Will Saul - Balance 015

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  • Will Saul has always been recognized not only for being a solid DJ, but also possessing some fantastic A&R abilities. Having worked for Sony International, you can imagine the man developed a sharp ear for a good hook and a dope groove, something which has clearly been evident in the high quality of his own record label's output. Aus Music has always seemed to manage the elusive task of releasing dance music which both consistently catered to global club music tastes but was far from formulaic or disposable. Taking a glance at the vast track-listing for the three disc Balance 15 release, the label's democratic style is reflected in Saul's track selection. Underground darlings like Model 500 and Rhythm & Sound sit happily alongside currently fashionable dance floor producers like Sebo K and Shonky. There is nothing wrong with this approach, although the mix is likely to divide listeners. It is easy to imagine the release pulling an equal audience of serious "heads" exclusively focused on the underground as well as more casual dance fans. So, does Saul manage to toe the line between the semi-commercial and the underground on his mix as well as he does with his label? The first CD here seems to focus largely on music with a disco association. With appearances by Todd Terje, Daniel Wang, Chromatics, Tensnake, Hercules & Love Affair and Capracara you'd expect the mix to be dripping with dramatic emotion. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work. Saul's approach—to keep the groove firmly anchored at a low BPM, and to clinically mix and layer songs—doesn't lend itself well to this style of music. Anyone who has seen Prins Thomas, Todd Terje or Rub N' Tug spin these kinds of tunes live knows that unexpected changes of pace and a little bit of grit in the mixing is essential to transmit the raw energy of disco. It's a bit shocking to see just how little momentum gets generated when a more delicate approach is taken to a wonderfully varied track selection. On the second CD, Saul opts to mostly focus on tech-house and minimal, deftly sliding through tracks from Isolee, DJ Koze, Villalobos, Konrad Black and Matthew Jonson before closing out the proceedings with a spot of dubstep. Interestingly, the precise and layered mixing that sucked the energy out of the first disc works brilliantly on this installment. Ricardo Villalobos's remix of Isolee's "I Owe You" with Courtney Tidwell's vocals floating on top sounds absolutely gorgeous, and Matthew Jonson's "Typerope" slowly emerging from Adam Marshall's "Vespers" is a mix that Saul rightfully lets play out for a while. Not surprisingly, the sound on this side is most similar to the glistening deep house being released on Aus of late. It is also most in-line with the sound Saul finds himself currently spinning in clubs around the world. As a result, you really get the impression that THIS is the music Will is most adept at manipulating as a DJ. This is further reinforced by the weaker dubstep section of the mix which pops up after Burial's melancholic "Shell of Light." While not entirely without worth, it unfortunately isn't anything you haven't heard done better on one of the countless free dubstep podcasts floating around the net. That set, the final installment of the three mixes—one which picks up from the dub tip at the end of CD 2—is perhaps the most creative and exciting of all. Blending dubstep with vintage reggae and later shifting to deep house, Saul showcases what his genre-spanning tastes can do when put in the proper context. The mix opens up in a contemplative mood with Pangaea's downcast "Memories" before quickly moving onto Rhythm and Sound's classic "King in My Empire," creating a solemn duet by layering both the male and female versions of the record. After a few other deep dubstep tunes, and some proper Jamaican roots dub courtesy of Sly & Robbie on "Skull & Bones," the energy gets jacked up with Geiom's bass-heavy "Reminissin" and TRG's hit "Broken Heart." Eventually the mix bridges the divide between all things dub to house via future soul from Atlantic Conveyor Belt and classic soul from Patti Jo. The sly move is the creative highlight of the entire three CD release, and, consequently, the slamming deep house mix which closes out proceedings sounds refreshing and ecstatic despite the odd lemon amongst a mostly sublime track selection. While the first part of this compilation is a bit of a disappointment, the latter two are certainly strong enough to consider adding this entry in the Balance catalogue to your collection. However, while part two is merely a good contemporary mix, part three really is something quite special. In fact, it really brings into question the entire idea of having a three CD release. In this day-and-age when podcasts are available everywhere for free, perhaps a better value proposition for the public is less rather than more? Instead of several CDs, a better idea might be to just present the best mix for release as an individual Balance CD. It is through mixes such as the third—surprising, delightful and well thought-out—that the mix CD format will continue to have a market. Let's definitely hope this occurs as mixes of this caliber truly deserve to be carefully mastered, promoted for a wider public and preserved on CD for future enjoyment.
