VA: Balance Presents Guy J

In contrast to the standard DJ mix, Guy J's (Israeli producer Guy Judah) contribution to Balance's compilation series focuses less on experimental techno than what one might call trance-techno, a move that gives the mix a more atmospheric character but also occasionally smooths out its rougher edges. Luckily for him, some stellar cuts appear amongst the thirteen featured (all of them previously unreleased), and consequently the release ends up being stronger than it might have been otherwise. While no formal cuts by Judah are included in the seventy-eight-minute set, he's no passive bystander: ten of the tracks are Guy J remixes and three others edits. To his credit, Judah didn't merely sequence tracks into a smooth flow but rather re-edited and reconstructed them in the hope of creating an ultra-immersive experience for the listener.

The opener “No One Gets Left Behind,” Flowers & Sea Creatures' collaboration with DJ Yellow, certainly bodes well, even if the vocal delivery's a little too close to Thom Yorke's for comfort. Nonetheless, the reverb-drenched tune's downtempo feel and plaintive tone offer an unconventional but not displeasing starting point. With that Radiohead-flavoured track having warmed up the mix, one would expect the set to lock into a techno or house groove in the following cut and stay the course thereafter. But Guy J opts for smooth flow over abrupt transition and allows the laid-back vibe of the opener to bleed into what comes next. In fact, the segue is executed so seamlessly, one could mistake Roger Martinez & Secret Cinema's “Menthol Raga” for the instrumental back half of the opening track as opposed to a separate piece.

But as we move onto Henry Saiz's “Santa Fe,” the mix's atmospheric tendencies begin to emerge, and though the tune's bass-powered groove is powerful the music threatens to turn into mood music. Thankfully the rapid-fire bass pulsations of APM 001's “Migrants” and Juan Deminicis' “Once Upon a Time” pull it back from the brink and re-invigorate it with personality. Two high points follow: Navar's “Phases of Grief,” which finds the Klopfgeist artist getting maximum mileage out of a hypnotic four-line melody (built from only four notes, too), and Charles Webster's remix of Lanoiraude's “Waitin',” a resplendent example of luscious house music. Consistent with Guy J's plan, one can sense the mix building to its climax when the soaring tenth cut, Echomen's “Perpetual,” makes its dizzying arrival, and then feel it gradually decompress during the penultimate track, “Killa” by WOW (even if it does undergo a late inning recharge before handing the baton to Robert Babicz's “Duba”). The cohesiveness Judah sought after in the release is also helped considerably by his decision to feature a modest number of tracks, a move that gives each one ample time to make an impression, rather than opt for something like thirty-nine two-minute cuts. Judah's is far from being my number one Balance pick, but it's at the very least a credible addition to the series.

October 2013