Review: Swing & Bass Compilation Vol. 2 – By Chris Swinglis

I always have a lot of time for the various projects of Fizzy Gillespie. The man behind Swing & Bass, Gillespie is a DJ, producer, and promoter – behind some of the hottest Electro Swing in recent years. The label Swing & Bass – an offshoot from the club night – put out its first compilation album at the start of last year, showcasing some of the best fusions of swing and drum ’n’ bass. And we now have Swing & Bass Vol. 2, an absolute mammoth of an album coming in at 21 tracks, and with contributions from producers and artists from all corners of the scene. With the summer in full force now, this compilation (surprisingly, the first compilation I’ve reviewed) represents a substantial attempt to replicate the sounds of what should now be the height of festival season.

The first track comes from Dom James and Odylic Force: a remix of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’. Now I love this song, so was a bit wary of how this might go, but they do it justice, slowly building up from the original, taking until about halfway to fully kick in. They haven’t tried to edit or change anything too much, and the remix works well – heavier than I was expecting, but decent (although the Weakest Link sample is a bit unusual). Next is Fizzy Gillespie himself, with his take on the Exciters’ ‘Blowing Up My Mind’. Unlike the previous, the beat here kicks in straight away, with a nice, reggae/dub feel which complements the R&B sample, as well as the light Amen break. I also must note the staccato treatment of the vocals, which Fizzy does excellently. And then Dan de’Lion and Mista Trick join forces on a remix of Ray Charles’s ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’. This one’s a bit different, they’ve actually cut up the original music to use it almost percussively, rather than just sticking a breakbeat underneath. It’s brilliant to see this level of inventiveness – helping the track to stand out on the compilation, and feeling much more like a piece by these two producers, than just a Ray Charles remix. A great song. Skank Spinatra’s ‘Get Stacked’ then follows, starting off with immediate, sunny and tropical vibes. Whilst initially quite chilled, the drop completely changes the feel of the track, and I kind of wish it hadn’t. There’s certainly potential here, but ultimately, this one is a little forgettable.

We then have a combined effort from various artists: ‘Fields’ by Don Johnston and Joe Alias, featuring Dat Brass. This starts off with more of a live dynamic than previous tracks, which is always welcome, however there’s a particularly strange effect when the drop comes – changing from super rapid to really quite downbeat. It feels almost like a sudden tempo change, and doesn’t quite work, instead giving the impression of two separate pieces. The live parts are fantastic, but the bassy sections just don’t really fly. And then Freek & Kit follow with a cover of the Sinatra favourite, ‘That’s Life’. Again, this starts off quite nice, and when the instrumentals cut out, I’m wondering where the track will take us. Unfortunately, it ends up with just a rather generic DnB breakbeat, which is a shame, as the live parts are quite smooth. It must be noted here that there’s such a thing as too much contrast. So there’s been three tracks in a row now which have slightly missed the mark, and it’s up to Mista Trick to save the day with his remix of Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’. Mista Trick sure loves to tackle the giants of swing – there’s so much riding on these attempts – but he almost always comes out on top. This remains the case here – it’s not his most inventive remix ever, but it’s still great fun. And then Dr Meaker follow with one of the best tracks of the compilation: ‘These Sounds’. A remix of the Bucketheads’ ‘The Bomb’, ‘These Sounds’ brings the festival vibe – it’s upbeat, energetic, and promises nothing but a great time. This is the type of song that’s guaranteed to get a dancefloor moving, and could save any set.

When it comes to this swing ’n’ bass sound, perhaps the most accomplished artist is Phil Mac, who now follows with ‘Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz’ – a remix of the Dream Warriors. With a track like this, one must be conscious that ‘Soul Bossa Nova’ – heavily sampled in the original – has been remixed to excess, so a level of originality is paramount. Phil Mac’s remix certainly works though – it’s not the best version, but it’s one of the better ones; and I must also mention that the bassline featured here is one of the best on this whole release. The next track is Jimi Needles’ ‘Happy Feet’, opening with that classic swing sound – demonstrating that this track was definitely made with this particular style in mind, as opposed to just a throwaway track that loosely fits. The transition to the drop is a little stilted here, and could certainly flow better, but each section is still great overall. And then Catjam follow, immediately launching in with their garage-esque sound. It feels slightly withdrawn to begin, but once this gets going it transitions into an absolute jungle banger. The track is cut up in all sorts of directions, firing away simultaneously, and overall it feels completely chaotic in the best sense of the term. And after the madness of this piece, we have the Breaksmiths remix of Pete Rodriguez’s ‘I Like It Like That’. A great job has been done highlighting the best parts of the original song, although the breakbeat that then emerges is a bit too minimalistic. I see what they’ve attempted to do, but it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more overstated. Overall though, it’s a solid track, and flows unhesitatingly.

