...[B]'Planet Electrica'[/B] is different. No histrionic AOR types here....

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This album, in aid of victims of Hurricane Mitch which hit Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua last year, is compiled by Earth Love Records, whose previous projects have included ‘Earthrise: Spirit Of The Rainforest’ and ‘Rock The Planet’. In other words, a buncha tree-hugging hippy crap, I hear you say.

And, certainly, the artists previously involved in these projects (Sting, Belinda Carlisle, Lenny Kravitz) could be accused of being the sort of glib, gushing We-Are-The-Worlders involving themselves in projects like this a) to reaffirm their sense of themselves as soulful altruists rather than multinational corporate pop concerns and b) to weatherproof themselves against critical censure.

‘Planet Electrica’ is different. No histrionic AOR types here. Apart from U2, who confirm the always-there dance element to their music with the so-so ‘Mofo’, this features nothing but ’90s dance acts, from Underworld to Dreadzone, from 808 State to Eat Static. Much of it is familiar – like The Chemical Brothers‘ excellent ‘Lost In The K-Hole’ or Roni Size‘s ‘Brown Paper Bag’, which still gives you that itch even after hearing it for the 150th time – but there are also remixes donated, like Brian Eno‘s take on Massive Attack‘s ‘Protection’, from which this compilation takes its title. Although the song itself is no Green Party anthem, the Eno remix stretches its skin to a taut, vulnerable awning, evoking a sense of a beautiful eco-system under threat.

You can divine a similar connection between LTJ Bukem‘s pensive drum’n’bass classic ‘Horizons’ or Beth Orton‘s ‘Tangent’, both enveloped in ambient fabrics in a state of tension and uncertainty. Manmademan‘s ‘Ozone’ makes the point still more explicitly, though far less so than any grating Sting lament. Mind you, with Fatboy Slim‘s ‘Soul Surfing’, a typically rollicking, rough-house chunk of sample-hop, there’s no connection other than this is a fine track serving a fine cause. Ditto Bentley Rhythm Ace‘s ‘Why Is A Frog Too?’. Conversely, Medicine Drum‘s ‘Alpha Return’ and Electric Skychurch‘s ‘Dreamcatcher’ voyage beyond the ozone layer into worryingly cosmic realms of prog-electro.

Certainly, it could be argued that the amount of electricity generated on this album can’t be doing the environment any good, or that if we were serious about ensuring that hurricane disasters provoked by the First World’s erosion of the eco-system don’t happen again, we’d return to an agrarian society in which samplers and sequencers were replaced by jew’s-harps and wood blocks. But in the face of the scale of damage wrought by the hurricanes in Central America, such arguments are mere sophistry.

‘Planet Electrica’ makes concern cool again. Can’t argue with that. Dig into your pockets and dig it.