Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Electro Sun - Pure Blue (Original TC Review)














Trancelucent Productions: Cat: # TP011
Released 2005

Track List:
1. Pure Blue (7:11)
2. Sundance (7:28)
3. I've Got The Power (6:54)
4. Fucking Music (8:05)
5. Stretch (7:35)
6. Vanilla (7:26)
7. In My Dream (Album Edit) (6:44)
8. Momento (6:48)
9. Super Nova (6:32)


(2010 Update:
My first taste of contemporary psy trance, where I basically became the go-to guy for that material for much of TranceCritic's run. One thing I'm quite amused to read in this review is my notion that techno didn't have a sell-out sub-genre, when in the following years 'minimal' would go on to become one of the most popular sounds around. Who'd have ever thunk it though? Well, maybe those crafty marketers...

Oh, and I'd add
In My Dream to the ACE TRACKS list now too. That tune's gone on to be one of my favorite guilty pleasures!)


IN BRIEF: Psy trance sells out? Perhaps.

One of the few styles of EDM that seemed to withstand a sell-out sub-genre is psy trance. With the music's stubborn refusal to comply with predictable structures and its willful use of warped sounds, psy trance never had a chance at general acceptance, even within the EDM community at large. The genre's fans were quite fine with this, though. When one is immersed in psychedelia and expanded consciousness (so they say), the last thing you want is to bump into shirtless barstars gooned on ecstasy. It'd crimp your vibe, man.

However, it seems psy trance's blissful tenure in the underground is coming to an end thanks to a form of it known as full-on, a style many of the old are decrying as too commercial sounding (see Cinos' review on a compilation of it for a good example). Of course, it was only a matter of time before it happened -nearly every major genre out there has a sell-out variation the new kids get into while the veterans dismiss as crap: jungle has its jump-up, house has its scouse, breaks has its Florida, traditional trance has its vocal, and even hardcore has its happy. Only techno seems to be immune, mainly due to the fact its purists automatically dismiss anything with a whiff of commercial intent as being anything but techno. Anyhow, back to full-on.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not as immersed in the psy trance scene as others. I got into the music quite by accident during my initial trance exploration, when I'd buy anything with the word 'trance' on the cover. I stumbled on some great material from the likes of Total Eclipse and Koxbox this way but saw little point in joining the psy masses' scene. I've pretty much only followed one scene: the one I create for myself.

That said, having listened to a fair deal of psy trance in the past, the recent commotion over full-on raised my curiosity whether the cries from the old goa guard were warranted. Plus, I felt it might be a good idea for TranceCritic to get a different perspective on the sound, considering our resident goa-head isn't too keen on the idea of reviewing more.

So, here I am reviewing this release from Electro Sun (real name Nadav Elkayam), a foray into full-on with virgin ears.

I may as well get this out of the way right off the bat. All the complaints about full-on making use of a bassline that doesn't change much in most songs seem warranted. While there certainly are minute differences in notes, patterns, and tempo on Pure Blue, you'll hardly notice it unless you're paying close attention. For the most part, you get familiar wubbila-wubbila-wubbila patterns and the sound used is exactly the same in every song. Even when the intros to the tracks might suggest something otherwise, it will all too soon fall into familiar territory. Immediately, this hurts the album. Without some differences on the rhythm end, you'll swear you're listening to the same song over and over. It doesn't matter how unique each melody is; when your rhythm doesn't do much to distinguish itself from track to track, it's going to get repetitive very soon.

However, one can still craft a decent album even if the rhythms don't vary much. I've listened to many a release where the hooks, melodies, and effects managed to lift it above mediocre fare despite repetitive rhythms (this is EDM were talking about here, after all) so, although Pure Blue's already been dinged for samey rhythms, let's see if the songs' other attributes help in making this a worthy release for you to own.

