Saturday, 3 December 2011

Review: Sander Kleinenberg - Global Underground NuBreed 004

Sander Kleinenberg NuBreed 004
I dug out Sander Kleinenberg's NuBreed 004 compilation because we were having a discussion about the Global Underground label's recent inactivity, and I made the faux-controversial point that none of the GU compilations were actually that exceptional, and this one was probably my favourite from them. Having made this point, I thought I'd better go back and have a listen to verify that claim.

I'm not an avid collector of the GU comps, precisely because none of the ones I've heard have really thrilled me. In fact, the series pretty much became a stick with which to beat progressive house around 2001. Progressive house (or just "progressive", because prog house circa-2001 had jack shit to do with the marvelously inventive material of Leftfield, Spooky and Underworld back in the early '90s that was the original "progressive house") was at that time at an all-time popularity boom, totally dominating 4/4 clubs. Every house, techno and especially trance record had to have a progressive remix on the flip, and the stuff was completely omnipresent even though a lot of people found it really boring and pretentious. Global Underground with its steady procession of identikit CDs by the same few super-DJs all playing the same sounds while getting flown around the world to have half their face photo'd in front of some exotic skyline, pretty much summed up how out-of-hand it was all getting, and the very name didn't do the genre any favours on the "pretentious" front. Seriously, you're running an intercontinental circle-jerk for jet-setting DJs who earn £20k a set and your CDs are selling in HMV. There is nothing "underground" about it.

And were any of the GUs genuinely that stellar? My favourite from the main series is John Digweed's mix from Hong Kong, which was super-deep, even if not terribly forward-thinking (it's not "progressive" if your CDs are just better-produced repeats of what you did on the second disc of Northern Exposure four fuckin' years ago, John). This effort from Sander Kleinenberg did take the top prize though for overall GU effort. It came from their semi-regular NuBreed series, which was a platform for the new generation of progressive DJs who weren't quite big-enough names to sell enough copies to get a gig on the main series. People like Danny Howells and Steve Lawler, who now seem like absolute dinosaurs who have been around for decades. The NuBreed compilations mostly sounded exactly like the normal GU comps, because none of the new generation (or nu breed, if you will) had any distinct sound, which is basically why the progressive scene spectacularly collapsed around 2004 before any of them could ascend to Sasha-esque levels of deification. The truth is that there was a lot of great music in the prog scene, even the millenial third-wave super-popular prog, but it increasingly became a bandwagon and all the tracks and DJs and compilations became increasingly interchangable until everyone was just totally bored of it.

If this all sounds like a discussion of progressive as a scene rather than a review of Sander Kleinenberg's compilation, that's because this compilation is actually totally typical of the prog scene in every way. I bought it for £1.99 from the closing down sale of some soon-to-be-defunct chain music shop a couple of years back, and I think I was just so stricken with thrift-phoria that I massively overrated the quality of the album. I remember the second disc in particular as being an absolute mind-detonation on first listen, but I think that was just uncritical glee at getting something halfway decent for £1.99. I love second-hand music shopping, you see, and especially love to convince myself I have found a gem every time I pick some shitty chill-out compilation out of a bargain bin for 99p, even though I'm really just paying to hear Moby's Porcelain yet again.

It turns out that NuBreed 004 is a pretty generic prog excursion, with a few good tracks and a lot of perfectly listenable ones but nothing to distinguish it from the other billion-and-one double disc'ers from ten years back. The highlight is definitely the last third of the second disc, which suddenly and violently ignites with Pariah's Keep The Peace, and Sander proceeds to lay down a slew of tough prog weaponry, most of it aggravatingly rare and unavailable today. This 20-30 minutes or so is undeniably awesome, but the rest is all pretty standard, though, right down to the way Sander mixes his tunes. I can hear nothing of a signature style to any of his transitions, and while he occasionally strings together two tunes in a way that makes it seem like the compilation is about to spread its wings, he never builds on that momentum. I mean, if this compilation had been a one-off, something unusual, it would probably sound fantastic, but familiarity breeds contempt.

So maybe there really aren't any great GU compilations. Although Nick Warren's Reykjavic mix is supposed to be something special, and actually looks interesting from the tracklist. So I'll give that one a listen at some point and report back.

Genre: Progressive proggy-prog.
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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