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I used to like my music mostly in the form of rock, indie and old school punk. However, with the increase in my studenty partying ways, Ive been listening to more dance music, (proper stuff like Orbital and the like not pantsy charty and Ibiza stuff) and this has become one of my favourite albums of all time.
The album is not like any dance music youve heard before. Its impossible to be bored with the rich, layered texture of sounds. Those of you who find dance music boring and repetitive will still rejoice in this, because its just impossible to not be moved by listening to it. It is at once melancholic and euphoric, and if ever music could show you the delights of the world, then this is it. Its impossible to listen to it and not feel your spirit uplifted.
You will find everything from tribal drumming to rainforest sounds on this lush sounding album. This is nothing like the cheesy nonsense you find on Ibiza mixes, nothing like the nonsense that calls itself dance infiltrating the charts. There is not one empty moment on this entire album, everything is infused with love, and with great meaning. From the watery rainforest opening of Satellite Serenade with its David Attenborough sample to the chilling and beautiful Last train to Lhasa, the closing track from Banco De Gaia, I dare anyone who says Djs dont have skill and that dance music doesnt have meaning, to listen to this album. Its both a chill out album and a dance album.
As mentioned in another review on this site, and a great one too, the album is an unbelievably great study aid. It got me through my highers and soon it will be getting me through Uni. Im not quite sure what it is about this album that makes it great for passing exams, but Ive had about six people tell me it got them through their masters degrees!
I know nothing about mixing or any of the other stuff that dance fans talk about, so Ill really just be talking about the tracks themselves. For those who like to put their music into categories, Im told this falls into the ambient trance type of music. Whatever that means.
It opens with Satellite Serenade, a multi-layered and blossoming track which opens a quote from David Attenborough, and some chimes that sound like falling water, and a babbling brook. It is followed by a gentle, soaring tune from a flute and an acoustic guitar. If you listen to this and close your eyes you are instantly transported to the remotest areas of a tropical rainforest. This is probably the most visual sounding track I have ever heard, even the most cluttered imagination seems to be instantly lifted by it. Once the actual dance beat of the song kicks in, it loses none of its magic. The beat in the song is multi-layered and tribal sounding, it is backed with a regular drum machine, but the layered sound prevent it sounding like anything youve heard before. Its easy to see how people get so euphoric listening to this kind of music (all drug references aside) when you hear a dance song with the beauty of this track. You also instantly figure out why they call it trance!
Raincry is another of my favourites on the album, opening with the sound of roaring waves and a low, eerie female voice, followed by a beautifully layered outer spacey sounding tracks, with slight whispers of human voices and a wonderfully tight drum track. This is followed by an otherworldly-sounding human cry, sounding almost like a wolf howling and the moon, and under laid with a gentle piano tune. This one transports you to a lush, abandoned hilltop somewhere with a glowing full moon above, and a rave in a valley just below. The first time I heard this, it moved me to tears. Its absolutely stunning, with an at one melancholic and hopeful sound to it. Utterly beautiful.
Im free is, I feel, the one duff point in the album. It sounds a lot more like your average dance-floor track. Although the sound is in general quite nice, its let down by the vocals, which are rather cheesy and very nineties sounding. It does open with some very beautiful sounding gloomy strings, however quickly descends into aforementioned irritating voices. I think this is a personal thing, most fans of this album seem to like this track too, I just personal have a thing about cheesy vocals, and I feel the tune is a lot clubbier and less ambient than the rest of the album, it just feels a bit out of place, in my view.
Water from a Vine Leaf by William Orbit is one of my favourites on this album. Again, its a beautifully layered track, and a much faster progression than the others on the album. The sparse vocals and bouncy beat break down into a wonderfully deep and soft sounding track. The general sound of the track is a lot more muted and less layered than the other tracks on the album. At one point in the track, a beautiful, simple high-pitched piano track, does indeed evoke the imagery of the title.
Last Train to Lhasa by Banco De Gaia is the albums closing track, and it is one of the most stunning tracks Ive ever heard. Its sound is incomparable to anything else, and words just cannot do it justice. It uses sound effects to create the sound of a train, with actual train hooting in the background, and a layered sound of multiple voices crying and singing and occasionally screaming, all in the most unbelievably melodic fashion. Again, its another track that has the capability to have the hardest hearted of people in tears, and to send a chill down your spine. If you only ever hear one track from this album, it should be this one. Its truly magical, and the finest moment on the album.
