Nick Warren’s widely-anticipated first full entry to Renaissance’s prestigious Masters Series is finally here, following Hernan Cattaneo’s welcome return to the series last year. We’ve come to expect a lot from the Masters Series, and sadly I’m not convinced Warren’s album quite lives up to those expectations.
The first few tracks of disc 1 take in gentle piano, slo-mo deep house, ambient Bladerunner-style atmospherics, a shimmering piece by Pedro Aguiar, and dubby tech-house. That’s all inside the first ten minutes, and the first disc as a whole displays the same degree of musical fragmentation. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of great beauty on offer. Aguiar’s ‘The Voices in My Head’ is simply stunning, DFRNT’s ‘El Spirito’ – their second track on the album – appears in a lovely ambient version, and fans of Warren’s own ‘Buenos Aires’ will find the dubby new remix included here a real treat. Unfortunately, though, there’s just not enough consistency and flow to the mix to really pull the listener in.
While disc one tries to cover too much musical ground, disc two suffers from the opposite problem. Things pick up immediately with Lavente’s ‘Tunneling’, but Warren soon gets stuck in a rut, and virtually the entire first half of disc two consists of gentle progressive house numbers that combine chugging basslines with chiming melodies. The mixing throughout is very smooth, and the individual records are all perfectly nice. Played back-to-back like this, however, their cumulative effect is to lend the mix a rather one-dimensional feel. The second half of disc 2 is mostly far edgier, and much the better for it. Cesar Lombardo and Luis Bondio’s ‘Toro’ finally introduces some welly into proceedings, David Calo’s ‘Moving Myself’ drives things forward with moody acid lines, and Verche’s ‘Coral’ makes for a delicate, pleasing finale.
Overall, despite some inspired moments and excellent mixing, the mix lacks the creativity and diversity that it takes to deliver something truly special. The Masters Series is often regarded as offering a snapshot of the scene at a particular moment, but the current progressive house and techno scene is far richer and more exciting than Warren’s album suggests. I’m left hoping that his next compilation will marry the technical prowess on display here to a bolder and more forward-thinking track selection.
Reviewed by Aidan McGlynn