Saturday, 14 July 2007

The Invisible Voices: Trance music vocalists

In the past few months, as I've started looking for music again and have acquired a lot of dance music, I've noticed that some of the Trance/Progressive House/Electronica (delete as appropriate) bands and artists keep using the same guest singers for their songs. Actually, noticed is a bad word, as I knew about this a long time ago. For example, while I was listening to a lot of BT it was apparent that he liked to make songs with vocals by a singer called Jan Johnston, and she appeared on a few other artists' songs as well, notably including the already featured Tiësto, Paul Oakenfold and Paul van Dyk. However I had not realised that it was common for many more singers, most of them female and British, such as Kirsty Hawkshaw (Hybrid, BT and Tiësto again) and Tiff Lacey (Tiësto several times, and a few other tracks I have) to keep turning up all over the place. They're all quite good (as always, as far as I can say with my limited knowledge of how music works), and they're not so ubiquitous that they start to make all the songs sound the same. Quite a lot of the composers are perfectly capable of doing that without any help!

Now that I've found Kirsty Hawkshaw's myspace page (here) and have found out more about her, know what she looks like and found even more songs that she's featured on, this has made me change the image that I had in my mind quite a lot. I had imagined a singer who only did the occasional dance song of impeccable quality (like "Running Down the Way Up" with BT, "Blackout" with Hybrid, or the slightly contrived but very hypnotic "Halcyon and On and On" with Orbital), whereas she has actually made far more than I knew of previously, and even featured in some of the associated videos. They're all good tracks, but somehow she seemed more special when I thought she was on just a few choice ones. Also, she does look very much like the image I had formed in my head of her, but I almost preferred not to actually know that. I suppose it's very difficult to remain oblivious of anyone with the ease of communication the Internet allows, especially now that people advertise themselves through Myspace more than anyone could have thought possible a few years ago. But I quite liked finding a song and then appreciating it in isolation of any external considerations, or even without knowing who made it. It made the songs I collected seem far more special than those I heard on Radio One or saw on Top of the Pops. Maybe this just means I like the company of my own illusions far too much, and now that I'm out of adolescence, I can't really hang on to them.

All that aside, if you ever find any songs with Kirsty Hawkshaw or Jan Johnston singing on, make sure you give them at least one listen. They provide a large share of the singing talent that electronic music desperately needs to prevent stagnation. I certainly am far from being anti-instrumental, but it needs to be emphasised that dance music is not too far removed from pop music, and you need a song every now and then.

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