3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Surely one of the greatest EDM albums ever produced...,
This review is from: Into Deep (Audio CD)
As people should know, the best albums are more than just collected singles. The most groundbreaking albums seem to be where the artist has devised a theme - one that is truly unique and progressive - and then produced a series of flowing tracks each of which demonstrate the ideas of that theme in their own individual way. Electronic dance music has seen some truly revolutionary pieces of art created in this way, with one of the better recent examples, despite its mixed reception, being Sasha's 'Airdrawndagger'. Oliver Lieb's effort, 3 years senior of 'Airdrawndagger' is just as good, if not better.
The first thing to note is that this, as with all of Lieb's work, is depressingly underrated. Don't get me wrong; he has a reasonably big reputation amongst followers of trance music for producing records which not only have floor-filling credentials but also have a melodic sweetness, an experimental edge and true musical integrity. But as one of the few groundbreaking EDM producers who has chosen not to pursue the bright lights and late nights that come with being a superclub DJ, Lieb has not had the public image and showmanship that others who have can rely on. He is very much the quiet genius.
While it is difficult and probably foolish to try and categorise this, it is essentially a "chillout" album. It treads delicately at a walking pace, and the rather simple percussive and bass elements give it plenty of space to breathe, with somewhat typical rich, spacey synths washing over the upper frequencies. But while this could have been your typical Belearic beach-locked cliché, drowned in soft guitar and piano melodies, the beauty of this album lies in the way Lieb takes things a step further and crosses the border into the surreal. The natural and the supernatural are blissfully fused, giving this piece an encapsulating psychedelic edge - but one more mesmerising than disconcerting. Cybéle De Silveira's intermittent Spanish vocals are there to remind you that this work is very much human - yet there are moments where all elements present are surreal enough to take you further than just to a beach at sunset, but to space and beyond.
One of the most distinctive features of this album is how it seems almost to have its own heartbeat. The colourful, sometimes erratic upper elements are kept in check by relentless, machine-like rhythms which plod far more prominently than in your average chillout album. Kick drums can be forceful and booming - something atypical of a chillout album - but this feature emerges as comforting rather than distracting. It is hypnotic, pulling the listener into Lieb's dream rather than merely leaving the door open.
We are eased into this production gently, with the opener 'Concatenation' and its very simple melodies and dreamy synth washes. After a brief interlude, 'Give Me Your Hand' seems to resemble the opening track very closely, as if to tie up its loose ends. However, the fourth track 'El Tiburon' is the first to stand out, and immediately takes this album up a level. The relentless, almost aggressive percussion fuses tremendously with glistening melodic patterns and intermittent spacey pads which linger and wash over and around all other elements. This is one of the longer numbers on the album and certainly one of the best; dark yet dreamy, Cybéle's soft vocal contribution caps it off beautifully.
The following track, 'Tiburon Citrino' connects with its predecessor in a similar way to how the first and third tracks connect; it is a continuation of the same theme but in a different style, in this case a more ambient, spacious interpretation. As it draws to a close, we are introduced to the intriguingly mean bass tones of 'Quick Star', a piece slightly more easygoing but perhaps less effective than 'El Tiburon'. Here, percussion is considerably more subdued but playful arpeggios work harmoniously with the lower elements to provide a relaxing but very surreal, almost inhuman atmosphere.
'I'm Not Existing' is without doubt the centrepiece of the album, and contains the largest vocal contribution. The track begins in a rather bizarre fashion, with a frolicsome melody from a sound almost resembling a steel drum, and gives no indication of the dark, mysterious plains that are about to unfold. Percussion dies down, coherent yet barely sensical lyrics (in English) are introduced, and then the spacey, liquid sounds assert their presence in a sudden and emphatic manner. Haunting, infectious, truly stunning. Can "chillout" music really be this epic? Apparently it can. 'Bengal Rose' follows and itself is quite terrific, but is a longer piece which takes its time and feels much less dark and slightly more natural.
We are then treated to some pure beatless ambience with 'Jillanity' - but throughout this track the pulsing heartbeat re-emerges gradually, before a stabbing bass sound and some more playful melodies form the introduction of 'Phorus', one of the brighter and more lively tracks on the album. Cybéle's vocal influence returns with the epic ambient number 'Into Deep', a track which gives the listener the first real feeling of closure. Gated vocals and warbling melodies backed by spacey effects is the order of the day here, and all elements in unison are continuously filter-swept, providing a relaxed drifting feeling. Interestingly, Lieb chooses to close the album with another fairly dark number, 'Westside'. While this track could perhaps have provided a more emphatic climax than it does, it is still an effective piece which fits the rest of the album like a glove.
The idea of "chillout" as a genre is something I am very sceptical of, and I have really only labelled this album as such throughout this review because it is the closest coherent category. The problem with "chillout" music is that it doesn't really have to be inspiring or progressive, it just has to be practical. Grab a recording of ocean waves, some rich washy synth sounds and write a tinkling piano melody to put on top and you've got yourself a Café del Mar classic without really contributing anything to the development of music.
With 'Into The Deep', Oliver Lieb sees the limits of this genre and thoroughly shatters them. It is soothing while also managing to be beautifully unsettling. It is a melodic masterpiece, a perfect demonstration of an idea becoming a finished article. Egotistical DJ/producer hybrids should take note of the example Lieb sets - electronic music needn't be about rehashing done-and-dusted formulae. Nor should it be about creating the biggest, grandest, most obnoxious sound. 'Into The Deep' proves that dance music can be self-contained, experimental, and truly sensational.
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Initial post: 24 Sep 2009 22:35:44 BDT
M. Smith says:
Colin what a fantastic review. It really encapsulates all my emotions towards this masterpiece. Thank you for expressing them some vividly.
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