Various Artists

Astralwerks New Music 2004

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Astralwerks is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the great labels of its generation, but maybe that should change -- an electronica-focused pseudo-indie owned by Virgin/EMI, its major-label ties no doubt contribute mightily to its marginal status in the hipster pantheon, but there's no denying the company has released some of the finest records of the last quarter century, with an impressively eclectic roster that includes Air, the Beta Band, the Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, and Fatboy Slim. This 16-song sampler spotlights both the range and quality of the Astralwerks stable, with teasers from then-upcoming releases including the Beta Band's Heroes to Zeros, Athlete's Vehicles & Animals, and the Concretes' self-titled debut. Unlike most label samplers, this one hangs together as a seamless listen, which is a tribute to the consistency of the Astralwerks brand.