After the interest that Taran M’s Top 5 article received, we thought it worthwhile getting the rest of the krew to write up their own list. I personally found Taran’s list extremely interesting to read, and felt it gave a great understanding of how he’s progressed as a DJ over his career. With this in mind, I hope to illustrate that with my selections.
I’ve opted to include purchase links to each album to encourage those that may be interested in the music to support the artists rather than downloading for free.
So without further ado, here’s my list of the top five albums that have not only influenced my desire to DJ, but those that have shaped the music I play.
1. Hybrid ~ Wide Angle (1999)
I can safely say that this album has influenced me the most, not just with my DJing, but also with my general appreciation of electronic music. When I first heard it I was a young and impressionable phat-pant wearing raver. Somewhat narrow-minded with what I listened to as far as EDM went, my knowledge was restricted to Hard Trance, Trance, Hard Dance, Hard Style and pretty much every other genre with “Hard” or “Trance” in it. When I briefly came across a magazine review about the album, I was instantly intrigued. I’d heard a lot about these “Progressive” and “Breaks” genre’s, and had only briefly been subjected to them in side-rooms at larger events. On a whim I headed down to my local Dance Arena store (R.I.P) and picked myself up a copy.
At first I thought id purchased the wrong album, and had instead grabbed some kind of orchestral CD. But once the acidic intro of ‘If I Survive‘ filtered in, I knew I was in for something good. Almost instantly my taste in EDM began to shift. Slowly everything I used to listen to started to sound bland and I began to crave for more depth in my music.
The album itself, for those that have not had the pleasure of hearing it, is a unique work that combines Break Beats, Progressive House/Trance and orchestral elements with a heavy nod towards string arrangements. All fused together, Hybrid create a cohesive journey that’s heavily emotive, at times dance-floor orientated, and ultimately, utterly brilliant. Put simply, it’s an electronic masterpiece of the highest caliber. Even 11 years on it still holds it’s own against current dance music. Every track stands on it’s own, with no fillers.
I could go on and on about how great it is, but will instead urge those that may be unfamiliar with it to give it a listen. It opened my eyes to a whole new world and was the main catalyst for pushing me towards playing Breaks and Prog – two of my most favoured genres.
Disclaimer: I opted to list ‘Wide Angle’ over their 2000 re-release ‘Wider Angle’, purely because it was the first version of the album that I heard. In comparison ‘Wider Angle’ is a much stronger release taking into consideration that they re-recorded a majority of the string sections and bundled it with a second disc of a live recording from one of their shows in Sydney, Australia. Not only do you get a feel for how they are in the studio, but it also shows how they adapted their music for the live stage.
2. Sasha ~ Involver (2004)
Hands down one of my all time favourite electronic albums, or any album for that matter, this is as close to perfection as Progressive music gets as far as I’m concerned. A unique approach to the tried and tested DJ mix compilation, Sasha and his talented production team (Charlie May, Barry Jamieson and co) took each track and remixed them to construct one of the best Progressive House albums of our time.
Some might classify this album as a straight up DJ mix compilation, but it’s far more then that. The amount of time and care that has been taken with the reworking of each track is mind blowing, and it shows! There’s not one stale part in the whole album – instead, each track compliments the other, blending together seamlessly to create an intensely interesting and highly emotive piece of art. The scope of artists included within the album is also noteworthy – from the intro track of Grand National’s Indie-Rock number ‘Talk Amongst Yourselves‘, to UNKLE’s vocal Prog masterpieces ‘What Are You To Me?‘ and ‘In A State‘, through to Shpongle’s Psy influenced ‘Dorset Perception‘ – listening to any of these in their original forms instantly demonstrates just how much they were changed and adjusted to fit within the album.
Introduced to me when I was first starting to play around with DJing Prog, this album showed me that not everything you play behind the decks needs to be peak-time bombs, and demonstrated the need for light and shade when attempting to construct a musical journey through the medium of DJing.
