Renaissance: The Masters Series: James Zabiela
“My little boy is growing up!” Such were the first thoughts to pop into my brain as I began listening to the recently released, Renaissance: The Masters Series: James Zabiela.
This contribution to The Masters Series catalog is actually the first mix I’ve heard from him since my bittersweet encounter with 2004’s 2 disc set, Alive (also from Renaissance). The compilation marks James’ first entry in the highly regarded Masters Series. No simple task given the DJ’s and tracks included on the mixes preceding this one. Speaking about The Masters Series, James comments, “It’s produced some incredible comps over the years and, albeit nervously, I’m relishing the opportunity of joining it’s ranks.”
As mentioned before, I had some misgivings about Alive, however this Masters Series mix is excellent and nicely fixes some things that I think were missing from the aforementioned title.
Disc one, appropriately titled “Down,” immediately caught my attention; quickly setting the tone with one of my favorites, “Always Something Better” by Trentemoller. From there, the intentionally chill set moved on to a number of brilliant songs by artists like Modeselektor and Boards of Canada, making me a very happy boy. Unfortunately, though, the last half of this disc got a little dull. I don’t know why this happens with so many chill sets, but it just got really boring and frankly, a little new age-y around track 9. Oh well. All in all it was a great set.
“Up” (you guessed it, the title of disc two) picked right up where “Down” left off with “Afghanistan” by Komytea. This synth-heavy stomper of an opener made it abundantly clear that this disc was for dancing. Moving through the disc I was pleased to find that the album really did have a “James Zabiela” sound. He’s always had quite a unique sound (one thing I really did like about Alive), just this time it sounds more refined and mature. I couldn’t possibly finish this without highly recommending one of the last tracks on the album by Luomo and Apparat, “Love You All”. It’s perfectly placed in the set and mixes wonderfully with James Zabiela’s own, “Perseverance” (also brilliant, by the way). Both were a fitting end to an incredibly unique and interesting set, something very hard to find these days.
As I wrapped up the last of the set I can’t help but mention one fairly unimportant but notable fact: disc two wasn’t as “Up” as I would have imagined. It does certainly take things up a notch from disc one but both discs kinda sounded like set openers whereas I would have expected “Up” to sound more like the middle of a club set. However, with so much going for this set, it’s definitely not a deal breaker!
The Masters Series: James Zabiela will be out in the US beginning March 31, 2009 on Renaissance Recordings. It’s one of the most interesting mixes I’ve heard in a while and definitely worth a listen!