James Zabiela - Renaissance: The Masters Series

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  • It's been more than three years since James Zabiela's last mix compilation. Zabiela hasn't run short on ideas or ways to push oneself creatively, though: This latest compilation sees him applying field recordings to the selected music: He "spent a month walking around with a microtrak recorder in order to make this CD a snapshot of life." The result is a journey littered with snippets of manipulated spoken word and sounds from the urban environment, aimed to give an aural insight into the life of a touring DJ. Much of that concept—one that will no doubt please fans of his eclectic mixes from his infamous FOUR series—is heard on the first disc, entitled Down. The mix opens with the sounds of a busy street: the clinking of shoes on pavement, the distant singing of a female street performer, a car exhaust, then a deep voice announcing, "In a place like this the magic is all around you" …before the digital organ keys and tinny drum kit of Michna's "Believe In It" hook you straight in. It's an impressive opening that follows with two cuts from Trentemøller and Kuriaki, until we come to an early highlight in the mix: As the beat from LJ Kruzer's beautiful remix of "Pattern 4" starts to skitter out, a voice echoes poetic thoughts about humanity over the sound of falling rain. You're briefly suspended in space with the voice, until the melancholic chords of "Amo Bishop Roden" quickly seep their way into the soundscape, leading you out of the wet and into a bittersweet, blissed out state. From here Zabiela takes you through a trove of melodic breakbeat and electronica—segueing it all together with his field recordings, live looping, effects and expert blends. It's a mix that readily switches from one emotion to the next, and ends up being all the better for it. The back end of Down peaks with drum & bass tracks from Plaid and Quivver, with the latter's lyrics being reminiscent of a montage in an '80s teen flick. It's guilty pleasure pop, yet it fits perfectly. The second offering, Up, leaves behind the field samples and heads for a straight up tech house affair with James wasting no time in letting you know exactly where he's at. Diving straight into the brash machine funk of Komytea's "Afghanistan" then slamming into Paul Woolford's "Surrender," you've only just absorbed it all before you're deep in Extrawelt's quivering bass and Zabiela's trademark scratching. The second half of the mix ventures into even more acidic depths, pushing further into the darkness. Finally the return of melody begins with Luke Dzierzek's remix of Zabiela's "Perseverance," followed by two stormers from Luomo & Apparat and Oliver Koletzki. And while these tracks don't flow well from what has been laid out before them, they finish the mix off with such high emotive energy that you're happy to let it slide. Unlike some of his earlier outings that required repeated listens to appreciate (Sound in Motion), this compilation provides instant satisfaction by shooting straight for the emotional jugular. Whilst this may result in Up having a short shelf life, Down does its job on the first spin and will undoubtedly continue to find its way into the stereo. With artists like Zabiela continuing to produce them, there's no reason why the commercial mix CD can't live to see another day.
  • Tracklist
      CD 1 - Down Intro - F Street 01. Michna - Believe in It Hearing voices / Washington DC street sounds 02. Trentemoller - Always Something Better (Original Mix) Air steward's command 03. Kuriaki - Express Teleportation quote 04. Cyan341 - Pattern 4 (LJ Kruzer Mix) 4 AM rain / Humanity 05. Boards of Canada - Amo Bishop Roden 06. Ed Chamberlain - Zarathustra 07. Modeselektor - Vote Or Die Lost in desire 08. Near the Parenthesis - A Brief Walk in the Sea 09. R3volve - All That You Lost QE2 departs 10. Pedram - Meet Your Maker 11. Esky - Number Station Revolve drums / What is beautiful is very bright 12. Plaid - Marry Baggage belt / Vilnius security check 13. Quivver - Chasin a Feeling 14. Near the Parenthesis - Departing Gate Thank you / Goodbye for now CD 2 - Up Intro - Eye scanner machine at Heathrow 01. Komytea - Afghanistan 02. Paul Woolford - Surrender (Original Mix) 03. Extrawelt - Added Planet 04. Spektre - Surface Scan 05. James Zabiela - Darkness 2 06. Komytea - Professional Killers 07. Sebastian 'Freak' Nikolai - Nachtmensch 08. Torro Remote - RSN08 09. Huggy & Dean Newton - Energy Flash (Reconstructed) 10. Alex Millan - Modern Love 11. James Zabiela - Perseverance (Luke Dzierzek Remix - Jzedit) 12. Luomo & Apparat - Love You All (Club Version) 13. Oliver Koletzki - Since You Are Gone Eye scanner machine - Thank you