Unrivaled Groove Vol. I  | ★★★★ | [Maison Fauna; Aug. 13]

Unrivaled Groove Vol. I, the new UK garage compilation from Durham label Maison Fauna, celebrates the long-running cultural exchange between rave music in the U.S. and the UK.

The soulful sound of garage house took shape in New York and New Jersey in the 1980s. Its name comes from the discotheque, Paradise Garage, where it was bred by iconic DJs like Larry Levan. In the 1990s, UK producers started speeding up garage and swirling it with hip-hop, R&B, and drum-and-bass influences.

By decade’s end, a strain called 2-step emerged. Four-on-the-floor pulses gave way to skeletal swing rhythms full of eerie negative space, which could be stuffed with pitch-and-time-shifted vocal samples, offbeat accents, and wobbly basses.

After producing dance hits in Britain, 2-step later birthed both chic crossovers like Burial and the aggro scourge of American dubstep. It’s what most people think of as UK garage today.

Releasing August 13 on limited-edition marbled vinyl and streaming platforms, Unrivaled Groove Vol. I is a classicist connoisseur’s take on garage, formally lodged in the nineties but porous to novel sounds. The passion project of Maison Fauna cofounder Kir, who has a recurring UKG party of the same title, its eight tracks are evenly divided among U.S. and UK artists, with concentrations in North Carolina and Bristol, England.

On “Warning,” Nottingham’s Panar pierces big, whooshing chords with a bassline so squiggly it sounds like it’s trying to talk. Kir’s filter-snap minimalism is evident in her collaboration with Enver, “Sans.”

Bristol’s Lewis Aung throttles a heavenly arpeggio down to a wisp and adds drums suggestive of a live kit in “Aarai,” while Bristol’s Two Toke brings rapid jungle palpitations to “Cloud Lament.” The helium-huffing vocals that serve as rhythmic diacritics on many tracks take center stage in “Solid Ground” by the anonymous collective HIDD3N HAND.

Aside from Ohioan Dan Miles’s “Axis,” which draws tasteful horror-movie ambiance around an arrhythmic heartbeat, the overall vibe is subdued euphoria, apt of the oceanic aesthetic Kir cultivates in her visuals. Take a dip in the release party at The Fruit on Saturday, August 14 ($10 advance/$15 door), which features Kir, Whenuknow, and headliner Dan Miles, putting their underground spin on the popular injunction to party like it’s 1999.

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