I've had the pleasure of reviewing 2 great Balance mixes here thus far; Balance 20, so eloquently mixed by Deetron, and Balance 21, given that similar loving treatment by Nic Fanciulli. One thing that I've always loved about the Balance Music mix series has always been their attention to quality and detail, and the fact that they pick some of the best DJs in the field that are living testimonies and Lancelots to their musical dynamics.
Balance 22, here, now, is no different. In fact, if anything, it's upped their game a tad too. And they've got one of my all-time favorite DJs and producers to put it all together too. Not only is he one of my favourites, but other DJs that place him high on their celestial pedestal list include Nick Warren, Danny Howells, Hernan Cattaneo, Jamie Odell (Jimpster) and Tom Middleton, just to name a few. Andy Cato of Groove Armada had this to say, "Moving the dancefloor from the 90s to the 21st century, basements to festivals, he is right up there with the very best. He's provided the soundtrack to nights that have become legendary. Always distinctive - grooves with soul that rock it. He lives it, loves it and makes the T-shirt. Viva Le Deep."
If you haven't already been initiated into the Funk D'Void "Hall of Fame", then you've probably been living on a desert island for the last two decades. Or, generally, just don't know great music, in which case you should be reading this review even more. Lars Sandberg has been a regular feature on Slam's Soma Recordings since his debut EP, Jack Me Off, dropped back in 1995. He is probably best known for the end-of-nighter 'Diabla' which bridged house and techno (and was flogged by everyone from Danny Howells to Sven Vath and then some). Apart from Funk D'Void, he is also known by his other monikers such as Francois Dubois, Chaser, X-Funk and Hellfire Club, all of whom have made noteworthy appearances on the Balance 22 track-list. And what a list it is too! Add to all of that, his remix work is stellar; New Order, Kraftwerk, Underworld, Laurent Garnier and Kevin Saunderson have all asked for his unique take on their music, with a host of others too numerous to mention Check discogs.com for the full listing.
Back to this mix now - I am actually smiling at the absence of big tracks that culminate this track-list (save 'Diabla' which makes a 'token' appearance at the end of CD 1 in the form of an exclusive unreleased remix by Psycatron. As far as CD 1 goes, it wastes no time in taking you onto the dancefloor and just winds, bends and teases all through its entire 79 minutes. In classic Lars Sandberg fashion, it's a seriously funky, even at times, melodic onslaught from the get go as the opening bass stabs of Hawkinson's, 'Introduction' (remixed by Lars himself as Funk D'Void) reel you in and morph almost effortlessly into the French-Kiss-esque 'Yesterday and Today' by Monty Luke which carries the groove through into the deeper atmospheric 'Olmec My Brother by Los Hermanos.
The Classic Inner-City-sounding chunkiness of Chris Mallinchak's 'Razor' takes it back into groovier, spacier, dancefloor territory and then continues the ride through tracks like Peter Dildo's 'Lucky Punch', Tonka's Dub of 'Orca', Delano Smith's 'Wires' and the excellent Funk D'Void remix of Vince Watson's 'A Very Different World" before eventually ending up with the classic 'Diabla'. If this were a club, instead of my living room, I'd be drenched in sweat by now. Wouldn't risk going to the bar yet either, thirst was not an option.
Alas, reality check, I am in my living room, so a quick tea break and it's on to CD 2, which takes the tempos down to begin with, and adopts a more eclectic approach in many ways. It starts off in melodic, sunset-driven and, almost Balearic mode with the brilliant 'Suspended on Air' by A Lucid Nation and then bringing on the splendor of Kolombo's excellent 'Waiting For' and the sheer dynamism and musical beauty of Lee Webster's 'Delve', another one of the 4 exclusive tracks on this mix.
Again, Lars winds and bends through this mix, diversifying the overall ambience by crossing melodies, atmospherics, dynamics and genres, merging the four on the floor with experimental, at times agitated break-beats - something that's become part and parcel of that essential Fun D'Void experience that any fan of his work welcomes whenever he decides to drop into it.
It's not really as if one would say, 'OK, there he goes again', more like, 'OK, he's getting into his element now', and then leaves a few jaws to drop at what ever he chooses to do next. It is for this particular reason alone, that I am enjoying CD 2 a lot more. Not the token tech-driven club set that panders to usual expectation or conformity that mixed compilations normally tend to do. This is precisely what myself and many a Lars Sandberg fan have come to know and love about him. It's probably also, in many ways, partly, a result of his decision to move from his home in Glasgow to Barcelona in 1999, instead of the more favoured Berlin (which, Lars says was a toss of the coin between Paris and Barcelona - the coin landed on Barcelona). Although, as Lars puts it: As beautiful as the city is, it still has a long way to go, club-wise, beyond the excellent annual Sonar music festival.
