Sunday, 12 August 2012

Review: Nick Warren – Global Underground #024

Towards the end of its life, the Global Underground series drew a lot of flack for recycling the same guest DJs over and over again, and one of the most contributors was Way Out West man Nick Warren, who in total mixed at least thirteen billion entries into the globe-trotting progressive house mix series. This Icelandic-themed effort from 2003 was supposed to be his last, as even he was getting bored of posing moodily in front of far-flung crepuscular skylines, but in the end he returned for another three entries.

Warren is a flawed yet interesting DJ, not a smooth mixer but always with an eclecticism bursting to escape from the confines of his usual THUMP-THUMP progressive house sets. He is perhaps at his best when he goes into the chill-out-room mode which he honed as the back room DJ at the Vision club in Bristol back in the early ‘90s. Normally he wouldn’t get chance to do so on a Global Underground compilation, but someone decided at letting him have his crack at making a Northern Exposure for the ‘00s. The resulting compilation obviously isn’t that good, but it’s still unusual enough to qualify as a note-worthy diversion from the dreary procession of identical GU 132bpm prog house mixes, and is perhaps the most complete snapshot of Nick Warren the DJ, flaws and all.

The format is pretty similar to Northern Exposure. Disc one takes in all manner of downtempo oddities, new and old, including some frosty ambient dub, a splash of funky house and plenty of hi-tech progressive breaks. Disc two is a more straightforward romp, the tunes falling broadly into the progressive house category but with a warmer, groovier and deeper edge to them than the usual GU big-room fare.

While the eclecticism and individual merits of the tracks used in CD one is impressive, the journey overall feels slightly wonky. The downtempo dub of the first three tracks has an old-school ambient house vibe about it, and also a chilly atmosphere that reaches its apex with the chanted vocals of Atlas’ classic Compass Error. From there, however, Nick decides to segue into the ultra-cheerful shoegazey flourish of Ulrich Schnauss, an inclusion that seems at odds with the rest of the entire disc. The injection of dancefloor groove from Planet Funk shortly afterwards also feels weird, as it has so little to do with what comes before and after. After these early wobbles, the mix settles down into an introspective progressive breaks showcase, the talking point obviously being the three-track amalgamation that takes in Burufunk’s twisted basslines, Global Communication’s trippy ambient and an extended vocal sample discussing the apocalypse. Psychedelic indeed, but the vocal sample personally strikes me as too busy, too long and too out-of-synch, drawing attention away from the music and to this weird interjection.

Disc two, as mentioned, is pretty straightforward. The first three tracks are absolutely lush, and my love of Aural Imbalance is well documented so a twelve-minute run out for Aural Navigation (Part 2). Later on, the disc settles down into head-bobbing but not particularly captivating material, with two vocal tracks (Rise and Headpusher) that border on cheesy.

Nick’s mixing is computer-perfect and everything is sumptuously harmonic, but the compilation is ultimately lacking in enough stand-out tracks to forgive the occasionally weird flow. It’s certainly the most interesting GU mix I’ve ever heard, but perhaps not the best despite the commendable risks taken.

Genre: Progressive ambient breaksy thing
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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