May 1, 2003
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Soft Pink Truth
The Wind-Up Bird
April 30, 2003
Pale Horse and Rider
Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers
April 29, 2003
Set Fire to Flames
Imagine the perfect copy of your music. Whatever it is. The perfect copy, made to sound so good, so tasty, so perfect—and then learning of its simulacra, its creation for nothing less than advertising. Shafted.
Or, imagine an album that has reproduced itself as a perfect parody of its own perfection. Slowly incubated over countless years, the finished product could guarantee its sincerity if not for its release date.
Witness bubbled thoughts brought on by an album lost in its beauty, going nowhere down an eight lane highway marked only by the purest of pleasures and the deepest of cynicisms—profit.
The Saafi Brothers make a hybrid of ambient, dub, house, and trance. And within these softly "progressive" realms, the Saafi Brothers have previously made some smooth-listening gems of chill-out. In 1997, their album Mystic Cigarettes delved into ambience and tranced beats that was fascinating, if not attuned to its time, what in the early '90s would have been somewhere in the realm of ambient house, of Café del Mar compilations, The Orb and The KLF's Chill Out. What was transformed by Biosphere over the years into explorations of field recordings, by Dr. Alex Patterson into increasingly eccentric explorations of complicated dub cuts. Jump cut to today, step in the Saafi Brothers in 2003, with a soft shuffle of nothing-new-done-very-well. Perhaps a few tracks here can even be called "deep trance," which seems to be the progressive trance producer's response to the worldwide shift to less banal forms of rave muzak. Today, however—what does one say of an album that has moved in no direction since 1992? The production sounds nicer—yes. The tracks are well-made—yes. But the entire production is so slick and smooth that its very destination seems to be for selling smoothly. "Charting chill-out" becomes less a topography and more a Top of the Pops phraseology.
On the other hand: this is a beautiful chill album that moves in and out of classic tranced beats, warm ambient tones, rhythms of smooth dub... for me, it is even partially nostalgic, melancholic, as it evokes memories of past albums and past times in chill rooms and parties. And subsequent listenings to this album reveal layers of detail that were not so present on the first listen. But I just cannot continue: for it's like smooth jazz. Once you've heard the rough Coltrane you can never go back to listening to Diana Krall.
I could say: "Although evoking classical motifs of ambient house and early chill music, the Saafi Brothers flip the record on a groove that runs to the edge of derivation."
Yet, I could also say: "This album is like coke. You do a little, you want some more. But in the end, all your sweet goodness just comes from the coke."
I almost want to ask the Saafi Brothers: make me some music. I feel that I haven't heard from the potential of what could be done in these ranges yet. Step out of your shoes a little. Walk around in bare feet. Dump the ridiculous pot samples. Get rid of the 303. And get back to me when you're done.
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