For several months stemming from May 2001, Madonna's "What It Feels Like For A Girl" maxi-single was in heavy rotation on my CD player, especially a remix from a certain trio, who, at the time I didn't even know were a trio.
Jono, Tony, and Paavo are three gents who you've probably never heard of, but you may have heard of their on-the-rise alias Above & Beyond.
This intrinsically-linked threesome have gone on to produce and remix a string of trance-house infused dance tracks, collaborating with the likes of Madonna, Delerium, Fragma, Andy Moor, and Gabriel & Dresden (check out the Trance smash of '04, "No One On Earth"), as well as operating under other handles such as OceanLab and Tranquility Base.
On A&B's auspicious full-length debut "Tri-State," an infectious and grooveworthy 13-track nearly 75-minute dance CD, A&B inaugurate their debut by gradually introducing the listener to their world, as opposed to annihilating your ears with a barrage of house and trance-thumping beats and rhythms that might otherwise risk coming across as too brazen or harsh. Instead, A&B provides the basic building blocks of a solid dance experience. Opening with a relaxed Ambient intro, by the second track A&B begins to incorporate a slow-building beat that by the third track gives way to their toe-tapping, head bobbing, hip-swaying, soon-to-be signature style.
We're also introduced to the vocal talent of Richard Bedford, who is featured on three tracks, one of which, "Alone Tonight," is one of the CD's stand-out tracks, providing the initial spark that got me hooked when the single was first released. "Air For Life," featuring the remix talent extraordinaire Andy Moor and accompanied by Ashley Tomberlin of the female persuasion, is another floor-filler. The inclusion of Zoe Johnston and Hannah Thomas also adds a deeper dimension and breadth to the fold along with some non-vocal Anjunabeats-inspired percussion that helps keep things moving.
A&B infuses beats layered upon soothing synths, along with the vocal talent that is sure to please dance music enthusiasts the world over, and as the last track winds down, two questions arise: are you left reeling and do you want more? The answer is a resounding yes to both!
I find that when a dance artist structures a non-mixed yet seamlessly branched dance CD comprising a beginning, a wide and prolonged middle, and of course the inevitable end, it allows the listener and the artist to achieve a Zen-like state of acceptance; all the while stoking the furnace of this simmering stockpile of tracks.
I don't really think that one can necessarily gloat or ponder too long about Above & Beyond's contribution to an already seemingly cramped and inundated dance music scene, but with "Tri-State" I think that these guys are well on their way to helping to shape and mold the next generation of dance music aficionados.
Ultra Records was wise to snap these guys up because they know how to produce beat-inducing, dance floor-filling tracks that not only can light up the club scene but can, more importantly, transform the casual dance music listener into an instant fan. "Tri-State" won't disappoint and should (and will) provide you with a wealth of listening enjoyment down the beat-trodden dance music highway.