It’s not because of the mixing: SOS—Desyn Masiello, Omid 16b and Demi, collectively—take a thoughtful approach to their transitions, which are seamless and elegant for the most part. Their selection, too, can rarely be faulted, cutting a wide swath through tracks by EDM pioneers Aphex Twin and Speedy J, ‘80s fixtures The Cure and Bryan Ferry and youngbloods Dusty Kid and Michael Ho. And they most assuredly try to hit a groove, time after time: If the crashing thunder and rain that kick off disc one are any indication, this is supposed to be the most atmospheric disc of the three. Accentuating this vibe are tracks like the heartbreaking ‘Slow River’ by Smith & Selway, the “beatless mix” of Chymera’s ‘Umbrella’ and the Seafeel remix of Cocteau Twins’ ‘Cherry Coloured Funk’, all of which drift along blissfully unmoored to a 4/4 beat. Strange, then, that they’re separated by long periods comprised of workmanlike house, with the irritating disco of Aeroplane’s ‘Caramellas’ and cheesy vocals of Imagination’s ‘Just An Illusion’ (despite it being the Lindstrøm dub) being the worst offenders. With that wicked start and the aforementioned great tracks, this should’ve been the chilled-out disc you can put on and close your eyes to, but it’s too stilted to take lying down.
Disc two works significantly better and comes out best among the three. Fans of Masiello will likely think the same, as his trademark re-editing and genre-hopping skills are in top form here (better than on his own Balance 008 in fact). A mix that kicks off with a special-made, club-ready version of The Cure’s ‘Lullaby’ could go anywhere, so the trio take the idea and run with it, switching up prog, acid house, breaks and techno without missing a beat. As the only one of the three discs with nary a vocal track (unless you count a Queen sample on Corporation One’s ‘The Real Life’), disc two is thoroughly late-night/heads-down fare and all the better because of that.
SOS try to capture the same vibe on disc three, but it never really takes off. The fuel’s there: highlights being the anthemic prog of Dimitri’s ‘Here She Comes (Elektrokid Remix)’ and Martin Buttrich’s screwy, bass-heavy take on Loco Dice’s ‘City Lights’. Like disc one, though, the sequencing’s all wrong: ‘City Lights,’ for instance, makes for enormously awkward bosom buddies with Michael Ho’s ‘Kiss The Wasp’, yet they’re carelessly slapped together. The mix’s longest track, Michael Cassette’s ‘Shadow’s Movement’, also happens to be its worst, which is never a good thing. And like the third Lord of the Rings movie, disc three gives a satisfying finish (on Bastian’s fittingly titled ‘Game Over’) but then burns through four encores before mercifully fading out.
Above all other points of contention, Balance 013 should’ve had a clearer sense of purpose. That doesn’t mean SOS had to take the same tack as Jimmy Van M did, but had they mapped out each disc with rules in place, the total package would’ve come together much more nicely. As such, it feels airy and aimless; a clean-cut case that a great tracklist doesn’t make a great mix. SOS do a commendable job between tracks, but here they’ve failed to see the big picture.