Saturday, 7 January 2012
Review: Arctic Night - Mysteries
Arctic Night is one of my favourite modern-era progressive house producers, so when I unexpectedly discovered he had a full album out this year on Mistiquemusic, I fairly shat myself. He has a knack for creating tracks that seem to build up fantastic momentum, adding layer upon layer until you're plummeting through a gorgeously entrancing wormhole of progressive journey wankery. He has also a distinctive sparkly synth voice he uses on just about every track, which makes any of his tracks stand out instantly as an Arctic Night track. Reusing synth sounds can be lazy and lead to every track sounding identical, but this one is so distinctive and effective that I give him extra points for having created it.
Unfortunately, this album suffers a little bit from Mistique syndrome. Mistique are the premier progressive house web-label, and their problem is that they release absolutely everything, all the time. A&R for this label is non-existent. If you're on the roster and you make a track, they'll put it out. No overheads, no risks, no need for stringent quality control. Which is not to say the label doesn't release some fantastic music, or that this album is shit, but it does strike me as another lazy digital-release album, just ten tracks thrown out at once. I don't think any of these tracks are stronger than previous Arctic Night releases, or any more deserving of being released on an album. In fact, I'd say many of these tracks are a good deal more forgettable than Arctic Night's best work. In my opinion, an album is a more enduring artistic statement than a single or an EP. You put your best shit on the album, not just ten tracks you happen to have made and haven't already released. This is the problem with these digital albums - nobody ever includes previously released tracks on them. That just doesn't seem to be possible anymore, because digital releases are all about pumping out as much material as possible to maximise sales, and fuck creating the best possible listening experience.
The title annoys me as well. Mistique seem to specialise in this pastoral, faux-spiritual borderline trance-hippy nonsense. You cannot find a Mistique release anymore that doesn't have a title like Mysterious Wonder or Sadness of Fog or some damn shit. I would not dare play out a track called "Smells Of My Desires", because it would make my tracklist look fucking ridiculous, and yet there's a track on this album called exactly that.
Anyway, it's all about the music, maaaan, so let's pedantically judge that as well. As mentioned, not enough of these tracks are Grade A, high calibre Arctic Night shit. The one outright brilliant track is Excitation, which is also the longest track on the album and self-evidently the best. Even the name seems to be code for "And now it actually gets interesting". A few of the other tracks are very good, good enough to play out and do very well in a DJ set, but once again this is an album where you've got 10 full length club cuts arranged in a random manner, with no concession to creating any kind of flow or listening experience, and the resulting listening experience is homogenous and dull. This is another album where I would cherry-pick my favourites, mix them myself in a set and never listen to this album in its entirity. Which is all well and good, but as I often query - can't you just release two or three EPs and save the artist album for that point in your career where you're capable of doing it justice?
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 7/10