I don’t mean that as a criticism: popular dance music is, in many ways, the purest form of dance music. The only thing that matters in pop dance clubs is whether the music is enjoyable and danceable (no one cares who made it, what label it’s on or various types of stylistic nit-picking). And neither do I mean that it sounds like Benny Benassi—it's pop techno in the same sense as Inner City or Mad Mike’s work for Members of the House.
Octave One’s biggest hit is 2000's ‘Black Water’, a record which was big in both underground and commercial scenes, a sure sign of quality if ever there was one. ‘I Need Release’ is no ‘Black Water’: it lacks that killer hook. However it does have a similar combination of elephantine kick drums, bags of melody and a densely packed groove overlaid with a blatantly commercial vocal.
The pop side is in that dense groove—there’s no sense of sparseness here—and, of course, in the vocal. The techno side, on the other hand, is displayed not just in the heaviness of the drums but in the delicate interplay between the different sounds. On display are the group's high-tech jazz chops, as they take a basic structure and create infinite variations upon it throughout. More importantly, though, it’s danceable. Octave One unite all of the elements here to create a single undulating groove—there’s no sense of ‘here’s the drums and here’s the bassline’, it's simply ‘here’s the track’.
The AA also has the much harder-edged ‘Here Comes the Push’, a furious loopy techno workout free of any melody at all. It’s forceful, well-produced and, I guess, ‘banging’ but isn’t a sound that finds too much favour these days. Having said that, in the hands of a Robert Hood or a Ben Sims I’ve no doubt it’ll do its job well.