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“Diskotopia Various Artists Volume One” Various Artists

by Arni Kristjansson

Bass advocates Diskotopia are a small group of producers and DJs who have been holding events since 2005. Their main focus is the ever-expanding area of dance music that uses heavy bass sounds, including dubstep and bassline-house. Originally based in Osaka, they moved operations to Tokyo in 2009 and expanded their activities last year to include a record label. For their seventh release, Diskotopia is offering up an expansive compilation of music made by the artists on their roster and some friends.

“Diskotopia Various Artists Volume One” opens strong with the album’s best track, BD1982′s “Sunshine,” which cleverly builds tension by using a simple construction of staccato synth strings and light percussion. The Diskotopia dub of 80kidz’ “Miss Mars” is another highlight, a solid house groove that makes excellent use of classic drum-machine sounds and boils the original down to its most effective parts. The closer, a remix of BD1982′s “VHS Nite” by British producer Starkey, starts off as a pleasant synth journey in the vein of digital maximalists Rustie and Hudson Mohawke, but it takes an unexpected turn 90 seconds in and moves straight into good old-fashioned wobbly dubstep.

Clocking in at 79 minutes with 18 tracks, though, the album could have done with a bit of trimming down. Besides the sheer amount of music, there are a ton of genres represented. In addition to bass sounds, I heard elements of Chicago house, Detroit techno, electro, chillwave and trip-hop. While that may be indicative of the state of dance music in 2012, the broad scope left me unclear on what constitutes Diskotopia’s sound. Some of the tracks could have benefited from a stricter editorial policy as well. Awa’s “She Sea” and Lamin Fontana’s “Nia Long” could have used further mixing and development as they’re a bit too simple and repetitive to keep the listener’s interest for long.

Faults aside, though, the sheer breadth of music offered up here is worth the sticker price and the compilation is worth checking out for a cross-section of what’s happening in the international scene nowadays — even if you end up a bit more confused.

Diskotopia will host release parties for “Diskotopia Various Artists Volume One” at Noon in Osaka on Jan. 27 (5 p.m.-12 midnight; ¥2,000, ¥3,000 includes CD); and in the Deep Room for a joint party with Modeselektor at Sound Museum Vision in Tokyo on Jan. 28 (10 p.m.; ¥4,800 in advance). For more information, visit www.diskotopia.com.