I have never heard an album so deeply evocative of other cultures and places in my entire life. Listening to this, you will be transported to the Amazon, then India, then Tibet, to all-night raves on mountaintops in the middle of nowhere in uncharted lands and this is without any drugs I swear. This is the album that trance fans and people who know nothing about the genre, alike. It is the one mix that everyone with a CD player, dance fan or not, should have in their collection. Even my dad like this one, and without exception he hates this kind of music. Ive yet to meet one person who listens and isnt incredibly impressed by it, dance fan or not. Absolutely stunning. I command you go and buy it J.
Revision is a pain isn't it? You spend most of your days for a few months pouring over past notes, papers and generally becoming ever more bored. Why am I talking about revision in a music review? You see I and many others find revision infinitely less hellish when I've got some music on in the background. Out of all my albums I found that the original (and to a lesser extent the 2nd) Northern Exposure album held the most assistance in the revision department. Now I've owned this album since it came out way back in late '96 and every time from GCSE to present 2nd year Uni. has used it as a revision aid. You may think that a dance album couldn't assist in the memory of millions of formulae, dates, techniques and the rest, but you'd be wrong. In fact it's been proven that listening to your favourite music be it Beethoven or Black Grape enhances your ability to learn. Something about the various parts of the brain being active that otherwise may not be. But I digress.... The album ~~~~~~~~ What we have here is a very ambient trance album. Don't get me wrong, this is not your "Delirium- Silence" kind of cheesy "trance" (which incidentally appears on NE.3) We are talking 22 songs more polished than a field marshals boots; most of which I expect you have never heard of. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it introduces you to a new style of music. CD 1 - North ~~~~~~~~~~ The track listing for CD1 has a cold blue background to it, and upon listening to the CD you find out why. The first CD is very chilled out, it begins with (I think) David Attenbrough talking over the sound of flowing water about the "Trans Amazonian highway" drifting straight into a beautify single melody before going further and bringing in the beats. This is not your cheesy chill-out album - there is no empty sounding tracks, instead we have a little tribal music, be
ats, and plenty of tasty samples. With the first CD you can just put it on and relax as one track seamlessly melds into the next, and this is where I derive my revision assistance from. You cannot afford to be too distracted by the music - that's why something over the top such as Limp Bizkit will not do. The music appears to be very "Polite" - it will not force itself on to you to distract you. Hence it's the perfect background music for revision, or that post club chill-out session. CD2 - South ~~~~~~~~~~ Things get a little warmer on the 2nd CD and this is reflected in the choice of tracks which would not sound out of place on the floors of some of the top night clubs. Again I would expect that no-one other than DJ's or a dedicated follower would of heard of many of the names. The BPM is increased and the style changed to a more driving force. It is hard to give a good description of individual tracks as they are all similar and exceptional on their own. Overall ~~~~~~~ If for nothing other than revision help (providing you enjoy this style of music) I would recommend you bought this. Almost 5 years after I bought it I still listen to it, and this cannot be said for most of my CD collection. Further purchases would have to be the other 3 in the series. NE.2 is similar to the first album, NE.3 Expeditions takes a slightly more mainstream approach, and then NE.4 Communicate is a much darker offering which may not appeal to all tastes. I still feel that the first was always the best, yet the others are all worth buying for their respective qualities. Ultimately this is what really started that chill-out album interest, that has ballooned into the chart orientated cheesy offerings which lie in our music stores today. If you only ever buy one chill-out album, this has to be it. (If only for revision purposes!)
This is the first album fom the Sasha and Digweed combination released through the Ministry of Sound record label, and does represent a new era in dance music. The duo would perform at the MOS for Northern Exposure nights, and due to the success of the events this album was released. The album is excellent is every way and is 2 cd's crammed full of great music. What it doesn't respresent is all of the mainstream rubbish that is usually seen on Pete Tongs Essential Selection, but instead great unknown songs and tracks that are now famous due to this album! CD2 is the better one for me, as it brings a tad more relaxed feel to proceedings, and includes some brilliant tracks such as Fuzzy Logic's Obsession which has a great mix of electronic sounds and also trancey mellow rhythm. If you like mellow dance style music then you should have this in your collection.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Satellite Serenade - Keiichi Suzuki
2 Cascade - The Future Sound of London
3 These Waves - Young American Primitive
4 Raincry - God Within
5 Out of Body Experience - Rabbit in the Moon
6 I'm Free - Morgan King
8 Obsession - Fuzzy Logic
9 Water from a Vine Leaf - William Orbit
10 Liquid Cool/Deep Forest Ice Cold [Equator Mix] - Apollo 440
11 Last Train to Lhasa - Banco de Gaia