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.