Don’t let the globetrotter packaging mislead you — UK transplant and Los Angeles native Mark Lewis is not an international superstar DJ, at least not yet. But he’s sure trying hard to project the image with this release, a set “inspired” by a night he guest spun at Club Fura in Tokyo, complete with a photo essay of images from Japan and liner notes written by Mark himself about his experiences. The nod to the highly successful Global Underground DJ mix series is obvious, and more than a little shameless, but the music itself on this disc is good enough to silence most detractors.
International superstar DJ or not, Mark Lewis has certainly paid his dues. He got his start spinning at underground parties and old house clubs in LA as far back as the late ’80s. Back then, and even well into the ’90s, when his Club Logic was a staple on the Santa Monica circuit, Lewis was best known for spinning straight-up house sets, with lots of disco diva vocals and incessantly bouncy bass lines, the kind of stuff popular in LA’s gay community and with the older raver crowd that had outgrown Prodigy. Recently, however, like a lot of veteran DJs, Lewis has expanded his palette to include everything from old-school house to progressive trance and even dark, cutting-edge techno and tribal sounds. His mixes now play like a multi-pronged attack on every E’d-up clubber’s pleasure centers, a relentless attempt to keep your head bobbing and your feet moving by any means necessary.
On Global Frequencies, Lewis leans towards tracks that share his anti-purist approach to dance music and mix styles with giddy abandon. He starts things off strong with Alpha Project’s “Vicioso”, a shimmering track with a house backbeat and a gorgeous, bubbling trance riff in its foreground. It’s a distinctive, memorable track, and it sets the tone for the rest of the mix, which mainly features tunes with aggressive sonic palettes and more personality than the dark, minimalist stuff in favor with most progressive DJs these days. Thunder Puss’s “Fuck Me Harder”, with its big goofy Euro-trance hook, has the same kind of fist-pumping energy as Zombie Nation’s hit “Kernkraft 400”; DJ Hooligan’s “Eicheltruck” provides more melodic Euro-trance onslaught; and the incomparable Timo Maas’ “Ubik” turns up in an effectively dark, heavily filtered mix.
Lewis turns to straight trance on Paul Van Dyk’s remix of The Thrillseekers’ “Synaesthesia” (a very typically pretty Paul Van Dyk track, though not his best), and then brings the set into darker techno territory with Base Twelve’s aptly titled “Deep”. Parks & Wilson’s “Drum Parade” injects some tribal percussion into the proceedings and builds things back up to the borderline cheesy hyper-trance of X Tech’s “Days Like These”. But before things can get too over-the-top, Lewis segues seamlessly into Future Cast’s dense, Goa-flavored “Life on the Edge”, a perfect peak-hour track that builds one trance riff on top of another into an almost symphonic climax.
Rather than take things out with a bang, Lewis wraps up this frenetic, anthemic mix with an ambient track, Seed’s “Water Song”. It seems like an odd choice at first, but as the track’s mix of heavy bass, pulsating synths, African percussion and muted breakbeat drum loops weave into a rich soundscape that’s part urban high-tech, part jungle primitive, it seems like a fitting choice to end the CD, the last in a series of bold track selections that almost all pay off.
Mark Lewis isn’t quite an international superstar DJ yet, but Global Frequencies: Tokyo makes a convincing case that maybe he should be.