BANCO DE GAIA: 10 Years (double CD on Six Degrees Records)
Released in 2002, this double CD features 156 minutes of exotic tuneage selected from the decade-long musical career of Banco de Gaia (aka Toby Marks). Few musicians are so expert with high-energy electronic dance music, and Banco de Gaia deserves a place at the front of that line.
Density runs high in Banco de Gaia's music, a supercompression of hyper keyboard riffs, agile electronic embellishment, and lusciously complex percussive threads. There are no gaps, no empty niches, even dramatic pauses are so fleeting as to be practically imperceptible. Marks packs more than a sane quotient of melody and rhythm into each vibrant minute, dazzling the audience with engaging dance music that stood light years ahead of the genre a decade ago, and still does today.
Non-lyrical voices play a vital role in Banco de Gaia's early songs, lending vocal harmonies that attribute earnest humanity to the compelling music. In later years, Marks began to employ lyrical female vocals to his work, granting more specific enunciation to the emotional sentiments of the tracks. Then and now, sampled snippets can be detected, infusing clever elucidation and often recounting Far Eastern parables and ancient legends that expand the audience's anthropological knowledge.
But high velocity riffs and intricate E-perc are common staples in the techno field. What makes the music of Banco de Gaia special, indeed exemplary, is Marks' compositional talent. The music possesses (nay, explodes with) an impossibly high ratio of catchy and memorable melodies. Blending modern sensibilities with eastern forms, Marks generates lavish panoramas of pulsating, driving tuneage that commands with the same crystalline ease that it mesmerizes.
While the bulk of this music comes from Banco de Gaia's previous albums and various CD EPs, this collection also features 35 minutes of material originally released on compilations and samplers, tracks that might titillate and excite even someone who has all of the band's conventional releases. This makes this collection highly covetable to die-hard completists.
JUNO REACTOR: Hotaka (CD EP on Metropolis Records)
This 2002 CD EP features 28 minutes of top-notch techno music.
As far as the song line-up goes, you specifically get four versions of the "Hotaka" track: a Radio Edit, a 12-inch Dance Version, and two Remixes (by Thomas P. Heckman and Der Dritte Raum).
Besides the standard electronic brilliance of Juno Reactor (aka Ben Watkins), this song features the wild guitar pyrotechnics of Steve Stevens (who helped Billy Idol create numerous memorable hits from the Eighties), and the Taiko Drums of Gocoo (think of those Oriental drums that loom bigger than a tall man and reverberate with mountain-shattering rhythms).
The basic sonic result is a compelling one: demonstrative electronics clash with grinding guitar amid an explosive nest of E-perc and a seemingly limitless kitbag of clever samples from old movies and pop culture. The surge pauses briefly to engage the Japanese drum sequence, wherein the sky trembles and spills forth hundreds of squealing demons and technological elves. Throughout all this, garbled lionized voices exclaim a groaning chant that evokes all sorts of primeval empathy.
All of which makes it sound as if this music is dark and ominous, which it isn't. There's a touch of the darkside going on, but the main emphasis is on jubilant fun. Imagine a stage crowded with brightly painted celebrants, cavorting with passionate abandon and worshipping the willfully complex rhythms of monumental drums.
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