Every once in a while even the most jaded of us are allowed to smile at new music, and even the most curmudgeonous of critics can admit that maybe they haven’t in fact heard it all before. With so much disposable music it’s sometimes hard to know who’s worth the time. But I try. And after wrapping myself around the latest Balance Presents, it’s safe to say Patrice Bäumel is definitely somebody worth hearing.
I’ve seen the Bäumel name around but never took the time to give him a proper listen. He’s an internationally renowned DJ based out of Amsterdam and a critically acclaimed producer and remixer featured on labels like Kompakt, !K7, Get Physical, My Favorite Robot and Systematic. So why did it take me so long to tune in? Maybe it’s because he hasn’t really broken on the stateside scene. Or maybe I’m just lazy. But whatever. I’m a fan now; better late than never, right?
His Balance debut is a hybrid of sorts between house, techno and electronica; the genres seem to constantly redefine themselves. Maybe it’s better to just say the sound is “melodic” or “progressive” or even “intelligent.” But enough with the buzzwords. Honestly, this mix transcends labels and doesn’t easily get weighed down by traditional genre stereotypes.
In fact, calling this just another DJ mix wouldn’t be doing it justice. It’s a production project. “Rather than blending one record into the next, I wanted to blur the lines between DJ set and production and turn it into a composition in its own right,” Bäumel says. And he succeeds. It’s not another four-to-the-floor slammer and it’s definitely not just another phoned-in compilation of chart hits. Bäumel’s mix really takes the time to build itself up. It’s not an hour of earhole abuse and constantly-building energy; it’s just as much about the spaces in between the songs and the sounds. The highs and the lows. The ambience. The anticipation. It’s about setting a mood, building an attachment, then subtlety shifting it and rebuilding anew. As clichéd as the phrase “taking the listener on a journey” has become, that’s exactly what this mix does.
But Balance Presents: Patrice Bäumel is anything but cliché. Simply put, it’s great. Not just for the music, which is unique, fresh and emotive. And not just for the creative structure or imaginative studio magic of Bäumel. (On the technical end the project utilized everything from “harmonic matching, automation, transposing looping, editing” before being “passed through an analogue mixer to engender a crisp, tight aesthetic”). It’s not meant to be a peak-hour banger; instead it’s best enjoyed as an after-hours soundtrack, the perfect accompaniment for that introspective period when our minds and bodies are winding down and the last dregs of adrenaline from the dance floor are slowly fading away. So turn on, tune in and drop out.