With the scene oversaturated with labels and releases, it can be tough for those dedicated to searching out new talent and keeping the quality levels high to stay afloat in the sea of substandard tripe. The Stripped family is 8 years old and strong as ever, and it’s mostly due to label boss and A&R man Norman Hines and his small team staying true to his original vision, refusing to be swayed by current trends, and working their butts off. ‘We Have to Go Back: 8 Years of StrippedMuzikClub’ sees label artist (and co-manger of his own excellent Dharma label) Dibby Dougherty casting his eye over the back catalogue of the four labels belonging to the Stripped stable, picking out 49 of his favourites, and creating two mixes out of them. The album comes with his two mixes, all of the full-length tracks used in the mixes, plus a cool exclusive version of Sound Process & Guille Quero’s ‘Denial’.
Mix 1 ranges widely over Stripped’s house, disco, indie and downtempo material, with Dougherty doing a great job of managing to tell a coherent story despite the musical disparities. Juan Deminicis’ ‘Heartless’ provides an early highlight, shifting effortlessly into his ‘Esperanza’. Irish producer Smak offers a host of the best moments on the album, and his exuberant ‘Audio Output’ is only the first of these, setting up the more restrained glistening sequenced pianos of Michael King’s remix of ‘Geminus’ by Days Off. Martin Virgin’s ‘Trippin’ to the Stars’ is a disco-tinged classic piano houser replete with soaring strings, but topped off with a bold and zany hook – to great effect. One of ThermalBear’s many excellent ReThinks for Stripped is included, this one of Norman H and Minoru Hirata’s spooky ‘La Bufadora’, offering a nice reminder of his output prior to his recent Sasha-supported outings on Last Night on Earth. And the Oki Noki remix of Andy Kneale’s ode to Detroit, ‘We Thought Kraftwerk Was Robots’, brings the acid to drive mix 1 to its peak, before winding down with two further cuts from Smak, including the superb, uplifting closer ‘Lights Out’. As a piece of mixing, it’s not always an entirely smooth ride, since Dougherty seems a bit more tolerant of letting tracks with clashing keys play together for extended periods than I prefer (see, for example, the mix between Martin Virgin’s ‘Beautiful’ and his ‘Music’. But I’d guess that much of this is damn tricky material to mix, and overall, it comes together pretty well in the end. Moreover, there are some really great transitions here too – for example, I’ve already mentioned the really effective one between the two Juan Deminicis tracks.
Mix 2 is a bit slicker, and more focused and club-oriented, filled with tons of examples of Stripped’s great progressive and techno output. A couple of fantastic remixes from Deepfunk set the tone early on, and the mix takes in Jim Rivers’ remix of one of my personal favourite Stripped releases, NameSpace’s ‘The Sentinel’, the sparkling Ioan Gamboa remix of Mehmet Akar’s awesome ‘The Light Goes On’, and a couple of versions of Smak’s fantastic collaboration with vocalist Ryan Vail, ‘In the Beginning’, to name just a few of my own picks. Lashings of proper acid spice up the mix throughout, and it ends on a real high with Ian O’Donovan’s glorious ‘Reign Orion’.
This is a pretty incredible representation of all that Stripped has contributed to the scene. Smak’s productions consistently stand out for me here, but the whole album is laced with great examples of why Stripped has not just endured but flourished over the past eight years. 8.5/10