We dive into Pure Blue with Pure Blue, a solid bit of psy if I've heard any. Detailing what goes on during a typical psy track is usually a headache, to write and to read; there's just too much going on to keep it brief so I'll mention the highlights: stuttering effects, arpeggiating hooks, and chunky, acidy climaxes make up the bulk, always growing in intensity as the song progresses. Brief breakdowns and builds are scattered about but finely serve their purpose as the energetic riffs on the other side of them rarely let you down. As mentioned, it may not be groundbreaking, but Pure Blue is an effective bit of psy trance, and a fine opener.

Sundance follows, and it's here I notice the other complaint of full-on: the use of simple, catchy - even a bit too cheesy - hooks. I'm not sure why this is suddenly a new complaint, as I've heard many a psy trance track that didn't take itself too seriously, but I suppose the full-on movement is littered with them, so it gets the brunt of the blame.

Yes, Sundance does contain many sounds, hooks, and effects a psy veteran would deem psy-lite or McPsy, but they are quite fun too. The peak hook most certainly would get a crowd moving, although I wouldn't use it for a peak time track in a set. Like Obie Trice's women, it doesn't quite have the teeth.

Elkayam calls upon a guy called Bizzare Contact for a little collaboration work on I've Got The Power, and the influence makes for a tasty bit of psychedelia. One thing I really enjoy about the genre in general is the way the producers will mess around with bizzare sounds, crazy effects, and blind alley hooks for over half the track, all the while subtly sprinkling their peak riff about, teasing the listener for what's to come. I've Got The Power makes good use of keeping you distracted with some nifty percussion work (gotta love those random pauses on third beats) and the eventual payoff, while not the most memorable one ever crafted, certainly works within the song itself. It's just a shame the track kind of lost the plot towards the end with a more rhythmic lead-out.

From here, things start to get suspect. Fucking Music (and no, there's nothing bump 'n' grind worthy here) doesn't make much effort to distinguish itself. Sure, there's a moodier atmosphere to the track containing various odd pad effects, but nothing is really done with it and the end results come off as a bunch of random noise. Stretch descends us even further into "been there - done that" territory and Vanilla sounds just as exciting as its name suggests despite the go at buttrock guitar sounds. Whereas the first three tracks managed to do something different from each other, these last three just follow the Pure Blue model without anything nearly as catchy to offer.

At this point in the album, you'd be forgiven for writing the rest off. If the samey basslines hadn't aggravated you by now, I'd imagine the lack of any truly exciting hooks or sequences will disheartened even the most hardened psy trance fan. There's been some interesting, even catchy, moments but nothing with the fierce, dynamic intensity this genre's been known for.

The last third of Pure Blue doesn't do much to correct this but there are a few noteworthy moments. In My Dream stands out for the fun atmosphere and pure audacity of using samples of wailing divas (!) -I can imagine this pissing off a great number of psy trancers who take their music very seriously, which just might make this chipper tune a perfect cross-over contender. Momento, like Fucking Music, is moodier than the rest, but more coherent than the latter, if not as memorable with its sounds. And finally, Super Nova will definitely turn heads with its use of Gollum samples, and even perhaps its different use of bassline if you've actually paid attention to that in these songs (settling for a traditional off-beat throb) but it still treads the same territory as those that came before.

Now, I'll grant Electro Sun's debut certainly is finely produced -at no point does a lack of technical musicianship become apparent. Mr. Elkayam just needs to work on crafting some more memorable hooks and sequences to make this stand out more. For the most part, Pure Blue sounds serviceable on an individual song basis. All together, though, there's a real Stretch of Vanilla (hohoho!). Halfway through, no matter how a song started, I just kept thinking "Here we go again" no more than a minute into the tracks. There needs to be more spice to go along with the sweetness on hand.

As for full-on in general, the jury is still out -I'll need to listen to more than just a single album to give the style a verdict. However, if the predictability of Pure Blue is any indication, I may not have to listen to much more to come to a conclusion.


Score: 6/10

ACE TRACKS:
I've Got The Power


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

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