Oceanlab - A Side Project of Above & Beyond
Since the beginning of this decade, the three-DJ collaboration known as Above & Beyond have pushed the boundaries of trance while creating a name for themselves around the world. Not only are they consistently ranked among the top DJs in the world but their live shows are just as epic as the likes of Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk. While their music has been remixed by the likes of ATB and Tiesto, they also have a long resume of music that they have remixed for other artists which have gone on to become massive hits just like their brilliant remix of Madonna’s "What it Feels Like for a Girl" among many others. Even with all these accomplishments, it is no surprise that they are constantly evolving and looking to create new musical experiences. One example of this is their side project Oceanlab and the release of their album Sirens of the Sea.
Oceanlab is the collaboration of Above and Beyond with female vocalist Justine Suissa that, when paired together, create melodic dance music that evokes a euphoric mixture of downtempo chill and full-out trance. While Justine’s vocals are not as strong as such artists like Tiff Lacey, her plaintive vocals do suit the laid back beats and the soothing tempo of the album tracks. Most will recognize Oceanlab for such epic trance songs like "Sky Falls Down" and "Clear Blue Water," but this album steers away somewhat from the usual heavy dance floor trance sound and embraces a more ambient and downtempo sound. On their latest album release, we find club friendly cuts like "If I Could Fly," "Come Home," and "On a Good Day" which meld the trademark sound of Above and Beyond with moody synths and some nice electronic flourishes. "If I Could Fly" though is definitely the standout track and definitely shines on this fairly good set when it comes to the more club ready tracks.
We Like Them Subdued
The more subdued tracks, though, shine just as bright- like the album opener "Just Listen," which starts with a gentle and sparse piano that builds a beautiful tone for the song and the album itself. The album mix of the club smash "Miracle" is another example of a beautifully-produced acoustic chillout track that not only provides a joyful listen but also takes the song in a more intimate and thought provoking direction with the message of climate change which almost gets lost within the hypnotic track. Other downtempo tracks such as "I Am What I Am" and "Secret" also play to the group’s strong production skills even though the lyrics may be lacking at times but the music compensates with its beautiful and melodic tone. For all their unpretentiousness though, these tracks have so much potential as remixes and showcases their great versatility and playability which makes this album an even greater experience to listen.
Overall, Sirens of the Sea is a great album that is varied and surprisingly non-repetitive with a balanced mixture of trance anthems and chillout tracks that are controlled by the somewhat limited ethereal female vocals. The album definitely showcases a beautiful atmospheric tone and melody that help to create a relaxed electronic soundscape that both energizes and calms at the same time. The cohesive nature of this album makes it a joy to listen from start to finish and definitely illustrates the talent and abilities of the artists involved. I definitely suggest anyone who is looking for that soothing release that comes after a night of clubbing excess to definitely make sure and check out Sirens of the Sea and just see what Oceanlab has accomplished and hopefully we will get to see even more of their creations in the future.
Released August 2008 on Ultra Records.