Sunday, 6 January 2013

Tritonal - Piercing the Quiet (2011) Review

I like a good bit of cheese now and again - as a blogger who wrote a recommendation for Lasgo's Some Things in the same article I praised Sasha's weird but wonderful Airdrawndagger and who likes Trance remixes of J-pop queen Ayumi Hamasaki, I assume this is probably obvious by now. I also don't like it when an artist wastes my time by making me endure two minutes of glitches at both ends of a ten minute track or throwing multiple near-facsimiles of the same song onto the disc, so with this in mind it's no wonder I think Piercing the Quiet is a hell of a fun album.

I was digging this from halfway through ambient/orchestral opener "Poem of Angels", which has all the sweet sounding strings and trance synth instrumentation present and firing on all cylinders. It's got a straightforward progression but it gets right into the uplifting vibe without much noodling beforehand and uses loads of great ambient sounds to great effect. This song sounds as if Above and Beyond suddenly took tips from Hybrid and Chicane on how to spruce up their more flaccid chillout moments, and it's hard not to like it.

After that we get into the trance properly. Tritonal sound like a modern trance act, in that they use plenty of short sharp claps, white noise, and frequently fat electro house basslines, but the difference between them and many accused of throwing themselves at the crossover electro/trance Swedish House Mafia audience is that with no exceptions, all of the dance tracks have a very refreshing old school melodic trance slant to them. The bright melodies are at the heart of the songwriting, the vocals are suitably spaced out and epic, and the tempos are nice and high with no sluggish mid-tempo tracks making an appearance throughout. The bitcrusher glitches, fat saw bass synths and pumping white noise never actually overwhelm any of these - instead we have what feels like a smooth update of the old sound, hands in the air moments and sing-along choruses firmly intact.

That is part of where the slightly cheesy vibe comes from. I make no apologies for liking epic and melodic trance but the formula can get worn out, and it pretty much did about five years ago, and in most compositional respects there are few directions taken on this LP that you haven't heard before, including the electro house elements which are all pretty well explored territory by this point. The reason why I don't really mind this is that all of them have something, be it great melody, cool riffs or pleasing vocals - all of these in most cases - which makes me remember why I like trance to begin with, and nothing is quite cliched enough to make me groan like the dire first verse of Above and Beyond's "Sun and Moon". The vocalists fit into the mix well, particularly Christina Soto's soft and breathy presence on a good number of the songs, resembling a slightly raspier Justine Suissa at times and a less deep Zoe Johnston at others. Piercing the Quiet is the album that A&B should have made as a more club-friendly successor to Tri-State after the more headphones-focused Sirens of the Sea, as Tritonal remind me very much of that trio's older style in terms of the rhythms they exploit and the classic trance sound design that's all over this LP.

If you need your trance to aim high in terms of innovative sound design, to inspire more contemplative moods or to push the genre forward creatively, Piercing the Quiet isn't going to do this for you. However if you like to get into a catchy tune, hear great punchy supersaws and bounce along to cool basslines while enjoying a bit of stylistic throwback to the old school with a modern polish on top (and don't mind the inkling that you might have heard tracks like these a few times before) get listening to Tritonal, and you'll have a smile on your face as if were discovering Ferry and Armin in the year 2000 all over again.

Standout tracks (amongst a very consistent tracklist) are : Poem of Angels, Piercing Quiet, and Murakami.
Label: Enhanced Recordings
Year: 2011

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