Clocking in at a staggering 57 tracks and over five hours in runtime, the compilation Earth Night essentially serves two functions. Aesthetically, it provides a snapshot of the international dance music scene; with this many songs, it’s tough to zero in on a single throughline, but the vast majority of the artists here incorporate traditional musics into their pulsing, rippling songs. But there’s a more practical function, too. The album serves as an appetite-whetter for the second annual Earth Night event on April 19, during which parties will be held in nine major cities, with the proceeds from those events going to benefit organizations like Little Sun and Earth Guardians. (Proceeds from the compilation benefit those same groups.)
There’s a reason to be wary of compilations that run this long—too many of them succumb to a kind of “table scraps” mentality where the nobility of the cause is allowed to outshine the caliber of the music. Fortunately, everyone involved in Earth Night brought their A-Game. To try to round up highlights would require more space than we have here, but there are a few that leap out: “Rundfunk” by Curses tugs a razor-edged surf guitar across a bed of throbbing bass; Chancha Via Circuito continues to prove himself one of the most inventive digital cumbia producers working today—his contribution “Nagual” wrings maximum tension from an ominous low-end rhythm, dusting it sparingly with mournful flutes. The delightfully inscrutable Dengue Dengue Dengue pushes far into the avant-garde, constructing “Ringding” from a wobbly, off-kilter rhythm, a synth line that borders on darkwave, and a haunting griot-like vocal melody. Stefano Ritteri’s “Dope Mani” seems lit up in neon, a euphoric vocal sample spliced and looped over a walloping club beat; and Little Boots teams with Cyril Hahn for one of the comps most straightforward songs, a bit of airy R&B full of flutters and sighs. Not only does the caliber of the music justify Earth Night’s formidable running time, but the intention behind the compilation ensures those efforts are in the service of noble ends.