I came into this two-disc compilation with a lot of prejudices aimed and ready to fire. First, anything named “Zen” has to be knocked (the reasons too numerous to go into here). Second, the electro-Indic sound is already kinda played out. With a lot of d&b and way too much Indian classical, it gets pretty boring pretty quickly and isn’t too far from New Age territory. And, speaking of New Age, this whole chill-out thing has got to stop. It was cute for a minute, but with the proliferation of “chilled out” beats (read: lame ass) and fill-in-the-blank grooves, most of these compilations are late-night snooze fests, not after-party head nods. So, I was expecting nothing but the worst from New Age label New World. It seemed like the worst of all possible worlds combining into one, large cataclysm of ennui.
Therefore, Zen Connection is one of the biggest surprises so far this year. Considering the genre, it’s almost a damned revelation. I don’t know who the hell Leigh Wood is, but s/he has compiled one hell of a collection. The music here provides more depth and soul and power than any other chill-out collection I’ve heard (and I’ve heard A LOT!). Wood has taken some of the better tracks from artists like Nitin Sawhney, Susumu Yokoto, Fahtima, Baby Mammoth, Gotan Project, LTJ Bukem, Amanaska and Ensemble Ethnique to provide us with something quite powerful. In a genre that seems to just be slapping together any old thing and putting it out there to make a buck, it feels like Wood took special care to compile this bad boy.
Zen Connection puts all other chill discs to shame. If only more people took to Wood’s example, this genre would not be such an obvious fad with an extremely limited shelf life.
New World Music: http://www.newworldmusic.com/