Global Underground has been a cornerstone of the electronic dance music community for two decades, but their Nubreed spin-off label dedicated to spotlighting budding artists around the globe has been noticeably silent. In the beginning we were introduced by Nubreed to future favorites like Anthony Pappa, Danny Howells, Lee Burridge, and more, with the most recent being 2009’s critically-acclaimed work featuring Sultan. Even so, it’s been seven years since anyone has seen a fresh Nubreed DJ mix, and I’d long given up on the possibility of adding another, newer, treasure to my collection. The gods of rhythm, however, must have decided that 2016 was the year to send a prophet to usher in a new era and save the music from itself. Although Iranian DJ/producer Habischman has been bangin’ away for years behind the decks and has had a string of underground hits on sundry labels, his name isn’t well known outside of DJ circles.
But with Nubreed 9, all that is about to change.
Mix 1 opens with Choir of Young Believers’ somewhat spiritual “Olimpiyskiy” to prepare the ears and soul for what lies ahead before spilling into jungle rhythms of Hunter/Game’s sexy “Silver.” The sound gradually finds a warm and uplifting groove and rolls forward with progressive percussion as it swirls into an amazingly heady experience. Sure, the ride becomes tangential at times (and purposely so), but it never really loses focus; the subtle shifts in color and texture seem to always nudge us back into line before jeopardizing the continuity. Habischman brings the energy up, dials it back, rebuilds. By the close of the set, as he eases into “Children Of Almost “and finally Habischman’s own remix of “Silver Moon,” the curtains are pulled open and we get a glimpse of the man’s inner genius.
Unlike other Global Underground double-disc sets, this time Mix 2 isn’t so much a contrast as it is a compliment. Starting with Blausch’s “Parallel Hymns” it’s quickly apparent this will be more of a head trip, although not really in the psychedelic sense, but more an emotional one. Is less synthetic, more introspective. The plot builds to the spacey melodies of “Why You” before marching into a hypnotic tribal tech run of gems. The selection is precise; the programming impeccable. Last time things were a bit more seductive, almost subdued. This time there’s more bite; things are less restrained. The path veers less here but is just as fun to explore, and by the time the kick drums fade out from Marc Romboy’s conclusive “Elgur” and the final atmospherics drift into the night like sparks from a campfire we’re left with a sense of spiritual satisfaction.
Numbered 9 is deep, but not really dark. Maybe a little moody or broody, but not sinister or shadowy. There’s a warmth, a lushness, and a spirit here that’s missing from the bubble-gum pop of EDM today. Young jocks with no sense of story (or history, for that matter), take note: this is what the proverbial “journey” is all about. Each mix is unique, built around a core idea and layered in emotion with a natural flow, flawless transitions, and creative arrangements. There’s a superb balance between the deep and progressive sounds and the jackin’ techy edges and tribal beats and steamy vocals and melodies and the almost orchestral insight that sets this amazing album apart from what’s come before.
Habischman has a knack for piecing together the musical puzzle into a beautiful picture that’s usually missed by artists focusing too much on the parts and not enough on the prize. Every track is a winner, and every winner has its place. It’s a collection of exclusives, originals, remixes, and edits, and sure, I’ve got my personal favorites like “Silver” or “Colours” or “Mailbox” or “Apology,” but the project needs to be taken as a whole to be fully appreciated. I could tick down the list of tracks, but all the adjectives in the Music Review Writers Handbook wouldn’t do it justice.