Rarewerks are what they say: rare works. Admittedly, all of the tracks are by artists you probably will have heard of in the last few years, unless you've been on an all-expenses paid trip with some Cosmonauts: Fatboy Slim, the Chemical Brothers, Air, the Beta Band, Primal Scream. If you're an electronica fan, the remaining names should be household mezuzah for you as well: Future Sound of London (FSOL), Cassius, Photek, Basement Jaxx. When I first saw the lineup, I thought I'd been gypped; I own just about everything these groups have released (or my sister does, which is more or less the same thing).
Take a deeper look, though, and you'll see that once again, Astralwerks delivers. Fatboy Slim's "Rockafeller Skank", played too often to make a listener anything but nauseous, is nowhere within earshot. "How Can You Hear Us?" is no second-string track; Astralwerks replaced "Skank" with this song on the international editions of Amp 2 (for legal reasons, but the fact that they chose it for such a massive selling title proves their faith in it). Unavailable on any of his full-length albums and seldom played publicly in the US -- especially in my local radio market, which needs a rescue tube for all the Lifehouse that's being played -- it's a nice change, with funky breaks, big beats and overdrawn loops. Air's "Casanova 70" paints a perfect picture of a '70s lounge lizard, from the velvet pants to the gold chest medallion; each note of the catchy synth-pop grabs you by the hips and makes you dance to its languid rhythm. It's the perfect cool-down between heavier beats, and it's only otherwise available on Premiers Symptomes.
Basement Jaxx's "Bingo Bango", given David Morales' Latin dub mix, is the precise soundtrack for getting your booty shaking out the bodega door. Cassius' remix of their own "Foxxy" brings the disco tune a new life with its looped female vocal roar, deep bass breakbeats and Blaxpoitation soundtrack overlays. The other songs here are equally entertaining, and most of them are at least nominally "new" -- either unreleased material, a hard-to-find remix or a song from a deleted single.
Compilations can, and frequently do, become a way for a label to repackage material that's readily available elsewhere, thereby creating a collection rarity for completists, and annoying the less rabid fans of the music. Astralwerks' celebration of their seventh anniversary is a party to which the fans have been invited. The label gets money, you get a decent compilation CD...in short, everybody wins.