Tuesday, 20 December 2011

John B - in:Transit (2004) Review

in:Transit was released in 2004, before the Pendulum explosion in drum and bass and a while after Trance had peaked as a popular number-one reaching style, so this genre-bending album, attempting to bridge the gap between the two, must have seemed very ambitious. John B’s release history shows that he’s not afraid to take this kind of risk, and he pulls it off with quite a bit of success at the opening of this album. “Midnight Air” is what I consider to be the prototypical song of trancey d’n’b, or “trancestep” if you want something less of a mouthful. Heavy driving beats, fast tempo, and skittish rhythms meet big pads and catchy melodies and are tied together with powerful basslines and even some dirty reeses, not to mention a few vocal samples from John himself.



The formula bends slightly in the tongue-in-cheek “Take Me Home” which is a pretty fun track, and then switches up to a slightly more bass-focused but still big feeling “Romantic”, both of which use vocal hooks rather than a big trancey feel to give them even more personality beyond the high quality production and melodies. “Mecury Skies” is a return to the epic feel of the first song and comes close to matching it for impact, with an even bigger focus on the dirty dnb bass this time. These four provide the kind of opening salvo that any album would struggle to live up to, and that’s what happens here, despite none of the following tracks actually being particularly bad. The darkstep “Sight Beyond” while a pretty good song in it’s own right, doesn’t stand out after the previous songs. The Exile collaboration “Broken Language” is returns slightly to the epic feel and is a solid production, before the return to darkstep again brings the mood down into more moody territory. John B is actually pretty good at this style as well, but “Amnesia” “Vampire Eyes” and “One Way” while sounding great, are not that memorable compared to the trancestep tracks. “Faith in Me”, a big dancefloor d’n’b track with a low-mid heavy rumbling bass and rough breakbeats, is another good track that would be good in a DJ set but doesn’t have the personality to stick out. So it’s “American Girls 2004” which brings the unique big room synth feel back to the mix, with John’s even more tongue-in-cheek lyrics combined with the ridiculously catchy melody providing a brilliant addition to the cool beat and gives the album another standout which is definitely not going to go unnoticed amongst the d’n’b herd. “Rinse in Out Propa” is an interesting end to the album. Intended as a pisstake of wobble d’n’b, it’s not that interesting in this company, but it’s actually a pretty funky and well-produced example of the style John B is trying to pastiche. I would prefer the album to have ended with a more epic track, but that’s probably my trance-fan bias coming in, as it has with my opinion of the album as a whole.

I don’t think the trancestep sound managed to catch on, although the commercialisation of d’n’b over the few years following its release has brought some of the ideas first seen here into the mainstream of d’n’b as of 2011. John B deserves credit for trying this out when it must have got a lot of negative feedback from the d’n’b scene of the time (as articulated in “Rinse it Out Propa”) and this is one of my big gateway albums for drum and bass, convincing me that it was worth my attention as a genre, not just for one or two artists.

In summary, a very good album and definitely worthy of attention, especially as it shows John B a long way ahead of the curve, and long may he remain so. If you like darkstep, you’ll like the tracks that I tend to skip. If you like trance, you’ll love the ones that I think stand out.



Note: This post was transferred from tumblr.

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