Freemasons

Shakedown, Vol. 2

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Having transformed the art of commercial remixing through their debut album Shakedown, Brighton duo Russell Small and James Wiltshire, aka Freemasons, return with another set of dancefloor anthems which yet again highlights their infallible Midas touch. Like its predecessor, Shakedown, Vol. 2 is a collection of nu-disco reworkings of pop and R&B songs, old and new (Eurythmics' "Here Comes the Rain Again," Beyoncé's "Ring the Alarm"), interspersed with their own self-penned compositions. Whereas remixes of chart hits tend to strip away their best attributes, often leaving just a generic four-to-the -floor beat, repetitive basslines, and snatches of vocals, Freemasons treat the source material with respect by keeping the melodies and lyrics intact, and instead adding new hooks, inventive genre-hopping musical touches, and a beefed-up production which can turn even the most pedestrian song into an anthemic floor-filler. Indeed, so successful are they at adapting other artists' work, that their versions are often promoted as the main single, such as their bhangra-infused remix of Kelly Rowland's raunchy R&B number, "Work" and their euphoric synth bass-led interpretation of Kylie Minogue's "The One," two of the highlights on this impressive, seamlessly mixed collection. Alongside remixes of tracks from contemporary dance acts Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and Justice, there are also bold attempts at reinventing classic tunes from New Order ("Blue Monday"), Ultra Naté ("Free"), and Coldcut and Lisa Stansfield ("People Hold On"), all of which ramp up the pounding rhythms, pulsating basslines, and stabbed strings without ever detracting from the original. The eight Freemasons recordings also blend in effortlessly with the more familiar material, with their haunting vocal house cover of Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited," the frenetic disco strings of their Sophie Ellis-Bextor collaboration "Heartbreak Make Me a Dancer," and their Tina Turner/Jackie Moore mash-up "Love on My Mind" just as dynamic and infectious as their remixes. The relentlessly uptempo nature of the album can wear a little thin, particularly toward the end of the album's generous 28 tracks, but for fans of funky house, Shakedown, Vol. 2 is perhaps the most essential compilation of the year.

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