Before beginning, a brief warning: Above & Beyond, the nom de plume for producers Jonathan Grant, Paavo Siljamäki, and Tony McGuinness, makes airy trance. And no, this isn't the kind of borderline-trance Kompakt techno that hipsters like. This is the kind of sickly-sweet trance that makes hipsters grit their teeth.
Somebody must like them. Above & Beyond's full-length debut, Tri-State, was widely hailed in the dance music press as one of the best albums of 2006. They also broke into DJ magazine's authoritative "Top 100 DJs" list last year, placing at number nine. Their company, Anjunabeats, issues popular compilations (such as its self-titled one), and www.allmusic.com wrote that Anjuna "is one of the most exciting and inspiring labels dedicated to trance, almost single-handedly resuscitating the genre's flagging reputation and fortunes."
The London-based Above & Beyond first shot to prominence with a winning remix of Madonna's single "What It Feels Like for a Girl" in 2001. That song, with its angelic, orchestral keyboard arrangements and melodic movements, was a template for the trio's ensuing productions.
On Tri-State, Above & Beyond opens with the wondrously beatless title track; it could easily play on adult contemporary and New Age radio. Other vocally driven cuts such as "Alone Tonight" with Richard Bedford and "Can't Sleep" with Ashley Tomberlin emphasize the disc's dreamlike qualities. The trio elevates each lament "Slipping sideways, silver stars collide/And fade away just like our love that died" sings Bedford on "Alone Tonight" into a Greek tragedy.
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If some jaded listeners may find it difficult to take Tri-State seriously, others may find themselves unexpectedly open to its charms. Some of the songs, particularly "Stealing Time," are undeniably beautiful and heartfelt, and Above & Beyond seems to expose raw emotions with each track. It can prove irresistible, even if you're dancing to their songs in a nightclub instead of a corn field.