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After nine years of dance-floor trade, it’s safe to say that Cielo has mastered the art of maintaining an underground vibe in an increasingly money-oriented world. If you don’t think that’s true, consider this week’s lineup alone, which sees headlining sets from Poker Flat’s Steve Bug, Scissor and Thread’s Francis Harris and Anthony Collins (together known as Frank & Tony), bass-music man Raz Mesinai, and Secretsundaze’s Giles Smith and James Priestley—all great, creative artists, but not exactly the type of spinners you’re likely to hear at, say, Pacha anytime soon. The nightclub’s series of mix-CDs illustrates how the club balances its artistic and commercial considerations: largely by focusing on the kind of electronic house that’s deep enough for the heads but not so weird as to freak out revelers who aren’t fully invested in the music. The club’s latest compilation, mixed by Cielo top man Nicolas Matar and released by the venerable Nervous Records, is one of its best yet.
Cielo’s sound system is invitingly warm, yet clear enough to bring out a song’s nuances—and judging from Cielo: Sunrise’s tracklist, that system helped to guide Matar’s selections; the music is nuanced, deep and dreamy throughout. Opening with Guy Gerber’s subdued mix of Deniz Kurtel’s “The L Word,” the set begins on a contemplative, almost melancholy note. That ambience carries on through the first third of the comp: Scope’s version of Jordi Bouman’s “Fall Into Me” sees gorgeous strings soaring above a wistful bassline, while Daso & Ofrin’s “Time For Decisions” is centered around yearning vocals and minor-key piano. That makes the appearance of Maceo Plex’s take on DJ T.’s “City Life” all the more dramatic—it’s a peppy technopop number in the vein of Kevin Saunderson’s seminal work as Inner City. From there, the mix veers between warm-weather, deep-tech rhythms (“Summer Gone” from Layo & Bushwacka!), gently whispering musings (Martin Dawson & Glimpse’s “No One Belongs Here More Than You”) and gauzy, disco-kissed grooves (Nina Kraviz’s beautiful take on Okain’s “Scream”). It’s not until the final two tracks—Kyodai’s driving “Mi Rumba” and Jimpster’s gorgeously spiralling mix of Youandewan’s “1988”—that anything approaching party-time action comes into play; and even then, it’s a decidedly inner-headspace kind of party. But that’s okay—let the big clubs have their fist-pumping beats, because we’ll take Cielo’s exquisite version of house music any day of the week.
The Cielo: Sunrise release party, with Nicolas Matar on the decks, is at Cielo on March 31.