Most labels like to tout a strong identity in one way or another, especially when putting out a compilation of releases. Odd then, that the past two Output compilations have been devoid of any mention of the label, aside from a small nondescript logo on the back. "The label is about the artists on the label, not the label itself," founder Trevor Jackson recently said. "All it says is are the names of the bands, because that's what's important to me. I would rather have the music speak for itself and the artists to speak for the label."
And speak loudly they do. Channel 3, the label's follow up to 2000's Channel 1 and 2003's Channel 2, is another overview of one of the moment's best and most consistent labels. Widely touted as the heir apparent to Rough Trade or Factory Records, Output has been responsible for some impressive A&R finds and genre-defining releases in its short history. Kieran Hebden, best known as Four Tet, released the seminal "36:35" on the label in 1998. The recent acid-revival darlings Black Strobe released the label's bestselling twelve-inch, "Innerstrings," in 2000, completely scooping the electro revival and garnering support from influential deejays including Andrew Weatherall and Laurent Garnier. Most recently, Output handled the U.K. rollouts of such acts as LCD Soundsystem and the Rapture.
Several genres get play on Channel 3, ranging from acid house and fractured funk to off-the-wall electro and straightforward rock 'n' roll. After beginning their careers with the brilliant shoegazer EP, The Distance After, Circle Square contributes one of the strongest tracks on the comp. "Fight Sounds" is goth-tinged downtempo tempered with huge distorted bass stabs, simple keys and detached vocals. The attention to subtlety and stellar production make it stand out on its own, and though characterized by its slow pace, it's one of the most intense moments on the record.
Mu's "Out Of Breach" is off-kilter electro at its finest, and Dead Combo's "Hey Dusty" is lo-fi rock 'n' roll, complete with requisite leather-clad posturing. Trevor Jackson makes an appearance with the comp's overall highlight -- his Playgroup mix of the Rapture's "I Need Your Love." Jackson dubs out the bass line, edits the vocals and adds some squiggly TB-303 and hand claps, making a played-out tune suddenly relevant again. Beware, reactionary Rapture-haters may even find themselves dancing uncontrollably.
Electronic music pioneers Yello make an appearance with the reissue of "Base For Alec," which originally appeared as a B-side in 1982. With modern producers mining for old tones and influences, it still sounds yet oddly relevant despite being created over a decade ago. Rekindle's "Ice Skating Girl" (Linus Loves Remix) is the only misstep on the record, and the remix takes a slightly annoying song and makes it significantly more so. This aside, more strong contributions come with the lovely synth melodies of 7 Hurtz's "LVL" and the choppy funk bass line of Colder's "The Slow Descent."
For a label that issues so many great singles, Channel 3 stands with its earlier counterparts as an excellent introduction to the label, focusing on tracks that haven't been necessarily released on complete artist albums. All too often, great singles slip though the cracks of public consumption, relegated to deejays's record boxes and aficionados's collections. This compilation puts them all in one place and serves as further proof of Output's consistency and vision. Most importantly, it whets the appetite for whatever Trevor Jackson decides to come up with next.
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