In his first official compilation in nine years, German club veteran and Cocoon Recordings stalwart Timo Maas brings to his Balance mix a highly developed and eclectic sensibility. Rather than sequence a two-disc set of steamrolling club cuts, Maas instead fashions the first half to be more of a ‘listening' set intended to ease the listener into the throwdowns that dominate the back half. Maas spent four months listening to, by his own estimation, a few thousand candidates before settling on the thirty-seven that ultimately made the cut. His strong contribution to the Balance series is generally hard-grooving despite Maas's propensity to occasionally pull it into unexpected directions.
The first disc includes genres not typically featured in the standard Balance release, with Maas opting for cuts that have more in common with electronica, electropop, and New Wave than techno and house in the strict sense—which isn't to say it doesn't groove as it certainly does once it advances beyond the disc's first quarter. That Maas's Balance set will be different from others is immediately intimated by his decision to open the collection with two of his own ambient electronica creations, the first (“Morning Beauty”) a grandiose synth-heavy overture and the beat-based second (“A Day After George”) a shuddering, bass-driven plodder that serves as a natural segueway into the mix proper. Nicolas Jaar's “Time For Us” jumpstarts the mix with a supple groove and gravelly vocal hook that paves the way for Vector Lovers' pulsating rave treatment of Solvent's “Loss For Words.” Deetron's hypnotic “Sing” then leads into DJ Koze's wonky “Kosi-San” remix of Mathias Kaden's “Kawaba” and the jazzy piano stylings of “Once Again” by Henrik Schwarz and Kuniyuki. At this juncture, Maas's opening mix is solidly locked into its breezy, tech-house groove, with cuts by Mathias Schaffhäuser (“The 1st Thing”) and Danny Tenaglia (“Elements (The Dtour)”) driving the mix deeper into a tribal percussive zone, before it rides out on a cresting wave courtesy of Carl Craig (“At Les”) and William Orbit (a spacey makeover by Maas and Santos of “Nimrod” that ends with Elgar inflections).
Having ranged widely during the first half, Maas tightens the stylistic focus in the second with a high-rolling mix of club bangers that charges out of the gate (many of its eighteen selections are by artists associated with Maas's own Rockets & Ponies label). Hard-grooving cuts such as Kenny Larkin's “Glob,” Alex Niggemann's “Take Control,” and The Mole's “Nervous Disid” establish a concrete foundation that allows Maas to indulge his trippier side in the material that follows (his own “Kick 1 Kick 3” and “Arcadia” by Mutant Clan, Maas's collaborative project with Italian producer Santos) without the mix splintering apart. Though blissfully radiant in tone, Santos's hard-driving “Matinèe” nevertheless brings the mix back down to earth before Maas catapults it skyward once more via the industrial-tinged electro-banger “Clouds” and the grinding brain-addle of Lost Veteranos' “It's Wronger.” Heading into the final laps, the mix takes in old-school acid techno in the form of Emmanuel Top's “Somewhere” and Hardfloor's thumping “Acperience 1” and then exits with one final surprise, an epic Maas treatment of Placebo's “Ashtray Heart”—hardly the choice one would expect for the closer but one perfectly in keeping with Maas's overall vision.