51beats is a Milan-based electronic music label founded in 2008 with the self-stated aim of promoting innovative electronic music without making distinctions between genres, and in the ensuing years they’ve certainly done a good job of this, amassing an impressive and diverse label roster. This latest compilation from the label represents their 51st release and celebrates by gathering together 26 tracks from artists on their label roster, separating them into two different CDs labelled ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ that lean towards more dancefloor oriented tracks and more downbeat leftfield / IDM explorations respectively.
What’s particularly apparent is the consistency of quality of the tracks collected here; even though few of the producers here are well known (in fact, the only name I was previously familiar with was label mainstay Edporth), there’s nothing approaching a dud moment here. For the most part, the first “Up” disc leans towards techno-centred sounds, and there’s a particular emphasis upon deeply atmospheric and emotive arrangements, with the occasional trace of electro and Italo-house bubbling to the surface. J. Sintax’s streamlined and glossy ‘Illusion’ carries traces of the Kompakt label’s polished aesthetic as field recorded sounds from a park give way to crisp tech-house rhythms and glassy melodic tones, the refracted delay-treated notes that echo through the mix adding to the sense of space, even as the bass synths shift into a tighter funk-influenced groove.
Martino Nencioni’s ‘Part 2’ meanwhile gets more eerie and minimal, sending analogue synth tones bending against a wash of ambient tones, before tribal percussion resolves itself into a compressed 4/4 techno pulse, dubbed out layers of rippling noise looping into a hypnotic swirl as the snares lock in against the kicks and begin to gather pace. Elsewhere, Acid Castello’s ‘Running Through The Time’ gets even more angular as stark analogue bass synth stabs peak out amidst a tumbling washing of rattling percussion and cycling arpeggios, the pneumatic hi-hats maintaining the focus as glittering minor keys add a curiously soulful edge to the relentlessly cold throb.
Over on the second ‘Down’ disc there’s a discernible focus upon post-IDM centred influences, but as with the first disc, there’s an impressively broad range of sounds on display. Acousmatik’s ‘Way Out’ sees Squarepusher-esque breakbeats flexing against a web of plangent synth melodies that add a wistful undertone, before Youarehere’s ‘May The Wind Always Be At Your Feet’ takes things on a wander out into dream-pop kissed ambience, as glowing layers of synths build around vocal traces and ratcheting broken rhythms, in a manner that calls to mind the n5MD’s similarly emotive pull. All up, ‘Gravity & Quantum Mechanics’ is well worth checking out, whether you’re new to the 51beats label or not.