Sunday, January 10, 2010

Various - Buckle Up, Vol. 2: The Trancelucent Garage (Original TC Review)














Trancelucent Productions: Cat: # TPCD-IL012
Released July 2005

Track List:
1. System Nipel - Russian Gangsters (8:08)
2. Cosmic Tone - Element (6:51)
3. Electro Sun - Demon's Halo (7:20)
4. Aquatica - Skydance (Remix) (7:35)
5. The Misted Muppet - Snarling Zraw (7:56)
6. Noga - Acceleration (8:15)
7. Etic - 1 Day (7:38)
8. Systemic - Systec (6:53)
9. Noga vs Solar System - Above The Ground (6:53)


(2010 Update:
Well, at least I was getting the hang of talking about the music without going track-by-track, even if I only did it for the latter half of this compilation. A lot of these guys are still around, though have somewhat faded as the whole prog-psy thing started to get more attention than full-on. In fact, I think this was about the peak of full-on's popularity, not to mention creativity -a lot of subsequent full-on I heard wasn't quite as good as this stuff was. Maybe I just had bad luck of the draw?

Cover's still hilariously tacky too!)



IN BRIEF: We're missing a decade here.

Before I write anything regarding the music on Buckle Up Vol. 2, I want to direct your attention to the cover of this compilation. No, go ahead and look at it. Don't be shy, I know you want to.

Got a good look at it? What's that? You need more time? Okay, but don't take much longer. I have much to cover here.














Seriously now! You can stop looking. No, I mean it! Stop looking! Bloody pervert...

So what's the big deal, you ask. It's just a couple of naked gals. Plenty of covers have used this tacky gimmick to sell their CDs: thrashy, trashy rock music; booty bass hip hop; even superstar teen pop (well, they may be clothed in the last one, but they certainly don't leave much to the imagination either). You can hardly take such covers seriously.

That's exactly the point, though. All too often trance music, especially of the psy variant, takes itself far too seriously and uses overly pretentious images of Buddhism or fractal artwork. Fine and dandy for the most part but it'd be nice to see the genre have a little fun as well. It might actually attract more casual folks into the fold, if anything to sate their curiosity. The only time I've ever seen trance try to get kinky is back when Hypnotic would put devil chicks wearing S&M gear flopping their giant breasts around in moving cover art (plus other assorted fetish material inside, but perhaps too hardcore for many of our readers so I'll spare you the details). Whether you were turned off or on by the stuff was inconsequential -at least Hypnotic had the balls to do something different from the norm. These days trance covers play things safe with scenic art, contemporary computer art, Renaissance art, or 'DJ/Producer looking off in the distance' art.

So, no matter how many psy-heads may call this cover tasteless, I say Kudos to Trancelucent for breaking the norm.

That rant out of the way, let's get into the music.

Straight up I'll tell you there isn't anything revolutionary or groundbreaking on Buckle Up Vol. 2. This is un-mainstream trance going about its business as though the last ten years hadn't happened. The furthest thing from these producer's minds is having the likes of Tiestin van Corstenfold play them or to be broadcast on A State Of Global Deejays (or something like that). As such, this compilation would probably get lumped into the psy trance section of your stores, even though not everything on this is true blue psy -it's just a tendency for stuff that doesn't fit into popular niches to get shunted over to the psy camp. However, such concerns aren't all that important -how effectively these producers craft their music is the main question.

We dive into Buckle Up Vol. 2 with System Nigel, one of many members of the Trancelucent family I've never heard of prior to receiving this disc. Like many psy-trance titles, the song's name of Russian Gangsters doesn't make a lick of sense to what goes on in the song. As for the song itself, it's serviceable full-on stuff, building from simple, chunky acid sounds and bleepy hooks to more stock psy sounds anyone with a passing familiarity with the scene will recognize. As with most psy-trance, there are a few tangents taken during the course of the track before peaking out with rhythms that pick up the intensity as most of the hinted elements throughout come out in full force. It's a bit happy-go-lucky, which may scare off the purists, but certainly inoffensive enough as an opener.

