For over a decade, Nick Warren has been playing nightclubs and pumping out compilations for Global Underground. Each of his GU releases is named after its place of inspiration — Prague, Brazil, Reykjavik, Shanghai — and the result is a surprising and consistently different sound on each mix. Paris, Warren’s seventh contribution, comes as a response to a set the DJ performed at the Parisian club Mix. It’s also the milestone thirtieth CD in this accomplished series, and to celebrate the compilation consists of two full-length and distinctively different disks.
The variation in locale of each previous release not only reflects Warren’s inspiration, but also serves as testament to his artistic abilities. One of England’s first superstar DJs in the ’90s, Warren debuted in the US when he was asked to accompany Massive Attack on a tour. He went on to a residency at Liverpool’s Cream, contributed to Mixmag magazine’s “Future Sounds of Europe”, and partnered with Jody Wisternoff to form Way Out West, which produced house and trance tracks. He’s toured the globe relentlessly ever since.
To stay a superstar, though, a DJ’s got to be on top of the game; to remain relevant, the music has to respond to ever-changing contemporary cultural needs, something that Warren seems to understand well. Way Out West’s late ’90s, heavy, whistle-blowing anthems are no longer the crowd-catchers of today. What worked on the first GU release, Prague, in 1997 simply wouldn’t appeal today. To keep both today’s club kids and veterans of the nightlife community happy requires more than just a solid reputation or past successes; rather, the new, post-modern European style demands more of DJs and producers, who must combine minimalism and downtempo to produce a loungey, dance–inspiring sound.
Disk one of Paris achieves this best. Warren takes his time with the eleven songs on this disk, carefully selecting mellow tracks and allowing each time to play itself out without showcasing his turntable skills. The tracklist begins with the somber, slow-mo “After” by the Space Gypsies, immediately creating a dreamy, cinematic sound. The love story soundtrack style continues throughout, climaxing with a mid-list remix by Ulrich Schnaus, the solid downtempo producer perhaps best known for his contribution to the Elizabethtown soundtrack. While maintaining this atmospheric melody, Warren picks up the pace for the remainder of this set, though even at its conclusion, the mix feels more like morning music than hard dance club fare because of its emphasis more on melody than bass.
Lest he be mistaken for going soft, though, he speeds up the pace on disk two. He continues the smooth transitions and hands-off DJ style even as the groove picks up, the bass drops, and tinges of acid house and synthesizers return to his sound. Though this disk may be what Warren’s better known for, it left me — a fan of morning music — less than enthused. More mainroom club-kid than lounge whore, the mix switches out the piano-riffs for overdone acid sounds. Whatever my club music preference, though, there’s no denying that Nick Warren’s reputation as a mixmaster comes well-deserved, and he seems to know his audience well. By maintaining a faster tempo on this second CD, he keeps the tracks changing quickly, averting boredom or aggravation with any one tech house sound. The quirky keyboard beats, like those on the Jay P mix of Esenvee’s “Head Down”, don’t hang around for long in this production, and the dance beat goes on.
And on. With Global Underground’s two-disk Paris mix, lounge lizards, househeads, and club kids should all find something to love.