Top 5 albums for the beginning of February

Joris Voorn-Balance 014 2xCD (EQ)(Australia)
I remember talking to Dan Mangan at Stomp/EQ months ago about this release and he mentioned to me that Rotterdam's Joris Voorn had really taken him to the carpet in terms of licensing. "100 tracks", I remember him telling me. I shook my head in disbelief-how many disks was this new Balance mix going to be? Soon thereafter, I began to fashion a theory where a producer could create a DJ mix using both Jeff Mills' postulate on the value of an individual track being only as high as the choicest loop or loops contained therein and the studio precision of a sequencer and a 24 track mixing console to perfectly blend those elements together. The mix of the utilitarian and the high-tech has since become my mantra and some artists such as Ritchie Hawtin and John Digweed have hinted at this future on their own DJ mixes. But that's exactly what this two disk collection from Voorn does-condense, deconstruction, and minimize the strongest sounds from each of those hundred tracks and re-conceptualize them with fancy studio gear into something wholly other. A unique creation that belongs only to Voorn and no longer the individual artist. It's hard to describe further what's going on Balance 014 without getting technical but from a listener's perspective this nearly imperceptible blending of DJ and producer lends to a far more diverse and musical experience than the standard 140 minute, two disk superstar DJ mix. Diverse because Voorn covers nearly every recent development in dance music over the course of the two disks from nu disco to funky house and even some mnml moments. Musical because many of the Voorn creations feature wide channels of open space that allow the mix to breathe-deeply. Sometimes it's the "calling space" ambient tones other times it is a strummed guitar passage, or even (gasp) a verse-chorus-versus song. Voorn ties all of the disparate elements together by allowing sounds and ideas flow through these non-dance music passages so despite a strummed guitar sound popping up in the middle of a techno breakdown it is quickly transformed into a shimmering electronic tone of the same timbre adding a level of sophistication rarely found in any sort of popular music. And it is this, not the technical wizardry, that makes Balance 014 a strong candidate for DJ mix of the year. Let's hope this is the beginning of a new trend.

Busy People-Never Too Busy (Sunshine Enterprises)(Austria)
This talented Viennese duo put a fresh step in a tired broken beat scene-not with wobblier bass lines or more soulful filter sweeps but actual songs that you can remember longer than twenty minutes after listening. Never Too Busy sounds to keep it interesting and the two use top-notched vocalists on nearly every track is a plus rather than an annoyance. Some of those vocal cuts such as "The City" or "Bling Bling" have the right amount of hip-hop bounce and techiness that they wouldn't sound out of place on an OM Records release. Add two blazing instrumentals at the end of the disk that sound like the Meters kidnapped Bugz In The Attic and put their own funky spin on the broken beat sound.

Marlon D-Nervous Nitelife: House Classics Remixed (Nervous)(US)
DJ Marlon D takes us back in time with this collection from the vaults of Nervous Records-the twist here is that they are all "remixed". Unfortunately, the whole mid 90s Masters At Work sound is pretty played out at this point and the slew of that era's remixed at best gives this mix bonafide "oldies" status. Beyond the Jay Tripwire cut and the Manoo update of Winx' "Don't Laugh" there's hardly anything on here we haven't heard already and in this economy hardly anything worth stopping for and giving a second look.

Jaimy-Fatal Music pres At 3AM Vol. 1(Fatal Music)(Netherlands)
Dutch house DJ Jaimy has been around forever and for some reason I always associated him with Roger Sanchez-influenced smooth house. I guess maybe 10 or 15 years ago because this mix is a straight-for-the-jugular mix of bangin' peak hour house cuts. The best comparisons I can come up with is Carl Cox, and like Cox, Jaimy's also lacks any subtlety in favor of more of a mindless physicality that overwhelms you. I guess I am just getting too old to fully appreciate what I call "heart attack music". But in its defense Fatal Music pres At 3AM Vol. 1 thankfully does brings some tribal funk to help counterbalance all of that honking and screechy hard sh*t that's been plaguing this genre for many years.

The Japanese Popstars-We Just Are (Gung-ho!)(UK)
This Irish trio brings the hard back to dance music by stripping away all of those indie cliches used so cloying by irritants like Franz Ferdinand instead. That would be great if these lads fell into the Erol Alkan/Steve Aoki realm of beats and guitars but these guys-god bless em-are all about squelching electronic noise blasts and not rock n roll. All fine and well but the hard techno thing has long since past and the tunes just aren't there to carry this as a tough electro album like the one by the Presets late last year. What were left with is three punters with a lot of angst not finding the right voice to create tunes on par with their psychoses yet. Or maybe it's just me getting old....

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