|Album Review: Above & Beyond – Acoustic|
Above & Beyond
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Though they are rare, there are times when an album's emotion is just so beautifully strong that the only way to truly understand it is to listen to it. That is the case with Above & Beyond's Acoustic, out today with the partnership of their own Anjunabeats and Ultra Records. Featuring a roster of fan favorites and a new track entitled "Making Plans," Acoustic is a great introduction for new as well as long time listeners. And like the title, this album really needs no explanation; but we'll try.
Preceded by the acoustic shows complete with full orchestras including live vocals, newly arranged songs and Jono, Tony and Paavo all on their own instruments. Inspired by the success of the initial Portchester show last year and the following response from fans worldwide (including Skrillex, who later joined them on stage at The Greek Theater for a special rendition of "Black Room Boy"), the wildly successful production trio and label heads of the Anjunabeats empire decided to make Above & Beyond Acoustic more than just a hashtag.
Above & Beyond are known for their unique sound that undoubtedly emits some of the most deeply emotive progressive and trance music. Simply put, they've mastered it. So then beyond more electronic music, what is the next frontier? After this masterpiece of an album, it will surely be translating electronic music into instrumentals that aren't. At first glance that ambition might seem like one that would receive a negative reaction, but as Acoustic shows, when you're talented, it shines through every iteration of your music. Beginning the album with a song from their days as OceanLab, we're introduced to a new exciting vocalist who fits perfectly with the Anjuna sound named Annie Drury. And after hearing her work on tracks like "Miracle," we look forward to seeing her more frequently on releases from the label.
And of course, Acoustic wouldn't be complete without appearances from longtime collaborators Zoe Johston and Richard Bedford. Definitely deserving some credit in helping the guys solidify their sound and make their records like Group Therapy not only successful, but a full on brand (and radio show), the stripped down versions of these songs prove that this brand isn't superficial. Of all the remixing I've heard of "You Gotta Go" and the range we've seen from "Good For Me," these feel like this is how the songs were meant to be executed.
Of course something has to be said of the fan favorite "Thing Called Love." Along with the newly composed "Sun & Moon," these tracks that are still relevant regardless of genre are translated beautifully, giving a new feeling to something that might have sounded old after so much airtime.
Annie Drury's vocals on "On A Good Day" bring out the song's true youthful and hopeful mood. A slower, drawn out version, it helps us focus on the nuance of the singing voice as well as the wonders that an orchestral arrangement can do for a song.
Above & Beyond chose to end the album with a completely new tune, and it's worth the wait from listening to all the other tracks in the acoustic experience. "Making Plans" features the vocals of Tony McGuinness himself and is a perfect way to snap us out of our bliss of listening to what amounts to an assortment of almost "greatest hits." With McGuinness holding this one close to his heart, the pain that went with writing this is totally transparent. Reminding us that there is just as bright of a future for the trio and for electronic music, Acoustic has surely opened up doors for electronic music.