Review of XL Chapter VI Album by Various Artists

Being cynical, you could make plenty of assumptions about 2015's "Best of" charts featuring returns for the likes of The Prodigy, Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers. All worthy choices they may be (Okay OKAY except that Prodigy which album was rubbish) but the inclusion of a number of boppers whose best samples are definitely behind them in the gong list pointed to a little stagnation in electronic music around it's edges. Sure, there's been plenty of interesting stuff this year, but much of it wasn't club music in any real sense. This compilation is a good example. The XL label has been around for long enough for it to be 20 years since the last edition of this series was released, a pedigree which suggests they know how to turn water into wine regularly enough. They claim that their "..DNA is made up of weird, outsider, two-fingers-up electronic records that crawl out of the concrete and onto wax", a hefty set of self props, but ones mostly proven here by the intriguing choices the compilers have made.

Various Artists XL Chapter VI Album

Firstly you've got to admire their refusal to pander to a specific niche, even in a genre riven by fragmental, insta-movements which germinate in closed forums and are over before you've even heard of them. Instead the selection here bravely spans all kinds of beats, times of night and vibes, looking backwards as well as into your next Friday night rave.

Let's also not forget one final thing: you need to be able to dance to this stuff - and this is where Chapter VI wins. Opener Special Request by Amnesia may sound other than it's odd garage bass flourishes like it was culled from a decades old previous release in the series, with it's spectral up front piano line, funky break and diva sample, but it's still midnight and on the money. Similarly bubbling with intent, MC Novelist rhymes over Mumdance's fuss-free bass lines on 1 sec like he believes it's all the time he's going to get to prove himself, whilst rLr's I Am Paint is fresh but weirdly alienated sounding dubstep filtered with jagged sample loops.

But we like weird as well, don't we? Weird's good, especially messed up weird that you don't really know how to move to, but you do it anyway. Here that mood is taken care of by the driving proto-industrial assault of Powell's Insomniac (Featuring appropriately a discombobulated Steve Albini) , but what do you get if you cross oddball with sweat covered and messed up? It's almost certainly Hugo Massien's All Night, razor sharp techno with a profane spoken word talk-in that's all about love for the deepest, darkest spaces of our minds. It's also the best thing here.

There's more to love though. It's not explained why Zomby gets to go twice, but he produces work from opposite sides of the spectrum here, the Eastern influenced, mechanistic urban skank of Slime in one corner, whilst the filmic Until The Last Star Falls From The Sky is made up of multiple, introverted layers of melody. All that would probably be good enough but house purists who may have been clinging to the wall all night get to go the ball too, Homepark's Forever Walking eight minutes plus of brain teasing high hats, builds and fills.

What the tone and substance of Chapter VI proves is something perhaps all those twentieth century heroes of ours already know but are scared to admit: that the past feels just as good when it's done right. Perhaps some more reminders of a blinder from them that sound a bit more like this might be better than trying to make us think they're still pioneers after all.