James Lavelle Romania #26

[Global Underground; 2004]

Styles: breakbeat, tech house
Others: U.N.K.L.E., Layo & Bushwacka, Sasha, John Digweed

Here's a tip: Never measure yourself against James Lavelle. It's something I have done on occasion and I normally end up feeling pretty dispirited. This guy is roughly the same age as me and has lived a life many people would love to have emulated. After working in a record shop, Lavelle ran Mo' Wax Records, which was arguably the coolest record label on the planet at one time. He presided over the release of a slew of great tunes, traveled the world accumulating famous mates (The Beasties, Shadow, et al), and formed U.N.K.L.E. to get his own creative juices flowing, earning a fistful of dollars in the process. Not bad going.

As Mo' Wax lies practically dormant, Lavelle has focused on DJing and his musical output with the men from U.N.K.L.E. He manages to combine the two on this double album mix by including no fewer than eleven U.N.K.L.E.-related tunes, which could be viewed either as gratuitous self-promotion or an effort to give a common grounding to his record selection. The driving force here is not hip-hop though, as it was for Lavelle in the Mo' Wax days, but breakbeat and tech house. It is this more upbeat, club-oriented sound which has got Lavelle excited recently, as evidenced by his residency at London superclub Fabric.

He starts his mix with an absolute stormer, the U.N.K.L.E. reconfiguration of Queen of the Stone Age's "No One Knows," my favorite remix of last year. This tune is absolutely colossal, retaining all the energy, excitement, and tension of the original whilst managing to sound completely different. This is no mean feat when so many remixers are happy to stick the beat-du-jour underneath a vocal. Starting with this track is a mistake in my view, as nothing else on the first CD is as good; decent efforts by DJ Shadow, PFN, and M83 are lost amidst some fairly anonymous tech house fodder. Furthermore, the sequencing and mixing is jarring at times — this kind of album should build and flow. The second CD starts in dark fashion with "Ask Yourself" by Hawtin's Plastikman guise and has a better flow to it, but it just doesn't work on the stereo like it probably would in a club.

The Global Underground Series is one of a plethora of DJ mix collections weighing down the racks of a record shop near you. The USP here is the changing locations of the recordings, this one being taped at the Studio Martin club in Bucharest. The packaging is beautiful, the glossy booklet bringing back some personal memories of a three-month stint in Romania last year. It's a good read, the interviews with local clubbers and DJs stirring testimony to the fact that dance music is still changing lives around the world. One of the great things about clubbing is that at its purest it really is all about the music; the cult of the personality has to take a backseat. Mr Lavelle may be an overlord of cool, but this mix just doesn't stand out from the pack. Perhaps he is fallible after all; I feel better already.


1. Beauty And…Intro
2. Queens of the Stone Age - No One Knows (U.N.K.L.E. Reconstruction)
3. U.N.K.L.E. - In A State
4. PFN - Flow (False Prophet Mix)
5. U.N.K.L.E. - Eye for an Eye (Silencer Mix)
6. Meat Katie - K Hole
7. U.N.K.L.E. - Have You Passed Through This Night Before (Eye For An Eye U.N.K.L.E. Variation)
8. DJ Shadow featuring Roots Manuva - GDMFSOB (U.N.K.L.E. Uncensored)
9. U.N.K.L.E. - Reign
10. Meat Katie & Elite Force - Ju-Ju
11. Meat Katie & Dylan Rhymes - Dita Beater
12. Santos - Sabot (Evil 9 Mix)
13. South - Colours in Waves (U.N.K.L.E. Reconstruction)
14. M83 - Run Into Flowers (U.N.K.L.E. Reprise)
15. C'hantel - The Realm (Accapella)

1. Plastikman - Ask Yourself (U.N.K.L.E. Edit)
2. Scumdolly - Making Ends Meet
3. U.N.K.L.E. - Invasion (Medway vs Eva Coast to Coast Mix)
4. Peace Division - No More Subliminal Shit
5. Meat Katie & Lee Combs - Import
6. Meat Katie & Elite Force - Slagg
7. Ultima - Don't Funk
8. Pepe Bradock - 4
9. Chemical Brothers ft The Flaming Lips - Golden Path (Ewan's Rave Hell Dub)
10. Fred Numf vs Five Point 0 - Hong Kong Junkie (Medway Remix)
11. Alex Dolby - Psiko Garden (Sasha Re-edit)
12. U.N.K.L.E. - In A State (Sasha Remix)
13. Derrick Carter - Where You At (Where Yaccapella)

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