Various Artists – Rephlexions! A Celebration Of Braindance!

5 out of 5

Label: Rephlex

Produced by: Various

I’m guilty of summarizing Rephlex by the heavy-hitters who flitted through its ranks: AFX, Squarepusher, u-Ziq, etc… Even when I was actively collecting the label, in its last decade or so before fading out, and so was finding albums and EPs and singles that were proof of how widespread, stylistically, the roster could be, I still would just think of squiggly IDM as the label’s output.

Thankfully, listening to compilations like Rephlexions!, presumably jokingly catalogued as the label’s thousandth release, makes it impossible to ignore how much non-AFX geniuses the imprint offered, and also – maybe the ‘genius’ tag implies this – how good a lot of that stuff was. Yeah, maybe when my tastes were more limited and I demanded a certain clattered BPM baseline in my electronic music, I would turn away from the slinky grooves of Slipper, or the 80s beats of Bochum Welt, but returning to this set a long time after the fact, when I’ve rather unknowingly come around to several of these artists outside of their Rephlex associations, I’m shocked at how rich the roster was. (And maybe also pissed at myself for not collecting more dedicatedly at the time, since costs on these things have subsequently shot up!)

Of course, I don’t think the label owners were unaware of how their clout may have shaded perceptions, kicking the set off with some extremely high quality IDM and house, while choicefully scattering name brand artists throughout the set, encouraging a listener to stick with it and not just quit after hearing whichever single. So we’re “eased” into deeper cuts with the delightful likes of Yee-King and D’Arcangelo, giving way to the club beats of DMX Krew and Bochum, and then stretching out further with outre stuff – Piere Bastien – and the downtempo chill of Leila, and Astrobotnia. The floodgates are open to cycle through these styles thereafter, but the comp’s makers were mindful of keeping relatively like-minded artists grouped together; at the same time, this works with the modular way the vinyl was organized, labeling the sides arbitrarily (e.g. X, L…) and changing the track order from the CD, while keeping subgenres roughly together.

I do think whatever way you get to whichever track, this is a perfect set for a reminder of some Rephlex artists on which you may’ve slept, or just a simple eye-opener to how much other stuff they did put out. And even when I may not revisit some of the individual discs frequently, the singles plucked out here work excellently in context, as buffered by the other styles.

Side note: I’m not positive how much new material there was – although I think the AFX cut was exclusive, and is probably one of RDJ’s hardest hitting and most cut up tracks under that moniker, making it worth tracking down for any fans – as I don’t own a lot of the originals from which these songs may’ve been taken to compare, and track names are sometimes slightly different from on-album versions, making me wonder if these were edits. Regardless, the “excellent in context” comment still applies: even when I’ve obsessed over some of this stuff from their original homes, the songs are given fresh life on the compilation.