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  • Filed under: Review
  • 03/20/2013

Various Artists Turbo Miami Lifestyle

In the years since its inception in the late '90s, Turbo has prided itself on a certain wildness. Take Proxy's grizzled rave landscapes, the desolate minimal tech-house of Jori Hulkkonen's "Enter The Fear: Who Will Be Slaughtered Next?," or the imploding modem fuzz of ZZT's "Lower State of Consciousness"—all are laced with equal measures of paranoia and adrenaline. Margaret Atwood once dubbed "survival" an essential theme in Canadian literature, and the Montreal-based label seems to feel similarly about its output, believing that desperation is a fitting topic for the dancefloor. Given that, the label's decision to trade such a richly established thematic history for deep V-necks and gold jewelry on its new Turbo Miami Lifestyle compilation may come across as puzzling. But even if the 11-track release isn't an act of meta self-referentiality, it's still enjoyable to see Turbo letting its hair (and its guard) down.

In fairness, the largest departure on Miami Lifestyle seems to be an embrace of stripped-down house sounds, which brings out the tranquil side of Locked Groove on "Keep Thorough." The cut originates as if it were leaking through the walls of a neighbor's apartment, driven by a bare-bones looped soul vocal that slowly collects itself with sharp pinpoint synth stabs and leaden drums. When a set of finger snaps and a cowbell enter the fray, it cements into a cohesive burner of a house track.

In a similarly light-hearted vein, Harvard Bass' offering pays dubious tribute to Rick Ross on "Cream" by transforming his gruff drawl into a cartoonish singsong. Fully fleshing out the ridiculousness of lines like "My top back / I'm circumcised," it taps into Green Velvet's jacking house ethos without becoming grating.

A surprising highlight is In Flagranti's remix of Borderline's "Make Me Crazy," which paints a flange-wrecked post-disco landscape full of unsettling breathy sighs and exhalations. But not every offering on the compilation hits home, such as DJ Sneak's revision of last year's smutty "Street Walker," which feels like more of an edit than a remix. While adding a thumping set of drums and letting the vocals spool out gives a good reminder of how catchy the pitched-down murmurs of the original are, Sneak's take is a bare-bones revision at best.

The danger of Miami Lifestyle embracing such a laid-back, sun-soaked vibe is that the music borders on forgettable at times. Shadow Dancer ekes out a mellow mood with the vocoder-laced "Day By Day," a track far more tame than the duo's previous material for Boys Noize Recordings. The song's relaxed maracas and slow, swirling synth line are calming, but not so memorable. Similarly, Phil Kieran's "Saturdays" flutters in and out on its dreamy Benoit & Sergio-style vocals and party background chatter, but it doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. On the other hand, Iron Galaxy's & Sexlife's "One Of Us" is notable for tactfully stretching a rising and falling organ around a palette of soft pads and lush horns. It's the kind of track that burrows deep into one's consciousness with repeat listens.

Seeing the reigned-in side of Turbo is both comforting and disconcerting. The relative ease with which these producers can compile subtle but powerful music to be blasted at pool parties is a testament to the entire roster's versatility and talent. Still, seeing Turbo in the 'Miami Lifestyle' feels like seeing a wild animal restrained at the circus—one can only imagine what would happen if it were to get loose.

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