Various Artists

Unknownwerks, Vol. 1

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Ever since the decline of house music and the ascendancy of international rave culture and the jungle juggernaut, the U.S. has pretty well lost its place as the home of cutting-edge dance music. That place has been ceded to England, where most of the most interesting dance music developments have taken place in the 1990s, and where the majority of electronic dance music's most respected artists (think of the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Goldie, etc.) come from. The New York-based Astralwerks label seems intent on changing that perception, though, and this compilation presents a pretty good argument for giving the current U.S. scene more credit than it may have deserved in the past. There are lots of different schools represented here, from the old-school funk of Le Pimp's "King of the Bad Groove" to the party-time big beat of SJP's "Hard Hit," and Shiverhead's punkier take on the same sound with "Ready 2 Rock." DJ Donovan resurrects an elegant but funky house groove on "Freon," while Agent Babylon brings in a swinging but minimalist flavor on "Liquid Loops." There aren't really any clunkers on the program, either. Very impressive.

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