Monday, December 29, 2008

Enigma - MCMXC a.D. (1990)

Enigma's MCMXC a.D. was a huge hit worldwide, and along with Enya brought New Age into the mainstream. Is it worthy of the title King (or Queen) of New Age?

First, some of the negatives out of the way. It sounds dated. Very dated. Especially when you consider the amount of similar-sounding drivel it inspired. The drums are a major part of this, being very 80's-ish and artificial sounding, which is a shame. They also re-use the same drum loops a lot, which I'll get to later.

On the positive side, MCMXC a.D. is incredibly easy to listen to. It may sound silly, but I'm really sick of EDM artists, and especially ambient/downtempo/new age artists, thinking they need to use every single second of a CD. At a scant 40 minutes, MCMXC a.D. suits me.

And of course, all the songs are good. After the hilariously cheesy The Voice of Enigma, where we are told a bunch of meditation nonsense (I do know how to relax, thank you), the big single of the album emerges; Sadeness. Sadeness is nothing short of brilliant, a mix of eroticism and religion, with intertwining parts of mesmerising flute, Gregorian chants, evocative French vocals and even a hint of panting.

The rest of MCMXC a.D. is more of the same, just done a little differently. Callas Went Away has its piano and operatic wailing, Mea Culpa it's interesting guitar solo, and Knocking on the Forbidden Door it's wild animal cries.

Back to the Rivers of Belief is the other somewhat intriuging song, but it has exactly the same drums as the earlier Sadeness. Michael Cretu, head guy behind Enigma, provides vocals for the later part, and they surprisingly fit in well, but there is a heavy sense that this Belief is just a poorer version of Sadeness.

I enjoyed MCMXC a.D. enough that when I saw it cheap, I got it, but I wouldn't pay a lot. It's still by far the best New Age album I've heard, but really, there isn't a lot of competition, at least in my opinion.

Here's a link to Sadeness:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Salt Tank - ST 3 (1994)

Even though I'm a huge fan of Ibiza trance, it has to be one of the least diverse trance genres ever. I mean, it's a given, as it has to evoke feelings and memories of oceans, beaches and sea wildlife, or else it just isn't Ibiza trance. But still, more then half of Salt Tank's ST 3 is basically a remix of one song.

That song is a cracker though. Pacific Diva is one of the all time great trance songs. It transports you to the middle of the ocean, floating on the surface, hearing the distant cries of whales and other creatures, the beautiful and resonate strings, before morphing into a classic trance track for the last few minutes.

Sargasso Sea is the first remix of Pacific Diva, but enough has changed to make it a separate entity. We are now under the sea, I can feel the water pressure as I casually drift along, and can hear the seagulls talk, as well as my lulled heartbeat.

We finally see some diversity on Charged Up, where hard drums and drops of acid overcome a soft synth background. Clone is also a bit more upbeat, with some psy influences. Waimea Wilderness is a remix of Sargasso Sea, so in essence, a remix of a remix. It's passable, but honestly, I've already heard it before, and done much better.

Charged in Zion Canyon thankfully breaks to tedium with a mix of eccentric world beat and a groovy bassline. The album finishes with yet another remix of Pacific Diva, which is more like a shortening, called Eugina. You might as well relisten to Pacific Diva.

All up, Pacific Diva, Sargasso Sea, and Charged in Zion Canyon are all great songs, but the rest of the material on ST 3 is either a barely changed remix of a song already on the album, or not particularly good. And while Sargasso and Zion are good, I would recommend just trying to chase up Pacific Diva or Eugina elsewhere.

Here's the link to a shortened version of Eugina:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adam Freeland - The Hate EP (2007)

I do seem to recall making a statement earlier, speaking of my distain for noisy and abrasive techno. Well, that is exactly what Adam Freeland's The Hate EP is; harsh, metallic, and grating to the extreme. But it pulls it off so very well, in an impressive EP for the now well known Freeland.

The self-title Hate is an absolutely brilliant track, with its pumping beat and captivating rhythms that will lodge themselves in your head for days. Where's Our God Now reminds me of a more acidic version of Daft Punk's Robot Rock, with it's heavily distorted guitar riff and bass drums. Glowsticks adds a hint of glitch to the formula, before the EP thankfully ends before outstaying its welcome.

What makes The Hate EP appealing to someone like myself is the mixture of the catchy aspects of house and the jarry and scratchy elements of techno. Much like Akufen's My Way, it shouldn't work at all, but it does. Freeland manages to create melodies where there are none, and fills the holes with pounding drums to make something great.

