Thursday, December 24, 2009

Various - Trans'Pact Productions: Chap. 2 (Original TC Review)

Trans'pact Productions: Cat. # 96-01
Released 1995

Track List:
1. Asia 2001 - Guarana Cupana (9:24)
2. Koma Club - Migro G (6:43)
3. Koma Club - Palpitating (6:01)
4. Tribute - Acid Intermed (6:24)
5. Koma Club - Power In Your Mind (6:28)
6. Dan Ovan - Initial Osc (6:11)
7. Platinium - Digital Deck (5:42)
8. Loren.X - Love Tribu (6:49)
9. Progressive Transe - Eternal Tribulation(5:47)
10. Asia 2001 - Arkology (8:15)

(2010 Update:
So, a couple years later, I discovered that pretty much all of these are by the same guy, Martin Cooper -and then the dude's real name is Gilbert Thévenet. Only Dan Ovan seems to be unique, at least according to Discogs. I guess that explains why the rhythms sound nearly identical from track to track. Synths are still wicked-crazy sounding though.)

IN BRIEF: Experimental trance as a genre? It should be.

Every so often during my music browsing, a little gem of an obscure release will catch my eye in the racks of a shop. Nothing on it will be familiar to me, most of the artists quite possibly having only made a couple singles before returning to their day jobs. Quite often, a mere handful of dedicated discographers will have ever heard of the label. Yet, what is contained on the release may be a long lost buried treasure just waiting to be re-discovered by accident.

And while this one in particular may not be such a release, it certainly does not deserve to be overlooked a decade later.

Most acid trance in the mid-90s was in a more experimental stage as artists were testing the boundaries of what would and wouldn't work for sounds in their songs, and this somewhat enigmatic label out of France founded by Martin Cooper (also known as Loren X) was no exception. For the most part on this compilation of releases from Trans'Pact, experimentation does work, though it sometimes seems tracks were built just for these sounds' sake.

But before we even delve into those types of tracks, we have Guarana Cupana by Asia 2001, a pairing of Martin Cooper and Florian Seriot that released many albums through Trans'Pact. Hey, it's your own label, so why not?

There's quite a lengthy intro to Guarana Cupana, using many percussion sounds to give it a tribal feel. Effects mesh about and a light synth pad adds some texture towards the end of this intro. Once it's over, the percussion picks up in intensity. Trance hi-hats, bass kicks, claps, and multiple acid lines -some bassy, some squelchy- are progressively added for a couple of minutes worth. Eventually, we are treated to the main riff, a rather typical psy sound that subtly varies in pitch. In a minor breakdown that follows a minute later, the synth pad helps accentuate this riff quite nicely. Percussion returns to the fray and a wobbly bit of acid is given prominence, lending this track to an old school vibe. Finally, everything comes together for quite the rousing climax that lasts a good three minutes long, never losing momentum as elements weave themselves in and out expertly.

At times Guarana Cupana can come across as a little too busy (especially when a few effects that really don't add much come into play) but, for the most part, creates a nice textured song that, unfortunately, does take its time in getting somewhere. The next couple of tracks by Koma Club are far more direct in their approach.

A bizarre sounding intro starts Migro G off. In fact, it sounds like Koma Club were just messing around on a synth here. Don't let this turn you off of this track, though. The intro only lasts half a minute and you'd be missing a fun, floor-stompin' excursion into acid trance. Koma Club doesn't try to trick you with anything fancy -it's purely meant to get your feet moving. A great, driving riff that doesn't get too repetitive due to its fun nature balances out with a warbling acid line all over this track. Good effects and minor pauses in pacing (gotta catch our breath, after all) keep things interesting throughout.

Palpitating is a little darker than the previous track but still has high energy thanks to some great sounding electronic lines that benefit from reverb quite a bit. By a minute and a half in, more of the focus seems to be put on crazier synth sounds accentuated with an eerie pad that slowly emerges from the background. There isn't really a riff in this song, as it is carried by pure atmospherics over the rhythm. Those of you who are more weaned on immediate riffs are likely to be turned off of this track but I rather enjoy it. This is trance music that really allows you to become lost within its hypnotizing effects.

