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Spundae Presents Cass: Interpretations III

Album: Interpretations III
Label: Mute

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Though they flood the marketplace at a rate rivaled only by that of pornography, trance mix-discs rarely place a premium on ideas. Generally tossed off as branded souvenirs for fervent fans, most trance mixes trade on the kind of genre mandates—uniform tempos, exhaustive drops and builds, sleek beat-matching—that get hopelessly lost in the club-to-home translation. For his double-disc entry into the Spundae Presents... series (named after a party circuit started on the West Coast), British DJ Cass addresses the problem by chopping trance to bits and reordering its priorities in deliriously heady ways. Serving as a meditation on the elastic nature of groove, Interpretations III fixes trance's sweeping airs to a skittery rhythmic undercarriage that strays far from the genre's mantric four-four rub. Disc one leans toward densely refined tech-house, with diverse tracks by Laurent Brondel, Bushwacka!, Nu Mood Orchestra, and Mekon strained through Cass' ambidextrous rhythmic filter. Lee Burridge's "Found" sounds like a lounging funk riff being snapped to attention by a military commander, all swagger and sway nervously fitted to the posture of a march. In more downtempo mode, "Panikattack" by Plastikman (a.k.a. Richie Hawtin) serves as a nervy undercurrent to sexy vocal stereo-fades layered over a three-track spread. Disc two charges harder into floor-moving territory, starting with a gut-punching bassline track by Charlie May and cycling through tunnel-vision bangers by Terry Francis & Haris, Ernest Saint Laurent, and Cass & Slide (the duo that established Cass' reputation). Even when pushing trance's well-worn buttons, though, Cass never grows tiresome as a DJ. He falters with a few indistinct patches and a vocoder line that should prove embarrassing in a few years (DJD Presents Hydraulic Dogs' "Shake It For Me"), but Interpretations III bursts with ideas and beat-matching that dig deep into the shifty dynamics of rhythm. By layering contemplative concision with measured spells of trance-y euphoria, Cass brings a reformer's sense of restlessness and experimentalism to a genre badly in need of an editor.