Various Artists – Strictly Dirty South

Record labels come and go with something of an alarming rapidity in dance music culture, and most rarely break out of their niche market. A few, however, manage to transcend their scene of origin to take on a broader significance, and lend anyone aligned with them a certain degree of cultural capital. Strictly Rhythm is one such label, having released some of the most popular house tracks of the past two decades, and so this double-disc compilation certainly won’t do Dirty South’s credibility any harm.

At the same time, it reflects well on his career achievements thus far that he was asked to put a mix together for the label. I think it’s fair to say that any DJ/producer would jump at the chance to have access to the Strictly Rhythm catalogue. With previous instalments in the series coming from Masters at Work, Erick Morillo and Bob Sinclar, Dirty South is following in some pretty big footsteps. It’s also a further sign that the local boy has made it big on the world stage.

The first disc is something of a retrospective, and kicks off in rather fine fashion with arguably the finest house track ever – Finally from Kings of Tomorrow. Sure, you’ve probably got this track twenty times over already, but one more time won’t hurt, and anyway, it’s all about the broader context of the entire mix.

Classics come thick and fast, with Louie Vega and Erick Morillo’s Reach, Kid Creme’s Austin’s Groove, and Bob Sinclar’s I Feel For You all putting in appearances. You could argue it’s all too much of a good thing, but then there’s a clear thematic logic to the mix which seems to get overlooked on some house compilations these days, with a total absence of excess filler.

Quality not quantity I believe is the phrase. Highlights further in include the shimmering disco beauty of the Full Intention mix of Michael Moog’s That Sound, the guilty pleasure of Live Element’s Belinda Carlisle-sampling Be Free, and Kid Crí¬®me’s timeless remix of Shakedown’s timeless At Night. Killer tracks, all bundled together into one killer mix, which you’ll be spinning again and again.

Disc two explores more contemporary territory and rocks a little harder, and so is something of a different beast to the first. Dirty South drops his own epic vocal mix of Diddy-Dirty Money’s Coming Home to start things off, which is quickly followed by the equally epic fusion of Arno Cost’s recent masterpiece Lise with Ministers De-La-Funk’s classic masterpiece Believe.

Steve Angello’s remix of Tim Mason’s The Moment sees the big-room synths get a good workout, and then things go all electro with the D.Ramirez and Dirty South collaboration Shield. Some darker hues creep into the mix with the trance-like textures of Alesso’s Nillionaire, and then it’s a dive into the depths with some pummelling electro from DJ Dove and Tristan Garner, amongst others.

Both mixes will appeal to house-heads everywhere, although in terms of consistency and flow, my vote goes to disc one. Part of this is probably due to fact I’m (kind of) old and there are some (kind of) old tracks. There’s nothing better than reminiscing about the good old days. Furthermore, Dirty South’s efforts with the first mix recall some of the timeless Soulfuric and Defected mixes from the early 2000s.

At first I thought it was kind of blasphemous to make such a comparison, given the classic and unsurpassable quality of those mixes, but Dirty South has really nailed it on the first disc, and to a slightly lesser extent on the second, which makes this release one to investigate.