Simon Baker, Grey Area Remixes

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If you wrote off Simon Baker as just another big-room tech-house producer after his 2007 single “Plastik” became a smash hit, you probably weren’t listening close enough. It’s true, the tune thrived on an ever-expanding arpeggio primed for substantial PAs. But its bewitching organ breakdown and the sheer variety of drum timbres on offer suggested he wasn’t just a populist. Combining the high with the low has been a near constant feature of Baker’s records since, allowing him to indulge in trends — tribal/Latin house, deep house — without being defined by them. This was also true of Traces, his 2011 full-length debut which embraced the present milieu and took it a step further with refined details. “Grey Area,” its appropriately named second single, exemplifies this approach and includes remixes by Burnski & Robert James and Steve Bug.

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Admittedly, “Grey Area” is not a jaw-dropper or world-beater. Its main motif, a muted piano riff lingering just long enough over rolling drums and brushed hi-hats, is only a few notches away from bog standard. The track instead earns its stripes in the space around the riff, creating an atmosphere where affected voices, subtle synth touches, and a through-the-spokes descending noise (borrowed from 2006’s “Full Range”) coexist and keep listeners engaged. The rollicking piano breakdown and its switched up percussion accompaniment are appreciated also.

With its submerged vocals and late-night temperament, Burnski and Robert James’ remix is truer to the spirit of the original than its sounds. The pair introduce low-brow elements like classic house progressions that add a cheeky streak in their otherwise business-like, bass-led production. Steve Bug reimagines “Grey Area” as if it were to be released on his Dessous Recordings, removing the clutter in favor of clean lines and a fizzy new synth line that runs through the middle. What his version lacks in overt personality it makes up in dance floor utility. While Grey Area won’t set off a wholesale re-evaluation of Simon Baker’s catalog, it reminds us that nuance has always been a part of his appeal.

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