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17 years ago, Global Underground and John Digweed gave us one of the best dance music compilations ever recorded, a dark, broody and intense collection of tunes, masterfully selected and mixed by the #1 DJ in the world, that remains timeless to this day. One would never have suspected such a DJ session could be born in glitzy Los Angeles, but it did, and the best thing about it is we can still listen to and enjoy it like it was released yesterday.
It was 2001 and John Digweed was riding high, thanks to the #1 DJ spot awarded him by Mixmag, as well as to his stellar trajectory as resident DJ in legendary clubs like Renaissance in London and Twilo in New York, his international performances around the world, and to his DJ mix compilations, among them the acclaimed ‘Northern Exposure’ series, compiled and mixed alongside his long-time friend and peer Alexander Coe, better known as Sasha. He was also featured in the 2000 film ‘Groove‘ as himself, providing the music for the film (together with Nick Muir) under the Bedrock name, appearing as well in the ‘Trainspotting‘ soundtrack with their hit ‘For What You Dream Of‘.
Global Underground and Digweed were connected since early in the series, previously releasing sets in GU006 Sidney (1998) and GU014 Hong Kong (1999), helping to give the mix collection a high profile among electronic music enthusiasts and cementing his reputation as one of the best DJs at the turn of the millennium. His epic, progressive style had become a trademark, and everyone expected to be blown away by one of Digweed’s sets, something he invariably achieved.
So, the stage was set in 2001 for his next Global Underground compilation, which turned out to be, in my opinion, one of the best in the series as well as in the artist’s discography. Los Angeles was the setting, which seemed fitting considering the more exotic locations of his previous contributions, a return to the glittering cities of the west, after leaving his mark on two big, also glittering, cities on the other side of the world.
Digweed’s unmistakable touch is palpable throughout the two-CD set, dominated by dark, techy and tribal grooves, with some progressive winks and flourishes. It’s a forward-looking set that sounds fresh to this day, a deep, intricate patchwork of sound, at times spacey (a feeling further accentuated by audio samples from what sound like transmissions from the Apollo missions), percussive on others, taking listeners on an uninterrupted, flowing journey. Tunes melt and transform into each other, all sharing a dark, echoing sound that makes this set feel larger than life.
Disc one opens with Pole Folder & CP’s ‘Apollo Vibes’, laying down the pace and mood of the rest of the first half of the session, which builds up slowly but relentlessly with tunes from Satoshi Tomiie, Photek and Tijuana, among others. Disc two is harder-edged, a kind of departure from what Digweed had been doing up to that point, less focused on epic, progressive sounds, taking on the grittier and darker side of house and techno, featuring tracks by Way Out West, Medway, Roland Klinkenberg, Quivver, Jimmy Van M and Breeder. Both sides of the collection complement each other perfectly, the care and work that went into curating and preparing the set is clearly evident by the flow of the track sequence, quite like a storyteller weaving his plot.
It’s been 17 years since GU 019 was released, it does not feel dated but, instead, sounds very current and vibrant, a testament to John Digweed’s musical taste and knowledge, and to the staying power a great dance music compilation can aspire to. Global Underground made it possible for us to have access to the best DJs in the world and their music.