Cosmic Tone's Element borrows the spoken dialogue from Danny Tenaglia’s track of the same name, but doesn't go through the whole laundry list of items that make up the track like the original, mainly because they'd be out of place here. Instead, it cuts to the chase by skipping right to the "I like it all" bit after the initial prelude. As for the track itself, it's a simple, moody little number. Not much happens in it, letting the subtle sounds create a sinister atmosphere and deep, rolling bassline groove you on.

As Element ends, we're thrust into the soaring pads of Electro Sun’s Demon’s Halo. The track doesn't waste too much time getting into it though, as chunky, acidy rhythms erupt with everything they've got after the paddy intro. From here, this song absolutely tears along. I mean it! Compared to most of the material on Mr. Elkayam's debut, Demon's Halo is leaps and bounds better. Okay, so there are a few odd tangents (is that a synthesized chicken being strangled?), and Electro Sun still hasn't changed the sound patch for his bassline, but these are just minor nitpicks. When the soaring pad work and invigorating rhythms are this infectious, who cares? Had I known Electro Sun was capable of this kind of stuff, I might not have been quite so generous in my rating of his full length.

Aquatica's Skydome makes for a decent transitional track on this compilation, but not much more. It's pretty standard full-on material, including a build that peaks with a typical full-on synth -it could easily be called Psy Synth 01 in a pre-set bank. The peak isn't nearly as good as the build would have you believe either but nice eerie pads are to be had in this track.

The Misted Muppet seems to be one of the main stars of the Trancelucent label, and if this offering of Snarling Zraw is any indication, I can see why. Whatever a Zraw is, it certainly snarls in this track as it oozes absolute evil with some of the most messed up sounds this side of a Hellraiser sound-effects studio.

And those rhythms! My God, I thought Demon's Halo was busy but Snarling Zraw is absolute chaos! I've listened to this track several times since receiving it from Boa Distribution (plug!) and am still discovering little nuances amid the mayhem. Most trance seems content to use around four elements in their rhythm sections -Zraw uses three times that in the first half alone.

Unfortunately, it's not all aceness in this track. It seems my compatriot Cinos was correct in his assessment of Zraw: despite a very promising start with things building in intensity for a while, it loses the plot around half-way through, veering off into just plain weird tangents for the sake of it. Ah well, -Zraw finishes off wonderfully with a chopped up female chant accentuated with shuffling percussion that'll get the hippie girls shaking their skirted asses if they hadn't already fled to saner pastures.

For the rest of this compilation, something strange happens. A feeling comes over me that recently seems to only occur with some the deepest prog around. I know what it is, but I'm almost afraid to say it. For so long now trance music has been mostly about mega-melodies and worshiping the guy who plays them; the name of the genre has gone on to only imply euphoria so saying what this feeling is would be out of place here. Ah, what the Hell. I'll say it.

From Noga's Acceleration to his collaboration with Solar System in the form of Above The Ground, I literally feel like I'm getting sucked into a trance -the inward, hypnotic kind, that is.

How does it do it? Simply put, it's all about the subtlety of these four tracks. The leads and sounds used are subdued and ever shifting as the tracks evolve. Pad effects - some gentle, some ominous - keep the songs afloat and whenever a main hook enters the fray (usually two-thirds of the way through), it doesn't smack you across the head for your attention, rather complementing the track as a logical conclusion to the lead up to it.

Of course, this isn't to say these four tracks are perfect. Certainly, some of the sounds in Systemic's Systec are odd, and, as mentioned earlier, it's not like there's anything groundbreaking to be heard. You wouldn't be able to tell if these were produced in 2005 or 1995. Indeed, some of the sounds used are a little primitive considering how far trance has moved. Still, within this field, these producers managed to craft tracks that truly do succeed where so much other trance fails despite better production values.

There you have it. Definitely some interesting material on hand, if staying true to the source materia nearly to a fault. Buckle Up Vol. 2 probably won't win over any folks who still haven't jumped on the psy wagon, nor will it impress those always striving for the latest and greatest. For those of us who wouldn't mind a little harmless full-on action followed up by some good old fashioned hypnotic trance, this is as decent of a compilation as any which I've heard over the last ten years.


Score: 7/10

ACE TRACKS:
Noga - Acceleration
The Misted Muppet - Snarling Zraw


Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.Com.

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