by Philip Costache
They’re back! After a lackluster Anjunadeep 07, James Grant and Jody Wisternoff have managed to resurrect themselves, breathing new life into the Anjunadeep compilation series. By judiciously intermixing well-established artists (Dusky, Yotto, 16 Bit Lolitas, Above and Beyond, Way Out West etc.) with fresh faces (including Indian Wells, Amateur Dance, Icarus, Aiiso, Koelle), Grant’s and Wisternoff’s fourth effort is undoubtedly one of their best.
With Anjunadeep 08, the label has firmly confirmed its distinctly recognizable brand of deep-house music that has been Grant’s and Wisternoff’s trademark since, arguably, Anjunadeep 06. The key to the label’s success must be its ability to attract and coalesce a consistent supply of new talent. Thirty-seven songs by artists working under or with the Anjunadeep label were carefully assembled and fused by Grant and Wisternoff within the span of a year and a half. The two part compilation compresses approximately two hours and thirty-eight minutes of space-time to what seems but a brief moment stretched across a wide array of moods and colors.
A heady blend of low bpm house tunes and downtempo euphonies succeeds in creating a virtually flawless journey that transcends rigid genre characterizations.
Part One, overall, is geared toward the dancefloor and has a classic storyline structure (beginning, building action, climax, falling action, resolution). One notable difference from a typical movie or book is the repeating nature of the structure; meaning several building actions, climaxes and falling actions are integrated within. Expectedly, we’re left with one beginning and one resolution.
Unfortunately, Part One is marred by some awkward sequencing in the last 30 minutes that obscures the bigger picture and is out of place with the preceding segments. To arrive at the punchy, enigmatic and profoundly entrancing “Universal Solution & Cubosity – Won’t Always Be,” we must wade through almost 12 minutes of plodding noise [track 12: Adana Twins & Human Life – Perspective (Fort Romeau Remix); track 13: Yotto – Fire Walk]. “Won’t Always Be” is so good the trek is practically justified. Perhaps the 12 minutes could’ve been whittled down to seven or eight instead, especially given the proceeding denouement that is, although palatable, anything but dance-oriented/uplifting. Nevertheless, Part One builds enough momentum in the first three-fifths to render the last piece of the pie edible despite slight blemishes.
Stand Out Tracks/Transitions:
Sequence beginning with “Delam (track one),” then transitioning into “Hunger for the Pine (track two),” and finally reaching “Your Love is an Echo (track three).”
“Hiatus – Delam (feat. Dad),” the intro song, is a brief downtempo piano and violin-laden piece, over which a man translates important life lessons from Hungarian to English, that powerfully transitions with a smash-cut into female-led.
“Vaults – Hunger of the Pine (Jody Wisternoff and James Grant Remix)”
Originally by Alt-J, this cut epitomizes everything that is right about downtempo house: deep, dramatic female vocals are supported by atmospherically immersive elements (synth, chimes, violins and piano) that engage the listener from the start.
“Aiiso – Your Love is an Echo” gives rise to higher BPMs by means of chunky, pulsating beats, spinning, hypnotizing rhythms and heavily distorted melodic vocals that play like a love-letter response, and is a seamless musical complement, to “Hunger for the Pine.”
Part Two’s beginnings are chill-out oriented; this time around leisurely, incrementally building to its first climax (“Way Out West – Oceans feat. Liu Bei”)—which takes seven tracks to achieve! Part Two is sequenced differently than Part One, consistently taking into account the big picture, with no song feeling misplaced. Even though last tune, “Icarus – Home (Lane 8 Remix),” could’ve permanently warmed the bench, it was aptly, and humorously, placed at the end of the mix; by the time the song starts, one hour and 11 minutes of utterly perfect sequencing have elapsed, rendering the cut less vexing than if it would’ve been placed somewhere else. Essentially, Part Two informally ends with the penultimate “Sienna – YNTOO (Tom Middleton Mix).”
“Cinnamon Chasers – Luv Deluxe (Jody Wisternoff & James Grant Remix)” building to the satisfying release that is “Icarus – Hiding,” and continuing harmoniously into “Sienna – YNTOO (Tom Middleton Mix).”
The most important skill any DJ who’s worth his salt must possess is the ability to craft a coherent, captivating and imaginative musical journey. A journey consisting of cuts whose sequencing must balance tonal consistency with tonal complementariness. Above all, the compilation should give the impression that one is listening to a unified, non-fragmented piece of music—not several tracks thoughtlessly fused without concern for the big picture.
Sequencing isn’t about melding the best songs together. It’s also not about fusing homogeneously sounding or similarly structured tracks, therefore easily creating a logical compilation, but one rife with dull, monochrome repetitiveness. The key is to smoothly, harmoniously blend a wide array of moods, tones and colors that complement one another organically, unforcedly.
Grant and Wisternoff have assimilated this skill and have put it to proper use. Anjunadeep 08 requires multiple listens to fully grasp all the musical subtleties, appreciate the sequencing, and revel in the gamut of melodic moods. Although they’ve rebounded majestically, one can’t help wonder: how many installments of their idiosyncratic type of deep-house can we expect before they break into new territory?