As more over-hyped pop festivals clutter our calendars and more celebrities demand a spin in the DJ booth, the frustration grows for discriminating ears to separate the pure from the pretentious. The electronic dance music scene has become a caricature of itself, pumping out disposable tunes from an assembly line of ghost writers while the corporate cash-in echoes the blind eye of a dying dance floor during the death of disco.
But for us jaded-types, all is not lost.
Enter Balance Music. The Aussie label’s newest release is conducted by Spain’s Henry Saiz. Balance presents Natura Sonoris Mixed by Henry Saiz is a journey of epic proportions, blurring the line between chill house music, techno, tribal, acid, and more.
With a runtime of nearly 2.5 hours (as either a two-disc physical set or a single continuous digital download), this project is near-perfection. It’s packed full of exclusive music, classic reworks, remixes from Saiz’s Natura Sonoris label, special samples, and unique layers.
Saiz’s confidence really shines through in his acclaimed live sets and award-winning productions and reworks. And just as importantly, he’s in touch with the dance floor; he knows how to program a set that’s interesting and emotional. His music inspires artists and engages listeners. This is his first official mix album since Balance 019 more than five years ago, and it was well worth the wait.
Instead of running through the track list, here’s an extemporaneous reaction to the various twists and turns, the pulls, pushes, nudges and rubs that Saiz takes along the way:
The mix opens with lonely howls and gentle guitar work and eases into a downbeat swing with chill, galloping beats on a fuzzy acid trip rippling with static-y tech currents. The mood shifts with digital bird play, giggling children, and a tropical tribal vibe riding a thick bassline and snaking its way in and out of the melodies and harmonies before soaring off into cloudless skies.
The set continues along mysterious Far-East trails with chimes and keys. The drums stutter, the lead flirts with 8-bit squelches and the smooth ride is peppered with percussion. Spanish vocals are belted from the back of the hall carried on creeping bass while dance into the fancy footwork with Pan’s psychedelic dervish of flutes and acid. A shadowy bottom and haunting leads echo ghostly exclamations from the other side. The vinyl hiss hiding under layered melodies and the bouncing bass stabs flit back and forth in stoic beauty before the mix loops back to more retro sounds built around a broken beat dripping with melancholy dreams. The smiles of digital titans continue to enchant with projected layers of warmth and a pumping kick, backing the piped-in vocals of an insightful sentience questioning the secrets of the soul. A sinister storm blows in with a dirty tech run, but the vibe quickly brightens once again with sexy horns, inspiring flourishes, and a catchy bassline. Strange things happen when an uplifting ’80s synth-driven belter opens up to angelic vocals. The brief intermission ushers in something darker, and gritty beats roll into earthy wood flutes as the flow follows the whisperings of the ethereal and chases the white rabbit down the hole of hypnotizing sounds.
After a spot of upward movement we’re hit with some wise words and hollow wood-block percussion before a chuggy synth with slow, airy effects in a swirling build. The chills of a siren’s song bathed in light and sustained notes bring back a classic vibe before the uplifting drive and plucky attitude pushes things to new heights. As the journey nears its end, we’re treated to a blissful close with full sounds and a lush vibrance. The final steps are taken with a trippy down-tempo masterpiece; the perfect way to end an epic adventure.
So much music today is just a distraction, but Saiz’s Balance project is different. It’s more than just a compilation of record store top 10 grabs; it’s an experience. The extended playtime might be a commitment for some, and the lack of a peak-hour hands-in-the-air hit parade might turn off less sophisticated listeners, but not me.
This album is the antidote to cure our tired ears of big-room blasé. It’s the answer to the question connoisseurs of electronic dance music might not even be asking.
Chalk up another win for Henry Saiz with Natura Sonoris and Balance.