Review: Balance Presents Alex Niggemann

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Balance Music has been at the pinnacle of electronic dance music label, sporting a label packed with a critically acclaimed catalog of double-disc albums, single-mix spin-offs, podcasts, EPs, remixes and more. With artists like jozif, Guy J and Patrice Bäumel, Balance Presents manages to find that sweet spot between new artists and established players, juggling cutting-edge, experimental, and sometimes risky music with more proven, tried-and-true sounds.

It’s no surprise that German tastemaker Alex Niggemann was tapped for the latest Balance Presents project. His collected works feature on top labels like Poker Flat Recordings, Watergate Records and Sasha’s Last Night On Earth, and his own AEON imprint is known for breaking new talent. It’s with this colorful resume in mind that we turn to Niggemann’s newest mix.

Over the course of the single disc the sounds roll smoothly from chilled house to deep tech with a few surprises along the way. The mix opens with TVA’s “Radio Camaldoli Stereo” and the misty wash of pads break away under pumping drums as the sound convalesces and slowly worms its way into your earholes. Andrea Oliva’s “Empty Lips” tails nicely off the opener while simmering up some tech sauce marching to some snappy snare rolls like the like drummer boy poppin’ his way across the dance floor.

Trevino’s Heartbeat Remix of Dark Sky’s “Rainkist” pulls off some haunting vocals atop pulsing bass, heartbeat kicks and synth rises all finding each other in a melancholy maelstrom. Gui Boratto’s “Joker” (Dave DK Mix) scribbles up the action, bouncing the leads back and forth before finding a moment of peace on Ricardo Tobar’s “Garden” (Daniel Avery Remix). Here we slow down enough to enjoy the spaces between the sounds as things have room to breathe; it’s slick and somber with a reverb-dripping snare, playful off-tempo toms and kicks and frantic hats and percs. Niggemann’s own “Hurricane” featuring The Shadow Self shows up next in another vocal track with deep drums and a grumbling bassline. Trikk’s “Volta” gives the project a none-too-subtle swerve, riffing an almost-acid squelch lead as the mix turns in a more driving, less heady path. “SK4” from dubspeeka is a deep and drum-heavy, coconut-hooved groove followed by Baikal’s “Pelican Flight,” another trippy tech tich.

Phillipp Stoya’s “Rula” rips along with dark and driving beats. TVA’s second appearance is “Stolen Jacket” and features an intricate key run. Next up is the Denis Horvat Remix of Speaking Minds’ “Monongahela,” a brain-bender over big drums that swirl into the deep and melodic lushness of MUUI’s “rsrsrs.” The sprinkling of sounds on Aril Brikha & Sebastian Mullaert’s “Illuminate” softens the edge a bit for Valent’s uplifting “Crisis of Faith” before pushing into the moody and majestic “Opto” from Etapp Kyle. Niggemann is back with “Divergent,” another off-beat beast with swarming percussion and indigenous digital flutes leading melodic sweeps. The set closes strong with Antigone’s “Blue Note” and comes full-circle with Ø [Phase]’s “Astryx.”

The mix never wanders too far off the beaten path, so it’s no surprise it never stumbles. While Alex Niggeman’s Balance Presents won’t blow your mind, it’ll let you rest easy knowing the next generation of trend-setting electronic music artists has arrived and is more than capable of moving the culture forward.

Compilation Review: ‘Balance Presents Guy J’ (Balance)

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★★★★☆

Guy J’s latest endeavor, Balance Presents Guy J, is a collection of appeasing compositions that peacefully ebb and tide their way to a harmonious symphony of contentment. While still maintaining a serene resonance, the lead-in track “No One Gets Left Behind” inflects the undertone eeriness and key plunking of Nine Inch Nails on a calmer day. “Santa Fe” conjures up a vibe of South Beach during Ultra Music Week when day three or four of insomnia is rearing its head: You saunter down to poolside at close to 1pm for breakfast and that first cup of coffee. Your eyes are shaded from the glaring tropical sunlight, your hand over your brow masking the fuming heat of midday. All the while there’s this cool ambiance flowing from the poolside speakers to calm the soul and radiate positive energy and the day is unfolding as it should.

The tracks are minimalistic yet opulent and a few are reminiscent of the pleasing Egbert “Open” from 2010. The jazz and funk infused “Waitin” is hinting at drum n bass similar to that of Brazil’s DJ Marky. “Once Upon A Time” might be a candidate for Above & Beyond’s Anjunadeep meets old school The Shamen “Boss Drum” with a slightly slower tempo. Indecipherable, subtle chanting on tracks like “Migrants” and “Fever” add a distinct, surreal element and the latter track gains a nice pickup funk about two thirds of the way through for a unique flare. Considering its soothing vibe, Guy J’s remix of Way Out West’s “Killa” is a bit of a misnomer.

As a whole what encompasses the essence of this latest effort from Guy J is warming and inspiring. The listener will find after unknowingly letting Balance Presents Guy J flow on repeat, it is both uplifting and therapeutic and leaves the listener with a new sense of rejuvenation like that from a nice hot tub soak or a good massage.

File under: John Digweed, Chaim, Guy Gerber