Thursday, May 30, 2013

Various - Global Underground 31: Dubfire - Taipei (Original TC Review)

Global Underground, Ltd.: 2007

(2013 Update:
Well, doesn't this capture a moment in a time, written in that uncertain in-between of Dubfire's career, post Deep Dish, pre-
Ribcage. I mentioned at the end of the review that ol' Ali had to do something more significant than continue peddling this brand of deep prog-house if he was to have a memorable solo career, and boy did he ever, deciding instead he are serious techno producer, making serious underground music. If you hated that turn, guess this mix will still serve you fine. Heck, I found myself enjoying the tribal-groove far more this time out.

And yeah, this is the only proper edition of the
Global Underground series I actually have. Never saw much reason to pick them up in the series' glory years, as all my peers had copies anyway. Fortunately, as with the Fabric series, I've decided to pick up those that can be found at Bargain Bin prices on Amazon, to see which editions have been brought low by disinterest and- what, only Sharam's solo outing is that cheap? Oh fuck it then.)


IN BRIEF: Where the ‘deep’ part of Deep Dish comes from.

It looks as though Global Underground has come to the end of an era. For longer than anyone can remember (five and a half years, specifically), the once premiere DJ mix series has been the Deep Dish/Nick Warren show. With Ali ‘Dubfire’ Shirazinia (aka: the non-bearded member of Deep Dish) tapped to do #31, word has it this will be the final time we’ll see any of them on a GU compilation. I’m sure I speak for many when I say this: it’s about fucking time!

Seven out of the last eleven editions of Global Underground have seen this trinity strut their stuff, and unless you were a big fan of either, it grew tiresome five releases ago. Although GU often had repeated talent crop up in the past, at least it wasn’t to the laughable extent we’ve seen lately; nor was the recent token nods to Lavelle and Howells going to cut it for old fans. Small wonder many began to flock to newer DJ mix series like Fabric and Balance for cutting-edge DJ mixes.

How did Global Underground let it happen though? Did they sign some sort of binding contract to these guys? Were they afraid to take risks on smaller names? Was Deep Dish’s commercial clout too tempting to pass on? Are too few DJs playing the sort of house GU prefers to champion now? Sure, Deep Dish and Warren are good, but not that good so you’d want them to carry a highly respected series for half a decade.

Well, whatever the reason, that’s all in the past. Fortunately, it does indeed appear everyone is ready to move on, and Ali has been given the honor of closing this bizarre chapter of Global Underground’s legacy. Although he’s often done productions away from his longtime partner Sharam, this is only the second time we’ve seen Mr. Dubfire do a commercial DJ mix on his own (the first being an Afterhours special to an earlier double-release, with Sharam naturally doing the other). Since the duo have claimed their partnership as Deep Dish at an end, Ali has taken this opportunity as a chance to make a mix that will distinguish him from his former DJing buddy. The music, he says, has a more personal connotation and draws from his early influences of new wave, acid house, and other similar sounds.

For fans of Deep Dish, this may prove to be an intriguing plan: an upfront DJ mix that also lets you get to know the guy behind the decks a bit better. For non-fans... well, this still may be intriguing anyways. Just how much will Dubfire distance himself from the house music that made him famous? Are there significant enough differences as a solo DJ to raise him above the famous Deep Dish sound?

(2013 Edit: removed a pointless paragraph)

Taipei is the locale chosen for Ali’s mix, and as with Global Underground releases this usually factors in what you’re going to hear. The house clubs in southeastern Asia have gained a reputation for often playing out deep tribal tech house, and that’s what the first disc provides. To be honest though, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot going on here. It opens promisingly, with some catchy house tunes that suitably move you, and BarBQ’s Myself is a synth-poppy delight. Unfortunately, the mix never takes off in any major way. It lays out the groove early, and keeps it on an even keel for the duration. There are nice moments along the way, mind: And If’s lush Finest Dream; Deetron’s devilish The Afterlife; Markus Schulz’ bumpin’ remix of Yoshimoto’s Du What U Du (did I just give the Schulzer props...?). But with Ali maintaining a running theme of moody atmosphere throughout, it’s little more than a pleasant listen. There’s just not enough variation in this mix to get excited about.

Should I also mention his semi-debut track I Feel Speed, which comes near the end of disc one? Well, it’s a decent house track, and Ali’s gentle voice is suitably unassuming for the tone of it, but hardly a standout. I’m straining to think of much more to say about it, as there’s nothing terribly unique about it other than the fact it’s by Dubfire. How about I just move onto disc two, then?

So here we are in disc two, and we are off to another promising start. Bringing some murky techno to get us on our way, it seems Ali is ready to take us into grimier pastures, perhaps leading to something more thrilling than what was on the first disc. It’s not to be; instead, he seems content sticking with this sound for the duration. Interesting to listen to, certainly, but the mix suffers for the same reason the first one does: it doesn’t go anywhere. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Some of the scenery along the way is better here - the remix of Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts being a highlight - and there’s better groove to be had. However, until we get to the final stanza of this mix - where nifty remixes from Extrawelt and Kalkbrenner take us out with class - Dubfire’s set merely maintains the mood without lifting us out of the techno murk.

I suppose this is to be expected though. Many times when a DJ makes a mix more personal, the emphasis on ‘paying attention’ is stronger than laying out the bangers. Unfortunately for Ali, his offering is hardly unique. In fact, there are plenty of DJ mixes already out there that cater to this deep-tech-tribal-minimal-progressive-yada-yada-house sound, and the Taipei association doesn’t do much to distinguish it either. Hell, I could go down to the local semi-underground club in town here and listen to this stuff live for cheaper than what you’d have to pay to purchase this release. Why should one get this if it can be heard anywhere?

Well, it is a nice mix to listen to, of that there is little doubt. Nice though doesn’t necessarily mean memorable, and if you’ve been following this sound for the last year, you won’t find much new in Dubfire’s take on it. For the most part, he keeps his mixing and track selection so steady that surprising or exciting moments are few and far between. It’s going to take more than this to emerge from the shadow of his Deep Dish legacy.


ACE TRACKS:
And If - Finest Dream (Silicone Soul Remix)
Depeche Mode - Everything Counts (Oliver Huntemann & Stephan Bodzin Dub)
Alexander Kowalski featuring Barca Baxant - Start Chasing (Extrawelt Remix)

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved

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