Sound familiar? It should because those were the very words written by a journalist in an English dance music magazine a while back. The irony behind this bold statement is that said magazine is no longer published but progressive, as a dance genre, is still around. And it’s far from dead. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever sounded better or ever been more interesting than it has this year. The proof can be heard in the superb amount of music featured on some of the best compilations that have been released during 2003. Thanks to Nick Warren and Deep Dish with their sumptuous melodies, the Global Underground series is back on track after nearly folding earlier this year. They’ve proven once again why they are one of the leaders of the progressive pack where compilations are concerned. Danny Howells launched the 24/7 series with much acclaim from both fans and critics. His and Lee Burridge’s diverse interpretations of day and night sounds ranged from a chilled soundscape to dirty, funky basslines and were enough to make you scream from sheer pleasure. While the Balance series had always been popular, it was James Holden’s contribution in the form of Balance 005 that literally slapped everyone across the face and brought this Australian series into the minds of progressive lovers as a serious contender to Global Underground. Steve Lawler finally released his follow up to Lights Out 1 with Lights Out 2 proving to be somewhat of a surprise. There were still the tribal beats that are his trademark sound but now there was more of a house influence with moments of electro sleaze that, when combined, proved to be a rump shaker of the best kind. So, you would think that it just couldn’t get any better, that there was nothing left to hear. Well, there is! Progressive just keeps getting better and keeps reinventing itself especially when you hear Renaissance’s ‘Everybody’ mixed by Sander Kleinenberg.
A name that has become synonymous with quality progressive music is club and record label Renaissance. From the moment of its inception as a club in March 1992, its emphasis has always been to present the best that dance music, especially progressive, has to offer. With the release of their first compilation in October 1994, ‘Renaissance – The Mix Collection’ mixed by then residents Sasha and John Digweed, they set a precedent for all future DJ mixes. The fusion of art and music, together with the talented mixing of these two now famous DJs, helped to create the benchmark by which all forthcoming club compilations would be compared. To many, it is an example that has never been surpassed. Renaissance’s use of classical imagery in advertising and packaging has always helped to create a unique feel to this well-known name. From my perspective, I’ve always believed they’ve been spot on with their image as I see progressive as the classical cousin to the rock ‘n’ roll that is trance. Their choice of DJs to mix each of their compilations would always reflect this classicism thereby giving the music a timeless feel. In the past, they have enticed the likes of Deep Dish, Nick Warren, Dave Seaman and Danny Howells, amongst others, to create their versions of the ‘Renaissance’ sound. With this new release, Sander Kleinenberg’s ‘Everybody’ is in great company and has brought a new and fresh direction in sound and image presentation of this famous dance music institute. With this in mind, it’s clear that Renaissance are moving with the times and are open to new ideas and directions.
Ah Sander! Not only is he easy on the eyes but he’s even better on the ears. The last few years have seen Sander Kleinenberg become a rising star and respected fixture in the dance music scene. He first created a stir in 1996 when he released ‘Y.D.W (You Do Me Wrong)’ on Strictly Rhythm, which became an instant hit with such luminaries in the New York club scene as Danny Tenaglia. However, it was ‘My Lexicon’, which brought him worldwide acclaim in the progressive scene and is today regarded by many as a classic example of the genre. As such, it is one of the standout tracks on Sasha’s Global Underground 13 Ibiza. After an enormous amount of remixes and DJ gigs, he was invited to create a mix for the ‘Nubreed’ series. It was his first compilation but not his last as 2002 saw his contribution in the Essential series released to much favour. His success has continued with his ‘Four Seasons EP’ installments which has seen the diverse taste he has in that the tracks on each have ranged from trance, funk and through to driving progressive beats. This diversity can be seen in the different sounds of ‘Work To Do’ and ‘Buenos Aires’. The former is pure driving progressive with tribal overtones while the later is almost on the trance tip with its soaring melodies.
Given Renaissance’s history and Sander Kleinenberg’s achievements to date, it was only a matter of time before the two joined forces to create a release that is not only highly regarded at present but will be respected and sought out by future listeners. ‘Everybody’ is a unique journey into the new sound of progressive as much as it is an exploration into the mind and soul of Sander Kleinenberg. While we’ve become familiar with the Renaissance image, Sander was given free reign to design the packaging himself. His personality is stamped not only on the cover artwork and the inside sleeve notes but also on the actual CDs themselves. It’s a treat just reading all his little scribbles and messages.
