Well, they tried. Circus Records has consistently put out some of the most genre-pushing, forward-thinking, and outright weird dubstep and bass-related sounds over the years, but I can’t help but feel that a good chunk of their Grand Central compilation is simply jumping the shark. From a Cookie Monsta tune that sounds entirely rhythmless to a repetitive Flux Pavilion carnival/hardstyle sounding track that is trying way too damn hard, the compilation is a misstep from Circus, a collection of mood-killing bass music that defies expectations in the not-so-great way. A big part of Circus’ reputation is exploring new sounds, but the entries from the big names, like Flux and Cookie and even label boss Doctor P, all sound like either half-baked sketches of ideas or absurdly over-confident concepts that would confuse most dancefloors before inspiring them. This isn’t to say there aren’t a few gems in the rough here: “Bada Bing” by Robots Can’t Dance is a balls-out 128BPM banger that expertly walks the line between big-room and bass music aesthetics with trumpets turned to a billion. 100BPM jams from Mizuki, as well as Odjbox and Port Limbo, provide a sanctuary of tasteful, groovy vibes in an otherwise tone-deaf compilation.
It’s the unfortunate downside to being a label that prides itself on experimentation—sometimes the experiments don’t yield the results you had hoped they would. From the listener’s perspective, that seems to be the case here; there’s too much exploration of already played-out genres and the experimentation into future sounds simply isn’t palatable. I’ll never hate on the undeniable flex and influence that Circus had from its inception, but I’ll also be the fan that says “hey, this isn’t up to par with previous shit.” Because, honestly, it isn’t. Three impressive tracks on a full-length compilation is a poor showing, and doubly so when they’re all from the newjacks. Cheers for those bangers, but unless you’re ride-or-die for Circus, you can absolutely skip this.