Balance 023: Radio Slave [review]

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June 9, 2013 by DJ Elroy

denver, dj, djelroy, elroy, house heads anonymous, digital dancefloor, house, music, techno, electro, edm

When a brand is always reaching for the stars, good things can happen. New music is discovered, new directions are taken, and new standards emerge. Sometimes you’ll even influence an entire culture.

But when you’re trying to shoot the moon, there’s always a chance you’ll miss altogether.

I got my hands on a promo of the new Radio Slave double-disc album and eagerly popped it into my stereo. After all, the most recent offering — Balance Presents jozif — was a home run. Would I be adding Matt “Radio Slave” Edwards’ album to my list of “Best of 2013” contenders?

Disc 1 — the “White Skies” mix — epitomizes the chugging tech/house sound you’d find in a peak-hour Radio Slave club session. No, not the over-priced clubs with the over-priced drinks, fancy lighting, and spiky-haired douchebags. I mean club session as in dark vibes, loud speakers, and sweat dripping from the ceiling. Raw emotion and swooning percussive grit.

But what could have been a hypnotic techno-infused drum circle quickly risks becoming a repetitive chore. Taken individually it’s a solid playlist but as a whole the mix just isn’t dynamic. The selection rolls with a great flow but simply not enough variety. Favorite tracks here include Sandy Rivera’s Animation and Jeremy’s Rhythmus. Hardcore ‘Slave fans and tweaking techno-heads will be able tune out and drop right into the groove, but is this set enough to convert new disciples into the fold?

Disc 2 — the “Maestros & Melodies” mix — was  brought out as the counterpoint to the aforementioned 4/4 gut-kicking club stomper. The tracks here are certainly more eclectic and mind-twisting than the flipside, but where I faulted Disc 1 for lack of variety, this set was all over the board in terms of sound, with seemingly very little to tie anything together. Cuts like Additional Elements make this worth a listen, but the word that popped into my mind over the course of the show was “incoherent”.

Maybe all the pieces are here and I just need somebody to connect the dots for me to see the big picture. Or maybe I’m just not as “underground” as I thought. Either way, I respect the idea and vision Radio Slave built this album around, but I just didn’t “get it”.  It’s great that the music selection is plucked from pivotal epochs over five decades worth of electronic music and techno, but it just didn’t feel accessible to me. The press release boasts the album has “succeeded in presenting a vision that’s a million miles away from the generic sounds filling up so many ‘floors in this day and age”. Yes, that’s most certainly true; Disc 1 is a solid DJ mix while Disc 2 shows a bit of twisted genius. But for all Edwards’ talks about wanting to be “forward thinking”, maybe it’s just a bit too much ahead of my jaded ears.

I’ll admit, Balance 023 has grown on me after a few listens, but in the age of disposable DJ mixes, you can’t get by on just good. You’ve got to be great!

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