Various Artists - Renaissance: The Masters Series Vol 2, Hernan Cattaneo

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Over the past few years, the progressive house genre has moved away from the melody and upbeat sounds of the trance era into the realm of dark rhythm.  As long as the tracks have drums with some swirl effect, that is all that has been required.  The music is richly produced, but all too often it is a case of ‘far too much of the same’.  It’s all gotten far too serious.

Recently however, things have been changing.  Progressive music has moved forward once again, and by and large I think it’s an improvement.  Lighter, more uplifting tunes seem to be coming back into favour.  Gone are the days of every progressive house DJ playing sets with identical sounds and at identical speeds.  Variation is back in vogue and once again there is a tendency to build the intensity rather than playing a “flat” set.  Many of the mixes I’ve heard on ITM-FM in recent times have been some of the best I’ve heard in at least five years. So when inthemix asked for someone to review Hernan Cattaneo’s new Renaissance Master Series CD, I bounced up and down on my chair like the class show-off who yet again has the answer! 

Disc 1 begins quite deeply, with the richly resonant and wonderfully named “Salvation on Slavery Sin”.  By track 3, however, Cattaneo goes from deep and dark to almost “fluffy” by Progressive House standards.  “Lost in a melody”, as track 3 is called, is aptly named, with what seems like an almost infinite hook, repeating until you are pretty much sick of it.  Then, as the loop fades, Cattaneo mixes in one of the highlights of CD 1 – “Horn” by Roman S.  There’s something about this tune that just grabbed me, and I’m sure it would be a big track in a live setting. After “Horn”, the mix moves effortlessly into “Grand Theft Vinyl”, which features a saxophone that sends a shiver of Titanic proportions through your soul.  It’s simply luscious! Unfortunately, CD1 seems to lose its way after that.  Individually the tracks are fine; in fact there are some amazing records in the collection, with great tunes, such as Morel’s superb “If you love me”, but the mix is just too flat for my liking. 

The first time I listened to CD2 I almost crashed my car.  The sun was setting and the sky was a patchwork of blood orange clouds on a blue background.  Dark grey clouds moved slowly beneath the orange, altering the sky-scape (incredibly) in time to the music.  Track 1, “Space Manoeuvres Part 3” by Quivver, is a dark, sinister, brooding progressive number that deserves just such a visual setting.   I was so entranced by the sound and the visual display going on overhead, that my attention wandered from the road.  Time to get out of the car! Next, Cattaneo mixes in a breaks track and after that a progressive trance track.  On my first listen, I thought they were terrible track selections, especially as track 1 hinted that this was going to be a tempest of a mix.  But as I’ve listened to the CD a few times now, I really like the juxtaposition of the different genres.

Then the second disc settles into much the same pattern as the first one.  Cattaneo mixes these lovely sounding tracks perfectly; it’s just that the mix seems to lack any real punch.  There’s not really a bad track on the whole compilation.  You can listen to any part of the CD and think, “this is fantastic, just wait for the tempo to build and it’s going to be amazing”.  The problem is that the tempo never builds; well, not until Underworlds “Mo Move” - the last track on the CD.  (Watch out for that one by the way, it’s an absolute stormer!)

I am a big proponent of “the journey is almost as important as the destination”.  However, if this mix were a plane journey then I would liken it to sitting in the business class lounge until the last track arrives.  Sure it’s a lovely place to sit and wait for a plane, but you take off hours late and apparently that’s where your journey ends.  It’s as if there was supposed to be a 3 disc affair and Renaissance left the last disc on the studio floor.   

With the quality of progressive tracks available today, this mix really had the opportunity to become an all-time classic, especially considering both discs start off with such promise.  When it comes right down to it, the track selection leaves me disappointed.  That said, if you like your music deep or you want something down tempo to listen to in the car or while you’re at home, then this mix will be the one for you.

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