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Music Review: Super8 & Tab – Empire

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Super8 & Tab have quickly risen in the electronic and trance music world to be standout favorites on Above & Beyond’s stable of labels and artists. And after co-mixing two of Anjunabeats’ Worldwide releases, as well as contributing a string of successful remixes and club singles, they are finally releasing their debut artist album, entitled Empire. The record is an unmixed collection, predominantly focused on vocal tracks but with a greater range of styles than the typical trance album.

The secret weapons on Empire are the vocals and songwriting of collaborator Jan Burton. Burton, who led the group Syntax and also collaborated with Gabriel & Dresden on their artist debut, infuses his tracks with a darker swell of energy, lending a more overtly progressive edge to the record. “Slow To Learn” is a more addictive opener than it is catchy. Certainly it could work in a club, but it also has that slightly sinister pulse that once burrowed under your skin is difficult to remove.

Title track “Empire” follows that lead into something a bit more house-influenced, and joins the two talents together the most seamlessly. Although he only contributes to four of the songs on the album, Burton helps to anchor the release instead of letting it be just being another trance record awash in random guest vocalists.

Other vocalists are introduced as more one-off supporting help, but their efforts blend in easily with the overall flow of the album. In particular, “Perfect Day” featuring Alyna is an enjoyable downtempo track that perfectly offers a bit of respite in the middle of the record. Betsy Larkin offers up “Good Times” with a bit more cheese, as the group seems to throw a bone towards mainstream club radio, but it’s only a slight detour on an otherwise very legitimate release.

Although instrumentals don’t seem to be the focus, they still segue in a few points to help balance things out. “Irufushi” is the winner here, as classic melodic trance that is tailor-fit for peak time. “Bliss” bubbles up in a similar fashion and is a standout track in its own right. But it’s odd that the duo’s two biggest hits prior to this album–being “Elektra” and “Helsinki Scorcher”–aren’t included. (They are, however, mashed together into a bonus track on the iTunes version of the album.)

Super8 & Tab expertly find the sweet spot between Above & Beyond’s two labels, Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep. With the former focusing on more mainstream trance and the latter mining darker, more progressive house-influenced tracks, Super8 & Tab seem to straddle the two worlds effortlessly and perhaps unintentionally. They’re not exactly breaking any new ground with their debut Empire, but they are starting out of the gate with strong songwriting and a commanding grasp and blend of the current club climate. Not only is the album infectiously listenable, but it seems to be the start of great things to come.

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About David R Perry