Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chris Fortier - Trance America (Original TC Review)

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Engine Recordings: Cat.# WIL33673
Released 2000

Track List:
1. Kolo - Pattern Of Sound (7:35)
2. Devol - Rude Spaces (7:05)
3. Hyper-X - Out There (Steve Porter Spacedrum Mix) (5:01)
4. Steve Porter - Innerpulse (5:37)
5. Sugarglider - Let Me In (Cass & Slide Or I'll Blow Your House Down Dub) (5:37)
6. 3 Monkeys - Crazy People (8:33)
7. Mara - Fall From Grace (Alderaanic Dub) (7:49)
8. Tranceiver - RPV (7:05)
9. Max Graham - Yaletown (6:19)
10. Memnon - Desire (2:26)
11. Memnon - Orchis (8:17)


(2010 Update:
I'll be honest. After I wrote this review, I absolutely dreaded ever purposely doing another 10/10 release that I also enthusiastically enjoyed. Although it isn't that bad for an early amateur effort, I felt I overdid the hyperbole here, and feared I wouldn't be able to reign myself in again until I was a better review writer. Though I did write a few more 10/10s over the years, it wasn't until this past year that I actually attempted something like this again. And yes, it was a huge improvement.)



IN BRIEF: For me, this was trance's redemption.

Back in the year 2000, anthem trance was undoubtedly at its peak. Unfortunately, as with anything extremely popular, it was grossly overplayed to the point of redundancy. Trance compilations and DJ mixes began to sound all too similar, with breakdowns and builds continuously overdone to the point of ruining any sense of momentum throughout. Catchy hooks and appealing riffs had replaced the otherworldly soundscapes that had defined the genre in its infancy. I was beginning to wonder if the original sounds of trance that had lured me into the wide world of EDM way back in the early 90s would be nothing more than a distant memory.

Then one day, a rather unassuming mix by a then unknown to me DJ named Chris Fortier appeared in the store. The cover art looked intriguing so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Right from the beginning of Kolo's Pattern Of Sound, I had a feeling I'd stumbled upon something special.

Building up proggy rhythm for a good two minutes, little sci-fi effects and noises flutter about, creating a sonic texture that conjures up futuristic urban settlements. Pulsing bass and simple percussion keep things grooving along quite nicely, looping throughout as dark synth pad washes suck you into a trance. About five minutes into Pattern Of Sound, the song breaks down to allow the pads to weave as the bass continues to pulse. A sample during this breakdown utters, "Drifting through the galaxy"; my thoughts exactly.

The rhythm comes back a minute later, more or less continuing with the loopy grooves earlier established as the song plays out into a mix into Rude Spaces by Devol. The spacey pads of this song suck you in even deeper as percussion keeps the momentum steady. Mechanical grumbles and electronic clicks tickle at the psyche as things play out for some two minutes worth of hypnotic prog. Soon enough, ominous, echoing synth stabs penetrate a murky ambience, embellishing along the way as they lead into a mild breakdown. As more menacing sounds and effects ooze with a guttural growl, little hollowed out chords plink about, letting the percussion rebuild itself in layers. By five minutes in, everything has come back together, leading us through a maze of futuristic soundscapes. As it reaches its peak, things fade back as we are taken into Steve Porter's mix of Hyper-X's Out There. The beats are laid on a bit thicker here, with more eerie pads permeating the background. After a brief, pad breakdown a minute into Out There, solid bass kicks start thumping, offset by mechanical effects throbbing in junction. Percussion is continuously layered as bass lines and subtle stuttering leads build the momentum up. This song is quite loopy, relying on slight changes in cybernetic textures to carry you forward as the groovy tempo keeps your feet moving (or head nodding, if you're sitting back as you listen to this). Out There is quite wonderful in a devious way; this is trance at its most primal, drawing you inward to the most meditative recesses of your consciousness.

And if you still haven't been entranced by these hypnotic textures, then Steve Porter's own Innerpulse will seize you and never let go again. The moment it starts after a brief mix with chugging rhythm and an ominous pad that touches the furthest reaches of your psyche, you are a goner. This is, without a doubt, one of the most hypnotic tracks I have ever heard. I could listen to a loop of the opening minute of this track for days as I explored the darkest corners of my mind.
However, the song gets even better as the pad leaves for a bit to allow stuttering synths stabs to layer up in a build, peaking wonderfully to lead right back to where we began with the pad, this time with a funky bit of bass added to the mix. Playing out for another two minutes of this as the synth stabs slowly build again in the background, finally cresting a minute later. Excellent stuff. With a mere four tracks, Fortier had taken my consciousness on a tranced out tour the likes of which I had not experienced in ages.

