Various Artists: Source Lab 3

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Source Lab 3

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(Source/Virgin)

DANCE MUSIC MIGHT one day be the new arena rock. And while techno Led Zeps like the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers bum rush the backdoor of the pop bastille with powerhouse beats and sampled rock guitars, smaller, better revolutions brew undetected. Throughout its series of Lab compilations, Source Records has sculpted something special. Each Lab is a series of snapshots of France's best DJs at play in the warmer, weirder sides of every possible flavor of futurist grooviness (drum'n'bass, Chicago House, trip hop, you name it). What gets heard is sensual breakbeat syrup, dance music that works as both discotheque deliverance and conversation lubricant. While "it's got a great beat and I can talk to it" won't be filling any hockey rinks in the near future, that's beside the point. Frogs don't skate; here, they bounce. And, in case you haven't heard, Daft Punk--this year's hoppin'est critic-tested, raver-approved sensation--was last year's Source Lab 2 upstarts.

If future stars exist on the wonderful two-disc, 23-track Source Lab 3, they're slow burners. Buoyant house-movers Fantom and Dark Strobe both keep it poppy, and must-hears I:Cube do florid, funky trip hop. But Tele Pop's strange tribute to sampling-king DJ Shadow and Chateau Flight dropping Yes-like synth merriment over a drum-machine set on "Bop" are only the oddest examples of about 10 tracks that place dance-floor weirdness above conversational warmth.

When disc two opens with two dreamily dense trip-hop tracks (one sampling strings and accordions, the other looping Al Green), the dance floor has long since mutated into a sexy, slippery slope. Yet, salvation rears its loose booty at album's end when the funk returns in the form of DJ Gregory's lite.house and Jean-Jacques Perry and Air's beautiful rewrite of Hot Butter's Kraftwerkian classic, "Popcorn." Frogs will out, and Source Lab 3 winds up not just warm, but so generous it damn near gets you stoned and cooks you crepes. Ribbit!

 
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