Followed up is Acid Intermed by Tribute. This is one of those rare tracks where every element comes together to create such an enjoyable listening experience. Right from the start we are greeted with a stuttering acid line that never becomes repetitive thanks to some ever-so-subtle pitch effects expertly weaved through the sound spectrum. Trancey riffs and sinister, sweeping synth pads balance things out with just the right amount of percussion (with some of it benefiting from a little reverb as well) to not make things sound too busy as each element comes and goes throughout. One quibble, though: more punch in the bass kick would have been nice. Ah, well. Such was most acid trance from this time, I guess.

Koma Club returns with Power In Your Minds, another song where the effects and atmosphere of this song really hold it together. So much, in fact, that without it we'd have a high paced but relatively boring excursion into acid trance. It's seems a shame that nothing was able to develop much further without it. These effects are so incredibly dark and menacing the only way I can describe it is akin to some evil machine breathing (again, probably thanks to Koma Club's apparent love of crazy synth sounds). A little whistling riff to offset this menace contrasts very nicely as a bassy acid line benefiting from gradual pitch changes builds from there. The main acid line that joins some two minutes in is alright for what it's worth (trippy and energetic) but sometimes ventures too high in frequency which can be quite piercing on the ears. When the atmospherics are in play, this track works wonders. Without, though, it's just tedious. Some better balancing of the elements would have been welcome.

The next track on this compilation, Initial Osc by Dan Ovan has the same problem. There's a great sounding pad here that comes in a minute and half into this song. In contrast, everything else seems to be a little forgettable. That's not to say the quick pace, reverb percussion, or acid lines benefiting from pitch effects aren't good as well -it's quite enjoyable, especially from a dance floor standpoint. However, this spacey pad is just so sweet sounding, I wish it was used more often throughout instead of just three sections. Oh well. Full prominence of it is given at the end of the song so it's worth it.

After such a steady stream of solid tracks, this next one, Digital Deck by Platinium, doesn't really have enough going for it to make it all that compelling. For the most part, it's just various acid blurbs and squelches fed through pitch effects accompanied by rather tinny percussion. I was willing to overlook such percussion in Acid Intermed because the rest of the song was so good but without anything to raise the level of Digital Deck above standard fare, it's glaringly evident. There's a point some three and a half minutes in where a bit of synth punches through the acid but it doesn't have enough to carry this track out of mediocrity. Considering how good this compilation has been thus far, this is quite a letdown in contrast.

If anything though, a definite pattern to most of these tracks should be apparent. Quick pace? Check. Acid bass and riffs? Check. Pitch effects galore? Check. So, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that Martin Cooper's offering as Loren X in the form of Love Tribu has these elements as well. What stands out rather well here, however, is a sweeping, spacey synth pad that sounds quite nice. And, unlike Initial Osc, this pad is utilized throughout, allowing the listener to become quite entranced within its sound. But even the stuttering acid bass sounds great enough to carry this song on its own. With both elements together, Love Tribu really does stand out from the pack of similar structured hypnotic numbers.

Eternal Tribulation by Progressive Transe brings things down again, though. It's not an entirely bad song, as some distorted, high-pitched pad work that comes into the song some two minutes after fairly standard percussion lead-in does give the song some soul. However, the tinny nature of the percussion on here tends to sound too busy at points and effectively detracts from the meatier parts, sometimes even burying it. This could have been easily in league with Love Tribu had things been more refined but, as it is, Eternal Tribulation just barely makes it as a transitional track.

Bookending this compilation is another track by Asia 2001: Arkology. Compared to the rest of the tracks, this one is relatively slower. Much like Guarana Cupana, there is a fair amount of lead-in using darker acid effect here. Coming off the heels of the last few songs that were using much higher frequency pitches for their acid lines, this track sounds quite fresh. For the most part, there aren't any clear-cut riffs or main acid lines. Elements ranging from spacey bleeps to reverb acid stabs to stuttering arpeggios weave themselves in and out with typical psy trance fashion. It's a great song to end the album on, really.

Despite the scarcity of anything from Trans'Pact these days, I'd still give this the thumbs up for psy fans. Sure, the tinny percussion on a number of these tracks does make this sound somewhat dated but you've just got to love the experimental nature of some of these, especially from Koma Club. There's an aura of innocent curiosity to this compilation as these sounds were being created and utilized for the first time. You just don't hear much of it anymore to the degree being offered here from trance these days. If you can locate this rare album, snatch it up.

Score: 8/10

Koma Club Palpitating
Loren X Love Tribu
Acid Intermed - Tribute

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

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