As with Playgroup, though, it's not so easy to erase the advances and approaches of the last 15 years—for much of Tangent 2002, the artists's roots in techno are clearly visible. Revealingly, two of the best three tunes here are instrumentals: Daniel Wang's mechanodisco ditty "Pistol Oderso" and Legowelt's impossibly stirring and portentous "Disco Rout." The third killer tune, Solvent's "My Radio," manages the overdone vocoder thing without sounding kitschy, by pushing the effect to the brink of distortion, turning the vocal into a gaseous swirl that accentuates the melody's mystic devotional feel. Of the other vocal tracks, Adult's "Nite Life" delightfully blends perky and stiff á la Human League's "Sound of the Crowd," while DMX Crew feat. Tracy's "Make Me" has the bouncy-yet-listless charm of a young Bananarama. But Perspects' sonorous male voice on "They Keep Dancing" is unpleasantly redolent of Erasure, reminding you of just how much of the '80s doesn't warrant excavation.

Playgroup's faceless leader, Trevor Jackson
photo: James Dimmock
Playgroup's faceless leader, Trevor Jackson

Tangent 2002is the best electro-nuevo comp so far (with Tiga's American Gigolomix CD close behind). But it's less a preview of what's to come than a handy catch-up for the last few years of '80s-revisionist electronica. It still feels like there's some indefinable line that's yet to be crossed before this genre transcends period pastiche and tackles the challenge of somehow being more about now than then. Because if it is still about then, the old records remain unbeatable.

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