Some artists make music that people can dance to, while others make "dance music." ACSS is the former, but with the remix album Pod, they try their hand at the latter. In places, they almost succeed: "Rise Above" taps into some classic traditions of house music, the beginning of "Persistence of Memory" nods at techno giants like The Orb and Underworld, "Riding the Skies" establishes a reasonably authentic drum and bass feel, and the Bipolar remix of "Release" would easily fit on an 18th Street Lounge compilation.
So why does it fail when so many ingredients are present?
First and foremost, these remixes never channel the strongest elements of great dance music. We never feel the passion of Kerri Chandler's gospel-inspired house sets, we never bask in Carl Cox's gaptoothed smile at 8:00 in the morning, and we never share the love that spun out of Larry Levan's speakers at the Paradise Garage.
Second, these songs don't gel into a complete unit. The greatest dance compilations tell you where they are going to take you, then they take you there. The DJ may throw in some unexpected twists and provide some downtime along the way, but he never strays from his established course. This album is so busy trying to be everything to every style of electronic dance music that it never reaches a final destination.
Third, the producers strip away the unique elements of ACSS rather than building upon them. The single exception is the album's strongest track, "Whirly 3." From the moment the song starts, everything comes together in a way that is both exciting and extremely danceable. Ironically, this is the only track that I can't directly trace to some existing form of dance music; it doesn't try to be house or trance or ambient or anything other than Afro Celt Sound System, and that is why it succeeds.
Why does Pod fail when so many ingredients are present? Because producers Simon Emmerson, James McNally, and Mass forgot to include the most important ingredients of all: fun, passion, and a love for great dance music.
I'm judging the producers who used pre-existing recordings as their instruments (as opposed to the musicians who recorded the original songs), and they're lucky to get a 1.5. This is the kind of crap that comes from people who listen to great music but don't understand why it's great. The lyrics have the going-through-the-motions positivity that marks so much third-rate dance music. Everything here has been done a thousand times before.
Packaging: (Altered by EPFL.)
The cover has an interesting image of (I assume) sleeper pods on a Japanese train. The design steals largely from other sources, particularly the early Global Underground releases. Their moronic inclusion of the word "phat" in the thank-yous simply proves how "unphat" this album is.
Listen if you like: Remixes of people like Jewel, Dido, or Sarah McLachlan.
If it were food, it'd be: Wheat Thins - They're not bad, but there's just not much to them.