If you've been a fan of electronic music for over 4 years, then chances are that you've heard of the Harthouse label. Not only were they the starting label for a lot of amazing artists (Alter Ego, Sven Vath and Hardfloor among the names), but their releases were serious dancefloor pounders, and most of them have aged pretty well. In the early days, the German label released tons and tons of material, and this 4CD(!) box set is a chronicle that contains 40 tracks and over 300 minutes of music (that's over 75 minutes of music per disc for those not doing the math at home). While their releases vary a fair amount in style, there is sort of a unifying bond between all the music on the discs that helps to make it an enjoyable listen. A label on the packaging says "Ambient-Punk, Science Fiction-House, Progressive Voodoo Techno and Liquid Monster Trance," which manages to sum up things pretty well (if being somewhat all-encompasing).
Over the course of the four discs, almost all the tracks I remember listening to are represented. The first disc highlights include Barbarella's (which is really Sven Vath and Ralf Hildenbeutel) long, Jane Fonda-sampled "My Name Is Barbarella" while the Arpeggiators tear things up with the sinister "Freedom Of Expresson." The 140 or so BPM track is a complete monster and probably an influence to Hardcore techno-heads everywhere. Another more brutal track is Marco Zaffarano's "MZ 5," which throws in a nice smack of distortion over a majorly thumping kick drum. Spicelab's ambient "Quicksand" is the last track on the disc, providing a nice slowdown from some of the earlier blasting.
The second disc includes another burning (but less abrasive) track by the Arpeggiators ("Discover Your Innerself"), a great Laurent Garnier remix of Resistance D's "Human," and the three-in-a-row acid attack of Afrotrance's "Spiritual Energy," Koxbox's "Acid Vol.3," and Hardfloors "Asbestos In Obstetrics."
The third track not only contains the excellent, epic track "Julika" by MikeroBenics, but probably my favorite track in the entire collection, "Airwalker" by Resistance D. The early pseudo-trance track moves along with just the right amount of ambience and thumping beat that I can listen to it over and over again without getting sick of the airy sounds and kick. Der Dritte Raum is also included with their tribal sounding track "Trommelmaschine" and Speedy J with his "Fusion Live."
As if that weren't enough music to keep you occuppied for days, the last disc doesn't slack off with Planet Jazz's old school/new school "Monster," the clanging "The Evil Needle" by Alter Ego vs. David Holmes, and the low-end killer "Lycra" by Alter Ego. While it doesn't completely veer off course, it's this last disc that features the newer music on the label and some of it doesn't sit as well beside the older releases on the label. While it's all pretty decent, the classics are the ones that sound more innovative to me, while the newer tracks show more of a house influence and less experimentation.
While there are some tracks I would have preferred were left off (and others that I would have rather heard on the 4 discs), overall it's still a pretty good measure of the music that was released on the label. It probably could have been whittled down to less discs and made even more solid, but I guess the label has never been one to give in to moderation. If you were one of the people that sold off most of your Harthouse releases (like me) around 1996 or so, it gives you a chance to get most of it back in one fell swoop. It might be a pretty good chunk of change for someone who hasn't heard of the label to drop, but if you're in the market to bone up on some old classics, you might want to drop for this and the Warp 10+2 Classics 2CD release. Then you can pretend you were there.