It was with great excitement that I got to hear one of dance music’s true ambassadors and a global taste-maker, Dave Seaman‘s second installment of Beyond Borders on Armada Music. The first thing that struck me was the direction Armada had decided to take with this series, famed for the more euphoric trance sound, the first installment mixed by King Unique was quite a departure from what we’ve been accustomed to from this label, and generated a magnificent response and critical acclaim on it’s release earlier this year. With this in mind, deciding the architect for the latest installment I can only imagine was a tough decision based upon the incredible wealth of talented global DJs afforded to such a label. The man assigned with such a difficult task, Dave Seaman who for myself is an inspired choice. With a career that spans in excess of twenty years at the very top of his game in a continually shifting musical landscape is no mean feat equalled only by a select few.
A constant fixture in the seminal Global Underground series, the Renaissance compilations and head of successful labels such as Stress, Audio Therapy and his latest venture Selador, his work as former Editor of one of Mixmag and having DJed in excess of 80 countries around the world. Simply put, he has been there, done it and got the t-shirt! Therefore this return to a physical mix compilation release is somewhat refreshing. In an age where we digest music on a daily basis, and through many sources at a rapid rate to give us instant gratification, a physical CD is something that I believe holds a certain endearment; it’s tangible, we can hold it, browse the artwork and sleeve notes, it is something we can relate to on many levels.
Focussing on the compilation itself, the destination chosen to represent this compilation is the city of Berlin, for dance music fans a Mecca of electronic music. The mix contains a healthy array of inspiring producers from the city, home to institutions such as Berghain and Watergate club, which I feel may be the underpinning influence of his decision to base the inspiration for this mix, following a series of gigs in the city itself earlier this year.
The mix opens with one his labels stand out tracks of the year courtesy of Jaap Ligthart featuring Alice Rose – I Know Change. Nicolas Masseyeff is on remix duties for this opening salvo, and sets the tone perfectly, gently opening with luscious piano chords and Alice’s pure vocals before the kick drives in to set the precedent for what is to follow. As the wash of harmonies and textures subsides, a ruthless bassline instantly ups the energy before the heartfelt vocal drives the track along next into Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons – Vermillion (&ME Remix). The transition into this track again steps up the energy, a master of his art subtley using harmonic key changes to continue to pushing the energy forward. The mix weaves it’s way though Habsichman – Dub Rumors, into Terranova feat. Stereo Mc´s – Tell Me Why (Re:you Mix) before the imperious Marc Romboy – Hypernova which Stephan Bodzin has reworked into a hypnotic monster of huge sounds whilst maintaining the originals enormous bass. It’s a delightful track and one of my favorites this year.
Basslines zip in and out, as one of the hottest production properties, Third Son delivers his track Colurblind which alters the landscape into a brooding dark and unrelenting assault on the senses. Another stand out track phases in with Guy Mantzur & Roy Rosenfeld – Epika, a track awash with feel good vibes and an insanely catchy lead line that also lightens the mix, it is a track that you just cannot help but smile at such is it’s beauty. The respite is brief to say the least as Marc Marzenit – Death Espiral doesn’t merely creep in, it stomps in with an authority and builds and builds to devastating effect. Two more stellar productions glide in and out with Dahu – Sedated and Nicolas Massayeff – Flagrance following in perfect sync. Next up is Quivver with Wait for You, another of Dave’s labels signings to put simply everything John Graham lends his hand to is guaranteed quality and this is no exception, another stand out track for me. The mix again steps up and accelerates with Dave Seaman’s own remix of Habischman & Thomas Gandey – Let Me, to summarise this track it’s a genuine down right filthy track that I envisage when dropped during peak time is quite simply devastating, and is one of my favorite tracks on this compilation.
The synth extravaganza that is Andre Hommen – Centrifuge, is a production built around a huge lead line that bubbles along intertwined with all manner of offset melodies. And as we approach the end of this phenomenal landscape of sound the pace eases off as lush pads and haunting male and female vocals slide into earshot, creating an incredible atmosphere. The closing track in question here comes courtesy of Framewerk with Feel You Hold You, which brings to a conclusion an immensely satisfying listening experience and something I shall enjoy time and time again. Following on from a successful first compilation was always going to be a difficult task, But in his own imitable way Dave Seaman has done just that and provided an exceptional addition to this series.
