Just looking on the internet, it's easy to see that there are literally hundreds (probably more like thousands) of independent artists creating and releasing electronic music (under sub-genres that span everything from jungle to trance to ambient and everything in between). Doing a quick skim of different categories at MP3.com alone will leave you with so much music to listen to (a majority of it very very mediocre) that it will boggle your mind and leave your head spinning as you head back to larger labels and trusted names.
Fortunately, though, there are some small labels that not only take themselves seriously enough to do a great job of packaging and producing their artists, but also actually focus on little-known artists as well. Planetary is one of these labels and even though their new double-CD set of artists straight out of Richmond, Virginia is very hit-or-miss, it's a big winner in the category of what small labels are doing right in order to promote their artists and is a label to definitely keep eyes on in the future. For some, it might seem like sort of a narrow-minded move to focus in on such a small smattering of artists (from only one city), but this is some serious hometown pride going on and the music on the release actually spans a very wide path, ranging from drum and bass to disco-house, trance, ambient, rock-electronic hybrids, gabber, and more.
The first disc takes off full-throttle with two tracks that feel very influenced by the Roni Size/Krust school of drum and bass. With punchy breakbeats and some female vocals that aren't unbearable at all, the pieces by Realtime and Nabbee Swift are well constructed and open things up on solid footing. After a couple more tracks in drum and bass mode (albeit, a bit darker territory) Stephen Ray tears things up with "Dangerboy," a track that could stand up to nearly anything Source Direct has released. Some other highlights of the first disc include the gurgling, ambient wash of Third Hand's "Stay" and the disc closer (which is much too short) of "Baby Doll" by the rock/electronic outfit Hot New Dance Hits.
Disc two is a little less exciting as it steers towards a more 4/4 dancefloor beat on most of the tracks, but several of the trance tracks (like "Funkster" by Tyke and "4 A.M." by Saint) would make any club kid at Ibiza grin with joy as they lope and progress into 130 BPM goodness. The disc closes out on a solid note with a wigged-out, trip-hop on crack track by ENE called "October Version" before Q-Burns Abstract Message helps out the Virginia crew (clear from Florida) by remixing Pimp Daddy Nash's "Walk Between The Raindrops." What a guy.
With 20 tracks and well over 2 hours of music, it is also bargain-priced and ready to turn you on to the sounds of Richmond. Hey, it's not London, but it's still proof that there are artists doing great things everywhere. For every track on the album that really grabs you, there's another that's simply so-so, so it's up to you whether you buy the flavor-of-the-month Sasha and Digweed mix or this.