VA – Protocol compiled by Beat Syndrome (Baroque Records)

Baroque Record’s much loved ‘Protocol’ series returns this week with their latest exclusive collection and DJ mix. The last installment (compiled by Mexican producer Alex Villanueva) was released in August of 2013 and labels latest promises to be their best yet. Compiling the latest edition is well known Canadian producer Beat Syndrome. Hamed Safi aka Beat Syndrome has been one of my favourite producers over the last few years and he’s also a top notch DJ here in Toronto. Hamed’s ‘Protocol’ collection comes with 17 exclusive productions which the Canadian producer sourced over several months. It’s a daunting task to take on a project of this magnitude. Simply listening to all the demos is painstaking enough but finding the right collection of music to fit together in a cohesive way is even more challenging. When you look at the collection from both an individual track basis and the full length DJ mix it really shines on both levels. Hamed’s done a masterful job of selected a broad range of styles in order to keep things fresh all while still making it flow together like one seamless, well told story. Featured on the release are productions from: French Kiss, Matteo Monero, Elias Uberhause, Nim, Sapiens, Tim Points, Andrew McDonnell, Ozgur Ozkan, Yuriy From Russia, Dmitry Molosh, Audiostorm, AlirezA DP, Antrim, Erreome, Simos Tagias, Tintin, Travis MacDonald and Beat Syndrome himself.

The abstract beats and otherworldly atmospheres of Matteo Monero & French Kiss ‘Don’t Stop to Think’ lead the collection off and given the incredible character of sound and haunting melancholy you are immediately captivated. There is a strong sense of wanting to see where this journey goes just from listening to that first track. The shifty tones of ‘Music for the Rats’ by Elias Uberhausen flows perfectly into a smooth section of deep house cuts which is highlighted by Sapiens ‘Deep Lake City’. The Israeli producer is no stranger to Baroque having appeared on the label a few times in the past. ‘Deep Lake City’ is not only a standout here but would have to be one of Sapiens funkiest and most soulful productions to date. Gorgeous instrumentation combined with a swing heavy groove and trippy vocal gates make for a killer dance floor cut that’s still great to listen to in your living room.

The collection begins to shift with Andrew McDonnell’s ‘As If’. This is where you really get a great sense of Beat Syndrome’s meticulous programming skills. The dark undertones and heavy beats of ‘As If’ are a touch more menacing and you can really feel the collection building some nice tension here. Andrew’s based in Toronto and he’s not only one of the city’s most underrated DJs but also one of electronic music’s most underappreciated producers. He’s got some pretty broad production chops and seems to be equally adept at delivering contemporary tech house all the way through to more sinister sounding progressive house. ‘As If’ certainly falls into the latter category and it does a marvelous job of building real anticipation here.

The dark undertones continue with Ozgur Ozkan’s ‘Derin’ but then begin to shift towards the heavens with Yuriy From Russia’s ‘Broken Strings’. The Russian producers celestial rhythms and charging beats are a real high point in the first half of the collection and you can feel the energy really peak here. Dmitry Molosh’s ‘Sunday’ keeps things on the same floaty plane but brings the momentous energy down a bit and here is where the journey really gets taken on very satisfying road. It would have been easy to keep things charging forward and that’s the general inclination of most DJs but Hamed has gone with a fresher programming approach here.

The deliciously lush textures of Audiostorm’s ‘Forgiveness’ brings the mood right down and into an very sensuous realm which is continued all the way through to Antrim’s ‘The Sweetest Sin’. Guille Cornejo is one of Argentina’s most promising progressive house talents and his productions always offer something a bit more unique than many of his contemporaries. ‘The Sweetest Sin’ is a deeply satisfying track with a wonderful laid back vibe and gorgeous vocal elements which have become one of Antrim’s production hallmarks. It perfectly sets up the latter portion of the mix which is bound to get a bit more intense.

Now more than half way through the collection the beats get a bit heavier and more punishing with Erreome’s ‘Lucid Dreams’ and Simos Tagias ‘Bolla’. Stark apocalyptic vibes again shift the mood and keep the flow extremely fresh. The stripped, techno sensibilities of Tintin’s ‘Phrasus’ brings the energy up dramatically and sets up the collections final two tracks from Travis MacDonald and Beat Syndrome which are both standouts here. In addition to being one of the best label managers (for Agara Music) in the industry Travis is also an excellent producer and mastering engineer. His cleverly titled ‘Yoga Pants’ provides what are perhaps the most menacing beats on the collection. The rough bass stabs are loaded with gnarly shape and texture while the drums have the most pop and vibrancy on the mix. A sinister sounding peak time construction from Travis with a rising atmospheric tension that’s going to be murder in a dark, strobe filled room.

The collection’s final piece comes from Beat Syndrome himself and it seems appropriate that the Canadian producer puts the perfect cap on the mix. Hamed’s ‘Neptune’ while keeping the beats nice and tough delivers a drifting and almost thought provoking ambiance that puts you in a daydream type state. I’d be curious to know if Hamed wrote this specifically to close the collection off because it seems like the ideal production to do so. It’s not so epic or emotionally driven that it hits you smack in the face but instead it’s subtle enough that you enjoy it and still reflect on the journey that got you to that point. Overall this is a superb installment of ‘Protocol’ with not only all the individual tracks standing out but Beat Syndrome’s DJ mix does as well. Highly Recommended.

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