Joris Voorn: Balance 014
EQ Recordings

No doubt lots of ink will be spilled over the more than one hundred tracks Dutch DJ and producer Joris Voorn has seen fit to squeeze into the latest Balance installment's double-disc set. Said ink would be better spent noting how seamlessly Voorn's woven those tracks into the release's two mixes, so much so that one would hardly guess the inordinate number of tracks he's incorporated into one set. Oh sure, occasionally bits and pieces of tracks do rise to the surface and just as quickly vanish but Voorn wisely holds the material together by anchoring the sets with a persistently charging bottom end.

What really impresses is the skilful manner by which he stitches together a given track. Rather than lazily assembling the originals so that one simply follows after another, he instead takes a handful at a time, breaks them apart, and then builds a brand new track from the key components of the originals (Voorn astutely characterizes it as “more like painting with sound rather than performing a traditional DJ mix”). What results is not only newly-created material but a strong sense of coherence within a given set-piece. It's a strategy one wishes other mixers would adopt, though obviously doing so demands a much greater investment of time and imagination. It's significant that the two discs bundle tracks into larger wholes (twelve on disc one, sixteen on two) as such indexing is consistent with Voorn's own approach: tracks not merely following one another so much as cohering into smaller wholes that are much like new compositions. Disc one's ninth track, for example, merges the familiar croak of Ambivalent's “R U OK” with “Altitude (Mayday Mix)” by System 7 and Derrick May, “Star Dancer” by The Martian, and “Topdrop” by Polder into something novel, while the tenth blends trance, blues, house, and schaffel elements into a dizzying whole.

Things get seriously grooving in the royally stoked second track (featuring Basic Channel and Matthias Tanzmann), the pumping, bass-heavy fifth (Dub Kult, Kenneth Graham, William Kouam Djoko, Johnny D, Je Dávu), and in numerous other places besides. At the same time, Voorn isn't afraid to let the beats drop out for brief spells before letting them charge back in, and ends the first half with an paradisiacal setting presided over by Joakim, Secede, Quiet Village, and Sensorama. That languorous vibe carries over into part two's soprano sax-laden opener before the pulsating mix moves onto funkier and electro- and disco-tinged climes. Voorn drops some surprises into disc two's middle with a beatless interlude and a piano-and-vocal ballad (Poni Hoax's “Faces in the Water”) but otherwise holds one's attention with tracks by Flying Lotus (“Brainfeeder”), Rhythm & Sound (“King in My Empire”), and Carl Craig and Innerzone Orchestra (“At Les”).

Voorn's selections amount to a veritable encyclopedia of contemporary electronic dance music with seemingly every major name of the past decade or so making an appearance: excluding those already mentioned, disc one's “Mizurio” mix includes Mikael Stavöstrand, Minilogue, Yagya, Heiko Laux, Robert Babicz, Model 500, Cobblestone Jazz, Tigerskin, Solomun, Stimming, Sascha Funke, and Goldie; disc two's “Midori” mix features Henrik Schwarz, Ricardo Villalobos, Radio Slave, Jimpster, Aphex Twin, and even Radiohead. Every Balance mix somehow manages to trump the ones that came before and Voorn's is no exception. It's not an exaggeration to argue that it sets a new standard for the series, particularly in the way it distills its source material into newly-created tracks rather than merely sequenced ones. Calling Voorn visionary might seem hyperbolic but Balance 014 certainly amounts to a compelling argument on the word's behalf.

April 2009