Various Artists

Chill Out or Die America

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Chillout electronica hit something of a high watermark in the mid-'90s, when jungle seemed to be taking the high-energy approach to its logical conclusion and even the most hardened beat junkies were finding themselves getting tired after an hour or three on the dancefloor. Ambient electronica had been around since Brian Eno coined the term in the 1970s, of course, but the music that emerged to meet the needs of a sweaty, exhausted junglist massive was different: generally beat-derived and often downright funky, it was nevertheless gentle and warm, and lent itself nicely to sinking into a beanbag or an overstuffed couch in what had now become known as the "chillout room." Chill Out or Die America features tracks from an interesting array of artists, some of whom (Wagon Christ, Air Liquide) would go on to greater fame, and some of whom (Earth Leakage Trip, Jammin' Unit) would not. Not everything here works equally well for chilling: Syzygy's "Kush," with its aggro drums and busy, ominous synth parts, would have fit better on an album titled Chill Out and Die, but for the most part these selections all offer music that is both texturally interesting and generally relaxing. Highlights include Earth Leakage Trip's "Awakening," with its cool Billie Holiday and bamboo flute samples, and the subtly jungly "Move Ya (Born Free Mix)" by RHC, which artfully juxtaposes female vocals with what sound like samples of a Malcolm X speech. Fans of Raz Mesinai and Muslimgauze will want to take particular note of Bedouin Ascent's "Mammon." Recommended.

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