Friday, July 29, 2011

Music Review: Roger Shah - Openminded!?

Music Review: Roger Shah - Openminded!?

When thinking of premier electronic artists who can easily grace the speakers of any music love, it's hard to go past Roger Shah. His work under his own name and several nom de plume have carved out a niche market in this fickle music world.

With his last solo album, Songbook, being back in 2008, Shah has returned with another breath taking album that is sure to turn the ears of so many back to the trusted trance beats. The steady driving rhythm that plays right through the album is an absolute delight to listen to and will get the most uncoordinated toe tapping away.

His signature mixture of stunning melodies and driving beats are ever present throughout the album. Coupled with the brilliant choice of vocalists featured throughout, it would appear that Shah can do no wrong.

The first single to be lifted from the album is Morning Star featuring the breath taking vocal dynamics of Moya Brennan. For those who don't know the voice, think Saltwater by Chicane. The sweeping sounds of Brennan's lush voice and the almost orchestral quality of Shah's music will sweep you away.

Not one to leave a good song lie, Shah has recruited Sian Evans of Kosheen fame and redone their 2002 worldwide smash Hide U. It keeps the same feel though, at the same time, takes on a life of it's own. It's hard to pick the version to prefer. The original classic, or this newer driving force. The more dynamic electronic sounds ripple with energy and can't help but captivate the club kids who remember the first release, or the new listeners who will be dragged into the magic of the beat.

Realising that he's on a good thing, Shah brings Evans back twice more on the album. She features on tracks In The Light and Shine. Both the tracks are worth any hype made about them. 

When first listening to In The Light, the ethereal quality of Evans' voice, couple with the grit of the heavy trance throbbing creates a feeling which can't be clearly described in simple words. There is something magical about the way the pair work together. This can only, we hope, be an indication of what is yet to appear in the coming years from the music industry.

Shine itself is not without merit. There isn't the harshness of the sole heavy beat. Evans' voice proves that it can be quite melodious and enrapturing all over again. It proves how she has grown as an artist since we first heard her voice with Kosheen all those years ago. Breathe in the wondrous beauty of the song and it's uplifting feeling.

Also appearing for a track on the album is Chris Jones. Hot on the heels of his success with Armin Van Buuren in the song Going Wrong, Shah has brought him in for the floor filler Obsession. Apparently it's not just a Calvin Klein fragrance. It's also an eager track that will pound out over club speakers and have the highs and lows playing out as you lose yourself to the shamelessly enticing sounds of the song.

A dramatic and spicy highlight of the album is Porque. It features the amazing talent of Salma Ros. It would appear to be a debut for the songstress as there is very little information about her out there. The rich and smooth vocals are addictive. The track can be repeated several times over and still not get boring. The excitement of the track and the divinity of the production with the voice all creates a breath taking piece of musical breakthrough.

Appearing as an added bonus for those who buy the digital copy of the album, there is a second Chris Jones track Summer Days. It's got the open and uplifting feel to it that the title would suggest. It's actually hard to describe. There's so many positive things that can be said, it's hard to pick just one or two. The song if just a phenomenon on it's own.

As with any Shah production, there is a second version of each song that is more down tempo. The serenity of each track with a laid back and ambient feel, it's hard not to have your breath catch in your throat. Having Porque stripped back is addictive. Listening to Shine as an acoustic production just enhances it's beauty. It all proves just how truly versatile Shah really is with his production. 

Openminded!? is a masterpiece of electronica. Shah is constantly evolving and learning the art of his craft and applying the evolution to each release. It's crisp and modern yet still timeless. This is a fantastic release that is ready to have the uptempo versions playing before a night out and the down tempo ready for the recovery the next day. Whatever the time, this is an album and trance lover must have.

Openminded!? is out now through Armada

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