Various Artists Future Foundations

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If London's 2nd Drop label intended to make a definitive stamp of its own sonic identity with the Future Foundations compilation, it has fallen a bit short of its goal. However, it seems more likely that the eight-track collection—available as three separate 12"s (Foundation 1, 2, and 3) or as a complete package—is simply meant to celebrate the label's fifth year in existence while also highlighting the talented company that it keeps. With that objective, Future Foundations is much more of a success.

Not surprisingly, the more familiar names on the compilation deliver some of the record's strongest offerings. South London Ordnance turns in a characteristically strong-armed, but still atmospheric, bit of techno on "Daphne," while London outfit LV similarly stays within its comfort zone on "Livin' Up," which enlists vocalist Dan Bowskill to lead the trio's sparse but soul-rich production; the track even manages to cleverly work in what sounds like a live horn section. On "Without You," Last Magpie infuses his propensity for garage rhythms with a bit of a dub touch, and the sudbued shuffle of Youandewan's "Faith" surely makes for one of Future Foundations' highlights, although its nine-plus-minute run is a bit indulgent.

Of the tracks credited to less familiar outfits on Future Foundations, one in particular sticks out. Early on, Pedestrian takes the compilation on a welcome sidetrack into more subterranan depths with "Sliding Down Rainbows," a track that swings chunky drums around a jumpy bassline and a few understated chords. The remaining contributors—Alex Coltoun, Djrum, and Manni Dee (who collaborates with Deft on the footwork- and UK hardcore-inspired "This One, Art of the Possible")—certainly don't disappoint, but they also don't quite manage to stick out from the (admittedly talented) crowd.

Future Foundations appears to make no attempt to offer a cohesive vision of the label's sound or aims, making it more just a simple collection of quality tunes than a release that affixes the label a specific sonic direction. Still, 2nd Drop's five years of work no doubt helped to shape this collection into what it is—a record which reaffirms that the label responsible for giving early shine to artists such as Ramadanman, Gerry Read, and South London Ordnance still has its finger on the pulse of the UK underground.