Friday, December 7, 2012

Progression - Different Day, Different Light (Original TC Review)

Black Hole Recordings: 2007

(2012 Update:
Comparing these tunes to the ending of
Sopranos wasn't fair. Folks discuss that show to this day, but no one's talking about Progression anymore. Hah! Jokes aside, I am surprised this album seemingly tumbled off the face of the Earth shortly after its release, all but abandoned by Black Hole's marketing. Even the supposed 'big hit' Technophobia is forgotten. Me uploading this old review's probably the most exposure Different Day's gotten all this year. What the deal happened?

Well, the duo split up, with Wanrooy carrying on solo. Beyond that, who knows. At first, replaying this album reminded me of how much I enjoyed the aesthetics, giving me pause over my original assessment; however, I was also reminded of how frustratingly vacuous these tracks are. No wonder everyone ignored it.)



IN BRIEF: A step forward, a step back.

Daniel Wanrooy and Robin van de Wiel may have gained much of their initial momentum as Odysseye, but it was their Progression alias that drew the attention of the right person: Mr. Tijs Verwest himself. Having attained his blessing came greater exposure on his label and DJ mixes. After a half-a-dozen or so singles, the Big T suggested a full length. With the opportunity to indulge for the duration of an album, they spent a year in the studio making tracks. Now finished, the end result is Different Day, Different Light. Unfortunately, it hardly seems to have been worth the effort.

Yes, I know that isn’t exactly the most political thing to say but fact is the ideas are lacking on this release. There’s two discs worth of progressive trance for you to gorge on but you’ll be hard-pressed to recall much of it after it plays through, and this is a shame. Progression have lovely synths at their disposal: ethereal wisps, haunting chants, spacey sweeps - all winning ingredients where trance is concerned. Yet despite the exquisite production on display, their music is incredibly singular in execution. They utilize exactly one form of arrangement on every track - the tried and tested lead-up/breakdown/drop method of yore - with roughly two melodic ideas in each (exceptions to this rule will be delved upon, trust). The rhythms, for the most part, remain stuck in forward-drive, rarely deviating to bring us something funky or intuitive. And then there is the overall presentation of this release, of which I’ll get to in a moment.

Their album starts off fine, mind. Beneath The Surface is a pleasant groovy opener, with moody tech influences and vocals provided by Manon Polare that suit the atmosphere. Second track Echoes hits all the right buttons a follow-up in an album of this nature should, upping the energy in the rhythmic department and bringing more melodic elements than its predecessor. In fact, it’s bewildering as to how Different Day... lost its way after hearing this tune; Progression clearly display a talent for producing lovely prog trance that satisfies the body and soul.

Perhaps it’s because they made such a good tune with Echoes that the rest of the album fumbles, as it never quite reaches that lofty mark again (rarely a good sign when one of the best tracks is that early in a double-discer). More than that though, is much of Different Day... hints at wonderful prog trance possibilities that are, frankly, squandered with such bland arrangements. Go The Distance feels serviceable as a transitional track since it just came off a high point but for a long stretch in the middle of disc one, the feeling persists. And this is frustrating because these tracks sound like they could - they should - reach higher. They build anticipation that something better and bolder is about to be dropped, but abruptly end, moving onto the next track which does the same.

The Way Things Move is a prime example of pissing away potential. After the long trudge through “merely fine”, the duo show some promise of changing form with a beat that is tech-heavy, groovy, and fun. But just as soon as you get the sense we’re in store for something unique from the norm, they flush it right down the toilet by bringing in useless vocals to the forefront and an annoyingly hookless hook in the main breakdown (yes, the arrangement is still the same as everything else too).

CD1 ends amiably enough though. Their big hit, Technophobia, is here, and it’s a better-than-average prog trance excursion, although the white-noise synths are rather grating. The rest sounds like the duo were influenced by the stuff coming out of prog-psy camps, which isn’t a bad thing considering how ace that material’s been lately. Disc number two picks things up in the same vein, with Bell Shock being a blissy opener and Stranger slamming in with jagged tech rhythms. Could Progression show some actual progress now?

Sadly, no. CD2 proceeds much the same way most of CD1 does, with prog trance that is limited in scope and a sequence that remains flatlined throughout. Only two tracks sound fully formed, that being Hit & Run and Square Sky. As for the rest, there are flashes of good lurking about but the duo’s ideas never come into blossom. They’re sneezes that disappear into your sinuses. A peepshow that ends just before the clothes actually come off. A defensive re-assessment with an open look at the goal. An ending to an HBO series about a mob family.

Whatever you want to call it, ultimately Different Day, Different Light is unnecessarily stretched out. This album could have been better had a number of tracks been concisely fused into fewer rather than taking their ideas and crafting a standard prog trance tune around each of them. It still may not have been brilliant (they’d have to learn how to make a song in more than one arrangement for that) but at least it would have been solid.

I wanted to like this album. Really, I did. As mentioned, their synths sound great and the production quality is top grade. Unfortunately, most of Different Day, Different Light comes off as a bunch of tracks merely designed for the singles department - you can almost hear Wanrooy and Wiel planning how these cuts would fit into a DJ set rather than their album. And as transitional pieces for such DJs, much of this will work fine. However, like tech house albums of similar nature, this makes for a very bland listening experience at home.



ACE TRACKS:
Echoes
Bell Shock

Originally written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved


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