VARIOUS ARTISTS Cream Separates The Collection (Deconstruction)

Hmmm. Mix albums. Only in the cult-of-personality-free world of dance music could DJs become more famous than the artists whose music they play. Consider the evidence, in the form of this latest compilation from the premier Liverpool club and logo Cream: weighing in at over three hours, featuring sets by Darren Emerson, Deep Dish, Les Ryder and Paul Bleasdale, and admittedly stunningly packaged (three hinged cardboard slipcases hold the CDs, which hinge out from an outer cover emblazoned with that logo) "Cream Separates" is nonetheless an album of blokes playing records. Whether you’re supposed to marvel at their platter-wielding beat-matching dexterity or be wowed by their eclectic choice of tunes I dunno, but essentially I find this an essentially pointless exercise: it’s dinner party background music for the violently fashionable, the kind of fit-and-forget plug-and-play soundscape that reduces what are probably quite good tunes when heard in isolation into mere bricks in an easy-listening, toe-tapping, cocktail-sipping vista, where music takes second place to mood.

The irony is that, when this mixing malachi is done really well, it can be devastating: I have a copy of a copy of something that a friend recorded off Kiss FM at about two in the morning: all I know about it is what was written on the tape, i.e. "Banging shameless techno squidge - Adrian from Artlab", Artlab apparently being a Preston-based DJ collective. Apart from the first few minutes which are identifiably from Jean-Michel Jarre’s "Ethnicolor", and one break which, thanks to "Cream Separates" I now know is shared with Mantronix’s "King Of The Beats", the source of the remainder regrettably remains a mystery. Essentially, just like the release under discussion, it’s a bloke playing records, but compared to "Cream Separates" it’s like some kind of end-of-the-century dancefloor apocalypse. Much as I’d like to enjoy "Cream Separates", to me it’s merely an example of style and packaging (the three CDs are available separately, hence the title) appearing victorious over content.