Renaissance – The Masters Series
Mixed by Nick Warren
CD / Digital
Bert Random gives us the lowdown on the latest album to drop in Renaissance’s Master’s series, this one by Bristol boy Nick Warren.
Its twenty-odd years since Nick Warren first released music into the world, yet here he is still going strong. Back then the Bristol-boy could be found already ensconced in the studio with long-term musical partner Jody Wisternoff, in a group called Subversion 3 (a prototype iteration of the soon to be hugely successful Way Out West).
A lifetime later he has quietly and calmly entered the realms of the superstar DJ, with fingers in musical pies around the world, from his A&R job at Hope Recordings, his bi-monthly radio show which draws huge audiences, the live gigs as Way Out West, and of course the DJ sets around the world, bouncing from huge club to huge club, from continent to continent.
This 2xCD mix, released by the venerable house music label and clubbing institution Renaissance, stretches over nearly three hours, and begins with an exploration of ambient music, old and new. Opening with the enticing ‘Nocturne Part 1’ by DFRNT, Warren weaves together a wide range of tunes from the last decade; some are helped along by gentle, swaying drums, like Warren’s own ‘Devils Elbow’, while others (such as ‘Ambilight’ by Excession) are left to drift and loop past us without a beat in sight. This isn’t a place of noise and found sounds, this is a place of calm and benign happiness – in the middle of a British winter it’s a welcome, if utterly horizontal, escape.
The second mix is aimed at moving people’s feet, rather than persuading them to lie-down, and starts with the tribal sound of ‘Tunnelling’ by Levente. The tempo and beats may have changed, but this is just as laid-back as the first mix. Gentle washes of sound build through the tracks and high pitched notes are picked out over undulating basslines; this is deep, melodic, house music, built for big rooms and beach-front bars.
Gradually things get a touch chunkier, with tracks like ‘Toro’ by Cesar Lombardi & Luis Bondio – all rolling drums and competing loops lurking just below the surface. The tune that follow Toro – ‘Moving Myself’ by David Calo – carries along in the same vein, hitting a groove and sticking to it. There’s a classic house hi-hat ticking away at the top of the register, pulling your arms and shoulders up to dance with it, while your feet and hips feel compelled to follow the low-slung bass right down to the floor.
A few tracks develop an edge, a minor-key tension, as they circle around themselves, but there is no rawness here. Every tune is as smooth as the mixing, no room for Perc-style brutality or London acid techno-style hectic-ness. For some this lack of abrasion will irritate but, if you let yourself go with it, the tunes are good enough to draw you in and up to the euphoric finish. It’s a sound that transports you to dancefloors full of smiles rather than screwfaces and that is no bad thing.
Words by Bert Random. More writing by Bert on Louder Than War can be found here.