Sometimes the jaded DJ is a bit late to the game, as is the case here with the Friends mix from Richard Riley Reinhold, originally released on Kompakt in 2002. According to a review on Dusted, Reinhold, founder of the Traum and Trapez labels, two essential labels for the minimal movement, asked twelve of his buddies to contribute tracks for this mix. With buddies like Michael Mayer and Luciano, you can't help but put together something that is at least decent.
The mix starts off in dreamy territory with "Easy Woman (Rhobag Wruhme Mix)" by MetaboMan and "Gigolistic" by Dialogue. The metal-on-metal sounds and electronic buzz of the first track lets us know that we're in techno land, but the moment that the deep bass and languid female vocals kick in we also know that this is going to be a house groove. Gigolistic picks up a bit with a nice shuffle beat and crisp high-end snaps, but the bass stays fat and deep - you might bob your head to this, but it's not going to make you sweat on the dancefloor. This feel, with the addition of long, slow organ notes and some female vocals, continues through Ada's "Blindhouse." This track is the kind of easy-going lope you might expect from Ada, and the female vocals turn into a repeating motif of this mix - this is probably the most female vocal work that hasn't been chopped down into tiny phonemes that I've heard in a mix in a long while.
Gears shift slightly with Luciano and Lea's "Franky (Featuring Lea)." Lea sings in French against some very electro bass beats, and every now and then gives us a little giggle. She sounds like a petulant girl in a black dress with a cigarette, and if you dig that kind of thing, this is a great track. But Process' "Pelican (Oliver Hacke Remix)" coming right afterwards is definitely one of the stellar selections of this mix. That deep house bass disappears behind some highly tweaky, reversed, delayed, and generally chopped all-to-hell percussion that finally brings the energy out in this mix. There are some nice reverbed acid lines in here that remind me oh-so-slightly of chill psytrance, and which, for me, open up much more interesting vistas than dissolute French chicks. With "Boots and Pants" by Broker/Dealer we take off into space disco territory, with synth horn crescendos and a soaring vocal chorus, before coming back down into "Double Yum" by Jeff Samuel. This is a fun, kinda wacky techno track that restores some snap and motion to the mix after taking off into the heavens. "Byrthe" by Sami Koivikko is on the more serious side, with a much more insistent drive, but we can hear those space horns in here again, and while there's plenty of thrust, it doesn't feel like we really get anywhere, like it's just the bridge to bring us into "Kind of Prayer (Michael Mayer Remix)" by Pwog. Here the more traditional heartbeat house bass gets matched to a rapid, machinic high-hat that really dominates the song, keeping that depth there but not letting us drown in it. And then, halfway through, there are these distorted muted trumpet sounds and knarzy acid lines that remind us that, oh yeah, this is tech house.
Now, if it was up to me, this is where the mix would stop, because the last three tracks just don't make any sense. "Tanz Mit Mir (+Elodie)" by Schaeben Und Voss, while a fun track, is on a different map than the territory explored in the previous four tracks. The female vocal is back again, this time in German, speak-singing "Tanz mit Mir" over and over and over again, and not even on the beat. It's almost kinda kitschy, to be honest, and while it's got a deep, insistent bass thump, I can guarantee that this is the point where I would decide it was time for another drink.
And then comes "This is the Dream (of Evan and Chan) (Superpitcher Mix)". I like "This is the Dream (of Evan and Chan)" - I even have fond associations of it with my boyfriend. And I generally love everything by Superpitcher. But this chocolate does not go with this peanut butter, and this song certainly does not fit in with this mix. I'm sure RRR thought "Oh, hey, this is great, but where am I going to put it? I know, the end!" However, this is not the end. No, the end is Oxtongue's "Delight." Another lovely bit of electrotechnohouse, but again very vocal heavy, and far too light to work with what has preceded it.
The mixing of all this is very smooth and slick, and I wonder (as always) by what method it was put together - I do notice that at the end of "Oxtongue" you can hear the sound of a needle scratching against the label and a tone-arm being lifted before the mix ends. In listening back over it all, this is an interesting mix with some distinct moments, but I think it would be far better with the first three tracks, and the last two, gone. There's also not much here that's really exciting, or strikes me as being different from things I've heard before - but then, this mix *is* five years old. Perhaps when it first came out I would be more impressed, but it now seems more historical thant cutting-edge. Overall there's a sense of competence and discernment behind this mix, but it's more something I would put on while making dinner than something I would want to pawn off on my friends as the next cool thing I found.