Balance’s mix compilations are famed for taking listeners on intense musical journeys, with artists like Jimmy Van M, James Holden and Henry Saiz delivering some of the most memorable moments on the series. So when legendary NYC based DJ, Danny Tenaglia announced his first mix compilation for 6 years was coming out on Balance, everyone was exited…
We begin our ride with CD 1 and it’s clear right from the off, that Tenaglia is going to smash it. Starting as he means to go on, prog-tech faves like “Tragicaller” and “GBass”, showcase his love for the hybrid underground sound. All these tracks bear a hallmark flavour of the hey day of dark house music, whether it be a vocal stab, a huge tom drum riff, darker prog-oriented melodies, so we’re getting some of the old Danny Tenaglia here.
From a mixing standpoint, the tracks are mixed blended gracefully and with so many tracks to mix, the transitions are happening a lot quicker, so don’t be expecting drawn out seamless 5 minute transitions…
As CD 1 progresses, it feels like falling further down the rabbit hole. We move away from any melodic/prog inclination into proper techno and by the time we roll into MRI’s “Es Geht Um Mehr” Tenaglia is absolutely smashing it. If you’re a Balance fan, there are points when you’ll ask yourself, “is this really a Balance mix”? If the truth be told, this could easily be a live recording from one of Tenaglia’s peak time shows.
Having been in to proper techno since the mid 90’s, i’ve learnt it’s really hard to create a deep or meaningful mix just with 4 to the to the floor techno. So it was pretty brave of Tenaglia to attempt a double CD techno mix. The man has always been famed for his programming skills and true to form, makes optimum use of the tracks, creating a sense of urgency, whilst still maintaining the depth and character of a proper DJ set. There are points where the change of pace gets bogged down but that was to be expected. Having seen Tenaglia play, I know he loves to mix it up and keep people engaged on the dancefloor. So if you were listening to this set in a club, you’d be okay with it. Except nobody will be.
If we focus on the tracks; there are some real winner tracks in the bunch here for CD1. Definitely worth mentioning is Dosem’s mix of Hot Since 82’s “Plains and Trains,” which simply banging, and has such a life to it that it grabs your attention out of the 18 tracks it’s joined with instantly. The ambient yet dark feel of “Black Copy” ft. Lee Curtis is also a really quality tune, which implements some really impressive percussive and pad/atmospheric work that has an instantly recognizable vibe. This followed up with Nicole Moudaber’s “Movin’ On” is a real great mix combo, and takes up the pace a notch while at the same time keep along the same dark, melodic techno tangent. It’s that hybrid feel that is the winning sound of this compilation – in my mind.
CD 2 starts us off with the more modern techy style Tenaglia established during his darker parts of CD 1. As the mix progresses, we’re treated to some old school goodness, that permeate smoothly through the cracks of modern percussive heaviness and dubby bass. Antigone’s two additions here (“The Melody” and “Time Merchant”) both stand out very nicely in this regard, and add a nice sense of variety while sticking the mix’s flow, which in this case, is taking it up a notch from the previous hour.
Once again, we see darkness, mood, and experimentation infused into groovier songs that carry more of Tenaglia’s signature vibe. In CD 2, the duality is seen much more commonly, with a mix of old and new, as opposed to tech or prog. The vibe seems to revert in the opposite direction of CD 1, which took melodic interludes earlier on, and gradually geared the listener towards techno. CD 2 starts out with these techier sounds, and introduces more melody later on instead.
The Winning tracks in CD 2 for me were a couple of heavy hitters, that once again captured the vibe that I think is the highlight of Tenaglia’s style. This includes Dax J’s Dreamscape, which has such a retro feel to it, yet still keeps that harsh darkness in the background to drive the track forward. Also to be mentioned is Laurent Garnier’s funkadelic remix of Gregor Tresher’s good old “Nightcolors.” It’s a housings combined with some cutting edge unique soundscaping makes you really fall into the beat: addictive to say the least! Finally, Sin Sin’s “Grounded” is a brilliant little combination of styles that once again stays dark but keeps your blood pumping, with some great old school drum action and an acid-influenced riff topped right over the bass that adds some old school proggy flavor into the mix.
James Gill verdict: There are some amazing tracks on this compilation. It’s super energetic and just grabs you right from the start. There are points in this mix where you will be amazed and delighted, but also parts where you’ll lose interest. Tenaglia has done his own thing and ignored the ‘Balance mould’. It’s more of an advertisement to show what he plays in a club these days – rather than being a memorable mix comp. He may have been better doing a single disc, because both mixes get pretty samey. Focusing on the positives: there’s tonnes of great music on show here, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. If you’re a techno fan, this has to be an essential purchase. 7/10