One might think that taking on the next installment in the two-disc Balance series would be an intimidating prospect, given how high the bar has been set by past contributors to the acclaimed series. That doesn't seem to have been an issue for Saved Records boss Nic Fanciulli whose two mixes are certainly solid enough (the first especially). Balance 021 also argues strongly in favour of Fanciulli's own label, as the second disc's offerings are cuts exclusive to the Saved Records imprint. Like past Balance releases, this one squeezes an amplitude of material into the two discs: twenty-seven tracks in the seventy-seven-minute opening half, and twenty-five into the seventy-five-minute second.
After a brief intro of rain drizzle, the steamy opening mix, Balance, sneaks surreptitiously into position with the soulful allure of Maya Jane Coles' “Something in the Air” before plunging deeper into funky tracks like SIS's “Break Down” and &ME's “Purple Rain” and celebratory deep house throwdowns like DifferentME's “Back To Tomorrow,” Iron Curtis's “Goma,” and Quell's “Joy.” Though Fanciulli includes a jaunty house cut of his own (“Movin' On”) on the first disc, he's more prominently featured as producer (five tracks) and remixer (three) on the second. Balance features roof-raisers aplenty (Pol_On's “Heavy Rain,” Vernon Bara and Igor Vincente's “Don't Feel No Way,” Marco Basanov's “Up”), and many of the tracks are snappy, hard-grooving house jams sweetened with enticing vocal hooks, perhaps the most infectious being “After All,” an irresistibly soulful banger credited to Franck Roger and Mendel Turner. Fanciulli demonstrates his mixing skills in blending elements of multiple tracks, often three at once, into the consistently body-shaking set, and tracks come from a range of quality labels, including Soma, Systematic, Visionquest, Mobilee, Contexterrior, and Buzzin' Fly. The only eyebrow-raiser is how jarringly abrupt the transition is between some tracks, but generally speaking Fanciulli establishes a fluid flow.The aptly titled second part, Saved, jumps to attention with the sultry bounce of Gianni Callipari's “Whybee,” a nicely funky start to what will be a relatively satisfying ride. The hard-driving funk and deep house vibes of the first half re-assert themselves in bass-powered tracks like Robert James' remix of Mark Broom's “Jackpot” and Subb-an's “This Place.” A wild drum-solo breakdown shakes things up before &ME's “Matters” picks the mix up and sends it on its way, once again primed to roll through cuts by Robert Dietz (“Bingo Wings”), Clio (“Bad Boy”), and Alex Tepper (“Feng Shoe”). Fanciulli's remix of Loco Dice's charging “Definition” stands out as one of the most memorable tracks, in part because of its catchy vocal parts, while Skylark's throbbing remix of Chiapet's “Westworld” invigorates the mix before Mark Fanciulli's “Sacrifice” brings it to a slamming close. Compared to part one, the second half is a more jacking mix overall, a bit jauntier (cheekier, too) in its strutting grooves and rolling bass lines; while it's also more purely rhythm-focused, it's also, regrettably, not as melodically distinguished. For that reason, this listener will be returning to the first half more often, but even if it is the more satisfying of the two, the release as a whole remains high-quality stuff and definitely rewards one's attention.