Various Artists

Ultra '80s Vs. Electro, Vol. 1

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The title of this nth installment in Ultra's series of timely double-disc mixes is a dicey one, because pitting the '80s against electro is similar to pitting the '70s against funk. The '80s in this case includes Grandmaster Flash, Kraftwerk, Tears for Fears (!), M/A/R/R/S, Laidback, and Gary Numan (an inferior mix of -- you guessed it -- "Cars"). The remainder of the 24 tracks is left to modern groups and producers, most of which help make up the gaggle of brash electro(iro)nic pop groups that hatched exponentially at the dawn of the 2000s. Only a handful of these groups have anything to do with -- let alone know about -- the original electro scene of the '80s. With rare exception, they're ironic descendants of danceable new wave and have little to do with blending funk and hip-hop with their synths and drum machines. At any rate, for all its misleading nature, Ultra '80s Vs. Electro, Vol. 1 is a decent mix that gives newcomers a good idea of what the revival (not revival) is all about. For every inspired transition (Chicago house vet Green Velvet's "Genedefekt" is tailor-made for a slip into Laidback's "White Horse," one of the few actual electro tracks here), there are a couple of ugly slams and track-to-track moves that just don't work. Going purely by content, some of the modern tracks are spectacular. A Tommy Sunshine mix of Bis' "The End Starts Today" has a mood you'll want to sink yourself into, plus an irresistible chorus. And Selway's "Digital Emotion" is a great cross between actual electro and the electronic body music spit out by '80s German groups like D.A.F. and forebears like Kraftwerk (it could actually pass as a remix of "Musique Non-Stop"). Those who want an immensely fun schooling on '80s electro would do well to pick up Thump's original Old School series and the four volumes of Tommy Boy's priceless Perfect Beats comps. This isn't the best entry into the new new wave, but it could be much worse.

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