Monday, 17 September 2012

Review: LSG - Into Deep

On Saturday night in Manchester, I had the pleasure of seeing Germanic techno-trance hero-legend Oliver Lieb play a three hour set, comprised predominantly of his own productions under various, innumerable aliases. It was a treat not so much for Lieb’s DJing skills (his mixing was fairly rough in places) but simply to hear the man’s work on a good soundsystem in a dark club. The truism “Sounds better in a club!” is often wheeled out in defence of bad records (What, you mean if you play this track really loud to a room full of people while you’re on drugs, it’ll sound better? Man, if only I’d considered that before dismissing it as a derivative piece of trash! I’ve now put far too much text inside these brackets and you’ll have forgotten how the sentence began when I close them) but rarely is it so apt as in Lieb’s case. His tracks don’t just sound better in a club – they come alive. This is true of techno as a genre, generally speaking, but Lieb is something of a rarity in that most of his tracks sound perfectly good even at home, so when the unexpected force of the basslines are added to the equation, the result is pretty mind-blowing.

It’s perhaps for this reason that I’d never really bought into the Lieb-love (shit bilingual pun alert!) until recently. He’s made a lot of good tracks down the years granted, but I’d been introduced to him as a serviceable but unspectacular tech-trance producer around 2001 and even checking out his seminal Frankfurt trance material from the early ‘90s had never quite shaken the impression that his tracks were missing a bit of magic. Turns out that magic was an enormous speaker stack. Who’d have thunk it?

I mention all this for almost no reason whatsoever, because the Oliver Lieb record I’m actually reviewing here is one of his few non-dancefloor pieces. I dug it out because one of the things I rambled to Lieb when I shook his hand post-gig was about how much I loved Into Deep, hoping to sound more knowledgeable and interesting than an average club goon who just mentioned one of the big hits. Having said that to him, I figured I should probably go back and listen to the album in question, just to make sure it was as good as I’d said.

It is, of course. LSG was Lieb’s most long-running alias and he managed to explore quite a few styles in that time, albeit mostly on a trancey tip. Into Deep was something of an exception: it’s trancey in mood, and there was a bonus disc with some versions that had clubbed up remixes of these tracks, but it’s most definitely not a club record, instead comprising of downtempo breaks and ambient.

Space, inevitably, is the place. I review a lot of shit space music, and it’s worth comparing and contrasting this album with the buckets of wibbly-wubbly pad nonsense that gets passed off as space music. Are you paying attention, lazy Internet space musicians? Note that the tracks actually sound different! Note how that gives the album a clear sense of journey, with certain tracks building intensity and others lapsing into quiescence! Note the clear, memorable melodies found on tracks like Quick Star that give you some lasting musical memory of the album after you stop playing it! Try it yourself at home!

The structure of the album is quite unique, certainly far from your standard structures. Unfolding steadily, the first four tracks are dominated by low-tempo breakbeat rhythms, a sequence that culminates with the absolutely hypnotic and beautiful El Tiburon. From there, things drop down into deep space ambience, with occasional splashes of rhythm reoccurring on tracks like I’m Not Existing (something of a Leftfield – Original homage, it must be said), but never building up consistent momentum until the closer, the brilliant Westside. The result is a journey that contours nicely, beginning and ending strongly and finding room in the middle to explore some serious heavy-duty ambience.

It took me a couple of listens to really get into, erm, Deep, but that’s because I was a stubborn 18 year old when I first heard it, and the rave reviews built up almost a determination to be disappointed by it. Ah, the follies of adolescence. Into Deep has gone on to be one of my favourite albums, and after listening back to it for the first time in a couple of years, I’m struck by how many strong moments it has – moments that have been drifting in my memory for years, and I’d forgotten exactly where they came from. It’s a rare feat to make a space record that can be so distinctive and memorable, but Lieb’s managed to do it here. This is not an album you can easily track down, but if you want a recommendation from me for one that is worth the hunt – this is it.

Genre: Space Music
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 9/10

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