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A review of the remixed version of Oceanlab's Sirens of the Sea, the album costs about £8 in physical format, and can be downloaded at iTunes for around the same price. Note that the iTunes version contains twenty-six tracks, whereas the physical format (reviewed here) contains six fewer tracks.
Oceanlab started life around 2000 as an alias for trance music lovers Above and Beyond who, like many acts within the genre, liked to have different names for the different sounds they produced. Comprising the three members of Above and Beyond and vocalist Justine Suissa, the group has never really enjoyed any kind of commercial success in spite of a distinct kind of style that always threatens to catch on big time and is frequently a huge hit with clubbers. The combination of Suissa's gorgeous, haunting vocal alongside the beats and synths of Above and Beyond should shift a lot more records than it does, but the group remains something of a cult offering, even if they now announce themselves as Above and Beyond presents Oceanlab as though more people should know who they are.
The debut album, Sirens of the Sea, was released in 2008, but didn't really take off, even with the hardcore clubbing fans. Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that most of the clubbers were familiar with the club mixes of these tunes, finding the softer, often more chilled album versions a little too tame or just too different to what they were used to hearing in the clubs. Unsurprisingly, a year later, the album was released again as a double disc remixed version. It's a relative orgy of pumping, uplifting trance anthems that almost pushes the disc to the other extreme; there are three or four different mixes of some of the biggest tunes, threatening to rather over-egg the cake.
It's safe to say that of the material offered here, it's not always Suissa's fantastic voice that now dominates the proceedings. In some cases, the transformation is quite startling. Take the title track for instance, Sirens of the Sea. On the original album version, it was a chilled, very haunting melody that balanced Suissa's vocals and a very gentle, almost inaudible bass line that gave the thing just about enough momentum to lead us to believe that this really was a ghostly attempt to lure sailors to their deaths. Not any more. Thrown against a heavy, pumping beat thanks to the Above and Beyond remix it suddenly becomes a completely storming assault on the dance floor. Incredibly, it's then all notched up another gear thanks to Cosmic Gate who push it into techno territory.
And that's pretty much what you get from start to finish. Above and Beyond's club mixes are all featured here and all work to a consistent (and appealing) formula, punching through the vocals with a steady bass that's just about respectful enough to the source material to maintain the overall tone. Eco-anthem Miracle's message isn't initially lost here, for example, but it does quickly lose the tear-inducing kind of feel that the original version gives you. When Suissa asks us if we're 'hoping for a miracle as the ice caps melt away' it's harder to concentrate on the message this time round as we know there's an enormous bass line about to smack us in the face.
Above and Beyond don't entirely dominate the proceedings and there's enormous appeal here as a collection of popular remixes from the last seven years with the album featuring all the big ones. Armin Van Buuren's epic remix of Sky Falls Down sits here, alongside Ferry Corsten's Clear Blue Water and Signum's remix of Beautiful Together, but their late placing in the track listing seems slightly ungrateful given their unquestionable contribution to the surging popularity of Oceanlab that gathered momentum from 2003 onwards. Nonetheless, for completists, or those looking to replace battered vinyl, this is a sound investment and (at 20 tracks in total) astounding value.
The reality, of course, is that this is almost certainly the target buyer. For starters, 20 full length mixes of anything would almost entirely be far too much for your average listener, given that we're talking a play list of more than three hours in total. This has a negative effect on the listener's reaction to Suissa's vocals too and they eventually start to grate, simply because you've heard the woman sing rather more than you'd like. The boredom really sets in where there are multiple mixes of the same tune (On a Good Day here twice, Breaking Ties three times and so on) and eventually you really want to grab Suissa and tell her to cheer up. None of the tracks here is shorter than seven minutes, either, with a handful knocking on for ten minutes and as the tracks are distinct and unmixed, it's very difficult to get absorbed in this without getting un-absorbed again quite soon afterwards.
All in, this makes Sirens of the Sea Remixed a difficult beast to appraise. Unquestionably, it's an essential purchase for long-term fans of the band, collecting together all the big mixes they'll have grown to love over the last eight years or so. There are some absolute stonkers here, too. Above and Beyond's remix of Breaking Ties is pretty breathtaking in the right place at the right time and many of these tracks will evoke strong memories of good nights out. But that aside, if this is an album to enjoy in its own right then it's waaaaay over the top, and would have benefited from a much more selective track listing, limited to one, good mix per song and leaving it at that. Even better, I would have preferred to see this as a re-released version including the original album on one disc, and one disc of mixes as now, for the purist, there's a need for three discs to get all the different versions.
I can't do anything but recommend this album though, simply because there is a small handful of some of the best club tunes of the last decade here, perfectly capturing the essence of what makes the vocal trance sound both enduring and endearing. A potential classic for the future, anyone who is into this kind of thing should get this album. Now.
1. If I Could Fly (Jaytech Remix)
2. Come Home (Michael Cassette Remix)
3. On The Beach (Andy Duguid Remix)
4. Lonely Girl (Gareth Emery Remix)
5. On A Good Day (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
6. I Am What I Am (Lange Remix)
7. Breaking Ties (Above & Beyond Analogue Haven Mix)
8. Miracle (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
9. Ashes (Oliver Smith Remix)
10. Sirens Of The Sea (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
1. Secret (Andrew Bayer Remix)
2. Just Listen (Myon & Shane 54 Remix)
3. On A Good Day (16 Bit Lolitas Remix)
4. Miracle (Michael Cassette Remix)
5. Sirens Of The Sea (Sonorous Remix)
6. Breaking Ties (Duderstadt Vocal Remix)
7. Satellite (Original Above & Beyond Mix)
8. Sky Falls Down (Armin van Buuren Remix)
9. Clear Blue Water (Ferry Corsten Remix)
10. Beautiful Together (Signum Remix)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 If I Could Fly (Jaytech Remix)
2 Come Home (Michael Cassette Remix)
3 On The Beach (Andy Duguid Remix)
4 Lonely Girl (Gareth Emery Remix)
5 On A Good Day (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
6 I Am What I Am (Lange Remix)
7 Breaking Ties (Above & Beyond Analogue Haven Mix)
8 Miracle (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
9 Ashes (Oliver Smith Remix)
10 Sirens Of The Sea (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Secret (Andrew Bayer Remix)
2 Just Listen (Myon & Shane 54 Remix)
3 On A Good Day (16 Bit Lolitas Remix)
4 Miracle (Michael Cassette Remix)
5 Sirens Of The Sea (Sonorous Remix)
6 Breaking Ties (Duderstadt Vocal Remix)
7 Satellite (Original Above & Beyond Mix)
8 Sky Falls Down (Armin van Buuren Remix)
9 Clear Blue Water (Ferry Corsten Remix)
10 Beautiful Together (Signum Remix)