Derek "The Bandit" Richardson (Read our latest interview with him) has been a staple of South Africa's dance scene since it's earliest beginnings in the mid 1990s. After a cutting his teeth as a producer on Alex Jay's breakfast show, Derek began DJing the 2-6 AM graveyard shift and playing his first club gigs. He was soon hosting SA radio's first ever dance show - Beat Nation, and playing major venues around the country. Since then he has cemented his reputation as one of South Africa's top DJs and has produced several best selling compilations. Compilations are easily the most abused class of album in the world of music (with the possible exception of polka). We're all sure we could do better, pick better songs and make a cooler CD. Of course most of the time we're just ignorant of the complexities of putting together a compilation, and anything we did would be a dog's breakfast compared to the professional offerings. But in the case of Derek The Bandit's Chill Out you don't think you could do better - you know you could. Hell, a half-blind sausage dog could do better. The Bandit's productions are usually top drawer, but he really seems to have dropped the ball on this one.The problem isn't the overall production or even the quality of the individual tracks - they are both good enough. The problem runs much deeper - the choices and arrangement of the tracks doesn't just lack all imagination - it is downright lazy. Who on earth needs another remix of Dido's "Here With Me"? Or Groove Armada's four year old hit "At the River"? Or "Lola's Theme" - the most over-played song of the year?
When you're making a compilation, your track choices and arrangement are all you have. Why on earth should anyone bother unless you can offer either a new take on the material, or an interesting mix, or preferably both? Chill Out offers neither and, what's worse, stretches its mediocrity over two CDs. The track arrangement seems to be utterly arbitrary, skipping wildly between different tempos and moods without any regard for rhythm.
Not that there aren't any good tracks - the listing reads like the who's who of commercial house. But even some of the better tracks are quite inappropriate for the collection. Jaydee's energetic "Plastic Dreams" isn't chill out material by anyone's standards, and neither is Royksopp's fantastic "Eple". And there are also plenty of downright bad choices. The droning ambient mix of IIO's "Smooth" sounds like it's been dipped in treacle and fed tranquilisers, as does the overlong mix of 1 Giant Leap's "All Alone".
The compilation does include some South African artists, which is a nice gesture, but even here the choices are highly suspect. A chill-out version of "Nkalakatha"? That's like a chill-out version of "Don't Stop Me Now"! It's always cool to hear Brenda Fassie and Arno Carstens - but both of them suffer under mixing desk. The down tempo mix of Fassie's "Sum Balala" is particularly bad, stripping all the verve out of its original.
Is it worth buying? Not particularly. There are far better chill-out compilations out there for the same money. If you're in the mood to support local talent rather get your hands on "Supa House" - at least it's got some fresh tunes.- Alistair Fairweather
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