Cheap Thrills, Vol. 1

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Beneath the suitably massive, trashy-looking, superhero-sized letters of the title -- which create the somewhat misleading if perhaps not unintentional impression of a disposable mass-market club comp -- Cheap Thrills, Vol. 1 promises to provide "The Sound of the U.K.'s Leading Dance Label: A Mix of Ghetto Bass, House, Dubstep, Electro, B-More Club and Bassline." The accuracy of the first claim may be up for debate, but there's no question that this compilation is every bit as wide-ranging, heavy-hitting, and fist-poundingly, well, thrilling as advertised. Offering no shortage of sirens, fidgety electro breaks, and gloriously corny vocal interludes, and veering wildly (sometimes within a single track) from the grittiest, rawest throbbing dubstep bass to the glossiest, unabashedly poppy stadium-trance synths with no regard for the niceties of subgenre demarcations, the only constant among these tracks -- apart from their compulsive, beats-forward danceability -- is their utter lack of restraint. It's an approach to dance music that's been sorely underexploited since the big beat heyday of the late '90s, and the lack of subtlety here is marvelously refreshing, particularly since it never comes at the expense of accessibility and tunefulness. Effectively a showcase for the imprint of the same name headed up by DJ/producer Joshua Harvey (aka Hervé, the Count, Action Man, Speaker Junk, etc., etc.), who has his hand as producer, remixer, or otherwise in nearly half of these tracks, Cheap Thrills is culled from the label's first two years (2008-2009) of output, with eight additional exclusive cuts thrown in. Only ten tracks overlap (sometimes in remixed form) between the two discs (the first is unmixed, the second a relentlessly high-energy DJ mix by Hervé -- obviously each has its place and purpose, but the mix is unquestionably the best way to experience this material), which means there are a generous 25 distinct tracks included across the 35 cuts. The quality remains impressively high throughout (though even the considerable variety may not stave off listener fatigue over two-plus hours of both discs), but definite standouts include Fake Blood's bouncy, pouncy "Fix Your Accent," Jack Beats' cannily deployed dubstep wobbles on both "U.F.O." and "Labyrinth," the pounding filter-house of His Majesty André's "Puppets," and the cartoonish "tribal" drums and incessant builds of Hervé and Jack Beats' "Rainstick."

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