still might be the inclusion of Moby, who delivers a brooding, liquid remake of Djuma Soundsystem's "Les Djinns.")

These unexpected touches help to make the album more special than your average label comp. Lopazz, normally a house-oriented producer, takes the opportunity to melt Chelonis R. Jones '"I Don't Know" into an R&B slow jam flush with acoustic guitars, while Herbert turns the same into a strange, shiveringly bright number in his customary offbeat style, infusing his pistoning vocal pips with the energy of an arcade full of Whack-a-Moles.

That's not to say there's no dancing in Five Years 'span: among the remixes, Sideshow, Henrik Schwarz, Dexter and Funkstörung's Michael Fakesch all provide versions offering more than their fair share of floor-fillability (all while tearing gently at the edges of house music's ragged pattern as they pin it to fit more supple, idiosyncratic forms). And where the disc of remixes maps the label's movements in more eccentric circles, the selection of exclusives confirms a dedication to the art of moving butts.

For all of the diversity of approach found on the latter disc — from Lopazz's synth-soaked disco to Jona's off-kilter carousel loops to Elektrochemie's sultry, flanger-fogged pop, creeping on little cat feet — all the cuts share a kind of commonality, packing cracked, glassy beats with synths that ripple like bubble-wrap and textures as spongy as peat moss. Einzelkind's "As Long as You Want Me To" is a great example of their rag-and-bone approach, combining beats tufted with distance — they almost seem eavesdropped from next door — with stray synth riffs that seem as hazy as the memory of a particularly long night out.