CD 1 or as Sander has called it, Attempt 1 opens with the cheeky intro called ‘The Club’ that depicts the entry into a club on a particular night. Once past the door staff you can just hear the strains of Sander’s own ‘Work To Do’ before we are propelled into Solaris Heights’ ‘Midnight’. A beautiful track with sweeping synths and sensuous vocals, which helps to create a rather wistful house track. The level is raised a notch with Van Bellen & Greed’s ‘City Lights’. This still has that wistful feel but the bass is deeper and the groove already makes you want to dance. I can just picture this being played at an outside party somewhere on the fringes of Sydney Harbour on a warm summer’s night. We then move onto a deeper house sound with Nacho Serrano’s ‘Zamba’. On closer listening, there are so many variations in sound and texture that it gives this track a very edgy feel. Alvredo & Matthew Dekay’s ‘Symbiosys’ flows smoothly next with its sensuous but funky feel. There are samples of melodic synths throughout with the pace increasing slightly. This, combined with a breakdown, takes you down a level and then explodes into full funkfest. From funk, we then journey onto the outskirts of a tribal sound. Indart Meets Plaza Crew’s ‘In Destiny (Juan Magan & Cesar Del Rio Mix)’ is saturated with a dirty tribal bass that will have you tapping your toes in no time. In some respect there is very much a Latin feel in the overall sound and judging by the way my cat snuggled up to the speakers during this track, I think it’s a winner with felines. Up next is Monkz’s ‘Nu Bluez’ with its funk and deep bass helping to create a modern jazz feel to a classic progressive sound. This is continued with Coruja & Sandoval’s ‘Nativa’ with its dubby vocals. A slightly darker atmosphere is conjured with ‘Be As One’ by Rock (Mein & Leeds) which explores fantastically warped vocals and hints of a more tribal sound. The direction of the mix is then taken to a more upbeat sound through the Lee Cabrera remix of Morjac Featuring Raz Conway’s ‘Stars’. A soaring beginning that ends in a driving yet melodic bass. The vocal breakdown helps to create tension that is further enhanced by the resurgence in melody and then it bangs into a driving prog sound with a melodic riff that sounds almost like a smothered cello. An obvious electro sound is found in Pig & Dan’s ‘Addiction’ with its minimal beat at the outset then moving onto tighter electro sound. There are lots of multi layered sounds and the vocals are down right wasted in feel which is suitable given the title of this cheeky track. It’s absolutely nasty and I absolutely love it. As we near the end of the first CD, we are given two of this year’s best tracks. The percussive beginning of Chable & Bonicci’s ‘Ride’ leads beautifully into a deep dubby melodic bass with what I can only describe as a xylophone melody sampled over the top. A track that is typically progressive in sound but with an uplifting feel. Without even know what this track is called or who created it, you know you’re listening to one of the stand out tracks of the year, maybe ever. There are so many sounds working together to create one of the most individual tracks I’ve ever heard. As far as I’m concerned, whatever Luke Chable touches, it always sounds perfect. In my eyes, the producer of the year! This is mixed seamlessly with Matthew Dekay Band’s ‘Higher Thoughts’ which has the same deep bass but with a melodic piano riff. The sound is much fuller and draws beautifully to a close. Without a doubt, these two tracks go hand in hand and are mixed perfectly together. As the last bars of the last track are heard, you’re left breathing heavily because your heart rate is running at a ridiculous pace. You know you want more!
2003 has seen the resurgence in melodic progressive tracks. It’s all about raising your hands in the air and screaming for the sheer pleasure of hearing some of the most beautiful tracks every released. The first part of ‘Everybody’ is only a small reflection of this new sound as it also touches on the more tribal and house elements of progressive as well as hints of old skool funk. While you forget yourself in the glory that is ‘Ride’ and ‘Higher Thoughts’, you begin to realise that this is just the beginning of this epic soundscape.
