March 5, 2013 by DJ Elroy
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That seems to be the excuse of so many of the artists I used to look up to. And it’s not just the musicians; it’s the record labels, the event promoters, and so many other old-guard institutions. A few of my one-time heroes have gone on to bigger and better things, but sadly too many of them have become lazy. Once they hit superstar status they decided to play it safe. They simply find what works and stick to it. Milk the status quo.
And with so much to lose, with fickle fans more persuaded by trends and social opinions, a little caution is understandable.
That’s why I was so surprised when I got my hands on the newest Balance album. They’ve built a name for themselves with epic two- and three-disc releases, so why were they changing the formula now? Turns out Balance Presents jozif is the first of a spin-off series “highlighting young talents who are emerging as future heavyweights in the world of electronic music”. Now a new artists is in itself a risk, especially because in music today name recognition trumps artistic quality, where lazy listeners will follow an act because it’s “the cool thing” and not because the music is good.
I’ll admit I’ve never seen jozif live and have never heard a proper mix from the man. But I’ve always enjoyed that sense of discovery when I come across worthy up-and-comers because you can hear a freshness and excitement in their work that’s been missing from the burned-out establishment players that have lost that “hunger” that got them to the top.
Jozif makes an ideal first impression. Right away the mix struck me as something personal. The set was originally recorded as a peaktime, clubby production. But the untimely death of a close friend helped jozif re-evaluate his life and to a lesser degree, his music. “I didn’t think it was right to put out such an upbeat mix when such an awful thing had happened” he says, “so I went back to the mix and just did another one and this is how it turned out.”
The mix opens with the beautifully bittersweet Butterfly:
You bring me inspiration in a world of despair /
When I’m feeling jaded in the morning you’re always there /
It’s not enough to say how I love this love we share /
Melody in a mellow sky, you’re my sweet butterfly
The set flows easily from cut to cut with the first handful of songs warming up the deep and somewhat dark down-tempo mood before it ticks up a few notches on One Thing and How I Feel and finally coming full circle with a pair of originals to close. I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking down each song because the album is something you need to hear, to experience, to fully appreciate. The overall vibe I walked away with was one of hopefulness, and the setlist itself swings from loss to introspection to optimism and has me believing intelligent music isn’t dead after all.
I know mindless anthems and beat-driven bubblegum house bangers seem to be the flavor de jour, but this mix is what’s been missing from the ever-increasingly superficial electronic music culture. Will it be a winner with the orange-hued fist pumping crowd? Probably not. But that’s a good thing, right? This album of melancholy melodies brings dance music back to the underground.