Album Reviews

Darren Emerson / Magik Johnson – Underwater Episode V

(Underwater) UK release date: 31 July 2006

Darren Emerson / Magik Johnson - Underwater V Can you believe it’s half a decade since Darren Emerson moved on from Underworld? Well somehow it is, and if you look at the strides taken by his label in those five years it’s clear the DJ has been far from idle. In that time he’s enjoyed floor filling singles and albums from the likes of Tim Deluxe and Sharam Jey, as well as going down a storm in Ibiza alongside Erick Morillo and Pete Tong.

Emerson it is who takes to the wheels of steel for the opening disc in Underwater’s fifth episode, but he sounds surprisingly sober in the string-based intro and the cool How Ya Doin from Beckster that follows. This proves to be a bit of a ruse though, as it doesn’t take long before he’s pulling more substantial party tunes out of his box. D Ramirez in particular looks like a good find, but perhaps even more so Ynau, whose A Tribute To Mark Spoon is a bouncy track with a cutting edge bassline.

Emerson looks in the direction of the White Isle a few times, most notably for Oded Peled‘s Hypnolove, where a finely crafted keyboard riff does the business, before showcasing another new Underwater talent in Joel Mull. Magik Johnson (no connection to the basketball player!) is up next, and his set also takes a while to bed in. His own productions feature prominently, whether in the distinctive riff that dominates Jump or in the punky I Give Up, which is a standout track but whose vocal admittedly won’t be to all tastes.

The only thing that seems to be lacking in his set is a bona fide hands in the air moment, and that becomes all too obvious when the first potential one arrives through Tom Middleton‘s remix of the massive Kerri Chandler anthem Bar A Thym. This isn’t quite as barnstorming as the original, but has a spring in its step nonetheless.

What’s abundantly clear here though is that Darren Emerson’s eye for talent remains, both in producers and DJs, and it’s a measure of Underwater’s success so far to say that this compilation has now become an integral part of the clubbing calendar. One to play on the plane to the Med.

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More on Darren Emerson
Darren Emerson: “The DJ has become a bit like a pop star. Some people are enjoying the pop star bit more than others” – Interview
Darren Emerson / Magik Johnson – Underwater Episode V
Darren Emerson / Paul Jackson – Underwater Episode III
Darren Emerson / Mutiny – Underwater Episode 2
Darren Emerson / Tim Deluxe – Underwater Episode 1