Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Old music again

I've been listening to two compilation albums that I purchased back in 2000, when I was only just sixteen, possibly even earlier. The contrast between the two is quite large. One of them is Ibiza Euphoria (2000), which is an album full of Trance and Progressive House*, mixed by Alex Gold and Robbie Nelson, two DJs that I can assure you that you are unlikely to have heard of unless you're obsessed with dance music like me. (Being British would definitely help too). The other is Kiss Garage presented by DJ Luck and MC Neat. This one is, rather obviously an album full of UK Garage, predominantly of the "2-step" variety which was so briefly popular in Britain back then. If you're British and the right age, you will have heard of those two so-called "musicians".

Euphoria is probably the best compilation I've ever bought. I don't think any album could get close, certainly not within its genre. That was a great year for Trance, and Prog. House was soon to take off, albeit for a very brief period, so the track content is very good indeed. Gold's CD, the faster of the two, mixes a lot of very good melodic trance (I have a particular weakness for this) together. Furthermore the mixing is good, and the order in which the tracks are placed is excellent. The Nelson CD has a slightly lower BPM and contains more of the Prog. House and yet still sounds just as exciting, which I have to put down, once again, to an excellent track selection and good mixing. Judging from subsequent compilations in the same series that I purchased, this album probably sucked up all of the best tracks of that summer, and it certainly casts a huge shadow over all of the others even now. My dance-loving friends are still impressed with this album, and they can easily believe its age, because we just don't get Trance this good any more.

Kiss Garage on the other hand does not stand up well as an album. This has a lot to do with Luck and Neat. DJ Luck only became a DJ by accident, and you can tell from this that it's not really his talent. His mixing is poor, and you can't get away with that in 2-step, as its full of breakbeats which clash horribly if you mess them up. The real problem however is Neat. Put simply, he should never open his mouth in front of a microphone. I don't appreciate MC's most of the time, because a lot of them do not have the spontaneity or the vocabulary required for what it is they do, but he is appallingly bad. I can't say any more, it's beyond description. Moving to the track selection, it's clear that most of these songs are still as good as they were then. For some, this is a very good thing. For others, a very bad one. I always thought UK Garage was a great idea. The good tracks are those based around songs, like Why by Mis-Teeq and Sorry by Monsta Boy. UK Garage should have been a great way of producing a distinctively British form of pop R'n'B distinct from its rapidly stagnating United States counterpart. However I realised in 2001 that lots of it was made badly and yet received plenty of attention in spite of this, a situation akin to British and American R'n'B and Hip-Hop. The same did happen with other dance music and still does, but UK Garage produced tons of absolute steaming turd and yet it still sold well. (I'm looking at you, So Solid Crew). There a quite a lot of stinkers on this compilation, which I was fully aware of at the time. The good ones are still great though. I don't know if anyone's tried to resurrect 2-step, but if a decent band could create a good pop song with a hummable tune and then bolt it to a Garage bassline and lots of breakbeats, I think it would work again. I'd buy it, anyway!

Trance doesn't really appeal to the part of me that likes pop in the same way that Garage did, so I don't know if more pop-trance would be a good thing. However, that raises all sorts of painful memories of dodgy Euro-pop, so I think that would have to be treated carefully. Trance has always appealed to the part of me that likes tunes that make your hairs stand on end, which is why I like very melodic trance, very common in 2000 but now out of fashion. I want some more of this too!

If anyone actually is reading this and sympathises with the sad man who likes obscure music, and who knows what I'm actually referring to, perhaps you could make some recommendations?

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