Various – ch.electronique03 (Zap Music)

For a long time Switzerland has had an international reputation as a party land thanks to its street parties and free festivals – like Geneva’s ‘Lake Parade’, undoubtedly aided by the country’s comparatively relaxed drug laws. Until recently Swiss artists struggled to gain the same notoriety – but the Spezial Material label crew and DJ/vocalist Miss Kittin are now gaining world-wide recognition in the electronic community. This double CD from from Swiss label Zap Music aims to showcase Switzerland’s electronic artists and break some the stereotypes outsiders have of this progressive country.

This professional package puts many of the more widely recognised compilations to shame – the lush packaging and stylish artwork of this compilation is only matched by impeccably tight production of all the contained tracks. It also covers a vast amount of territory from minimal beatless ambience to more commercial dancefloor-oriented electro.

Who better to kick things off than Miss Kittin herself, this time appearing on a bouncy housey number by Golden Boy. This is not Miss Kittin’s finest lyrical performance ever but provides some necessary commercialism at the start of the compilation.

The rest of the first CD weaves its way through a variety of reasonably upbeat electro cuts – from Styro2000’s ‘Antique’, a brooding track full of chunky hypnotic beats and abstract string sounds – to Plastique de Rêve’s robotic electro input ‘Escape From Miami’. Supreme Psychedelic Underground’s ‘Gary’ will probably be responsible for starting a new sub-genre – glam rock electro, this is sure to be a hit in Hoxton. The same goes for Tekjam & Inzekt’s trendy moody slow electro track ‘Superblond’. The collection of electro tracks on this CD is surprisingly non-retro – the Swiss sound is defined as distinctly new-school, forward thinking and original.

The first CD also contains a couple of more commercial vocal tracks and finishes with ‘Caliphor’ a cute downtempo contribution from Bigeneric.

CD 2 starts off with Ianeq’s shameless attempt at an electronic take on uplifting house. Dictaphone’s quirky 2-step number ‘Locker’ brings it back on track with it’s crispy beats, bouncy noises and peculiar samples. ‘Tympan’, a slow, dark, minimal electro track by Batchas, deserves a mention for its fat synth bassline alone.

Towards the end of the second CD everything gets a lot more abstract – starting with the sweeping melody and thoughtful drum programming of Feldermelder’s ‘Deep Sellin’. Fugo use a dark synth line, mechanical vocal sample and industrial noises to create an impressively sinister track – ‘It’s Not The Only Problem’.

With its lush, full synth sounds, Person’s ‘Tacdovr’ is for me the standout track on the compilation – it’s melodic yet jarring, exquisite yet minimal and strikingly original. Normally appearing on the Spezial Material label, Person are, along with label mates Intricate, the superstars of Swiss electronica.

The compilation finishes with Steinbrüchel’s ‘+blau’ – a minimal pulsating track that tinkles and buzzes with unnerving high pitched crackles, a beautiful note to end on.

ch.electronique03 achieves what it sets out to exceptionally well, it will undoubtedly affirm Switzerland’s place in the international electronic community. Its only downfall is its diversity – although it contains some excellent material and there’s definitely something for everyone here, there’s perhaps too much of a contrast between the commercial and the abstract. This overshadows the music somewhat and doesn’t allow the gems on this compilation to shimmer as they deserve. However if you want to know more about the Swiss scene this is an excellent place to start.

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10 September 2003

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