Here's a link to the song Hate:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

808 State - Quadrastate EP (1989)

808 State are an interesting band. Acid house became a well known genre in the UK in the late 80's basically due to the constant playing of the song Pacific State on a popular radio station. Which is strange, because the version of Pacific State on their seminal Quadrastate EP doesn't actually any acid. Weird.

But what can you say about Pacific State that hasn't been said before. Its brilliance, its meshing of techno, rave, acid (the more well known version) and even proto-trance is unique. As is the fact that there is a saxophone riff that runs throughout, along with a natural ambienty undertone. This particular version of the song is much more drums and breaks heavy, with tinkling sound effects floating around as well. It is different to its more well known "remix", but is interesting enough to pull off what is sacrilege (having no acid).

The rest of the EP is a mixed bag. 106 is a short and intriguing song, which can only be termed as "jangly". State Ritual continues on where 106 left off, but with a softer sound and other chirps and twerps thrown in, as well as a good bass riff.

Disco State starts off the B-side well, with it's insanely catchy bassline, complimented with background synths and a small bit of acid. Fire Cracker finally gives us a big blob of acid (what, five songs into a six song EP?), as well as the subcontinental cries of an Asian persuasion. To close, State to State seems happy to re-remix 106 into another slower song, with more Asian cries.

As you can tell, there is actually little variation between the different songs on the Quadrastate EP, and this is a let down. Sure, Pacific State is a classic, but there are only really 3 1/2 ideas present here. Also, the EP is as dated as hell. There are lots of 80's cliches flying around, from the sometimes tinny drums and basses, to the plonky keyboards, to the very fact that I easily picture any one of these songs appearing in a late 80's/ early 90's video game.

And of course, there's the fact that this is apparently acid house, so where is the acid? Fire Cracker is fine, but there's barely any acid in any other song, but I guess that's the marketer's fault.

Don't let the negativity above fool you, the Quadrastate EP is still an extremely fun EP, but I would recommend picking up 808 State's later work, Utd. Pacific State, as it contains the better parts of this EP (Pacific State, Disco State), as well as a lot more variance, and a cleaner sound.

Here's a link to the Quadrastate EP version of Pacific State:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Plastikman - Sheet One (1993)

Let me start be saying I generally don't like techno. When I say that, I mean I dislike a lot of the harder, more mechanical stuff that's just abrasive to my ears, and give me a headache. Thankfully, this isn't the case with Sheet One.

Plastikman's Sheet One is considered a minimal techno classic, and it is. Waves of acid, synths, and interesting beats washed over me as I played it, and it struck me as something that can stand up to repeat listens.

The first three songs, Dre, Plasticity and Gak all meld into one another, an amalgamation of tribal drums, lonely sirens and dare I say, psy-trance acid. After a short sample of a man talking, we get into Helikopter, easily the worst song on the album. It's fast, cymbal heavy, and mostly, damn irritating.

After that disapointment, Glob recovers with its deep bass that reminds me of Towers of Dub by the Orb, complete with spacey sound effects and just a hint of acid. The epic Plasiticine is another pre-psy psytrance song, although this time a little slower and more sedate, before launching into the happy Koma, tinged with a flavour of the Orient.

After another short sample track, we reach the most hardcore song on Sheet One, which is Smak. A pounding beat over the top of a creepy synth, it is a wake up call against the relative calmness of the previous songs. With its screaming samples, it sounds like it should be scoring a chase scene in a horror movie.

Overall, it lived up to my expectations, and I will certainly give it a relisten soon, as well as checking out Plastikman's other stuff.

Here is a link to the song Smak:

Welcome to the EDM Outlands!

Welcome to the EDM Outlands!

For those of you not in the know, EDM stands for Electronic Dance Music, and as such, I will be reviewing EDM albums and EPs from all types of genres, from trance, to house, to techno, to ambient, to synth, to anything electronic basically.

As for the Outlands part, well, it's the name of one of the songs from one of my favourite albums, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, and it just... fits. A lot of good EDM is rarely heard or acknowledged by more than a handful of people, so most it is in the so called "Outlands"...

Onto me. I've been listening to EDM for the last 5 years, but have only in the last two years completely branched out into all areas of EDM. So I'm basically a newbie in some aspects. There are others out there that can completely put me to shame, but hey, I noticed a dearth of anything EDM-related blogs, barring a few mainstream terrible house, trance and eurodance blogs, and thought I'd jump in with my two cents worth.

Anyways, I post reviews whenever I feel like it, so add it to your feed and enjoy!