As one journey ends, another begins with CD 2 aka Attempt 2 opening with Joakim’s ‘Come Into My Kitchen’. A dirty electro bass with robotic vocals and very much an 80s influenced track. Come into my kitchen? Well, there’s only one thing that comes to mind with this request so I can’t help but smile from the underlying cheekiness of this track. With the Ewan Pearson remix of Seelenluft’s ‘Manilla’, a more dirty bass sound is explored but with a very in your face vocal and the odd electro squelches throughout. A very punk style progressive track that I’m sure will get a crowd dancing in no time. The beats are increased with Nicolas Vallee’s ‘New New York’ and there’s very much an old skool disco flavour to the melody. There are also more of the electro synths that aren’t just dominating this CD but a lot of this years major compilations. Up next is the funky prog of Simon’s ‘Troubled Soul’ with its dubby bass and melodic guitar riff followed by Undo/Redo’s ‘The Voyager’. This particular track has a very minimal beginning that explodes into a bass heavy dance number that should go down a treat on any dancefloor. The pace is maintained with Groovemates’ ‘Natural Sound’, which contains a sweeping melodic breakdown halfway through and turns the track into a beat heavy joy of sound. I can’t help but think that in some odd way this would have gone down very well in the Studio 54 of the 70s as much as it will be enjoyed today. Touches of a funky techno sound can be heard in Roland Klinkenberg Featuring Miss Bunty’s ‘Funk The Key Word’ in way the bass is structured. This track gets you in the dancing groove and before you know it your scaring waiting passengers at Kings Cross train station with your odd twitching and stupid grin. This is followed by the simplicity of D2 Featuring Dan Diamond’s ‘Therapy (Speedy’s Session)’. This track is all about the bass and the sexy vocals preaching the values of appreciating good music. Yeah, I can relate. It’s all about the music! The more I listen to this track, the more I wish I knew who the guy was that did the vocals because he sounds like he’s holding the secrets of many in his world weary voice. With DJ Chab’s ‘My Memory (Romania Edit)’ the direction of the mix turns back to an upbeat melody with a muted violin riff. This is truly inspiring music and one of the many reasons why I love this CD so much. With that in mind, we start to hear the opening riffs of Steve Porter’s ‘Definite Form’. What can I say other than Steve Porter rocks!!! His remix of Amber’s ‘Anyway’ was one thing but ‘Definite Form’ is something off the planet. This track is unbelievable with its halting beat and chime influenced melody. Listening to this track is like finding religion without walking into a church or believing in God. I’m instantly reminded of the lyrics in ‘God Is A DJ’ by Faithless: ‘this is my church, this is where I heal my hurt’. I think that says it all really. It has everything that I love in progressive: a structured rhythm, a soaring melody, bleepy little moments and an element of funk in the bass. Really, it’s an aural pleasure. As we near the close of the second and final part of ‘Everybody’, things start to get a bit calmer with the dubby bass of Mick Burns’ ‘Corrective Tones’ and the austere yet primal feel of Loway’s ‘2 Bags Of Grass (Reprise)’. And then we start to hear Sander Kleinenberg’s ‘Repeat To Specify’. A wonderful bass infused track with a lush melody that transports you to another world. If you close your eyes, you can almost feel yourself soaring through the sky experiencing perfect joy. A stunning finale to one of the best mix compilations for 2003 and an outstanding achievement by a remarkable DJ.
While I’ve enjoyed and will continue to enjoy both CDs, the second part is the one that I’ve been turning to the most. It’s something about the cheekiness of ‘Come Into My Kitchen’ and the sexiness of ‘Therapy’. It’s definitely about the majesty of ‘My Memory’ and the reverence in ‘Definite Form’. Above all, it’s about cutting edge dance music mixed to perfection by Sander Kleinenberg which will make you want to run to the nearest club and beg for music such as this to be played. Renaissance and the man himself have a lot to smile about.
Over the last few months I’ve been reading quite a few progressive message boards. There seems to be this recurring argument that progressive isn’t what it used to be. I find this quite strange because I don’t understand why people would want producers making music that sounds like it did in 1996 or 1997. Why would you want that when you can have something like Sander’s ‘Everybody’. Why would you want to live in the past when the future is so much more exciting. If progressive is to move forward, the sound must keep evolving and changing. It may not always sound great but at the very least it’s something to learn from. With all due respect, I’ve heard all the ‘Northern Exposure’ CDs I need to hear to realise that I would much prefer to listen to the current crop of compilations and in particular ‘Everybody’. It’s rich in melody and emotion. Aboveall it’s a non stop adventure in sound.
Progressive is very much alive!
1. The Intro – The Club
2. Solaris Heights – Midnight
3. Van Bellen & Greed – City Lights
4. Nacho Serrano – Zamba
5. Alvredo & Matthew Dekay – Symbiosys
6. Indart Meets Plaza Crew – In Destiny (Juan Magan & Cesar Del Rio Mix)
7. Monkz – Nu Bluez
8. Coruja & Sandoval – Nativa
9. Rock (Mein & Leeds) – Be As One
10. Morjac Featuring Raz Conway – Stars (Lee Cabrera Main Mix)
11. Pig & Dan – Addiction
12. Chable & Bonicci – Ride
13. Matthew Dekay Band – Higher Thoughts
1. Joakim – Come Into My Kitchen
2. Seelenluft – Manilla (Ewan Pearson Remix)
3. Nicolas Vallee – New New York
4. Simon – Troubled Soul
5. Undo/Redo – The Voyager
6. Groovemates – Natural Sound
7. Roland Klinkenberg Featuring Miss Bunty – Funk The Key Word
8. D2 Featuring Dan Diamond – Therapy (Speedy’s Session)
9. DJ Chab – My Memory (Romania Edit)
10. Steve Porter – Definite Form
11. Mick Burns – Corrective Tones
12. Loway – 2 Bags Of Grass (Reprise)
13. Sander Kleinenberg – Repeat To Specify