Wednesday, 28 December 2011
Review: Magnus - Signal Strength
Magnus - Signal Strength is probably the best album to come out of J00F Recordings this year, marginally shading the Digital Blonde's album and considerably shading, and then drawing comedy moustaches all over J00F's own album, which to be honest wasn't up to much. J00F, for those who don't know, is John 00 Fleming, British trance DJ and probably the most reliable big name trance DJ by a long shot. After a long career spent dabbling uncertainly in psy-trance and progressive, he seems to have settled neatly into that hybrid of the two: progressive psy-trance, or prog psy and his sets seem to get better and better as years go by. J00F and his label basically stand for dark and driving trance music, usually beginning in deep and atmospheric prog territory and moving into face-melting full-on psy trance. In a club it's absolutely awesome to behold - J00F is one of the few DJs I travel around the country to see. In an album format, however, it's not quite that inspiring.
J00F: The Record Label is both blessed and cursed by a signature sound. On the plus side, it's got its own corner in the market - a totally distinctive style that is cultivated by a dedicated stable of artists who are generally guaranteed to deliver quality. On the downside, this means that the entire J00F catalogue basically sounds the same. Fine if you're a DJ and you're going to play a few of these tracks in your set, but sitting at home with the headphones on for 80 minutes listening to an album, it's not so fun. Especially when your living room doesn't contain a monstrous soundsystem and hundreds of ravers going nuts to the music. Again, this isn't necessarily a problem, because J00F is a dance label that caters to DJs, and they do a damn fine job at that, but I don't really see the point in a label releasing artist albums like this one. There is virtually no concession here to making this suitable for home-listening. These are all club tracks, and good ones, but 12 full club cuts with the DJ-friendly intro/outros is just a bit dull to play at home. It's not like the days when you'd buy an album of full cuts for the value-for-money: now we can just download and DJ our favourites anyway, and there's no need to pay for the filler material. As I complained about with the Scenic & Advisory album, it feels totally insignificant which order the tracks come in - you can randomise the tracklist and the listening experience will be almost identical. 12 good tracks an interesting album does not make.
Another issue is that Magnus commits a sin I think quite a few prog-psy producers are guilty of - quite a few of these tracks go on for too long and only become interesting for the last few minutes. It's like these guys think a club track must be 7-8 minutes long, regardless of whether they have the musical content to fit into that time, and I don't get why so many of these tracks have such ultra-long build-ups. I've got no problem whatsoever with ultra-long dance records: I love a good Sasha track that goes on for longer than a Greek epic, but only if there's a point to them being that long. There are a few class cuts on this album - Hypnotic, Signal Strength and Raven Rock stand out in particular - but honestly I just stopped listening to this album towards the end and put something else on, because I was getting bored. In that respect, this is the classic pointless dance LP - good tracks, no reason whatsoever to ever listen to it all at once.
Genre: Progressive psy-trance.
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 6/10