Artist: James Zabiela
Title: Renaissance Presents : The Masters Series
Label: Renaissance Recordings
By: Ryan Simoneau | 24 March 2009
  1. Intro - F Street
    Michna - Believe In It
    Hearing Voices / Washington DC Street Sounds
  2. Trentemoller - Always Something Better
    Air Steward's Command
  3. Kuriaki - Express
    Teleportation Quote
  4. Cyan341 - Pattern 4 (LJ Kruzer Mix)
    4am Rain / Humanity
  5. Boards Of Canada - Amo Bishop Roden
  6. Ed Chamberlain - Zarathustra
  7. Modeselektor - Vote Or Die
    Lost In Desire
  8. Near The Parenthesis - A Brief Walk In The Sea
  9. R3volve - All That You Lost
    QE2 Departs
  10. Pedram - Meet Your Maker
  11. Esky - Number Station
    Revolve Drums / What Is Beautiful Is Very Bright
  12. Plaid - Marry
    Baggage Belt / Vilnius Security Check
  13. Quivver - Chasin A Feeling
  14. Near The Parenthesis - Departing Gate
    Thank You / Goodbye For Now

James Zabiela "Renaissance Presents : The Masters Series"James Zabiela "Renaissance Presents : The Masters Series"

Out Now on Renaissance Recordings

It’s safe to say that after being anointed to helm the eleventh installment in Renaissance’s esteemed Masters Series, James Zabiela has left the ranks of the nubreed for good and risen towards the top of the DJ food chain. Pundits have always complained that he was showered with too much praise too soon and has yet to deliver a mix that is worthy of such accolades. Admittedly, while I’ve enjoyed his mixes, I too have felt that he has yet to deliver something truly special.

On this album, we get to see two sides of Zabiela, with the first disc being a more after hours affair, which is something that he has not been able to showcase thus far on any of his commercially released mixes. The second takes aim at the dance floor and provides much of the electro-driven, tech-house music that he has built his reputation on.

It’s no secret that James is a self-professed geek and it would be silly to try and write a review that talks about all the bits and pieces of tracks that he has pulled from. For a detailed snapshot at how this mix came to be and mixes together, check out his excellent blog about this release.

When listening to disc one, it’s reminiscent of some of the stellar avant-garde after hours mixes that have been released in the last few years, such as Danny Howells “24:7” or more recently, Hybrid’s “Soundsystem 01”. Zabiela has handpicked and reimagined selections from late-night stalwarts Trentemoller, Boards of Canada and Quivver, alongside hidden gems from Michna, Modeselektor and R3volve.

These ingredients all add to up to concoct one potent cocktail as broken beats, haunting melodies and glitched out electronics all converge. The end result is a late-night masterpiece that is sure to have even the trendiest trainspotter scratching his head at the sheer excellence that has been laid down.

The second disc gets down to business from the get-go as Zabiela unleashes his latest dance floor bombs. Once again, there are no obvious heavy-hitters here but much like disc 1, it’s all about keeping the vibe alive. The name of this game is electro and it’s on full display here. Unfortunately things are just a tad too techy and the melody that made disc 1 so sublime is sorely missed.

But it’s these juxtapositions in sound that are what makes James Zabiela such a breath of fresh air in the electronic dance community. His taste in tunes can never be defined and with each passing release he continues to find new ways to push himself and his sound further.

The first disc is the standout for sure as James has finally crafted a mix that will have longevity. It packs so much depth and diversity that you’ll find yourself continuing to come back to it regularly. The second disc brings down the total package a bit but is current with the trends of today’s dancefloor.

However, to anyone who has felt that James hasn’t delivered a mix that reaches his full potential, myself included, those questions are now quashed with the first disc on this release. Zabiela is now in the big league.

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