In addition to the review, our radio host Ian Dillon also had a change to speak to Dave about the album, his experiences of compiling mix CDs and his thoughts on the state of the scene at the moment.
Hi Dave, great to see to again. I have to say, taking over from you in Leeds was pretty much the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever done! What a fun gig that was… With regards to putting this mix together, how did you approach compiling the tracks and the order in which you sequence them in the mix?
Good to see you too Ian, I wanted to make sure that the album had a distinct Berlin flavour so made sure to include lots of artists and labels from the city. I think I’ve managed to do that. And there’s a good balance of new and familiar names. I also wanted to use some of the big tracks from my gig at Suicide Circus in the summer, so the album had a particular time and place attached to it. Another thing I decided was that I wasn’t going to worry to much about everything having to be new and exclusive. There was a time when that was an important factor for me when doing a mix CD but one thing we’re not short of these days is a supply of new music! Plus, in a few months time when none of the music will be new anymore, it’s the quality and longevity that ultimately really counts.
How does making a compilation differ from say, creating your radio show?
The radio show is very much a rolling 60 minute collection of my favourite tracks of any given month. It’s put together in a few hours and it’s shelf life is limited. It’s transient. There’s always another Radio Therapy around the corner. Whereas a mix compilation, especially one which is going to be released on a physical format, is something that I put a lot more time and effort into as I want it to be something people keep going back to, something that stands the test of time. The other main difference of course is that for a radio show, I can play anything I like without permission. I don’t have to worry about licensing the tracks which naturally, makes the compilation a much more considered process.
The track list features of a wealth of talented emerging and established artists, including several from your Selador label, and artists based in the city of Berlin itself. How difficult was it choosing just 15 tracks from the many you will have been sent over the course of it’s inception. Did you find you had to continually reassess and alter what you wanted to be showcased?
A lot of the reassessment is down to the licensing issues I just mentioned. If you don’t get clearance to use a particular piece of the jigsaw, it may mean you have to re-evaluate the whole puzzle. And then of course, there’s a constant stream of new music coming in all the time, so you might want to find a way to accommodate some of that. So yes, the goal posts are always moving to some extent. Eventually though you have to draw a line and get down to doing the job in hand with the pieces you have, otherwise you could go on reassessing forever.
Continuing on from the first showcase mixed by King Unique, how do you see the series evolving, as this is a departure from Armada in terms of their overall sound? Are we seeing a shift in what output labels such as Armada are willing to focus on?
I think so. I know they’ve got plans for the next one already and I think it’s a bit of a pet project for some of the staff there that are particularly into the more underground side of things, so there’s definitely a passion for it. So yes, I can’t see any reason why the series can’t turn into a major player within the genre. They’ve certainly got the kind of infrastructure that can be very successful in whatever they do.
As we near the conclusion of 2015, what are your thoughts on the quality of music being released?
There’s always plenty of great music being released but unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to find due to the sheer volume of releases. For me as a DJ and record label owner, the market is far too saturated with mediocre tracks. Things that wouldn’t have made it to release a few years ago are now ten a penny. Literally in some cases!
You’ve got some producers now making several tracks a week and putting them straight out there into the market place with very little consideration to quality control. That never happened before. It used to be that you’d be lucky if you got a new single from your favourite artist every 3 months. But then, with the turnover of music so quick now, why would you spend too much time and effort on something? What’s the point of spending weeks on a track that could be forgotten about as quickly as it took to make! So people just throw it out there and if it doesn’t stick, don’t worry because there’s another out next week. We’ve got to get back to a culture of less is more, quality over quantity. Otherwise we’re in danger of the whole scene eating itself.
Buy the Album here.
01// Jaap Ligthart feat. Alice Rose – I Know Change
02// Three Machines – Megalith
03// Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons – Vermillion (&ME Remix)
04// Habsichman – Dub Rumors
05// Terranova feat. Stereo Mc´s – Tell Me Why (Re:you Mix)
06// Marc Romboy – Hypernova (Stephan Bodzin Remix)
07// Third Son – Colourblind (Justin Massei Remix)
08// Guy Mantzur & Roy Rosenfeld – Epika
09// Marc Marzenit – Death Espiral
10// Dahu – Sedated
11// Nicolas Massayeff – Flagrance
12// Quivver – Wait For You
13// Habischman & Thomas Gandey – Let Me (Dave Seaman Remix)
14// Andre Hommen – Centrifuge
15// Framewerk – Feel You Hold You