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CD Review: Offerings from Petrol Records

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Artists: Various
Albums: the Departure Lounge Grooves; The Sex, the City, the Music: Berlin
Label: Petrol Records
Release Date: Fall 2006

CM Murphy, former worldwide manager of INXS started the Petrol Records label in 2001 with the idea of creating and releasing “seriously good music from around the world.” His idea of creating good music is to put together themed compilations and selling them for about $10 a pop.

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I’m a self-declared fan of the compilation as I can usually find something to dig out of any dozen tracks. Unfortunately Petrol Records makes this very difficult with it’s collections of marginal tunes by no-namers. The Departure Lounge Grooves compilation is somehow supposed to evoke the aura of VIP airport terminal lounges with tunes by “well traveled music stylists.” Scouring the internet did turn up some information on the artists listed but there was not much of substance on any of them with the exception of Lily Frost, The Five Corners Quintet, and Parov Stelar. While it’s true that most of the music on this compilation wouldn’t be bad to listen to in the background of an airport terminal while cradling a gimlet and waiting for the Dramamine to take effect, it’s mostly unremarkable “lounge” music. The exception being Parov Stelar whose contributions, 'Spygame' and 'Chambermaid Swing', are the two best tracks and actually make picking this CD out of the bargain bin a worthy. His tunes are quirky, well-produced, with some great beats, innovative samples, and are very motivating – an artist I’d like to see more of.

The Sex, the City, the Music: Berlin, I guess this is supposed to be part of a series of mini-guides to cities, complete with little lists of bars, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs – the shelf life of this info has got to be measured in months. The tunes on the CD are actually a much more legitimate group of songs since all the artists are at least Berlin-based and most of them have worked with labels and have had some name/critical recognition: Munk, Gonzales (who worked with Peaches), Headman, Donna Regina, Barbara Morgenstern, Ulrich Schnauss, and Contriva are the standouts. This collection is eclectic but obnoxiously so – ranging from terrible dance music (Munk’s 'Disco Clown') to dischordant Cabaret-esque music (Barbara Morgenstern) – and hey, a bunch of the songs even have German on them! Again, I still managed to find a couple diamonds in this rough rough mix: the amusing 'Comic Menuetto' by Leroy Hanhofer (I love his name) and the always very good Ulruch Schnauss whose My Bloody Valentine tribute, 'On My Own', is beautiful and sentimental.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to hunt any of Petrol’s offerings down but I wouldn’t pass them up if you could get them for a couple bucks in the Used bin at Amoeba. High production values for both the music and the packaging doesn’t make up for the shortcomings of CM Murphy’s vision. He can correct this by finding more artists worthy of showcasing as well as a tighter concept of what he wants to offer in a series of CDs.

[attached is a sample of Parov Stelar's 'Chambermaid Swing']