The nest track is ‘Accentuate’ by Crash Party, a remix of the swing classic, ‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive’. This is particularly notable for having several completely unexpected moments throughout, whether that be an unusual sample, the treatment of the original song, or the general musical approach. It really feels like going on a bit of a journey, so much happens throughout – it’s frantic. And then we have a remix of Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie the Moocher’ – from Duke Skellington with Fizzy Gillespie. Now this song has been absolutely done to death, so I’m a little hesitant to see what they’re going to bring that’s different, but I must say that it’s definitely the darkest version I’ve heard timbrally; the low tonal sounds throughout contrast very interestingly with Calloway’s bright vocals. Ed Spinna then presents ‘Piddly Patter’, a remix of Nappy Brown – which is brilliant! – I always appreciate a good rock ’n’ roll remix. There’s a very fast build up to the drop, but it surprises me by how well it works – the song flows seamlessly. These two styles – rock ’n’ roll and drum ’n’ bass – complement each other fantastically, both being all about the constant progression of energy. And then a slightly strange thing happens, with the Powello Bros.’ ‘Hide De Hoes’. Was it a good idea to have two separate ‘Minnie the Moocher’ remixes on the same release? And worse, with only one song separating them? Whilst this was sloppy planning on the part of the compiler, this second version is actually an excellent remix – the better of the two – and the treatment of the original is fantastic, keeping all the fun and enjoyment of Calloway alive.

Slowly coming to the end of the release, DJ QuestionMark’s version of Randy Newman’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’ is an excellent choice for a remix, with some fantastically funky vibes featured throughout. The instrumentation of the original is used to its full extent, with absolutely everything being drawn out to the limit of its creative potential. This is easily the most skilful remix of the release, and one of the best as well. The next track, Captain Flatcap’s ‘Bang Bang Boogie’, I’ve already reviewed, but I’ll sum up in commenting that whilst I like the rocky vibes, it doesn’t quite utilise and flesh out its ideas to its full extent. Fizzy Gillespie and Duke Skellington then join forces again for ‘Joint Blast’, which starts off with some clear cha-cha-cha influence, before descending into another quite dark breakbeat – Duke Skellington seems to be getting increasingly fond of this effect these days. Of the two tracks from the collective contribution of these two producers, this is the better. Then, the Vaude Villainz’ Ballroom Bedlam features a slow and steady build, which pays off with a seriously filthy DnB drop. The Vaude Villainz are a powerful force, and personally, I’m glad that they’re still producing tunes like this one. And the final track is Extra Medium and WBBL’s ‘The Beat Goes On’, which like the Captain Flatcap, I’ve previously reviewed. Suffice to say, this is a seamless production, carrying with it both Extra Medium and WBBL’s distinctive styles.

Overall, this release is a little bit of a mixed bag. There are sounds featured from the whole spectrum of what can be called swing ’n’ bass, and sprinkled amongst the tracks are some genuinely fantastic pieces of music. Obviously, when creating a compilation like this – and especially of this length – much variety is needed; you can’t just have an album of vintage classics with Amen breaks positioned underneath. So this is a great example of how to do it the right way, with all sorts of different styles and approaches to the overall sound. However, so much variety can also be something of a downfall, and it’s true that a few of these tracks don’t quite live up to their potential. But I don’t intend to sound like my overall takeaway is negative – this is a fine release from very fine people, and I’m very glad that it’s been put together. As the first compilation to be featured on this blog, I couldn’t have wished for much better.

Stream & Download “Swing & Bass Compilation Vol. 2” HERE!

Written by Chris Swinglis Date: 2020-06-27

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