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Part of a recent outpouring of compilations released on the Hypnotic label, Earth Ritual... is a respectable drum & bass compilation exploring various styles and sounds, which offers a refreshing mix of established and newer producers.

VARIOUS Earth Ritual - A Journey Into Drum 'N' Bass Fans of the prettier, jazz-influenced end of the d&b spectrum will want to check System 7's "Interstate," a truly gorgeous Doc Scott remix. Also on this tip, the compilation opens with 808 State and "Azuza," an exquisite track from their recent Don Solaris album, featuring the vocals of Lamb's Louise Rhodes blending beautifully with deep synths and xylophone sounds. Alpha Project also contributes a lovely vocal track with "Unknown Self."

Cleopatra Records' Transmutator move things to a darker level with "Maximum" ? a piece on which the definite industrial influence works well ? and MNW Records' the Puff round things out with the solid beats, techno synths and smart ragga vocal loop of "Break on Through." Unfortunately, some of the other tracks on Earth Rituals, including a piece by Bill Laswell with DXT, don't fare as well. -Denise Benson Various The Freestyle Files 3 (!K7/Fusion III) For a kind of music intended to simply shake yo' body, the obsession with creating new genres and sub-genres in dance music is becoming completely ridiculous.

The folks at !K7 may have contributed to the madness by adding ?freestyle? to the list, except in this case, the name does actually represent the music. Almost all of the music on this comp celebrates the ?freestyle? ? the freedom of style ? as they turn out the deepest, abstract groove. Like when U.N.K.L.E.'s James Lavelle lifts the hypnotic drum breaks off of Can's ?Vitamin C? and cooks them up in a funky mix of feedback and backwards sound. Or when East of Suez squeeze out the drops of dub and transform slices of an exotic soundtrack into a formless, aquatic sound excursion.

It's exciting to see these and other established artists of various underground dance scenes explore the possibilities of sound in ways they might want to hesitate on when producing a 12-inch single. Like Bassment Jaxxs robotic love poem for city people in the ?Urban Haze? over ballistic house grooves, the jazzed-out techno-steps that sparkle on ?Spudnik? from Plaid or Aphrodites cowboy- funk on ?Telling The Truth.? As is with any compilation, not every track on is so imaginative. The noisy beats on I-F's ?Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass,? come off like a bad cover of Trans-X's ?Living On Video,? while Mr. Scruff's ?Naughty Mouse Mice At the Organ? rocks beats and comical voices in a mix with no sense of direction. And except for a brief looping of ecstatic Salsoul disco on ?Catch The Break,? the Jedi Knights are equally boring and monotonous. However, their inclusion adds to the eclecticism of The Freestyle Files even further.