Sharps & Flats

On "INCredible Sounds of Drum 'n' Bass," mix DJ and jungle superstar Goldie loses the rattle and throb of the street.

Published January 24, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

British jungle icon Goldie is the one thing the average dance music producer isn't: visible. Equipped with flashy gold teeth and couture skateboard trainers, the former British b-boy has surpassed the faceless producer stigma by a series of star-power decisions. He's played roles in James Bond and David Bowie films, chummed around with Hollywood stars like Val Kilmer and Johnny Depp and made a habit of dating other well-connected musicians, like the late Kemistry (of Kemistry and Storm) and Bjvrk. Although his involvement in the nascent jungle scene was pivotal -- he established the Metalheadz label and released the influential "Timeless" in 1995 -- his greatest contribution to date has been his unusual ability to draw mainstream attention to a decidedly con-commercial sound.

But his latest project, a DJ mix CD that mainly features Metalheadz performers, is more a testament to his pop market appeal than to his skill as a DJ. Here Goldie simply lays down a series of other people's tracks, adding very little other than his image on the CD cover and a hefty, seven-page, Levi's sponsored fashion spread and fanzine insert. While the 26-track, double-CD set highlights a comprehensive sampling of U.K. drum 'n' bass heavyweights like Alex Reece, Optical, Doc Scott, Grooverider and J. Majik, the Goldie-centric presentation minimizes the importance of the featured artists, and disguises what the CD really is: a high-end dance music compilation.

Goldie's bit of self-promotion taps into the otherwise unfair criticism of DJ-mixed CDs -- that the medium shines an uneven amount of attention on the DJ, whose presence eclipses those who actually made the music. In most cases, the DJ-mixed CD provides one of the most reliable journeys into the hard-to-find world of electronic music, where 12-inch vinyl singles dominate the market. Although the tracks on "INCredible Sounds of Drum 'n' Bass" are nothing less than exceptional, they are mostly d'n'b standards.

Maybe this mix CD is an attempt to repair Goldie's waning significance in the drum 'n' bass scene. Goldie's last album, "SaturnzReturn" (1998), ambitiously veered into pop, which drew criticism from the purist crowd. Goldie is still the active force behind the Metalheadz label, but his recent projects have demonstrated a preference for Hollywood screenings over earth-rumbling levels of sub bass. Any moderately serious fan would probably already own most of the tracks on "INCredible Sounds of Drum 'n Bass." That means that Goldie, who was once a break dancer and graffiti artist, just isn't putting his ear to the streets.

By Amanda Nowinski

Amanda Nowinski is a freelance writer in San Francisco.

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