Since leaving Underworld, Darren Emerson has put plenty more into his DJ-ing and concentrated heavily on his Underwater label, recognised as one of the UK’s leading dance players. Underwater now has enough commercial clout to issue a compilation every summer, rounding up the label’s recent releases and providing a soundtrack of house music for the holiday season.
The third instalment sees no reason to change a winning formula, so Emerson takes the lead for one CD and the mixing duties for the second fall to his labelmate Paul Jackson. In terms of BPM, Emerson seems to have slowed down a bit compared to mixes such as the one he did for Global Underground in 2000, and Episode 3 chugs along at a regulation house tempo. That’s not to dismiss his efforts as routine, for they are anything but, with the success of the Underwater nights in Ibiza showing just how good this man is at starting a party.
Emerson’s mix of the Gus Gus anthem David is pretty damn hot, while the Pnau track In The Valley hits a reassuringly funky bass groove. Emerson’s own That’s The Trouble typifies a minimal central section, with Greg Churchill contributing no fewer than three tracks. Rude Rkade‘s Beautiful will raise a few eyebrows, with the observation “you used to be so beautiful, now you look like shit!” Charming!
Emerson closes with a heavyweight trio, with Tim Deluxe‘s Choose Something Like A Star, one of the best tracks from last year’s debut album, then Sharam Jey‘s 4 Da Lovers and Mutiny‘s Lucky, with vocals from house veteran Robert Owens.
Paul Jackson gets CD2 off on a brooding note, the boom of the bass on his own Blockbuster leading in to Chicken Lips’ rocking Do It Proper. The inclusion of Cohen vs Deluxe is a shame, as it means the vocals to Deluxe’s It Just Won’t Do crop up again – a fine track, but one that’s now been done to death.
Agoria gets us back on track immediately though, Le Onzieme Marche remixed rather well by Phil Kieran, then it’s Jackson again with Rock n Roll, complete with an excellent build-up. Closing with Funk D’Void‘s arm raiser Emotional Content, it’s a satisfying mix from Jackson, if darker and less vocal based than Emerson’s.
So Underwater score a hat-trick of comps, and it would seem there’s a lot of talent bubbling near the surface, thanks to the A&R skills of Mr Emerson and co. As long as they keep looking to build on their established hits they should do just fine.