Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Review: Vision & Canedy - Another Life

Now bear with me here, because I'm about to say something that sounds absurdly pedantic even by my standards... I think there's an important distinction between prog-psy and psy-prog. I know, sounds ludicrous doesn't it? Most people tend to use the former in conversation (you'll only relate to this if you hang around with enough DJs and producers to actually have music conversations this geeky) because "progressive" is still generally used linguistically as a prefix rather than a noun, which implies "progressive" is a modifier rather than a genre in its own right, a notion that I also think is incorreNONONOSTOPIT.

Ahem. Anyway, here's the distinction: from my extensive explorations into the colliding point of psychedelic and progressive dance music, I've noticed two distinct trends. "Prog-psy" = progressive psy trance, where as "psy-prog" = psychedelic progressive house. Get it? No?

Basically, there's a bunch of producers such as Human Blue, Vibrasphere and 12 Moons who make (made) high energy psychedelic trance, but with a deeper, more melodic and progressive vibe. Then there's a bunch of producers like Symphonix, Flowjob and Tomic who make chunky progressive house with some vague psy influences. The former would be prog-psy, the latter psy-prog. Got it yet? No?

Anyway, Vision & Canedy would probably be classified as prog-psy based on the labels they released on and the DJs who played them. Despite that, this music is a long way from resembling Human Blue and co. It's basically progressive house, deep, chunky and driven by rumbling basslines as opposed to being faster, trancier and more top-line. I suppose the distinction is identical to that of progressive house/progressive trance, which is a distinction a lot of people still can't really grasp, for complex genre-historical reasons I'm not going to go into here else we'll never end up reviewing this fucking album.

Another Life is basically a progressive house album, of the early '00s chunky dark prog variety, which is basically the point where the original spirit of progressive house (namely to sample anything and chuck in influences from any genre) was largely phased out in favour of the bass-heavy atmospheric grooves that had been the style's bedrock. When most people think of progressive house, they think of tracks like these: dark, long, chugging grooves designed to be mixed seamlessly together for hours on end into evocative beat journeys. Well, a lot of kids these days think of fucking Deadmau5 when you say "progressive house", but we'll not go there either.

The psychedelic influence really is pretty minimal - although I find that very little psy is actually psychedelic, apart from the day-glo madness of goa trance and some psy chill. It's mainly manifested in some commonly-used synth sounds and little elements that crop up in some psy. You know: the kind of microscopic genre modifiers that new listeners are flamed grilled in tears away from online forums for not spotting. For all intents and purposes, this is progressive house. Early '00s dark prog though, obviously. Let's keep it simple for the uninitiated, right?

So is it any good? Well, this kind of stuff is pretty much a winner if you get it right, in a reliable, unspectacular, would-do-a-job-in-a-DJ-set way. There are a few tracks that stand out in particular, Aeroplane or Mindbender for example, although I'm hard-pressed to tell you why those tracks sound any better than the rest, because the formula is nigh-on identical from track to track. There's also the obligatory slow-mo track that is customary on all psy-[whatever] albums, represented here by Laid Back. As usual, it's one of the best tracks, with a typical swaggering dub-influenced groove. I never hear any of these tracks out at psy parties, so I'm not sure why they keep getting made, but one day I'll collect enough to make a full set from them, and it will rock.

As alluded to earlier, this kind of prog is basically a DJ's genre. It sounds incomplete without the long transitions and epic journey sets, so you probably won't want to listen to this album with its unmixed tracks very often. For DJs interested in this style, it's worth having a listen so you can snipe your personal favourites, because almost all of these would do a job somewhere or another in a set.

Genre: Progressive house
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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