Various Artists

Digital Empire, Vol. 3: Phuturism

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In the 1970s, K-Tel was considered the epitome of mainstream. Back then, the term "cutting edge" was never used in connection with K-Tel, which hipsters and collectors regarded as the label that sold compilations of Top 40 music to housewives at the local dime store. The 1990s, however, found K-Tel trying to acquire a hipper image and paying more attention to music's cutting edge -- if you had considered K-Tel square in the past, collections of heavy metal, hardcore rap, alternative rock, electronica, and underground rave music challenged your opinion of the label, making it clear that the K-Tel of the 1990s was much different from the K-Tel of the 1970s. Even if the label's 1990s compilations didn't always have the type of comprehensive, informative liner notes that a collector expected from Rhino -- a company that collectors have held in extremely high regard -- its choice of material seemed to be, in many cases, growing more adventurous. In the year 2000, dance music didn't get much more underground than Digital Empire 3: Phuturism. Focusing on such club styles as techno, trance, trip-hop, electronica, big beat, and acid house, this two-CD set often sounds like the soundtrack to a rave -- exactly what K-Tel was going for. None of these tunes by Wink, Leftfield, Grooverider, Kid Acid, and others have an actual song structure; Phuturism is about beats, mixes, and tracks, not songs or lyrics. Generally intriguing, if limited, Phuturism won't win over anyone who doesn't comprehend the rave subculture; but for those who are into raving -- or at least frequenting legal dance clubs that offer rave-like mixes -- it's a collection that's worth picking up.

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