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Saturday 14th, March 2009
Above & Beyond - Anjunadeep:01



After initially appearing to be a merely diverting outlet for the trio behind Above & Beyond, catering to their ‘edgier’ tastes, the Anjunadeep label has grown into a force in its own right. With DJs such as James Zabiela, Eric Prydz and Desyn Masiello, people who you wouldn’t dream of playing an Anjunabeats track, in support is testament to its quality. Their high global profile has drawn producers of exceptional quality to their A&R clutches, resulting in them unearthing some real stars. Most notably the Finns Matti & Erkka aka Michael Cassette aka Komytea who supply six tracks to the album but they sit alongside a roster of incredible forward-thinking talent that includes Jaytech, Joonas Hahmo, 1 Bit Lolitas and Interplay. After giving us an Anjunadeep mix as half of Anjunabeats Vol. 1 it is now time for the label to get its own two disc release.

CD1 eases in with dreamy, plaintive female vox from 16 Bit Lolitas followed by Dutchman Johan Vermeulan under his Interplay alias on a laid-back, faintly jazzy tip before picking up with some groovy South American techno from Columbian duo Liluca. The first Komytea track is up next, the perfect example of their futuristic melancholy infused minimal trance followed by the aptly-titled Life Aquatic by Canadian Paul Keeley that effortlessly builds into an emotive, relaxing trancer. Aussie ‘Jimbo’ Cayzer aka Jaytech pops up with the first of five tracks in the mix. He makes producing quality fresh dance music look ridiculously easy and Sundance is a warm Nintendo groover of a tune, although it gives me a strange desire to jump on turtles.

Things are getting progressively more upbeat, exemplified by a track from one of my favourite producers, the mighty Finn Joonas Hahmo who gets the mix’s propeller blades spinning with a real engine room stokin’ track that is impossible not to smile to, whatever your mood. Adding a trance tinge is the beautiful Deep Orange from Russian PROFF that is all simple feel-good melodies and bright, bouncy basslines. The guys then dip into the Anjunadeep archives and come up with a gem from Electrobios & Interplay that is blessed with a killer bassline and some sweet piano melodies.

Following this is the high point of disc one, the Jaytech and Jono Grant remix of Oceanlab – Breaking Ties. There’s a rather tragic story of cat neglect behind this remix but all feline concerns are banished by the growling bassline that wonderfully contrasts the angelic vocals and some fantastic accordion synths. The prodigious London teenager Mat Zo pops up with the utterly original Synapse Dynamics that is packed full of inventive ideas – the best I think is the dreamy, drifting breakbeat section. Pure class. Driving the mix to a peak is a subtle, moody and hypnotic production from that man Jaytech again before a beast of a track by the fantastic house duo Sucker DJs – Killer. Boasting the phattest bassline on the CD, the drop is a devastating knockout blow. Rounding of the first half of the compliation is, who else, Jaytech here in a funked up melodic mix from Electrobios & Interplay.

CD2 settles in with two tough electronic grooves from Komytea including Electro House Is Dead, a bold statement to make without backing it up, which their futuristic music fortunately does with style. This is followed by a quite incredible Radiohead remix from Above & Beyond. This is a tricky one to pull off but they have made it look easy. Taking a darker departure from their normal style, they have woven Thom Yorke’s fragile yet powerful indie whine into a very clever progressive trance production that brings out all their production skills. The brilliant 16 Bit Lolitas then bring a touch of the tuneful to proceedings with the simple, repetitive melodic genius of Murder Weapon.

Komytea are remixed by the superb Jerome Isma-Ae with Swiss producer Daniel Portman to great effect with a sweet, bright melody over a chunky groove before the mix goes off on an unexpected twisted minimal techno tangent complete with unnerving yelps and a bloopy melody. This initially sounds out of place but after a few listens it really works in the mix. Next is the third track in a row from the Swiss Christian Beat Hirt who completely alters the mood with a lusciously uplifting tune with a melody that sounds like it has been lifted straight from an eighties pop classic. A lovely track that sets tone for a warm and fuzzy second half of CD2. PROFF continues with a bouncy, sparkling upbeat trance joy with subtle changes in tone followed by another production of laid-back, effortless class from Jaytech, all funky piano tinkles and ever building spiralling hypnotic grooves.

A non vocal mix of Oceanlab? Seems pointless, yet such is 16 Bit Lolitas studio skill they make it work – a spine tingling laid back mix with an electro edge that verges on the masterpiece in places, this is begging to be played on a beach with a suitably picturesque sunset going on. Paul Keeley delivers the stand out track of CD 2 with Doomatica. I’m a sucker for old school piano melodies and this is one of the best I have heard for a while – this is anthemic in the extreme and destined to be played to huge crowds in wide open spaces this summer. The album closes with two achingly beautiful tracks from Michael Cassette that radiate sparkling melodic trance warmth powered by meaty house basslines in the perfect fusion of the genres. When music’s this good, it makes you glad to be alive.

Conclusion

This is a staggeringly varied collection of tracks, a wonderful mix of producers drawn from all over the world. Naturally, it is seamlessly mixed, and the way both discs flow is a real treat. CD1 starts of laid back and gradually builds in euphoria until you are chair dancing without realising. CD2 is a mix of two halves, initially dropping you in dark, murky waters yet suddenly shifting mid way through to an Iberian cruise – radiating feel good warmth. There are so many pleasing surprises along the way it is a treat to return to again and again. In this digital music age it is rare to find music that sounds so fresh and original as this, and to deliver is as consistently as A&B do. This proves that progressive music is far from dull. One minor gripe is the lack of vocal tracks, but I am struggling to find a negative on this release. Near flawless, this is truly special music that works your mind as much as it moves your body. 5/5


Click here for tracklisting and samples

Read our interview with Above & Beyond here.

Win a copy of the album and a chance to see A&B in Miami here.


Written by:
Jon Nix

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