Various Artists

Essential Chillout [Cool Division]

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Electronica compilations, whether they're leaning towards hard house, drum'n'bass, or, as here, chill out music, are a mixed and motley lot. Sometimes everything syncs up, and the result is a powerful assemblage that achieves exactly what it was aiming to do. Other efforts somehow manage to fall completely flat. Essential Chillout actually manages to fall between the extremes during the course of its 20 cuts. Moby's "Porcelain" makes a good opener, and matters then proceed well through to Herbalism's "Run Away," by which time a nicely atmospheric haze is setting in. This makes "Personal Reality," from Guidance, a rather rude awakening -- all of a sudden there is this annoying slug of light jazz fusion booting the listener right out of a nice trancey state of mind. The intensity remains just a bit too high with Chime's "The Air That You Breathe," but does slip down again. The next bump is with a turn into lounge music with 7th Path's "Hard Times." The second disc of the two kicks off in a heavier techno bent that seems more likely to rev listeners up rather than helping them chill, even though the following tracks are more low-key -- and, again, there are bumps in what should be a smooth, calm, road. It's hard to fathom what the compilers of this set had in mind. Certainly, some of this music might well qualify as "essential chillout" (and some qualifies for nicely atmospheric new age, too), but enough is off the mark to make the compilation ineffective as a whole.

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