Just as Sasha’s recent public courtship with the deejay software Ableton was made apparent on his Fundacion mix and corresponding tour, Southampton deejay James Zabiela follows fondly with his own profession of love for the handy program on his Renaissance entry, Utilities. On the two-CD set, Zabiela uses half of the mix to showcase his computer prowess and the other to make use of his CDJs, like he’d done on 2004’s Alive mix.
The “Computed” disc of Utilities is Zabiela’s Ableton-guided tour through progressive house, with many touches of bleep-heavy, frenzied psychedelia. This experimentalism, friendly to both the club and the living room, is at its brightest on Zabiela’s mix of his own “Robophobia.” The track is loaded with paranoid sci-fi TV samples, most of them arguing whether robots are a danger to the civilized world. (The bigger danger may be in the inconsistency of supermarket self-checkout machines, but a song about such a topic might be a tad dry.) The frantic human voices and crisp synths over Zabiela’s jabbing beats appropriately match those on “EyeAMComputer,” another acid trip with his own name on the production credit. He also slips in a haunting yet warm Kriece remix of Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker.”
“Through You,” from Hisham Samawi and Dennis Rodgers, opens the “Recorded” disc with gentle minimalist beats and an agreeable, though well-worn, vocal melody. But the second disc doesn’t shuttle off into the deep-space experimentalism that the first does. Though there are memorable sections in the menacing breaks of the Elite Force mix of 2000’s “Gyromancer” from PMT, as well as the striking melody and complex dissolution in Zabiela’s live edit of Ellen Allien’s “Sehnsucht,” the Ableton-inspired disc is simply the better of the two. Maybe it’s time to buy stock in the company.