Various Artists

Famous When Dead, Vol. 2

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The second volume of Playhouse's Famous When Dead series quietly arrived a year after its predecessor. Instead of offering another overview of the label's releases, the label opted to have DJ Ata select some of his favorite non-Playhouse tracks from the past couple years. While it's somewhat disappointing that the switch-up means that recently released Playhouse tracks from Daniel Wang, Fabrice Lig, and Losoul are absent, the selection -- key word being selection, not mix -- is stellar and diverse enough for the move to be forgiven. The fact that Playhouse has never stuck to one stripe of house music for their releases means that this disc characterizes the label just as well as the first Famous When Dead, despite track origin. The common denominator with each track is that they're geared toward the dancefloor. Otherwise, they are just as likely to deliver technical, brittle machine funk (Shake's "My Computer Is an Optimist") as they are lathery down-tempo bliss (Hans Platzgumer's "Miss Me"). Likewise, stuttered, head-scratching oddities (Soft Pink Truth's "Soft Pink Missy") are just as common as thick, fervent funk house (E Troneek Funk's "Everytime"). Ata doesn't go for any big names and sticks to underdogs throughout, with one possible exception being the Black Strobe remix of Playgroup's "Number One" (admittedly, it's not as if Playgroup has scored massive chart hits). Hardly resembling the original, Black Strobe erases the vocals, replaces the bassline, and whips it into a moody, surging, Italo disco/New Order mongrel. Productions from Brooks, Hi-Lo, Weekender, Shalark, Mille & Mr. Hirsch, and Swayzak (unfortunately, it's an album cut off Himawari) round out this unique collection of obscurities and semi-obscurities. As good as this disc is, another Playhouse-centric compilation remains in order.

blue highlight denotes track pick