Various Artists

Wired Magazine Presents: Music Futurists

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Covering 38 years, Music Futurists is a compilation of tracks from pop artists "on the cutting edge of technology in music," according to the liner notes. That premise would probably make a great multi-disc box set. As a single-disc, 15-track release, though, Music Futurists runs into conceptual trouble despite having more than enough to recommend it. Arranged chronologically, these 15 songs move from space age bachelor Esquivel to avant-garde trumpeter Ben Neill. The commonalities linking the selections are deliberately obscure, and that's fine. Some of the inclusions, however, have to be questioned. No doubt Devo belongs here, for example, but why the relatively uneventful "Beautiful World" instead of one of the songs from Q: Are We Not Men? Godley & Creme's "Cry" is a sublime pop moment, but how much more innovative was it from other select Top 40 songs that came before? Most mysterious is the inclusion of Beck's "Total Soul Future (Eat It)." With the already rich backlog of work Beck had by this album's 1999 release, the appearance of this very short song feels arbitrary, as if the compilers needed to attach a bigger, contemporary name to the project. Ignore the concept, though, and this music takes subtle and entrancing effect. Better-known innovators like Todd Rundgren and Brian Eno refine their reputations by being heard side by side with less heralded heroes like composer Steve Reich and the painfully underappreciated German experimentalists Can. Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" is a turning point that's good to hear wherever it shows up. Wired Magazine wanted to make both a historical artifact and a great mix tape with this album. They've at least made the latter, but it's begging for a lot of sequels.

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