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Music Review: Above & Beyond – Anjunadeep:01

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Above & Beyond showcase the newest addition to their electronic music family with Anjunadeep:01. This new mix series highlights tracks and artists from their sub label of the same name, the deep and progressive house branch to their more ubiquitous Anjunabeats brand. As with their long-running Anjunabeats mix series, this one is elevated from the trappings of being just a label sampler by two important points.

The first is that even though it’s still in a growing phase, Anjunadeep as a label already sports a solid roster of producers with some very promising and compelling tracks. Rising newcomers 16 Bit Lolitas and Jaytech are featured prominently on this two-disc set, but there are more gems to mine in the list of less recognizable artists.

The second reason that we should feel a bit more safe is that Above & Beyond are just a solid DJ crew. Not only are their mix series top notch, but their weekly radio series has been a testing ground for both labels, showcasing many of the tracks presented here. These have already been field-tested and bear further listening.

The main hurdle for some long-time fans of the group will just be the shift in stylistic focus. Primarily champions of high-energy and melodic trance music, Above & Beyond still manage to work in a variety of other comparable genres on their show, and Anjunadeep is a good example of that brand extension. The tracks have a more progressive edge, but they’re not without their more melodic trance roots.

Tracks such as “Deep Orange” by Proff and Mat Zo’s “Synapse Dynamics” from the first disc would not be out of place on any regular Anjunabeats release, and help bridge the gap between house and trance. On the second disc, the combined forces of 16 Bit Lolitas’ “Murder Weapon” and the remix of Komytea’s “Professional Killers” are not as dire as the titles would suggest. Excellent tracks that should also have a broad appeal. In fact, overall, 16 Bit Lolitas are a group to watch, delivering excellent original productions as well as remixes to this set.

On the housier front, there are some definite gems. Paul Keeley’s “Life Aquatic” delivers an appropriately bubbling and lush track, while Joonas Hahmo offers a tastefully minimal progressive cut with “Warm Up.” However, of the two discs, the first seems more in keeping with the overall stated genre delineation. Most of the artists are the same as the second disc, but the tracks skew just a bit more in the house direction. It has a dubbier and more clubland feel, overall.

Above & Beyond insert themselves into the mix with a couple of remixes for their OceanLab side project (contributed by Jaytech & James Grant, as well as another by 16 Bit Lolitas), which gives some much needed energy to cuts from a fairly downtempo album. Additionally, the guys give their own spin to Radiohead’s “Reckoner.” As a higher-profile contribution to the tracklist, it sticks out, but the treatment is very tastefully mixed in with the rest of the offerings and blends nicely to the overall style of the set. Radiohead are no strangers to electronic manipulation in their own music, so it was a good high-profile selection.

The only weakness to the set is that at times it comes across as the light version of the sub-genres it seeks to target. The artists are presenting good work, and the tracks themselves are highly enjoyable. But it skews towards deep and progressive house, without every really living there too long. It seems to want to cater to the typical Above & Beyond crowd, stretching them a bit without actually alienating them with something too different. For the general electronic listener that makes this a great set to pick up, but for the genre elitists it will probably come off as sanitized.

But that’s not really a knock, because genre elitists for house should know better from something that has Above & Beyond stamped as the artist, so they’ve been fairly warned. For the rest of the crowd, this is an excellent mix of club-worthy music that should find an enthusiastically receptive audience with most patrons of club music – be it trance, house, progressive or eclectic.

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About David R Perry