Radio Slave: Balance 023
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: Get Lost VI
A tale of two mixes, with one largely adhering to the established mix template and the other rewriting it in provocative manner. That the well-established Get Lost and Balance series bring with them certain expectations isn't lost on Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Orlando Higginbottom) and Radio Slave (Matt Edwards), who respond to that fact by either perpetuating the approach others have used beforehand or chafing against convention. Both sets more than reward one's attention and provide no small bounty of pleasures, but it's Radio Slave's that leaves the stronger impression for being the bold transgressor.
Given that Get Lost VI features only one cut credited to Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (a collaboration with Eats Everything), the Crosstown Rebels set reveals less about the kind of music Higginbottom produces under his alias (such as that heard on Trouble, his 2012 debut album, and in remix work for Lady Gaga, Friendly Fires, and Foals) and more about his DJ preferences. Centering around cutting-edge house and techno, the double-disc, 140-plus-minute mix is chock-full at thirty-two tracks, but to his credit Higginbottom gives each one ample time to make its case. The relaxed vibe established early on by smooth'n'sultry jams like Roman Flugel's remix of Valentina's “Wolves” and Alex Bowman's “Kilnsman” isn't unappealing, and neither is the more energized tone that gradually works itself in the deeper one travels.
Higginbottom's choice of Flako's “Honey Drips” as the opener is itself inspired, as dusty hip-hop of the Project Mooncircle stripe isn't typically selected as the starting point for a mix. It's hardly the only inspired choice, however, as Higginbottom's track listing shows him to be a man of catholic taste—a scan of disc two sees Underground Resistance rubbing shoulders with Richard H. Kirk, for instance, and Tiga, DJ Bone, and Jamie Jones appear, too. Disc one's also got its moments, as evidenced by cuts that are by turns soulful (Casino Times' remix of Christophe's “Comeback”), funky (the vocal call-and-response of Dave Aju's cheeky “Anyway”), slinky (Art Department member Kenny Glasgow's “Dance 2 Da House”), and radiant (Pitto's sparkling “Mono Desire”).Disc two heats up quickly with the pulsating chug of Deutsche Wertarbeit's euphoric “Auf Eneglsflugein” leading the charge before the primal future-funk of Visnadi's “Hunt's Up” and Trus'me's wiry electro-jam “It's Slow.” Higginbottom's focus gradually shifts to deep bangers, including his own Eats Everything collab, “Lion, The Lion,” DJ Bone's raging “Thursday Night,” and Breach's irrepressibly swinging rework of Jamie Jones' “Tonight in Tokyo.” Overall the ride's a scenic and pleasurable one, though Higginbottom's eclecticism can sometimes get the better of him, as evidenced by the inclusion of disc one's too-long closer, Asa-Chang & Junray's “Hana.”
That Matt Edwards also releases different kinds of music under guises other than Radio Slave—Quiet Village and The Machine, specifically—hints that his approach to the Balance project would likely be stylistically broad, so perhaps no one should be too surprised by the equally wide stylistic ground covered by him in the thirty-three track release. That the two halves of the mix will be contrasting in nature is also intimated by their respective titles—White Skies and Maestros and Memories Part 1 & 2, the first an at-times ethereal club set and the second a left-field plunge into Dilla-fied crate-digging, ambient, and disco. The first largely hews to standard mix form, whereas the second heads down paths few mixes go; in that regard, Edwards' self-stated goal to “bring something different to the mixing desk” is definitely met.
The fact that the first half opts for comparative conventionality doesn't make it any less satisfying a listen, however. Things really lock into gear with the arrival of Stephan G & The Persuader's 1997 deep roller “Kaos,” and ample doses of swirling, off-kilter techno follow thereafter. Galloping tracks like Frost's “Da Drop Suri” and Brommage Dub's “Untitled (Dub One)” ooze bass-throbbing bounce. The mix detours into a loose jazz-techno realm when Timeline's “Ghosts of Graystone” features an extended electric piano solo before the sensual splendour of Fred P's reshape of Nina Kraviz's “Choices” and the late-‘80s afro-house of No Smoke's “Koro Koro.” Disc one crests with Melchior Productions' “Descendants” and Prins Thomas's steamy overhaul of the Radio Slave cut “Tantakatan” before dialing it down via Larry Heard's laid-back “First Call in the Morning.”
Though the second half might be hard for those accustomed to the usual mix fare to wrap their heads around, it's their loss if they don't. Edwards serves notice right away that the disc will be downtempo and atmospheric by opening with “Only Love Can Conquer Hate,” a Ryuichi Sakamoto track from the Babel soundtrack, and following it with the fluttering ambient sparkle of Vincent Watson's “Hidden Behind the Eyes.” Beats subtly slip in amidst seagull calls in Skooby Laposky's “Lighthouse” before a key shift into sample-heavy head-nod arrives in the form of Slum Village's “One (Instrumental)” and Jay Dee's Kraftwerk-indebted “B.B.E. (Big Booty Express).” Disco enters the picture with the appearance of Linda Law's 1978 “All the Night” (and its The Wall-powered guitar riff) and Edwards' own strings-laden Quiet Village jam “Can't Be Beat,” but another surprise awaits in the form of “Nobu,” a 1974 synths-and-electric piano workout by Herbie Hancock. Heard in sequence, the discs play like a day in the life, so to speak, with the first an abbreviated portrait of a typical Radio Slave club set and the second the kind of chilled set Edwards might play after returning home from the gig. Broached in its entirety, his contribution to the Balance series proves to be both thoughtful and refreshing.