- When it comes to mix compilations, few DJs have had more experience and success than John Digweed. His mid-nineties Renaissance and Global Underground efforts are regarded as benchmarks within progressive circles and they still sound fresh after all these years. Digweed puts more thought into his mixes than most, selecting productions that will stand the test of time as opposed to the latest fly-by-night club anthems. On 'Transitions' Digweed again achieves this timelessness: from careful track selection to delicate mixing, his mixes are journeys that listeners can return to again and again. Edgier and more uplifting than his last two compilations 'Fabric 20' and 'MMII', 'Transitions' sees sparkling uplifting melodies shining forth between late night electrohouse numbers.
A quick glance at the liner notes reveals that Digweed fancies his bratwurst as much as his bloody pudding these days with a heavy turnout of German artists and labels. But this is Digweed's 'Transitions' not Richie Hawtin's (Note to Hawtin fans: 'Transitions' is the name of Digweed's long-running weekly radio show) and Digweed's taste in Germans leans more towards electrohouse and tech house than minimal. There are no fewer than four cuts from labels Great Stuff and Kling Klong out of Munich, while artists on Kompakt, Italic and BPitch Control also make appearances. Oliver Lieb, a staple in Digweed box since Lieb's trance days as L.S.G, also gets a spin.
The mix kicks off with two slabs of tough electro-infused tech house: 'Cruising' by Partial Arts (Ewan Pearson and Al Usher) and 'Feelin' by Every (Oliver Lieb), the latter all R2D2 chatterings and buzzing bass. Digweed avoids his trademark deep, dark proggy caverns and instead builds his first half with a sense of urgency. He briefly romances the listener with the summery, playful melodies of 'On The Run' by Popnoname (prolific on Kompakt's 'Pop Ambient' comps) before the chunky Extrawelt rerub of 'Torch' hints at more familiar Digweed fare: heads down and deep. The first half ends on an uplifting high: the stuttering broken lightsabers of Tigerskin's 'Neontrance' suddenly spark and 'Plastic Rubberband' bounces across the dancefloor - this is one of Digweed's most adventurous introductions.
The Moroder electro riff on David K's 'Beautiful Dead' lifts the intensity as the mix strides towards peaktime. Dringer's 'Flake Escape' and the majestically trancey 'Roots 4 Acid' by Rocco (Rodamaal) are more progressive territory. Electrohouse duo Trick & Kubic go heavy on the horn and pull up traffic Grand Theft Auto style on 'Easy' before Digweed gives us a sneak preview of Guy Gerber's eagerly-awaited follow up to 'Stoppage Time' on Bedrock. 'Knights Of Columbus' is heavenly. Then it's back to the electrohouse of Digweed's forthcoming 12" 'Warung Beach', remixed here by Lutzenkirchen.
Like fellow Dutchmen Secret Cinema and Joris Voorn, Michel de Hey makes trance-infused bigroom techno and 'Jetchi' adds a superb euphoric edge. Unlike its namesake, 'McEnroe' by Dana Bergquist doesn't angrily spit any dummies: it's placed on 'Transitions' to bring up the lights, revealing happy, sweaty faces basking in bouncy upbeatness. The mix finishes on the hard-hitting and industrial: 'Gebrunn Gebrunn' is a production which Sasha and Holden have made into an opener but here it closes proceedings superbly.
From the first beat to the last fadeout, 'Transitions' is a compilation with everything in its place. Although the palette may be techy, industrial and shot through with a sizable slab of electrohouse, the flow and mixing still has that unmistakable Digweed feel. It might not be fully appreciated by fans at first, but after numerous listens it all holds true, revealing new sounds and drawing you back in, as all memorable mixes should.
Renaissance have repeatedly tried to recreate the magic of their mid-nineties Sasha and John Digweed compilations - they've had some flashes in the pan courtesy of Hernan Cattaneo and Dave Seaman but you can't help feeling those early benchmarks were never quite reached. Perhaps it's too early to tell, but in bringing back John Digweed, Renaissance may have struck gold again.