John Digweed

Global Underground: Hong Kong

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Releasing around one mix album a year during his prolific late-'90s/early-2000s reign atop the dance world, John Digweed surely wasn't afraid of flooding the market. Of his many releases, though, his Global Underground mixes deserve special notice, and it's not necessarily because they're his best releases. Rather, with each successive Global Underground release, Digweed continually updated his sound with new records, new producers, and a new direction for progressive dance music. The Hong Kong entry fits nicely between his Sydney (1998) and Los Angeles (2001) albums in terms of direction. Where Sydney found him trailblazing within the late-'90s trance renaissance via big records by the likes of Paul van Dyk and Albion, and the Los Angeles set found him abandoning that same trance sound for a much darker, dirtier, and more straightforward set of monstrous progressive house records, Hong Kong offers a bit of both -- a nice even balance, actually. The first set is anchored by a few undeniable standouts -- Underworld's "Cups," Luzon's "The Baguio Track," Cevin Fisher's "Music Saved My Life," and Medway's climactic "Flanker" -- and an accompanying array of mostly nondescript transitional tracks. It's a diverse set that starts rather light and airy before getting progressively darker and bigger with each record -- pretty much what you've come to expect from Digweed's first sets. The second set of Hong Kong hits hard and intensely from the first track and doesn't stop until its final, draining moments. Here, Digweed pulls out gigantic records by all the big-name late-'90s trance producers -- POB, Tilt, Cass & Slide, Breeder, Science Dept., Bedrock -- dropping them one after another with little mercy. While the second set is undeniably heavy on trance motifs, it's interesting to see how far Digweed's preferred style of trance had changed since the of-the-moment Sydney album a year earlier; it's a darker, more epic, denser, harder-hitting, more subversive style of trance that relies on power and texture rather than overt hooks, melodies, or riffs. Overall, another great mix by Digweed but not as unique as his Los Angeles mix and a bit too obvious in terms of track selection.

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