by Philip Costache
Breaking new ground in a genre sodden with subpar and mediocre music production and DJ mixes is as rare as a Yuan Dynasty vase. I’m looking at you, Americanized and Hollandized EDM cultures and everything abhorrent you have spawned in the wake of the fallout from the classical period of acid-house (1994-2005). Not to say acid-house has always maintained a pristine reputation, but the dreck was kept to a minimum back then. Yes, you and your DeadMou5, Kaskade, David Guetta, Hardwell, Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Avicii and other fake-plastic and ultra-popular DJ’s who have infested this planet with an incongruity of sounds devoid of humanity. What these clowns “spin” is death to my ears. And who even spins nowadays?! The vast majority of DJs stand on a stage and behind laptops, all the while looking like they’re checking their emails. Not so understandingly, some people revel with extreme jubilation in the burning sensation, finding it soothing uplifting, and salutary their spiritual wellbeing.
Ajunadeep is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to maintain a balance between the good/great and excremental. Needless to say, I was growing tumescent with anticipation for “Anjunadeep 7”, which is the eponymous house-music label’s seventh consecutive annual release. Back at the helm for their third successive collaboration are label chieftain/ DJ extraordinaire James Grant and producer/DJ prodigy Jody Wisternoff (one-half of the venerable Way Out West). The boys were expected to deliver the goods and they did, but only so literally. After the release of “Anjunadeep 6”, which is the duo’s best work thus far, James Grant expressed anxiousness, stating how difficult surpassing the quality of the sixth volume would be. Unfortunately, kiddies, he was dead right.
The two part, 36 track compilation isn’t abysmal, but it isn’t good either. There are great tracks interpolated here and there, but, alas, the majority of the songs sound generic. Disc one starts off promising enough, delivering 22 minutes (tracks one through six) of quality track after track. During this interval, the song selection and sequencing keep you guessing. The energy levels ebb and flow with enough force, subtlety and variation to keep one engaged and craving more. No matter how many times I listen to the last two-thirds of disc one, though, I can never fully immerse myself in the music. The flow from track to track and the songs themselves became predictable after the second listen. The songs pretty much end the same way they start, with not much variation in between. It just sounds trite and boring. This may not seem like a justifiable critique of house music, as repetitiveness is at the core of this genre, but songs with varied tempos and syncopated melodies, harmonies and rhythms tend to make a deeper impression and offer a better repeated listening experience.
Disc two is hardly the saving grace. Even though this disc carries the compilation across the finish line, it does so limping. The songs, for the most part, are just as formulaic and unimaginative as their disc one brethren. If it weren’t for the creative sequencing, disc two would have been doomed. This disc truly feels like the whole is greater than the sum of its constituent parts.
Anjunadeep has come a long way since its early forays into quasi-tacky house and trance. With each subsequent volume published the label sheds its skin and appropriates new and different forms of music. Just in the past year, because of the label’s extensive allure and ability of coalesce music from across the electronic spectrum, Anjunadeep has garnered praises and endorsements from renowned DJs including Pete Tong, Sasha, Eric Prydz, Laurent Garnier, Denny Tenaglia, Guy Gerber, and Tiga, to name a few. Things seem to be going great right now for the label, but who knows what the future brings. If we have learned anything from the crazed dance music culture is that novel sounds are always in demand. Jody Wisternoff has been playing a pivotal role in contributing to the label’s aesthetics for the past six years. “Anjunadeep 5” marked the genesis of a contradistinctive musical direction that was welcoming. But this compilation feels like a man, a label and duo who have reached a creative limit. For “Anjunadeep 8”, the label will have hopefully cultivated a fresh and vibrant style of beats that will keep us glued to the speakers in awe.
A precarious 6 out of 10