Various Reserved — Your Password Behind the Velvet Rope

The 15-year old Italian label Irma’s inception is a colourful tale worth re-telling. Created by Bolognese residents Umbi Damiani and Massimo Benini in an old building that used to be a brothel named "irma casadiprimordine,” (Irma’s first class house) the duo took up the name and turned Irma into a first-class home for dance music’s finest. The label is a fantastic catalogue of deep house, chill out, garage and two-step as well as bossa nova sounds. Damiani and Benini have amassed a collective of sorts, with the likes of Claudio Moz-art Rispoli (future founder of Jestofunk), Cesare Collina (aka Tito Valdez), Cesare Cera (Black Mighty Wax), and Checco Montefiori participating in the label’s output. Small wonder then that listeners have a two-CD release "reserved” for them — an "aperitif” (disc one) served up with mouth-watering tunes followed by a "dinner” (disc two) that comes on slow, subtle and chilled-out before hitting hard with some excellent tracks. Disc one has hidden gems like the pensive and syncopated "Astrao” by Clan Greco, remixed by Duran Y Garcia. Even more surprising is Soul Bossa Trio’s version of "Butterfly” last heard on Mondo Grosso’s album MG4. Whilst two-step might have passed its prime in the UK, this collection is a firm reminder of why it merits being the next big thing all over again: LTJ Xperience featuring Taka Boom’s "Feel the Real” with its baritone string section sample, and soulful, sexy wailing is a treat tucked away in the aperitif section. On disc two, tracks like Holland Tunnel Project’s "Never Let You Go” and "Keep Your Head Up Choco” come close to rivalling anything from Craig David, or the beauty of Roy Davis Junior’s version of "Gabriel.” Now, if the collection was a continuous mix… (Irma)