999 Luftballons

Shameless Eurocheese Puts the Tears and Tempo Back Into Dance Music

But it's the addition of perky remixes to Röyksopp's moody Melody A.M. (Astral Werks) that nudges the Nordic duo in the fromage direction, and with euphoric results. Röyksopp is Norwegian for a mushroom of the poisonous, possibly hallucinogenic variety, and so their textures and rhythms flicker unpredictably with appropriate mischief, conjuring images of forbidden forests and gingerbread children. Mostly unhurried and lacking lyrics, yet far more whimsical than the chillout norm, Röyksopp pop out with the help of folksy Kings of Convenience homeboy Erlend Øye. "Poor Leno" funnels filtered layers of synthetic strings and brittle guitar as timbales ricochet across a steady bassline, Øye's serene vocal seemingly oblivious to everything pulsating around it. The so-called Someone Else's Mix of "Remind Me" evokes freakishly twee yet somehow funky '80s synth-pop stiffness, but with more mystery swirling in the background. Röyksopp connect the dots between easy listening and Euro.

But maneuvers in the continental dark aren't always so arty. Decades before America got hip to hits packages, Europe supported thousands of single-only dance acts with hundreds of TV-advertised compilations offering regional variations on overlapping track listings. The greatest American contributions to the Eurocheese comp tradition, Universal's Global Hits 2002 and Epic's Epop Version_01 sample four years of frisky favorites, crossing stylistic and national borders with a catchy common currency of giddy ditties. With few exceptions, these buoyant baubles are not only too pop for the average snooty DJ, but also too bright. On the quirkier Epop, Norway's Annie morphs Madonna's club oldie "Everybody" into "The Greatest Hit," cooing the praises of her latest flame as if he were both dancefloor deity and genius of love. Germany's Rednex forgo their hillbilly techno of yore for Native American spirituality in "Spirit of the Hawk," and with kitschy but soul-stirring results. DB Boulevard's willfully optimistic "Point of View" is so well written that the bonus German-made remix can drop the verse and most of the chorus and yet remain substantial with not much more than the Italian original's idyllic bridge.

Fussy, frothy, fabulous Alcazar
photo: Courtesy BMG Sweden
Fussy, frothy, fabulous Alcazar

More mainstream but equally arresting, Global Hits 2002 gathers current and recent Euro breakthroughs on American airwaves with should've-been hits (and one that shouldn't have: ATC's "Around the World [La La La La La]," a tedious template for Kylie's superiorly self-reflexive "Can't Get You Out of My Head"). Ian Van Dahl's indefatigable "Castles in the Sky" climbs a mountain of quintessential Belgian pop-trance only to jump off a cliff and contemplate the folly of man while floating among fluffy synth clouds. Also from Belgium, Sylver's "Turn the Tide" seems to magically appear every time one switches on 92.7 Party, summing up the station's quintessential sound—simultaneously hyper and somnolent, brooding and buoyant. The singer pleads for redemption, a sea change. She's singing about a romantic relationship, but she might as well be singing about dance music's American commercial chances. After sinking for so many years, it's time to swim again.

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