Nick Warren – GU35: Lima
Nick Warren has been associated with the Global Underground series for over a decade. GU35, his eighth release in the iconic DJ series is unlike any of his previous albums. This is, of course, has been true for each of his mixes since I started listening to him via an imported copy of his Brazil compilation about ten years ago. It’s the reason why he’s been able to maintain his relevance in the ever-changing dance music landscape. His previous compilation, GU30 – Paris, explored more of Warren’s alternative moody side, with tracks like Cates & Dpl – “Living in a” (a favorite of mine which still doesn’t seem to have been released anywhere in full form). Disc 1 immediately puts that in the past.
After a dreamy intro, Warren establishes the clean, almost sterile, template that wil be used for the next 70 minutes. Each of the tracks is deliberate, yet direct. They share a common “sound”, as tracks from good mix albums often do. Tunes like Kruse & Nürnberg’s “An Why E” and Ormatie’s “Twisted Turns” bring forward a pulsating bassline over a crisp rhythm section, where you can’t help but hear each percussive element. The melodies are simple and repetitive, but all seem to work over a background sweeping synthetic swooshes. There’s just enough variation to keep it interesting while holding onto an extremely unified vibe.
During my first listen through, I was struck as I heard the intro to “Surface”. I apparently hadn’t noticed the Michael Burns/Panoptic name on the back of the case (limited edition wide box, of course). “Surface” was never a favorite of mine*, but on an album full of unfamiliar tracks, you can’t help but feel a little bit of happy recognition. I’m a little curious as to why Nick Warren chose this track in particular, considering it was released over five years ago and is one of the more distinctive tracks on the entire compilation.
*I was always a fan of Michael Burns’ work done under the Blue Haze moniker, such as “Absorb” and his remix of Echofalls’ “Shiver”. Dave Preston and Habersham also did a might fine job of remixing the Blue Haze track “A Time to Reflect” with their “Dirtydoodoofunk Straight Outta Strongbadia Mix” (its actual name!). That particular remix uses a clip from the “Techno” sbemail (well, technically from the Strong Bad Sings album). However, the North EP is still his best work.
My first reaction was to call the second disc more experimental, but I think that’s inaccurate. It’s much more electro, which may have been experimental five years ago, but now electro is a pretty standard direction to take a progressive house mix. The low-fi, electro edge becomes apparent somewhere between Etiket – “Revelation” and Yvel & Tristan – “Panama”, which sounds like it could be off the Border Community label. We’re even treated to a little bit of fun in this otherwise serious set of sounds with “Castillian”, a Spanish guitar-influenced track that’s gone even faster than it came.
Towards the final half-disc of GU35 we get into some harsh bass grooves with tracks like “Siberian Transit” and Robert Babicz’s remix of Warren’s own Way Out West track “Spaceman”. Perhaps its my late 90s/early 00s dramatic progressive trance side, but I like my epic compilations to have a bit of an ending than GU35, which seems to just fade out with the breathy “Bosworth”. But, maybe doing things a little bit differently disrupts what Warren was trying to do here. Rather than providing a creative mish-mash of genres like he did with disc 1 of GU24: Reykjavik, he seems to want to create an incredibly even and well-polished set of respectable electronic dance music. And I think it’s difficult to argue that he didn’t.
Arbitrary song of the day: Silversun Pickups – Lazy Eye