Various Artists

Café Après-midi: él for Café Après-midi

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An outgrowth of the heralded Cherry Red label -- already feted with its own Café Après-midi retrospective -- Mike Alway's él Records defined Baroque pop during the 1980s, building an arch, Eurocentric catalog that found its greatest appreciation among Japanese listeners. One of them no doubt was Toru Hashimoto, the mastermind behind the Café Après-midi series, who brings to the 27-song él for Café Après-midi collection his usual flair for cutting and pasting together compilations that are seamless evocations of their unique time and place. In documenting the pillars of the él sound -- a witty, elegant blend of soft pop, easy listening, and fern-bar jazz -- Hashimoto manages his usual balance between cult classics and outright obscurities, giving equal notice to él's biggest "stars" (Momus, Louis Philippe, and the Would-Be-Goods, most notably) and long-forgotten one-shots (e.g., the Cavaliers and Caprice). Here's hoping Hashimoto tackles Sarah Records next.