Sasha & John Digweed

Communicate

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Relative to the Northern Exposure albums from the mid- to late '90s, Communicate finds the duo moving toward a more consistent progressive house sound rather than their trend-setting trance of years past. Sasha, Digweed, and the 22 featured producers on the album seem to be consciously trying to distance themselves from the predictable synth-heavy melodies, breakdowns, build-ups, and generic motifs of late-'90s trance popularized by Paul Oakenfold that had generated much criticism within the non-trance electronic music community. For the majority of Communicate's two albums, the music simply pumps rather than takes you on a journey; the focus has thankfully moved away from candy-coated novelty toward driving rhythms. After an hour of nonstop 4/4 rhythm at a constant tempo, the listener struggles to remain conscious of the music, becoming almost hypnotized by the austere consistency of the sounds and the amazingly seamless mixing from one song to the next. It is only during occasional moments such as the rare synth melody of Breeder's "Tyrantanic," the spooky tribal chanting of Luzon's "The Baguio Track," the hallucinogenic lull at the core of the Orb's "Once More," and during the heightened intensity overload of the Chemical Brothers' "Enjoyed" that one becomes aware of salient moments in the music. In a way, Communicate can be seen as the duo's best mix CD to date with its striking consistency at all levels, ranging from track selection to mixing to mood to tempo. Rather than moving through a broad palette of sounds, moods, tempos, and styles, the two British DJs choose to remain consistent, signaling the development of a signature style and a certain sense of confidence. This signature style feels subtle and stark, free of overzealous ornamentation and potential kitsch.

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