BREAKING NEWS - Chillout has officially been pronounced dead. The eight and a half year old music genre was found lying face down in the bargain bin at Dippy Dave's DVD and Music Warehouse in Wolverhampton. Cause of death appears to be a sudden attack of complete irrelevance.
All jokes aside, Chillout Session is the kind of compilation that calls the whole idea that "chillout" really exists as a genre into question. Like the equally awful Derek The Bandit's Chill Out this double CD set is a collection of lazy convenience (convenience for the marketers that is, not the listeners). Fully two thirds of the tracks are either old (as in four years and 50 other compilations old), outside of the genre (such as it is) or just plain bad.
Of particular concern are the inclusion of tracks like Baz's "Neverending Story" and Polly Paulusma's "Mea Culpe". There's nothing wrong with the songs themselves - both are very nice, melodic pieces of acoustic guitar driven adult contemporary. The question is, what are they doing on an album that claims to be "a gathering of relaxed beats and chilled out house"? If these are "chillout" then what, in all the vast array of down tempo music on the planet, is not chillout? And these are not the only questionable choices. At least six of the tracks wouldn't be at all out of place on a Katie Melua / Joss Stone driven songbird compilation.
Then there are the not so golden oldies. Pop quiz time! What do Groove Armada's "At The River", The Avalanches' "Since I Left You" and I Monster's "Daydream in Blue" all have in common? They were all on Ministry of Sound UK's 2001 album entitled (surprise surprise) The Chillout Session 2. Sure they're all nice tracks, but come on people, 2001! If chillout is thriving, where is the new material? At least they didn't include Dido's "Here With Me". Oh wait, better not give anyone ideas.
As for the handful of new material the album has to offer, most of it is mediocre if not downright bad. "If I Ever Recover" is one of Basement Jaxx's weakest tracks and should never have been chosen to open the first CD. Heather Nova's limp and insipid "Aquamarine" is more pass-out than chillout and "Summer Isle" by St. Ettiene is so boring it actually hurts. Sola System's "Underworld" on the other hand brings new meaning to the phrase "overproduced pretentious rubbish".
But why would a quality label like Ministry of Sound put their name to something like this? That's the trick - they didn't. Chillout Session is, as far as we can tell, a South African only affair. Ministry of Sound UK haven't released a chillout album since 2003 - which is about a decade in dance music time.
Of course there are a few tracks that are both new and good - in 38 tracks it would be hard not to include a few decent tunes, even if only by accident. Mylo's "Valley of the Dolls" is an example of the kind of finely tooled and beautifully balanced piece of artistry that fills his whole debut album. After a shaky start Nitin Sawhney's "Sunset" grows into a warm, calm and multilayered tune that is worthy of the label "chillout". Michael Andrews' haunting ballad "Mad World" may be both old and out of place, but it has lost none of its power to produce goose bumps.
Is this album worth buying? Not if your life depended on it. You could literally throw away the entire second CD and not be at all worse off. All the good stuff has been or will be featured on other, better compilations. If you're looking for interesting new dance music, rather try Mylo's Destroy Rock and Roll - You won't be disappointed
- Alistair Fairweather
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