Various Artists – Sensation The Ocean of White Australia 2010
Mon 11th Jan, 2010 Music Reviewsin
Marketing tie-ins abound in the ultra-commercialised, brand-heavy landscape of contemporary club culture. In much the same way that you’ll buy your least favourite relative a really useless souvenir to commemorate your trip overseas, you may find yourself being lured into buying themed compilations like this Sensation one, released to coincide with the recent New Year’s Eve party in Melbourne. Like the really useless souvenir, such compilations rarely bear any resemblance to what they are meant to represent (“You got me a snow globe? From Jamaica?”), and instead are usually just another excuse to package together some of the latest tunes doing the business on dancefloors.
The story is no different here, and it’s really just another double-disc compilation in the vein of the Ministry of Sound releases. I’m assuming that the brains behind this release are hoping the brand kudos of the Sensation parties will attract potential purchasers, as the track-listing is far from inspiring. It’s also ridiculously unbalanced, with both discs starting off in electro-house territory, and ending up in the land of trance. Clearly this is to entice as many listeners as possible, and to act as a reflection of the ‘sound’ of the Sensation parties, but it just ends up meaning both mixes suffer from a slight identity crisis.
The first disc starts with the rolling Kay & Stoxx electro-house re-make of Chaka Khan’s classic Ain’t Nobody. It comes in the form of a dub mix, so there’s little in the way of vocals, but there is enough melody left intact for the tune to be recognisable. The clumsy transition into Way Out West’s Only Love is comical, and while the track itself is a progressive gem, it’s completely out of place on here, with the tracks from Dirty South and TV Rock immediately following it swinging the vibe right back to electro-house. The Freemasons and Sophie Ellis-Bextor ride in on their shimmering disco glory horse with Heartbreak, and it still sounds fresh, despite the fact it’s appeared on one million compilations in the past few months. You’d think sampling Belinda Carlisle would kill any track, but the Complicated Funk remix of The Cube Boys’ Be Free is a fairly enjoyable processed cheese slice of euphoric house-trance and a definite guilty pleasure.
A little further on there’s a gorgeous piece of atmospheric vocal-electro from Robbie Rivera with Closer to the Sun, and together with Zoë Badwi on In the Moment, Ivan Gough and Grant Smillie (via a Denzal Park remix) throw down a surging and funky synth-driven, vocal-house workout. Unfortunately, this is all undone by the absolutely woeful Shakin’ That Ass from Pacific & Vandyck, which re-fashions Groove Armada’s I See You Baby in a brutally synth-heavy manner that is completely devoid of subtlety and charm. We then journey through some very pedestrian electro which manages to strip the mix of its momentum, and then, seemingly from out of nowhere, the disc concludes with some storming trance. Markus Schulz contributes the epic Koolhaus under his Dakota pseudonym, and there’s a pounding, but very brief, remix of Ferry Corsten’s Shanti. As great as they sound, it’s a little bit puzzling when a mix starts off with disco-house and ends with some full-on, hands-in-the-air euphoric trance.
Disc number two kicks off with the Mark Knight, D. Ramirez and Underworld collaboration Downpipe, and while the track still sounds great, it’s not far behind the Freemasons in the slightly over-exposed stakes. The same goes for Axwell and co.’s Leave the World Behind. Denzal Park turn in a nice re-work of Simon Berry’s trance classic Madagascar, and while it’s a massive tune, it sits a little awkwardly on here. Ivan Gough and Grant Smillie make yet another contribution, with their towering TV Rock remix of Bertie Blackman’s Byrds of Prey whipping up a frenetic intensity, and this is sustained with the funky electro of Ida Corr’s Ride My Tempo. The mix then hits a wall with a handful of nondescript electro-house tracks, which is kind of frustrating given the quality laid down in the first half of the mix.
Things fall back into place with the rolling Kaskade remix of The Crystal Method’s Come Back Clean, which is possibly the finest moment of the entire compilation, its subtle electro layers building to a glorious peak. The cheeky remix of Dragonette’s Fixin to Thrill by Chris Fraser is a delight, and the bouncing electro stylings of Tweaker from Jordy Lishious inject some warped darkness into proceedings. Ferry Corsten puts in another appearance with We Belong, and it sets in place the trance vibe that concludes the mix. In contrast to the first disc, ending the mix in such a fashion doesn’t seem quite so peculiar. There’s an ethereal beauty in Ben Preston’s shining and surging Why We Run, and Richard Durand’s solid No Way Home and First State’s heavenly Brave drive the mix home powerfully.
I’m all for variety and mixing things up a little, but the attempt to please everyone with this release falls a little flat. Also, the way both discs follow pretty much the same stylistic journey smacks of sheer laziness on the part of the compiler(s). I feel one disc devoted solely to house and one disc devoted solely to trance would have been far more effective. In terms of consistency and flow, the second disc is the better mix, but I doubt whether you’ll be giving it more than a few spins. There are some quality tracks on here, but I’d suggest tracking them down in some other context.