Review: Fred Deakin, Nu Balearica
Don’t let the title fool you. Listeners who have some familiarity with electronic dance music may associate “Balearic” with the mind-numbingly tedious dregs of the worst variants of chillout music that filled “Ibizia” mix CDs in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Those collections stank; this one doesn’t. In a way it’s a shame Deakin chose a title with unwelcome ties to past types of music promotion that may turn some listeners off because one of the main points he wants to make with this mix is that there’s something new and interesting going on.
Fred Deakin is one half of the duo that made up Lemon Jelly, the inventive electronic music group that announced they were taking a break in 2008. Nu Balearica is a two-disc mix of electronic music that is sometimes referred to as nu disco, space disco or cosmic disco. In the notes that accompany the set Deakin relates how he had a hard time coming up with an adequate description of the music in Nu Balearica until he ran into Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) who responded to Deakin’s description of his mix project with “it’s the return of melody” which Deakin thinks pretty much nailed it.
The tracks on Nu Balearica are certainly more melodic and have a markedly lower bpm than what you’d find in the hardcore banger style of dance music but this is music that is fundamentally about groove. Perhaps the most well known producers of this type of music are the Norwegians Prins Thomas, Lindstrom and Todd Terje, all of whom are represented on Nu Balearica. If you are unfamiliar with these guys, Nu Balearica is an excellent way to get a taste of all of them. For my money Prins Thomas’ mix of Hatchback’s “White Diamond” alone is worth the price of the collection. But Nu Balearica has much more than music from the three Norwegians. It is a very good collection for discovering a broad range of talented producers and remixers of a groovalicious style of electronic dance music.
A word must be said about the packaging of the collection. Deakin is well known for the inventive and often beautiful packaging he wraps around his releases. The Lemon Jelly CDs are gorgeous. However when artful design interferes with basic function, somebody needs to say “Wait a minute. This ain’t working.” Nu Balearicais very artfully packaged with two booklets, cardboard sleeves for each disc and a cardboard case to hold it all together. Colorful graphic designs abound. However the case doesn’t give you any indication of what’s inside so the record company printed up a thin paper band that slides around the case and that tells you what the package contains. That’s a picture of the band on the right. The problem is that the only concise and easy to use track list for the collection is printed on the band which is easily lost or torn. Deakin provides track lists with notes in the booklets but who wants to screw around with pages of Deakin’s ramblings to find out the name of the track that’s currently playing? Not me, but if you lose or tear the little paper band you’re shit out of luck. So, what we have is a great mix in a lame but pretty package.
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