Friday, December 25, 2009

2 Unlimited - No Limit (Original TC Review)

no limit
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Quality Music & Video: Cat. # QCDS 7012
Released 1993

Track List:
1. No Limit (Rap Mix) (3:30)
2. No Limit (Extended Mix) (5:42)
3. No Limit (Extended Rap Mix) (5:55)
4. No Limit (Rio & Le Jean Mix) (3:57)
5. No Limit (Automatic Remix) (4:59)
6. No Limit (Automatic Breakbeat) (4:48)


(2010 Update:
The first in a series of 2 Unlimited singles I reviewed for TranceCritic. I knew it was important to fill the website's archives with material quickly, and, being a fan of the group, knew I could churn these out in rapid fashion. I'll admit the euro dance info is very Canadian biased, however.)



IN BRIEF: One of the biggest EDM singles ever. 'Nuff said.

As hard as it may be for the younger generation of EDM lovers to believe, there was a time when dance music had mass appeal even in the typically 'dance sux' realm of North America. Despite grunge music grabbing all the headlines as 'the greatest form of music to emerge in ages' (hmm, whatever happened to that?), another form of music had begun to take stage as well. Not only did it offer a more upbeat spin on music to counter the dreary rock of the time, it also held crazy, catchy synth riffs, diva-esque choruses, and 4/4 rhythms that made them effective for dancing. The populace became enthralled with it, claiming it was the revival of disco's glory years. It held a larger limelight than hip-hop. Music videos for the major hits would routinely circulate on television. Oodles and oodles of compilations flooded the market. Kids in passing cars would blast this form of music from their stereos and sports events would use it to supercharge the spectators. Concerts for some of the music's biggest acts would pack people in by the tens of thousands.

This new music was known as 'techno'.

Okay, the official term for it ten years later became euro (dance, house, etc), partly because the followers of real techno made a big fuss about such a poppy form of music utilizing their precious underground name, but namely because most of it was produced in Europe. However, the fact it is probably the only form of EDM to make such a deep impact into the normally difficult, anti-EDM American pop music charts is a testament to its versatility. No other form of EDM has come close to euro's success in the United States; not trance, and certainly not, er, 'electronica' (whatever that is).

And while purists may bemoan about how it diluted EDM's integrity from that point on, it's best to just ignore them and enjoy euro for what it is: quality pop music with novel synths.

Which leads us to this single.

2 Unlimited's success with their two previous hits (Get Ready For This and Twilight Zone) had made them bonafide stars. They could have easily rested on those laurels since they couldn't possibly top those classic cuts. Could they?

Determined to prove they weren't any one-hit wonder, producers Phil Wilde and Jean-Paul de Coster, rapper Raymond Slijngaard, and singer Anita Dels set out to top their previous efforts. The result? One of the most heavily played EDM tracks in history.

No Limit smashed all kinds of expectations, hitting number one in thirty-five countries. By the time the group had disbanded three years later, over 2.5 million copies worldwide had been sold. Not bad for a sophomore effort.

However, the bigger question is whether this chart-topper still holds up over a decade since it first hit the airwaves. What a silly question. Of course it does.

Wilde and de Coster knew what they were doing when they created this track. The main riff is instantly likeable, leaping out at you with heavy, punchy beats amplifying its effectiveness at clinging to your mind and never letting go. Sure, it can seem redundant after the tenth time it plays in the track (and that's just the shorter Rap Mix version; the extended mixes go on for even longer) but Wilde and de Coster keep it interesting with the percussion in support. It's subtle but when the cymbal crashes are never repeating the same pattern, things remain musically diverse throughout.

However, this wasn't 2 Unlimited's best lyrical effort. Anita is mostly reduced to singing, "No, no" repeatedly during the fills and Ray's "Techno, techno, techno, techno!" fill in the extended mixes has been lambasted by everyone, their dogs, and their dogs' fleas. Still, they knew No Limit's real strength was in its dancefloor (and sports stadium, as things turned out) energy so the lack of anything substantial for lyrics is understandable; folks don't pay as much attention to words when getting their groove on in most cases. I will mention, though, the chorus is quite effective and Ray does seem to take a firm stand when he says, "You try to diss me 'cause I sell out; I'm making techno and I am proud!" It's almost as though he suspected there would be a major backlash to this song (and there was -from purists), but was resolute in his convictions that he was doing what he enjoyed: making music for the masses.

The first three mixes are mostly identical to each other. The Rap Mix is the most commonly heard one, with the Extended Rap Mix adding more space for riff fills, drum fills, and a minor intro. The Extended Mix is the same, just sans Ray's two verses.

The Rio & Le Jean Mix (Wilde and de Coster under pseudonyms) strips things down to a less produced sound. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this was an early test demo. However, it's remarkably effective in making the riffs even punchier, replacing the cymbal crashes with snare snaps instead. In addition, they use a cowbell in the percussion as well! Haha, it's quite amusing hearing that thing clonking in the background as the song plays. Still, this would probably be even more effective on a dancefloor than the Rap Mix thanks to the direct nature of it.

DJ Automatic provides a couple of remixes to this single as well. While his first one is somewhat interesting in its play of the main riff, it kind of lacks in overall focus. There's a real feeling of never gaining any ground throughout. The breakbeat remix, however, is an absolute gem.

Briefly opening up with some breakbeats as a small preview of what's to come, they quickly retreat to allow a nice spacey pad play for a bit. Soon enough, the familiar No Limit riff starts up but, what's this? It isn't quite the same this time. Instead of its usual 4/4 pattern, it gets the breakbeat treatment instead with skillful pauses in the rendition. Once the percussion returns, a heavy kick that pummels you is added and plays wonderfully with this new take on the riff.

Alternating between the riffs and vocal fills keeps the energy going strong until at three minutes in we're treated to an apocalyptic choir fill! Wow, who'd have seen that coming? I love it! On the other side of this fill, the riff gets a little playful with an octave climb for a few measures, followed by the rhythm subsiding back to allow the spacey pads to play as Anita's chorus is sung. Then, the apocalyptic choir returns to end the song off. Haha! Great stuff.

No Limit is definitely a nostalgic trip for those of us who were there when EDM was at heights previously and since never achieved. However, it is certainly a product of its time. While this might have been a huge hit back in the early 90s, I couldn't imagine those thick beats and juicy synths sitting on top of the charts in this day in age. I'm sure many of the newer cats would wonder how something like this could ever have achieved such a following. While it may be a common phrase from us old timers, it suits the situation: You had to have been there.


Score: 8/10


Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2005 for TranceCritic.com.© All rights reserved.

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