Artist: Alex Smoke
Title: Sci Fi Hi Fi Volume Three
Label: Soma Records
By: Illya Zubaryev | 25 October 2006
  1. Porn Sword Tobacco - Naiat Library Card
  2. Burial - Gutted
  3. Basic Channel - Radiance
  4. Model 500 - M69 Starlight
  5. Rhythm & Sound - See Mi Version (Basic Reshape)
  6. Troy Pierce - 25 Bitches (Gaiser Mix)
  7. Stewart Walker Vs Theorem - Minor Explosions
  8. Add Noise - Loose Wire (AC Version)
  9. Aril Brikha - Aqua
  10. The Vision - Detroit: One Circle
  11. Thomas Brinkmann - Xenia
  12. Claro Intelecto - Peace Of Mind
  13. Musica Charlista - Juan & Alex
  14. EPY - Faktum
  15. Alex Smoke - Pingu
  16. Quixote - Squat
  17. Alex Smoke - Always & Forever (Vapid Mix)
  18. 2000 & One - Fokuz

Alex Smoke "Sci Fi Hi Fi Volume Three"Alex Smoke "Sci Fi Hi Fi Volume Three"

Out Now on Soma Records

Much can be written to introduce Alex Smoke, but I don't think there's any need for me to restate what has already been said time and time again about the Glasgow, Scotland-based musician in recent years. I guess all you need to know is - this guy is good, damn good. Such is his talent and credibility that Alex is the latest artist chosen to compile an edition of the acclaimed Soma compilation; 'Sci. Fi. Hi. Fi.'. Hot on the heels of the first two remarkable volumes by Ewan Pearson and Luciano, expectations are certainly high for this one and Mr. Smoke does not disappoint.

In terms of personal expectations, I speculated that this would be a minimal techno affair, as it is generally the kind of music Alex produces himself. Although I was in the ballpark, the track selection was definitely surprising, intriguing and refreshing. Everything about this release is original and deviant of norms in fact, as Alex not only creates the mix live in one take but explores the far deeper, soulful side of techno for a popular compilation; a rare occurrence in the present-day electronic music scene.

Ranging from dub to Detroit styles of techno, exclusives are heavily involved and some listeners might have to take a leap of faith on this one, possibly not recognizing tracks or even artists on the back cover. With that said, one can deduce that this mix may not bring about a feeling of great energy or dancing with the exception of a select few tracks, but that is not always the goal with music; electronic or not. This 'Sci. Fi. Hi. Fi.' experience was still undeniably remarkable for me.

The first 5 tracks are very simple, light, spacious and atmospheric (i.e. dub techno and ambient come to mind) and really help with relaxation, but then we all of a sudden hear the menacing lyric of Troy Pierce's '25 Bitches' in the form of a very nice remix by Gaiser and a change of pace and style is upon us. The rest of the compilation goes on to largely pay homage to essential, archetypal techno with raw samples of kick drums, hi-hats and classic synthesizers, but not without a modern twist on it all and futuristic ideas in the offering as well.

A couple of Alex's own productions make an appearance among the others which turns out to be just the right injection of his own material. One thing that especially pleased me is the fact that there was never a point during which I was bored or even noticed how far along I was in the mix. The mixing is seamless, smooth and carefully takes the listener on an emotionally thin, yet very fascinating adventure of sound. I am not going to deny that there are some people who could certainly enjoy a club experience involving this kind of music, but the general conclusion I've come to is that this volume is for home-listening. Playing this beauty in a big living room with a high quality sound system is definitely going to send many onto Cloud 9; whether you're relaxing, daydreaming or taking part in a sophisticated party over martinis and cocktails.

Despite everything positive that I've felt and thought of in regards to this mix, it's not a perfect 10. As I try to be objective and appropriately critical of anything I review, I have to mention that this release is far from being widely accessible and appealing to many listeners, probably because the genres represented are somewhat niche in nature right now and the overall mix can certainly seem monotonous to some. Even so, a lack of accessibility or popularity can be seen as positive of course, especially with original, forward-thinking compilations that are perfect for specific genres and certain aficionados, but potentially negative points still have to be noted and reflected in criticism. Attention to detail and previous techno experience is almost a necessity for enjoyment, at least until you really feel the music and let it flow through you effortlessly and without much thought, something not everyone can experience. I also noticed that this compilation grew on me almost exponentially in terms of enjoyment over a few subsequent listens; but of course patience and careful, desirable lengthy listening is not something everybody may have.

All moot points now mentioned, I have to say I am enjoying listening to this once more at this very moment and time is seemingly fading as past is mixed with present in the sound palette chosen by Alex Smoke. Emotions are seemingly born out of nothing at all and I feel a calm, soothing "Zen-like" feeling come over me. I think techno music has been redefined here folks. Thank you for pulling all these musical gems out of your mysterious record box Mr. Smoke. An original, exceptional compilation. Highly recommended.

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