Paul Van Dyk and Sasha & John Digweed

Out There and Back, and Communicate (Mute)

Record Reviews

Paul Van Dyk

Out There and Back (Mute)

Sasha & John Digweed

Communicate (Kinetic)

Frampton Comes Alive, Kiss Alive!, and Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan ruled my junior high school ear with an iron fist, and while two new double-CD sets from the cream of the European trance scene are not live, they echo those bulky, effects-heavy slabs of yesteryear like nobody's business. The notion of a "live" DJ-set CD is inherently bizarre; the jarring sound of some blissed-out crowdgoer wandering too near the Technics and jostling the needle is entertainement? Suffice to say that disc one from Sasha and Digweed even has a remixed Eric Clapton track on it, a sure sign that electronic music has arrived in some very odd ways. Maybe it was a taste of things to come when superstar house DJ Paul Oakenfold put out his Essential Mix double CD two years ago and included both Bob Marley and snippets of Vangelis' chill-out thematics from Blade Runner. But really -- Eric Clapton? Sheesh. Of the two discs, Germany's Paul Van Dyk is the one most likely to initiate traffic spasms up and down the Silicon corridor as drivers frantically try to shake their groove thang while simultaneously chatting up their broker on the cell and dislodging Junior from his rump 'n' rattle-shaking perch astride the hood ornament. The 21 tracks here define Van Dyk's sometimes spartan attitude toward the sweeping beats and uplifting breaks of trance music. Not quite epic, Out There and Back is a stunning work nonetheless, not the least for Van Dyk's studio wizardry. It's music you're likely to hear in the background of the next Michael Bay film as Will Smith gets buck wild with a blue-steel Sig-Sauer. Signature track (and runaway UK chart hit) "Another Way" is a tiny classic of the form, all swooping synths and propulsive 4/4 beats with zero clutter. Likewise, "Tell Me Why (The Riddle)," featuring St. Etienne's Sarah Cracknell on vox, tops anything the Madonna/Orbit crew attempted on Ray of Light. Working-class heroes Sasha and Digweed take a different tact with Communicate; their 2-CD mix is comprised of 22 tracks from other artists with only two of Digweed alter ego Bedrock represented. It's far less of the classic thumpa, thumpa trance sound and far more than you'd expect from the duo that brought us the stunning Northern Exposure series a while back. Sasha and Digweed are playing Fatboy Slim to Van Dyk's Chemical Brothers this time 'round; there's a playful, funky vibe to tracks like Trisco's "Musak" and even stalwarts the Orb's "Once More" that's absent from Out There and Back, though the two sets are resolutely part of the trance nation from click to beep. Tough stuff to beat unless you're into corporal punishment, and even then, it's hard to get a fix on that booty when it won't stop moving.

(Both) ***.5

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