SOS: Balance 013
EQ Recordings

Oscar G: INNOV8

No one should be too surprised that Balance 013 is simply one more stellar chapter in an already consistently top-notch series. This year's model, which comes courtesy of SOS (SexOnSubstance), a DJ alliance consisting of Demi, Desyn Masiello and Omid 16B (Omid Nourizadeh), is a hefty package indeed, a three-disc colossus weighing in at fifty-six tracks and a near-four hour running time, but the quality level is almost ridiculously high. The trio isn't afraid to raid the vaults for eclectic sounds—art-pop classics by Roxy Music crooner Bryan Ferry (“Don't Stop the Dance”), Cocteau Twins (“Cherry Coloured Funk”), and The Cure (“Lullaby”), among others get dusted off (Arabian music even appears on disc one)—and mix them in with fresh cuts. Apparently SOS spent weeks painstakingly programming and assembling the mix and it shows.

Following Omid 16B's atmospheric overture “Seagull,” a multi-colour, electro-house dance vibe sets in with AN-2's grooving “Wide Open.” But, interestingly, disc one often opts for lush electronica (e.g., Omid 16b's “The Final Choice”) rather than galaxial dance tracks per se though there's no shortage of the latter (e.g., Jody Wisternoff's epic “Starstrings”). Surgeon intensifies the rumble of LFO's “Nurture” and the breakbeat swing carries on into Speedy J's swizzling “De-Orbit.” Highlights? The bass line that penetrates the atmospheric mist in Christian Smith & John Selway's rising “Slow River” is certainly one but disc one's peak must be Aeroplane's beautiful fusion of deep house and disco-funk in “Caramellas.”

SOS opens the deeply churning second disc with a clubby, stripped-down funk reading of The Cure's “Lullaby” that establishes an immediate peak for the next seventeen tracks to live up to. The mix rolls magnificently on thereafter as it courses through trance-house stormers (DJ Tarkan & V-Sag's remix of Josel's “Digiboy,” Nima Gorji's “Whatever,” Kollektiv Turmstrasse's “Wagnis”) and bubbly electro-house swing (The Blacklight Society's “2028”), and somehow or other “Bohemian Rhapsody” (“Is this the real life?”) and “Once in a Lifetime” (“Same as it ever was”) claw their way into the mix. Things threaten to teeter entirely out of control during the final quarter's wild, percussion-heavy techno tracks (Ink & Needle's “Six,” Middleman's dizzying “Dum Dum”) before Inner City's old-time house fave “Big Fun” and Henrik B's aerodynamic “Logos” re-establish sanity.

The epic feel carries over to disc three with the panoramic sweep of Joash's string-and-vibes opus “Salome” and the synth-surging stomp of Aeroplane's “Pacific Air Race” before the locomotive house chug of DJ Pippi & David Penn's “Do U Feel It” and wiry clatter of AFX's “VBS.Redlof.B” assume command. The intensity level begins to ease up ever so slightly in vibrant cuts by Kingpin Cartel (“Moogie Nights”) and Michael Cassette (“Shadow's Movement”) but not before Alessi Brothers' “Savin' The Day” brings the funk one final time and Omid 16B's “Full Of E_mty” brings this fully-realized set to a satisfying close. A four-hour mix free of dead zones is a rare thing indeed, making SOS's Balance 013 a rather exceptional collection.

Oscar G (Oscar Gaetan, who partners with Ralph Falcon under the Murk guise) issued his own impressive Balance set a few years back and now appears on the NYC imprint Nervous Records with his premiere original artist outing INNOV8. Look past the woeful album title and the rather ugly packaging design and you'll find a credible collection of all-original material that's generally strong but occasionally marred by some questionable vocalizing. Greg “Stryke” Chin's turn on the opener “Angel” is fine and Anne Lise Nicole's singing on “You” is suitably exuberant; the doubled vocal chant recurring throughout “Danceflow” (“Get up on the dancefloor / Let's do it on the dancefloor”), on the other hand, verges on silly if not mildly annoying and the voiceover pitching Miami as the ideal travel stop in the percussion-heavy “Miami” isn't terribly endearing either. Certainly “Angel” gets things started on the good foot with its strutting funk-house pulse and sweaty summer vibe, and Chin's serene vocal glides smoothly atop Oscar G's groove. Animated by tasty electric guitar flourishes and minimal funk bass lines, “Pimp” likewise pumps royally and neatly works in some tropical-flavoured acoustic elements too. Programmed to be experienced as a clubby DJ set, INNOV8's steamy house grooves are nevertheless powerful on cuts like the incessantly hammering clubber “Chunky Buddha” and tight “Lookin.”

May 2008