Various - Balance 014, mixed by Joris Voorn
Wed 4th Feb, 2009 Music Reviews 9126 viewsin
One of the points of pride of the Balance mix-CD series is that it gives DJs free rein. In the past, this hands-off approach has made for some timeless editions (and a few middling ones), but perhaps none has been as audacious as Joris Voorn’s Balance 014. In what is evidently a labour of love, the Dutch whiz has coaxed over 100 tracks into two cohesive mixes. Voorn used Ableton and Traktor to edit and rearrange each track, taking as much or as little from each as was needed. The result is a double-disc set of remarkable ingenuity.
Balance 014’s sprawling tracklist alone was enough to fire up the hype mill, despite some concerns that technical trickery would smother the fun. However, these mixes don’t ask you to marvel at their genius. Knowing that track five on CD One comprises bits from Dub Kult, Kenneth Graham, Je Dàvu, William Kouam Djoko and Johnny D certainly heightens the experience, but you don’t need that knowledge to be gripped. So seamless is the mixing, it would take a highly-perceptive ear to pick out the constituent parts of each track. One of the criticisms of Voorn’s DJing is his tendency to shift moods and tempos regularly; building up to a heady groove before freefalling into an ambient number. While this can be frustrating when you’re ready to rave, it gives Balance 014 its distinctive character.
Voorn has divided his volume into a clubbier ‘Mizurio mix’ and the experimental-leaning ‘Midori mix’, both weighted with selections from some of the most consistent producers out there. As the man at the helm told ITM this week, “I find it easy enough to find great sounding DJ tools and uber-funky, post-minimal tech-house tracks, but the real standout recognisable tunes are rare to find.” He’s certainly succeeded in digging deeper than the obvious here.
Any fears Balance 014 will not be a smooth journey are dispelled by the first track of ‘Mizurio’, a dizzy lattice of Minilogue, Mikael Stavöstrand, Forss and Tadeo. A recognisable loop or bassline will shimmer up long enough to propel the mix on, before slinking away again. Despite the crowded tracklist, there’s a consistent sense of space around the beats. Track four is like a mini-mix in itself; ambience building into an urgent tech-house/flamenco swing. ‘Mizurio’ unfurls through dreamy house to Detroit drums, with several atmospheric stop-offs along the way.
A capellas are littered intelligently throughout, with the possible exception of Ambivalent’s R U OK (although, this may be a personal gripe against that crushingly brain-dead tune). The final stretch is artfully put together: swerving towards three-am territory before levelling out with the inspired Sascha Funke/Paul Kalkbrenner/Goldie three-way (yes, Goldie). This isn’t a mix with a direct line between A and B, and it’s all the better for it.
On ‘Midori’, Voorn has pushed the “painting with sound” method further. “For me the ‘Midori’ mix was great to work on because of the challenge to fuse all these different sounds into a well balanced mix,” he told ITM. It might have presented the greater challenge, but ‘Midori’ feels looser and more light-footed. It helps that we kick off with some hip-swinging disco and synthy house. Track four (again) is its own self-contained master class – the synchronicity between six distinctive tracks is really quite astounding.
Voorn knows when to pull back too: the meeting of Flying Lotus and Raz Ohara, for instance, needs no further embellishment. Deep house flows into the low-slung dub of Rhythm & Sound, before Jimpster and Marcello Giordani meet in a kind of four-four-David-Lynch freakout. There are many more magical moments like this one. ‘Midori’ is Balance 014’s trump-card: a true showcase for Joris Voorn’s prodigious talent. Whoever is brave enough to step up for the 15th installment has a class act to follow.
Balance 014 is out Saturday 7 February through Stomp/EQ.