Florida-based techno DJ Greg “Stryke” Chin takes a break from the dance floor and gets mellow with Staying In, a blend of ambient, trip-hop, breaks, a little house, and some unfortunate New Age cheese. As Stryke himself admits, this is not so much a mix as a compilation. Why he chose not to do a mix is a bit mysterious. Certainly, there are downtempo DJ efforts to be found (take Thievery Corporation or Kruder & Dorfmeister on the DJ Kicks series), so it’s not an outrageous proposition. But for whatever reason, the only mixing to be found here is some occasional bleeding between songs during more atmospheric moments. So why plunk down the bucks for a compilation from a relatively small-time DJ? Well, while there aren’t any dazzling turntable skills to be appreciated, there are some pretty nifty tracks. And after some initial flip-flopping in style, Stryke manages to find a pretty nice flow.
Staying In starts on a melancholy note with Azul Project’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”, a track produced by Chin, and the best of the three songs which he had a hand in on this compilation. With its lazy trip-hop beat and male vocalist lamenting, “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone / and she’s always gone too long”, it sets the listener up for a dubbed-out, spliffed to the max chill session. But after this nice opening, Stryke opts for Salt Tank’s “Sargasso Sea”, a nauseatingly uplifting track with an overdubbed to death chorus, seagull cries, and a diva proclaiming, “I want to be free / to be what I want to be”. Apparently, she wants to be a singer for some awful New Age producers. By the way, what’s with ambient producers and bird calls? How about some representin’ from other critters?
So after two tracks, there’s the melancholy trip-hop route or the cheesy New Age path to follow. Chin goes for . . . neither, instead dropping some mellow house in the form of the incomparable Ian Pooley’s “Since Then”. It’s a terrific piece, but it seems out of place here. It’s far more dance-driven than any other selection, and it’s unclear whether Stryke is throwing a curveball or is just confused about where he wants Staying In to go. While “Since Then” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” are both nice choices, none of the early selections seem to hang together.
But Chin finally finds a flow on the fourth track, with Jamie Myerson’s “You’re My Life”, a chill jungle track with watery, reverbed-out percussion. It goes nicely with the ensuing ambient break pieces from John Beltran and Christopher Brann. Beltran’s “Soul Searching” is the most fun of the three, with the abstract tribal vocals and sax-like synth combining together to create a style best described as ambient porn beats. All these breakbeat-driven tracks work nicely together, though Stryke does make an odd choice in placing his own piece, “Like Heaven”, between the Beltran and Brann selections. It’s the weakest of Chin’s own pieces, and it sounds an awful lot like “Sargasso Sea”. If he absolutely had to include “Heaven”, it probably shouldn’t have been between the more breakbeat-intensive tracks.
After Brann’s “Past & Future Things”, Chin gets melancholy again with Sven Van Hess’ “Serrano Anthem”. With the acoustic guitar strum, mournful humming and midtempo pacing, it’s a nice transition between the breaks that dominate the middle of the compilation and the ambient pieces that take over at the end. Of the four ambient selections that comprise the last third of Staying In, Spacetime Continuum’s “String of Pearls” is by far the best. Easy on the beat, it’s a mushy stew of high-end sounds that is pleasantly reminiscent of Richard James in a mellower mood. Unfortunately, Stryke closes a bit weakly with Indio’s “Snowdrift”, a forgettable atmospheric piece, and his own “Ana (Ambient Variations on a Theme)”, a piano-centered number which sounds rather like Moby Lite.
While it is jumbled in the beginning and ends disappointingly, Staying In does have some pretty good material in between. An actual mix might have given Stryke’s compilation a little more appeal, but it has a nice overall flow, and there’s enough variety to keep most fans of downtempo grooves interested. Chin’s stated purpose is to create “a vision of chilling on the couch by yourself, or with friends, just hanging out, listening to some tunes”. For the most part, he has succeeded.
// Notes from the Road
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