VARIOUS Essential Underground House 'N' Garage (Ration-L)

I'm going to take issue with the title of this double CD straight away, because although it might foster the impression of being a carefully selected summary of what is happening in the genres of house and garage the entire 37 tracks stem from the minds of a mere two people. CD1 "is a special project that showcases the talent of the versatile Jules from Blam! Productions", i.e. he wrote and produced all of it. CD2 is a "bonus X-ERT Sound Systems compilation featuring contributions from Tayce, Rapino Brothers, Utah Saints, D.J. Culture, Quad, Jack 2 Jack and many more". With the exception of Rapino Brothers and Utah Saints, who both show up for remixing duties, all these people, as well as D.J. Zeus, Nightword, D.J. Aries, Mikey Davenport, Wicked Wayne, Taskmasters, D.J. Harry, D.V.S., Caroline Coupe and Jerry Langman, whose work also populates the second CD, are guided by the writing and production talents of one Mike Bennett. (Whether or not this is the Mike Bennett who has produced a handful of Fall albums I cannot tell you.) Decide for yourself whether this makes the contents 'essential' or not.

After vanity project hype like that I almost feel duty bound to be nasty about the music itself, but to be perfectly frank it's barely worth the effort. A friend described it as 'shopping music', and sure enough all you need whilst listening to this is to pressgang a crowd of random strangers into rifling through your wardrobe to replicate the entire Saturday afternoon trapped in Top Shop experience. Having said that I have been spinning "Essential Underground House 'N' Garage" surprisingly frequently because, as utility music, it slides past quite merrily without imposing itself too weightily in the listener's consciousness. (Which also makes it darn hard to review, incidentally.) If Eno ever made a "Music For Clothes Shops" album it might sound like this. Don't say you weren't warned.