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The Essential Chill Collection

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As the father of a 19-year-old girl in college (my half of winter tuition just went out a few days ago), a 16-year-old boy running in and out of the house (usually with a small harem of girls in tow), a sweet but VERY feisty 4-year-old girl who can’t decide if she’d rather be 10 or 1 and behaves accordingly, and a 4-week-old boy who finally caught the cold everyone else in the family has struggled through and already knows he wants to be held, PERIOD; AND as a guy trying to make a living as a writer, and – how’s this for incredible stupidity? – an Internet entrepreneur, I am in need of some serious chilling.

Fortunately, I picked up the outstanding Essential Chill Collection on Topaz Records for Christmas and have been icing my fevered brain ever since. And talk about value: seven, yes said seven, CDs in the box set for just $24.98, and unlike many other budget sets, this one comes with full documentation and production credits (other than the Chillhouse disc), links to websites, and a very high percentage of excellent downbeat, ambient, light drum and bass, light house, lounge, and other, generally European, gently pulsing delicacies.

I ask two questions when assessing the value of a large collection: 1) is there enough quality material to justify the price? In this case there are 92 total songs, of which I really like about 2/3, so at 27 cents each for all the songs, and 41 cents each for the very good songs, this is more than reasonable.

The other question I ask is, can I just put on any of the CDs and let them play without having to modify the order, eliminate songs, etc. – in other words, without having to utilize the flexibility that the digital revolution has enabled? Because let’s face it, I’m way too lazy and it takes way too much time and effort for me to have to do any of that. If I can’t just put the CD on and enjoy it as is, I just won’t put it on. I have neither the time nor the inclination to rip songs to MP3 or other digital format, or even to have to skip a song by hitting “forward” on my CD player, most especially when I am in chill-music mode, which is the most passive listening mode of all.

The answer to that long and convoluted question is also “yes” – of the seven discs, I can play six of them without getting too bugged, especially if I am concentrating pretty hard on something else – like filing CDs, which I have been doing for hours a day over the last couple of weeks.

Each CD has its own title (I believe most or all have been released individually), and two of my favorites are from the “electro living” series from Surge Recordings: Electrochill and Electroburn, which are sold as lifestyle enhancers. Chill is described as “smooth, provocative, modern, sophisticated, lifestyle” – hey I’m down with all that, and the songs fit the bill, especially the elegant nylon guitar strumming and pronounced backbeat of Bent’s “Cylons In Love,” Sinead O’Connor’s delicate, vulnerable vocals on Moby’s “Harbour,” Faithless’ lush, effusive “Evergreen,” “Air’s loungy classic “Playground Love,” Heather Nova’s extravagantly languid “Gloomy Sunday,” Jazzanova’s slice of eccentric exotica “Bohemian Sunset,” and Royksopp’s attenuated trip-hop “Sparks” (the songs originate from 1998-2002, with the majority originally released in 2000, which applies to the rest of the box set as well).

Burn is described as “lush, lyrical, futuristic, atmospheric, intense, lifestyle” – yeah buddy! The even stronger lineup of tunes includes Moby’s piquant “Flying Foxes,” Air’s Eno-esque “Sexy Boy,” the insect kingdom anthem “Dirge” by Death In Vegas, Underworld’s insistent, familiar, rubbery “Push Upstairs,” Supreme Beings of Leisure’s swooningly romantic jungle love song “Ain’t Got Nothin'” – the hits just keep on coming.

The Later package, from Audio Boutique, contains two CDs, both of which are sublime. It describes itself as “the pure instensity of chilled grooves and seductive rhymes. Later is the perfect late night selection for you and a freind. Listen, Love, Later.” I’m wiping the steam off my reading glasses. The seduction includes sinewy, sensual delights from Thievery Corporation, fat, fuzziest Underworld, smooth tintinnabulations from King of Woolworths, my beloved Saint Etienne, and a washed out, charmingly diffuse version of Peter Green’s “Albatross” by Chris Coco.

