tue 22/05/2018

CD: Above & Beyond - Common Ground | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Above & Beyond - Common Ground

CD: Above & Beyond - Common Ground

Plaintive sweetness wrestles with gigantic synthesiser fizz from the globe-straddling trance trio

'There's an honest, simple charm which is hard to shake off'

There's something oddly innocent, gauche even, about the US-based Anglo-Finnish trance trio Above & Beyond. They are almost implausibly huge – their weekly radio show, called "Group Therapy" after their 2011 second album, has some 25 million listeners, and polls consistently rank them among the most popular DJs in the world. Yet in a global scene dedicated by oafish American EDM bros and Dutch and Scandi DJs engaged in an arms race with said bros to achieve maximum empty audiovisual bang-per-buck – ultimately approaching something resembling something vaguely totalitarian in its vainglorious bombasity – A&B seem focused on preserving a sense of humanity, however big their reach and their shows may be.

It's there in the earnest nerdiness of the fan community that gathers around the radio shows, and it's there in their music, which preserves in aspic trance music as it was when they first started out in 1999. That is to say, pretty damn grandiose in its intense rushes of fizzy synthesiser, but ultimately built around very simple, sweet, pretty melodies with a strong undercurrent of melancholia. They've cited The Pet Shop Boys as one of their most important influences, and their two Acoustic albums from 2014 and 2016 saw them in territory somewhere between Coldplay and Clannad, and a very, very long way indeed from Tiësto.

Here, though, they and their regular guest vocalists are back in trance town, and it's... not bad at all. More or less, it sounds like somewhere between Coldplay and Clannad with pumping beats and fizzy synthesisers. And there's an honest, simple charm to that which is hard to shake off, even at its cheesiest, even when a vocal hook like “let's get naked with our words, with our ways” comes over a bit awkard, even when the synth rush is something you've heard a million times before. Those melodies might be simple, but they're all put together with such sincerity you can see easily why their fan community clings so tight to A&B. If you're going to have mainstream mega-arena rave music, better something this plaintively sweet than a lot of what's out there.

@JoeMuggs

A&B seem focused on preserving a sense of humanity, however big their reach and their shows may be

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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