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Balance 024: Danny Howells

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Label: Balance MusicScore: 8/10 

Balance 024 represents the first time Danny Howells has graced a main line mix series in six years, reappearing into a much changed musical landscape. Having risen through the ranks of various Global Underground collections and appearing on the Renaissance series, he will have seen these once dominating franchises fall from power as progressive was gracefully edged out of the fashionable circles. Balance itself has felt the shifting lines of popularity, at one point it could be considered that it sat just below the premier league of DJ collections, worthy if not A-List. Some outstanding recent releases mean that a position as one of the last standard bearers from the peak mix CD era is based on merit and not on circumstance.

No stranger to change himself, a seminal Essential Mix in 2002 and the surprisingly sun-kissed groove of his Miami Global Underground session marked a distinctive shift into more thoughtful territories by Howells, remaining relevant as others faded from view. As such, slipping into the first disc feels like picking up the thread of an unfinished conversation with a friend from earlier in the day. Delicately broken, Desolate’s retouch of Essay’s Find You is seamlessly followed by the Jamie XX remix of Four Tet’s Lion, the Howells sonic manifesto of watercolour autumn dawns at work with the two tracks seemingly destined to follow each other in sequence. Technically, the progressive roots shine through with no obvious tells of merging bass drums or sudden new frequencies, drifting rather than dropping from track to track.

A transition into housier waters eventually sees the first tangible shift in momentum with a pair of tracks from deep disco maestro The Mole. However restraint is exercised; KiNK’s rework of Jimpster’s Porchlight And Rocking Chairs manages to somehow be both subtle and euphoric, Simon Garcia takes the mix into an eyes down moment with his remix of Robot Needs Oil’s Moodswings, and the finishing salvo, which culminates in Axel Boman’s Look What You’ve Done To Me, fully underlines the emotional narrative that is weaved through entire session.

Rather than go for the typical one-disc-deep-one-disc-thump of your typical two CD collection, the tempo is notched down again for the second mix. Playing more to Howells’ love of classic disco,  the opening is promisingly cosmic, with the electronic lead in of Maricopa from Neon Shoals being the perfect start. Although it is fair to say that the tone is held perhaps a little too long, some tracks verging on the polite where you are begging for the raucous. Just in time, Daze Maxim sweeps in to clear the palate with a bare bones remix of Le Loup’s Brotherland that adds some much needed muscle. This proves to be a catalyst as the mix then soars through the clouds through the accomplished touches of Ewan Pearson and Todd Terje, paving the way for the outstanding jangling electro finale in the shape of Sandrien’s Haters.

With three quarters of the track selection on show aiming for dreamland, end to end plays of both mixes in one marathon session can leave you feeling a little vague, with the latter disc begging for an anchor to be dropped earlier for some much needed grit. Still, if you draw a line between your listening experiences and allow each disc some room to breathe, Balance 024 will surely find a corner of your heart in which it will grow.

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