During a live DJ performance, Hex Hector tends toward familiar songs, new and especially old, and he plays effortlessly with each song as only a good DJ could. Though he occasionally gets carried away with mixing, hearing him live is always an invigorating experience, a rare display of true musical prowess.
Now, finally, he's put it all on record. Hector's first dance compilation hit stores earlier this summer. Remixology deserves all the hype accorded Junior Vasquez's Earth and then some. Both are high-concept dance remix albums intended to emulate the club-going experience with splendid combinations of accessible and cutting-edge sounds simmering to a boil in about eight minutes. This CD ought to give Hector a big push to Junior's legendary heights.
A skillful, Grammy-winning remixer, Hector doesn't include many of his own remixes here, and none you'd likely recognize by name. But they are the true standouts. Basstoy's "Runnin'" pulses with energy and a simple chord refrain that's immediately familiar. Right away he establishes a rock steady, Chicago House retro groove, with his surprisingly low-key Vibe Mix of Angie Stone's "Wish I Didn't Miss You" -- not the HQ2 Main Mix we're used to hearing.
The few familiar songs here sound nothing like the original remixes, nor typical Hector, who is far more inventive than you'd imagine. Including tracks with authentic Indian and African rhythms and chants used in a very non-Survivor, non-gimmicky sort of way? He's earned that Grammy. For this, he deserves another.
Hector's label, Ultra Records, released its first Ultra.Dance volume in January, and it instantly established itself as a worthy franchise for club fans of nearly all musical tastes. This second volume proves it wasn't just a fluke. With Ultra.Dance 02, DJ Encore offers fewer Top 40-esque remixes than did DJ Johnny Vicious on 01, yet his compilation is surprisingly more accessible. Where Vicious gave us a sophisticated, eclectic collection, Encore's is an almost near-total focus on trance-y Europop. Dido's here, as is ATB and Kylie's sister Dannii Minogue (you can hear the resemblance). There are also several bad covers here, though of course by now you already know the worth of DJ Sammy and Yanou featuring Do's "Heaven," a cover of Bryan Adams' forgettable hit.
Why make a two-disc set when only one will get repeated playback? That's the question to ask Ultra Records. DJ Encore does a better job than Vicious did, but disc two still loses energy less than halfway through. It's idling on fumes by the time we get to Masters At Work (after the truly atrocious "Open Your Box"). But Jamaicans Puppah Nas-T & Denise rev up the engine in a hurry; their "Work" is a truly inspired song from a truly working-Master album, "Our Time Is Coming," released earlier this year. Presumably an ode to the work of a "yardman," we know what Denise is really talking about: "Ladies, you know when I look for a yardman/He's got to be a ha-a-a-rdman." In the chorus, it gets nastier: "Throw your body in it, work it hard and long, I wan'cha to go downtown: go down, go down…come up, come up." The song of the summer, if not the year, and certainly worth the purchase of any dance compilation that features it. Even if it's stuck at the end of a one-too-many two-disc set.