Astralasia

Somewhere Something

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Considering the plethora of trance acts vying for fame in the early '00s after the style's rise to international popularity in the late '90s, it's important to recognize acts such as Astralasia, which had been producing trance years before the style became popular. Somewhere Something comes approximately a decade into group founder, producer, and overall mastermind Swordfish's career fronting Astralasia. When Swordfish first began releasing music on Magik Eye Records in the early '90s, he partly defined the sound of trance, particularly the sound of trance coming out of the U.K. (rather than the more abrasive style coming out of Germany at the same time). Over the years, Swordfish pushed the sound of Astralasia forward, evolving with the times. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Somewhere Something sounds of its time. In 2001, trance was no longer undefined as it had been when Astralasia first debuted in the early '90s and, to a certain extent, no longer embodied the "politics of ecstasy" (to quote the title of an early Astralasia album and song); in contrast, trance was rather rigidly defined in 2001 and, to a certain extent, embodied the politics of business rather than psychedelia. Thus, Swordfish seems quite calculating on Somewhere Something: He works within the increasingly closed boundaries of trance, not departing too far from the style's generally accepted motifs (many of which he helped define), and he also seems to acknowledge the glut of trance acts competing for continually diminishing market share, doing what he can on this album to cut through the clutter. This is somewhat of a paradox: presenting generic music that is at the same time unique. However, Swordfish defies logic on Somewhere Something, largely through collaboration. He incorporates outside songwriters, musicians, and, most importantly, vocalists in an effort to find a winning formula, and at times, the collaborations are nothing short of magnificent. Unfortunately, though Swordfish manages to attain magnificence at times while still working within trance's generic framework, the results aren't as unique as they need to be. Too often, it seems as if Swordfish is trying to make Astralasia sound like Delerium, a somewhat similar act from Canada that was able to cut through the clutter in the early '00s by collaborating with outside vocalists. So even though Somewhere Something is no doubt an achievement for Astralasia, you can't help feeling slightly disappointed to see Swordfish move the act away from its roots and increasingly toward an industry-proven formula for success.

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