Disc 2 continues to tickle the libido with an ambient mix of the Pet Shop Boys’ elegiac “Home and Dry” (how unreasonably sweet is Neil Tennant’s lean nasality in the right setting, this is one of them), Roger Sanchez, Neon Heights’ indispensible, Moby-like “16 Again,” and the watery loveliness of the Bedtime Story mix of Language Lab’s “Burning Disaster.

Also very fine is the Carol C drum and bass mix disc; and the Chill Vol. 1 disc is in some ways most listenable of all, being essentially all instrumental with highlights from Organica, James Christian, We Are One, Sonny Cheeba, Delta 76, and Om.

The only disc I am not particularly inclined toward is Chillhouse, simply because I am less inclined toward house in general, and especially when I seek the ministrations of chill.

I can easily recommend The Essential Chill Collection for neophytes looking to take the plunge into electronic chill music, or afficionados who want a variety of great stuff all in one place – it has helped me keep a positive outlook on paying college tuition bills AND changing diapers. Now that’s a recommendation.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Johno

    Eric, considering the chaos that must reign in your home on a daily basis, I must urge you to– if you haven’t done so yet– to get a copy of Bebel Gilberto’s modern classic “Tanto Tiempo.” Talk about chillout music, and groovy bossa nova too!

  • http://www, Doug

    I’m afraid that you have a little catching up to do. Try the following 4 CD’s they will blow away any concepts you had that your chill music collection was doing the brain massaging that you require:
    1) Radar:Nothing is Real
    2) 1 Giant Leap
    3) Zero 7 Simple Things
    4) Later

    Below is a partial list of my CD collection by genre.


  • Eric Olsen

    Doug, very interesting database. this is simply a review of a specific collection, however, no claim to be the most up to date or advanced or anything else.

  • Jason

    Riiiight. I can recommend a lot better CDs and collections than THIS collection. I was extremely dissapointed in both the collection and the fact that I blew $30 on it without listening to it first.

  • Bob A. Booey

    You’re cooler than I thought, Olsen.

    I don’t particularly care for chill/downtempo dance music since I prefer my dance music somewhere above 130-135 BPM, but there are some good artists who make occasional chill records as well (Solar Stone being an example, or Roger Sanchez, Royskopp, or Faithless). I’ve really come to appreciate the greatness that was Underworld recently — I’m sure even those of you who aren’t hipsters remember their song “Born Slippy” from the airwaves or from Trainspotting.

    $25 for 7 CDs is a great deal — if there were something similar for trance or hard house, I’d be all over that.

    That is all.

  • Bob A. Booey

    Check out the group Chicane — you’d probably love their stuff. Not my taste in trance exactly, but they’re probably the most famous chill-out artists, especially their song “Saltwater.” Check out Solar Stone too — they do a lot of chill-out remixes and productions.

    It turns out there IS an Essential Trance Collection on Topaz Records — I just got it used for $10. 7 CDs. Not bad.

    That is all.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks BAB, as far as range of musical interests, please recall my 20 years of live DJing, including dozens of clubs.

    You can generally find a little bit older dance/electronic material packaged pretty cheaply, often on import – good used record stores usually have them or bargain places like Music For a Song (if it still exists) – a quick search shows that it does

  • Amy

    I know this post is super old! I actually stumbled across it while looking to RE buy the essential chill collection!! It is by far THE BEST collection i’ve ever purchased as far as overall good pricing and just ALOT of really great music!! Some of the songs here you would have to spend weeks searching for and downloading to even have a chance to find! Such as postal service, Pet shop boys etc… i mean the song selection!

    Anyways so many years later my cd’s have scattered from this collection and i find myself yearning for them!! Especially Electro chill and burn!! The best!!

    I highly recommend this collection to anybody!! This time i’m putting it on my computer and uploading to my IPOD! :)

  • Amy

    In any case Mr. Eric Olsen i believe your review is right on the money and very accurate! The guy “Jason” that says he wasted his money on the collection probably didn’t even really buy it! Because anyone who does and actually listens to it will fall in love!! In fact its great for romantic dreamy days… Or nice candlelit baths. Or just “chilling” out after a long day of work! I am not saying its the only good collection out there, but i am saying its top notch!!