Club Nation America, the latest compilation from Ultra Records, combines the talents of superstar DJs Johnny Vicious of NYC and the United Kingdom's own Tall Paul to form a transatlantic sound so global it effortlessly stirs together tribal, house, and trance. With an unmistakable European vibe, the double-CD set blends the airy, almost orchestral vocal styles of Vicious with the Tall one's penchant for underground house and big-name remixes.
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Vicious strays a bit from his hard Manhattan roots and spins a side full of estrogen, oxygen, and delicate electronica. From the opening salvo, a sedative take on Sarah McLachlan's "Silence," Vicious sets the respiratory pace with bubbling sub-bass and synth-strikes that escalate swirling vocals into soaring electronic bridges. Even when his tracks are a bit hand-held in progression (DJ Darkzone's "Watching You"), Vicious is still spooky enough to keep from becoming radio fodder. Borrowing from eclectic sources (Paul Van Dyke and Duran Duran), Vicious delivers a spiritual take on trance that is mellow without lapsing into a hypnotic state induced by steady BPMs. While "Ordinary World" may have worn out its welcome, Vicious the familiar becomes uncanny at the peak of his set when he slides into SuReal's splendid anthem "You Take My Breath Away." Pumping and contagious, Vicious proves his versatility with a careful blend of pop vocals and house beats to create a track that is as enjoyable as it is accessible.
One of Britain's best exports, DJ Tall Paul burns through the wax on side two. The Gatecrasher/Cream veteran rotates a nearly flawless jaunt through the best of club land and even has time to remix established masters Moby (a clever take on "South Side") and Fatboy Slim ("Star 69" on overdrive). From the techno-perfecto mix of Durango-95's "Lectronik" and the religiouslike fervor created on Chocolate's Puma's tribal chant-along "I Want to Be You," Paul demonstrates why DJs abhor the categorization of their sounds. With liquid dexterity Paul's set ebbs and flows through every one of house music's fragments. But he proves mortal during "Free at Last," where the dubbed speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., doesn't so much inspire as smack of sacrilege. There's a fine arbitrary line in the remix field between fair game and "leave it alone." Thankfully Paul hits the mark often enough for us to forgive the occasional miss.