Various Artists

Have You Ever Loved?

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Although five songs may not seem like a lot, Have You Ever Loved? manages to cover an immense spectrum of sound in that time frame. Featuring artists from across Europe, the compilation focuses on techno-driven acts, though there are plenty of guitars, and it does a fine job of displaying the diversity of the genre in the process. Album opener and clear highlight "Sandstorm" finds the U.K.'s Transfiguration pairing up with vocalist Roger Quigley to produce a chilling slice of noir-ish electronica. Built around a simple drum groove, the song is accentuated with a haunting riff that sends chills up the spine, rather like the icy refrain of Dido's uncharacteristically interesting turn "Here With Me." Quigley's vocals happily call to mind Underworld's Karl Hyde, making the song a gorgeous soundtrack to a spy-inhabited foggy street. For his bit, a sly ode to pop stardom, Sweden's Chocolate Barry uses guitars that sound straight out of a Nuggets boxset alongside sassy vintage organs, horns, and coolly spoken vocals that will sound great through the speakers of your Austin Powers-style ride. Hyplar conjures images of a post-Prozac Portishead, but without the benefit of Beth Gibbons' torchy vocals, while Arthur et Jorge's "Concierto Musical de la Tarde," with its reverby radar bleeps and assorted gizmos, comes across like a bedroom-produced Man or AstroMan? dance record. "Hey! It's a Beautiful Day" (no relation to a similarly titled U2 song) ends the record on a perfectly dreamy retro-pop note, as the Space vs. Whitetown vs. the 1960s groove of the Cherry Orchard serves strings and horns that spring up like flowers through shag carpet and is complete with a delicious boy/girl "ba de baba" chorus. Have You Ever Loved? should serve to whet listeners' appetites enough to inspire them to seek out the full lengths from the artists featured, which is what a great compilation record is supposed to do. It may even convert those who thought all electronica had to offer was soulless, preprogrammed tripe.

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