Renaissance: The Mix Collection Comp
By Jack Moss | 22 February 2010
Renaissance: The Mix Collection (1994) is a landmark in dance music, a release that set the template most major mix compilations continue to follow to this day. Contrary to urban legend, it wasn’t actually the first mix compilation ever released, but it was certainly the first most people had heard of, the first one to be mixed by superstar DJs (arguably the first superstar DJs at that; at least if that’s what you’d call Sasha and John Digweed), and the first one to be affiliated with a major clubbing brand. But what’s really surprising is just how fresh it still sounds despite being so primordial; there are plenty of tracks featured that show their age sixteen years on, but for a record that had so many “firsts,” that was treading into such unknown territory, it never played safe. Sasha & Digweed opened with three back-to-back mixes of Leftfield’s classic “Song Of Life,” and then across three sprawling discs deployed a cappella, mash-ups, harmonic overlays, and ad hoc edits aplenty.
Renaissance released three mostly excellent follow-ups before retiring the Mix Collection name in 1996 for other runs like Renaissance Presents, Worldwide, and The Masters Series. The name has become part of dance music history; it’s unfortunate, then, that in 2008 Renaissance decided to revive the name for no better reason than its marketing power. It’s been used for three compilations since then—by Danny Howells, M.A.N.D.Y., and now Gui Boratto—and none of them have lived up to the billing. When a release is named after a hugely iconic predecessor, comparisons are obviously invited, and, sadly, side by side, Gui Boratto’s 2010 selection seems considerably less inventive and daring than Sasha & Digweed’s 1994 master class.
As a producer, Boratto is no slouch. Chromophobia (2006) was one of the most celebrated dance LPs of the ’00s, the record that some say helped revive Kompakt’s fortunes. He’s not much of a DJ, though: this is only his second commercial mix and if the current state of the music industry didn’t make it nigh-on impossible to earn a good living from album sales alone he would probably never have stepped behind the decks at all. And like many producers who have turned to DJing for financial reasons, his main draw is his own productions. The Mix Collection contains eight of them (four exclusive) and they’re the main focus of the promotional material’s hype. They’re all pretty cool, I guess, though “Azzurra” is a bit of a bomb to close the first disc on, but nothing can compensate for Boratto’s obvious limitations as a DJ.
The tracklist contains all the familiar names of the moment—Oxia, Ben Klock, Martin Buttrich, Dominik Eulberg, Stimming—but nothing unexpected or outside the ordinary, unless dropping a reheated Tricky joint at the end of the second disc counts as ripping up the playbook. Compared to the intrepid exploits of Sasha and Digweed all those years ago, Boratto’s mixing could barely sound more pedestrian, his programming arbitrary at best, totally meaningless at worst. The first disc starts with a blaze of poppy vocals, but four tracks in, having played all his most valuable cards, Boratto has nowhere to go but down. This he does—building this weird inverse set that steadily descends through summery melodic house into a stripped down rhythmic groove, only to suddenly revert to the poppy tip on which he started, the earworm hooks of the aforementioned “Azzurra” finding ground right at the end.
Disc two, following that age-old cliché that the second half of a double-discer must be the clubbier alternative to the opener’s chilled sound, pursues a more dancefloor-orientated direction. Apparently for Boratto this translates as a nearly 70-minute flat-line with a trip-hop track bolted onto the end. The delicate pianos of Kenny Larkin’s remix of Ben Klock’s “OK” provide the only moment of beauty you’d associate with Gui Boratto, and otherwise it’s an anonymous hour-and-change of tech house that could have been played by anyone, anywhere.
In fact, I haven’t seen Boratto play in a club and after hearing this I’ve little intention of rectifying that, especially knowing many more talented DJs will be denied the gigs the Brazilian will get on name-association alone. So don’t be fooled by his nor The Mix Collection’s monikers adorning the cover of this record; idols are here to be killed.