In a market saturated by mix albums of every description, Ultra Records' Back to Mine
series glows like a beacon in a fog of mediocrity. The idea is simple: artists are given a free rein to compile sets that are both intuitive and personal to their tastes, resulting in mixtures of postclub textures chiefly designed for horizontal dancing and chilled-out bonhomie. Latest recruits Everything but the Girl take to the format like ducks to water, displaying a musical pedigree that touches on house, hip-hop, and light drum & bass. Although most people have warmed to the group's shift into dance culture, what will surprise is their sublime choice of tune. Kicking off with the drum-machine jazz of DJ Cam's "Friends and Enemies," the moody hip-hop noir of Deadly Avenger's "Bayou," and their own production on Beth Orton's "Stars All Seem to Weep," the mood is stoner-paced but never drab. Follow this with a little stripped-back ambience courtesy of Carl Craig and a rousingly sanguine finale featuring Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free," and you have the makings of a fine night in. --Paul Tierney
Everything But the Girl's contribution to the 'Back To Mine' series is a pure chill-out mix, perfect for late-night lounging. Low-key, atmospheric folk-pop by Beth Orton and Mary Margaret O'Hara bleeds into down-tempo electronica and hip-hop from DJ Cam, Model 500, and Dubtribe Sound System. As one might expect from the uber-cool Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn, the set is sophisticated, well sequenced, and perfectly modulated. Down-to-earth, soulful vibes emanate on the Roots's 'Silent Treatment', balancing out more abstract, ambient outings like Carl Craig's 'A Wonderful Life'. The set closes out on Donny Hathaway's 'Someday We'll All Be Free', which serves as a benediction, casting a bright, hopeful light over the entire listening experience. This collection is perfect for moody background, but--unlike many chill-out compilations--it also rewards concentrated listening. 2005.