Later seeing Sasha live during his Involver tour in 2004, at the then Metro nightclub in Melbourne, changed me forever. Seeing one man command a crowd of thousands was astounding. For his entire 2+ hours set he had the whole venue in the palm of his hand. It was absolutely magic, and something I’ll never forget.
3. James Zabiela ~ ALiVE (2004)
Released as Pioneer was beginning to take a firm hold of digital DJing, this album played a huge part in the CDJ and EFX revolution. Zab’s first release on Renaissance, this was the album that got everyone’s interest. The digital wizardry contained within the two disc compilation was nothing that had ever been replicated before. Technically brilliant and precise, it showed Zab’s out-of-this-world skills whilst at the same time demonstrating the full potential of Pioneer’s CDJ1000′s and the EFX1000 unit. In my opinion, this album helped lay the groundwork for many of today’s digital DJs, and is in ways responsible for Pioneer now being the club standard world wide.
Not one to be shy about his technical prowess, Zab’s also included a play-by-play of how he constructed the two disc mix – giving an insight into the inner workings of his digitally geared brain, listeners were able to pin-point just how he crafted and manufactured the sounds, transitions and effects within. Thinking back to my first read through of the booklet, I was astounded at how he had pulled off some of the effects and digital tricks – a majority of what he’d done I actually thought were part of the original tracks! Another thing that stood out was his ability to accomplish such a polished and cohesive journey using a huge variety of different genre’s – Breaks, Techno, Prog, House, Electro, all flowing seamlessly throughout.
However, the most significant part this album played in influencing my DJing was in demonstrating the scope and advantages of the digital approach. Before I’d heard the album I was a Vinyl purist through and through – swearing against CDJs and getting on my analog-high-horse at any given chance. Once I heard it, I knew that I was putting myself at a disadvantage by restricting myself to just the one format; it made me realize that whilst there was still a big place for Vinyl in my DJing, that there was also more to it than just beat-mixing two records together.
4. BT ~ Movement In Still Life (1999)
A true pioneer of the electronic movement, BT is one of those producers that’s been around since the early days and continues to constantly change and adapt with the times. This album illustrated, as my previous selection did, the need for diversity, not only in the music that I listened to, but also later in how I began to approach DJing. Touching on everything from Nu-School Breaks in tracks like ‘Ride’ and ‘Movement In Still Life’, to the Prog-Breaks masterpiece of ‘Running Down The Way Up‘, all the way through to the Trance anthems of ‘Dreaming‘ and ‘Godspeed‘, this is a fantastic example of how an artist album should be approached. Not pigeonholed or confined to any one sound, BT broke away from genre constraints to deliver an extremely varied release that showed his diversity as an electronic artist.
I first purchased this album after hearing ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Dreaming’ – a big fan of Trance at the time, I’d never really been subjected to Breaks. This changed all that and was what initially sparked my interest in the genre.
5. Gatecrasher Black (1998)
Gatecrasher black was the first mixed DJ compilation I had ever heard. Before then, I had no real grasp on what a DJ was, or what they did behind their consoles. Previously I was of the mind that all they did was press play and stop. Black changed that. My first listen was somewhat confusing – I had no idea why there wasn’t any type of pause in-between each track. After repeat listens I began to hear that the tracks were somehow being pieced together. Further research revealed that the CD itself had been mixed by a DJ. Almost instantly my mind was opened to a whole new world.
If I could pin-point where my obsessive love for electronic music began, it would be this album. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard plenty of electronic music before this, cheesy shite like 666′s ‘Amokk‘, but none of it had the depth that this album displayed. None of it interested me as much. It sparked something in me that’s still apparent over 12 years on – a feeling that can’t be described in words – just a knowing. I can still remember traipsing round the streets as a young teenager endlessly listening to it on my Sony disc-man. Engulfed in the music, I knew that EDM was destined for my ear-drums.
Next up in the series, Simon Murphy delivers his Top 5!