Various Artists

Samba Sunset

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Nettwerk America had released more than its fair share of dance-themed CDs over the years, but it'd never really ventured far into Latin territory despite the overabundance of danceable Latin music out there and the steadily rising popularity of it throughout urban America. So Samba Sunset arrived as both a surprise and not so much of one -- more surprising for its source than its substance, you could say: the label that had brought you a wealth of high-adrenaline trance music a few years prior now brings you a laid-back mix of samba-styled sunset music. Curious how those tides of music commerce rise and fall, huh? In any event, Samba Sunset arrived as a mighty welcome surprise, especially for those music lovers in North America with a taste for Brazilian-style music. Know first, however, that very little of the music on Samba Sunset is pure samba and very little of it is purely Brazilian; it's mainly of North American, European, and Japanese origin and is mainly downtempo music propelled by samba and bossa nova rhythms and motifs. What matters most, of course, is the music itself, and there are some downright beautiful tracks here, especially toward the end of the disc (from Byron Stingily's "Flying High" on is blissful). If this latter half of Samba Sunset doesn't make you dream of a breezy evening on a quiet beach with only your lover, a blanket, and this lively disc (maybe a bottle of rum too) to keep you warm -- or perhaps even inspire you to plan such an endeavor -- nothing will. That doesn't mean it's unequivocally excellent, however. DJ Ray Velasquez's track selection is seldom amiss, but the mixing is far from seamless, largely a result of the slightly diverse range of selections and also the result of stiff Pro Tools-style crossfades rather than smooth DJ-style beat-matching. And beside that, the disc meanders a bit until you reach the aforementioned Byron Stingily track, which is the first of two perfect Masters at Work inclusions (the other being Louie Vega's "Mozalounge"). If you don't mind some jarring transitions and a slow start, and you enjoy non-Brazilian Brazilian music with an electronic edge, Samba Sunset makes for a marvelous listen and is sure to inspire beachy fantasies.

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