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v/a mixed by james zabiela - balance 029

balance 029
catalog number:
21.17 €
It seems somehow surprising that it’s only now that James Zabiela enters the fold of Balance’s compilation selectors. A perfect fit for the series, his unfeasibly intricate approach to DJing shines through on this sprawling two-parter, created through a back-and-forth process between his Pioneer DDJ-RZ and Ableton and featuring two exclusive new productions from the man himself.

"My mission statement to myself with this project was that I wanted to make something that was rich and textured” he explains. “Something the listener could get lost in. Some people know me for my technical noodling but this really had to be about the music, whilst still challenging myself technically. My focus was very heavily on melody and combining songs that would have 'conversations' with each other.” Putting this mix together was a long, arduous process that spanned an entire year and coincided with some major incidents in Zabiela’s personal life, imbuing the mix with a sense of emotion and life. “It went from being a 'just a simple mix CD' to quite the cathartic exercise with the music that accompanied me. It wasn't a quick process; neither was it pain free.”

Act 1 begins with gentle electronica like B12’s Untold that brings to mind Sasha & Digweed’s classic Northern Exposure series — a noted formative influence of Zabiela’s — building to the mesmerising piano crescendos of Grandbrothers’ Bloodflow. Sad City’s Steady Jam puts us in the mind of classic Balearic mixes before we are led into a section of whirring machinery, blissed-out arpeggios and sensual acid via Pye Corner Audio’s Dead Ends fusing with HOLOVR’s Into Light. Second Story & Appleblim’s rework of Debussy’s majestic Reverie 68 takes us back to organic tones, with Oddhoody’s The Deep switching the rhythm into a taut breakbeat under Kraftwerkian synths. The epic melodies continue as Merrin Karras’ Void swells over the metallic percussion of Pev & Kowton’s Junked and in the sparse but intensely emotive riffs of Davis’ Plenitude. The mix takes on a haunting tone with the tortured soul of Ozel AB’s Positronic Dreams and Courser’s sorrowful Distances, before Zabiela treats us to one of his stunning exclusive new productions: the delicate vocals and gentle atmospherics of Vines, created largely with Teenage Engineering’s acclaimed OP-1 synth. A heavenly pairing of AAAA and ARCHITECTURAL builds the mix to a satisfying climax before a sudden halt shocks us back into reality. This ending is intended to mimic the effect of unexpectedly running out of tape in the studio; a subtle reference to the tape loop effects of both Vines and AAAA.

Act 2 more closely mirrors the experience of one of Zabiela's club sets, layered with the additional levels of detail that his meticulous approach and many hours of experimenting afforded him. The sorrowful, bubbling chime arpeggios and indecipherable vocal FX that combine through Goldmund's Thread and Earlham Mystics' Waters set us off in elegiac fashion, but the ravey stabs of KiNK’s Radio Slave remix soon cut through and lead us onto the dancefloor. It's a dizzying mix that keeps you guessing through, with myriad styles and moods along the way. Elastic acid via another exclusive new track from Zabiela, X-Ray; the taut metallic breakbeat of Lanark Artefax’s Touch Absence; the raw ‘90s house of Redlight’s City Jams perfectly blending with elements of three other tracks; the ethereal techno of ROD’s Pull; and a maddening crescendo of warehouse-grade bangers as the mix reaches its most intense peak. The mix ends in blissful, spacey territory after this punchy assault, with the dreamy tones of Paper Dollhouse’s Crayons and J.Mono’s Model 500-channeling Sspses particularly mesmerising melodic excursions.

His microcosmic approach to mixing creates DJ sets within a DJ set. Take what seems like one track and listen to its constituent parts and it seems like they were destined to be together, such is the perfect harmony he creates between the bones of one track and specific elements of others. “There are many details in this mix that are quite subtle” he says, “and they’re probably things that only I will ever know or care about.” But while you may not notice them consciously, you will definitely feel them.
01. sapphire slows/kornel kovacs/barry lynn / silent escape/szikra/alpha tauri
02. earlham mystics / truth
03. b12 / untold
04. vc-118a / face the waves
05. grandbrothers / bloodflow
06. sad city / steady jam
07. talaboman, francisco branda / safe changes/hyena
08. ecco foul / gloss
09. pye corner audio/holovr / dead ends/into light
10. debussy/island people / reverie 68 (second story & appleblim rework)/distance 7
11. oddhoody / the deep
12. merrin karras/pev & kowton / void/junked
13. davis / plenitude
14. ozel ab / positronic dreams
15. oobe / crush mind
16. courser / distances
17. james zabiela / vines
18. aaaa/architectural / jazz d/cubismo 8.2

01. goldmund/earlham mystics/steve hauschildt / thread/waters/horizon of appearances
02. radio slave/avalon emerson / children of the e/the frontier (kink sp1200 mix)
03. james zabiela / x-ray
04. mak & pasteman/pisetzky / pulses/vahana
05. lanark artefax/john beltran / touch absence/under this sky
06. lawrence / simmer (lake people remix)
07. solitary dancer/chambray/silas & snare/redlight / paradise found/cerulean/memories/city jams (rapture version)
08. lake people, truncate / delusive/wrktrx 3
09. rod/plant43 / pull/frozen monarch (with christina)
10. sinfol / crystalline (feat barbara ford)
11. steve parker / acid planet
12. fabrizio lapiana/shdw & obscure shape / far away/augen der nacht (ryan james ford version)
13. benjamin damage / montreal
14. mark henning/special request/wata igarashi / expander six/carex vesicaria/lucifero
15. paper dollhouse / crayons
16. a sagittariun/anthony linell / vanishing point/fractal vision
17. hans berg/sine sleeper / n dreams/closing
18. j mono / sspses
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