  • Tracklist
      Disc 1 01. The Irresistible Force - Sunstroke 02. Smith & Mighty - Anyone (Mellow Mix) 03. Lawrence - Laid One 04. Junior Boys - Work 05. Karma - Beach Towel (I:Cube Cosmix Marathon Remix) 06. I:Cube - Vacuum Jackers (Maurice Fulton Remix) 07. Chromatics - In The City 08. Studio - Life's A Beach (Todd Terje Beach House Mix) 09. Dolle Jolle - Balearic Incarnation (Todd Terje's Extra Døll Mix) 10. Cage & Aviary - Georgio Carpenter 11. Daniel Wang - Panoramic (Acid Dub) 12. Kerrier District - Let's Dance and Freak 13. Syclops - NR17 14. Tensnake - Holding Back My Love 15. Capracara - King Of The Witches (Rub 'n' Tug Remix) 16. Bostro Pesopeo - Falls (Hercules & Love Affair Remix) 17. Hercules & Love Affair - You Belong 18. Sally Shapiro - Jackie Junior (Junior Boys Dub) 19. I:Cube - Supernovac (Live at the Lanchonete Version) 20. Recloose - Get There Tonight 21. Bat For Lashes - Pearl's Dream Disc 2 01. Isolee - I Owe You (Villalobos Remix) 02. Cortney Tidwell - Palace 03. DJ Koze - First Snow 04. Ricardo Villalobos - Minimoonstar 05. Lawrence - Rabbit Tube - (DJ Koze Remix) 06. Isolee - Pillow Talk 07. Konrad Black - Medusa Smile 08. Adam Marshall - Vespers 09. Mathew Jonson - Typerope 10. Will Saul & Tam Cooper - Sequential Circus 11. Precious System - The Voice From Planet Love (Dixon's Chic-A-Go-Go Edit) 12. Robag Wruhme - Robag's Bobb 2005 Fur F 13. Appleblim & Ramadanman - Sous le Sable 14. Model 500 - Wanna Be There (Dave Angel Remix) 15. Will Saul - Mbira 16. Burial - Shell Of Light 17. Zomby - Test Me For A Reason 18. 2562 - Embrace 19. Pangaea - Router 20. Peverelist - Infinity Is Now 21. Pearson Sound - So Far Ago 22. Modeselektor - The White Flash feat Thom Yorke Disc 3 01. Pangaea - Memories 02. Rhythm & Sound - King In My Empire 03. Geiom & Appleblim - Shreds 04. Sly & Robbie - Skull & Crossbones 05. Geiom - Reminissin' 06. TRG - Broken Heart (Martyn's DCM Remix) 07. Rhythm & Sound - Free For All 08. Atlantic Conveyor - Nasty Things 09. Patti Jo - Make Me Believe In You (Black Science Orchestra Re-Edit) 10. Dapayk & Padberg - Island (Noze Remix) 11. Wolf + Lamb - If U Had (Shaun Reeves Edit) 12. No Regular Play - Lady Luck 13. Jordan Fields - I Wanna Thank You 14. Sebo K & Metro - Sax Track (Reboot Remix) 15. Motorcitysoul - Vivid (Roman Flugel's Desperate Dub) 16. Will Saul & Tam Cooper - Teddy's Back 17. DJ T - Bateria (dOp Remix) 18. Tony Lionni - Found A Place 19. Shonky - Coco Feel & Love Shonk 20. Seth Troxler - Love Never Sleeps 21. Morgan Geist - Detroit (Carl Craig Remix 1) 22. Liquid People - Son Of Dragon