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Ultra. Chilled 03

Wednesday, Jan 15 2003
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The New York-based dance label Ultra excels at neat summations of current electronic-music fads: Its recent electroclash compilation, Ultra. 80's vs. Electro, pitted young nü wavers like Chicks on Speed and Fischerspooner against their stalwart antecedents, and its new trance set, Ultra.Trance:1, condenses all the big-room exhilaration that scene has to offer into one handy package. But the imprint's real pleasures are its downtempo mix CDs, which routinely stand out in an increasingly crowded field (thanks to their catholic tracklists and subtle segues, and the refined, self-conscious sense of yuppie chic that makes them such a hit at Pottery Barn).

Ultra. Chilled 03 wastes no time wooing the silverware set: Vocalist and lifestyle-retailer staple Norah Jones joins one-time local jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter in kicking things off with a svelte rendition of Roxy Music's "More Than This," feminizing Bryan Ferry's bachelor-pad polish in the process. Next up, U.K. trip hop outfit Alpha reimagines Britpop as dour 3 a.m. soul-funk, turning down the heat on Coldplay's "Yellow." Plenty of the usual suspects show up -- Beth Orton, Jazzanova, Cinematic Orchestra, and Bebel Gilberto, in a mildly block-rocking Rae & Christian remix -- yet unexpected treats keep things from slipping into slow-groove tedium. In the end, Norwegian balladeer Sondre Lerche's natty "Dead Passengers" and French studio wiz Bertrand Burgalat's "Aux Cyclades Électronique" even suggest there's still room for growth in the chill room.

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Mikael Wood

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