Can you be all things to all people? That’s the challenge Satoshi Tomiie is set in this comprehensive three-CD compilation. With one CD dedicated to the club, one to the studio, and one to lower-intensity tracks that have been an inspiration to Tomiie throughout his career, the new series hopes to showcase producers with the talent and versatility to create great mixes in all three genres. By all accounts, Satoshi Tomiie acquits himself more than passably on the series’ first entry. Moving effortlessly from to-the-minute, jungle-inspired deep house to early ‘90s commercial fare re-imagined to Miles Davis, Tomiie demonstrates on this disc why he’s been so respected for so many years.
Know this before you get in: no matter how accomplished, even masterful, the production and editing on show here, sitting through three hours and 46 minutes of (more or less) dance music is quite an undertaking. But take a deep breath, put on your dancing shoes—here we go.
Renaissance 3D: Satoshi Tomiie
US: 7 Mar 2006
UK: Available as import
Disc One: Club
It’s easy to imagine yourself at one of the big New York clubs dancing the night away to the music of Tomiie’s Club disc. Intended to be a representation of Tomiie’s current club sets sans-dub (Tomiie explains in the liner notes, dub sounds can be great on large club systems, but don’t always translate well to home listening), the disc plays like a sophisticated club night—eschewing the easy peak-low-peak structure of commercial dance hits, the main focus here is on establishing and subtly developing a certain mood. I guess you could characterize it as deep electro-house, though the influence of minimalism can certainly be felt, too. The opening song, “Polysquasher”, has an electro-cool cocaine vibe, funky and strong, and segues expertly into the catchy bassline of Dan Berkson’s “People”. Other highlights are Martin Eyerer’s “Wicked Line”, a Kraut-house banger with a “Sexiest Man in Jamaica”-style sensual voice over the top; “Panga” from Uppfade, a sweaty, repetitive bass jiggle; and Electrochemie’s “Big One”, saved from commercialism by a chemical, swelling electro pulse of a beat. 5:30 into “X Factor” you know you’ve peaked for the disc—a glorious, acid-tasting high, as the static-sound of grating noise echoes in your ears and the beat starts up again—brilliant. As if the end of the night is drawing near, Tomiie allows himself breathing space with the last track, “Restore”, all spaced-out swells and billowing goodwill. The disc leaves you with the euphoric, celebratory feeling of having experienced a great night at a club; precisely as it was intended to do.
Disc Two: Studio
This disc is what lifts Renaissance 3D above a ubiquitous compilation: every song on this disc is remixed by Tomiie, and unreleased till now. For him to say that some of these remixes count among the best he’s done in his career is a clear indicator of the seriousness with which he views this disc. It could rightfully be released on its own as an album; and though some of the cuts were classics for Tomiie as far back as the early ‘90s, the reworking has brought them right up to the forefront of house music. Tomiie’s own “Tears” is the first highlight, with a tinkling piano-loop tech-d up with an ever-evolving sonic background and a glockenspiel. Tomiie doesn’t avoid commercial theatricality, and the result is funky but accessible (in a way the first disc, perhaps, isn’t). I still love Kosheen’s “Hungry”, and Tomiie’s remix thankfully allows the vocals to shine so you can bask in that sensual melody. A new reworking of the classic “Love in Traffic” is turned all 2006—yes, bringing back the nostalgia of commercial trance without the schmaltz. Future Sound of London’s “Papua New Guinea” is reminiscent of Chicane’s “Seawater” all mixed up with Doctor Who sounds and space-funk. And the strength of the record only increases to the end, when “Higher Than a Skyscraper” takes off into the ether, strings looping higher and higher until we take off. Throughout, Tomiie makes the art of the remix sound so simple—it’s more than impressive.
Disc Three: Home
What could be a down-tempo or chill-out disc is turned into a compilation of Satoshi Tomiie’s important influences. Surprisingly, it’s heavy on the jazz and soul; but with enough funky and sexy cuts to be, importance aside, a perfect accompaniment for certain nocturnal activities. After two-plus hours of transcendent but mostly nameless dance music, it’s a bit of a shock to hear something as recognizable as Sneaker Pimps’ “Six Underground” or James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turn It Loose”, but it’s a welcome one. An early highlight, of course, is Miles Davis & Gil Evans’ epic “Solea”, in all its 12-minute glory. The jazz and soul is tempered, though, by some funky but relaxed cuts (including some rarities from early in Tomiie’s career), including Bou-Kahn’s “Magic”, and the Latin lounge-style “Summer Nights”. Despite their personal associations (one track was the theme song to a radio show that Tomiie listened to as a teenager in Tokyo, one from the band he first saw live), the tracks on Home are above all a smooth, enjoyable ride: a different, but equally skilled exposition of music that creates a specific mood (regardless of genre).
Satoshi Tomiie has succeeded in each vastly different challenge set him in the Renaissance 3D compilation; from a banging club set to the commercial re-duxes of the studio to the sexy sounds of James Brown, he leads us with a sure hand. After this (in case you had any doubt), consider Satoshi Tomiie completely proven as a DJ/producer of the first rank.