“Jaded” is a word that’s been thrown my way recently; so much so, in fact, that I’ve come to embrace it. The Urban Dictionary defines jaded as “The end result of having a steady flow of negative experiences, disappointment, and unfulfillment fed into a person where they get to the point where their anger-circuits just sort of burn out and they accept disillusionment.” The first part especially is true in my case. If you’re just getting into the club scene you probably don’t have anything to compare it to, but I came up when the scene was young and can’t help but compare then with now. Maybe the disappointment of contemporary electronic music has burned me out, but there’s no way I will accept that house or techno or take-your-pick is “better than ever”, especially when held up to the shiny disco ball of club music from years gone by.
If you strip away all the glitter and polish and over-compression of contemporary electronic dance music, you’re left with a whole lot of empty pop-club beats and the all-encompassing and generic “EDM” label. That’s not to say there’s no good music anymore, but face it, back in the day music used to be truly underground and the hits were typically built from the ground up, growing grass-roots support as the track spread from show to show in aural waves of bass across the nation. Today the scene is much different; the hits are manufactured, the popularity due more to marketing and astro-turfing than anything else.
There’s still the question of where being nostalgic ends and being jaded begins, but where you draw the line doesn’t much matter when listening to music. After all, Chuck Roberts said “house is a feeling, and no one can understand really, unless you’re deep into the power of house”. And it’s that feeling that I’m not hearing much anymore. While there are plenty of infectious tunes around today, the difference between then and now feels something like tossing a Benjamin to the hooker on the corner rather than finding true love. It’s disposable. Instant gratification versus intimacy and emotional commitment.
That’s why the new Balance offering by Danny Tenaglia got me so excited. I’ve absolutely loved the recent Balance projects by Danny Howells and others as well as the Balance Presents spinoffs by Guy J and jozif.
And Tenaglia is one of those names I grew up with. His Global Underground mixes have always had a prime spot in my collection, and I’ve enjoyed his original albums and remixes. But for so many DJs (and fans like me), the music has changed. You can either sit at home in a dark room with the blinds drawn, listening to your worn-out 20 year old mixtapes over and over, or you can embrace the new sounds without selling out. Danny says “This new compilation was more reflective of me thinking about changes in electronic music, in techno, tech house, and minimal”, and I’m happy to report that he’s delivered something to impress the new generation of club flies as well as jaded old-school guys like myself. “I take many of my favorite classics and find ways to blend them in with much of the new music I love today, which is basically what appears on this CD,” he adds.
Disc 1 opens with a straight kick and swirls into haunting layers before building itself up, track after track, into a beautiful interplay of deep tech-house cuts, chugging techno, and slow-burning minimal, all tied together with heavy drums, twisted synths, and jackin’ stabs. Tenaglia certainly lives up to expectations as he subtly leads the listener on a musical journey. Cliché? Yes. But far too uncommon in many DJ mixes nowadays.
Disc 2 takes it back to the tribal tech and house tunes that he’s become synonymous with. The vibe hits a bit harder now, and I can almost feel myself going back in time to a dark warehouse, sweat condensing on the ceiling then dripping back down onto the heads of the packed dancefloor while Mr T himself is in the DJ booth boppin’ and waving light-wands like an air-traffic ramp agent guiding the plane perception through some sinister techno-colored psychedelic journey. It’s a long, strange sentence, to be sure. But if you know, you know.
Danny Tenaglia has re-invented himself over the past few years. After a brief 2012 hiatus he’s lost the trademark ballcap and Traktor has tightened up his mixes considerably, giving him more freedom to add his own personal touches to the music. Indeed, most of the tunes have been edited to compliment the vibe and direction of the project. His fresh outlook on life and the music really shines through in this great new album. It’s been six years since his last official release, and he couldn’t have done a better job winning over new ears while at the same time impressing old nutters like myself. It’s been said that “you can’t please all the people all the time”, but if your name is Danny Tenaglia, then yes, you very much can. And with Balance 025, you do.
Check out the Soundcloud page for tracklist and a teaser mix: