'Then I immediately noticed that the sound quality, the mastering of the album is extremely good. You hear every sound, every hi-hat, every layer of a track, crisp and clear.' Mick Boskamp reviews John Digweed's Quattro four part music extravaganza.
Thanx to Debbie Jenner
But then very distant, a beautiful melody line passes like a soft spring breeze, while the beat and bass begin to slide over each other.
It is ten o'clock in the morning and it is quiet on the streets. Not because of the time, but because of the crisis. The weather is nice and I’m running. The first miles are always the hardest, but not today. Today my training started with the first track of the second part of John Digweed's new Quattro, a four-part music extravaganza. Not dance-music, but music, in the broadest sense of the word, because there is no genre in the world that continues to innovate and develop as electronic dance music does. And part 2 of Quattro, aptly called Tempo, is living proof of that.
Running is usually a boring activity, but now I’m running on clouds and that has everything to do with the exciting pacing of the album, which started with nice breaks and now slowly builds up to a peak. When I run through the park behind the train station, it suddenly seems like I’m hearing the last track of the download. I only hear a dying beat over my sublime Chinese headphones. Am I so fast today that an hour has already passed? But then very distant, a beautiful melody line passes like a soft spring breeze, while the beat and bass begin to slide over each other. Later, when I get home and take a look at the physical album, I learn that the track is called Manis by Japanese producer Satoshi Fumi. What a tune! It cannot be a coincidence that the build-up to it is more subtle than subtle. That's how John is. And what was almost impossible to imagine, he seems to get better and better at it over the years.
While I run in the sun with goosebumps on my arms, I think about that summer day in June 1994. On that afternoon I drove from my house in Amsterdam to the coast and halfway I put the mix CD Journeys By Dj's volume 4 into the player. In the hour that followed my life changed.
Until then, house music was not really my cup of tea. As a music journalist who inhaled and exhaled Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren and Stevie Wonder, I didn't understand it at all. But what I understood even less was the worshipping towards DJs, people who only put on some records and showed off other people's music. But on that summer day in '94 I suddenly understood. I could not put into words exactly what I understood. It was a feeling. And no one could translate that feeling into music as clear to me as John Digweed, the man who mixed and compiled the CD.
That same year, the first dance-concept album, the classic Renaissance: The Mix Collection by Sasha and John was released, consisting of three CDs whose tracks were not only mixed to the beat, but also to keys and where the songs were sometimes put together for minutes, overflowing seamlessly, which was no less than spectacular for '94. A year later The Mix Collection 2c came out, again three CD's, but this time only with John as sender. Maybe even better than the first edition. What was striking was that I consumed these music productions in the same way as all the great classic pop albums before. It started with scanning and then what was offered grew with every turn whilst the music got under your skin.
Back to the future. When I arrive at my girlfriends front door, the last track from Tempo fades away, on the inlay of the beautifully stylized packaging (see video underneath), described as Future Disco, Percussive House and Deep Techno amongst others. As if I ran on it unconsciously. Before I started running I had taken in the first part of Quattro called Soundscape (Ambient, Dub Drifting). John once told me that the first unprecedented atmospheric CD from Northern Exposure would be a one-time affair because he and Sasha had used the best downtempo tracks ever. But that was 24 years ago! Quattro's Soundscape sometimes makes me gasp, it is so beautiful and cinematic. What about Sugercoat from Knives Out in the Sasha Ambient Remix and Bedrocks classic Heaven Scent in the Marc Romboy & Miki Kekenj Rework, tranquil gems that allow you to dream away, but also keep you awake at the same time.
The day before I had walked with part 3 called Redux over my headphones, consisting of mere remixes of Bedrock titles. Then I immediately noticed that the sound quality, the mastering of the album is extremely good. You hear every sound, every hi-hat, every layer of a track, risp and clear. In terms of energy, Redux is perhaps the most straightforward mix on the album, but a mix that is blessed here too with tracks that make you shiver with pleasure, such as Danny Howell's remix of his own Science Department classic Persuasion, one of the first releases on Bedrock. Or what about the John Digweed and Nick Muir remix of Booka Shade's Rosebud (OMG, that break!). Or the track with which Redux ends, the quiet 2000000 Suns of King Unique in the Monkey Safari remix. It is all of refinement and at the same time of an unprecedented energy that you don't hear anywhere else.
And if all that is not enough, we are also treated to a fourth movement, with unique music by John Digweed and his regular musical companion since the early 1990s (!) Nick Muir. In other words: from the minds of Nick Muir & John Digweed taking you on a journey to their more tripped out sounds. After listening to Juxtaposition I'd sent an app to Nick: 'I love Juxtaposition! Tripped out to the max. I like my downtempo music with a little bite. And this is just what the doctor ordered! "He apped me back: 'Great stuff Mick, you totally get it. In a parallel universe you're a musician.'
But I am not a musician. I am a journalist. A journalist who writes that Quattro can be placed at the top of the albums listed in this review, titles that I think could not have been better. If you want to make someone or yourself happy in these difficult times with something beautiful and unique, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this masterpiece of a DJ / producer / musician at the top of his game.
Here the album sleeve of Quattro as shown by the man himself: