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CD Review: Ferry Corsten – L.E.F.

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Ferry Corsten's latest artist album, L.E.F. (shorthand for Loud, Electronic, Ferocious), finds the Dutch DJ and producer building upon the styles he experimented with on his (at least namesake) debut, 2004's Right Of Way, while expanding and hopefully clarifying his direction for future work. It's an album that can be hit-or-miss depending on the context in which it is placed.

Although he is perhaps best known for helping to pioneer the modern trance music sound, the past few years have seen a stylistic shift in Corsten's outpout, both as a producer and in his DJ sets. Right Of Way introduced a strong influence of harder and grittier tech-house into his productions. Characterized best by the club hit "Punk", this new Ferry Corsten seemed to be more interested in experimenting with a darker club ethos, and less interested with maintaining his almost synonymous association with trance. In fact, it was almost as if he wanted to swing the pendulum as far in the other direction as he could (within the broader genre, that is) in order to push both himself and his audience into a less restricted appreciation of dance music.

Unfortunately, it fell short of his forte, and produced a record of mixed results. There were some singles, such as the aforementioned "Punk", as well as "Rock Your Body Rock", that lit up the clubs and proved successful ventures for this newer sound. And then there were a few tracks that hearkened back to a more classic trance sound. But the rest of the record seemed cobbled together in search of direction, and feeling more out of sorts than innovative.

L.E.F. seems interested in catching the pendulum as it swings back more to the middle. There are still elements of the ROW style, but more generous nods and updates are given to Ferry's "other side" as a trance stalwart. However, the execution of that balance still leaves a little something to be desired.

The album starts off with a "suite" of more electro-sounding tracks, from the energetic "Are You Ready", on into the first single "Fire", and finally to the title track. The pace is kept fast and energy is high, but we start to see some warning signs for the rest of the album. "Fire", although popular (so I'm assuming the kids dig it) is a repetitive track featuring a sample from Duran Duran's Simon LeBon (two lines of lyric repeated is not sufficient enough to denote anything more than the level of "sample"), but it also includes some trace elements of "Rock Your Body Rock." "L.E.F." on its own is a good enough track, but at its close comes a drastic style shift to the second suite of tracks.

Part two begins with the retro-80s pop of "Into The Dark" (retro both in terms of sound, and also in its collaborator, Howard Jones). It's a great track, although channeling more of Howard's sound than Ferry's, but stands in very stark contrast to the beginning of the album. From there we move on to the retro cut of "Galaxia", originally from Ferry's guise as Moonman. The track is slightly updated, but fortunately retains close ties to the original. It's a gorgeous track, but again seems out of place on a new artist album.

From there we settle into what seems to be the balance to the album. "Beautiful" is a really great track, and captures the energy and production from the beginning of the album and melds it with the melodic sensibility of the two previous tracks. It's the standout track of the album and most likely to match up with sweaty bodies on the dance floor. It's followed by "Possession", which is a close second, and captures more of the same energy. This is Ferry at his (new) best and should please fans both new and old.

The remainder of the album alternates around in fits and starts. Tracks are strong, but seem directionless and become islands of sound. "Down On Love" drags the set down a bit with a general lack of interest or good vocals. "Forever" is a reworking of the theme from "Beautiful" into more of a retro-disco style. "Watch Out" continues his fascination of sampling bits of "Rock Your Body Rock", until you come to "Junk", which is nothing more than a reworking of "Punk" into a pop-rap track, a la Oakenfold. I'd complain more if it wasn't so catchy… in fact, it works as well as "Punk" and should find a summer home inside convertibles. "Cubikated" delivers an old school techno track to the record, before it closes with a standard slow track, this time being "Freefalling."

The problem with this album isn't the tracks or the quality, but an obvious lack of focus from Ferry. He borrows from himself on three tracks, breaks one new song idea into two styles for two tracks, throws on an old classic, and then shuffles around between varying styles for the remainder of the record. It would be less frustrating if the tracks weren't so good. But they are. Corsten knows how to deliver within the confines of one track, he just still seems to be finding how that plays out in the context of a larger album. The track order would be less of an issue if the album wasn't mixed together. But since it is, the order becomes forced on the listener, and therefore a matter of annoyance.

It's easy for me to get caught up in some of the more obvious problems, because he is so close to delivering a real stormer of an album that the minor faults become frustrating. But overall, this is a great improvement over Right Of Way, it's just not quite there.

There is a concept present in literature for works of the fantasy and science fictions genres, which is the "willful suspension of disbelief." It's the idea that to immerse yourself into and enjoy the genres to their fullest, you have to let go of certain "facts" from our own physical world that will own needlessly conflict with this newly created world. People might fly, dragons might exist, time might be altered and we might see into the future. The world you're visiting has its own rules, so you just have to accept them, and that acceptance frees you to enjoy the visit unencumbered by what you think you know to be correct. L.E.F. is very much that type of world. It you can decide to overlook some faults and accept its rules, even though different from what we know to be "correct", you can have a really good visit.

To hear samples from L.E.F., you can visit Ferry's site and select songs in the site jukebox player. Also, you can see the video for the lead single, "Fire", in either Windows Media or RealPlayer formats.

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About David R Perry