Various Versatile Family Album

In celebration of Versatile Records' fifth anniversary, this 14-track compilation lines up the label's top artists (Chateau Flight, Joakim and Tchok) with some of the top names in underground music. There are a few typically tacky French house cuts, like Faceball 2000's "La Patinoire" and Soha's "Eve," but the rest of the disc veers toward the more experimental sides of broken beats and techno-jazz. 4 Hero's mix of C.F.'s "Auto Power" is like an update of Herbie Hancock's synth-jazz sound, with crisp drums staggered in a jagged funk. Tchok's "Swalufu" rolls with a more explosive set of drum loops, contrasted with subtle keyboard washes. There's also some fancy footwork on Focus' (aka Phil Asher) "Spazzum" and Joakim's "Theme Du Loup" (an unacknowledged cover of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's "Theme de Yo-Yo"), but while these beat experiments are interesting to hear, they don't have the emotionality that we hear on Pariss Clemons' "This World" or Onsunlade's "Tree of Life." The latter features the voice of Nadira Shakoor, delivering a gospel of cosmic spiritualism that echoes the styling of June Tyson. It's too underground for a crossover, but it's probably of the most beautiful moments in garage-lyricism so far this year. (Versatile)