Disc one, titled ‘Downtempo’, is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon at home or even tripping your balls off on mushrooms in the park. A bass-heavy affair, it gets so trippy at times that it had me wondering if M spent all that time off the radar smoking peyote in the mountains with a tribal chief. Bill Laswell starts things off on a world beat tip, with not one but two tracks (Each disc on Balance 010 begins with a double dose from one artist). His ‘Ethiopia’ is an uplifting prelude, as a (presumably) African female vocalist sings prettily but incomprehensibly over a laid-back guitar loop. Coldcut’s decade-old ‘Autumn Leaves’ is also raised from the dead, though it’s quite roughly shoehorned in by Mr. M – one of a handful of mixing muck-ups. I can tell why the liner notes left out the fact that it’s actually the ‘Irresistible Force Trip Mix 2’ version of this track – how 1995 is that name?! Elsewhere The Thievery Corp. remix of Wax Poetic’s ‘Angels’ is a stunner, with Norah Jones’ vocals weaving through a dubby bassline and druggy drum work, while Goldfrapp’s remix of Depeche Mode’s ‘Halo’ wouldn’t be out of place as a Bond theme: Dave Gahan’s pouting perfectly matches Alison Goldfrapp’s heavy breathing, and there’s orchestral strings and a bit of opera thrown in as well.
But it’s the second disc ‘Midtempo’ that is easily the comp’s best. Miles Tilmann’s ‘Floating Windows’ is the heavy opener, with Vangelis-esque synth work straight out of ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Xanadu’. Next Steve T’s ‘How Are You?’ asks exactly that over and over, but far from annoying, the track is a heavily layered, giddy little joy. But’s not until Cocteau Twins’ gorgeous ‘Bell Blue Knoll’ concludes that the mix really shakes off the vibe of its downtempo little brother: Speedy J’s ‘Oil Zone’ simply ignites, Boards of Canada bring their usual high-school-science-video-on-acid sound to ‘Skyliner’, and Aphex Twin’s track is anything but his same old bag of tricks: Rather than a maniac glitch-stitch or a gothic piano throw-off, ‘Delphium’ is just nice, slow-burning electro. Later Rub-N-Tug give LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Too Much Love’ a slow acid massage, but the happy ending (a full fifteen minutes!) is left to Underworld, with their 1995 remix of Saint Etienne’s ‘Cool Kids of Death’.
Disc three, ‘Uptempo’, gets off to a running start with two heavy remixes of Djuma Soundsystem’s ‘Les Djinns’ courtesy of Trentemøller and Def Jaguar. Of course Trentemøller’s goods are the greater of the two, further proof that he is the new King Midas of remixing – everything he’s touched this year has turned to solid gold. Apparat & Ellen Allien’s ‘Jet’ is another early highlight, a bit “six months ago” and all, but still resonating with big emotion under all that glitching and twitching. Winking back to the acid house nods on discs one and two, JVM later delivers a one-two punch on disc three, with Tom Pooks’ ‘Docker’ and Acid Test’s ‘Test One’, and if you’ve been listening to one ‘Balance 010’ disc after another, this is the moment when you’ll finally put your down the paper, uncross your legs, and start throwing shapes at the living room ceiling. Meanwhile, DJ T & Booka Shade’s ‘Played Runner’ is an unmemorable disappointment from the Get Physical camp, but luckily the boys from Kompakt arrive to pick up the pieces: Michael Mayer and Superpitcher, under their Supermayer guise, close the disc with a subdued-but-emotive, gorgeous remix of Gui Boratto’s ‘Like You’.
Like Renaissance’s ‘3D’ series, the new multi-disc, multi-speed format of ‘Balance’ gives DJs a chance to prove their mettle in a variety of styles. Coming straight outta leftfield, Jimmy Van M’s ‘Balance 010’ just might be the one future contributors have to beat – it’s nearly four hours of great music with hardly a hiccup to be heard. True to his great nation, JVM has placed great importance on quality AND quantity, serving up a super-sized slab of fried gold. It’s the best ‘Balance’ to date, and earns the highest marks, appropriately.