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  • Filed under: Review
  • 11/29/2012

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Various Artists Ouroboros

In mythology and religion, the ouroboros—a depiction of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail—represents a number of things, notably unity and the idea of self-reflexivity. However, this ancient symbol is perhaps best known for its connotations of cyclicality, or, more specifically, the idea that something is constantly evolving and recreating itself. That's exactly what Lazer Sword's Low Limit wanted to convey when he curated Ouroboros, a 10-track compilation of artists united by what the album's press materials refer to as, "an appreciation for both old and new incarnations of dance music" and dropped via the LA-based Innovative Leisure label.

The compilation boasts a litany of "name" producers from across North America, like Machinedrum and Braille (both halves of Sepalcure), along with a slew of up-and-coming tunesmiths such as Obey City and Clicks & Whistles. As such, Ouroboros represents nearly every major geographical area of North America, and its 10 tracks are as sonically diverse as the handful of artists who put them together. The reverence for "old and new incarnations of dance music" is definitely present; the cuts span across a wide breadth of genres that includes skittering garage, blissed-out house, and just about everything in between. Background Sound's solid opening number, "Speak Easy," has its feet firmly planted in garage territory, as its swinging beat, ethereal synths, and ghostly samples can attest. Icee Hot co-founder and San Francisco resident Ghosts on Tape offers "Sex Chat," a techno-tinged, back-to-basics stomper featuring a infectiously funky synth bassline.

But as fun as these tracks are, the compilation's most exciting moments arguably lie in the six-track stretch from HxdB & Self Evident's "Cloud Turtle" to Obey City's "Nightmare Cafe," which also includes (in order) back-to-back offerings by both members of Sepalcure and a one-two combo from Clicks & Whistles and LA's Sweatson Klank (formerly known as Take). These producers don't seem afraid to let loose and stray from more conventional electronic-music templates; the highly dancefloor-friendly "Cloud Turtle" almost steals the show, channeling UK funky with its tropical-sounding polyrhythms, grime-savvy gun samples, and a frenetic, wobbling lead. Machinedrum's "Whatnot" (which can be listened to and downloaded here) is set apart by wistful, ethereal samples and a snappy snare rhythm slightly reminiscent of the relentless break the prolific tunesmith previously used on "Fantastix." Operating on the other side of the spectrum, Braille takes a slightly more conventional and Sepalcure-esque approach for "En Route," blanketing a shuffling house rhythm with a thick veil of hazy synths and peppering it with what sounds like call-and-response soul samples.

These lush vibes are continued on North Carolina duo Clicks & Whistles' "Tomorrowland," a track replete with propulsive shakers, a slow, creeping rhythm, rich synth textures, and intense female vocal samples. Then there's LA's Sweatson Klank, whose spaced out, skittery "You & The Sky" sounds like a cross between futuristic R&B and slowed, stripped-down juke rhythms. Obey City's deceptively titled contribution, "Nightmare Cafe," is another highlight, a genre-bending number whose dreamy, ascendant synths and bass-heavy, clap-reliant beat place it among Ouroboros' punchiest cuts.

In the end, the compilation not only lives up to the reputations of those enlisted to participate in its creation, but also still manages to offer some unexpected treats, including the fact that the album's closing number, "Uppercut," is Low Limit's first solo production in nearly three years. Much like its mythical namesake, Ouroboros manages to bring itself full circle, even after spanning the breadth of a vast continent and an even wider musical landscape.

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