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Playgroup (Source/Astralwerks)


Sound producer/graphic designer Trevor "Underdog" Jackson spent a good deal of the '90s purposefully stumbling around the fringes of the U.K. music business, drawing inspiration from the shadows where hip-hop got dirtied by atmospheric electronics and running an adventurous label (Output) that embraced beat experimentalism. His tastemaker cred secure, Jackson has now gone behind the console to create an album worthy of his reputation, one that outlines his version of utopia.

Inspired by the post-punk generation's desire to get hit with a rhythm stick and participate in a multicultural, fascist-free groove thing, Playgroup hits the dance-floor running, as though it's Gang of Four in house music mode. And it don't stop. The bevy of featured vocalists give a pretty good idea of the moral and sonic pillars Playgroup's funky Xanadu is built on: Le Tigre's riot princess Kathleen Hanna makes all sorts of individualist demands from atop a lo-fi synth groove. Soulful Scottish indie-pop stalwarts Roddy Frame and Edwyn Collins get to pretend they're fronting a Love & Rockets remix tribute band. And New York's dancehall-pop perennial Shinehead redoes Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" as the skanky coda it always hinted at being. Dub and disco politics are implied throughout, just as they were on musically desegregated dance floors of the early '80s, daring you to shake what needs to be shook.

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