As Innerpulse finishes up with a percussive lead-out, Fortier takes us away from the ominous hypnotic tracks into something a little more benign with Let Me In by Sugarglider (with a playfully titled dub done by Cass & Slide). While menacing sounds and effects pulsate throughout, the rhythm keeps steady but gets a bit busier, upping the momentum a bit more. A chopped up female vocal sample begins to interlace itself to the rhythm some two minutes in; a minute later, it is given prominence as mechanical effects flutter about and warm pads accentuate it in a minute long breakdown.

However, more menacing effects, building back into some fierce rhythms and eventually overtaking the vocal itself, interrupt the peaceful interlude. This is merely a build towards a quick mix into Crazy People by 3 Monkeys. Picking up its cue, Crazy People gets right to work with some great lead-in percussion progressively layered as it builds in intensity with futuristic effects accentuating along. By three minutes in, we're introduced to a spoken sample from which this track gains its title from (12 Monkeys being the source, if I may trainspot for a moment) and a little beeping lead joins the fray as well. Four minutes into Crazy People now and things are bumping along with vicious intensity.

Eventually, things fade back for a bit as the sample gets slowed and stretched into a brief breakdown. Once it retreats, a bassy sound emerges, pulsing for a bit as electronic synth note stabs and percussion build. A minute later, we're right back into the thick of things, grooving right along as the song plays out to a stirring climax of dark prog textures.

As a percussion lead-out plays, a murky, throbbing bassline of Fall From Grace by Mara emerges and burbles along, taking us back into a meditative trance. Once Crazy People finishes up, effects weave about as the song slowly begins to build in intensity, layers of synths and hypnotic voices growing. Three minutes later, things retreat for a moment, allowing a stuttering mechanical effect to take the reigns as soundscapes create a futuristic ambience. More sounds and effects are added as the song progresses; string leads, pulsing acid, dubby pads, growing again to another brief breakdown two minutes later. Building upon its momentum, Fall From Grace creates another trancey stuttering effect as it takes us out with echoing vocals weaving in and out.

Building upon the momentum created by the stuttering sounds of the previous track, Fortier's choice of RPV by Tranceiver to follow up Fall From Grace couldn't be more spot on. After taking us down into a bit of a minimal rhythm, a bubbling bit of bass murmurs in the background as some deep synth chords stutter about, getting their pitch subtly bent throughout. Yet another deep trancer, things never really build into anything bigger than initially established, instead allowing us to become lost in rhythmic sounds. By the time Max Graham's Yaletown starts nearly seven minutes later, you'll hardly notice any time has gone by; such is good trance.

Picking up the intensity with heavy rhythm, Yaletown continues the stuttering nature of the last couple tracks, eventually leading into some synth chord stabs with delay effects tickling at the mind. These get some great prominence in a breakdown over three minutes in, never loosing momentum in the process as they get played and tweaked about throughout the breakdown's minute long duration. They fade down briefly, then come roaring back with heavy percussion, a nice little string pad in the background accentuating the moment in a wonderful climax.

Yaletown finishes up with a percussive lead-out, and we're brought into a minimal bit of prog with Desire by Memnon. With mostly mechanical percussion and effects supported by a pulsing bassline, this track really only serves as a prelude to the next track, Orchis (also by Memnon). As Desire plays out, the ethereal vocals of Seroya begin to gradually emerge, weaving with haunting grace as this track throbs along, percussion and acid effects slowly and surely added to increasingly draw us into trance. A brief breakdown three and a half minutes in gives us a breather, then we're right back into it, easily cruising along to simple, pulsing rhythm and spacey voice effects. The bassline embellishes a little towards the end but Orchis isn't about big moments; this track is specifically placed at the end to ease us out of the trance-induced journey Fortier started right from the very beginning with Pattern Of Sound. And, my friends, what a journey it has been.

This mix was like a breath of fresh air from the suffocating sounds of anthem trance when I'd heard it four years ago (as of this writing) and it holds up remarkably well. There is a timeless quality here as most of these tracks create a futuristic atmosphere for your consciousness to explore.

I'll grant that these are not particularly fast tracks and they don't go for large climaxes; those weaned on such types of trance will probably wonder what the big deal is. However, that is kind of the point here. Trance isn't just about moments of euphoria; it should be able to draw you deep within, allowing your awareness to drift from its surroundings and be carried away with your imagination. Fortier has crafted a CD that achieves this in ways rarely matched by typical trance releases.

I highly recommend getting this. You may never look at trance the same way again.


Score: 10/10

ACE MIXES/TRACKS:
Pattern Of Sound through Innerpulse
3 Monkeys - Crazy People
Max Graham - Yaletown

Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2004 for TranceCritic.com.© All rights reserved.

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