As can often be found, the follow up album to the initial successful debut can always be a hard road to travel but for Way Out West, it was one easy ride. In 2000, their second album, "Intensify", was released and once again received critical acclaim and much fanfare. The album spawned singles such as the addictive "Intensify" and the much loved "Mindcircus". For many, the later is considered one of the standout releases for 2001 especially when Gabriel & Dresden worked their magic on it and turned it into a track that was a success across a number of genres. At that point in time, you really couldn’t get much better.
Now, in 2004, it was once again time to give the world another dose of the Way Out West sound in the form of their third album release "Don’t Look Now". Without any question, this current album cements them as one of the most talented bands that excel in portraying an aspect of electronic dance music as it should be heard.
The album opens with the progressive breaks of "Anything But You" and the haunting tranquility of "Don’t Forget Me", tracks that are both enhanced by the vocals of WOW’s current vocalist Omi. While beautifully atmospheric in feel, some may find these a little commercial in sound. Personally, I don’t care because, to my ears, they are simply a precursor of things to come. Things pick up grandly with the Tangerine Dream sampled "Everyday", a track that grows on me with every listen. It’s definitely one of those progressive tracks that has a lot of substance and absolutely no fluff.
It’s a funny thing but every time I hear "Apollo" I’m reminded of a veritable Pandora’s box. The start is so misleading with its sublime progressive breaks and then it opens into a completely different track. Once there, you’re lost in a sea of melodic chords and riffs with subtle but important key changes. This really is a 21st Century version of what future generations will come to regard as modern classical music. With "Chasing Rainbows" I’m instantly reminded of an early morning tide on a deserted beach. Its calm beats are intoxicating and the guitar riff is used as a beautiful effect. "Fear" begins with a primal beat and then sweeps into a melody that is truly enhanced by the vocals of Omi. A definite big room number that would lay waste to any crowded dancefloor.
The majestic "Coming Home" is luxurious in feel and depth. This track has a somewhat breakbeat feel but its more up tempo in sound. To really appreciate this track, you need to hear this on a crystal clear sound system because only then can you hear all of its nuances. For me "Just Like A Man" is modern day torch song. There’s an inherent sadness to this track which can be found in its down tempo beat. The sweeping soundscape only adds to its atmospheric quality.
The opening of "Killa" gently creeps up on you which lends a very dramatic beginning for what lies ahead. It keeps growing in tension, then dips and explodes into an aural, beat infused treat. This is probably one of the best WOW tracks I’ve ever heard. It just takes you to another place in your mind because its quite grand in musical scale yet has a wonderfully dark feel in melody. "Northern Lights" is another track that just grows in its beats and overall sounds. Its another track that while containing a progressive breakbeat feel, it’s much more melodic in texture and depth.
While "Melt" is much the same way, it’s a track that is very different in sound. With this track, the vocals are used in a way that only enhance its overall tone. If you can imagine swimming through a sea of the clearest blue water, this is what it would sound like. The breakdown during this track is almost as if you’re coming up for air. When we finally reach "Absinthe Dreams", its like hearing a modern adaptation of a trip hop classic. Druggy, languid and addictive. A fitting end to an artist album that is truly beautiful not only to hear but also to experience.
As an added incentive, Way Out West have also included a bonus mix CD as a part of this release. There aren’t many artists that would do this and for that they have my respect. My intention for this review was to focus on their artist release but I can’t overlook the mix that came with this. While I won’t be giving it my typical analytical review, what I will say is that it that the mix is very enjoyable to hear. While not perfect, the general sound is quite infectious. It’s definitely a mix in which I can hear influences from both Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren. Two people, who as individual DJs, I have the utmost admiration. As is expected, it’s progressive in sound and won’t disappoint those that love the genre. If anything, this bonus mix has a very ethereal quality and while there are quite a few highlights, the track that stands out is Blue Room Project’s ‘Out of Area’ remixed by up and coming stars Habersham and Numinous. Jeff Belfi and Shane Ehlers, as Blue Room Project, are a producing duo to look out for and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. This is only the beginning.
From an overall perspective, Way Out West’s ‘Don’t Look Now’ is a pleasurable and sumptuous experience. This is one release that smacks of maturity and a continually growing talent pool. There is not one track that I can truly find fault with. Each track holds a wonderfully textured quality that grabs you from beginning to end. More than anything, if I close my eyes, I can see various DJs using each track in their set. That’s something that I don’t often find. My primary focus this year has been to listen to as many artist albums as possible and as such, this is one of the standouts. Specifically, it appeals to my persona more than any other this year whether it was progressive, trance, breaks, house, whatever. Quite simply, it’s about as close to perfection that I’ve heard so far this year. If anything, it is a release that now makes me pant for the next Way Out West artist album.
Music is the most personal thing anyone can experience. From my perspective, my life would be empty if I didn’t have the ability to discover music such as Way Out West’s “Don’t Look Now”. As individuals, we need to encounter everything there is to experience because without these moments, we are never truly complete. I yearn for the music I listen to, much like I crave art and literature. Without these things that feed my senses, my ignorance would be my downfall but with them, I am complete and more importantly, I feel. For that, I will always be thankful.
1. Anything But You
2. Don’t Forget Me
5. Chasing Rainbows
7. Coming Home
8. Just Like A Man
10. Northern Lights
12. Absinthe Dreams
Bonus Mix CD Tracklisting:
1. Walk – Deaf Center
2. Four Squares – Adam Johnson
3. Stinger – Agent 001
4. Meeting Dave Dish/Rainbows In The Sky (Natural High Movement Mix) – Martin Buttrich/The Hypnotist
5. Lost – Paul Hughes
6. Out of Area (Habersham & Numinous Mix) – Blue Room Project
7. Pulse of Life – Way Out West
8. Surrender (Your Love Breaks Mix) – Palava
9. Implantat – 2 Dollar Egg
10. Seaside Floater – Introvert
11. Gold Is Your Metal (Paper Faces Mix) – Themroc
12. Carrier – David West
13. The Awakening – Kaito
14. Loveworld (Ulrich Schnauss Instrumental Mix) – HRK