Balance 017 wouldn't be quite so one-dimensional, however, if the first disc better tickled the peripheries of Maas' tastes. In a recent interview with Beats and Beyond he spoke of his excitement at being able to explore the lower registers of his sound. It opens with a pair of highly atmospheric numbers specifically crafted by Maas for the mix followed by Nicolas Jaar's exceptionally woozy "Time for Us." You relax in anticipation of a steady build through an exploration of sounds. But it doesn't come. Dana Bergquist & Peder G's "Acapulco" trounces the dimly-lit mood; too glossy and dramatic to segue fluidly. And by track five—Toby Tobias' remix of "The One for Ever"—we're at energetic arpeggios and feet on the floor.
Once you've readjusted your expectations, there are passages to bask in. Deetron's wonderfully warm "Sing" juxtaposed by a Koze sound-clash is a thoughtful expression of light and shade, while Patrick Chardronnet's remix of "Imanah" signals a three track submergence that surfaces at the tail end of the Danny Tenaglia classic "Elements (The Dtour)." It's not quite enough to warrant the disc's finale, though: The inclusion of stone-cold anthem is a prize that needs to be earned, and as Carl Craig's "At Les" eases in as the disc's penultimate track, you feel as though not enough has been expressed or experienced to be welcomed home so triumphantly.
Chunky, European house fare (with a dash of Kenny Larkin) marks the early stages of CD 2. Rolling percussion and syncopated synth riffs are never going to burn the ears off a listener, but in this section Maas engineers a sturdy platform from which to launch the mix. The Mole's "Nervous Disid" (track six of 18) marks a sort of "last chance saloon" in this regard: It's advisable to either drink deeply with Maas, welcoming the prospect of a wet and wild evening, or dip your hat and stumble off into the night. Nine of the following tracks are of his camp and are thematically marked by spiky digital effects, ominous bass and a dank but club-ready tone. The point of reference that comes to mind is Dubfire's big room, yet resoundingly dark, strand of minimal techno. There is respite—the pumped-up pianos of Santos' "Matinee"—but it's quickly superseded by discordant head-fucks like Maas' own "Clouds." Acid tracks "Somewhere" and "Acperience 1" by Emmanuel Top and Hardfloor, respectively, break the run but only in personnel: the tracks, to Maas credit, feel like natural bedfellows to the chaos that just unfolded.
Timo Maas has been attempting to reinvent himself at regular intervals since his first productions hit shelves back in 1996. The fan-base that has stuck with him through all of these creative twists and turns should be enamoured towards Balance 017 for the simple reason that it's tons of Timo; ditto, those who've been tracking the exploits of the Maas/Santos axis of late. The Balance format grants an extensive blank canvas to the featured artist, but through a lack of imagination Maas' contribution feels like a missed opportunity.