This second CD also allows Funk D'Void to showcase, not just some of his own production and remix work, but the work of the many DJs and producers he lists as favourites, from Lee Webster (also a resident of picturesque Barcelona), Jack Hamill (aka Space Dimension Controller), Patrice Scott (whose abstract tinkling on 'Tones and Things' add to the entire sound-scape rather breathtakingly), Phil Kieran (who contributes the par-excellent 'Prism' to this mix), Tom Ellis, Martin Patino and another exclusive track, 'RE 2001' by spot-on-form dutchman Joris Voorn. Dennis DeSaints's 'You Say' winds the mix up on a sweet little jerky, bouncy and funky note as Funk D'Void takes us back into dancefloor territory, almost leaving us with the promise of the next 4 encores, possibly, maybe, hopefully.
Another mix in the Balance series that leaves me quite rapt, and looking forward to the next one. In all honesty, this review might be a little biased somewhat, as I do love Lars Sandberg's work immensely. And the fact that all his DJ sets that I've both heard and witnessed over the course of time, have always brought me to new 'places', dizzy heights and has invoked new trains of thought with regard to the artistry of DJing and production as a whole. Overall, this mix is fun, intelligent, ground-breaking (especially on CD 2), and in the highest realm of quality, what I've always come to expect from Lars Sandberg and the Balance Music crew in every sense. A solid, honest and accurate account of the musical inspiration that drives the soul of a very talented and very special individual. And, again, as biased as this might sound, it's something I would honestly recommend every experienced and aspiring DJ or producer should listen to, more than just once.
1. Hawkinson “Introduction (Funk D’Void remix)”
2. Monty Luke “Yesterday & Today”
3. Los Hermanos “Olmec My Brother”
4. Chris Malinchak “Razor 2.0”
5. Peter Dildo “Lucky Punch”
6. Arkist “Effingham PL” ***EXCLUSIVE***
7. Tonka “Orca (dub)”
8. Mike Acetate “Elevate (Shur-I-Kan & Milton Jackson remix)”
9. Soy Mustafa “Return Of The Annunaki (John Tejada Cinematic Edit)”
10. Moodymanc “Talker (Drum dub mix)”
11. Exercise One & Mathew Jonson “Lost Forever In A Happy Crowd”
12. Guy Andrews “Confuted” ***EXCLUSIVE***
13. Delano Smith “Wires”
14. Sam Matters “Weight Off My Mind”
15. Chymera “The Chase (Steve Rachmad Edit)”
16. Jesper Dahlback “Nyhus Part Two”
17. Pezzner “Only With Your Eyes”
18. Spirit Catcher “Sedona (Andre Lodemann remix)”
19. Vince Watson “A Very Different World (Funk D’Void remix)”
20. Tony Lionni “Loving You”
21. Funk D’Void “Diabla (Psycatron Unreleased remix)” ***EXCLUSIVE***
1. Alucidnation “Suspended On Air”
2. Kolombo “Waiting For”
3. Lee Webster “Delve” ***EXCLUSIVE***
4. Steve Reich “Electric Counterpoint (Fast)”
5. Lovebirds “Running Backwards”
6. Space Dimension Controller “Journey To The Core Of The Unknown Sphere”
7. Martin Patino “Hommage a la Sodomie (Joash Remix)”
8. Outmode “Dark Journey (Toby Tobias’ Journey to the Light Remix)”
9. Vincent I. Watson “Celtic Beauty”
10. Joash “Assassin (Funk D’Void Remix)”
11. Joris Voorn “RE-2001” ***EXCLUSIVE***
12. Chaser “Bite The Bullet (Francois DuBois Remix)”
13. Tom Ellis “Go Through Me”
14. DJ Profile “Can U Sing”
15. Rhythm Maker “Alles Mainstream”
16. Patrice Scott “Tones & Things”
17. Robert Babicz “Out Of Order (Rob Acid Version)”
18. Soundstream “Makin Love”
19. Blackman “Headroom”
20. Phil Kieran “Prism”
21. The Reboot Joy Confession “1999 (Untitled)”
22. Wasted Gaze “Untitled State Of Mind”
23. Francois DuBois “Sweet Spot”
24. Dennis DeSantis “You Say